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Doctor Blake
Doctor Blake, Psychologist
Category: Mental Health
Satisfied Customers: 146
Experience:  Ph.D., Ed.S., NCSP Clinical Psychologist; 15+ years of experience; dual licensure
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Hi. I love the article of Dr. Phils on determining if this

Resolved Question:

Hi. I love the article of Dr. Phil's on determining if this guys right for you~the experience of you~being the key factor. I've been in an 11 month relationship (long distance VA-MI) and the 20% that this guy's lacking is really challenging for this very sensitive woman. How can you determine if the guy can "learn" the 20% that's lacking? Perfect example, yesterday on Father's Day it wouldn't have crossed his mind to call me after he spent the day with his Dad & family. My own Dad, who died 3 years ago, makes Father's Day emotional, and kind of tough. This guy doesn't do it intentionally, he's just really "clueless" when it comes to other's feelings. Which has been a huge issue for me. 80% is good, 20% leaves me aching for more from him. I've been struggling with this question for 6 months...can you teach someone empathy?
Submitted: 3 years ago.
Category: Mental Health
Expert:  Doctor Blake replied 3 years ago.

Doctor Blake :

Good morning, and welcome to JA.

Doctor Blake :

You yourself have provided the answer you need to this very tricky question.

Doctor Blake :

You said: "I know no one person can give everything you need in life to you. Can he learn this?"

Doctor Blake :

:)

Doctor Blake :

You see the contradiction here, right? You know (in your mind) that no one person can give everything you need in life." Yet, in the same breath, you ask, "can he learn this?"

Doctor Blake :

To reframe, you essentially said: "Can he learn to give me everything I need in life, even though I know that no one can do that?"

Doctor Blake :

Knowing that you can do nothing to change him, and it may not only be asking too much but really inappropriate TO CHANGE HIM... the only person you can focus on is: YOU.

Doctor Blake :

What if we were to ask your question in a different way...

Doctor Blake :

"Can **I** learn this: I know no one person can give everything you need in life to you." ?!?

Doctor Blake :

In psychological terms, we consider "mastery" of a given skill set 80%. That means, nobody who has mastered a skill is going to get it 100% of the time in all settings. It's funny to me that you have noted that he is NOT lacking 80% of the time... sounds like mastery to me!

Doctor Blake :

For example, "yesterday on Father's Day it wouldn't have crossed his mind to call me after he spent the day with his Dad & family. My own Dad, who died 3 years ago, makes Father's Day emotional, and kind of tough. This guy doesn't do it intentionally, he's just really "clueless" when it comes to other's feelings."

Doctor Blake :

Now, knowing that you know yourself and you know him, what could have done to take care of yourself (not to change him) that would have made this day easier for you? You could have informed him ahead of time that "I know you'll be busy with your dad... but if you could gimme a quick jingle, that would be great..."; you could have made plans to be around other people who can provide you with the emotional support you need; you could have resolved yourself to the fact that he's probably not gonna call - so won't it be a surprise if he does?; you could have called him instead.

Doctor Blake :

You note yourself that your friend doesn't do this intentionally... I doubt that there will be a "clue-phone" sufficient enough for him to learn that "lacking 20%" because, I suspect, even if he *did* meet all those needs (all 20% of 'em), you might still have needs beyond that.

Doctor Blake :

Part of learning what needs to be learned here ("Can **I** learn this: I know no one person can give everything you need in life to you." ?!?), will involve recognizing your own boundaries and his. A lack of a call on Father's Day may have absolutely nothing to do with you (as you may be ready to acknowledge, yes?). You "feeling good" on a potentially rough day should not (and can not) be contingent upon that phone call... it has to be upon your own maintenance of good emotional health, boundaries, and getting your needs met WITHIN YOURSELF (not him) or otehr supports.

Doctor Blake :

Connie Goldman writes a number of books that, I'm told, many women (and men) find very helpful with regard to relationships in mid-life. One, for example, is "Who Am I ... Now That I'm Not Who I Was?: Conversations with Women in Mid-life and the Years Beyond." This might be a good place to start.

Doctor Blake :

By no means do I believe you're in need of psychotherapy... but a little counseling to help straighten things out might not be a bad thing.

Doctor Blake :

As you continue to progress through your relationship, you'll want to be certain YOUR on firm ground yourself - not dependent upon his "perfection" in order for you to be happy. Since he'll NEVER be perfect, you're setting yourself up to never be happy!

Doctor Blake :

Thanks for writing to JA. I hope this was helpful. Please click <ACCEPT>.

Customer:

Thanks. Let me clarify something.The 80% I was referring to were the qualities and characters of him from Dr. Phil's article titled "The Character of Him". Not that 80% of the time he's sensitive and compassionate. In other areas of our relationship (values, goals, family, sex, interests) he's an 80% match with me. The area he's NOT a match (the other 20%) is this listening, reflecting, supporting, nurturing, emotional relational component that may be critical for me. Yes, one can call girlfriends, take care of oneself emotionally(and I'll get the Goldman book).....but if we're thinking about spending the rest of your lives together (this may truly be a mute point actually as he has already been scared off and has pulled away) the thought of not being able to talk and be "heard" with the one next to me is a troubling aspect to consider. Perhaps the deal breaker for me? Yes, I'm a highly intuitive, sensitive person, I've kept quiet(and unsatisfied) not telling him what "I'm not getting" from our phone conversations. And for several months, while I prepared myself to resign from a miserable work situation I had to leave last month, no doubt he got tired of hearing about it, not being able to fix it, and certainly not able to make me "feel" better in the moment, got old for us both. (I gave up frustrated, broke it off for 6 weeks, and we just recently began talking the past month again when he called me.) I know I have issues and continue to work on myself and expectations, but I guess I was asking if the "relational style" that I desire in a mate (hearing my emotional side and understanding/supporting me) can be taught, learned?

Doctor Blake :

Thanks for clarifying. Sorry I didn't grasp that from the initial read through your first query. (You are patient indeed!)

Doctor Blake :

A "relational style" is unlikely to be teachable... especially not by the person actually in the relationship. While it is remotely possibly that it could be "taught" in a therapeutic relationship, I find it highly unlikely... In short, while it might make you happier... it might not make him happier. He's doing what he's doing because it works for him... he would be unlikely to change unless he feels he has to for himself (not for someone else).

Doctor Blake :

If this is, in fact, a deal-breaker for you, then it might be in your best interest to (a) inform him of your needs and see what he says; (b) see if he's willing/able to explore changing; (c) support him if he's willing to change - and evaluate how that's working for both of you; (d) move on if he's either unwilling/unable to change; (e) be happy that you changed your man! <or> (a) inform him of your needs and let him know that you're looking for other places to fulfill those needs while you continue to grow closer; (b) see if this is something you can take care of either in yourself or in other relationships; (c) support him as you change and evaluate how that's working for both of you; (d) move on if this is making you miserable; (e) be happy that you changed yourself!

Doctor Blake :

I suspect that just as his relationship style is unlikely to change signficantly, I suspect that your's is unlikely to change much either. That being the case - it may be best to either adjust your expectations (and stay with him) or move on.

Doctor Blake :

Again - best of luck to you. Although I don't anticipate that this is a response that most people would like, it is my professional opinion at this point. Please click <ACCEPT>, unless there are further thoughts or concerns.

Customer:

Thank you. I would like to have a copy of this chat to read again and think about. When I click Accept and the chat ends, will the conversation/ transcript be lost to me?

Doctor Blake :

Typically, I understand that you receive an e-mail with a link that should take you back to our conversation. If you find that this is not the case, you/I/we can contact customer service for help.

Doctor Blake :

Thanks again. Good luck!

Doctor Blake, Psychologist
Category: Mental Health
Satisfied Customers: 146
Experience: Ph.D., Ed.S., NCSP Clinical Psychologist; 15+ years of experience; dual licensure
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Doctor Blake
Doctor Blake
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Ph.D., Ed.S., NCSP Clinical Psychologist; 15+ years of experience; dual licensure