Dear Dr. Love,I have been with my girlfriend for 3 1/2 years, and we have lived together for about a year. In this past year, the relationship seems to have fallen apart. We can’t talk without arguing, and we just don’t seem to know one another anymore.My girlfriend says that I don’t talk to her with the respect that I do other people, and that I don’t talk about things that are important. I believe that she just over reacts to many things. I believe that my inability to talk about important things is a reaction to her doing the same.Her father passed away a little over a year ago, and I just don’t feel like she has really opened up to me since then. I don’t think that her father’s death has anything to do with out relationship trouble, but I have noticed that since then, we just haven’t been able to communicate.What can we do make this work. I know that our communication with one another is lacking, but I do not know what to do to get us where we were, or where we want to be. Looking For Answers
I know that you don’t see a connection between the death of your girlfriend’s father and your deteriorating relationship, but there most certainly is one. Whenever a emotional or relational change occurs following a traumatic incident, we can be certain that unresolved feelings associated with the trauma are afoot.You said that you haven’t been able to communicate well since her dad’s death. It actually seems to me that your girlfriend has been looking for reasons to fight with you.There are two possible explanations for this. One, that she is angry to have lost her dad and is displacing the anger onto you. The second, and far more likely explanation, is that she has become terrified to be too close to you.Losing her dad has shown her how painful loving and losing is. By bristling all the time, she keeps you at a safe distance, which protects her from another hurt.I would put this theory to her in the form of a question. ‘Have you noticed that since your dad died that we have been like oil and water? Can you think of any reason why his death would have made you want to push me away?’Then, see what she does with the question. I hope that she will be open enough to explore this issue further. If she does, then you can talk about how people use anger as an armor to protect themselves from loss, pain, hurt, disappointmenet, etc. . Talking about the problem is the first step to healing it.Good luck.