How to Strengthen Your Relationship/What's really happening here?

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Question
Sharon,

I'm 44, and have been dating my 37 year old girlfriend for 7 months.  I have a 12 year old son, her son 10, and her daughter 13.  We started slowly, and kept kids separate for a couple months until we both felt we were going to be pursuing a long term relationship.  

The kids get along very well, and we grew close quickly.  We essentially lived together through the entire summer, since kids wanted to be together and we did as well, and it was great.  

I've never had such an effortless time in a relationship, got along perfectly, matching value systems and beliefs, sense of humor, great chemistry, I really think she is someone I want to marry.

As the school year got underway, the staying together had to be drastically cut since we are 30 minutes apart, the kids have school, homework, etc. and we don't get to spend nearly the same amount of time with each other.  

Recently I screwed up... I was a few hours late coming back from a football game, on a weekend that was our first complete weekend free of any children.  The plan was to just chill out and do nothing...I got distracted at my house getting some odds and ends taken care of, wasn't watching the time, and maybe didn't realize that it was more the opportunity to have all that time together one on one, than just having the whole weekend to relax and do nothing.  I should have known this, but like all men, I have been known to be an idiot from time to time.  By the time I told her I was on my way she was livid, and said I've made other plans, don't bother, do whatever you want I won't be here.  We didn't speak for a couple days, I apologized profusely and sincerely, explained myself, etc.

Since then, she says that she still isn't over it, that her feelings aren't the same, she's calling the entire relationship into question, and said she wasn't sure if she wanted to pursue things, etc. This was 4 weeks ago.  

I was completely shocked that she was considering ending it.  I knew she was pissed and understandably so, but I had never done anything like that before, and I have done a great deal to help her out on a consistent basis.  we had been having a wonderful time up to that.  She says she's trying to work through it but doesn't have the affection, sense of humor, our sex life has dropped almost to nil when it was daily or more before this.

I told myself I'd be in the doghouse for a while, and chalked it up to that.  One thing that really actually angered me was that the relationship was apparently disposable to her.  I am of the opinion that if two people are committed and have kids and family involved and things were good, there could be almost nothing that could transpire in a few hours that could cause you to trash a relationship, outside of abuse or cheating on them.  

I've been blown away recently because she is pulling back, lost interest in sex, she's pulling away, bottom line.  At first I argued with her and basically told her what a huge insult it was to know the relationship wasn't substantial enough to get through one little bump, this has caused several arguments then the whole thing about always talking about relationships, etc.

I want her to snap out of it, she's been cranky, moody, cold, snippy and generally just hasn't shown any interest in me or effort to trying to work through this.  Says she's overwhelmed, exhausted, etc.  I want to repair the damage, as this was a really wonderful 7 months, and I know we were in love with each other.  What do I do before it's too late?

Answer
Dear Christopher,
Sorry I was so slow in answering and hope this helps.  It is important to really think about this because a negative pattern could develop. This is what happens in dating and why it is important to date awhile before marriage. It takes awhile for the real person to come out.

If you say that your relationship has been consistently good with very few problems and then you mess up one time by being late, and yet she is acting like you did something really serious like having sex with another woman or something terrible-- then the problem is with her, not you.  

Unfortunately, we can't go back and make things the way they were because now we have a new problem that is very real and must be addressed.

I know this might sound like not the right thing but usually, when one person pulls away the best thing is also to pull away. This creates a void in the other person's life that they feel and will want to try to fill. If you have apologized and yet she is treating you like you have beat her or something then she is way out of line in her reaction and if you give into this she will have you dancing on a string every time she perceived that you do some little thing wrong.

People have to suffer the consequences of their choices or they will not change.  You could easily let this relationship get into a codependent relationship that would be bad for you and really not good for her in the long run. When people get the rewards of bad behavior then it keeps them unhappy.  When people rely on others to fill all their needs and can't live without the other person making them happy then they are never happy and you can NEVER do enough to please them because happiness must come from within.  A good relationship should only be frosting on the cake but it cannot be the cake. It can only add to our own self-conidence in living our own life so that we are a happy person.

This incident has brought out a serious character flaw in your girlfriend. Now, sometimes what you do can make a difference and show/reflect to them what they are really doing and they realize they need to make some changes and sometimes it just cannot be done.

So, I suggest that you write out a list of all the good things you do and good characteristics that she has enjoyed in the past and then write out the one thing you did wrong.  Then tell her that neither one of you is perfect and that if one little bump, as you say, is so devastating to the relationship then it looks like unless changes are made, the relationship will not withstand the problems that will and do arise in every relationship.  If two people cannot work out problems then the relationship is not good.

Then tell her that it is up to her. If she is willing to have a relationship where you can work together in a positive way when things go wrong in the moment as they surely will, then you can see a future for the two of you. If she cannot overlook and work out one mistake then the relationship just isn't strong enough and it will be better to move on.  Tell her that it seems like having a relationship right now is just too overwhelming for her and to let you know if she is ready and willing for a true partnership where you love each other, apologize when you do something that hurts the other, then work out your differences in a loving a positive way. Then back off.  Tell her that you would like her to think about it and that maybe you can talk in a few days to see if things can be worked out.

You do not want to live with someone who will never forgive you when you make amistake. They are always pouting, holding back love, punishing you over and over again, making you feel like a real jerk, etc. when you are not that kind of person at all.  Relationships like that are horrible as the "bad guy" is always in trouble and simply cannot please their partner no matter how hard they try. I don't think you want that.

You already have tried apologizing and jumping through hoops for her and it has clearly not worked so it seems like your best effort is to back off and let her decide if she wants to work at this relationship like two adults or if she expects such perfection that her demands are totally unrealistic.  You can only work successfully with someone who is realistic and rational.  

I do hope this helps and that she responds with realization that she went way over the top--angry for a few days, yes--completely ready to give up on an otherwise good relationship--no.  

Let me know how it turns out.

Sharon  

How to Strengthen Your Relationship

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Sharon Crandall

Experience

Over 30 years of working with individuals, families, and businesses. Teaching classes, private coaching--helping design individual life plans,, private personality assessment, group workshops, and training others to become Personality Consultants and Life Coaches.

Education/Credentials
Certified in two year program of Personality Science. Certified in secondary Personality Science program from a different institution. Trained in various workshops for Life Coaching, Self-educated from numerous books and programs, plus private training from Personality Science experts.

Past/Present Clients
Hundreds of people from all walks of life including private individuals, couples, families, and businesses--from homemakers to CEO's Worked with many groups in workshops and classes. Worked with businesses particularly in customer relations/service and sales.

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