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home : columns : dear harriette April 18, 2021

2/4/2021 7:57:00 AM
Breakdown in communication brings about break

DEAR HARRIETTE: I asked my boyfriend for a break so I could have some space to think. He has bad reactions when I tell him things, and he can't control his feelings. I have been scared to talk to him, which has led me to hide things from him. I constantly feel like I am lying to him, all to protect his feelings and his mood. He just can't handle certain information, and he doesn't listen to me -- he just jumps to react. It has made me rethink how we communicate and whether we can connect in a healthy way. If we can't, then should we even be in a relationship? After realizing this, I asked for a break, but I've heard that people don't get back together after a break. Do you think a break will help? -- Pausing on Love

DEAR PAUSING ON LOVE: I would say that you shouldn't pause for too long. Your chance at making this relationship work will come from the two of you working together on your bond. What do you want? What do you need? Get clear on the answers to those questions. The bottom line is that you need to decide whether you want to devote your life to being with him. Figure that out first. Then, ask your boyfriend to get together to talk. Be open with him. If you think you want to be with him, tell him what you want in your relationship. Explain how important communication is for you, and give him examples of your concerns about the ways in which he reacts to you when you tell him things and what you have been doing to manage those reactions. Tell him that this worries you. Suggest that he go to anger management classes to gain competence at handling difficult information. See what he is willing to do to work with you. If he seems unwilling or unable to make the effort, you may have your answer about your future with him.

If it doesn't seem like it's possible to have a healthy bond, cut ties. Since you have already separated, this may be the cleanest time to break.

DEAR HARRIETTE: I believe my husband is either having an affair or getting dangerously close to it. We have not been close for a long time, but we have carved out a way of coexisting that I thought was common for couples who have been together for a long time. Recently, one of his college friends has come into the picture. They go out to eat and for drinks and to see art shows -- all kinds of things. Even during quarantine, they have made time for outings. He never wants to do anything like that with me. When I have made similar suggestions, he balks. When I have asked him about these outings with this woman, he blows it off, saying he's just hanging out with an old friend. I went with them once, but it was uncomfortable. I felt like she was coming on to him, and he was enjoying the attention. I don't want to lose my husband. What should I do? -- He's Mine

DEAR HE'S MINE: Speak up and tell him that his relationship with this woman makes you uncomfortable. Tell him that you do not want him to continue to spend time with her. Be direct, and tell him that you feel that their friendship is a threat to your marriage. Ask him to choose to spend more time with you. His reaction will help you to know what he is willing and interested in doing.

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