HELP ME, HARLAN!: Saying three magic words makes girlfriend disappear

By Harlan Cohen

Harlan Cohen

Dear Harlan,

I’m a senior in college and in a new relationship. My girlfriend has a history of unhealthy relationships. All of the people she has dated or loved have hurt her. We’ve been together for three months now. She wanted to move slowly, and I am OK with that. We have been going slowly physically. The problem is that I made a mistake: I told her that I was falling in love with her. I said the words “I love you.” She didn’t say the words back, and told me to slow down. She has started to pull away from me. She doesn’t return texts or call me back. I don’t want to lose this relationship. Should I fight or give her room? 

In Between

Dear In Between,

Hearing the words “I love you” is the equivalent of her hearing “Now I’m going to hurt you.” Falling in love has not worked out very well for her. Don’t fight it. Fighting her is what she expects. Give her room to process this – lots of room. Give her several rooms, long hallways, a big yard, a basement, a second floor and a four-car garage. Give her more room than any man has given her before. Keep loving her. Here’s the catch: Don’t attach requirements with the love. Loving her means giving her permission to not love you back the same way or at the same time. Offer the kind of love she has never experienced before. It’s a love based on giving without taking. Instead of pressuring her to give you something she’s not ready to offer at this moment, make it clear that you don’t expect anything. Send her a text or write her a note. Let her know that you are patient and comfortable to give her the time and space she needs. Make it safe for her to reach out to you when she feels comfortable. And leave it at that. You didn’t do anything wrong. You shared your feelings and trusted someone who has a very hard time trusting.


Dear Harlan,

How can I still be friends with someone after we hooked up? We have been close friends for four months. For me this was just fun, but she thought this meant something more. She wants to be more than friends, but I just want to be friends. What should I do?

Friend With Benefits

Dear Friend,

You can’t unsleep with a friend. Once it’s done, it’s done. It’s hard enough for a friend to recover after getting screwed over by some creepy dude. Now she has to deal with the disappointment of getting rejected by a friend. There were a lot of mistakes made. The first is that YOU didn’t talk about what would happen after the hookup before you hooked up. The second is that SHE didn’t talk about it. Instead of focusing on what she did wrong, focus on your role and what you could have done differently. You could have avoided making assumptions. You could have talked about what sleeping together meant to you. You could have made it clear that you didn’t want to do anything to negatively impact the friendship. She trusted you. This makes you untrustworthy. Without being able to trust you, there’s no friendship. Save the friendship by fixing the trust. This will take humility, honesty, time, talking it out and keeping your clothes on in the future.


Harlan is author of “Getting Naked: Five Steps to Finding the Love of Your Life (While Fully Clothed and Totally Sober)” (St. Martin’s Press). Write Harlan at or visit online: All letters submitted become property of the author. Send paper to Help Me, Harlan!, 2720 Dundee Road, Suite 226, Northbrook, IL 60062.

© Harlan Cohen 2018; Distributed by King Features Syndicate Inc.



HELP ME, HARLAN!: Saying three magic words makes girlfriend disappear–