Wants a Second Chance

Q: My girlfriend and I of two years recently separated due to fighting, the majority of which I am to blame for. I begin grad school in the fall and we had plans to move in together, and everything was going so well. We had even talked about marriage. Then she decided to break things off. I think the main reason was her fear of having a future rocky relationship. I began analyzing the situation and discovered a major flaw I possess. When I try to explain something, I assume the other person understands what I'm talking about. As a result of further inquisitions, I get frustrated and shut her out. My girlfriend used to say she felt like she was walking on egg shells around me. I recently sent her flowers and a 12-page letter, not begging her to return to me, but asking that she seriously consider our situation and not give up. I am expecting a reply to the letter via phone, but am unsure what to say without causing waves, but at the same time I want to save this because I know she still cares for me. Any advice? -- Charlie, 23

Dr. Susan: You get credit for accepting some of the blame for your relationship's falling apart, and also for figuring out one of the reasons your girlfriend became uncomfortable around you. I know that "walking on eggshells" feeling, and it's awful. When that happens, it's like you can never say the right thing without being slammed with an angry or even belittling response. One rule of communication is to never assume the other person thinks like you do. We all come from such different family backgrounds, even aside from typical male-female differences. It takes patience and caring to make sense to one another.

When your girlfriend calls to discuss your long letter (if she does), just be honest about how much you care about her, and how willing you are to work on your issues. Don't worry about causing "waves." Just don't be contemptuous, even if you feel frustrated. You can't force her to reconsider the break-up. You can only respectfully request that she speak freely with you about her take on what went on. That way, even if you can't get her back, you'll learn invaluable lessons for the next relationship.

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