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Theresa, Psychologist
Category: Relationship
Satisfied Customers: 877
Experience:  PhD. Clinical Psychology
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How do you deal with a partner that is always ...

Customer Question

How do you deal with a partner that is always emotionally closed off and untalkative? I''ve tried expressing myself to him until I''m blue in the face and it''s like talking to a wall! He says the fact that he comes home every night to me should be enough to tell me how he feels. But it''s just not. I need to hear compliments from him and to hear the words "i love you" from time to time. He''s so closed off though. We''ve been together 2 1/2 years (living together, no kids). I''m seriously unhappy. Do you see any way to save the relationship? Any tips?
Submitted: 9 years ago.
Category: Relationship
Expert:  Theresa replied 9 years ago.

Hi Dee:

When did you begin to realize the distance in your relationship?

How old are you?

Is this a first co-habitating relationship for both of you?

What are your expectations: What do you think he should give and vice versa?

The information that you provide to these questions will provide a foundation for me to be able to begin to help you work through your concerns.

I am looking forward to your response.



Customer: replied 9 years ago.
Reply to Theresa's Post: Hi! I'm 24, he's 28. I've already been married and divorced (5 year relationship alltogether). Hes been in long term relationships but (believe it or not) had never lived anywhere other than his parents house until I came along. He wasn't gun shy about moving in with me either, it just kind of progressed until it was official.
I expect that I should be hearing compliments and I love you's at least some of the time. He's said I love you a few rare times, but it's not enough for me. He's NEVER given me a compliment even though I always try to make him feel good about himself. It's not that I'm unattractive or unworthy of compliments, I know this. But not hearing it from him is really taking a knock on my self esteem.
We've had deep conversations a few times and he's expressed that he doesn't feel he's capable of love (even for his family) and that I deserve better that what he gives me. So at least he realizes it. But I guess when he talks like that I feel a sort of pity for him, and can't bring myself to leave because I keep thinking (maybe stupidly) that I can be the one to teach him what love is all about. But unfortunately, things haven't really improved in the span of our relationship, and I'm worried that they never will. I'm very cuddly too, and he's not. I sometimes feel like when I try and cuddle like I'm an inconvenience or an annoyance. Maybe we're just chronically incompatible? He feels that sex and cuddling aren't a good thing to base a relationship on. But aren't they a pretty important part of it? I really worry about him and I've asked him to see a doctor to investigate depression but although he has said it's not a bad idea, he won't actually follow through with it. I don't know what else to do. And yes, I've expressed all of these feelings to him- several times. And we're still in the same boat =). Thanks for listening!
Expert:  Theresa replied 9 years ago.

Hi Dee,

Not a problem...If I am able to help then the pleasure has been mine!

I do understand your need to hear the words "I Love You" and a compliment from time to time...By virtue of the fact that we are human beings, these little words validate for us that we are appreciate and loved. They also validate that the relationship we are in. We view it as being good and purposeful. They motivate us for staying. They function as food for the soul and when they are not present the soul becomes empty and becomes hungry.

Abraham Maslow is one of Psychology's great forefathers "so to speak". He is the theorist that developed what is referred to as a human beings Hierarchy of Needs. These needs are stratified in a triangle. Maslow shows that they are a significant part of human life re: health and survival. In the very bottom level he identifies the elements of the human being's very basic needs and reports that we can not move up the "ladder, so to speak" until we have completely mastered the level that we are currently at.

The very first tier shows that love is a very basic need for the human. Not that you are looking for a lesson in Psychology, (LOL) I just wanted to show you that what you are saying is very normal...I also want ot let you know that sex does not fall into this category of love that Maslow is referring to.

In this, I can agree with your boyfriend that snuggling and sex are not something that a relationship should be based on...Benefit of a healthy relationship, yes...Need to be present, no...

Most people know Christopher Reeves...Superman... I like to use his marriage as an example ... It is obvious that after he was thrown from one of his horses and became a quadriplegic that he could not engage in sexual behaviors...With this, what was the glue that held the marriage together? I can assure that the little words you long to hear are contained in the glue!

Love is not something that can be taught because it is an undefined emotion...I like to view it as a group of behaviors that strengthen or reinforce a feeling. When we love we act. We show that we care, we nurture and we sustain another. This other person could be a friend. child, mother, lover...The list is endless.

I love pumpkin pie and I savor every little bite that I take because I never know whether or not it could be my last one...I have never had sex with a piece of pumpkin pie or cuddled it either. I believe that if I were to cuddle it, it would get smooshed and then I wouldn't want it!

What you are really experiencing in this relationship is two very distinct and separate personalities. To survive, a glue will have to be formulated that includes both of you having the ability to nurture and respect the needs of the other. With this neither of you are wrong at all...You are merely human...and different! Your needs are virtually the same; however, the acts that must be done in order for you to realize that they are being met are different.

Realize that the next thing I am going to say is based on the work that I have done and observations that have been made in people with that share similar experiences. Though I do not know you or him I can use the information you have provided to get a clear picture of each of your persons!

Your boyfriends persona indicates that he grew up in a home whereby the interactions between family members were not affectionate. The family members each had a purpose and they functioned as a means of meeting these obligations. This environment produces children that are robotic in function in that they engage in what they must...This doesn't mean that love is present...It means that they meet and nurture one another's need just by virtue of being there and taking care of what they believe is their "purpose or responsibility". For them this is life and this is why they have a difficult time identifying what love is ...So I am not surprised that he doesn't feel capable of loving his own family...He really does but is not aware...Let something happen to one of the family members that he grew up with and watch how quickly his entire persona changes. The thick skin will shed faster than a rattlesnake can shed their skin...they will feel pain that is another emotion that arises from love...For the love of God...they will almost appear to be human...

You on the other hand grew up in a totally different environment and your needs, while they are no different than his, can only be met in a way that is different than what he can give. Though we can't change him (or you either) we can assist him with understanding what has to happen in order that you feel purposeful and that your needs are met...If he not willing to consider this then he does not really love you...On the other hand you will also have to understand that if he is willing to make the changes that he can because he loves you ... You will have to respect the fact that he is probably doing all that he can and for you to want more than he can give would indicate that you are not as in love with him as you may think you are...It may very well be all about pity.

It appears to me that the time has come that you are going to have to be the one that puts motion into play. I agree with you wholeheartedly that counseling would be a great thing...My thoughts are somewhat different than yours!Innocent

I see that joint and individual couples therapy would be the best thing for both of you. A therapist will have the ability to talk to each of you separately and teach you when in a joint session the importance of recognizing the needs of your partner is in a healthy relationship. They will also work with you on putting the ball into motion so that this could be done.

To consider that he needs to see a doctor for depression is like saying that he is the problem in the relationship. While he may need to do this at some point, the truth of the matter is that if he is the problem and it is his alone there is no relationship. You see a relationship must have two components that complement each other to be classified as a relationship...A few simple examples...

Table - Chair

Coffee - Cup The coffee is lucky for the can share a relationship with many things and so can we the human!Smile

If these suggestions take place and there is no change perhaps you should consider moving on. Just because we are not all compatible in no way means that we don't deserve to be happy.


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