Q: I have been dating a beautiful girl for about four months now. She is 15 years younger than I and has three children from her last relationship.
Soon after we met, the lease was running out on her apartment. I asked her and her children to come live with me. Her car was breaking down, so I also gave her my old Infinity, which really was only two years old. Although I don't have any children, I enjoy her kids for the most part and they aren't a problem.
What upsets me is that it seems that every Thursday night, we have this pattern of getting into a fight. She storms out and joins her girlfriends for a drink downtown. She really doesn't drink much, but she does end up coming home around 1 a.m. or 2 a.m. She blames this on me because she "had to take a time out" since we were having a fight. She says I am too controlling because I always want to know who she is with, who she has talked to during the day and if her ex-boyfriend has called her.
By the way, our fights are usually after I have asked an innocent question about what she did all day. She gets upset that I am trying to control her. I don't think it's my fault that we are fighting, especially when she only gets upset at me on Thursday night when she wants to go out. What should I do?
A: One of the issues that your problem brings to the forefront is how couples carve out private time to be with friends. Although everyone has an occasional "girls night out" or "guys night out," in a relationship it usually shouldn't be a regular thing.
A regular evening out at the bars with friends is what single people do when they are interviewing new candidates for dating. If you are committed to a couple, conceivably you have given all that up and aren't into doing that anymore. That's considering you aren't the kind of person who wants the convenience and security of a relationship with the fun of being single all in the same package.
To address this issue, I suggest you and your partner sit down and figure out how to resolve fighting and conflict without storming out of the house. Time out is not hours apart, it is only a very brief break in the action to help people regain their composure and avoid saying mean and cruel things to each other that they can't take back.
In addition, you may need to work on the "controlling" issue and take a good hard look to see if you are being accusatory or mistrusting in your interrogations of who is she with, who did she talk to, etc. Too much intrusion into personal privacy, given that you have no real evidence to mistrust her, can be damaging to a relationship.
I also suggest you work out a reasonable schedule for her to spend time with friends. She may want to shift her socializing from nighttime to daytime hours, going on workouts with friends, shopping, going out to lunch, etc.
Finally, you may want to take a good hard look at the developmental level both of you are at this point in your lives. You are 15 years older than she is, and you may be ready for more cocooning, staying at home and enjoying the family in a quiet way.
Your partner however, may still be in a time of her life when she wants excitement and a lot of socializing with men and women. Not that there is anything wrong with that, except that is usually the lifestyle of a single person. She is getting a great deal of financial stability from being in your home, and this may be hard to give up.
While you may enjoy her energy and her beauty, she may not be ready to embrace the lifestyle you are most comfortable with at this time. Talk all this out, as best you can.
Janet Hibel has a diplomate in counseling psychology from the American Board of Professional Psychology. E-mail your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.