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Ask Eleanor
Ask Eleanor, Therapist
Category: Relationship
Satisfied Customers: 1517
Experience:  Marriage & Family Therapist with 20 Years Experience
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Break up

Customer Question


My girlfriend broke up with me last night saying she is unhappy and has been a while. She feels she can't talk to me or explain anything as I will often dominate the conversation or try turn things round into her, in part this is true but she doesn't see how she can hurt me sometimes. Her sister has also recently broken up a long term relationship and I can't help but think this has influenced us.

We have been together for 14 months now.

She wants to come round and get her stuff tonight and I don't know what to do? I love her deeply and want her back. We have a dog together and a holiday booked in two weeks, so there are a few ties.

She doesn't want to listen to me seems quite adamant about the break up, but we have been here before twice in fact February and July. So I'm not sure if this is really it. She says she loves me and cares for me and even last night when she broke up with me ended up staying and saying am I doing the right thing ?

We were so very close and still are we pretty much live together as I've just bought a house, we talk every day and it may have become quite routine like.

There is also an age gap I'm 29 and she is 19 and her sister who broke up also was in a similar relationship for 3 years when she was her age and I know regrets it and I have a feeling my girlfriend feels the same. In the past I had big trust issues believing that she could her me etc on a night out by perhaps being unfaithful these were always ungrounded and she never has to my knowledge done this and it's taken a long time for me to shut up and let her have fun which I know would really put her off.

Please let me know what else you need to know I'm really stuck especially with the dog and holiday coming up and it's Christmas too and I know we are both hurting.

She says she doesn't think it can work, but is not adamant that it won't work so I don't want to throw the towel in

Submitted: 3 years ago.
Category: Relationship
Expert:  Ask Eleanor replied 3 years ago.

Hello in the U and thank you for your question, I am happy to help. I am Marriage and Family Therapist in the US and have been working with couples, married and unmarried, for 20 years. The communication problem you describe is actually quite common with couples and I have an excellent tool that can help. I will paste it in at the end of my response. I would ask her to come over tonight for a nice dinner (a great idea!) and tell her that you have consulted with an online therapist and found a communication tool that you believe will help your relationship greatly which you want to share with her. Knowing you have sought professional help will tell her that you are taking her complaint of not listening to her seriously. Then I would share the model with her over dinner and ask that she give it a try with you for a week and see if things get better before she moves out. Here is the Assertiveness Communication Model: (;Let me know of you have questions. If not, I wish you all the best, Eleanor)


In adulthood, when we disagree with someone close to us,
we usually respond in one of two ways, we get aggressive or we withdraw. We learned to do this in our childhoods when
there was conflict in our home, with our parents or primary caregivers. We either joined in the fight or we withdrew
to our room or left the house. This is
how we survived. So we unconsciously
bring one of these automatic responses into conflict in our adult
relationships. Neither of these approaches
resolves conflict or promotes intimacy with our loved ones.

There is a better way, Assertive Communication. The Model has three simple steps:

STEP 1) Tell the other person that you understand how they feel, where they are coming from. (This functions as a timeout for us and connects us with our loved one.) Example: I understand that you are feeling very angry with me and hurt because I forgot
our anniversary.

STEP 2) Tell the
other person how you feel, where you are coming from.

Example: I am feeling very angry at myself and very guilty; it hurts me to see you hurt like this.

STEP 3) Ask for what you want or need to happen. (*Without
the expectation that you will get it!)

Example: I hope you will let me make it up to you.
Let's plan a romantic evening out for one night this weekend.

*The model works because it honors each person's feelings and allows us to ask for what we want/need. If we try to use it to manipulate the other person, it will backfire.

Remember that the basic emotions are: ANGER, FEAR, HURT,SAD AND HAPPY.

Try to use these in the first 2 steps.

Assertive Communication opens the door to true emotional intimacy. It is also the healthy way to say NO, something many of us often find difficult. The Model can be used successfully in employment settings, with friends and extended family, with our children and even with strangers in public.


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