Couples Therapy is for Dating Couples Too!

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Reader’s Question

I’m a 30-year-old man currently dating a 21-year-old woman. We have known each other for a year and been a couple for four months. We are in love and she is VERY much in love with me (so she says).

She constantly wants to snuggle and be close and alone with me. Though, after 1-2 months of dating she became very sensitive to the words I say, reacting in a way that easily makes things personal — resulting in “I said” she is not good enough. She cries easily and kind of “stops listening” when I try to explain. We always sort it out after 2-3 hours.

At the same time she wants more of the relationship. We already decided to move in together soon, and now she’s talking about wanting to get married. She wants a ring on her finger to show everyone that she is taken. Not to mention Facebook.

I have also noticed rivalries towards her mother; even if she loves her she’s being mean sometimes, and I also understood that she doesn’t have a close relationship with her father. She told me that she has been sleeping around with a lot of guys in her past, but I feel that I can trust her since her love towards me seems so strong. She has some tattoos but wants more (her dad has tattoos) and she has a few piercings as well. She can’t seem to get enough.

She says that I always should comfort her when these misunderstandings happen and not try to explain and fix it. But I don’t want to encourage the behavior by cuddling and giving comfort every time. I mean, we have to talk and develop our relationship.

If I don’t give her what she wants she always says that, “it’s my fault, I’m not good enough.”

Could it be “daddy issues”?

What can I do to make it better for us?

Psychologist’s Reply

While your girlfriend wants a ring to show her Facebook friends, you are clearly having some reservations about diving into a future together. Although she might not agree, I think that this is the best news you could ever give your girlfriend. Having your eyes open to imperfections in your relationship is the best way to begin working on them. With that in mind, I strongly encourage you to seek out couples therapy with your girlfriend.

You mention that your girlfriend is quick to take offense and seems insecure about your regard for her, and that it takes hours to resolve arguments. She might have a similar list of complaints about you! One major goal in your therapy together will be working on your communication skills, including learning how to speak to each other when you are angry or feelings are fragile. For example, you say that your girlfriend seems to “stop listening” to you when she is upset with you. A therapist will walk you two through this type of interaction to help you slow down the process and figure out ways to communicate more effectively in those charged moments.

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I also encourage you to do some reading, on your own or with your girlfriend. Couple Skills is a great self-help workbook that you can do alone or together to increase your knowledge and understanding of how relationships and communication can go awry, and how to improve them.

Finally, I encourage you to continue to take things slowly. If your girlfriend is upset or objects, you could remind her that you care too much about her to mislead her. You love her enough to not make a lifetime commitment to her until you are sure you will be able to keep it.

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