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Dr. Mark
Dr. Mark, Psychotherapist
Category: Relationship
Satisfied Customers: 5111
Experience:  Dr. Mark is a PhD in psychology helping with relationships
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Hi there... Please forgive the long winded story.. Ive been

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Hi there... Please forgive the long winded story.. I've been in a relationship with my girlfriend Sara for 2 and a half years now. She is 38 and I am 36. She is very emotionally distant, and has serious issues showing affection. She has told me herself that she has major trust issues and has had bad relationships in the past. I know she loves me and is faithful (she has told close friends of hers and mine this on many occaisions), however it gets very frustrating at times. If I express any sort of unhappiness or push her on it, she clams up and becomes even more distant. I love her very much and she realizes and admits she needs counseling to be able to, in her words 'really feel again'. She has indicated she will be doing so in the next few months as soon as things settle down with her job (we are both busy professionals, so I believe her). As for the cause.. Efforts to really get her to open up about it in detail are pretty much futile although I do know from one of her friends she has been in a couple of seriously messed up relationships. One of these included one where the guy had a 2nd girlfriend he was abusive to, while showering Sara with gifts (using the girls money!). The guy would call Sara with the other girl literally sitting right there and not even trying to hide it since he knew she wouldn't/couldn't do anything about it. Crazy.. Anyway, I realize now that I need to give her time and make a decision whether it is worth waiting for her to resolve her problems. I also know things may not work out in the end, and that is the chance I am taking. However, for now, any advice in the meantime would be greatly appreciated. She is an amazing, amazing girl and I want to be there for her through this, but not sure how to act/proceed since i've never dealt with this type of thing before. Do I give her space? Reassure her in a specific fashion? I would give pretty much anything a shot at this point.. I am patient and logical, but just need some guidance here.. Many thanks in advance.... -G
Submitted: 1 year ago.
Category: Relationship
Expert:  Dr. Mark replied 1 year ago.

Hi! I'll be glad to be of help with this issue.

I can imagine how frustrating this situation must be for you. You are clearly a loving and caring man. And you love Sara very much. But there are two issues here coming together that you need to be aware of: good men, men with good values, can tend to have a Knight in Shining Armor attitude--I'll do what it takes to save the damsel from her distress; and second, that she has emotional issues that are going to take a long time to before she's very different.

And this is actually the key to my answer to you that you need to consider and think about. I know you're patient, but what Sara is now is going to be what Sara is like even after some time of counseling most likely. There may be some improvement in the short term in how she can related in an intimate (emotionally) relationship; but therapy is not a quick fix. And if the cause of this is indeed trauma based as you believe, then it will take rather long term counseling of at least a year to two years. And if it's more based on childhood events and traumas, then therapy is a longer term effort on her part.

Again, that doesn't mean she won't be more emotionally open. But we're talking incrementally, not her being everything you love about Sara without all the standoffishness, etc.

So, this is where your being a good man really makes it tough. Knights in shining armor aren't supposed to put their needs into play; they're supposed to help the damsel in her distress. But you do have needs and you do have the right to have a relationship that is emotionally fulfilling, especially if it will be a long term relationship.

Therefore, I want you to recognize that you are a good man whether you choose to stay in this relationship or whether you choose to move on. Sara sounds like being with her the way she is now may be enough to make you want to have this be a long term relationship. But I do hear in your words a doubt, that you do sense you are not getting what you need. And so I am speaking up for that right within you to say that you have the right to seek what you need in a relationship.

Okay, I wish you the very best!

My goal is for you to feel like you've gotten Great Service from me and the site. If we need to continue the discussion for that to happen, then please feel free to reply and we'll continue working on this. If the answer has given you the help you need, please remember to give a rating of 5 (Great Service) or 4 (Informative and helpful), or even 3 (Got the job done) button. This will make sure that I am credited for the answer and you are not charged anything more than the deposit you already made by pressing any of these buttons. Bonuses are always appreciated! If I can be of further help with any issue now or in the future, just put "For Dr. Mark" in the front of your new question, and I'll be the one to answer it. All the best, XXXXX XXXXX

Customer: replied 1 year ago.

Thank you for responding.. just had a quick question.. I realize therapy is incremental and I am prepared to deal with it for now and see how it goes. Some people in life are just worth giving it that chance.. I am sure I will arrive at a firm cutoff date/period for my own sanity, however until that time, is there anything I can to do as far as demeanor/actions/behavior goes in a general sense?.. as in, do I completely ignore the distant-ness and just keep a positive outlook (my current game plan), give her space and do more of my own thing? start drinking more? .. I am not saying I should be fake in any way, but was hoping some tip might be useful around someone with major trust issues. Thanks..

Expert:  Dr. Mark replied 1 year ago.
Good. I'm very, very glad you have a sense of your own self and your own needs and the need to keep time frame for yourself. Good for you. I've worked with too many people in this situation who have not and then down the road they come up for air and feel "cheated" out of their own lives. So, again, this is very important.


Now, how to keep your own sanity is a way to say how to keep your sense of how "normal" really works and to not make the dysfunction of the relationship and the dysfunction of her needs become the new "normal". This is an important awareness for you to keep having. Just being aware of it on an ongoing basis is the most important exercise you can do to keep yourself sane.


Doing your own thing is what some people resort to. But it has a dangerous side to it:


You can wind up either getting distant emotionally yourself and then your staying in the relationship becomes more of an obligation than the love it is now. On the other side is the danger that it can lead to an emotional deadening on your part as well: you become used to not having a real intimate relationship emotionally and satisfying your emotional and interpersonal needs in a compartmentalized way.


But there are really no other choices for you. Therefore, being continually aware that this is not what you're looking for but that you still feel that all the positives about being with her make continuing worth the effort you are putting into it has to be your number one strategy. Then, if you are careful to not slip into the pitfalls I mentioned above, creating other social and interpersonal relationships and avenues are the way to have some fulfillment in the interim.


I wish you the very best!

My goal is for you to feel like you've gotten Great Service from me and the site. If we need to continue the discussion for that to happen, then please feel free to reply and we'll continue working on this. If the answer has given you the help you need, please remember to give a rating of 5 (Great Service) or 4 (Informative and helpful), or even 3 (Got the job done) button. This will make sure that I am credited for the answer and you are not charged anything more than the deposit you already made by pressing any of these buttons. Bonuses are always appreciated! If I can be of further help with any issue now or in the future, just put "For Dr. Mark" in the front of your new question, and I'll be the one to answer it. All the best, XXXXX XXXXX

Dr. Mark, Psychotherapist
Category: Relationship
Satisfied Customers: 5111
Experience: Dr. Mark is a PhD in psychology helping with relationships
Dr. Mark and other Relationship Specialists are ready to help you
Expert:  Dr. Mark replied 1 year ago.
Hi! I'm very glad that I was able to help you with this. I appreciate your positive rating and thank you so much for the bonus as well. If I can help you in the future in any way, please don't hesitate to let me know.


All the best,
Dr. Mark

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