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Dr. Norman Brown
Dr. Norman Brown, Marriage Therapist
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Experience:  Family Therapist & teacher 35+ yrs; PhD research in couples
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I am a woman of 24 who met a woman of 22, 4 months ago. From

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I am a woman of 24 who met a woman of 22, 4 months ago. From the beginning the girl seemed to have intimacy problems. She didn't want a relationship and didn't want to get close. However 1 month ago she started suddenly to come very close: we had sex, we said I love you, we shared feelings, she told me I am the first person who make her feel like this. In sex, I was the best she ever had, the first one to achieve orgasm with. In emotions, she had the strongest for me. We spent several nights together and she seemed to overcome many of her fears with me. Talking about her past, crying about it, sharing her most disturbing thoughts. I was also gently pushing her towards this direction. One day (4 days ago), she suddenly withdrew from me. No "i love you", not much affection, not even seeking physical intimacy. She left for her home and I havent seen her since. Today we spoke in an extensive level. She is scared to death of a relationship. She said being in love is killing her. I can not be her girlfriend we can just have fun. She told me "My love is big but I need to figure out how or what?"(I am not sure what she meant. I know she loves me. But now I think we went too fast for her. I never made her do something she didn't want to but I did gently push her to talk to me about her feelings and thoughts. Always gently though: no criticism, no going too far. Sometimes I just stood there and waited and she just open up. So I thought we were in a good way. But suddenly she changed all that and I am very confused. I told her we don't need to be in a relationship as I thought the label scares her. She told me she doesn't want to change anything from what we had except keep feelings less, press them away, put them behind, and go slowly. It is worth noting that she has many traumas from her childhood and since two years now she is in a way to make her life better (get out of drugs, going back to school etc.). She is now still to college and she has one year till she graduates, gets a good job and find her own home (she lives with her mother and brother who she has to take care off). She told me that she needs to fix her own life and must do this on her own. I told her I respect. I am however in a very weird situation. I don't want to leave like other people did in her situation. I want to commit to my words that I love her because I do. I don't know what my next step should be. I am very confused and she is not in place to make me less confused. How should I be with her? How to best handle the situation?



All you can do is what you've already been doing- telling her that you're there for her. You're not abandoning her and you can let her realize that she may be displacing certain things onto you that stem from unresolved past issues. You could pose open ended questions to her that will allow her to reach her own conclusions. Try to find out what being in love means to her. Does she equate it with vulnerability and fear based on past hurtful relationships, does it mean she would have to be fully committed and she does not believe that she is ready or able to do it, is she intimidated by stigma, etc.

She had already disclosed certain things to you and you can let her know that you realize that trusting someone is a risk, and point out to her that unless people take risks in life and love, they may not be able to move forward.


Ask her if she would be willing to engage in self examination w/o making any rash decisions at this point. It is possible to be in college and to still be in a relationship. You are not asking her to leave her obligations or her family, and you realize that she may have become too overwhelmed by all of the things she's responsible for. Point out to her that having someone on her side may make things easier for her and that you understand that she needs time to figure things out. Speak about what are some of the things she wants for herself and out of a relationship, what is the scariest part of loving someone, what does she see for happening in the near future, and in what capacity does she want you to be there for her.

Being uncertain does not have to mean that the two of you cannot share time together and do the things you both enjoy and have interest it.



Customer: replied 5 years ago.
First of all thank you for your answer. I read so many things about intimacy phobics and it got me a bit pessimistic. Do you believe that there is hope to sometime have something more stable and intimate? Like what we had but without the everyday risk of her running away. I don't need a label but I need a minimum sense of security. Do you think love and patience can help a person overcome her fears? Or maybe if her life becomes more stable, like having her own home, will make things better? Should I keep saying that I love her even if she doesnt? Should I give her a lot of space?

Yes, it is possible to have a solid intimate relationship. Both love and her having stability in her life can change her way of thinking. Right now, she is most likely resorting to functioning in the same mode as in the past before the two of you met. You can show her that she does not have to repeat her past by self sabotage, and that she may have not been in charge of other past relationships but that at all times she's in control of herself. You would want to give her some space but not pull away all together because she may misperceive this. If you love her, yes, tell her that because it is the truth. Ask her if she wants some space and what does that mean to her- does it mean seeing one another a couple of times a week versus daily, talking less frequently on the phone, etc. and based on her reaction you can act accordingly.


Customer: replied 5 years ago.
You gave me much hope with your words. Do you think however that this situation will keep coming back (coming close and withdrawing again and again)? She told me that she will press away her feelings but if they are real they will remain. Do you agree to that?

If her feelings are real, then yes, she can eventually sort throughout her confusion and allow herself to be happy in the relationship. She would have to shed her past convictions and fears and not compare this relationship nor act the same way as in the past. As long as she is willing to be honest with herself and to work on herself, it is possible to create the life and relationship she wants. Avoidance (her pulling away) is not going to solve this for her and it is something for you to share with her.


Customer: replied 5 years ago.
She told me that I should accept that she needs her distance sometimes. She doesn't want a relationship but now I feel more and more that I want one. I didn't mention that she lives abour 3 hours away with the train and that she has busy life. So maybe once or twice we could see each other every 2 months. She gave me too much in a little time and now she takes it away. Of course she says that nothing changed with her feelings, she thinks of me still and blah blah... Something is not right with me though. I wake up everytime with a tremor in my heart. I sleep and eat a lot less than I am used to. I am anxious depressed and in pain. She leaves things into luck but I need to try. I love her... So what do I do? Give up on her and try to forget, or fight and stay with the hope that one time she will want to be close to me - like a partner?
You can respect her wish for some distance. That does not mean no contact or not seeing one another even if it is twice a month. Perhaps she needs to start missing you as you miss her to realize what she wants. She may not be as mature as you are and you would for the time being want to give this a chance. Just because she's indicated she need some time to sort things out does not translate in not loving you. She's said she still has feelings and you can let her know that you'd be there for her. You're already doing everything you can. Give it some time and see how she reacts. This may be her own subconscious way of testing you.
Customer: replied 5 years ago.
Thank you. I will do this. I will give time and a chance. But when would be the time to give up? She said she will need distance for time to time and she doesnt want "too close". When I asked why, she didn't say anything about fear of abandonment. She just said this is how she is. But do you believe this is her main fear (that I will abandon her)?
It is possible that it is her main fear especially if she has unresolved issues with abandonment. The time to give up would be if/when she indicates that she does not want to do this anymore. Otherwise, you're entitled to pursue her and at the same time give her some space.
Customer: replied 5 years ago.
I was looking to the answers so far and I realized I might havent made some things clearer...It is a bit difficult for me to understand how someone can be in love with someone and on the same time not having the need for more frequent communication. She is satisfied with maybe one text per day. Thoughts are getting in me that she is using me. How can I understand that? Is this reasonable to think? On the other hand, if I go a bit back, I know from the beginning her fear for relationships. However, last month we were acting -suddenly(from one day to another)- like having one - too much feeling expression, a lot of time together etc. I was thinking myself at the time that we were going too fast, especially for her, and I was surprised how she let that happen (she went from reluctance to meet with eachother to a highly erotic relationship and a very often "I love you"). Do you believe that one side of the problem might be caused from what I mentioned above?

" how someone can be in love with someone and on the same time not having the need for more frequent communication"

A person can be in love and also have a sense for self preservation (try to make sure they are not hurt emotionally and as a result of it withdraw from their partner)


"Thoughts are getting in me that she is using me. How can I understand that? Is this reasonable to think? "

It is possible for her relationship to have been opportunistic. Yet, you'd have to try and see her behavior objectively to be sure that this is what her goal is (to use you)


"Do you believe that one side of the problem might be caused from what I mentioned above?

Yes. It may be the case. Some other things to keep in mind that often affect someone's behavior are mood disorders. For ex: a person with bipolar disorder during a manic phase may be more rash to act a certain way/more impulsive and sexual than when in a depressed stage. Her behavior may also be affected by what someone else (family or friends) had put in her head.


I'd be able to address further questions upon acceptance of prior feedback. Tx



I agree with all of Dr. Rossi's speculations about what could be going on with her. But I would add that 4 months is a very short time to be counting on a relationship. There is also a very normal drawing back after "going too far" as you both have said. With long distance, you may be expecting to keep your passion up by frequent internet or phone contact, and that's why her normal urge to duck back and renew her old life, before she decides whether she wants to move forward again. She said she didn't want a relationship, and she is perhaps too busy to make room for too much powerful feeling that she fears could pull her off balance.


What's most important to me is that this relationship is very young and so are both of you.

Dr. Norman Brown, Marriage Therapist
Category: Relationship
Satisfied Customers: 1200
Experience: Family Therapist & teacher 35+ yrs; PhD research in couples
Dr. Norman Brown and other Relationship Specialists are ready to help you

There's another dimension that occurs to me. The person with more time for relating becomes the pursuer, and the person with less time is automatically the distancer. But the Distancer has more control, because she can choose what she wants to participate in. So your feelings and worries can be partly due to that. I don't know if Pursuer/Distancer is well explained on the Internet or not, but I can't do itnow, because I need to watch sat nite live with my 23yr old daughter. One way for you to cope with this imbalance would be to find more things for you to do and have less time to worry about her. One thing about P/D: The feelings of both people are pretty similar no matter who they are. But it's best when a couple gets to play both roles from time to time.

Customer: replied 5 years ago.
Dear nphbrown, You gave me another perspective with your first answer. I never considered that 4 months is actually a short time. I got used to people jumping into relationships from the first month or week. So maybe this could be a logical decision of her. Falling in love gets a lot of energy and time and she is now on the road to fix her life again. She has outlived extreme circumstances and she already told me when I asked her what she wants; "Just the basics-to survive". However, there are many perspectives into what might be happening. Do you suggest I should take 1 week or so without much contact with her (but explain it to her first)in order to figure things out and be less of a "pursuer"? This past week has been difficult for me emotionally and I feel I (we) need a new beginning. But I also miss her a lot and I want to be with her (she also says she misses me once in a while). Since yesterday I haven't made the initiation for a contact with her and neither did she. I really don't know how to handle this situation. Is it bad to not talk for a few days (maybe a week)? I feel I need it but on the other hand I am afraid that this will drift us further apart (and it's up to me to keep us close).
Finally, could you please elaborate more on "There is also a very normal drawing back after "going too far" as you both have said. With long distance, you may be expecting to keep your passion up by frequent internet or phone contact, and that's why her normal urge to duck back and renew her old life, before she decides whether she wants to move forward again."

In our digital world we can get used to expecting reassurance every day that the other person wants to jabber as much and as often as we do. Being used to plunging in rapidly does make it more uncomfortable (that is painful/hurtful) what this relationship hasn't been stabilized yet with a set of expected relationship habits or "rules" (Like "It's up to me to keep us close.) Do you think she knows that "rule" and agrees to it? What do you think would happen if you asked her if that's the way she wants it? [It makes you the pursuer and her the distancer. But the Distancer always has more power in managing the relationship, even if she doesn't feel that. If you email her about this, she gets to think before she responds, which is better than real-time, like telephone. If you're making contact when she's not in the mood, she gets to feel guilty that she's not a good responder and irritated that she never knows when you're going to send a message.


In my college class, I remember talking with 40 students about what their rules for text messaging were? How soon do you expect that you're expected to respond after your long distance GF or BF sends a text? I suggested they consider announcing a policy that they will respond to texts "after 5pm" and perhaps "not more than 2 or 3 when they have a study evening."


If you ask her to tell you (text you or whatever) how she would like your contacting to happen, you're improving on the expectations for how contact will occur. THE MOST PERILOUS MOMENTS IN LOVE RELATIONSHIPS ARE GETTING TOGETHER MOMENTS AND SEPARATING MOMENTS, and frequent mismatches in either can leave lots of hurt to be warmed over countless times before it's mentioned, if ever. When handling delicate & unresolved topics, allowing time to think over what one writes is better, because it's the immediate unprepared reactions that are most likely to get out of hand because of underlying emotions that aren't ready for prime time display.


Is this what you wanted me to explain better? New love is very exciting, and also demanding of time and anticipation + reminiscence. If her new life isn't that stable yet, then she may well need to cut back on love in order to get her daily business under better control. When people move into a new or more challenging living situation, it's safer to make sure all the safety & financial issues, daily routines, emotional balancing etc. are in reliable order before extending oneself into a naturally destabilizing romantic involvement. For if romance doesn't get out of control sometimes in the early months, then it's being choked too hard. In our hurry-scurry hold-tight culture under high pressure from recession and unemployment many people decide they just can't afford to maintain a love relationship--but then they don't want to give up the person they're already loving. So the distancer is likely to feel as guilty and trapped as the pursuer feels needy, unstable and disrespected.


I'm not the Expert that's away, tho my computer wasn't working between 4 am and 5 pm today.

Customer: replied 5 years ago.
Thank you. Could you explain though more this part 'There is also a very normal drawing back after "going too far" as you both have said."? Also do you believe it's a good idea to become a "distancer" for a while? And how can I do that? How can I handle the situation in order to gain more control (over the "relationship" and myself)?

I don't know why my explanation did not get sent to you. frustrating! So here goes again.

In my relationships textbook that I cowrote from 1993-1998 I've written about relationships of mostly college age people in stages. After the couple goes beyond Casual (experimenting, hooking up, friends w or w/o benefits etc) thru In-Love to Deepening, one of the events that often happens is "backing off."


backing off: One person gets "cold feet." She is confused and frightened, partly because she doesn't feel like the 'herself' she's used to. So she badly wants . Feeling like she's sliding down a slippery slope, she takes a time out in order to return to the whole routine of day and night activities she did before this relationship burst onto the scene, usually without saying so for as long as she can keep it covered up. If your unexpressed "rules of engagement" include internet or phone contact every day, she can probably only "forget" for 1 day before she has to improvise an explanation intended to minimize her partner's Freakout response. Unless she really wants to be left alone for an unspecified length of time. One aspect of these backoffs is that often & especially the first time, she would rather not be specific about when she intends to reconnect (unless it's 2 weeks or more) because it doesn't feel like her old freedom from relationship duties and concerns if she can sense the end of her timeout coming really soon. "Taking space" preferably means "also not obligating myself to return on a strict schedule, or taking timeout from signing on to an obligated end time, at least for now."


In my personal experience, it takes 3 or 4 days at least to feel reconnected with your old routine and reaccepted into your old friend-network, but nobody can be sure until they've

tried it out. She might especially want to be able to look forward to her gang's weekend leisure and entertainment plans instead of expecting that she has to see her new lover or at least spend several hours on the phone. But during that "whee I'm free" weekend, she notices there's something missing and may miss the lover times, or the comfort of knowing that NEXT weekend it's nesting time again.


She may realize that she needs to make more explicit rules (expectations of regular behavior vis-a-vis her lover) so she feels more in control herself, not entirely, but there are definitely 2 women at the steering wheel of this wild ride. In fact you could solicit negotiation of more mutually satisfying guidelines, such as less than constant contact, like every other day. And you could mention that you'd like a more equal responsibility for making contact, as a way of contributing something you'd like new (explicit) guidelines for. Do it by email, so both of you get time to reflect on what you've read and how you want to respond.


That reminds me that quite often the ONE unexpressed guideline that might be most oppressive to the person who backs off, is this lack of control over how much and how often she has to respond not just nicely, but eagerly to your outreach. Cuz everbody knows that one of the most important functions of each contact is the "metamessage." That usually means "taking the temperature of your feelings" to find out if the couple thing is healthy or sick.


The two most difficult times in love relationships where the most pitfalls with numerous hurt-traps are clustered are Just getting togetherjust getting together (or making telephone contact) and separating. So working out guidelines for them is one of the most necessary tasks that need tobe accoomplished so backing off will be smoother when it happens from either partner.


My computer is killing me by waiting a minute or more to print everything that I type. And I have important financial errands. So I go now.

Customer: replied 5 years ago.
The situation now with her is quite different than when I started these posts. Since two days after I began this post (more than a week ago) we talk almost everyday for a little while on msn and she sends me 0-1 sms per day. For her the situations is like this: no more a lot of msn/sms contact (several times a day), no more "I love you", no more expressing feelings (only by the end of previous week she sent me on sms late at night "I miss you baby"). She tells me her feelings haven't changed and she doesn't want to stop this with me but that I can not count on her because she has a lot to do. She cares about me ,as she says, but she never asks me about my feelings, problems etc. (because she has too much in her mind). She wants to continue share things with me and do what we do as long as we are having fun. I guess in a few words she wants all the good from a "relationship" and not the bad (e.g. putting effort on the relationship and on me). I love her and I learned to not give up when I love someone, but this situation is pretty confusing to me and I would like your opinion. It's like SHE has the 'relationship' that SHE wants, and I just compromise because I understand what she is going through and I told her I won't abandon her. And yes, I am willing to put my ego aside, but for how long? In one year she and I will be finished with the crucial period of our studies (and possibly have a job and own home). After that there can be no excuses. I need your help on how to deal with her. Another thing is that I told her 2 days before on msn "Love is strength and it doesn't mean I own you. I won't try to break you. I want you to be the best you can.". She answered "You already told me. I know it know. You don't need to prove yourself. I know it now." After that she ended the discussion, left the msn, while being cold at me, and haven't initiated contact with me since then. But I haven't contact her either for 3 days now, maybe because I wait for her to miss me. Her behavior is totally confusing to me.
Customer: replied 5 years ago.
Relist: Incomplete answer.

"As longas we are having fun" is the painful part of this, and her apparent rule that she can rely on you for support and understanding ("good mother") but you can't ask her to be that for you ("good mother"). Makes me wonder what your mother was like as a mother for you, and what her mother was like as a mother for her. These are things that perhaps neither of you is ready to write to the other about, since they're the kind of things that people get more used to thinking and talking about after they've been thru some hurtful relationships that forced them to show their pain to somebody, whether it was their GF or not. (Of course guys in a gay relationship would probably be a lot slower to get there than women.)


It's not fair to younger people like you two, but for twenty-somethings that had poor mothering and/or harsh childhoods there's usually 5 to 10 or even more rough years in early adulthood when you just don't know how to work out the painful parts of yourself until you've gotten to know yourself and a few other real women well enough. Then you realize that it's not going to get better unless you learn how to make the changes in yourselves and your relationship habits that you can't even figure out that you need--- until you've learned that the hard way, or the easier way when somebody else who's been like you can tell you what it is and how to understand and act on it.


So the billboard about your love right now says: She's more wounded and more stressed out than you are, so you have to prove to her than you're a "good enough mother" to bear her weight leaning on you, and not a needy confused, not happy enough person like she is, so you don't need to lean on her. That's obviously not fair..


Perhaps you can do some thinking about your past relationships to see how you've handled them before now. List each GF. Who got more and who got less of what she wanted? How long did each one last? What interpersonal ways made each one work well? And what events or issues made enach one decay and crash? What did you learn about yourself in each one? What were you proud of yourself about and unhappy about in each one? Were there some that only lasted a few months at the most, and some that lasted more than that? Were there some common events or aspects that made some die quickly and others last past that sort of early crash danger?


If you write carefully about each of your past relationships, you can learn more of what you could be learning from each one, and maybe you'll have some ideas about how you can learn more or get fair and balanced more in this relationship. You've said you know you're just going to love her while you still can, so you've probably done that before. And therefore your love is patient, even tho you're worried you'll stay too patient for too long.


You've realized that the distancer has more power than the pursuer, so you're distancing too; that sounds fine. I guess what would help on that direction is to have other passions in your own life that make you feel happy about your life. If you're busy being interested in your life's options while she's busy being stressed out by having a harder time coping with stuff, at least your life is more balanced. I guess if you put some of your worries onto this JA site and I try to good-mother you the way you good-mother her, then we all get something out of this go-around. I do too, because I get to be trusted some by you, a woman I'll never ever know, but I can care about anyway. Thank you for that. I've had a terrible week on top of a very draining year and a half of underemployment and a daughter flirting with suicide and a wife getting depressed and pulling us out of a hole with her endless working (even tho she doesn't make much either) and I've now got a weakened heart to worry about--if I'm caring about you, and our cat who's very old and complaining, and our daughter's Yorkie dog, whose hypoglycemia went into jerking near coma again tonight, both of whom are in my room with me--If I have you to care about besides my wife, who's up and my daughter who's not, THEN I HAVE A BETTER LIFE BECAUSE OF WHAT YOU'RE GIVING ME A CHANCE TO DO.


So thank you. What goes around comes aroubnd.

Customer: replied 5 years ago.
Thank you too. Actually we have talked about some aspects of our relationship with our mothers. Her mother was sick in a big part of her childhood. She ("my gf") had an older borderline sister who was physically abusing her. When my "gf" turned 14 showed some signs of defiant behavior (as most teenagers). Her mother was scared that she would become as her older sister (and she also had another younger child), so she made her leave home and live in foster homes. Since then everything collapsed in my "gf" life. Severe depression and hard drugs among other things. My mother, now... Depressed. I had to put her emotional needs before mine. She was more of a child than a mother.She was abused too. I had only one previous relationship. She was the "child"(immature etc.) I was the "mother" (caring etc.) but also needy. I see the pattern. I need someone to take care of as I did with my mother. Maybe a way to repair my relationship with my mother. Or maybe it's the only way I can feel strong. So I choose people "to take care off". And the relationship is never mutual. A major difference of my ex to my "gf" is that my "gf" has actually suffered a lot but managed to come out of all these and fix her life. I admire her (did I find a better substitute for a "mother" than my ex?. Anyway, I have psychoanalyzed myself too many times. I try to logically explain, to rationalize my emotions. But I can't control them. Now I make an effort to really love her. I am not needy, I act strong and happy (things I never did with previous relationships). I spend time building myself (studies, sports, meditation etc.), I learn to put my care more on myself. However I still feel the pain of my dilemma. I cannot abandon her because I love her and because I told her I won't. I cannot break my promise even if I suffer. On the other hand I need someone to not be tortured from loving me. I want someone who enjoys loving me. As a person I am very loyal to those I love, and that is what is giving me troubles now. Am I taken for granted? Am I the one who will be there with nothing in return, like a toy-fool (whenever SHE is in the mood)? Should I take care of myself (easy way) or give her the love she never had (very patient and persistent: difficult way and the opposite of what her mother gave her)?
I wish you good luck with everything. Life will always be hard (harder for others). I guess our attitude to it is what finally matters.
P.S.: From what you know about me, if you were to guess my profession and studies, what would be your first guesses?

I'd guess you are some kind of a social worker and you focus primarily on helping kids. But that's just letting myself fall for the most obvious maximization of your early reversal of the mother-daughter relationship.


My wife Pamela also had a mother who was abusive and didn't want her, but wanted both of her daughters to take care of her instead of vice versa, not unusual, except for the degree of violation and scapegoating she suffered. She became a Jungian analyst after having 10 yrs of analysis herself, beginning at 24 I think. She mortgaged her whole young adulthood to pay for analysis, except that she got a free ride thru Theology school, which she'd hoped to use as a back door to the counseling profession. Her father was the only good mother around, and he died suddenly when she was 11. So she had to marry a guy who was a really good father, but underneath that a better mother too. My mother was also depressed, safe, but not much more than a zombie mother. So Pamela has been a great surrogate mother to thousands of clients. I like being that too (the good mother that both of us didn't have, tho mine was benignly sluggish, which is a lot better than psychopathically hostile). So she likes me to be a good mother to her, which I like doing, BUT IT'S TORTURE SOMEWHAT because she's afraid of mothers (ie hers) as intrusive, devouring, self-focused, hostile and exploitive, so she's pushed me away a lot because her ambivalence about being mothered is so great. And that's been very painful to me. She also doesn't want to mother me AT ALL, or at least that's how it feels to me. So I'm familiar with how it feels to 1. enjoy being good mother (even under the disguise of a father-body), and 2. wish that she'd give me back some of the same quality nurturing. We've talked about all that psychological stuff for much of the 27 years we've been together, so the mutual understanding does get better.


But I sure notice it when someone in my circle of closeness extends a nurturing gesture toward me without me "earning it" first. And naturally I don't get it often, because I somehow seem to be too busy "earning it" to be aware of how those I care for feel about me. And (perhaps like you), almost all of my care-circle have been college students for the last 25 years, so very few of them reciprocate in ways that are obvious enough for me to be struck by them. And men in men's groups, such as I've led and participated in since 1972, are normally so awkward about loving-kindness towards each other (attributable to homophobia, esp since when men dream about warm closeness with other men, there are blatant sexual overtones in the dream imagery). Ya know, I bet my internal pit of "please let me fall into your arms" miSSing mothering is so bottomless that it's unfulfilled no matter what good-nurturing caring seems to come my way. And I really enjoy self-caring, as you do too.


So maybe there's lots of us who've gotten so good at caring for that crying child inside that we don't show our needs outwardly and therefore don't get what we're so fulfilled by giving. (My first great love, however, from 20 to 29, defined her self as sturdy Russian Jewish peasant stock and made herself worthy of my love by mothering me very effectively without my asking while she acted like Girl Friday to my Robinson Crusoe and hitchhiked all over Europe and mountaineered with me. After those 9 years, I had sensed long enough that she was too compliant, even tho I still didn't realize how good she was at quietly mothering me--she thought I was fragile and needed it. So maybe I did get enough, at least for my 20s, and I sure learned how to love nurturantly from how she took care of me. Of course we teach our clients that you can never go back and make up for lost mothering or fathering in your childhood. But apparently that's cold comfort when it comes to accepting our own lot.


Oh, why it's torture for her to love you? I'd say it's because you're giving her the ungrudging nurturance she didn't get, and that reopens her wound. I'd probably get very uncomfortable if I got it all the time, the way I did from Susanne, because after her sexual betrayal destroyed my first sexual bond -- I couldn't fill up that hole -- I didn't want to have another partner like her: follower/caretaker. So I ended up getting neither in all my relationships between that one and my marriage 12 years later, and in my marriage too.


How could she be as loyal to you as you are by your very nature? She never got to "earn love" by being a good caretaker. Sounds like she might have had nothing but grudging caretakers who were in it for the money to make their own (perhaps stunted) lives at least financially viable.


There's really no way around the character structure we've developed in our first 20 years, unless perhaps one uses powerful drugs to whack ourselves out into a drug induced artificial personality, with the sweet, perceptive, tender parts always the first to disappear. No way around, but only thru, the long and hard way, depending on how much and how good the skilled psychological help and self-aware loving we get is. Like "Rock 'o my Soul" where "you got to go in thru the door." There is the loyal-religious way, where the sweet & tender parts can get inflated, and everybody in the congregation is "very loving" because the weekly indoctrination keeps us well aware that God is probably watching us, at least and especially when we're at any church function.


"Nothing in return." Seems to me that it's much less likely you'll get a lot of little signs that you're loved if you don't live together or at least spend a lot of casual, natural time together. Cuz then the only normal way to get those loyal support symbolizing moments is to lean into the digital connection, and that's fraught with the potential for a grudging halfhearted response that hurts more subtly but almost as durably as an outright rejection of your overture. And I bet she doesn't want to make overtures first, because she's MUCH more reactive to "caught off-guard unprepared" grudging responses than you are, since they were probably the norm throughout her fosteryouth.


Oh yeah, you probably already know this: But if your love is a rescue operation of a woman who's way less developed, self-efficacious and self-confident than you are, then you're in a one-up one-down pairing from the beginning. So you can't get back the same kind of love-stuff as you're giving.


I gotta go out into the cold and look for my daughter's likely to be dying Yorkie terrier again, cuz he goes outside to struggle with his blocked elimination functions. So don't stop conversing unless you want to. Birds of a feather flock together.



Customer: replied 5 years ago.
Through my pain, my depression, my confusion, only in the possibility of love I can see light. Do you believe, by your life experience and your career, that Love (with the characteristics that describe True Love) and Patience can turn things around a bit? She is the first that I saw my life with, years from now, and it felt right. Since one discussion we had about kids and family, I have this thought: being with her, struggling through life together. My dream was not about a "happily ever after" story. It was about togetherness. With her, hand-by-hand, getting through life together.
I also need your opinion in a thought that just came to me. I cannot play cool with my emotions anymore. I cannot just shut my mouth when I want to say "I love you" or "I miss you". If real love is unconditional, I can learn how to love that way with time and maybe show her how love is supposed to be (Is love teachable?). So, I was thinking to act that way: Send one text every one or two days as a small reminder that I am still there, that I think of her WITHOUT needing something back OR expecting for an answer. Obviously she can't give anything back right now and seeing it objectively is reasonable. One wrong step and she is back to her old life where she barely survived. So do you think that me acting that way is positive or am I a "fool"? I saw this whole experience also as a practice for me to become able to just love without "needing". It is painful but I want to become a better person.
Thank you. I see in you the figure of a wise father.
P.S: You came very close to your guess. I am on my way to complete my Child & Adolescent Psychology MSc. It's funny how by gaining the knowledge to help others, I still can't help myself.

Just a quick response & I go back to work elsewhere.


1. Envisioning going thru all of life together is the most natural vision in the world to happen when you've had some moments during and after being together where time stops mattering. At those times You are effectively in Eternity, not clock time. That's where the inner image comes from that True Love is Eternal--because each one of those timeless periods is a sample of Eternity. That's why most couples start to envision a forever together when they're newly in love, and they usually feel embarrassed because they "know it's too early to be planning that far ahead."


2. It is too early to be planning that far ahead. Because that's such a high-up feeling that any disappointment feels like stepping into an elevator on the top floor and then noticing that the elevator car isn't there. The hight and brighter the idealized vision is when you're newly and confidently in love, the more awful is the crash with each disappointment. That is normal, and the pain of it is normal. It's not her fault if she can't allow herself to envision that, so she keeps hugging the ground and "I'm too busy.""I'm not ready." etc.


3. I can't really advise you on sending or not sending your positive message and not expecting anything back. But I wonder how you'll be able to keep from expecting anything back.


4. Real romantic love is NOT unconditional, tho some battered down husbands or wives can keep loving for quite a while without getting their own needs respected. Many mothers can hang in for a whole lot longer, because they don't expect equal return from their children, even in adulthood.


5. Real love is teachable, by example mostly, and sometimes by pointing out why you're doing what you're doing towards your beloved.


6. There's a zillion varieties of real love, some of them apparently pretty brutal or sick and others apparently way more holy than a normal human would be. But "True Love" is a mythical animal. It's a standard we hope grows up or bursts into our hearts just naturally and endures Forever, because those Eternal moments are the building blocks of Forever. To a certain extent, love flourishes in adversity. The more danger, fear, suffering and sacrifice you go thru, the more brightly does your love burn, IF it doesn't burn out on the blows of adversity. The more brightly your love burns, the more real, true and ennobling it feels to you, because love lives in your mind, and separately in her mind, so it doesn't usually look or feel the same to each of you.


7. I wonder if you could use a trustworthy friend living near you to receive your feelings and be supportive with a frequency that she isn't able to offer. If being in love leads you to isolate yourself from a wider, more stable & resourceful network of supporters, then it's not helping you support yourself. You're going to need a lot of stable, eagerly caring close colleagues and friends if you're going to be a child & adolescent therapist, because those clients are going to break your heart many times with the tragic helplessness of their situations and the cruelty of their parents or peergroups. Without really cultivating such mutual support relationships, you will get stricken with the sorrows of those you're treating, and you can't keep laying those stricken sorrows at the feet of your love partner. Feeling isolated in the "burn ward" of human suffering that you can't magically alleviate is what burns out most therapists. The standard wisdom is that 10 to 15 years is all any of them can take, before they have to quit and become a jewelry maker like my wife, or an administrator who tells other therapists how they should do things (while they don't listen). In fact the Enneagram or mysterious Peruvian system of 9 personality types has a "healer" type, who the system predicts will turn into an Artist when she advances further on her path to fulfillment/enlightenment/salvation/what-it's-all-about. And if instead of evolving further, she devolves or regresses, she'll turn into an Administrator.


So much for another short reply. Sorry if I'm sounding pontifical, just getting a lot said in a short space. I could explain many things I've skimmed over here, since I've written a HUGE scientific book on the emotional dynamics of love. I still have a little bit to do on that before sending in to Cambridge U press, but I'm not quite there and we have to scramble too hard to make ends meet.