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What Do You Do When Your Partner Just Won't Understand Or Change?

Question:

I have been with my girlfriend for 3 years. I am 41 she is 34. I am somewhat neurotic but nothing serious. She, on the other hand, has had a lifelong time of troubles, neurosis, running away from and becoming shy. She met me and I thought I could save her, or show her the way. Nothing major just show her the world isn’t so evil. She doesn’t trust anyone and thinks people are inherently evil. I thought I could show her there is a better life for her.

Alas, after 3 years of about 10+ breakups and getting back together, the “Oh I promise I will change,” or, “You are the one who needs to change,” and after I finally agreed to get therapy myself, I feel like its a dead end.

She is a lovely woman, with a heart of gold, who has issues but no matter how much I try to help her she just doesn’t get it. She just won’t let me in. Yet, she says she loves me and wants to be with me.

I really care about her, but I am not sure if I really love her, because I wish she would fix these issues… then I could love her. I know that’s not right but I can’t break free of her and I wish she would let me help her… What do I do?

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Answer:

You  are making a fundamental mistake about relationships and that is to ignore the fact that we must accept people the way they are or choose not to be with them. This error is clearly present in this quote: ” but I am not sure if I really love her, because I wish she would fix these issues… then I could love her…” Loving or being in love with someone does not rest on conditions such as the one you are setting. The basic fact is that she has the right to be the person she is even if that includes fears of and doubts about other people as well as the world as a whole. In fact, who is to say she is wrong. But, we are not here to engage in a philosophical debate. She is who she is. If you cannot accept her as she is then you will do her and yourself a favor by moving on. On the other hand, if you want a real and an intimate relationship with her then it has to be without conditions and without attempting to change her.

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Comments
  • Original Poster

    Im sorry Allan, I forgot to go into detail and fully explain. I will try to explain some things but there are so many...

    Please understand, this is not some cliche Im forgetting.

    I accept her for the person she is (as I said she has a heart of gold and is a lovely woman) but I will not accept the bad things.

    Things that even she agrees with me about or thinks herself, some she wont admit but are true. Bad behaviors that hinder her life and mine. There is A LOT of potential for us, we just both have to deal with issues. Im no angel btw, but I am relatively sane and reasonable. This is where our problems begin. She can be very immature, unreasonable, and sometimes so stubborn she only sees red.

    She has anger issues. She lashes out at me by screaming or crying, I am a victim in this relationship. She has self esteem issues, as I said she is very shy at times. She has no friends, doesnt want to have friends because she doesnt trust anyone. Doesnt like my friends, never wants to go out. She thinks people are inherently evil and will only hurt her in the end. So is very anti social.

    Yet she tells me she loves me, and would do anything for me, but she doesnt do the few small things I ask to make our relationship better.

    Now I have stuck with her for three years, trying to show her there is a better life. I know MOST of her issues can be remedied with counseling and love. I care deeply about her, even if we dont work out, I want her to get over the issues that are holding her back.

    But I really want us to work out. She just has to go through her wall that is holding her back. Sadly she cant fully trust me to help her do that. Its funny at times I say to her that shes just like I use to be 10 years ago. And I proceed to try to explain what I did to grow and go through my walls to be a better person. But it only angers her and sometimes I wonder if she can fathom deep psychological ideas or anything deeper than the surface.

    Ive read about BPD and other disorders on your site, and honestly think she suffers from mild forms of several. She has been seeing a counselor for 8 months but nothings changed. She wont discuss any of it with me. She gets angry if I ask. She shows no signs, no gestures, no conversations, no thoughfulness to show me anythings changing.

    There are times when there is no talking to her, no rationale, no mature conversation, its almost like she regresses into a child. There is only negativity, anger, or crying hysterically.

    It drives me mad that I am pretty much her prince charming, here to wisk her off her feet and give her a better life, but she either just cant see it or doesnt understand the concept.

    I accept everything else about her and would love to truely fall in love with her, but I cant trust her, I cant fully give myself, and of course I am thinking its been 3 years, time to sh*t or get off the pot!

    But for some reason, either biologically, or maybe I DO love her (could it be love or just my neurosis?), I cant give up on her or the idea of us being a great couple... again if she can just go through some issues and come out the other side...

    To top things off, my sister passed away last year, and a few months later my best friend. Its been really rough the past few months.

    The one thing ringing over in my head is, life is too short, stop wasting time. I cant figure out if my 'chivalry' will kill me in the end and I should run, or if my 'chivalry' is the right thing to do... How do you know whats the right thing to do?! Could I have a better life without her? Probably. Can I find a better mate? Probably.

    Nothing in life is a fairy tale, a hollywood ending. Love doesnt just happen and no one ever has issues, especially at my age, and honestly in the real world there is no UNCONDITIONAL love between lovers... maybe dogs and humans yes, and of course parents and children, but really...Would you love your wife if she slept with someone? Thats a condition. Extreme example, but still valid...People put up with a lot of their lovers idiosyncrasies.

    There are no fairy tales, no easy perfect utopia of love...and if there is for those 5%, congratulations! True love has its trials and tribulations. I seem to (stupidly) believe that I have to go through hell to get whats really worth it...

    I am so stuck. :(

  • Dr. Allan N. Schwartz

    Thank you for sending additional informaton and for clarifying the situation. Just on a "guess" basis, my instinct tells me that she would get maximum benefit from Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT). That would call for a psychologist who provides that specific therapy. Along with cognitive therapy, it helps people learn how to reduce their over emotional responses to difficulties in life.

    Given how stressed this may make you feel, perhaps some supportive psychotherapy for yourself is something for you to think about.

    Good luck to you and her.

    Dr. Schwartz

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