Dear Dr. Frankie,
I am a first time reader and advice seeker. I am incredibly in love with my girlfriend of one year. We were very good friends for 8 years before she confessed her feelings for me, and we pursued this thing called love. We are in a long distance relationship, which is my first successful one. All things I normally did in relationships before her, I no longer do. I’ve curbed all my bad habits and I fight my natural flight instincts during an argument. I grow better every day with her but the problem is that she does not seem to. She has a lot of baggage from her last relationship and I often wish she had a rebound girl between the Destroyer and me. I wished she had someone to help her heal and show her the good things in life, so that when she got together with me it wouldn’t be such a struggle. She always says “I’ll try” or makes excuses, and it’s starting to make me doubt whether she ever will. I tell her often to stop trying and just do it. Stop saying you’ll try to be there for me, and just be there. I need her to get out of her head. I am not her ex, I do not say things to hurt and poison her. I’ve done the crazy lesbian girlfriend thing, and I’m too old for that now. If this was anyone but her I would have been gone long ago. I just don’t know how patient I can be. If she’s the one than I guess she’s worth waiting for, but how long do I have to wait for her to figure her shit out? Every time she disappoints me I hurt, and then she hurts because she hates disappointing me, and then I end up comforting her. Help!!!
Dear Almost Done,
It sounds like you’ve done your inner work and now feel good about where you are emotionally. It is heart wrenching and frustrating to see that your girlfriend has so much work to do. As a result it’s difficult for you to throw yourself back in the muddy waters that her previous relationships and attachments created. Something to consider is that in a relationship there will always be a stronger communicator, a more effective listener, someone more patient, etc. The important thing is that we feel our partner is putting in the effort and that they care enough to grow and improve. No one is perfect and just remember that with someone else you’ll have challenges as well.
I would start by asking yourself if you believe your girlfriend is actively trying to improve her communication skills, trust in you and the relationship you share. Just because she says, “I’ll try” or “I should’ve” or “I would’ve” is not enough. She needs to put those words into actions and if she isn’t then you need to clearly explain that you need her to, otherwise your relationship has no hope for forward progress. Expressing interest in changing is very different than actively making behavioral changes. If and when you feel she is actively working on these issues (self-reflection, therapy, coaching) you might be more patient and sensitive to her lapses. I would recommend working with a couples therapist or coach who can help you both acquire necessary skills to communicate effectively. He/she can also help mediate when discussions get heated and emotions are triggered. It’s tough, but I do not recommend comforting her when she lets you down and disappoints herself. She must see the need to get help. If you keep comforting her and alleviating her anxiety when conflict arises, she will have less motivation to seek help and make change. We all know that love is hard to find, and it sounds like you have been close either as friends or girlfriends, for quite a long time. I would work on your current relationship until you can honestly say you’ve both given it your best shot.
Also consider setting a date in your mind that you will make a drastic decision (ie: end the relationship) that you do not share with your girlfriend. This will hold you accountable to making necessary changes if progress isn’t made in a reasonable amount of time. A big mistake that I commonly see lesbians make is that they stay in relationships much longer than is healthy. Although it was clear months or years ago that the relationship was no longer working, they stayed because it was familiar and comfortable to a certain extent. Give your current relationship an all out effort, but set a boundary where you expect to see significant growth.