Dear Lady Violet,
Last night, my amazing boyfriend and I went on a “date” to talk about the “future” and it backfired. Sometimes I feel like he doesn’t support my plans for the future (I just got a great job offer and am considering moving), because he probably won’t move with me. But I know he supports me. Because he does, and constantly. He just does. So why do I feel this way? Why do I get angry at him? Sometimes I tell myself, “He’ll regret it when I move away and ignore him forever!” But that’s so childish and petty. What is wrong with me, Lady Violet? Why do I feel like I love him more than he loves me?
I hear you and sympathize! Misunderstanding the (oft confusing) behavior of our masculine counterparts can be both irritating and time consuming.
My guess is that you and your boyfriend have different ideas of what support means. To you—as a giving, compassionate, selfless female (thank you, society)—support often involves some measure of self-sacrifice. To you, true support often equates giving something up for another.
I imagine part of you feels like your man isn’t supporting you because he’s not saying, “I’ll move wherever you go, I’m so proud of you, let’s do it!” If he was given an amazing opportunity, that’s probably what you’d say to him. That’s probably what I would say if I were in his shoes. Why? Because women (in general) look at the big picture, because we often want the people we love to be happy more than we want to be happy ourselves, because we are simultaneously more emotionally mature and less emotionally realistic than our male counterparts.
The problem occurs when your boyfriend defines support in less drastic terms. To him, support probably just means being happy for others, instilling confidence in them, listening to their problems, etc.
This has a good side and a bad side. It’s good since it means that your boyfriend is supportive–he just goes about it differently than you do. It’s also good since it’s probably a more emotionally healthy way (for him) to go about human interactions. Obviously it’s bad because it means that you aren’t necessarily getting exactly what you want from him.
With this in mind, the main issue becomes figuring out a way to be content with your boyfriend’s decision without feeling as though the entire burden of keeping your relationship healthy lies on you. When I think about why a lot of women easily give their happiness up for people they love, it’s often because they want to keep everyone else as content and secure as possible, regardless of what it does to them. I think we do this because we have this internal fear that if we don’t, something bad will happen and we won’t be there to fix it.
Don’t look at your boyfriend’s reaction as an invitation to suddenly not care about him (since he doesn’t “not care” about you). But you won’t feel better until you accept that he is acting this way because a) he has his own definition of what’s needed to keep the relationship healthy and b) you know he loves you enough to never choose a lifestyle that will deliberately hurt your relationship. He trusts that your relationship is strong enough to withstand this change. He believes in it.
THAT BEING SAID, you still have reason (within the irrational realm of feelings) to be annoyed. It is ALWAYS infinitely annoying when someone doesn’t act the way you would, given the same situation. But it’s not because he doesn’t love you as much as you love him. He just loves and makes decisions and choices in his own unique way. Just like you do.
Yours (as a woman equally prone to self-sacrifice),
Lady Violet writes an advice column for Tori Dot Gov. She just intuitively knows.