Too Close for Comfort

Dear Neil: The two year relationship I had with my girlfriend ended a few months ago. While at college, we were best friends and lovers. But after graduation, she decided to move back to her home town.

It was then she began withdrawing emotionally and cutting herself off from me. She held all of her emotions inside and pushed me away. After several months, I begin to doubt her love for me. I found myself even becoming somewhat jealous, although I couldn’t tell you what I was jealous about. Her lack of intimacy really got to me, and I found myself trying to do everything to make things work.

When we broke up, she said that I was just too affectionate and emotional, and it drove her crazy. I enjoyed the two of us being able to talk about whatever was on our minds, and I was trying to be communicative, honest and sincere.
I would appreciate your opinion. Can one really be too affectionate and emotional?

Cincinnati, Ohio

Dear Cincinnati: It sounds as if your girlfriend communicated that the relationship was too intimate for her. Some people can’t handle a lot of closeness or communication. They get threatened, feel unsafe—or too vulnerable—and withdraw emotionally. Perhaps for her, things got too close for comfort.

Of course, it’s always possible that she found you acceptable for the short-run, but not—for whatever reason—as a long-term partner.

Also, since you had a long-distance relationship with her toward the end, I wonder if she may have gotten involved with someone new without acknowledging it to you.

Either way, your heart is in a good place, and you are demonstrating effective intimacy skills. Lick your wounds and heal from this, and then go find someone new.

Dear Neil: I am a 29 year-old female, and have always tried to live up to my mother’s standards. A few months ago we had a big argument, and for the first time in my life I said to her what I was feeling. It’s also the first time I ever swore at her.

I am trying to stand up and say what I feel, but we always end up arguing, so I’m now back to just agreeing with her. She’s always right, and has to have the last say. When she does listen, it’s with “But wouldn’t it be better if…” Whatever I do or say has never lived up to her expectations, and is never quite good enough.

Christchurch, New Zealand

Dear Christchurch: It sounds as if you are trapped between trying to win your mother’s approval—and breaking free of her judgment and expectations. You are not going to simultaneously succeed at doing both, so choose what’s most important to you.

If you have spent twenty-nice years going along with her so you didn’t rock the boat, and you still have questionable results, perhaps it is now time for you to experiment.

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