Dear Wendy Updates: “First-Timer” Responds

It’s time again for “Dear Wendy Updates,” a feature where people I’ve given advice to in the past let us know whether they followed the advice and how they’re doing today. After the jump, we hear from “First-Timer” who wrote to me way back in January when her first serious relationship started floundering after three years and communication with her boyfriend took a nosedive. “I know we both have busy schedules and recently, fewer opportunities to see each other, but I’m beginning to wonder if I’m being selfish in thinking that he could do more in keeping us connected in these times when we’re apart,” she wrote.

I’m still with the same guy and talking to him brought out mixed results. He didn’t have much to say at all and shut down on me. But a few days later, picked up on his communication and tried harder. Things were good for awhile and then for a few weeks, communication died again. I tried a different tactic after reading up on how to communicate with people who emotionally shut down during talks. I focused on how I felt (rather than pointing a finger at him), kept what I wanted to say short and to the point (rather than a long lecture/complaint), I gave him space to talk after I said what I said, and I spoke in a calm manner. He shut down on me, stating that he has nothing to say other than that it must be that he’s boring (which I repeated over and over that he was definitely not boring, I just wished he could put in more effort when we talk). After that talk and shutdown once more, he put in more effort into conversation again. Things are pretty good now but doubts occasionally plague me.

While I am happy that he tries harder after we talk (or, usually me talking), those moments after I talk and the shaky days after, where everything seems to be up in the air, leaves me a bit scared. He doesn’t say anything after I open up about how I feel — no reassurances or his own view of the situation or anything. I know I should just concentrate on the fact that he does change, but I still get scared when he shuts down on me like that and I’m the one who has to console him (he was nearly in tears in our last talk). I’ve read that I should accept him for exactly who he is and must have patience and love for him to grow out of those emotional shutdowns — it’s a hard but true fact that I’m struggling with. Sometimes I wonder where the line is — accepting someone for exactly who they are and having reasonable expectations of effort/change in our partner.

I don’t know, First-Timer; it seems to me that you’ve put in a ton of effort into this relationship and you’re not really getting much back in return. You’ve got this boyfriend who constantly shuts down on you, who doesn’t share much about himself or his feelings, and who just sits there when you open up without adding to the conversation or reassuring you or comforting you? I understand this is your first relationship and you’ve put a lot of weight into making it work, but there are other fish in the sea. It wouldn’t be the end of the world if, after nearly a year of having doubts you decided to cut your losses and move on. Life gets hard enough without being with a partner who doesn’t really know how to communicate and doesn’t seem terribly invested in learning.

If you’re someone I’ve given advice to in the past, I’d love to hear from you, too. Email me at {encode=”” title=””} with a link to the original post, and let me know whether you followed the advice and how you’re doing now.

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