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I've been in a loving relationship for over a year, but especially with coronavirus, my girlfriend is somewhat convinced that she is not meeting my needs since I feel lonely quite a bit. (It's not really related to her. It's more of lack of human contact that is making me feel lonely.)

She used to agree to do whatever I offered, but for the last month or two I haven't even been offering things since when she agrees to do something, unless it's going to happen immediately, she ends up being too tired for it.

At first I thought we were merely disconnected, but even after I stopped offering, she kept offering to do things together only to not be able to follow up on them later. I don't mind not spending time together. Both of us have our own lives and I respect that, but especially her offering and then bailing is eroding my trust in her to the degree that I barely expect anything at this point.

When I bring this up (brought it up twice so far) she says she'll try to not to do it but in the end it happens anyways. What can I do to reassure her that she doesn't have to offer things and I'm happy just chatting with her?

We used to play games together and watch things together via internet connection since the pandemic started. I try to offer chatting every time and they insist that they want to do something together.

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    Are you sure she's promising out of obligation? Is it possible she really does want to but something is going on which makes her excessively tired? There's a lot of that going around at the moment. – Kat Jan 13 at 16:31
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    I am not sure she is indeed doing this out of obligation, why do you think this? (Example: I have had problems with anxiety/fear, and while making plans to do something fun "next week" was easy, then I had a week to realize why it was actually scary/dangerous/definitely not fun (according to my anxiety). Cancelling can become quite tempting - which then tends to make the problem worse) – user53923 Jan 14 at 12:16
  • Not sure why people are doubting OP's judgement. For me it seems reasonable that OP's judgement is correct, barring more evidences. Promising out of obligation is a feeling where they don't want to say no since it feels like it is not the thing that a girlfriend should do, so they promise to do it. But since it is not in their heart, it might be forgotten, or failed to be done. This is quite a common phenomenon in Asia. The root issue is usually the inability to accept self-worth. – justhalf Jan 16 at 7:30
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Kate's answer is on how to make sure that you understand your girlfriend correctly, which is not bad, but I feel doesn't really answer the question. As someone who experiences something similar to what your girlfriend might experience, I would like to share how you can support her.

Reading what you have described about your girlfriend, I feel I can relate to some extent. In the sense that when relating to other people (as friends or more), oftentimes there is this guilt that I have not done enough, or that I do not conform to the ideal friend that I would like to be. This usually leads me to either reluctant to say no (if the other person is asking something), or for me to quick to jump to promises (which I feel is ideal but I didn't consider my capability in doing that).

Fortunately, recently I realized that there is this disconnect between my ideals and my capability. And that I disregarded that people can like me as I am, not as I would like to be. This is I think the major step in being able to be released from that "obligation to promise to do nice things". Once I realized that in relating to other people, other people actually want to know me as I am, to know what I like and do not like to do, I felt more free. In essence, the issue is about self-worth. I think this is quite common in Asia.

To check this, maybe you can ponder on these questions:

  1. Can she be assertive on she wants? Or does she always put her wants behind your wants? Being assertive is a positive sign of accepting self-worth.
  2. Does she do this to other friends too? Or only to you? Perhaps she has too high standard on what a girlfriend should do. You can clarify with her about what you expect and mention a few things that she did that you appreciate as bonus but definitely not in what you expect/demand from her.
  3. How often do you two do things that she enjoy? Does she feel bad after doing things that she enjoys together with you?

She needs to accept that you love her even if she doesn't promise to do stuffs (I say this since you mention "I don't mind not spending time together. Both of us have our own lives and I respect that."). So, you can encourage your girlfriend that you accept her as she is, and that you are interested in what she is genuinely interested too (if that's the case).

The "I don't mind not spending time together. Both of us have our own lives and I respect that." is something good to start the talk with her. Have you told her this? Then you can go further by assuring her that you accept her even if she doesn't offer to meet (this is a slightly stronger statement than the previous one).

It took me a year or two, though, to realize that in relationship people see more than just what we do, but also who we are. So expect changes to take some time.

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First, at the moment that she states an intention to do something with you in the future, you need to ask her questions. This applies whether you suggest something and she says yes, or whether she suggests something. Btw the phrasing "offering" is odd, it sounds like the thing under discussion is some sort of favour or gift to you rather than something you both would like to do together. Anyway, these questions are to establish whether she is saying:

  • mmm, that sounds lovely, I would love to do that, this afternoon, so nice, a great idea (this contains no information at all about whether she intends to do so or is just praising your suggestion and wishing it was something she could agree to)
  • great idea, yes, let's do that, I want to do that today (this now contains a statement of intention but is not a promise by anyone's idea of promise)
  • yes, we should, I know we haven't for ages, I promise you that I will try to do that with you today (promising to try is not promising to do)
  • yes, we should, I know we haven't for ages, I promise you that if I am not too tired, we will do that (now if she does something else with someone else she's breaking her promise, but you're still not getting the kind of promise you seem to think you're getting)
  • yes, great idea, we will, I promise, today will be different, I'm going to go right now and [have a nap / get prepared / eat / whatever] as part of ensuring we do the thing

Getting this understanding is good for both of you. If she means the last bullet, it has to include her taking actions right here and now towards fulfilling her absolute real promise to genuinely do the thing. If she means any of the earlier bullets, which are not promising, you need to understand that you are being offered less than the last bullet. For you to say that it is "eroding your trust" when the thing doesn't happen makes me feel you think she's saying the last bullet every time. Better communication can help the two of you understand what is being agreed to when she says "great idea!" or just "yes!"

Second, if she is only saying "yes, I would like to do that if I feel up to it this afternoon" you can now offer to do something to help her feel up to it. Would it be easier if you went to her place rather than her coming to you? If you went and picked her up? If the two of you ran some of her errands together first, leaving her free to spend time with you and less tired than she would have been? I don't know why she gets "too tired" or what she is offering to do and then bailing, but you do, and the two of you can discuss this.

If your position is "you promised and now you're bailing and I feel hurt and betrayed" all she can really do is say sorry and express a wish/intent/promise not to be in this situation again. But until the two of you understand exactly what she's offering or agreeing to, whether it's a promise or not, whether being too tired for it constitutes bailing and erodes trust, and so on -- you can't move forward. Talk more. Listen more. Ask questions. Rephrase what you think you hear her saying and then let her tell you if that is the message she intended to send. Repeat. A lot.

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    OP's main question is "What can I do to reassure her that she doesn't have to offer things and I'm happy just chatting with her?" and I'm not sure this answers it. No matter how you twist things to make them say something different, at the end, you still have a "politician talk", selling dreams : you said you would, you didn't do, and either you avoid the subject again or you twist words/ideas to tell me I misunderstood. Repeating won't modify the end of the story. Did I got it wrong in your answer ? – OldPadawan Jan 14 at 7:00
  • Yes, I think you did. There is nothing politician here at all. There is genuinely understanding what she means when she says "great idea". It is not always a binding firm promise to do a thing no matter what. One way to reassure a person that she doesn't have to offer things is to listen to what a person says and understand if they even are offering things when they say "great idea" or "let's do that this afternoon". – Kate Gregory Jan 14 at 12:47

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