DEAR HARRIETTE: My girlfriend and I have been going through it the past few months. We love each other, but we have not been getting along. I am a talker, and I want to work with her to talk things out. The other day, I was having an intense conversation with her about feelings, and in the middle of that conversation, she got a phone call from a friend. She excused herself and got off the phone with me to chitchat with her friend, then didn’t call me back for an hour.
How can I explain what’s wrong with that in a way that she can hear? It’s not about not talking to the friend but about prioritizing the discussion about our relationship. We were right in the middle of a heated conversation when she jumped off. I thought that was incredibly rude. -- Need to Talk
DEAR NEED TO TALK: I wonder how often you and your girlfriend have been having these “intense” conversations. It is odd that she would jump off of your call to “chitchat” with her friend. She knew that would upset you. Chances are, she does not want to talk, is worn out by talking or feels at a standstill about the success of your conversations. Her shifting to “chitchat” with her friend suggests that she did not want to continue to conversation. Your hurt feelings about how long it took for her to call you back further emphasize how unappealing the idea of continuing the conversation is for her.
You need to adopt a different approach. If talking to you about your relationship becomes something she dreads, I fear the talks will stop. You need to figure out what she wants in this relationship. Do your best to get her to tell you what her ideal relationship with you looks like. Then compare notes. If there is a meeting of the minds, you have a chance of success. I highly recommend that you get a professional therapist to help guide your discussions.
DEAR HARRIETTE: I am a freelance writer, and I have been doing a lot of work for a woman who is developing her social media presence. She is not a great writer, so she trusts me to get her ideas out in a captivating way. I am grateful for the work, but it has gotten a bit dicey. In order for her to get comfortable talking to me about the subjects she wants to address, she gets tipsy first. Just about every time we talk, she has clearly been drinking. Sometimes that means I can’t understand all of her words. Sometimes she is too flirty. It gets awkward if she has had too much to drink. Should I say anything? -- Tipsy Client
DEAR TIPSY CLIENT: Schedule your meetings with this client earlier in the day, when it is likely that she may not have been drinking. During a lucid moment, admit that as much as you want to help her, it is difficult when she is tipsy. Call it what it is -- kindly. Tell her you know it can be daunting to reveal her thoughts to you. Remind her that you support her totally. Tell her, though, that it really is tough for you to do your work when she is not always speaking clearly.
(Harriette Cole is a lifestylist and founder of DREAMLEAPERS, an initiative to help people access and activate their dreams. You can send questions to firstname.lastname@example.org or c/o Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.)