What to do when he/she won’t talk to you.

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Assuming you want to chat with them.

© Al Turtle 2005

Yellowstone Park, quiet time. Amazingly this is a very common occurrence, and there is something you can do.  I am particularly familiar with this as I am the kind of guy who can talk with someone about intimate subjects for 60 hours, or more, straight.  I can drive everyone crazy, and they didn't use to want to talk with me much. (Also check out my papers on Reliable Membership and on the Testicle Principle.)


Rule: People won't talk cuz they don't feel safe to.

This is a pretty simple and very reliable rule.  I suggest you learn it.  I have found it helps when I want someone to talk to me and they won't.  What is typical for me is to try to push them to talk.  I had tried thousands of ways, it seemed.  My ways never worked.  So finally I accepted the idea that "pushing doesn't work."   Of course many of my pushing techniques were very tricky and subtle.  Still my partner could instantly see, or feel through me and see my pushing.  It just didn't work.

Thus my first task is to start to help them feel safe.  I have found this is both very difficult and easy.  Making anyone feel anything is pretty near impossible.  They will feel what they chose to feel, darn them.   Still there are lots of things that trigger a sense of safety in a person.  And there are lots of things that tend to make a person feel unsafe.  Find 'em. Remove 'em.

So let's look at the situation you are in.  Someone won't talk to you.  Is it that they won't talk to anyone about anything?  Or is it that they won't talk to you, personally?  These are very different situations, and you have to ask yourself which it is. 

If they won't talk to anyone about anything, it may be quite difficult to get them to talk.  Somehow they have probably learned to be unsafe with everyone.  Could easily be that this comes directly from when they were little.  You have to work to overcome that.  It's still possible, just difficult and may take a  long time with a lot of patience.  (Of course, if this is your partner, you picked them.  And this problem is part of your personal challenge in life.)

If they won't talk with just you, I think the situation is easier.  Here's the thought.  You are doing things or have done things, probably lots of things, that tend to make them feel unsafe.  You probably don't know what these things are, but these are actions you "can change."  What you are doing does not work for you.  

Now, remember, what you do is normal for you. You have to identify what those things are that you do, and learn to replace your behaviors with something better – something that works.  Sure this can be difficult, but it is your behavior and therefore you can change it.  You have this power.  (To understand the issues of Safety, click here for many articles.)


Principle #1: Develop and Demonstrate Patience

Probably the first thing you need is to send the message that "you can wait."  That means you need to learn patience.  Now before you decide that this is hopeless, just remember that patience is a set of skills. Patience is a learned thing.  All children are born "impatient."   That's normal.  It is also normal for us to learn "patience," when we grow up.  It is kind of like learning to tie your shoes laces. But some people have not learned patience — YET.   

Patience is the habit of comfort when things don't happen at the pace you desire. Easiest way to learn patience is to spend a large amount of time in a slow situation with people who are already very patient. You can learn it by example. Ask others how they learned it.  You can also take courses in Meditation, Yoga, and many east Asia disciplines.  Practice it.

I still practice intentionally missing traffic lights.  If the light is green, I may slow a little.  If it turns yellow, I really try to stop.  And then I practice enjoying the "tiny vacation" I get while the light is red. 


Principle #2: Invite, instead of Push

This is pretty straight forward.  Learn to never ask questions.  Invite instead.  It sounds like this.  "I was wondering about something you did the other day.  If you ever figure out what was going on for you when you did that, I'd love to hear about it.  In the meantime, let's have dinner."  Notice how these are all statements with no question mark at the end of them.  Many people feel pushed by questions.  Just being asked a question often feels like an attack.  So, just don't do it. (To understand the issue of Pushing, click here.)


Principle #3: Gently Listen

Wow, is this one valuable!  I suggest you show only moderate eagerness when listening, but invite them to say anything they want.  Never interrupt.  Never add more questions.  Just listen and encourage them to say it all. Accept whatever they say.  Never, never, never argue.  Learn Mirroring so as to help train yourself to relax while listening to anything they say.


Comments

What to do when he/she won’t talk to you. — 32 Comments

  1. Hey Al,
    Thanks for this article. I was just wondering whether this is applicable to ex boyfriends/girlfriends who have dumped oneself? Some people say that ex boyfriends/girlfriends don't initiate contact or reply because its a pride issue or a guilt issue for dumping oneself. What do you think?
    Furthermore, I have initiated minimal contact with my ex-girlfriend over the course of a month (2 times very briefly this includes the e-mail below) and recently I have sent her the following e-mail:
    “Hey,
    Please excuse my intrusion. I wanted to mention that I hope you know that you can get in touch anytime. Be it today or in a year :)
    All the best. Take Care. ”
    I think that displays that I wouldn't mind contact and that I have patience but I'm not sure whether I've pushed her away or is this e-mail inviting?
    Cheers,
    ThePupil

  2. Hello. I have been reading your site since my partner and I had hit the bumpy roads along a long distance relationship.
    I know that you will need more information to approximate what needs to be done in any relationship problem. I don't have the resources to seek therapy or help from you.
    But I would just like to ask: How to deal with 'silent treatment'?
    She hasn't communicated with me in any form (email, chat, SMS, phone calls) and had refused my phone calls nor responded to my SMS and emails for the last 19 days now.

    • Certainly that’s a good point of view, Dana.  I do think that time lost is lost, and we’re all alloted only so much time. I wish I had learned my lessons perhaps 25 years earlier.   Sad to think of all that wasted life. Very glad I finally got serious and learned the skills I didn’t even know I was missing.  I do encourage people to make their own choices and decisions.  

      I think it is tricky to give advice to people who are right on the edge of deciding to give up a relationship.  You might have noticed that I err on the side of encouraging people to work it out.  My belief is that people who come here, to my site, are usually those who are drawn by the dream of a great relationship in their lives.  I fully believe that it is perfectly fine to decide to “give up.”   Life sometimes makes that decision easy… sometimes not. 

  3. Perhaps you might start with reading Al's article entitled, “When To Fold 'Em?” Pretty much spells it out as far as technique/s. As for this page, it's the theory behind it all and really helps to absorb this first. Good luck! It takes some time (and a lot of practice) to sink in. Did for me anyways.

  4. Hello Anonymous, (thanks TC for joining in),
    Sounds very rough. I imagine this has been building up for a while. Long distance relationships can be really rocky.
    But to your question. My paper (what to do when he/she leaves) is the best starting place. But I've actually written a lot about this problem. My directory of articles (Reliable Membership) is filled with my understandings of this problem and the skills you need to solve it.
    In the long run you want to find out if she's “giving you a cold shoulder” as a punishment or as a way for her to survive. The length of time you mention sounds much more like the survival mode. A clue is that you probably (sarcasm) don't want your partner to have to work on survival from you. You want her to feel that being with you is a best way to survive.
    One hint is that while you gotta take care of yourself in the present. I've found that is easier to do if you aren't too close to your partner. Take a break from her (I know she is taking a break from you.) but just don't think about her for a couple of weeks. Then check in again with your thinking about her. If she surfaces in the meantime, pay attention to what you've been ignoring until recently.
    Good luck. Al

  5. Thanks TC, Thanks Al.
    Well today is the 28th day of the silent treatment.
    Trying to let the principles of what to do when she won't talk with me to sink in. It IS difficult.
    Have been trying the NC thing and I find that it is not working for me – I want us to try again, and I know that with an NC, my partner will just move away totally (she has issues with abandonment) – so I think that the steps in When To Fold 'Em is a better, more constructive way of dealing with this.
    Silent treatment is such an awful weapon to wield against another person. I've been trying to defang it, so to speak, to realize that her actions are more about her not me, so that it doesn't have that kind of emotional and psychological power over me. I lost 3.5 kilograms these last 3 weeks.
    Thanks again Al, for the papers and the advice here. You don't know how much it has helped even just to have something to work on, to know that there is something I can do, while this is going on.

  6. Dear TC,
    I am with your. That silent treatment is a terrible weapon, but only on those who are not prepared. If you know how to handle silence, the weapon is powerless. Sometimes (I'm thinking of Rush Limbaugh) silence is a joy.
    Good luck.

  7. Pingback: Communication Skills: What To Do When He/She Won't Talk To You - Marriage AdvocatesMarriage Advocates

  8. Dear Al,

    I have already spoken with you on the site before and you have helped me much so much reading and I have actavly been working on me. So Thank you,
    Heres my problem as it stands I have gotten some info back from him as I am tring to use your teachings. I have come to find out that he is cheating. Not sure to what extent as of this moment. I had told you the first time I thought that some one had his ear. You told me that that was a good thing because he has someone that he feels is listining. You informed me that I needed to give him space and not to cling ( not in that exact wording).
    He has not told me that he is cheating and he is gone with work at the moment. He is not aware that I know this. When he told me that he wasnt sure if he loved me anymore I did ask him if there was someone else and he denied it. he was home last weekend and was awful to me. I have never seen him treat anyone the way that he treated me
    As I said I did get some info from him and befor he left I got a little clarification on what he told me. (not much though mostly I dont know) I understand that hes avoinding when he does this and he may not know or want to tell me.
    So what can I do to help get him to be honest with me on the cheating? I am wanting and willing to work though it but right now I dont belive him. I did tell him that I wouldnt call him unless it was about the kids or if they wanted to talk to him. I haven’t. I explained that I understood him to need space from me, asked if that was correct or incorrect, got I don’t know. I told him if he wanted to talk with me at any point while he was gone that I would be here to listen but I didnt want him to feel as if he has to. So leaving it up to him on calling.
    Everything in me wants to confront himand her. I just want it out in the open so we can move forward. Just a bit lost on this detail at this time and I am hurt. Thanks SMR.
    P.S. I am aware that I enfo dump working on it.

    • I’m glad you have the new information.  Kinda lets you know how serious this is and that you got to continue stubbornly to learn all about how you need to change yourself – learn.  You’ll probably have to deal with “Fault and Blame.”   I imagine you will have to learn about  Making Amends.  You’ll probably have to really learn that your anger at his behavior  (and you have a right to it) cannot wisely be used in punishing him or confronting them.  They are not “bad” and neither are you.  But everyone may be behaving foolishly.  (Affairs Affairs)

      If he is having an affair, I am happy you know.  Much better to know than to be in the dark.

      Now, as you are learning, remember that “All People Make Sense all the time“.  You do and he does.  The next step is toward curiousity about

      • Why he is doing what he is doing?
      • How long he has been thinking of it?
      • Why did you not know this was going on?
      • What can you do to recover and change the situation?
      • How can your actions be wiser than his choices to go behind your back

      Remember in some way you are doing stuff that scares him.  Quit it and make amends for the past slips.

      Oh, and by the way, if you approach him, confront him, beat the heck out of him, I think you will just learn a lot of lessons.  So do what you think is right. 

      Easy to say – harder to do :)

  9. I’m in a really complicated situation.. So I haven’t talked to her in almost a month. And first off we met and then I fell in love with her, and I think she loves me too. But she had a boyfriend and recently broke up with him. And I called her but she hasn’t responded. I am a very patient person. But I feel like my heart is being ripped out of my chest. Her friend found out I’m in love with her and told her, and after that her bf told her to stop talking to me. And she did so cause she still felt she had feelings a bit for him. She said “she would call me when she was ready.” She also has depression problems a bit. All I want to do is be there for her… I’m so frustrated, can someone help?

    • Oh, gosh.  I bet it seems complicated and worse.  That "heart ripped out of chest" stuff is truly awful.  For those who have felt that, and I think the vast majority of people who show up at my office or my site have and me too, it is extreme   When I found that my best laid plans of long marriage and family were coming to an end, when I got it that my marriage was falling apart, it hurt.  People could not see my pain.  I used to describe it as the invisible shark bite in my chest and guts.  Six inch wide, guts falling out, blood everywhere, and the people around me couldn't see it.  On the other hand, those who had felt it themselves, were sympathetic.  Those who hadn't experienced it seemed damn cold to me.  Sorry, Help M, that it is happening for you.

      I guess the good news is that "this, too, will pass".  We humans are both designed to feel this enormous distress, to get into situations where we'll feel it, and and and to recover.  We are not designed to forget.

      Another thought is that probably, tho you can't see it, the gal is a lot of distress and so is the recent boyfriend.   Lots of pain to go around though it would be nice/desireable to find someone with whom to share your pain and confusion.

      Lots of stuff on my site were written for such as you.  But you may not feel like reading.  Take your time.  Breathe. 

  10. Dear AL, I am in a breakup now could really use some advice. My fiancee left me about 2 months ago took me totally by surprised she is definitely an avoider and I am clinger. I tried to give her space before she left but that seemed to push her away more.

    She was molested as a small child and had a lot of issues with depression. She opened up to me about it and I listened. But after she moved in with me things start to go downhill. I think she used her family particularly her little sister as a foothold for her emotions she feels the need to protect her because of what she went through. Throughout her living with me she would often like to go back to stay with her family. At first it was fine but then she would go more frequently and stay longer till she eventually moved out and broke up.

    She has issues with working and the household came down solely on me she would get jobs for a few weeks but would never offer to help pay any bills. I often argued with her about getting work and she would blame it on her depression. About 8 months ago she got deep into this religious self motivating stuff and she would distance herself with me. She tried to get me to join in with her but I resisted not helping our situation I'm sure but the religious part was a bit overwhelming for me.

    She blamed a lot of her unhappiness on me but I tried my best to support her. I asked her often to tell me what was going on but she would never tell me. She seems pretty convinced on not getting back together with me. I have tried very hard for the last few weeks calling her sending her flowers even stopped calling for a few days to see if she would call but she doesn't. But she told me that she realized that she was making herself unhappy and I wasn't to blame but she said she thinks coming back to me would be moving backwards. I take it because I didn't want to grow with her.

    Her leaving has caused me to realize that I was wrong and I do need to improve myself but she has not recognized her faults in the relationship. Now whenever I call her she would talk to me briefly then say she would call me back but hardly does and she seems so happy when I talk to her.

    Do you think its to late for us should I even try to get her back? We were together for 4 years and she was my best friend and I am taking it very hard. I really want to work it out but she is not showing me any positive signs.

    • Dear Stephen,  Things sound very confusing and painful.  You ask if I think it is too late?  That thought is very rare for me.  I usually, and in this situation, look for the work that needs to be done – on both parts and then focus on your work.  Good news is you can’t go back.  Even better news is you have to move forward.  Very bad news is that you could ignore, put off, let yourself be distracted from getting to work on yourself.  Everything you’ve written suggests one or more focus points.  

      That you were together over 4 years, she was a best friend, and that she shared her background struggles tells me that you should be together solving these things.  Learn all about clinger/avoider lessons, never argue but replace it with listening and validating skills, replace any blame troubles with boundary skills and a focus on self-responsibility for both.   Read away.  Good luck.

  11. Hi Al. I really like your articles. I never knew how common my current situation is. Your explanation makes so much sense, that I finally calmed down after a 2 week period of hell.
    My fiancée and I broke a bit over 2 weeks now after a very nice 4 years relationship. This came for me without warning. She told me that things are going too fast and she needs to slow down (or full stop as she decided unilateral). She stopped talking to me for a week, despite my tries to reach out to her; the only time she talked was to send me an email, where she explains that she wants to be independent and I should go on with my life and stop reaching to her.
    I was puzzled about this, since it never happened to me and I did not know how to react. I turned into a ferocious clinger. But I gave some space after the first week. After the second week, she talked to my sister and a friend and explained what has happened. Most of the things she got scared are true, but all are solvable. She still has feelings for me, but right now she is facing the ‘divorce wall’ because I pushed her there by losing my calm and going to despair of losing her.
    Yesterday we finally talked via email. I tried explaining to her that it is fine for me that she takes a break; I understand her stress (she is doing a very important Internship right now, which would result in a very nice job next year). I have tried to give space to her to concentrate on her task. I told her to try not to close the doors yet, just wait for a while.
    I told her that I can come see her, and she reacted very strong: Please do not COME! She said she feels threatened by me coming to see her. I felt like a really low person, when she said that comment…
    She also said that she wants me also to carry on with my life, go meet other girls and go with the flow. I froze again: I did not know how to respond to this, as for me she is the only girl I want, and I am trying to get her back, not move on. I asked if she wants to date other guys, but she said no.
    I am in a tough spot right now and some advice is really needed. I cannot go see her just yet, I know she needs more time. I have to learn to be patient.

    • “I never knew how common my current situation is”

      How would you know?  People really don’t seem to talk about these things.

      “calmed down after a 2 week period of hell.”

      I like your “period in hell.”  That’s what full-bore panic, the Lizard fully active, feels like.  In your case it sounds like a Lizard panicked cuz lots of “unpredictable” stuff is going on and cuz you are deep into abandonment. 

      “after a very nice 4 years relationship. This came for me without warning…… she reacted very strong: Please do not COME! She said she feels threatened by me coming to see her.”

      This is one of my favorite discoveries.  How do people get to be so blind?!  How do they manage to stay so blind?!  That is the word I use for being unaware of what is going on around you – in this case, in her.   During those 4 years, while you thought things were nice, I wonder what was going on for/in her.  Obviously you could not/did not have contact with how she was seeing things.  The process of “waking up” is fascinating to me.  In the USofA we had this big wakeup call on 911.  Still people work hard to be blind in relationships.  Don’t have to.  I think that in a relationship, if not hearing daily the candid truths in your partner, you are probably “in trouble”.

      By the way, I think “blindness” is not automatic but is taught.  So you might look at the teachers, your elders, parents, etc. for who is teaching or modeling how to be blind. To me, living “blind” is pretty dangerous.

      “She also said that she wants me also to carry on with my life…” 

      My guess is a) she needs space in her life, b) she has let you control her life, and c) somehow she feels burdened by her sense of responsibility for you. That doesn’t mean to me that this relationship is over. To me it just means that these issues need to be addressed – or else.

      So, follow the four steps in “What to do when he/she leaves.”  Start learning what you have not learned, to date.  And get really good at Empathy – for your sake. 

      • Hi Al,
        I really appreciate your help. The items you have pointed out are correct. I have been reading over and over your articles, especially “The road to Empathy”. I also practiced the mirroring and validation with a couple of friends, And it seemed I am going the right way. I also started to take Meditation classes; that helped to calm my scarred Lizard.

        I gave all signs of pushing; except I did send flowers(as a good luck gesture for an exam day – she did not appreciate that unfortunately). That was the only contact we have had until today.
        Yesterday, she should have taken a plane to fly over where I live (I did not mention, but our relationship is long distance, me being in Europe and she in USA). I was really hoping that she would change her mind and come, but since that did not happen, I gave a call today, and she finally agreed to talk.

        She told me what were the issues that made her to react the way she did, and that she was thinking about it since February. First major problem, is that I was not showing concrete signs of wanting to move to US with her (I was afraid that if I take this step, move to US and then she pulls this episode on me, I would be in big big trouble). Second, she got tired of going out and telling she is committed, but she felt not great about being alone at the same time.She felt like she needed to ‘check-in’ with me every time, and that started to bother her this year(I will have to pull on this further, as I am not clear why). There were some other items, that added to the pile, but those two seemed to be the major trouble.

        We have had a good chat, and I think I broke the rule #4(Minimum availability) because we talked 50 min. But she also admitted that we finally talked and she felt finally heard.
        I, on the other hand, I did not feel validated that much….which is right now making me wonder if she actually got all the updated information about the things that were bothering her. Should I try to confirm this next time? My explanation of my doubts were a bit lengthy.

        As a conclusion of the discussion, she still wants to be by herself now, and not need to ‘check-in’ with me. She said that she has not been by herself in such a long time(I would consider a long distance relationship a quite huge source of being by herself). Anyway, she seems very sure on her decision, so I will develop patience on this one.

        Notes on the discussion: she told me that I should have no send her the flowers I sent a few days ago; I told her that it was already 2 weeks since then. That made me wonder a bit about how she is handling this! Also, she tried to push advice on what to do further on with both our lives; I kindly asked her to stop. I did this a few times, as she kept doing it. I hope that she realizes that this means that I am not ready to give up on us. She is doing this pushing away act….I do not know how to react to it.

        I am thinking to time-frame the decision she made, while keeping minimum contact, for a few months. In the mean time, I am focusing on Patience learning now. It is very hard, but it needs to be done. And I never back out from a good challenge. Also I am investigating how to get the super-fast switch between the sources of Love Units. That seem to require fast focus; I guess it needs to be done smart. Plenty of things to do.

        • What is going on sounds very familiar to me. Even the part about her giving advice about moving on sounds normal. Just mirror and validate that. Try to remember that she is sharing sentences and ideas which are clues to what she is thinking, but are not necessarily “what” she is thinking. My guess is she is wanting to a) feel a sense of control about getting space from you and b) building confidence that you won’t “control”. Just validate all that. Tis very normal that a clinger will do a lot of work on their own and before their partner does. You may have to be comfortable with not getting validated by her for quite a while, until she builds more boundary skills. Go for patience. Sounds right on. Best wishes.

  12. Hi Al,

    I am happy to say that I’ve put your “what to do when your partner leaves” advice to work and it’s working for me. My boyfriend and I called it quits after a blowout argument. We had been dating for almost two years and there was no forward progression in our relationship, and one of my boundaries is that I need to have forward progression for me to want to continue (what I specifically wanted was for to live together). In the two weeks following that argument, we only exchanged a couple text messages and were barely communicating. We both started seeing therapists (separately) after we broke up because we wanted to make a change in our relationship patterns, because we have both been in the same or similar relationship cycles for our entire adult lives (I’m 35 and he’s 40). After a couple weeks of going to therapy, we started talking on the phone maybe once a week and we both agreed that our “old” relationship needed to end, but we both love each other very much and want to know that we did everything we could to try to make it work, because at the very minimum we won’t spend forever with a bunch of “what if’s”. We agreed to start communicating more and to share where we were at in our therapy work. We have even gone to therapy together twice, but the goal was mostly to help each other’s therapists get a better understanding of our relationship dynamic, not so much to work on our relationship together.

    During the time we’ve been apart, I’ve spent at least a couple hours a day actively working on myself with therapy, reading books, visiting your website, etc. and I have learned a great deal about myself and the things I did to contribute to the ending of our relationship: I was needy, clinging, impatient, attacked his lizard, etc. I can clearly see how my actions did not make him feel safe enough to allow him to get close to me, and therefore supported his fear of commitment. I’m happy to say, however, that after reading your advice I stopped all pushing and we have recently started having deep and meaningful conversations about our relationship, which is great…but we are still in a place of limbo – not really together but not really apart. During the last conversation we had, my boyfriend (ex-boyfriend?) told me that he doesn’t know if he can ever feel the same way about me as he did when we first met. I did some mirroring to get him to open up more about what he meant by that and he said that he doesn’t know if he’s attracted to me or if he will be able to be in the future, so we are in a big time limbo stage right now.

    What I need some guidance on is how should I handle this time of limbo? I really want to make our relationship work but I don’t want to be too invasive and push him away, but I don’t know how much longer I can do this. I don’t know if he’s just keeping his barriers up because he’s scared to give our relationship another chance, or if he just can’t find the courage to end it. I’m thoroughly confused about what to do next. He’s clearly working on himself and is willing to talk with me and a therapist about our relationship, so I see those things as good signs that he’s willing to work on our relationship with me, but then when he tells me he doesn’t know if he can ever be attracted to me like he was before, I am conflicted about what to think. Any insights you might have into this would be much appreciated.

    P.S. I just signed up to attend your Intimacy Workshop at the Anacortes Center for Happiness, so I’ll meet you in October :)

    Take care,
    Kristin

    • Had two thoughts that I can share.  

      Lots of people become aware of that “in love feeling” and when they are breaking up they say, “I don’t love you anymore” or “I don’t have those feelings” or “I can’t feel that way about you.”  On the one hand this is a complicated situation.  The original feelings are based upon “not knowing” who the other is and thus always end and do not come back.  This seems an “always” situation that people seem to think is abnormal.  Those original feelings can’t come back cuz you now are becoming more and more intimate, by getting more information about your partner and you cannot go back to “not knowing” about them.  A way I used to say that is “you can’t go back to being stupid.”  We humans are always learning – moving forward. 

      So I think your instinct to mirror him and invite him to say more was “right on.”  Especially cuz at this point of your relationship the role of “infatuation” is evolving into true intimacy – really knowing each other.  The more yiou know about each other, the safer your/their Lizard feels, and the closer you are moving toward the solid bonding of Vintage Love.  

      I suggest you keep moving toward intimacy.  Hooray.  

  13. I also have had an experience very much like this. She was and is the love of my life. We broke up about 3 1/2 months ago and at the moment I have no idea what to do.

    She was my best friend, inspiration and the greatest and deepest conversations of my life. I believed we had something like no one else. she was an exchange student and we met here in the us, her stay here was difficult here and I was in a way one of the only ppl she could talk to here, but she was dating someone at the beginning of her stay and broke up a little bit before the middle.. I had fallen in love with her first and after years of being friends and growing closer she came back to visit me in the us and we fell in love. she is my first love…and I am madly in love with her. After our break up things literally instantly changed…it was if we were never friends at all… as if all our history together was instantly erased. She was the only person in my entire life I could tell anything to and a little bit the same from her to me.. but now its absolutely nothing…

    I don’t want to say she is cold to me now..because she has a beautiful heart..and i know that, that is certainly not true.. but its as if i’m… nothing.. we tried to talk.. after break up.. she said she needed space but.. I was stupid and still tried to talk.. and tried instantly right off the bat to try and win her back but it just was to no avail and deepened the hole in which I had fallen into..

    we started to talk once again after that/ she is now in australia on a trip with her best female friend. and it was ok for a little while..but she started drinking alot with her friends.. and talking less and less to me as someone who she cared about and more of just an acquaintance but still you could tell there was something .. more…she told me she loved me even a few times… and even now i was the only one she had to talk to to express her feelings too..and i was always there…but the drinking had always been a problem to me.. and she knew/knows it..alcohol has always been a problem in my family history and affected me deeply and emotionally.. and now even more…

    and unfortunately she went out one night with her friends.. got drunk and kissed an other guy… and she told me so many times about her being sorry….crying and telling me.. she was still very much with me.. still very much mine.. and all i said was i was extremely hurt..

    and then it went back downhill after that.. she grew colder and colder to me.. less and less sincere and concerned…..and now she said she just cant talk anymore basically… and i cant help but think its completely my own fault… that the entire break up was my own fault..i talk too much.. and say too much even when space at times must be the correct thing i think.. …but now i’m completely hopeless. i was very much ready to marry her, very much ready to spend the rest of my life with her, we have gone through so much together and helped strengthen one another and had been there for one another when no one else was.. but as I said. none of that even seems relevent anymore to her.. none of that even seems to matter.. its as if she just doesnt care.

    i just dont understand how you can hurt someone you say you loved soo deeply.. i dont understand how.. we ended and are now here.. idk if i can trust at all anymore in that aspect. i told her i will fight for her for the rest of my life if i could… that i will always love her.. i will always be hers… but now.. i just dont know what to do …. im starting to feel like i will be bound to those words forever…and everything around me will change except me.. she is constantly on my mind… blablaba

    anyways yes i totally sympathize with the person who posted that question i totally understand the feeling of not knowing why someone who said they loved you.. can do such things. :( hopelessness seems eternal at the moment. but i know it mustn’t be.. hmm felt good to just spill it out like that.. maybe you have an opinion or something to say to it? I am very curious on to others 2 cents in!

    • Well, Dear Howl, what’s happening to you sounds pretty anguishing and…. normal. Much I’ve written on my website is for you and all those people who are waking up and going through similar painful lessons.

      I like your primary question. “i just don’t understand how you can hurt someone you say you loved soo deeply…” Tis all about why I called this issue in relationships by the name “Reliable Membership”. Reliable means something you can count on. Membership was that sense of “home” or “belonging” that people want. So read on.

      I suggest the Map of Relationships followed by the essay on Reliable Membership.

  14. Hi Al,

    Your article really helped me tonight between an argument between my boyfriend and I tonight. I have extreme anxiety at times, especially when in an argument that I cannot control. The fact that he does not want to talk after a fight drives me crazy… in my heart I know I need the patience to let him breath and think about thinks… and reading your article helped me actually give him that time. I did not jump into a conversation and force anything out of him. It is nice to read articles like this because I feel like people handle things differently. A lot of the articles I read assumed my boyfriend was “emotionally abusive” however; I do not feel that is the case — you’re right some people just to learn patience and not push.

    My question is — who needs to really work on things? Do I need to become more patient or should my boyfriend start learning to communicate better? How do I resolve this?

    • Hello, Tara, A fun question. My guess is “yes”. You both have to learn a lot of things and “patience” may be top of your list and “better communication” may be top of his list. Actually I think your instincts and anxiety are not a problem but are examples of growing wisdom. “Arguing” is exhausting, non-productive, and just simply stupid (to my way of thinking) but is a good sign of needing to learn some stuff. Check out my papers on Master/Slave and on anxiety, the Lizard.

  15. Hi Al,

    It has been a while since I wrote here. I did not want to leave this thread open-ended, so I wrote some below(hopefully not that off-topic)

    My Ex has been keeping NC since September, when I got only one reply from her, saying she is over me. After that, total silence. I guess, some people can fall out-of-love in less than 2 months, after 4 years.

    Someone told me that I should speak less and do more. Which felt right. So I enlisted for a masters at a school close to hers. This way, maybe it would be easier to get some answers.
    Unfortunately, my life kept spiralling down. By the end of August, my job contract was terminated. My focus was gone and that skill was essential to my job – so I had to go.
    In September I crashed my car, but I was ok and nobody got hurt. I bought a bike after that and for a month, things were steady, I have been doing alot of book reading, yoga, meditation and started to study for the masters admission exam.
    Last week of November, I was preparing for the exam day. That week, while I was coming home by bike, a careless driver opened his car door in front of me and I had a very bad fall. The doctors at the ER did their best, I had legs surgery , but
    my left hip was compromised.

    That’s it. If it was hard when she left, now I am trying to cope with all of the above. It is not a happy ending for my story, but I am still alive, which makes me happy.
    I wish my feelings could settle a bit, but no luck so far. I miss her so much. And…. I am so lost, I even lost my word to describe the feelings.

    I hope all you guys/girls having problems right now, to have a speedy resolve, and to your heart liking. The Turtle way.

    • Gack, Liviu. That all sounds terrible. “Never rains but it pours.” comes to mind. Please take good/better care of yourself. Anything I can do?

      • Hi Al. Your essays were enough help; more than others(closer to me) could do for me.
        I did get jumpstarted on a closer path to my true self, and I think that is the only win in this battle.

        My life buoyes have always been external. Right now I just do not know what is good for me. I await that moment in life when I make that split-second decision and move on. But it needs to flare more than a spark to get me out of my self-dug pitfall. It has happened once before, maybe it will happen again.

        My decisions were seldom rash, but felt correct. As long as I would have communicated my plan, all resistance from outside would have been diminished. I realized I gave up my spontaneus part of life to a plan making one. I did this because I wanted that girl to feel safe, and have it all. And she did! And it felt so booring and dull. Then, I turned Blind!(your first notice).
        I belive I have to return to the ways before this girl had an impact on me, and stick to my true path.

        But before I let another person in, I have to secure my social position, as I depend on a system now (more than before), for making me a healthy functional individual. Rough times ahead, and hope is all I have.

        • Glad you are moving along. Sometimes that’s all you can do. Your piece reminded me of the first stanzas of one of my favorite poems.

          In a Dark Time
          BY THEODORE ROETHKE
          In a dark time, the eye begins to see,
          I meet my shadow in the deepening shade;
          I hear my echo in the echoing wood—
          A lord of nature weeping to a tree.
          I live between the heron and the wren,
          Beasts of the hill and serpents of the den.

          What’s madness but nobility of soul
          At odds with circumstance? The day’s on fire!
          I know the purity of pure despair,
          My shadow pinned against a sweating wall.
          That place among the rocks—is it a cave,
          Or winding path? The edge is what I have.

  16. can u help me I meet this girl that I have liked for 3 years I did something stupid and now she hates my guts I whant to talk about it but she whont talk to me on fb or face to face and if I send her a mesig she tells the teacher and the teatcher says I cant speck to her but thirs a feeling that I need to talk I just whan to be frends please help thanks

    • Darn, Kacey, life is like that. I used to say, “Do it! You’ll either have a nice day or… learn something. Either way you benefit.”
      We all grow by making mistakes. And I think “stupid” is a word I use for something “I did” but now I am learning not to do again. Go for it.

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