Dear John: ‘My partner is choking me and I don’t know what to do’

John Aiken is a relationship and dating expert on Nine .’s hit show Married at first sight† He is a bestselling author, appears regularly on the radio and in magazines, and leads exclusive couples retreats.

Each month, John joins 9Honey exclusively to answer your questions about love and relationships*.

If you have a question for John, please email: Dearjohn@nine.com.au

MAFS expert John Aiken
John joins 9Honey exclusively to answer your questions about love and relationships. (Nine)

Dear John,

I feel smothered by my partner. We’ve been together for years and have a great relationship, but lately his interest in me (and what I do) has gotten a bit intense.

I know that the goal of every relationship is to be in love and I am so thankful that he loves me and wants to be with me always, but sometimes I just want some space. I really love him and this is not my love for him, but I would like to be able to do things without him always asking if he can come.

I feel bad discussing this with him because I know it will hurt his feelings. Is there a nice way to ask for some space?

Of course there is an easy way to bring this up. The fact that you are concerned about having this delicate conversation tells me that you are a considerate and caring partner, rather than one who has a tendency to be selfish, domineering and opinionated.

This is a very normal situation that many couples find themselves in. One wants more independence, the other more togetherness. The great thing about what you’re saying is that both of you still want to be in the relationship together. So now it’s all about adjusting how you connect as a couple, creating new expectations and getting your much-needed space.

Kate Hudson and Matthew McConaughey in How to Lose a Man in 10 Days.
“I feel smothered by my partner.” (Paramount Pictures)

It is a fact that as a couple you evolve and grow together. This is amazing! As you do this, you need to keep adjusting how you manage your relationship. Right now he wants to spend more time with you, while you like to have some space and discover things on your own.

Healthy couples have to navigate these types of conversations all the time as new variables come into play, such as children, career, health and fitness, and new friendships. The key for you is to remember that how you bring up this conversation will be vital. If you can do it gently and respectfully, share your feelings with him, and give him a future blueprint of how things will be, then things will go smoothly.

So when the time comes, tell him you’d like to be in a relationship with him and how excited you are about the future, but point out that there’s something you’d like to change in the future.

Understand your emotions and tell him that you feel a little choked, anxious, cramped, and suffocated when he insists on spending more time with you (give specific examples). Then give him the blueprint and tell him that in the future you would love it if he did it differently (give concrete examples).

Then give him the chance to answer and see if he wants to change anything too. Be open to this. Ultimately, your goal is to fill his cup with togetherness, and also to have your own space to enjoy your separateness.

Dear John,

I have a dilemma: my boyfriend’s ex is crazy. I don’t really know if I’d even call her an “ex” because they’d only slept together a few times before he and I started dating.

I’ve been in a relationship with my boyfriend for almost three years now and he’s the best friend out there. The only downside is this girl who is still obsessed with him.

She’s in the same group of friends as me and I always see her out. Whenever I see her she always goes out of her way to approach me and tells me I stole it from her and they are “meant”. It’s so frustrating!

I’ve been trying to avoid her, but when I do, she’s still saying things to my friends, which is what makes it so uncomfortable for everyone. I don’t know if I should confront her with her lies or if it just makes things worse? What do you think?

Bride Wars movie bride screaming
She always says they are “intended”. (Bride Wars/20th Century Fox)

The problem here is not with the ex, but with your boyfriend. The reason this continues to be a problem is that he didn’t intervene and put an end to it.

She only does this because he allowed her to. At this point, you are taking responsibility for doing something about her behavior, while your friend needs to stop it as well.

It’s been three years, and for the ex to keep trying to break you up is toxic and dangerous for you as a couple. So it’s time to get him on board, deal with the problem and then the two of you can move on without an ex coming between the two of you.

This has everything to do with a lack of boundaries. The reason this ex is going on in such a destructive way is because your boyfriend didn’t impose any boundaries. He probably knows this is going on, but he hasn’t wanted to confront her. Because of this, she is now so powerful that she feels comfortable telling you to your face that “they are”. That’s not going to work for you anymore, so it’s time to team up and shut her down.

Talk to your friend and tell him all the details about what exactly is going on and how it hurt you emotionally. Be very honest about your pain – it made you feel anxious, angry, attacked, uncertain about the future, and upset.

Explain that you both need to talk to her and make it very clear that you are a united team. Then, if you get your chance, both of you discuss the issue with her, making it especially clear that you never stole it, that she (the ex) is definitely not supposed to be with him now or in the future, and that you both would rather she move on and focus on someone else.

Once you do this as a team, she will realize she can’t come between you and the game is over.

Dear John,

I have been with my boyfriend for a year now and we are talking about getting a dog.

We don’t live together yet, but we have a very good relationship. I love dogs and so does he, so he suggested we get one together. I know this may sound a bit dramatic, but do you think it’s premature to take this step together?

A dog is a big commitment and we don’t even live together. I see us eventually moving to the same place, but not for a few years. My main concern is that we get the dog and then split up a few years later.

Do we have to wait a little longer before taking this step or taking a leap of faith?

Marley and me
“My main concern is that we get the dog and then break up a few years later.” (20th Century Fox)

I would wait if I were you. You have to listen to your instincts here and for some reason you want to wait and take more time. That’s very reasonable, you don’t even live together and you’re only dating for a year.

If I were you, I’d focus on getting your relationship right rather than bringing in another variable like a dog before knowing if this relationship has any long-term potential.

It’s premature, it complicates your relationship and it puts a lot of pressure on both of you as you now need to enjoy each other and find out how compatible you are. Say no to him on the dog issue, spend more quality time together and find out if this guy is really the one.

When you go out with someone for the first time, you can get carried away in all the novelty and excitement. New couples often make the mistake of making big decisions without thinking about it, only to have to bail out several months or years later. Don’t be like these kind of couples.

You are doing well with your partner, but you need more time. Your next decision will likely focus on when to move in together long before getting a new dog.

So take him aside and explain your position on this. Tell him you feel overwhelmed, anxious, rushed, and insecure thinking about getting a dog.

Point out that you want to spend more time in the relationship with him than worrying about a dog, and that you don’t see yourself getting a pet until after you make the move to move in together. Then leave it to him to answer.

If he really likes you, he’ll be more than happy to wait and work within your timeline. If he can’t handle this, he’s moving too fast, isn’t listening, and he probably won’t be the one for you in the long run.

*The opinions in this column are for general informational purposes only, are based on limited information and are not professional advice. You should always seek your own professional advice for your circumstances. All actions taken are the sole responsibility of the reader, not the author or 9Honey.

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