Ask the Advice Goddess 3

I have been dating this woman for a few months, and she says I'm very insensitive, "just like all men." She tells me that she is completely in touch with her emotions, and is very sensitive to mine. So, the next time I get depressed, instead of moping around by myself, I go to her and let it all hang out...how confused I am about my career and what I'm doing with my life, and how scary it all is, and her response was to tell me to "snap out of it!" So then I confronted her -- "How come when I try to express my feelings, you basically tell me to shut up?" She told me that she was trying to give me practical advice. But I wanted sympathy. How do I figure out when I'm supposed to be Mr. Emotional and when it's time for practicality? --Venus Fly Trapped in Salt Lake CityRelationships would be a lot easier if people like your girlfriend would strap miniature versions of those electronic traffic alert billboards across their foreheads -- "Caution! Emotional blockage ahead! Use alternate routes!" -- to let you know what they expect at a given moment. To make matters worse, your girlfriend appears to be trapped on Mars and Venus instead of relating to you as an individual.When you're just getting to know someone, verbal communication is especially important to the progression of your relationship. You and your girlfriend both need to be persistent about spelling out what you need, like and dislike, and any questions or conflicts you might have about each other's needs or behavior. And you shouldn't fret arguments or misunderstandings like the one you just had. Running up against the occasional wrong-way sign is often the best way to point yourselves toward improved communication.Eventually, you'll begin to anticipate what makes each other happy, and you'll establish a non-verbal shorthand that works even better than windily hashing and rehashing your personal preferences.If you do find happiness together, perhaps she'll be inspired to burn her collection of stereotype-happy self-help books. After all, you're living proof that men do sometimes ask for directions.***I've split up with my girlfriend a number of times, but we can't seem to stay broken up. I know being with her is not healthy for me, but in the heat of the moment, I always go back to her. Here's how it usually goes: we have a big fight over something, we scream and yell at each other, then I vow not to see her again...which she always agrees is the right thing to do. Then I get lonely or depressed or I start drinking and then I call her. How can I stay broken up with her? --Ronnie Rerun, SeattleYou're on a first date with a new woman, and the most innocuous of requests -- "pass the salt" -- somehow triggers a string of hallucinations of your ex flailing around naked.Unfortunately, they have yet to invent a gum or a patch or a twelve step program for people addicted to people. You've got to go cold turkey -- total quarantine -- if you hope to get over her.Make a pact with yourself and your ex that you won't call or see one another at all for a period of at least six months. Before you make your break, invite a sympathetic friend -- (your "sponsor)" -- to come stay with you for a month, or have several friends join you for a week or two each, to be your emotional net.After your guests depart, do everything you can to keep busy -- take an intensive class that meets several days a week or temporarily substitute workaholism for your romantic obsession. You should also start asking other women out. Even if you don't meet the girl of your dreams, diverting your attention may ease the stress of kicking your habit.Every time you avoid an urge to call or see your ex, be sure to reward yourself for good behavior. If she tries to make contact, no matter how much you crave her, muster up your strength to stay on the wagon, and make a speedy exit.Your rehab process isn't going to be easy. As with other addictions, you're likely to experience a lot of sweating and shakes, and maybe even a little backsliding. Go easy on yourself, emotionally and physically. Pamper yourself -- buy a series of massages or take an exotic vacation (preferably to a far-away place with terrible telephone service).When times get tough, you might follow the lead of the imaginative tobacco company honcho who recently opined in court that cigarettes are no more addictive than gummy bears, and try to convince yourself that romantic withdrawal is also just a simple case of mind over matter.Got a problem? Ask Amy Alkon, 171 Pier Ave, box 280, Santa Monica, CA 90405, or e-mail AdviceAmy@aol.com

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