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Q: : I'm 22 and my girlfriend and I have been together for a year and a half. The first couple of months just flew by because it was all about "fooling around." Now that we're settling into the relationship, I'm looking to have us open up to one another. But when I try to share with her, she tends to be extremely harsh and unsupportive. Our communication is poor and we struggle sometimes to simply find something to talk about. I really want to make this work but this is getting to me. Without introducing a third party (counselor), how best can I go about this? -- Tongai

Dr. Susan: You can't do it alone. Does your girlfriend feel the same unease about the way things are going? Was she happier when there was less emotional intimacy or does she also want to "open things up"? Her "harshness" and lack of supportiveness sound pretty serious, and not having anything to talk about must be a big snooze. I wonder why you're so intent on making this relationship work. You're young, you both enjoyed the fooling around period, and now there doesn't seem to be much left to build a life on. However, if you really want to give this more of a chance, and you don't want to try professional counseling together, how about agreeing to read a book on relationship communication together and then discussing your impressions? If she won't agree to that, it's pretty hopeless. A good book is You Just Don't Understand by Deborah Tannen. My own Loving in Flow would give you plenty to talk about also. In any case, you'd learn something you could take to the next relationship. Some effort has to be made by both of you. Communication is a learnable skill, but the motivation has to be there.

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