Q: Dear Meredith,
I have been with my boyfriend on and off for almost five years. There are ways that we are so much in tune with each other -- intellectually, politically, and physically -- but the connection that I think is most important, our emotional connection, remains elusive. From what he's told me, his dad was emotionally abusive and his mother, who wasn't emotionally expressive herself, just went along with things. Often, when we have problems, he'll say it reminds him of something with his dad. I feel like our relationship has three people in it.
He is seeing a therapist but things don't seem to be changing. We've split up several times because we cannot communicate. When I try to bring up a problem to discuss and try to work through it, he immediately goes on the defensive because he says it seems like an attack to him no matter how calmly and gently I speak. I know his father resented him and showed it clearly in almost all their interactions, but I'm not his dad and we are both middle-aged. Could this ever change?
– Three's Not Company, NJ
A: The quick answer to your last question is that yes, sometimes people can change the way they cope with old problems, especially with the help of a professional ... but your guy might not change into the right partner for you, TNC.
You can go to therapy with him and discuss all of this, but before you tag along, please think about what you're trying to save. On your best days, is this relationship what you want? When there's nothing wrong, do you feel emotional intimacy? Are you ever the center of attention? Is the relationship fun?
You've been together (sort of) for five years so there's a lot on the line, but this relationship sounds so limited. You have to be careful about what you say. You told us that your emotional connection remains elusive. That's huge.
You can't have a relationship with a work-in-progress. If that's what he is to you, move on. And if you're really not sure, go to therapy with him and all will be revealed.
Readers? Is there something worth saving here? Can someone move on from family issues this late in the game? Should she drop him now. Try therapy? Help.
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Meredith Goldstein is a Boston Globe columnist who follows relationship trends and entertainment. She offers daily advice on Love Letters — and welcomes your comments. Meredith is also the author of "The Singles," a new novel about complicated relationships. Follow Meredith here and on Twitter. Love Letters can be found in the print edition of The Boston Globe every Saturday in the G section.