You Need Help: How Do I Convince My Girlfriend That I Care?


Hi, I’ve been dating this girl for 9 months. I was head over heels for her since the minute I met her. Then I became a caregiver for my grandmother and became very burnt out — but still used every last ounce of my energy to spend with her. She told me at the 3 month mark that she loved me. (I’m 44 and have been through 2 long term relationships with people that I also thought I loved and saw them fall to a complacent bland and then dramatic existence and I am not quick to say these words. Not even with family. I clam up. I’ve always been very shy about these things. My good friends never knew who I was interested in until I was deeply involved.) So I clammed up and that started what became the 6 months of insecurity hell.

I would literally be trying to get all my work done faster so I could spend time with her but then when I’d see her she was upset that I didn’t text her all night. Or sometimes my grandmother would decide she wanted to stay up late in the living room watching movies until midnight, which would prevent me from being able to come out. I also started knitting my girlfriend socks while I was trapped watching movies — another thing that prevented me from power texting. So then when I saw her again she was worked up that I was avoiding her where I’ve actually been so excited to give her the socks I’ve been making her. She loves blue and rainbows and black so I make socks with this and was really excited to give it to her.

Then I became more burnt out and when we’d hang out I would pass out. Or I really started not getting any time alone and when I’d mention that I’d need some down time, she would end up really upset that I don’t want to spend time with her or anything. And she would start telling me I’m using her etc. I really care a lot about her but she has started getting advice from the internet and friends that I’m bread-crumbing her and lying to her when I’m not with her. It makes me panic and sometimes angry because I’ve done so much for her with time I really didn’t have for myself. I bought her dog training classes, i bought her leather things she likes, I went on dog walks with her if my grandmother was napping, I brought her xc skiing with me, I paid for her to come to the climbing gym with me, I slept at her house many nights that I should have actually been watching my grandmother (she wants someone there during the night while she sleeps, but I would sneak out). I rented AirBNBs and got a grandmother sitter so we could go away on weekends to have time alone together. I text a lot, I really have strong feelings for her too. But she words things in ways that I can’t win and she is making me want more space when I know that’s not what she actually wants. But her language becomes kind of abusive in an indirect way and I don’t know what to do.

All the advice online seems to really push the u-haul advice, and so according to stuff she reads online confirms I’m moving too slow, bread-crumbing her or stringing her along.

I already really loved her but she’s not feeling it from me and I don’t know how to make her feel more loved when it feels like she is cornering me and demanding I love her more.

I’ve read about anxious and insecure attachment styles and I’ve also noticed this comes up once a month…

She’s now just decided yesterday we can only be friends because she’s convinced I’m uninterested.

How do I bridge the gap between how I feel for her and how she feels?


Oh, friend. First of all, I want to acknowledge the huge amount of labor that you’re currently doing for your grandmother — both physically and emotionally. I know both first-hand and from my day job that caregiving for our older loved ones can be really rewarding, but it can also be really draining, especially when you don’t have sufficient opportunities for respite. Having to stay in and stay up late to watch movies with your grandmother when that’s not a choice you would make for yourself, sneaking out… it feels to me like you’re describing a situation that is not going to be sustainable long-term. You shouldn’t have to do this alone.

This isn’t exactly what you wrote in to ask us about, but I’m curious whether there are other family members who could help to share the load of this caregiving with you. If family members aren’t an option, there may be some other opportunities to get some respite and put a little bit more balance into your life. If you live in the US, you can start by googling your location plus “area agency on aging.” Area Agencies on Aging are state-licensed nonprofits that help to coordinate community resources for older adults and their families, and may be able to connect you with other low- or no-cost services, like Adult Day Health Care, home health aides, etc. Reaching out for help can sometimes feel impossible when your energy reserves are already sapped by the work you’re doing, but hopefully, if you are able to get some services in place, you may be able to start to bring some balance back into your life, and have the space and time for dating and for all of the other intricacies of a full life.

Which brings us to your relationship! I’m going to say this bluntly: I don’t think this is the right person for you. When I first began to read your letter, I thought there might simply be a communication disconnect, but when you really get down to the nitty-gritty, it honestly sounds like she’s looking for something you just can’t give her. The fact that you can’t isn’t a moral failing on your part; wanting or needing different things from a relationship is a value-neutral issue. She wants someone effusive with their language and lavish with their time, someone who can upend a lot of their life to be with her. Meanwhile, your life is very full at the moment. It’s not too full for the right kind of relationship, but it is too full for THIS relationship. This mismatch is not something you can make up for by buying her other things, like dog training lessons and passes to the climbing gym. Trying to do so is only going to drain your mental reserves even more.

You mentioned “all the advice online,” but I think that we can take her at her word when she says what she wants. It’s very possible that you two are simply in two different seasons when it comes to dating and sharing a life. I do remember a time, in my twenties and early thirties, when my life had a lot of space in it; when embracing a new relationship could happen at an accelerated pace, and I could spend a ton of time with this new person in my life. Now, at 39, I’m in a place where my life is much fuller, with obligations and with joys. There is space in my life, but dating looks different than it did when I was younger. And that’s okay! When you find someone who understands and can relate to the season you’re in, things will progress more naturally and feel more balanced.

At the end of your letter, you mentioned that the person you’re writing in about may have basically broken up with you when she said “you could only be friends.” I hope that in the time between then and now, you’ve been able to talk together and clarify your status. If you haven’t, it’s time to do that now. Whatever has happened and will continue to happen with that relationship and/or friendship, I hope that you’re able to take some steps to get some support in your caregiving, and that you can start to seek the type of relationship that you deserve — one with a person who respects the fullness of your life, and who can provide a little bit of support, joy, and glimmers of goodness, just as you do the same for them. I’ll be thinking of you. Good luck out there! 💙

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Darcy, a.k.a. Queer Girl, is your number one fan. They're a fat feminist from California who doodles hearts in the corners of their Gay Agenda. They're living through a pandemic, they're on Twitter, and they think you should drink more water! They also wanna make you laugh.

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  1. agree completely with this response.

    LW, any relationship that doesn’t include room for you to take care of your own basic needs is not going to be a healthy one. reading about your lack of alone/down time outside of your caretaking role made me wince. it sounds like this is a time in your life where you just do not have a ton of time available for any relationship- maturity looks like you acknowledging this and being realistic about what you have to offer (without implying that maybe the problem is the other person’s menstrual cycle!), and the other person assessing whether that fits what they need (without having to slap a bunch of pathologizing labels on you). mismatches happen. sometimes circumstances really do make relationships unworkable even if your heart wants to make them work. nobody is at fault for this, as it stands- but, if you haven’t broken up already, you both do need to be honest, generous, and brave, and make some hard decisions before things deteriorate to a point where you’re not being your best selves.

  2. Dear LW. I feel very heart-broken about your situation, I am so sorry things are like that right now for you. Ugh. Sorry if I will say something wrong here. This person clearly is not meant for you. If she does not respect your basic human needs, your need for rest, sleep and having alone time, then this relationship will not work. Thoughts about it:

    1. I may be wrong, but you describe this situation as being heavily influenced by your life circumstances now. It may seem that things are the way they are because you are taking care of your grandmother, and if there were no grandmother in the picture, then you could have given your girlfriend everything she wants, and then all would be fine. It is not true. It may SEEM like true, but it is not. Even if your life were different, you would still need sleep, rest and alone time. There still would be days when you were extremely busy, stressed, exhausted, sick with a severe cold etc. From what you describe in your letter, you would STILL not get a normal amount of respect, care and consideration, and would STILL be made feel guilty about not giving enough. Whatever your circumstances, you will still be not giving enough for this person. I know. People will probably argue with me about this point, but, please, try honestly imagine your life with your girlfriend without your grandmother in the picture, and honestly say to yourself if THEN you could satisfy her needs. Because, from my point of view, the answer is still no.

    2. You are probably made feel guilty about not bringing enough into relationship. This is not true. From what you describe, you try as best as you can and MORE. But it seems to me that you might feel like YOU are the one who must work on your relationship. But relationship needs two people to care for each other. Now, again, people on this site are going, probably, to disagree with me, but ugh. I want to say it. And I will be saying it from my point of view and experience (caring for 4 dying relatives, elderly and not, in the past), and all my family and friends experience. This person, who claims to love you, and is with you for 9 months, did she offer help to you? Does she actively offering to shop for you, buy meds for you, make some appointments for you? To sit with your grandmother while you are having an hour of freedom and solitude somewhere else? Does she give you cooked meals with you, so that you won’t cook for yourself for one evening? She seems to have A LOT of free time on her hands. People here will say, oh, no, she is not obliged to do that, it is wrong to expect her to do that. I know. BUT. If it is love. If you have found a person you deeply care about. You will do it. YOU, dear LW, would certainly do it for your loved one, don’t you? Somewhere, there is a person, who would do it for you. Somewhere, there is a person who will not blame you for having a life. You are trying so hard and doing so well already, and somewhere there is a person who really deserves it. Right now, while being a very hard, very draining life situation, you just have another factor that drains you and makes you unhappy. There is no shame to give up and move on to something better. You only have one life. And this life has all potential to be a happy one. Sending you all my love and respect. It will get better.

    • I can only second this. From LW’s description it doesn’t sound like they want different things out of a relationship, but whatever LW will do it won’t ever be enough.

      Especially your reasoning under 1… reflecting on my current (still ongoing) marriage this was an issue all the time and it is something that won’t change even if you try to give more and more. Has your partner ever asked you about your need for space, downtime etc.? If you’d like to do something else between taking care of your grandparent and being with them? What would happen if one of your friends asked you to go away for a weekend, just play through that scenario in your head. If you feel uncomfortable talking to your partner about your needs, especially when it is about time and space for yourself, something is off (and not with you!).

    • Yeah honestly I think anyone who does disagree with two has a problem, because its not that you think she has an obligation to do specific care acts for her girlfriend – it’s that not stepping up to offer anything like that, and at the very least acknowledge how little time and energy her partner has, is a huge red flag. She clearly expects attention and care from LW and that’s something you have to reciprocate in a relationship if you want it to work. Stepping up and helping your partner who you claim to love, in practical as well as emotional ways, is just part of being a partner. Its going to vary by your capacities but its just how healthy relationships work.

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