May 19, 2016
Dear Dr. T and Efrain,
My girlfriend and I have broken up and gotten back together a few times. Things never seem to change, but we hate being apart from each other. We’re considering getting back together right now, but how can we make sure it’s different this time? —W.W.
What went wrong?
If it’s meant to be, it will be. I’m sure you’ve heard that one before, but it’s the earnest truth. Sometimes things fall apart and letting go, while hard, isn’t necessarily a bad thing. But on the other hand, that doesn’t mean relationships don’t take work. Even the best partnerships hit brick walls.
If both of you are truly serious about being together, then the most important thing is to talk. It won’t be fun, but you guys will need to take some time, sit down and look back on your relationship. See what has worked and what hasn’t. If breakups are so frequent for you two, then obviously something isn’t working. You need to figure out exactly what that is. Maybe you two are just two very different people. Do you connect emotionally? Is the relationship one-sided or co-dependent? Is it negatively affecting other aspects of your life?
These are all questions you guys need to ask and find the answers to. Like I said, it won’t be fun, but if you two truly care for one another, then it will mean the world in the long run.
Don’t avoid conflict
There’s no guarantee things will be different this time. In fact, the best predictor of future behavior is past behavior. So, the chances are that things will be similar.
You have to accept your girlfriend for who she is, not who you want her to be. So decide what’s more important: being together or avoiding conflict. You can’t take the pros without having the cons.
Having said this, there is something you can do to influence the way things go in the relationship. First, at the start of the relationship, you can say, “I’m excited we’re getting back together because I like you a lot. What do you think we can do to avoid the problems we’ve had in the past?” Second, be a good listener. This means paying attention to every word your girlfriend says and, every so often, repeat back to her what she’s saying so she feels understood. Finally, if you’re fighting and arguing, stop and take a breather. Wait until everyone is cooled down before trying to speak with each other again.
Communication is very important if you want to avoid conflict. However, all relationships have some conflict. So it’s good practice to try to work things out.
* * * * *
Disclaimer: The comments by Dr. Christian Thurstone and The Mash staff are not intended as and should not be considered medical or psychiatric advice. Although we endeavor to provide information that is accurate and useful, we recommend that you seek the services of a competent, independent mental health professional in the relevant jurisdiction to the extent you require personal help or advice.
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