Dear Dr. Norquist:
I am so frustrated and angry I don’t know what to do. I was dating a woman I really like and now she isn’t interested in seeing me anymore. Some people we both know told her bad things about me that aren’t true. I know she likes me, but now she won’t date me anymore. Her prior boyfriend was abusive and so she has trouble trusting. I’ve been calling her and asking her to give me a chance for a week now. I told her not to listen to what others say. She still hasn’t changed her mind. She and I had a hard-to-find connection and I really thought we could make a go of it. What can I do to make her change her mind?
Dr. Norquist responds:
I can understand why this is so frustrating and infuriating – to find a rare connection and then to have her personal history and others meddling behavior interfere with it. You can not make her change her mind, but you can grow your ability to show her that you are trustable.
Having been abused, your girlfriend is likely to be especially sensitive to intrusiveness and demands of any kind. Her boundaries have been crossed. Her feelings have been disrespected. Any interaction that triggers fear that this could happen again will cause her to withdraw to a safe place. Practicing putting yourself in her shoes will help you to understand how she may be reacting to you.
For her to feel safe enough to consider seeing you, she needs space and a consistent experience of safety over time. You can provide space by backing up with your request to continue dating and allowing her to come to you. If she says no, you must respect that. Respect for who she is, what she is feeling and needing, and how she perceives this situation is of primary importance. Your need for her to continue to date you right now is pushing her away. Until she feels her feelings and needs are being heard and respected, she will not feel comfortable going forward with you. As I said before, you cannot make her change her mind. You can provide the conditions that allow her to feel safer, and then see what happens. No matter what, you must respect her feelings – even if it means you cannot pursue a relationship with her. I hope this is helpful.
(Dr. Sallie Norquist is a licensed psychologist (N.J. #2371) in private practice and is director of Chaitanya Counseling Services, a center for upliftment and enlivenment, in Hoboken.) Dr. Norquist and the staff of Chaitanya invite you to write them at Chaitanya Counseling Services, 51 Newark St., Suite 202, Hoboken, NJ 07030 or www.chaitanya.com or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org, or by fax at (201) 656-4700. Questions can address various topics, including relationships, life’s stresses, difficulties, mysteries and dilemmas, as well as questions related to managing stress or alternative ways of understanding health-related concerns. 2012 Chaitanya Counseling Services)