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Smothering and suffocation easily destroy love, whereas healthy boundaries and a balance of individuality and togetherness expand love.
Happy relationships require both partners to have adequate breathing room, time apart, autonomy and separate interests with the understanding that being glued to each other does not equal a lasting and fulfilling relationship.
In fact, couples in which each partner has a solid sense of self and independence tend to rate their relationship as happier and more satisfying.
Your smothering boyfriend naturally leaves you feeling annoyed, trapped, on edge and frustrated. Whether he wants constant contact and affirmation of your love, is overly affectionate or assumes you are there to meet all of his needs, you are bound to feel drained and overwhelmed. In response, you withdraw, avoid him and take space.
As you seek distance and pull away, it is likely he will smoother you more, viewing his smothering as an expression of his love for you. This is a common vicious cycle — you withdraw and he pursues, you withdraw more and he pursues more, and so on and so forth.
Another problematic dynamic might also emerge. If you snap at him about needing space in a non-loving way, he might overly withdraw in an attempt to deal with his crushed emotions and insecurities. He might believe he is giving you the space you need. However, you both will end up withdrawing with growing tension.
So how can you stop unhealthy patterns associated with smothering behavior and get your relationship back on track?
Here are three tips for handling your suffocating boyfriend:
Choose your words and timing wisely, and avoid critical language. Your goal is to increase understanding between you and your boyfriend without him becoming overly defensive or taking your needs personally.
Begin the conversation by reaffirming your love and desire to be in your relationship. Then discuss your need for increased space and separateness or lower levels of affection while normalizing that it is OK that you have different desires and needs (this is normal, in fact!).
It is essential that you communicate that this is something you need for yourself in order to be a happy and healthy girlfriend. Therefore, it is best to use “I” statements (versus “you” statements) and talk about your own needs (versus what your boyfriend is doing wrong).
Be sure to repeat your commitment to him throughout the conversation to decrease the potential of him feeling rejected.
And negotiate time together and apart.
Carve in separate time while reassuring your boyfriend that this is healthy and not personal to him. It is useful to add time apart into your routine so it is expected and he won’t feel neglected. The hope is you will both use your time to develop your own interests and passions, participate in self-care and meet your own needs (emotionally, mentally, socially, spiritually and physically).
During time together, be sure to give your boyfriend your undivided attention and stay present in the moment.
Smothering generally comes from insecurity or an over-expression of love (love has been called a drug many times!) and is not an intentional invasion or control tactic. It can also be the result of differences in needs for affection and space that are still unresolved.
While suffocating initially creates conflict, if addressed properly, a healthy equilibrium of separateness and togetherness will form, and your relationship will become one that is rewarding and enjoyable.
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