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My GF and I are in our 30s have known each other for about a year now and ever since the pandemic started, she stays with me most of the time and the rest she stays with her parents. Due to the current conditions, both of us have to work from home the entire week. I live in a 1 bedroom apartment, so there is no dedicated home office setup for me to work. It is either the living room or bedroom with a table and a chair. I do have a problem of short attention span and am very easily distracted. So, I try to stay in my zone, when I need to focus, as much as possible even putting away my phone or switching it off completely. I like having an organized schedule everyday. My GF is more free spirited. She is kind and very caring.

My time during the day on an average weekday goes like this:

  • 5 am wake up time and max of 10 PM to hit the bed.
  • 8 hour work schedule
  • Doing my postgrad at the same time. (1-2 hours a day)
  • Learning new things which I can put to use at work. (1-2 hours a day)
  • About 1 hour for physical fitness
  • Try to read a book at least 30 mins a day(not always possible).

And on weekends, I try to get some chores and other household things done. I try to work more on my studies and relax a bit watching tv or sports.

My GFs schedule goes:

  • worked about 4 hours a day
  • Prefers to wake up past 6 AM and sleep late.
  • Not much interest in fitness as me.

Before the pandemic

  • we would spend weekends together.
  • My weekdays were packed with work and gym etc but it was all by myself.
  • She would work and spend time with family for the most part

Now:

  • She works less hours about 2 hours mostly, 3 at the most a day.
  • My schedule remains the same(or I at least try to maintain it that way)
  • We spend most of the time together as she stays with me a lot.
  • My regular schedule has taken a hit to adjust somethings suit her like waking up or going to the gym regularly.

I love her a lot but of late, her spending more time with me has caused a lot of concern in my being able to keep up with my schedule. I appreciate her staying with me during this time as we are all in lockdown. However, there are certain things she does that I making me wish she spent less time with me and more time with her family because there she has more people to interact with and to keep her occupied.

Concerns I have:

  1. She is more expressive and very often likes to make romantic gestures like hugging me or kissing me or even stand in front of me so I look at her while I work. This does not happen if I'm on a call but it does happen frequently and she expects me to reciprocate. Due to my short attention span, this is quite exhausting to me as I get distracted and I have to put a lot of energy and focus to get back to where I was. Same goes while I am studying or reading a book.
  2. If there is something that needs to get done, my focus is more on that than just fooling around. Say cooking/doing the dishes for example. Even here, she expects me to pay attention to her or goes on with her romantic gestures which I find a little annoying at times because I'm trying to get something done.
  3. Since she is less occupied than I am and it is just the two of us, I understand that she needs human interaction to avoid an otherwise boring situation. However, I literally don't have the time to do so. And this is causing a wedge between us in my head. I try not to show it.
  4. Every time I drop her off at her place(where I spend a few hours), she makes sad faces and wants to stay with me or wants me to stay for more time. While I try to stick with my schedule of any pending work or studying I have to do. It happens everytime and takes a lot of energy for me to stay polite and still come out of it. Due to which I prefer to avoid going to her place and spending time there at all or start saying good bye much earlier than I should because I don't want to deal with a hard good bye every time or it takes that much time to leave.
  5. Due to our highly contrasting schedule and interests, I imagined this kind of a situation would occur and I suggested that she spends more time with her family but she takes it as an offense. She does not take into account of what I am going through. Most times, I just bite my teeth and get on with things but I do not want this to continue. Anytime I ask for time for myself, it is responded with sadness/crying.
  6. She has trouble making decisions for herself, including finding a better job as she hates where she works now. I am a procrastinator myself who's trying to correct course by being more organized and I see a pattern based on what I used to do. Also, she hates it if I point somethings or give her tips.

Some of these problems along with her rather negligent approach to finding more work have caused me to think that maybe we are on separate paths and if we continue as is, sooner or later it will lead to a break up in which case, I prefer that happen sooner than later. During the lockdown, there have been instances, where things became tough and I almost broke up with her a few times and later reconciled as we stayed together and I did not want to see her cry or be sad.

What I would like some help on are:

  1. How do I create clear boundaries on time and place where I would like to be left alone so that I am not distracted?
  2. If that is not going to work, insist that she spend more time with her family where she has company to keep her engaged and I spend time with her over the weekends. How do I tell her this again without her crying or thinking I am pushing her away? I am open to her staying with me if she can understand and change her behavior.
  3. Sometimes her emotions and crying, I find that a little too much for a grownup and if I tell her that it only gets worse and I give in. I don't know how to deal with this. I need her to be more mature. How do I say this without getting into an emotional battle?
  4. While I love her, I cannot keep up with how much attention she wants from me. I don't know if this amount of disparity in a relationship is good for us to continue because If I don't say anything it hurts me and If I do say something, it hurts her. Sometimes I feel our emotional range is way too different and in order to not cause continued pain for either of us, break up and go our separate ways. Is there a better solution?
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  • My worry is because we spend time together. While we eat and right after work, we sit together in the balcony with a cup of tea and just listen to the birds and the river outside. This is something we do almost regularly. Also when it comes to watching tv. That's something we do together. It's not always home cooked food either, I make it a point to have food delivered(due to Covid) at least once a week else go out. I always ask for her preference even if she doesn't. Sometimes we go out to get some coffee for her even though I don't drink coffee. I do take her choices into consideration. – PKU Jul 14 '20 at 17:33
  • I used to binge watch before. Now I've been trying to cut down on that habit to reorganize my time for my career. Even so, sometimes she would want to watch something, so I would so that with her. Thing is, I have a lot of things to do that does not involve her and I would like the same for her. But she wouldn't watch TV without me. Or go swimming without me. I have to insist multiple times and give her a reason like studying to make her go on her own. TV and swimming are interests of mine and if I ask her what she liked to do, she would say to spend time with me. – PKU Jul 14 '20 at 17:33
  • I have more interests and responsibilities than she does and I try to dedicate time for them too. I work with a goal in mind every time and sometimes I make sacrifices necessary or I push myself harder to reach my goals. But when I do that she tells me I don't have to. That discourages me. If it were the other way around, I would do anything to support her. I feel it is a general lack of self motivation when it comes to responsibilities/goals I see in her or maybe our priorities are very different. – PKU Jul 14 '20 at 17:33
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I can relate to this a lot. I too have a significant other who wants more attention than I want to give, and he easily gets upset if I direct my attention elsewhere, even to something like work. We also have very different sleep schedules. It's been a struggle and I can't say I've fully solved it, but I do have some advice on things that have helped

First off, you cannot control how someone else feels or if they cry. Probably they can't even control it, so get that idea out of your head right now. What you want may make her sad, you simply cannot get around that. If her behavior in response is malicious or controlling, it's reasonable to ask for that to stop, but if she's simply sad and crying, you can't reasonably ask for her to be "more mature" and "less emotional". It's unlikely for this to change about her anytime soon, if ever, so you have to decide if it's something you can live with.

When it comes to giving life advice without being asked for it, just stop. There are a few other questions on this site that address that so I won't go into detail here, but suffice to say that nobody appreciates unsolicited advice. Let her live her life, even if it seems like she's making a mistake. Again you have to decide if you can live with watching her make her choices or not, but you don't have the option of making them for her. I get it, it's frustrating, but that's the reality of it.

So now that we've established what's outside of your control, let's focus on what you can control: setting and enforcing boundaries. I'm going to warn you, it won't be easy. She will get upset, and you'll have to stand your ground despite that or nothing will change. Decide what boundaries are important to you, and communicate them clearly when you are both calm and don't have anything else competing for your attention. If that's too be left completely undisturbed during certain hours during the week, then say that. Also tell her if she can't be in your home and respect those boundaries then you'll have to limit visits to the weekend. Don't try to beat around the bush, just be clear and direct. I'd say something like this, obviously tailor it to your own style:

I need to talk to you about something. Is now a good time for you to talk? (Wait for confirmation.) During [hours], I really need to focus on work. It's very difficult for me to maintain or regain focus, so it's important that nothing else grabs my attention. That's why I even silence my phone. I don't mind you being here while I work, but it affects my work performance when you interact with me. I understand I'm asking a lot by asking you to ignore me completely while I'm working, so if it'd be easier for you to instead be with your family so you have someone to interact with during the day, I understand. We can always spend time together on the weekends or after [time] on the weekdays when I can give you the attention you deserve. What do you think?

The exact wording isn't important, and you can expand it beyond work. However you word it, it's best to focus it on what you need and not what she's doing "wrong" (notice no sentence starts with "you"). It's also important to be clear and direct. She will probably respond with something like "but I just want a quick hug sometimes, that doesn't take much time" or "I'm just trying to show how much I care for you." Respond with something along the lines like, "I understand and I appreciate that. However a quick hug will cost me thirty minutes of work due to me losing my focus, so I can't be doing that. I wish I were able to immediately get back to work so I could take those small breaks with you, but I can't."

Maybe she'll agree to spend the day elsewhere or she'll stay at your place and respect the boundary you've drawn. However if she does interrupt you during work again, remind her of what you told her. If it happens too much (whatever that amount is to you) or if she won't agree to leave you alone during work, then ask her to leave and that you'll see her on the weekend (or whenever you're willing to dedicate time to her). She won't like that, but you have to stand firm. If you let her violate your boundary, then you're giving mixed signals about what you're okay with. Be clear and consistent.

Frankly I'm not sure she will accept this. Most people aren't happy to see the person they're dating only on the weekends, and she doesn't sound like she'd be an exception. If you really don't want to spend time with her during the week because you have too many other things you'd rather do, then I suggest you have a frank conversation about that fact. If that's not something she's happy with, then maybe it is better for you to split up. You shouldn't be with her just because you don't like to see her upset; you will cause her far more pain in the long run by living some charade you can't keep up forever. I know it's difficult, but you owe it to both of you to be clear and honest about the sort of relationship you want.

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  • Thanks for you pointers. There are somethings I have done which haven't worked. I once called it quits when she had an emotional outburst and I told her I was not capable of handling that. She said she has done things for me and sort of suggested(not directly) that I should live with her behavior. Or, once made a gesture asking her to stop because I was thinking something. The next day, I thought I heard her say something and she kind of kept rubbing it in saying she did not say anything over and over again. – PKU Jul 14 '20 at 12:02
  • Discussions about future or planning is also hard with her. She has lived with her parents so far and everything has been done for her. So, I get a feeling that she does not feel confident taking responsibility or committing to things because that needs a lot effort to keep up and hence she cannot enjoy life. For me, everything she ignores or puts off is an added responsibility. If we are in this together, I want us to both understand reality and work hard. – PKU Jul 14 '20 at 12:11
  • I believe work and financial independence is a must for everyone. The other day, she asked that if I found a job in some other country, would I marry her so she can go with me immediately. When I said that I wasn't comfortable with her moving without a job, she was upset and she kept apologized for bringing up the topic. She likes creating the scenarios and when I think about how to get there and say to her we need to do this, she turns down the topic saying she does not like planning or thinking too much in the future. She is in her mid 30s. – PKU Jul 14 '20 at 12:15
  • @KNP That scenario can become a completely different question. If you're in a serious relationship, do not expect things to change drastically. She probably should consider moving out and see how she does living on her own. If there are major objections to that by her parents, then there are significant family issues behind the scenes that you can't solve. – Nelson Jul 15 '20 at 1:49
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    @KNP sorry, your view is not going to work. It isn't about the speed of change. It is the amount of change. If she got used to her parents doing things for her (cooking, cleaning, paying bills), she has 0 skill in it, and she will probably expect to stay at 0. You will fight over this because you are her equal. If her parents can't get her to do these things, you certainly aren't going to. The difference is you lived on your own by your own initial. She hasn't, and doesn't look like willing to. If she concedes, she's doing it "for you". – Nelson Jul 15 '20 at 2:03

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