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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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Im very confused at the moment and could use some insight please.

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Im very confused at the moment and could use some insight please. After a fight earlier in the week I finally met up with my girl to talk last night. My girl asked for space and we talked at great lengths about what is going wrong and how much we mean to each other. In the end I told her it is not how I want to do things but lets give it a shot because it better than fighting over everything and i want this relationship to succeed. She asked me before I left what am I going to do tonight. I told her to i was going out with the guys and having a few drinks. Later in the evening she kept texting me and finally said she was going to bed. I tell her have a good night and half an hour later she says she going out with her friend K to smoke sheesha and have girl time. She then invites me to come over after the bars and stay over, just hours before she wanted space, but she wasn’t sure how late she would be. I had a few drinks in me and agreed. (Pretty sure I should have said no). I get there around 2am and she gets back around 3. (Odd in the states, but we are in the Middle East and the souqes stay open past 2 plus traffic makes sense). Although it is rare for her to stay out all night except when we are having problems. The next morning I wake up, get breakfast and we have a decent chat. I asked her if she is going back to sleep said yes. She asked me what was I going to do and I said go to my place and get some laundry finished and clean up a bit. She looks offended and says , well that was cold and abrupt. I said not at all and I left. An hour later she texts me she was offended because I just left.
I don’t get it at all and what is with the hot and cold attitude. She wants space and then wants my company. I give her space and she takes offense. I really am confused at the moment and not sure what she is doing.

ben0308 :

Hello, I am here to help in some way. SOunds like a very confusing relationship you have with your girllfriend right now. Not sure if she knows whats she wants from a relationship nor do you. It sounds like you both could be sending mixed messages which are

ben0308 :

REAL confusing. Sorry. I hit the wrong button. Anyway, the worst thing that can happen to a relatioship is tht one person wants to dominate and be incontrol. This is not easy to

ben0308 :

"stop: but wotth trying. You need to lose a little psychology on him such as 'likes the great breakfasts when he's been out and out but are you willing to accept this? How bout "breakfst will be served at "such a such an hour.: Doing my best to help you both sincerely,

ben0308 :

Anne Swift, 4292

Customer: We talked and we started to argue. She started to shut down and stopped listening. She kept telling me what I was going to say next without letting me finish a sentence. I calmly told her, "I'm only know what you told me about Dale(ex-husband) but stop treating me like I am him. i am not trying to.... She went into hysterics before I could finish about me taking a low blow. . And using her ex as a weapon against her. Then told me I was petty. I tried explaining but I might have talked to a wall. I tried talking again and she said FU. I stopped and walked away. I fixed her iPad because I messed it up. While I was fixing it, she was in the other room I sent her a message, "I'm sorry. It was never my intentions for you to be hurt like that. Never in a million years would I ever thought you would cut me out instead of talking about it, but that was a wound I didn't understand that was that deep and I am so sorry for ever hurting you in that way. As soon as I fix the iPad and put on the hot mikado for you I will go and never come back. It not a threat or something to use. I am respecting your wishes because I can't stand myself for hurting you that deep. I love you and I always will. you said I was young and yes, that is a young mistake. It a mistake I will never be a me to pay back, but again I really hate myself for opening a rift that I didn't understand fully existed like that. I will fix the ipad and i will be gone. I really hope someday you can forgive me and not look at that past year as something of a waste." She responded, "To hurt to comment" so I replied, "You don't have to. I didn't realize what I was doing to you. I am not a malicious person and I act before I think at times. I am not asking you to take me back or plead. I am just saying I am sorry for making feel that hurt and it was never my intention. Because I hurt you that bad I am kicking myself and I fully understand why you hate me and tell me f**k you! I will 100%respect your decision of wanting to end it because I look back at that year and found the love of my life. I lost her due to stupidity and that is something I will have to come to terms on my own. Again I'm truly sorry. No need to comment or even speak to me again." After I finished I handed her I pad and said goodbye. After I left she sent me this message,"Thank you for sorting out ipad & mikado. Appreciated it although said little. Hope u r ok. And I apologise for being so rude in telling you to go f self. Was just so unbelievably hurt. Ive reread your messages and am grateful for your respect and consideration. Really dont want to argue with you but haven't been hurt like this before by you and didn't think it was possible. I love you too but cannot live pushing you away and punishing you for both of us bring so unhappy. I hope that by focusing on yourself you begin to feel better. I miss our laughter and have cherished the year. Just sorry I made u so unhappy as you deserve much more. X". When I didn't respond she told me to stop ignoring her. Talk. I am so confused. I don't feel bad for my comment because it needed to be said, but i feel terrible for not knowing how much it hurt her. Why is she asking me to talk immediately after the break up?
ben0308, Social Worker
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Welcome to my couples workshop, where people 18-80 of diverse cultures & orientations have come to explore their questions and find a path of heart. Both of you obviously think that breaking up is the only thing to do when you're too hurt to know what to do. And you're tired of bouncing back & forth.

So I suggest you wait till she calls on you (and it would be better if she came to your place, but you might have rules against that where you live). Also using email (not real time chat) is a good way to slow down the torrents of emotional reactions so you can discuss rather than just blow up or break up. You can ask her via email how she wants to manage what happens when one of you gets hurt or angry--and calling time out and using texting from a distance is one way you've already used.

I think it's possible that she's not as deeply in love with you as you are with her, because she's actually not ready to love fully, as long as she's still reacting to her problems with her ex husband. It's possible that she chose you to be in love with because you did certain things differently than her husband, and because you liked parts of her that he disliked or ignored. You could be quite accurate when you perceive that she's treating you the way she treated him.

Neither of you seems ready to break up and stay away from each other. But the one who breaks up and goes away first has the upper hand (more power), and you have that right now. It's not clear to me whether either or both of you can learn enough through these temporary separations to handle you passionate & angry relationship.

But don't worry. She is not "the (ONLY) love of your life." That's how you feel now, and it's especially true when you're going in and out of breaking up, so it feels like you're just about to lose her forever. Any time you're really fully in love, time stops, so you feel like this is FOREVER, and I will always love her. True--love is a divine fire when it's happening but not anymore if you decide to let it die down and then don't tend to it, don't give it your oxygen to burn with.

Perhaps you've never loved this much before (but she probably has). But if you realize that there will be other relationships as good as this one--though different in some ways--then you don't have to be so desperate to know what to do. I'd guess that even though she wants you to pay attention to her and to desire her sexually, she will be able to let go of you, because she has done that before. If you trust that you can find another and another relationship later on (not usually immediately), then you can negotiate through writing on how to get along together, IF you want to try again. And you won't just give in because you're afraid of losing her, and then sabotage your promises because you didn't give yourself a chance to find out what you wanted.

Has this relationship been swinging wildly between high points and arguments and sorrowful separations for most of its 1 year of length? If so, then finding a way to keep from having such blowup/breakup/separations could change it completely. You might start feeling differently about her.

Customer: replied 4 years ago.
What you say makes a lot of sense. I really do love this girl, but feels I am secondary to her life at the moment. Yes, our relationship does go high and low. It wasn't always like that, but her job is so stressful she can't think except for herself at the moment. My job is stressful, very stressful as well, but we just deal with it differently. I prefer to be around family, she is my fiance, and she needs time to blow up and decompress. She told me she never loved and trusted anyone as much as me, but with the stress of our jobs we are tearing each other apart. Later that night after she broke it off she kept texting me and wanted to get back together. Eventually we talked for a bit, but I am very confused. She plans on moving with me to the US in 5 months. She is British. She is a teacher and I work as a logistic manager for the government. we live and work in the Middle East which is its on stress. She said she needs space and asked me to move out because she doesn't want to push me away and take her stress all out on me. I've asked for space before and suggested we take a week off from time to time and she was never on board. Now she wants space and rehashes everything I've said before, such as we are taking each other for granted and wants the feeling of actually missing one another, I agree. She says she still gets butterflies when I've been away and we see each other again. I want to talk about it, but she has to be in the right mood because she is swayed by her emotions. So I am giving her the space. She wants me to move out, but then says she wants me to come over like I did before and I still have my key. Just it is now her place.(she didn't say it like that). When I asked how long is this going to go on for she wasn't sure. Then she was upset because she said I looked uncomfortable in the apartment now. I told her this was our home and you took it away. I don't mind giving space but you took away my foundation with the sudden break up and now our home in a 24 hour period and I need time to adjust. She said that she needs the space so I can come home and not see you crashed on the couch with no time to decompress or feel guilty or rushed when i am out because I you are home alone. she doesn't want for us to keep fighting and push each other out and destroy our special relationship. I knew there was no point in discussing anything because she made up her mind and anything I say would be seen as negative and on my terms. I agree with the points, but not the method because she made up her mind and I have to accept it. I'm lost at the moment and not sure what to do. She wants space but wants me around most of the week, or at least that is what she said. She doesn't want to break up, but we barely contact one another.. Up until the break we texted all the time when we were apart. I think she wants to create distance so it is easier to break up, but she said that is not the case because she wants us to miss one another like when we first started dating. She kept saying one thing and does the other. Not sure what she actually means because she tells her friend one thing and tells me another. Example: she tells her friend I am around the house too much and need to go out with my friends from time to time (I do stay at home most nights of the week) so she has some time to herself, but then gets jealous when I do to out with my friends and texts me the whole time. Please let me know what you think is going on and a healthy way to overcome this roller coaster ride of emotions. I would love some more advice on helping to create a healthier relationship. Your first answer was amazing with a lot of insight and I am sure this will help as well. I'm just not ready to give up on my future wife, but will not beg and plead so she stays out of pity. There has to be a line somewhere lol.

OK. Your relationship is more hopeful than I thought. You didn't say how long it's been since she was married, and that is important. If you are her first relationship after her marriage, and within 6-12 months of its ending, she will be very reactive and you can't have her without her reactions to her recent past. If it's been longer, or she's had at least one other short relationship in between, then she could be less hampered by her reactions to her marriage.

There's a song I heard way back in college, called "How can I miss you when you won't go away?" and that's the gist of the whole song. So I suggest you set yourself up with regular plans to spend time either with other people that you like to be with, or alone but very absorbed in what you're doing. At those times you WON'T be available to her. You also mentioned that when she comes home from her job she wants to be alone. She's pushed you out of your place together so she can have that! So if and when you ever live together again, make sure that you're somewhere else when she comes home, and let her miss you. But also don't just sit around waiting for her to text you to come over. Get yourself an interesting life that doesn't just revolve around her.

It will be different in America, a brand new adjustment. But for women, getting space to be disheveled and out of sorts and not polite and not interested in their man is a category of existence that they didn't grow up knowing about. So it's difficult to assert for, and your girlfriend has gone overboard, because she doesn't feel entitled to send you away every time she doesn't want to be "on" as the "woman you want to marry, the love of your life." Can you imagine some attitudes and activities that you sometimes get into that you wouldn't want her to see? You may be more of a thinking type and she a feeling type. [You can learn about how you might perceive each other if you both took the free Jungian Types test online at and got the free page or two on your types. Thinking & Feeling types (just 1 of the 4 dimensions for 16 types) naturally misjudge each other.] For their first great loves, young people are likely to pick someone who is unlike them in 3 or even 4 of the dimensions, because they are unconsciously trying to become more of a complete person by absorbing that other side from their partner; like you getting more contact with your authentic personality through Feelings and her getting more stability through Thinking.

If you make sure that there are some times in your week when you will not rush over to see her, because you are interested in your own life, socializing or learning, or engaging in a sport or yoga etc. you will show her that you're not completely domesticated, and that will garner more respect from her, even though she won't tell you that she likes it. Can you imagine a handful of different activities that you WANT to do badly enough to NOT drop them and rush over when she wants you to? THOSE are examples of what your own feelings give value to; those are part of your authentic personality at this point in your life. Some of those might be aspects of your work that you're passionate about and put extra time into beyond your work hours; some might be hobbies or learning interests; some artistic, literary or musical interests, either as a receiver or as a creator.

The value of separate interests and activities remains essential throughout our lifetimes, and marriages can't remain satisfying without it. The type of socializing might change as you mature, and you may discover new branches of your personality that you were never interested in before. Though marriage is the biggest game around when you're working your way through the mating dance, it actually doesn't solve most of your problems. AND it adds some new ones, specifically "intimate friction," the discomfort that not having the same habits and desires and hidden frailties will gradually increase until you'll wonder why you thought this one person was so perfect for you, when she is perfectly frustrating as H**L! But that too is part of your education in life, the challenge of getting your own ugly side shoved into your face by your partner and vice versa, and having to work on personal skills you've never dreamed of needing.

And the ability to be a valuable companion to yourself is one of the best supports you'll have to cope with those times when your marriage is more unsatisfying than satisfying. You have this situation now. So take it an use it as an opportunity to develop aspects of yourself that you don't have to ask her for permission to include in your schedule, because you're not ANSWERING to her every minute. You've REALLY made yourself a free man that SHE has to woo too, when you can tell her, by text, that you won't be answering text messages until X hour, because you're so engaged (you might feel the need to say with what, but not if it's something she might disapprove of or scoff at) that you need your space.

One more thing: When a person needs space because she's (or you've) had too much conflict & disappointment to cope with the partner, one can't say "only until X hour" or even "X day." Because once you promise to end your radio silence at a particular time, you'll already feel hemmed in by the deadline you've set. So you won't be able to just enjoy your relief without wondering if you're going to be ready when the other person's going to be hurting if you don't show up in some way. Using a text to postpone getting together and reassure that you want to is a good enough way to deal with that. And she's already doing that. So let her know that you think that's a good way to preserve freedom and keep the relationship connected.

Dr. Norman Brown, Marriage Therapist
Category: Relationship
Satisfied Customers: 1206
Experience: Family Therapist & teacher 35+ yrs; PhD research in couples
Dr. Norman Brown and other Relationship Specialists are ready to help you
Customer: replied 4 years ago.

Well Doctor Brown, the relationship has ended.

Some info you had asked about.


1. She was in the middle of the divorce.

2. I didn't know until later.

3. I gave her the space. I started staying at my apartment more. She said I was purposly ignoring her.

4. I caught her in a couple of lies and she tried to take it out on me.


I'm trying to wrap my head around the whole situation though. Like you said I haven't been in many relationships. I usually dated and after a while I would move on, but on the rare occasions I do commit I do it 100%. I now know that it's better we had ended the relationship, but getting to that point was emotional draining.


I just wanted to make sure I was doing the right way of doing things. I miss the hell out of her, but I refuse to let myself get treated that way again.

What started the last erruption was she kept acting weird. Like a woman who was cheating. She was always texting and started to put her friendship with her friend over our relationship. I confronted her and she told me that I needed to stop being so insecure. I just found it odd. So one day when she was in the bath I looked at her phone. Her, "Soon to be", ex husband and her were texting. They were planning on meeting one another during her Easter Holiday. He said he wanted to book the tickets and she told him to book it. I found this horrible feeling because she had been lying to me and I was a party to a woman having an affair. I could tell he didn't know because they were still saying Love you at the end of the texts. On top of that she was supposed to go to Korea to meet my family during the same time period.


I didn't say I looked at the phone, but asked again if we were still going to Korea. She gave an enthusiastic YES! We got into another fight and I finally said goodbye and left, but she kept texting me and blowing up over texts messages. I finally had enough. I went to her place and asked her if she really wanted to have this relationship or if she was just using me so she didnt' have to be alone. I also told her she needs to change and start treating me nicer and stop making excuses because it comes across as lying when she doesn't answer the question and throw in a 5 min monologue about I'm insecure.

She got mad and started to accuse me of hurting her too much, but wants to be friends. She said I was wrong for asking her to change and that love should be unconditional. I was just to immature to understand that becuase I was restricting her by asking her to change. Even if she hit me with a lead pipe across the back of my head I should forgive her and love her.


Once I heard that I knew it was done. I told her, I love you, but I'm not going to change your mind. Love is a choice and shouldn't be abusive. There needs to be effort on both of our parts and you rather give your energy to everybody else. So I'm going to respect your wishes and end the relationship. Now you need to respect my request. I'm not going to be friends with you. I want more and then it gets confusing. Please don't email, text or call me in any way because I'm not going to. This is how I move on. Maybe someday a few years from now we can see how each other is doing, but not now. She didn't like it when I put it that way and refused to get up or even give me a hug when I said goodbye. I haven't seen her since. It's been 6 weeks now.


One of her friends came by my apartment with her boyfriend to make sure I was alright. I ended being good friends with her boyfriend over the last few months and hang out with him from time to time. She told me to be strong and when my ex breaks and tries to call me I shouldn't take her back. She said I deserved more and she felt bad for the way she treated me and kept trying to talk to her to be nicer. She said your ex doesn't deserve you and even she felt betrayed by her lies. I was always painted as the villian and She felt that my ex was lying about a lot of things, and she was even betrayed. I didn't ask for any information, but she said everybody in our social circle doesn't blame me for it and that they all felt she was abusive. She wanted to tell me this because she wanted to make sure I was ok and I was not going to take back my ex because she doesn't deserve a guy like me. It was nice to hear.


I've been focusing on my life. I go to the gym, I work on comedy routines, and practing my acting before I move out back to the states. I'm also networking, but there are days when I really miss her. Is that normal after being in such a emotional abusive relationship? I learned a lot about myself and from the relationship, but I feel detatched because the whole relationship was built on a lie. I'm pretty sure she's not getting a divorce. A friend of mine saw her with her husband and they did not look like a couple getting divorced is what he told me. The time period of our so called move date to the States was disputed because she still had another year on her contract and would have never been able to get out of it. She's known for over 6 months that she had to accpet another year when she accepted the promotion. Mutual friends ask me about her and how i'm doing and I just tell them, "I'm good. I'm keeping myself busy. I don't hate her. Just right person, wrong time in our lives and it didn't work out. I just hope she gets better and finds happiness."


I don't want them to know how angry I am and I don't want her to know either. They keep telling me it looks like she's crying every morning before work and she doesn't sleep as much. Now she looks and dresses like her new 27 year old best friend, (she's 39), and even gotten braces like her. She had them when she was younger and does not need them. I don't understand why they keep telling me these things and how she could change so much in a matter of weeks.

What I'm concerened about is how could I have let this happen. How do I grow forward without being bitter and expect other future women in my life to do the same to me? This relationship has ruined my self confidence and I doubt myself internally. I feel so stupid for letting someone fool me and for me to let it go on for so long. I keep trying to tell myself that I will return to form, but it's hard. Maybe I need some validation, but I'm hoping I'm moving forward in the right direction and I handled the situation as best as I could. Maybe some insight on her based on what I had written so I can better understand the whole situation.

I'll get to this tomorrow some time. It's been a while since I've considered your situation, and it's now 4am. You say she was going through a divorce? I didn't have time to refocus on the timing--but if that's even within the last year, then you may well NOT be the most powerful male love-magnet in her life. That is, her conflictual up&down relationship with an ex is ruling her reactions, and you're on the wrong end of a yo-yo. It's not your fault that you don't have enough power to get an equal say in this relationship--because she may have sought you out to be her comforter and healer. But I'll have to read that thru when I have more time.
Dr. Norman Brown, Marriage Therapist
Category: Relationship
Satisfied Customers: 1206
Experience: Family Therapist & teacher 35+ yrs; PhD research in couples
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Customer: replied 4 years ago.
Thank you. Actually based on what others have told me and what I pieced together she is not going through a divorce. Her friend said she had their picture up when I had left the country to take care of my sick mom. So when I had to be away for a bit for business the picture always went back up. I just feel sick and dumb that I didn't see it earlier.

You feel sick and dumb because it's humiliating to be accepting a one-down position in a love relationship. That's inevitable when you love someone who's not ready to love you with equal honesty & commitment. It's a very confusing consequence for people who are used to respecting themselves and being proud of their personality and achievements. I went through it for 3.5 years with a woman who was only 6months post divorce when she saw me teaching dream interpretation and determined to seduce me. I was in my mid-30s, and I'd had a 9 year relationship thru my 20s that was very positive and self-affirming, except for its ending, when, after over a year of concluding turmoil I changed the center of my focus to personal therapy and becoming a psycho-therapist. (You can notice the seeds of some of my advice in my personal history as recounted here.)


But people who have lived in relationship with someone who doesn't commit to them as much as they do, and/or who are impaired in their ability to love because of major personality problems (like mental illness, alcohol/drugs, sex-addiction, etc.--even if their partner discovers her/she is gay) ALWAYS have to struggle with feeling like there must be something defective about them: It's the result of the strong psychic influence-bond that develops when love is intense--because that allows your partner's conscious (& expressed) attitudes toward you as well as unconscious attitudes [ie unknown to them but generated by the ways their brain has developed through the major love relationships (father, mother, siblings, earlier loves) that their love-lives have built] to "infect" your own self-image and ego.


I remember that that woman that seduced and dangled me (who had learned that every time she started to pick a fight with me it meant she should push me away because she needed space--so at least she didn't assume it was my fault) taught me how to use the Chinese taoist Book of Changes--"I Ching" to gain insight into issues that were beyond my rational capacity to understand. So one day we sat down to each ask the I Ching HOW THE OTHER FELT ABOUT US. She threw the coins about me and got #11 Peace: The Natural Union of Heaven & Earth (with Earth trigram above & Heaven below so they'd each be approaching the other). That was very idealistic, and really how I felt. Then I threw them about her and got #(I can't find it in my big scholarly edition, so it's an interpretation in "The I Ching Workbook" which has fallen apart and disappeared from my book collection) with the key work "Condescension"--that precisely names her One-up to One-down love feelings for me, so she was very embarrassed, since perhaps she'd never even admitted that to herself.


I ADMIRE YOUR STRENGTH OF PRINCIPLE, and it's definitely the right thing to do. I guess she was pretending to be in divorce proceedings because her "ex"husband was living in UK and she was living in Saudi Arabia.


PS I remember an astounding comedy performance by a young Korean student at my university's talent show several years ago: He announced that he was going to perform a traditional Korean "sad-departure-song" with his own guitar accompaniment. But first he needed an attractive female in the first row to stand up and play the role of the already-pining-away beloved standing at the train station (or ocean-going ship dock) where he was soon-to-be departing. He instructed her in how she could not speak, but must hang her head with tears glistening in her eyes, while his moving song (in Korean) explained to her in painful detail why he had to go and would never ever see her again. The exaggerated Asian abject-sorrowful submissiveness he instructed her to manifest, while he sang the equivalent of "I will never pass this way again" stretched out a beautiful tapestry of Cosmic Dejection and Loneliness (that he kept adding to with ever-escalating poetic lyric translations between each verse and the next) built up an over-the-top creative&tragic tension for a totally hypnotised beloved and the entirely silent audience of 200 student onlookers that finally, when it was over, erupted in thunderous applause. The amazing thing to me was only dimly realizing that it was the complete impossibility of embracing and entering into the exquisitely devastating hopeless sorrow of the whole poetic musical performance that forced the audience into uncontrollable laughter and cheering at the end!


If you can do something like that, you'll really have a tiger by the tail! Perhaps you could even make up a sorrow-song like that to commemorate your disastrous love affair with her demeaning love affair? If you can do that you might heal yourself a lot sooner than would be normal--or at least get a burst of positive emotion that will keep feeding you every time you perform it. (If you're not musical you could just write a great, perhaps rhyming comedy routine, about the tragic affair of a stalwart Korean man etc.



Dr. Norman Brown, Marriage Therapist
Category: Relationship
Satisfied Customers: 1206
Experience: Family Therapist & teacher 35+ yrs; PhD research in couples
Dr. Norman Brown and other Relationship Specialists are ready to help you
Customer: replied 4 years ago.
Thank you very much for your insight and suggestions. You have hit the hammer on the head each time and I am thankful. It is hard, but your insight comes from a very deep understanding based on past experiences. I think creating a theater piece will help the healing process and another healthy way for me to work on my own grief and misunderstandings. Again thank you Dr. Brown!