Q: My boyfriend is not a very affectionate person. I learned to be OK with it. But we recently got a dog together and he is so cuddly with it, using baby talk and wanting to cuddle with the dog on the couch. It makes me annoyed because now I know he can be an affectionate person, but I think I just can’t bring it out in him.
There are two possibilities here. One is that the experience of having a dog will loosen the cobwebs from the affection part of your boyfriend’s brain (located far from the part that sees “Jackass” as humorous) and you will reap the benefits.
The other is that there will always be a stark disparity between his affection with you and his affection with the dog. The affection that people show to dogs and children is of a different type (hopefully!) than they show to their mates, so it might not transfer. You’re best off being honest with him: Compliment him on how sweet he is with the dog, and tell him you love seeing that side of him.
If all else fails, you can try to be cuddly with him while he’s cuddling the dog. If he tells you to back off, the problem might be deeper than you thought.
Q: My live-in boyfriend decided to end our relationship after three years. I don’t know where to start to learn to be an individual again, and I’m afraid that I will never get any acknowledgement from him that I tried to make our love work in a relationship, though I’m not certain I feel the same about his efforts. Do you have any advice on how to find closure and move on?
I’m sorry to hear about the loss of this relationship. Feeling better takes time. These upcoming weeks and months will help you regain your sense of self, get perspective on what you can take away from the relationship, allow you to develop new goals as an independent person and remind you that you can still live, laugh and see good movies.
Write down your thoughts and feelings, seek out new experiences and, of course, talk to a professional if you’re willing. Let yourself grieve; stuffing your feelings won’t hasten anything. But hanging your hat on the prospect of getting validation from your ex is bound to leave you unsatisfied. In time, you’ll realize that your opinion of your efforts matters far more than his.
Andrea Bonior, a clinical psychologist, is the author of “The Friendship Fix.” www.drandreabonior.com.
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