Partner doesn't include me in their life

Dear Alice,

I am in a relationship with a fellow student who likes to visit only late at night, and doesn't include me with other friends. When we do things, it is always the two of us alone, or with my friends. I don't particularly like the situation and have tried to ask for some changes, but it feels as if I am fighting an uphill battle. I'm not sure what to do.

— Feeling helpless

Dear Feeling helpless,

While not a vampire, it sounds as though your late night visitor is leaving you a little drained. At their best, relationships — familial, romantic, sexual, platonic, or otherwise — can enhance your life and leave you feeling better off than you were before. If you’re finding that that isn't the case for your current partner, you might consider having a good think about what you're currently getting from the relationship and where it might be falling short.

To get your brainstorming juices flowing, you might try reflecting on or journaling about the following questions. What do you want from a romantic or sexual relationship in your life? What degree of interdependence or life entanglement do you want with a partner — in other words, do you want to be friends with their friends, share a home, share finances, give each other advice, or support each other’s academic and professional goals, just to name a few? When you’re in a relationship, what makes you feel like your person cares about you and is responsive to your wants and needs? Once you’ve identified what you want, you then might wish to evaluate your current relationship against those desires. What is keeping you in this particular relationship? Are you looking for more than what your current relationship is providing or could provide in the future? What are the pros and cons to staying in or ending this relationship? Taking some time to examine your own motivation, feelings, and expectations may help you determine how you want to move forward from here.

If you decide that your current relationship is falling short in a couple areas but overall it’s worth keeping, then it might be time to talk to your significant other about how you’re feeling. You mentioned that one of your current concerns is that you don’t feel like your partner has made space for you in their day-to-day life, including inviting you to spend time with their friends. Before talking to them about this topic yet again, you may want to spend some time thinking about how the two of you communicate now. Have you directly told them about how the current situation makes you feel, or do you tend to hint and suggest in hopes they pick up the subtext? Have you asked directly whether or not you can join the next time they hang out with their friends? If yes, what has been the response? It may not be realistic for you both to be together all the time, but it sounds like you wish your partner invested as much time and effort as you do trying to integrate your relationship into your individual social lives.

With every relationship comes the give-and-take of communication and discussions of when and how to compromise. The reality may be that your partner desires a romantic or sexual relationship that is siloed apart from the rest of their life. That’s not wrong or bad or immoral of them, and it doesn’t mean that they don’t truly value their time with you — but it may not match what you want out of a relationship. If this is the case, you may want to spend some time thinking about whether you would be happy staying in the relationship if nothing changes moving forward. Or you may find out through talking with your partner that they're interested in compromising to ensure your needs are being met; this might look like talking about what changes you both would like to strive for in the future and in what time frame.

It's up to you to decide whether or not you want to pursue the relationship at the level that it's at right now. Only you know what will make you happy and fulfilled, and there is no shame in deciding that your current relationship no longer serves you. Change is an ongoing process and can sometimes be a hard one, but that doesn’t mean it’s any less meaningful or necessary. Here’s to building your best future, whatever that looks like for you!

Last updated Mar 25, 2022
Originally published Oct 01, 1994

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