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Relationships I neglected my girlfriend and now she’s emotionally unavailable. How do I rekindle our connection?

The question

My girlfriend and I have been dating for 2½ years. In the beginning, we were all over each other and very much in love. Over the past 10 months, I disconnected with her and neglected her. She would try talking to me and being affectionate and I wouldn’t budge. Now I’ve finally realized what I’ve done, and I want her back. She’s learned to be more independent now and has friends that she relies on instead of me. I just want our great emotional connection to come back. I know I was the one who messed everything up, and I want to know how to fix it. She means the world to me, and she still loves me, but a part of her has moved on, and is afraid to cling back to me because she doesn’t want to go through the same thing again. I’m very stuck on what to do. This woman is amazing, and I know she is the one for me. My mistreating her proved I wasn’t ready to be in a relationship, but now I know what I’m doing and really just need some help.

The answer

Con permiso, I’d like to use a couple of seventies-era quotes.

First, Joni Mitchell: “You don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone.”

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Second, James Taylor: “Shower the people you love with love.”

Early on in my (26-year) marriage to my out-of-my-league wife, I started to feel a little grumpy that I was always the one who seemed to pine and yearn and initiate.

The French have a saying: “In every relationship, there is one who kisses and one who offers the cheek.” Why did I always have to be the kisser? Why couldn’t I be the cheek-offerer?

Then I gave myself a little (metaphorical) slap and said to the man in the mirror: “Because you’re a nerd and she’s a hot babe. Not only a hot babe but Smart, Sexy, Soulful, Sensible, and Sane – all of the Five Ss™ every bachelor seeks.”

She is and always has been the type of woman who could snap her fingers and dudes would come out of the woodwork, from behind the ficus, pop out of bushes, slither out of the tall grass.

So I decided simply to shower her with love, and not worry about it. And do you know something? It worked. Turns out showering a person with love is kind of like showering a plant with water. They bloom, they grow, they flourish. They are nourished and our relationship has been joyful ever since.

That’s what you need to do, bub. If you’re serious. Shower this neglected flower with love and watch her flourish and grow.

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The phrase above, by the way, “if you’re serious,” is not some footling footnote or picayune codicil or tiny fine print. It’s a big, fat caveat, an enormous “but.“

I’ve seen it a million times. Boy meets girl. Boy gets girl. Boy begins to grow bored, starts to treat her with indifference and maybe even not so well. Girl (wisely) pulls back, perhaps begins to plan exit strategy. Boy: “No, I’ve changed, don’t go, you’re beautiful, wonderful, I’m crazy about you.” Girl finally gives in to his blandishments, supplications and special pleading. Boy grows bored again, etc.

“She doesn’t want to go through the same thing again,” you say. Yeah: smart!

If you’re one of these guys, one of these want-what-you-can’t-have specialists, one of these catch-and-release artists – well, I don’t want to know you.

These guys make me angrier, I think, than they make women – because they give the rest of us men a bad name.

If you are indeed one of these guys, for God’s sake set this poor woman free to find someone who will not only love but also respect and even revere her, as opposed to torment her and waste her time.

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(The longer I live, i.e. the less time I have on this earth, the greater a sin I think it is to waste other people’s time.)

Meanwhile find someone who pushes your buttons, causes you to fire on all cylinders (to mix metaphors) and makes you want to do nothing but please her 24-7.

But if you look deep into the soul of the man in the mirror and can genuinely say you’re serious, try James Taylor’s/my shower-with-love approach. I think you’ll find it an effective strategy.

Are you in a sticky situation? Send your dilemmas to damage@globeandmail.com. Please keep your submissions to 150 words and include a daytime contact number so we can follow up with any queries.

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