Mygripe Question: My girlfriend of 18 months and I love each other very much. We’ve had our little fights, and a few big ones, but have always been able to eventually talk them out.  We know we have communication issues; we both occasionally get passionate about our fights. Lately, the fights have become worse and more frequent. And now she says she’s unhappy, not feeling like herself.

She didn’t say she was unhappy about our relationship, but she doesn’t want to go out, or even have me see her after work.  I’m worried she’s trying to distance herself from me, and that she wants to break up. I’ve told her I’m there for her whenever she wants to talk, but she doesn’t say more. What else can I do?

Worried

Answer: Take the distance, for both your sakes. Hanging on to someone who’s retreating is a set-up for disaster. She’ll either end up pulling away over a long period that makes you both miserable, or she’ll stay and whatever’s bothering her won’t get resolved. It’ll mean even worse communication and fighting ahead.

Tell her you want both of you to be happy and that a break is essential, while you each think about whether this relationship is worth resuming. Insist that if you get back together, you get counselling together to learn how to fight fair.

“Passionate fights” are about who can yell loudest or manipulate better. (Her withdrawing from you is just such a manipulation, instead of speaking up about the reason).  Instead, you need to learn to discuss issues on which you differ strongly, and how to work out and accept compromises.

Question: Our son is estranged from us because his wife, who tolerated us prior to marriage, has absolutely no use for us since the wedding. Every time we fix one problem, another rears its ugly head.  We’ve taken the high road and allowed our son his space because we know how miserable his life is when we try to have a relationship with him.

We had a stellar relationship with him prior to his meeting this woman. We’re all hard-working, white-collar, educated people. If she couldn’t stand us, she should’ve had the courage to walk away. My son isn’t blameless in not standing up for his family and our importance in his life.

I believe that when you dislike everything about where your spouse came from — which she feels — there are deeper troubles ahead for the relationship.

People in relationships should accept and love the package deal and, if they can’t, then maybe they’re in the wrong fit.

Bitter Experience

Answer: Taking the “high road” doesn’t only mean supporting your own son. It can also mean trying to understand your daughter-in-law, without judgment. Your statement about being “hard-working, white-collar, educated,” followed by her “not standing” you, indicates she’s from a different background. It suggests this is at the heart of the gulf between your family and her.

You give your own traits great value; now step into her shoes for just a minute.

She knows you may look down on her background; she likely feels insecure and afraid that her husband will also see her as inferior, so pushes his family away. It’s a streetwise move to preserve her own position in her own household.

I urge you to look to those things about her that endeared your son to her and to what keeps him there. Then start showing her your appreciation of whatever’s positive to them.

TIP OF THE DAY

Silent withdrawal from a relationship is a signal to take a break rather than cling harder. Mygripe

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