Missing the person who I’m dating when I’m away from them

Questions and discussions about relationships: girlfriends, boyfriends, lovers, partners, friends, family or other intimate relationships in your lives.
Asking Queries
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Missing the person who I’m dating when I’m away from them

Unread post by Asking Queries »

Hi!

I’m back, and with good news and questions: Around a month ago, I asked the person who I talked about in my last post whether they’d like to go on a date, and they said yes! I’m very excited, but I keep missing them between dates (which feel quite far apart). I think I especially miss them because they’re my only source of enjoyable physical touch: it feels awkward to ask my friends, and I don’t like hugs from my mom.
I’m just wondering what people think about this and whether they have any ideas on dealing with these feelings. I’m also wondering if people could define unhealthy states like enmeshment so I can check whether I’m close to or in that situation.

- AQ
“… we need to recognize that adolescents, like all human beings, need strong social bonds. To provide youth with such bonds—at an interpersonal and societal level—is the work of us all.” - Amy T. Schalet, Not Under My Roof.
KierC
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Re: Missing the person who I’m dating when I’m away from them

Unread post by KierC »

Hi there AQ, and welcome back :)

I’m so glad to hear the good news, this is a really exciting development!

I also hear you about missing them between dates, especially with missing a physical component. I know this may sound a bit simplified or obvious, but being your own source of enjoyable physical touch as well as your partner being a source of that physical touch can not only help you feel less alone between dates, but it can also put less pressure on your partner to be your sole source of physical affection. Too, this doesn’t have to be masturbating, but it can be things like massaging your legs, stretching, caressing yourself, etc… How does that sound?

Also, a mini-note: If you do feel like you’d like hugs from your friends, and you feel like you can ask them if they would be okay with hugs, we can help you figure out a way to ask that wouldn’t feel awkward. :)

Now, onto enmeshment! I’ll give you a big overview of enmeshment theory for you to peruse, but first I want to mention that enmeshment is primarily a family systems theory, and should be looked at as that: a theory. Too, there is research that enmeshment affects people differently in different cultures, for example collectivist vs. individualist societies. Moreover, feminist scholars have noted that enmeshment theory has the tendency to pathologize certain relational dynamics that allow women to seek female community. All this to say, enmeshment is not fact, so this should be taken with at least one grain of salt. The most important part of enmeshment theory is that it highlights the necessity of personal knowledge, privacy, agency, and setting boundaries to protect your individual wellbeing.

Enmeshment theory started in the family therapy world to describe a family system in which boundaries are diffused and clear roles are lacking, and this idea of enmeshed family systems has expanded to include relational dynamics too. The general idea is that in an enmeshed family system, roles and boundaries are dissolved, and oftentimes there is an over-reliance on the other person or people involved in the relational system for each individual’s wellbeing. Ultimately, this can lead to people feeling like the needs of the people in their family or relationship are more important than their own, and people can sometimes even lose touch with their own needs through the process.

All this to say, enmeshment theory is a framework that can help us identify some unhealthy patterns in our relationships, but what’s more important, and ultimately the most important, is you feeling like you can (1) have a clear sense of your desires, needs, and boundaries, (2) know that your wellbeing comes first, and (3) communicate those desires, needs, and boundaries with anyone you need to. Too, it’s always important to feel throughout your relationships, that you can maintain your personal privacy. Does that make sense?
Asking Queries
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Re: Missing the person who I’m dating when I’m away from them

Unread post by Asking Queries »

Hi,

Thanks, yes it is! :D

That does make sense, I’ll try nonsexual self-touch.

I would like to figure out a way to ask my friends about hugs.

Thanks for the information about enmeshment theory — it’s helpful and interesting! (I’m a psychology and relationship nerd, so I enjoy/find helpful detail if people want to give it.)
I think what I’m hearing is that enmeshment is more about action, boundaries, and agency than feelings — although the feelings contribute, the actual problem is the breakdown of boundaries and over reliance. Is that correct?
(Addressing your final paragraph): Yes, that makes sense. I think I can have difficulty maintaining privacy in relationships, mainly because I’m really excited to share about myself. I know that isn’t always healthy for me or the other person though, so I try to be careful.
“… we need to recognize that adolescents, like all human beings, need strong social bonds. To provide youth with such bonds—at an interpersonal and societal level—is the work of us all.” - Amy T. Schalet, Not Under My Roof.
KierC
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Re: Missing the person who I’m dating when I’m away from them

Unread post by KierC »

Hi AQ,

Absolutely! So, I hear you when some friend groups maybe just don’t hug that much — my friend group in high school was not so huggy, and looking back, I think maybe we just didn’t have a way of normalizing hugging, if that makes sense (we didn’t really hug our parents either, interestingly.)

It may help here to start by asking your friends if you can give them a hug, rather than if you can have a hug. This way, you’re not really asking them for anything, but you’re asking to share the physical affection you feel towards them. You can start to normalize hugging as a greeting or farewell, while smiling with an open expression/body language, like “Hi it’s so good to see you! Is it ok if I give you a hug?” Or “Ugh, today was a crappy day for me. Can I give you a hug?” This way, you’re letting them know why you want a hug and asking for their consent first!

Too, when you ask your friends for a hug, they might say no, and that’s okay — importantly, it doesn’t mean you’re not a good friend or that they don’t love you. People have different comfort levels with physical affection, but that’s why it’s important to ask!

With regard to enmeshment: I’m always happy to discuss psychology and relationships, it’s a huge interest of mine too! And you’re totally right: the most important takeaway from enmeshment theory is actions, boundaries, and agency, and you’re also right that feelings can definitely contribute to how enmeshment occurs, and can contribute to some of the actions we see as part of an enmeshed relationship.

There are definitely some ways to manage privacy in relationships. I hear you that it’s so exciting to be in a relationship that you want to share a lot about yourself! I think it’s a very natural tendency when you feel intense closeness. However, there are a few ways to manage self-disclosure to maintain your privacy and agency: you’ll want to make sure that not only are the people you share with *okay* with you sharing, but also that this person can be trusted with your information, that they will hold the information how you want it to be held (with an open mind, without judgment, etc.), and lastly you want to make sure that the person will privilege this self-disclosure and keep it private. Some things you can ask yourself before sharing: “Is this the exact person I want to share this with?” Or “What am I seeking by telling them this?”

Here’s a couple readings on intimacy and setting boundaries too, if it helps!

Intimacy: The Whys, How’s, How-Nots, and So-Nots (this resource has a great section on boundaries and privacy)

Supermodel: Creating and Nurturing Your Own Best Relationship Models
Heather
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Re: Missing the person who I’m dating when I’m away from them

Unread post by Heather »

Hey there, AQ! I'm just poking my head in to add something a bit to the side of what you're asking, but that I think might also be helpful. Nothing I say is to discount your already excellent observations about your desire for more physical touch in your other relationships, just so you know!

I do think, too, that it can be so easy for us to miss someone or something and feel like it's something we have to stop or fix, because that missing can feel uncomfortable or even sad. But I think missing someone, or some part of a relationship, is also just often a sign of how we value that relationship and how some of what it brings to our life really nourishes us, or answers wants or needs. Often enough, we won't be able to have all the time with someone in our lives we want, or time for all the things in our life we like and that feel good. For sure, when you see gaps like you have and that makes you realize other things you want, by all means, it makes sense to me to go for those things!

I just think there is also part of this that involves accepting feelings of longing for a person or what they/your relationship gives you. Those feelings are usually, I think, ultimately a very good thing, not only emblematic of us being in a good thing, but can make our time together so much sweeter.
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead
Asking Queries
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Re: Missing the person who I’m dating when I’m away from them

Unread post by Asking Queries »

Hi!

Responding to KierC:

Thanks for the ideas about hugs, I think I’ll try whether I asking whether I can hug my friends as a greeting or farewell, and I like the idea of giving a reason for wanting to give a hug.
I definitely agree about friends declining hugs being ok and people having different wants for physical affection.
About privacy: I agree with your thought process, and will keep those things in mind. I was going to say something about being unsure about how to apply these ideas, but I think I’m actually fairly sure of how to do so. I often find the idea of a friend doing something in bad faith very distressing, so I’ve tried to invent “should I say this” tests like “what would happen if they mentioned this to someone else accidentally?” or “how could saying this affect them?”. I’m wondering if you have any thoughts on these ideas.
About the idea of “What am I seeking by telling them this?”, can you explain that more? It doesn’t make total sense to me, and I’m not sure whether you mean seeking in the sense of what response you (I) want or what outcome you want.

Responding to Heather:
(Thank you for founding and directing Scarleteen, it’s an amazing resource. To hopefully prevent this from becoming (appreciative fan) awkward, I’ll stop there.)
I appreciate your thoughts, I’m also thinking about the distinction between relatively basic and essential stuff like (consensual and wanted, ofc) physical affection and things like romantic dating. The first is essential to well being, the second is “just” nice (albeit REALLY nice).
It is interesting to me, missing my friends feels extremely, physically painful, whereas the time between romantic dates feels somewhat uncomfortable, but not particularly painful.

Thanks both!
- AQ
“… we need to recognize that adolescents, like all human beings, need strong social bonds. To provide youth with such bonds—at an interpersonal and societal level—is the work of us all.” - Amy T. Schalet, Not Under My Roof.
KierC
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Re: Missing the person who I’m dating when I’m away from them

Unread post by KierC »

Hi AQ!

No problem at all, I’m glad we can help! I’ll let Heather respond to their part when they’re in next too. :)

The question of “what am I seeking by telling them this” can be more of an organizing question for yourself if you find it helpful, but it’s definitely not mandatory. I think it can be helpful not to set up expectations for the other person to respond, but moreso to help you figure out how to approach the conversation and to manage your own expectations for a response — for example, are you disclosing information because you want to help the other person feel less alone, are you seeking advice or solutions, etc.?

Importantly, though, I think the questions you’re already asking yourself sound incredibly helpful and revelatory, especially the question about “what if this was overheard or shared” — this can be helpful to guide you through some of the privacy concerns with self-disclosure and make sure the person you’re telling will keep your information private. I wouldn’t run down a rabbit hole with the question so-to-speak (as in, I don’t want you to worry too much/fixate on it), but it can definitely be a great place to jump off from. Does that make sense?
Heather
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Re: Missing the person who I’m dating when I’m away from them

Unread post by Heather »

AQ: Thanks so much for saying such lovely things! I really appreciated that.

And I hear you, for sure. My life experience is also that the longer romantic or sexual relationships go on, the more they tend to develop friendship aspects (though sometimes that's how those relationships began, so it's already baked in), and the more we can feel like when we miss those folks, big stuff is missing.

But when I read your post here, I was reminded of my telling a long-distance partner recently I missed them. Their initial response was to say they'd see what they could do to remedy that, and I told them that while of course, I always want to see them, that the reason I was telling them I missed them wasn't for them to feel like they needed to fix something, but was instead shared just because I figure it's nice to know when you're missed, since missing someone does make pretty clear that they are obviously valuable and meaningful to us. <3
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead
Asking Queries
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Re: Missing the person who I’m dating when I’m away from them

Unread post by Asking Queries »

Hi!

Responding to KierC:

Ah, that makes more sense, thanks for explaining. I think I haven’t been asking those questions because I’ve been mostly sharing simply for info/intimacy’s sake (expecting at them to respond with at most a roughly similar amount/depth of info, but not comforting or feeling less alone), but I’ll keep them in mind as I move into more personal or sensitive areas.

Yes, that makes sense.

Responding to Heather:

Of course! :)

This dating relationship started as a friendship and then we decided to add the dating part — I’m using this language because I feel like the friendship aspect is still quite strong and also more tangible than the romantic aspect. I think it probably feels different because the person I’m dating is within my group of friends, and when I talked about missing my friends, I meant missing all of them — so, the first situation is missing one (albeit very important) friend, the second all of them. Missing my friends as a whole definitely feels big (and bad).

Thanks for sharing this! I hadn’t thought of it in this way before — it seems like a bittersweet (different in different situations of course) sentiment, and I think I hadn’t really realized the sweet part.

- AQ
“… we need to recognize that adolescents, like all human beings, need strong social bonds. To provide youth with such bonds—at an interpersonal and societal level—is the work of us all.” - Amy T. Schalet, Not Under My Roof.
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