I’ve been dating someone who has quite a bit of baggage. How do i help? Here is a short list of some of the problems she experiences: Lack of empathy for others; Emotionally selfish, and at times void of all emotion; d ifficult opening up to others; Low self worth; and, Substance abuse problems
People who are emotionally shut-off, are often like this for a reason. It is sometimes a defense mechanism. The same is true for substance abuse. When you say “a lot of baggage”, it sounds like there are a lot of things that have happened to your girlfriend in the past that she has not yet dealt with. It’s important for you to remember that this is her journey, not yours. She will only change if she wants to. You can tell her that you care about her and offer suggestions (like speaking to a counsellor or joining a self-esteem or addictions group), but remember the final decision to change belongs to her.
It’s important that you maintain your own positivity within this relationship. Sometimes, when people see that others are truly happy expressing emotional empathy and being open to others, it motivates them to change. It’s also important that you remain emotionally healthy during her process. It’s okay to be supportive, but do not feel like your girlfriend’s behavior belongs to you.
Have you sat down with her to openly discuss this? Tell her how you perceive her behavior, and let her know that you feel she would be happier if she was more open and empathetic to others. If she agrees with you, she may be open to external support. You may be interested in watching this Ted Talk which addresses how being emotionally vulnerable leads to a more fulfilling life.
We wish you both well,
Tina Cowan, Masters Intern