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So what do I do?

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My therapist tells me that we seek out similar relationships to those that we’ve had before. We have the deep-seated need to try again, but to win this time. To get it right. It’s why we follow destructive relationship patterns.

So, here we are and there we are. I’m back in a destructive pattern and I genuinely don’t know what to do.

All I can do is jot it down here. Perhaps the act of writing it out will help.

So, my girlfriend and I have been dating for not far off a year now. I came on too strong in the beginning- you know what it’s like. You meet someone who you’re really into and you just want to wrap them up and not let them go.

We rowed about that briefly. She was angry with me for pressuring her to make promises about what her future plans were: would she stay in the Netherlands? Would she return to the UK?

I agreed I’d been far too pushy and that I’d roll it back. I backed off. The problem was, I was angry with her too. This had obviously been a problem for a little while, and she had ignored it (and me). I’d been left dangling for weeks with no contact, wondering if I’d gotten dumped or if something bad had happened to her.

We got through it. I spent Christmas and New Year with her. I really like her. I don’t like how she won’t share. She won’t say when something bothers her. She won’t say what she wants. She won’t let me in or see what she’s really thinking.

That’s like crack to me.

It appeals to everything damaged about me in a perfect way. It’s not just a honey-pot trap, it’s a trap perfectly designed for every intricacy of my personality.

  • Damaged, lovable loner.
  • Wants love but doesn’t know how to show it.
  • Veers between loving and generous to distant and unreachable (but never cruel or nasty)
  • An enigma for me to unravel.
  • Lets my imagination run away with possibilities to fill the silence.

So, she went silent again recently. I finally managed to get her to talk to me, and (for some reason) I believe her when she says she was too busy. She’s buying a house in NL and wasn’t sure if that meant she was explicitly dumping me. Her phrasing. She was afraid that she couldn’t give me what I wanted: to be ‘together’ together because she was staying out there for the foreseeable future.

I called her. We talked through it. We’re actually quite good at talking through stuff: it’s the silence that kills it. And me. Basically I said that I really loved her and, as a result, if she wanted to stay there then that was fine. It’s less than a 2 hour flight away, and who knows what the future may hold?

She seemed happy with that. She said that she wanted to keep me in her life. She had just been worried about screwing me over by dragging me across country to see her.

She’s very logical. Possibly mildly autistic. It’s fine, I’m not in any position to judge someone because they are neuro-atypical.

We straightened it out. Then I immediately opened another tin of worms by suggesting we should promise to be exclusive: to not see other people. She didn’t say yes or no- she wanted to know why. She wanted to know what I was afraid of, what I was trying to prevent. Why would I do something like that for her when she genuinely believes I’m ‘better’ than her?

That was tough to answer. Not least of all because explaining why you want someone to yourself is hard. There’s no actual reason. It’s just something I feel: I don’t want to share her.

More importantly, I think, were her beliefs. I forget how inferior she can feel. See, she’s frighteningly intelligent (and knows it) but has low self esteem about her looks. I don’t think it’s that she wants to cheat on me… it’s that she doesn’t even see it as a possibility that she would find someone else wanting to sleep with her, but wonders why I would want to commit myself to her.

I’ve been sending her emails for the last couple of days. With her frantic schedule it’s just easier. I’ve had no replies to them yet. Maybe she’s read them, maybe she hasn’t. I also tend to write a little rhetorically, and she doesn’t pick up on that much. Generally she will only answer if I ask a direct question.

The emails I send are genuine. They hark back to how I felt and what I let myself feel before we rowed about my pushiness. You see, when I stopped being pushy I’d let something better slip away too: I stopped making it clear how much I cared for and liked her.

I told her some of the things about her I liked. Her eyes. Her hair. Laughing with her. Her scent. The way she stores up bizarrely obscure knowledge on niche subjects (she’s explained before how certain types of wires are made and how a factory in GTA V was designed wrong).

I told her I’d move countries to be with her if necessary.

She’s tough to understand. She’s withdrawn, quiet, emotionally hard to read. She has periods of being just unreachable. She has a hard time understanding why I’d be interested in her, and if it’s not just me ‘settling for less’ or believing I can’t do better.

Like I said, that’s like crack to me. It’s a chance for me to ‘do it right’. She’s a lot like my mother was. A lot like at least two former lovers from my University years. She doesn’t dole out love, compassion or attention. You have to earn it.

It’s a bad dynamic. But I don’t think she’s a bad person. I think she’s actually a very good person. It’s not that she doesn’t have feelings, she doesn’t know how to express them. So she’s silent instead.

I don’t want to give up. At least I’m aware that this dynamic is one I’ve been in before. It’s never worked out before… but perhaps this time. That’s the catch, the hook.

I suppose it’s about balance: it might work, and it is only right that I’m willing to listen, be attentive and understand what she needs but can’t find words to say. I just need to also be aware that it’s not for me to ‘fix’, nor my sole responsibility to maintain the relationship.

It’s a touch one. It doesn’t help that, during those weeks where she was unreachable, I say she’d been online that very day on the dating website where we met. That one’s hard to rationalise, perhaps it’s just her self esteem.

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Dear Kaylee,

I feel your pain, I really do. I also get worried (panicked?) at times about my marriage and where we're headed. I'm no therapist but here's some thoughts that I hope help you.

At times like this I often recite The Serenity Prayer to myself. I suppose you know it but just in case:


Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change;

The courage to change the thing I can;

And the wisdom to know the difference.


I send that to you more as a philosophical thought than a religious prayer. I think it's very wise in its simplicity.

We cannot control other people. As much as you care for your girlfriend and want her to care for you, all you can be is all you can be. She needs to fall in love with you for what you are, a kind, sensitive, and open woman.

You know how it is: when we sense people trying to sell us something or get us to think a certain way, our guard goes up and we may withdraw. I suggest that you don't let that happen with you and your girlfriend. Be interested in her, show you you care, but don't be desperate.

I could advise that you try to control your feelings, that you not worry that she doesn't respond fast enough. But here again, that's hard or impossible to do. So what can you do? Stay in touch with her but probably for now, wait for her response. In the meantime get yourself involved with activities that you enjoy, try to strike up conversations with others, meet new people and make new friends. Who knows? You might find someone new to have a loving relationship with.

I wish you the very best,


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Thank you, Emma. I seem to only come here when I want to complain about something, so I'm very sorry for my late reply.

You're right: in essence the whole thing with Gwen is in my head. She often goes quiet purely because she's busy moving house and getting settled into her job. She also, due to her very low self esteem, seems to 'expect' me to leave her.

All I can do is try to get a handle on the thoughts and voices that rise up to fill that void of interaction. Noises that seem louder in the silence.

It'll be fine, and I can only work at trying not to fret over things that are outside of my control. Precisely as you identify.

Thank you for your thoughts and for taking the time to put them down to me. I really appreciate it.

I hope you have a good week.


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