Side by Side

Q:  I consider myself to be a pretty good listener, but whenever my girlfriend is upset and starts to cry, she gets mad when I try to help her. I don’t get it. What does she want from me?

A: If your “help” comes in the form of advice, no wonder your girlfriend is crying. Most of the time, when a woman is upset to the point of tears, she needs to vent. Feelings have become bottlenecked somewhere in her body and she just needs to purge.

What does this mean for you? It means that unless you hear, “I don’t know what to do. What do you think I should do?” you’ll want to back off on giving advice.

In other words, take off your fix-it hat. If you say things like “Why don’t you do A, B, or C,” or “You really shouldn’t feel that way,” or the real no-no, “Don’t you think you’re making a mountain out of a molehill?” you might as well wear a neon sign on your head that flashes, “I’m not listening!”

To truly listen to your girlfriend, you’ll need to learn to pay close attention to what she is telling you with her face, posture, and overall energy. Listen with your heart and throw in a few “I can see how upset you are” or “This must be so difficult for you,” and then end it with “Would you like a hug?” Trust me, if your girlfriend wants advice, she’ll ask for it.

Kathy Dawson is a Cleveland Heights author and relationship coach.  To learn more, visit If you would like your anonymous relationship question answered in a future column, send it to Kathy at
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Volume 2, Issue 11, Posted 3:49 PM, 11.04.2009