- Dr. Love in the Media
Problems in Relationship
May 12, 2013 Ask Dr. Love Advice Column
Hi Love Doctor, mine would be quite a long story and really thank you for the patience and time you took to read everything. :) here it goes... I got to know my girlfriend in school, we were very loving when we first got together, after being together for around 2months, her mum starts to disapprove our relationship as her mum thinks that my feelings for her daughter aren't real and that I do not love her. What made my girlfriend's mum to have the thought could be this: "One day, I was texting my girlfriend and I asked her if I can go back to my previous part-time job during the holidays, her reply was 'no', at that time, I asked her for the reason for not letting me to go back to my previous part-time job but she did not want to tell me anything, I was finding her unreasonable, so I got kinda-of angry and somehow showed her attitude and had a quarrel with her and she switched off her phone, and my friend told me about her being very upset at the moment so I tried calling her and sending her SMS apologizing to her for being rude earlier on. After she switched back on her mobile, I asked her what happened just now that made her so upset. She said that it was nothing much, it's the past already, don't bring it up. So naturally, I thought that she is ok and we carry on our relationship perfectly." (That was the first time she cried real hard.) Now that she suddenly want to break up with me, claiming that if I really love her, I wouldn't have cause her to cry and hurt her. So I told her that, "it's impossible to have a perfect relationship in this world, but now that I know the reason behind it, I never had let cried anymore after that incident, at that time, I did concern about you and tried asking you what's happening but you didn't want to tell me, if you did tell me the reason, I wouldn't have quarrel with you." My girlfriend is someone who likes to keep her feelings to herself and not really willing to share with me despite me showing concern towards her. Right now, she is still very angry at me for hurting her. She said that I aren't the right guy for her because I made her cry and hurt her. Inside me, I am just wondering if she still have feelings for me and what she said is just in a moment of anger. Would like to add on, She is still very unhappy with me, she isn't replying my texts either. Now that she want to leave me but she is still angry at me, does that shows that she still have feelings for me? Hope to hear from you soon as I haven't been eating well and sleep well for the past weeks already. Will appreciate it a lot.
Boy, relationships can be heaven on earth or hell on wheels! I hear you want to get your ex back despite the fact that this girl is putting you through hell and back. I mean, this girl is really high maintenance. I do commend your efforts to repair your relationship and reconcile with her!
Let’s do a rough sketch of the anatomy of the downward spiral leading to your break up. Rather than simply taking a job over the holidays, you called to ask her how she felt about the idea. This was a very “relational” act on your part, meaning you took her feelings into account before making a decision that would affect her and your relationship. Bravo!
Instead of responding to your question in a mature way, she simply told you, “no.” You asked her to talk with you about why she objected, but she refused to disclose her feelings, and she stonewalled you, which was not relational on her part.
I understand her shutting the door on any discussion emotionally triggered you. Her rigid position and refusal to talk with you made you understandably angry; then you acted on your anger by giving her “attitude,” and an argument erupted.
From that point on you were demonized by her and her mother for having committed various atrocities including hurting her and making her cry.
What’s wrong with this picture? A lot!
First of all, I’m going to talk about her role in this fiasco. For starters, as you said, your ex doesn’t talk about her feelings. The reality is a relationship can only work if both commit to describing their thoughts and feelings and why they have them.
Instead, she acted her feelings out by just slamming the door on you and saying no.
Next she fell into the “innocent, victim” routine. She’s also carrying a grudge by holding on to this poor me act by saying that you hurt her, wronged her, and even made her cry, and all of which prove to her that you aren’t the right boyfriend for her. By playing the victim she is unconsciously arranging to not look at her role in the dispute and take responsibility for what she did to provoke you. I promise you, if she kicks you to the curb, she’s going to repeat this pattern over and over again. The bottom line is no relationship is possible unless both partners are willing to look at their own role in creating and maintaining fights.
Your ex sounds like a “professional” victim. I don’t hold out much hope that she will be able to maintain a relationship with you or anyone else until and unless she faces this pattern and resolves it. By the way, I think her mother may be encouraging her to play the innocent victim role.
Let me also say a few words regarding her needing to end it because you hurt her…Give me a break! No matter how hard we try not to hurt each other, we do end up saying and doing things that don’t land right with others. The goal isn’t to be perfect—that’s not humanly possible. The goal is to strive to be as thoughtful as we can be at every moment. And when we fail, we must invite our partners to share with us how we let them down. Then it’s our partners’ jobs to tell us in a constructive, mature, concise, cool and non-attacking way how we missed the mark and what they would prefer from us in the future (that’s my X, Y Formula). This is how we work together to make our relationships stronger and more loving. And through this process each of us has the power to make the world a better place.
Your girlfriend has a lot to learn about herself as well as the world of relationships. I would tell her what I said about your mutual roles in this dispute, what she did that wasn’t optimal and what you did.
If she’s willing to hear the truth, and work on cleaning up her side of the fence (meaning get in touch with her true feelings and talk about them, not act them out by stonewalling and issuing orders (telling you “no”); become aware that she stonewalls and issuesIssues, in the words of the Serenity Prayer, are things you can change, either by making different personal choices and/or by finding ways to work with your partner more effectively. commands rather than get in touch with her feelings of hurt—I do think she felt hurt and rejected when you suggested working rather than spending all your time with her over the holidays; and, last but not least, becoming aware that she plays the victim as a way of not looking at her own role in your fights and conflicts, then there’s no hope for a relationship with her.
As for you, as you realized the hard way, action begets a counter-reaction. You became angry and then you derailed by acting out your anger (giving her attitude) instead of using my proven conflict resolution X, Y Formula, which consists of simply describing what the other person has done or said and how you feel about it.
Your job is to to work on not allowing yourself to act out when you’re provoked or triggered. Otherwise, you’re going to fall into the same pattern with your next girlfriend, and then your conflicts will also turn into out of control fighting.
When you talk to her next, start by taking responsibility for your own role in the fight; then tell her what I said about her specific involvement. Ask her if she’s willing to own her part of the problem (don’t hold your breath!). If she surprises me and sees her role, then there’s hope for your relationship. If she won’t cop to her own stuff, there’s no hope here. In which case, you will need to move on, breathe a sigh of relief, and consider yourself fortunate that you were freed from a partner who is guaranteed to drive you insane.
"If anger and fighting are ruining your dream of a happy marriage, Dr. Turndorf’s conflict resolution program is for you."
-- John Gray,
Author of NY Times #1 bestseller Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus
"This well-researched book offers a thorough, step-by-step program that provides tools for couples to heal even the most troubled relationships."
-- Dr. John Mack
Pulitzer Prize winning author and Professor of Psychiatry at Harvard Medical School
“This book is mandatory reading for every couple that wants to build lasting love.”
-- John Bradshaw,
Author of NY Times #1 bestseller Homecoming
"Dr. Turndorf is an amazing individual who has wonderful advice to offer men and women of all ages and in all types of relationships. Ignore her counsel at your peril!"
-- Bill Hammond III,
Winner of the Best Historical Fiction Award, 2012
"You are awesome Dr. Jamie. You really are. The best part about you is the way you translate complex psychological stuff into easy to understand and actionable insights."
-- Kajay Williams,
Producer Relationship Advice Cafe
"Let me tell you why you're extremely important now. I really believe your message is there. You're spot on. More and more people should be taking advantage of what you're offering."
-- Michael Dresser,
Syndicated Radio Host
"Good stuff. Great insight. I love your approach. Who doesn't need more healing. I love your idea of using your partner as a healing agent. That's such a great way to see your partner. You give great labels and patterns to look for. I love your method. You make it sound so easy. You have a great website with lots of great information and resources. These are the tools we all need."
-- Dr. Matt Townsend,
Host, The Matt Townsend Show