5

Context

I've been dating my girlfriend for the last year, but we became officially a couple 3 months ago, I'm 28 and she is 21. We do not live together and we see each other usually twice a week.

The problem

We had some situations when she becomes mad or upset about something which may or not be my fault so she starts texting me, this leads to a long and painful conversation over the phone, usually only text, eventually voice audios and rarely calls. These conversations end badly because I cannot get what the real problem is from her texts so I answer with something that makes her angrier for not understanding her, and it comes to a point where nothing I can say will make things better, so I have to wait to see her in person and begin a slow process of making things better.

I don't know how to help her in that moment and tell her it would be better to keep talking in person when things start to heat up without letting her think I'm kind of abandoning her in that moment.

Most of her problems are because of her insecurity, and also she seems to have been hurt emotionally before so when she is in that position she gets really defensive.

  • Welcome to IPS! Any reason you don't call her over the phone? Would you be okay with answers who suggest doing so or would you rather focus on telling her that the discussion will have to wait until you are face to face? – Ælis Oct 27 '18 at 12:07
  • Last time this happened for example I was in a restaurant with other people so I consider it would not be ok to leave for while. But generally when I realize that I need to call her is when things have already gone bad. I'm ok with answer stating calling her ASAP is important but need to consider this is not always possible – Homerothompson Oct 27 '18 at 12:14
0

Congratulations on the relationship and good job taking a step towards better communication!

The advice below applies to cases where it is not your fault and she does not perceive it as your fault - though it can be mostly applied in that case too.

These conversations end badly because I cannot get what the real problem is from her texts so I answer with something that makes her angrier for not understanding her.

Well, there are two options.

  • Either she is looking for emotional support from you.
  • Or she is looking for practical support from you.

The way to deal with them is entirely different. Let me start with practical support which is easier:

Practical support

This is when she's calling you with a problem and wants you to fix it. This is clearly indicated by asking for help ("can you help me with this?"). If she does not explicitly asks for help but you still suspect practical help might be appreciated you can ask

Is this something you want me to try and fix for you or do you want me to just be here for you?

If the issue is about practical support I recommend you ask clarifying questions until you understand the issue rather than answer. If answers make her angrier then don't answer - instead ask as many questions as you need in order to understand the issue and only then comment about it.

Hey, I really want to get to the bottom of this and make sure I understand you. Can you please explain why X?

Try to be kind and non-judgmental. If she is getting defensive it's because she does not feel safe.

Then, after she has given you all the information - suggest concrete actions, let her pick from the alternatives, clarify it until it is clear to all sites and work on it together.

Emotional support

A lot of time in relationships people just need other people to be there for them. If this is the case (and this is common) you do not need to actually answer anything at all.

Instead, you need to:

1. Make her feel safe

Hey, I'd love to hear about all of this. I am here for you and I want to hear you out. You are welcome to tell me as much or as little as you want and I promise not to judge or criticise your feelings.

Then actually hear her out, try to be empathic and see where she is coming from and be non-judgmental. You do not need to fix anything here - just to hear her out.

2. Acknowledge her feelings

When she says she feel a certain way - simply acknowledge that. So if she say something along the line of:

X was really mean to me today and I'm frustrated!

Rather than say something about X, you can respond with:

Wow yeah, that does sound really frustrating. It gets really frustrating when people are mean to you sometimes.

Similarly, if she says something like:

I am really sad because Y happened.

You can say:

That makes sense, Y is something that can make people sad. I'm sorry you're sad and I'm here for you - thanks for telling me.

You do not need to solve X or Y for her - only to be there and listen.

3. De-Escalate and empathize

If she is frustrated, sad or angry about something. You can:

De-escalate the situation when it is emotionally unstable. This can be done constructively (after acknowledging it) in several ways. Here are some (but certainly not all) examples:

  • You can do somatic breathing (meditation)
  • You can re-frame the situation in a way that does not paint it is pervasive or personal (but does not invalidate it!)
  • You can ask for a 5 minute pause to eat/go to the toilet/drink.
  • You can affirm your affection for her ("I love you and care about you").

Then empathise with her. If you had a previous situation (especially with a favorable outcome) you can bring it up and emphasise the struggle and how you dealt with negative feelings during it. This helps reduce stigma and intensity.

In particular experiences of overcoming help.


The most important thing is to be there in both cases listen and be compassionate to her issues.

  • Great answer, thank you for taking the time. Could you elaborate something on how to stop the texting and suggest talking in person as soon as we are able to? – Homerothompson Oct 27 '18 at 18:19
  • 1
    @Homerothompson have you tried calling her as soon as you get a "risky" text? If you are uncomfortable with "emotion-snacking" on her behalf then calling might work - although I definitely think you might be able to make it work by not trying to "fix things" for her over texts. I also admit it's not easy and took me a ton of time to figure out (and I'm still not great at it). – Benjamin Gruenbaum Oct 27 '18 at 18:21
  • 1
    I called her once, but only after I realized I was in big trouble. The last time I was in a public place so I tried to avoid it. Now I understand that I need to empathize first, let her know I´m there for her and say I can call her as soon as I can – Homerothompson Oct 27 '18 at 18:27
  • @Homerothompson your last comment made me very happy <3 – Benjamin Gruenbaum Oct 27 '18 at 18:29
0

I think Benjamin's answer provides some great ideas how to handle these calls when they happen, I'd like to also present some ideas for how to handle these angry texts and phone calls after the fact.

Relationships are all about communication of course, but sometimes we communicate in ways other people don't understand right away. Bringing these moments up later when you're both calm you can try to find a way forward that doesn't lead to upset feelings.

Can we talk about when we argued last week? I know you were upset about X but when you were texting I didn't know you were feeling Y. I really care about you and want to be able to help but since we don't see each other every day it helps me if you can tell me when you're feeling Y.

Doing this shows that you don't just want to fix a problem when something goes wrong but you want to support the way she's feeling, which can go a long way to helping overcome insecurities.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.