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My girlfriend and I live in France. While she is French, I am from Brazil and moved here a few years ago.

This December I will spend 3 weeks with friends and family back in Brazil for the first time in over three years. Since my girlfriend will be traveling around South America by herself at about the same time, she wants to visit me there.

I absolutely adore her and it's nothing against her, but after not seeing my beloved ones in over three years, I do not want to "deal with her" while I'm there; she tends to be very attached and I don't know how much time I will have for her. My family and friends already know her and they get along well, but it is just not the same feeling and I feel I will need alone time with my people.

How can I tell her that I want to be alone without hurting her feelings? We have been together for a few years now and I want it to stay that way.

  • Is she going away with her own friends/family? – Bradley Wilson Nov 15 '17 at 13:08
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    She is travelling by herself. Finished her studies a few weeks ago and always wanted to travel South America – Seb5678 Nov 15 '17 at 13:11
  • When you say "I want it to stay that way" do you mean that you want to stay together for the rest of your lives, for the next few years, or ? – 1006a Nov 15 '17 at 22:48
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    Have you discussed marriage? If so, it's possible she may expect to be treated like part of your family.. just something to be sensitive to when choosing your words. – Em C Nov 16 '17 at 20:41
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    Are you sure that you've really identified the core issue for yourself? You say you just want to focus on being with your family, but is it possible that you're actually anxious about your family meeting her? I'm not judging, but if you act based on the wrong conclusion you may get the answer you ask for, but not the one you really need. – Cronax Nov 17 '17 at 15:34
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The basics

Although it's fair for you to ask for alone time, the way you ask it is important too, to prevent from coming across as wanting to avoid her.

Source: Am Belgian, live in Belgium with my New Zealand girlfriend. In 4 weeks, we'll be heading to Australia/NZ for 5 weeks to visit her family and see the sights.

I suggest you don't ask her to not join you (because that makes it come across as not wanting her there), and instead elaborate on where your priorities lie if she were to be present. Something like:

I haven't seen my family and friends for a long time, and I only have limited time to spend with them. I want to make the most of it, and I'm afraid that you'll feel like I'm ignoring you.

I picked this phrasing for a few reasons:

  • You're not communicating that you've already decided that she shouldn't come; which can make her feel excluded.
  • You're not telling her to not come, but you are addressing the fact that she won't be your main focus during that time.
  • You're including your main justification, which is pretty much unrefutable: a limited time window to see family that you haven't seen for three years.

A bit more detail

That's a basic approach that, according to me, explains the problem while avoiding making her feel shut out (both by making the decision for her, and excluding her from meeting your family).

However, based on your relationship status and future plans, there are a few differences here.

If the relationship lasts; will you stay in France? Has this been discussed?

Me and my girlfriend talked about this, and even though we currently live in Belgium, it's likely that we will return to Australia/NZ in a couple of years.
If you already agreed to stay in France, or it hasn't been discussed yet, then your girlfriend's suggestion to meet up makes a bit more sense:

  • She may consider it a rare opportunity to see you in your "natural" environment (I'm similarly interested in seeing my girlfriend in a location she's familiar with)
  • She may not have considered the emotional impact living abroad has had on you. She has her family closeby in France and may simply have lost track of the fact that you're there without family. If you never really complain about missing your family (because you're taking responsibility for your own decision to live abroad, or simply aren't one who easily complains), then she may not even have considered that you miss your family.

Phrasing. Phrasing. Phrasing.

I do not want to "deal with her" while I'm there; she tends to be very attached and I don't know how much time I will have for her.

Although I am fully onboard with your justification, and the fact that asking for time with your family is more than fair, I can't see a way for this (quoted) statement to not blow up in your face. It lacks interpersonal skills and leaves much to be inferred about how you consider her a burden.

  • Don't use the phrase "deal with". Most commonly, you deal with problems, and you're implying that she's a problem.
  • Don't call her "very attached". In the current context, it's equivalent to "too attached", which is essentially berating her for how she's approaching the relationship. Note: if she does actually have overattachment issues, you can address that at another time. Don't do it during a conversation where you're telling her you don't want her near you.

Stick to the facts. Tell her things that are undeniably true and do not imply negative things about her.

  • You miss your family.
  • You have a short time to be with them.
  • She might not like it if she's with you while you're mainly focusing on your family.

Stick to those facts, and let her fill in the blanks. Maybe she decides that she doesn't want to feel ignored and will prefer to keep travelling instead. Maybe she really wants to see you interact with your family and is completely onboard that she's not going to be your center of attention.

A few things to avoid

These are tangential comments, mostly subjective. You can disagree with these, but I thought they would be relevant footnotes:

  • Don't make the decision without involving her. It's presumptuous. Be inclusive of her, since you're supposed to be partners. Instead of telling her how it's going to be, raise a problem and include her in finding a solution. If she's unsure how to solve it, you can still offer your "decision" as a suggestion, and you will have already avoided putting an ultimatum before her.
  • Don't be convinced that she shouldn't really be there with you. Again, you're partners, and part of that is sharing your lives. The problem you have isn't related to her presence, so don't solve it by making her not be present. The problem lies with where dedicate your attention during those three weeks. So make that clear to her, and allow her to be present if she's not claiming your attention. That way, you can likely both get what you want without anyone being left out.
  • As your partner, she should be able to recognize when something is important to you, even if that conflicts with what she wants. Working under that assumption (since you are in a relationship with her), your main focus is to get her to understand why being with your family during those three weeks is important to you.
6

Tough situation. She is going to get hurt if you don't want to meet up.

If it's an option, what about planning a day (or two) you can meet up (with your family) and explain to her you want to spend the rest of the days with your family, since you don't see them this often.

Maybe go do something with the whole family, where she doesn't get the chance to be so attached. For example bowling, you have to walk to the bowling alley and she does too. In the mean time you can catch up with her/your family.

Try planning the day later in your vacation aswell, so you've already had quite some time with the family.

This way you don't have to say no to her (and hurt her feelings), but you can also get across why this trip matters too you so much.

In addition your family gets to see the girl you love aswell.

  • I don't think this can work. No matter how nice you are about it, if you decide unilaterally what's going to be done in such a case then the other party will feel hurt and you will be creating unnecessary conflict. – Cronax Nov 17 '17 at 15:32
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I think the best you can do is be direct in how you feel, while reminding her you can spend time together again soon.

I know you want to visit me while you're in South America, but I haven't seen my family in three years. I'd like for my time there to be focused on them. I'll still miss you very much, and when we are both back we can (insert something you both do together for fun).

This way, if her feelings are hurt, you're at least offering up ways you can still spend time together once you see each other again, and hopefully that will ease the news.

1

I would suggest you tell her that you would like to spend the first two weeks with your family, and invite her for the last. Like this, you will have had plenty of time to enjoy on your own. Does she expect you to see her the whole time you are down there?

1

Sometimes, being honest is the best thing to do. Want to know ? Ask.

You guys have been together for several years already. She knows you, she knows you are living far from your family, and even though if (IMHO) we the French have a different relationship towards our family compared with South Americans, we know it matters. It's not like you were going to spend 3 weeks playing video games with your friends. You have an amount of time to spend, and you want it to spend it with your family, knowing you'll meet your girlfriend for years (not like your family) 3 weeks later.

If she isn't the most jealous or the most sensitive person, she will understand. You just need to explain it to her very simply, and you phrased it very good already :

I do not want to "deal with her" while I'm there; she tends to be very attached and I don't know how much time I will have for her

Be nice in your words, and try to say it the way you'd like to hear it if the situation was the other way around. Would you understand ? I'm sure you would, so will she.

Don't get me wrong : she isn't going to take it nicely. Try to make her understand what you're asking for is perfectly acceptable, and ask her if she was in your feet, would it be super weird if she asked for the same thing ?

You need to refill your "family battery". Nothing makes more sense than this in the world. Be honest about this because that's the best thing to do here.

I am going to quote M.O.P. at last : First family.

  • You really think saying he doesn't want to deal with her is a kind and effective way to communicate this feeling?! Yikes. – Kat Jan 6 '18 at 2:40
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I would consider the possibility that she wants to meet your family, in part to "advance" the relationship closer to marriage, which many women hold as an important goal.

There's also the possibility that she planned her trip assuming that she could visit your family.

A third possibility is that she may worry that you still have something secret about your life in your hometown, such as an old girlfriend. Some people are insecure and harbor such suspicions. These doubts are pretty common and can be fed by you not wanting her to meet with you there.

You don't have to do what she wants, but you're free to choose to do what she wants because you want her to be happy.

If you really don't want to meet with her and with your family, my advice is to tell her so in a respectful way. If this ends the relationship, then the relationship wasn't healthy and strong enough to be worth maintaining. If telling her doesn't hurt the relationship a great deal and she shows understanding, then you've reached an important milestone of trust and compromise.

If you are comfortable with her meeting your family and you're only concerned about her taking up your time when you're with them, I suggest asking your family whether they'd like to spend time with her when you're not around. You can spend one or more days with all of them together before or after the time she spends alone with them.

This does several useful things:

  1. It shows her that you really just want some alone time with your family.
  2. It shows her that you're not hiding something.
  3. It shows her that you're not keeping her from meeting your family.
  4. It allows your family to get to know her in a more meaningful way.
  5. It communicates to your family and to her that you see her as a person and want the family to know her as a person and not just as your girlfriend.

I think that the best solution depends on your true feelings and whether you want your family to meet her.

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