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TherapistMaryAnn, Counselor
Category: Relationship
Satisfied Customers: 5808
Experience:  Over 20 years experience specializing in anxiety, depression, drug and alcohol, and relationship issues
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41 year-old man. Been dating this woman for 4 years (same age)

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41 year-old man. Been dating this woman for 4 years (same age) and I can't figure her out. It seems like when I do something nice for her, she appreciates me for a few minutes and then goes cold. Here is an example. I brought her to San Francisco with me this week - I have a work meeting and I gave he ra bunch of money to go shopping and took her to a concert last night. This morning, I got her a limo to the airport (I have to stay here for another day) and she leaves without really looking like she will miss me, gets to the airport and gets on the plane without texting or calling me. usually, our pattern is one of us will text or call before we fly out/leave, but she didn't and is acting like she doesn't care. Not sure what to do because when I ask her, she gets all defensive and angry.
Hello, I'd like to help you with your problem.

It sounds like you are doing all you can to address this issue with your girlfriend. However, her defensiveness and anger when you ask her about her behavior towards you is out of place. If there was something that could be addressed between you, she has the opportunity to express that in a normal, healthy way to you. But instead it sounds like she overreacts and tries to push you away.

When two people enter into a relationship, they not only have feelings for each other, but they also bring in whatever unresolved issues they have from the past. And it sounds like that might be what is going on with your girlfriend. Her reactions to your behavior and your inquires seem to be geared towards keeping you at an emotional distance at all times. And that seems particularly true when you are very kind and thoughtful towards her.

Given her reaction, it is very likely that your girlfriend has been hurt in the past by someone she trusted. And because she most likely never resolved it, she is taking those feelings out on you because she might be fearful she will get hurt again.

Another possibility is that she is experiencing low self esteem issues. In that case, being kind to her might trigger her feelings of low self worth. She could feel as if she does not deserve it and as a result, she sub consciously pushes you away.

The best way to approach this issue is to mention your girlfriend's reaction to her again but this time, tell her that you feel this is too important of an issue to continue to drop it. She may get upset, but if she is unable to work this issue through with you, she might need to talk to a therapist. There seems to be a root issue to this problem and not one that is caused by your relationship. By talking to a therapist, she can have the guidance and support she needs to find out why she feels as she does and how to resolve it.

In the meanwhile, you might want to try talking to her about changing how you are reacting to her behavior. You both are caught in a pattern. You are kind to her, she accepts the kindness yet is holding you at arm's length, you talk to her about it then she reacts with hostility or anger, you back off. This pattern needs to change. So instead of being kind to her then accepting her behavior towards you, try backing off a bit. Not in a mean or vengeful way, but because her reaction hurts you. If she sees that you no longer move towards her when she hurts you, she may be able to see her own behavior as part of the problem.

I hope this has helped you,
You may also find this resource helpful:

What Makes Love Last?: How to Build Trust and Avoid Betrayal by John Gottman Ph.D. and Nan Silver


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