I got this e-mail from a reader last week. I asked for an update to make sure he was still in the same place. This is his letter and update for our consideration:
I am a 54-year-old divorced man dating a 55-year-old divorced woman exclusively for the past three months or so. She is a trained couples therapist, though she presently works as a career coach. Everything has been going good so far with the exception of finding the time to be together as often as we would like. Her mom has been very sick and she is taking a couple of college courses on line, so her schedule gets hectic.
The only part of the relationship I find lacking is her inability to talk about and admit her feelings. While she is very demonstrable with her actions -- including calling, touching, kissing along with PDA -- she won't say if she misses me when we are apart or if she is developing any feelings for me. For someone like myself who grew up in a house where verbal communication was highly valued and practiced, this is causing some problems for me.
Tonight we were having dinner at a nice restaurant and the subject of her lack of communication came up. She told me that in her world, actions spoke louder than words and that I should be able to figure out how she felt about me. She admitted that speaking about her feelings made her feel vulnerable -- especially since she has been hurt in the past.
I told her how it left me wanting and how even some small words of affection or discussion about the relationship from her would go a long way for me. She told me she was glad I was being so open with her and that it made her feel good that I could speak to her that openly. I told her that I thought it was somewhat ironic that as a family therapist she helped couples to communicate and yet she struggled with it herself. She agreed and then I asked her if she could try and tell me how she felt about our relationship. She said to me "I will as soon as I come back from the ladies' room" -- and then she proceeded to walk out of the restaurant and get in her car and leave. It was a while before I realized what happened and tried calling her on her cell phone which she would not answer. I waited a while and called her home and asked her on her answering machine if she would please give me an explanation, but she refused to pick up.
In your opinion, is this rational behavior for someone trained in helping couples work their way through problems? Should I continue to try and get her to talk to me about her behavior? I really have feelings for this woman but worry if she isn't a bit emotionally immature.
– Still waiting at the restaurant, Milford
Wow again. She just got up and left you sitting there at the restaurant. That’s like throwing a drink in someone’s face. I’ve never actually seen that happen in real life.
Let’s start by talking about her profession and whether it matters. One would think that she’d be capable of discussing her feelings based on her background, but it doesn’t always work that way. Therapists can misbehave and make decisions based on fear and vulnerability. Some couples counselors have been divorced more than once. Some advice columnists … well, we won’t go there. My point is, we’re all human. Hair stylists usually don’t cut their own hair.
That said, this woman should be capable of some maturity and empathy. She should be capable of behaving like a grown-up. She shouldn’t run out of a restaurant leaving you at a table to wait. That’s just stilly.
This woman’s initial point was a fair one. If she’s more comfortable with actions than words, that’s OK. She’s allowed to show affection in a way that makes her comfortable. Talking might be your way, but it’s OK if she wants to meet in the middle.
The problem now is that this woman’s actions are, in fact, speaking louder than her words. She ran out of a restaurant instead of trying to compromise with you. And she’s ended the relationship only to come back whenever it suits her, without concern for you. Her actions are sort of lame and she seems to know it.
My advice is to take her job out of the equation. Tell her that even if she were a fire fighter or an accountant, you’d expect her to communicate. You don’t have to get your way -- you just don’t want to be jerked around. I’d tell her this in writing so she has some time to process it before she reacts.
You asked if her behavior was rational. Ditching someone at a restaurant seems pretty ridiculous to me. But that’s not the point here. This isn’t about who’s right. And it’s certainly not about her talents as a counselor. (I mean, she’s not even working in that field anymore, right?) It’s about whether you have a future together, and based on her behavior, I’m not so sure that you do.
Just tell her what you want and see if she has any interest in attempting to meet your expectations. If she says she can't or won't, you can ignore her phone calls. Her phone calls don't change her answer.
Readers? Does this woman’s training have anything to do with her behavior? What should he do if she comes back? Thoughts? Share here.
Speaking of Love
"Sometimes just looking can be a powerful turn-on."
— Dr. Ruth
CAN’T HELP MYSELF is Meredith’s memoir about giving advice, learning from readers, working with an ex, and moms and daughters. It’s also a story about how an online community can become another kind of family.