My girlfriend and I keep hitting the same roadblocks while dating (off and on) for two years.
We’ll be getting along fine for a couple of months – close, sharing, and having great sex – then she’ll start pulling away, barely communicating with me for some reason, usually work.
I’m 34, she’s 32, we have our own apartments, and work hard in our own businesses.
I know she’s had some difficult relationships. She says her ex-fiancé of four years always made her feel at fault for something.
She comes by that feeling from childhood, I think, though I’ve had to piece this together myself:
Her mother left her and her brother when they were very young. Her father openly bad-mouthed his ex in front of the kids.
There was no contact at all during my girlfriend’s teenage years – she was too angry at her mother.
The first time my girlfriend shut me out, it was because I wanted to know if we had a future together (this was six months after we’d been seeing each other a lot).
She immediately got “too busy” to sleep over as before.
I started trying to figure out how she could go from warm, funny, supportive and sexy, to distant and cold, within the same day.
She works hard, has long hours. The same applies to me but I believe a relationship can handle that if you stay in close contact, which is easy today with messaging.
But when she withdraws, there’s a cold chill, and excuses.
Does this relationship stand a chance at working out our ups and downs together?
Relationships have very good chances IF both people understand each other’s emotional triggers and can communicate about them.
You have some insights into your girlfriend’s issues… mostly because you’ve been listening and absorbing stuff from her past that still affects her.
But if she persists in shutting down whenever she’s troubled or overworked, she’s not allowing you (or anyone else) to stay on her team.
Unfortunately, some people cling to the negative coping ways they adopted when things were at their worst (e.g. cutting contact with her mother).
Soon, you’re going to have to lay your cards on the table: If you love her, tell her.
Say that you’ll gladly get counselling together, and encourage her to consider having her own therapy.
But you need to know that she has mutual feelings for you.
With therapy, she’ll hopefully learn that you can work toward a healthy, rewarding future together, if she stops hiding in fear.
I recently joined a volunteer choir that visits hospitals weekly and entertains patients. They’re thrilled to have me as a new member, and I’m thrilled to be part of the choir.
However, this tight-knit group also holds a couple of annual members’ social events including an upcoming Holiday dinner.
There’s a strong expectation that members attend.
I have no interest in group socializing (I don’t attend family gatherings, office parties, etc.).
How does one politely express that they’ll not attend in any foreseeable future? Or should I quit?
Not a Good Fit?
Keep singing. It’s your passion and the others want you in the choir. The gatherings are infrequent and not its main function.
Be “unable to attend” a couple of times, when asked. They may still invite you, but they’ll recognize that it’s not your thing.
So long as you’re a positive contributor to the choir, you’re a fine fit for its admirable goal of community service.
FEEDBACK Regarding the adult son whose “disappointing” parents won’t babysit four children while he and his wife take a vacation break (November 3):
Reader – “I'm a new parent and while my mother-in-law graciously watches my kid so we don't have to pay for daycare, I’d never demand that she do it.
“I didn’t ask. She offered, and we accepted with a set timeframe (when our son’s one-year-old).
“I’ve also left the door open for her to rescind her offer if she's no longer willing/able to do it before that timeframe.
“He’s our child and we’re the only ones responsible for arranging his childcare.
“The writer’s in-laws have already raised their kids and didn’t have any say in their son and his wife having four kids.
“For a weekend break, they should save up money to hire someone to watch the kids. They should not demand it of anyone.
“The sense of entitlement is ridiculous.”
Tip of the day:
When a partner’s been emotionally damaged in the past, counselling’s the best chance for developing trust in a relationship.