Dear Dr. Date,Toni…

Dear Dr. Date,
Tonight, my girlfriend sent me a huge letter outlining the details of what she thinks is wrong with our relationship. The good news is, she wants to work on it. The bad news is, I don’t know what to do. One of the biggest problems is my lack of communication lately. You see, my father is dying of cancer right now, and I’ve been very “emotionally unavailable.” I have been able to talk to my friends very easily, but to me they’re different. (Mainly, they’re men.) Another problem is that lately, when I do get time from my new job and engineering degree, I choose to spend my time and money partying. To me, instant self-gratification makes me feel my best in harsh times. So tomorrow I am going to talk to my girlfriend and try to fix things up. Hopefully I’ll get another chance. So my question is: How can I be more emotionally available and make myself feel better without stepping on my two-year girlfriend’s toes?
–Emotionally Unavailable

Relationships can be a chance to grow, but can also be stifling. This situation of yours appears to be an opportunity for you to grow as a person. By writing me, I can see that you recognize the challenge ahead of you. Communication is great. Trust me. If you aren’t used to talking to the one you love, you might want to ease your way into it. Start on a positive tone and give her an unexpected, but honest compliment every now and then. I can’t tell from your letter, but if you are the “yes, hon” type, you might want to start giving her more honest answers to her questions, pleas and demands.
Since you are able to communicate your thoughts to your friends, I would look at ways to improve the friendship you have with your sweetheart. Ask yourself what it is about your male friends that allows you to be so honest.
Of course, it might all be simpler than this. Losing one of my parents is the most frightening thought I can think of. In fact, once when I was in high school and dating my first girlfriend, there came a moment when I was supposed to cry over something she said. The only way I could cry was to think of one of my parents dying. Personally, I think you have every right to do whatever you want to do given the circumstances. You should, however, try and take care of yourself both physically and mentally. Don’t party too much thinking it will solve your problems. On the mental tip, try talking to your sweetheart about what’s going on. She loves you and only wants to help you.
If all of this fails, you should come to my mixer this Friday at the Weisman!