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How to date someone who gets in your head?
December 13, 2010 3:54 AM   Subscribe

Is it detrimental to date a psychiatrist (not my own) after being in an emotionally abusive relationship?

I'm a young single professional female. Recently I met a psychiatrist (not my own) and we have started dating and we're not seeing anyone else, it's an exclusive thing. I have disclosed to him that I used to be in an emotionally abusive relationship thing. I'm in therapy for it and even though it was the most abusive relationship in my life, the way I got over it was the healthiest way I've ever gotten over a relationship, believe it or not. I nourished my friendships, got closer with my family, took up new hobbies, worked harder than ever at work. I've regained and re-established my identity.

So, to get back to the point...I know he's not a robot, he's got his own faults and he can't analyze me all the time. I know this sounds bad, but there's a disparity in our physical attractiveness, and at first I wasn't sure about him but as soon as he starts to talk, I don't think about it at all because there's just a natural chemistry and attraction between us. Ever since the first date, there have been no awkward silences, and trust me...I am awkward.

He's also disclosed to me that a few years ago, a long-term relationship ended due to very very unfortunate hardships in both of their lives; the relationship just didn't survive it. He's made it clear that he likes me and he's interested in a relationship down the road.

I don't know if I'm getting cold feet or if I'm confused or what...it's hard for me to let my guard down but I'm a little scared that he could really "get inside" my head. I don't want him to think of me as a victim, because I'm not. I'm the one who's made the choices in my life, including the one to leave my abuser. I still believe in love. I believe that most people are good. But I'm afraid to let him in mostly because of his profession. Am I being silly? Because he's been very very honest and he seems pretty sincere...but then again, he knows what to say.

So to sum it up...

1. Am I being paranoid/untrusting/too guarded?
2. Or should I take a leap of faith and trust that he is starting to develop feelings for me? Because I'm starting to have feelings for him.
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (24 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
 
Well, I think a psychiatrist who sees someone who left an abusive relationship as a victim would be a very poor psychiatrist indeed. Not that this is impossible, but ...

Judge him by his actions and reactions, not by his profession. If you are reacting this way because he *is* treating you as a victim, that says something about him. If you are reacting this way because you *fear he might* treat you as a victim, that says nothing about him at all.

Neither is really about about his training. They are about beliefs and expectations either on his part, or yours.
posted by kyrademon at 4:02 AM on December 13, 2010


Judge him by his actions and reactions, not by his profession.

Emphatically seconded - having been in contact with psychiatrists as friends, teachers, and as people treating me, they come in all sorts, just like everyone else.

In terms of getting inside your head - there's nothing magic about psychiatric training. I've friends who are just naturally good at that sort of thing, and are much better at it than the psychiatrists I know.

I can understand why you're worried though - I get very nervous when I have to visit my psychiatrist, and I think I'm more nervous around them in general than I am around other medical specialists. But my friends who are psychiatrists, I see them as friends first, psychiatrists second, and they don't scare me a bit. You need to see him as a person, not a psychiatrist - and see if it works on the same terms as any other potential partner.
posted by Coobeastie at 4:19 AM on December 13, 2010 [2 favorites]


skybluesky: "it's hard for me to let my guard down but I'm a little scared that he could really "get inside" my head. But I'm afraid to let him in mostly because of his profession. Am I being silly? Because he's been very very honest and he seems pretty sincere...but then again, he knows what to say."

I'm not trying to be snarky but I don't know how else to say this: you are granting psychiatrists some kind of magical abilities they just do not have. Seriously, he's a psychiatrist, not a psychic. He can't get inside your head any more than any other partner who listens to you and knows your behaviours through time and experience does.

Honestly, I think you should discuss this with your therapist because you need to approach relationships as a coming together of equals, and it doesn't read like you are because of the assumptions you're making about his profession. Your therapist can probably help you ground your perceptions a bit more in reality.
posted by DarlingBri at 4:27 AM on December 13, 2010 [9 favorites]


Psychiatrists and psychologists are not craft magicians; they are just people with special training. Would you have posted a question that asked, "I am falling in love with an accountant, but is this a good idea because I've had credit card debt in the past?"?
posted by Bebo at 4:29 AM on December 13, 2010 [6 favorites]


crafty* -- oops.
posted by Bebo at 4:29 AM on December 13, 2010


Let me clarify things: I am discussing this with my therapist, and one of my quirks is that I like to combine words and sayings. He mentioned that it's a condition that people have, there's a name and everything for it but I don't remember it. That is one of the things that makes me wonder how much he's analyzing me.

I'm a scientist, so I don't think he's a magical boy wizard...I just like to be guarded in the beginning of things.
posted by skybluesky at 4:32 AM on December 13, 2010


"That is one of the things that makes me wonder how much he's analyzing me. "

Probably not any more than when I tell people, in passing, "there's a tort for that, it's called loss of consortium." I'm not, you know, analyzing their legal case. I'm just making conversation and their comment made me think of it. Or I have a friend who's a doctor who will say, "Oooooh, I once treated a guy with that sort of pain in his knee AND HIS KNEE EXPLODED in the ER, it was awesome." She's not diagnosing someone's knee pain, she's reminiscing about a particularly insane case she saw in the ER. People do talk about their jobs.

If you're concerned about it, tell him, "I worry about whether you're analyzing me." I'm sure there are things he can't help noticing because of his training, that he might not notice if he were just an extra-sensitive good listener, but it's not like he's lying you down on the couch and actually analyzing you, is it? (In fact, I bet him knowing the name of your phrase-mashing is about the extent of it -- extra-sensitive good listener friends doubtless notice it, but don't know the name. He knows the name. Big deal.)
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 4:44 AM on December 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


skybluesky: "He mentioned that it's a condition that people have, there's a name and everything for it but I don't remember it. That is one of the things that makes me wonder how much he's analyzing me. "

See what you're seeing as an analysis, I see as an observation based on things he knows. You're a scientist; you observe things, too, and I'm sure you can tell him the name of a cloud formation he notices or tell him why salt dissolves or whatever. Or, what Eyebrows McGee said.
posted by DarlingBri at 4:48 AM on December 13, 2010 [2 favorites]


>>I know this sounds bad, but there's a disparity in our physical attractiveness, and at first I wasn't sure about him

I wonder if this is part of what's going on-- you're aware that you're hotter than him, and you wonder why you would be with him if he weren't "in your head." So, vote for (1), too guarded/untrusting.
posted by J. Wilson at 5:09 AM on December 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


No, I meant that at first I really didn't know how I felt about him in general, he's really not my usual "type." But lately I've been feeling more and more that it doesn't matter. We both disclosed that we have anxiety problems, and I said that I was in therapy, and he told me that he's taking an SSRI and recommended it to me. I haven't felt this happy in a while, and I might just be paranoid over nothing. By the way, thank you to everyone who's responding! My problem is that whenever I start liking someone, I just start overanalyzing everything and that's probably what my problem is.
posted by skybluesky at 5:51 AM on December 13, 2010


One of my most (in an endearing way) clueless and disorganized friends is a psychiatrist. When he is off to work and puts his coat on, he is a good psychiatrist, and he works hard. Without his coat, he only lives for his quirks.

I'd be a thousand times more worried about dating any brand of a DIY psychologist. Or about becoming one myself: just don't make yourself feel like you're being observed/analyzed, and you'll likely be fine, the two of you.

[My friend has been a great help when I had to make decisions about my divorce: indulging in sudden exuberance, he took a day off for me, fried something like half a bushel of fish for the two of us, and finally drove me half across Germany on a whim, instead of to the next train station. This gave him the chance to listen to my rants for a day and a half. He never intervened, apart from asking some few oddly vague questions and frying more fish. Finally he said, like, two sentences that made me see how far the ship of my marriage had already gone down. Quirky he may be, but not unwise.]
posted by Namlit at 5:54 AM on December 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


Do you feel that there is a power inbalance in your relationship with him? Do you feel that because of his profession he might know more about what's going on in your head than you do?

If his reactions towards you and the things you tell him are postive and you feel that you would be able to accept that he can't get in your head without you letting him in then great.

If you are concerned he might analyise your reactions and make you feel that your current thoughts and feelings are less genuine because of your past experiences then proceed with caution.

It might help to remind yourself that whatever you're currently thinking and feeling is no less genuine because of the abusive relatonship. You seem very self aware so I think as long as you continue acknowledging what you are thinking and feeling you have no reason to be concerned.
posted by Laura_J at 6:00 AM on December 13, 2010


He's probably not analyzing you that much. Lots of psychiatrists have psychiatrists of their own and need them. The people who go into these fields are sometimes in as much need of help and analysis as any other person. I'm sure he knows everybody had quirks.
posted by anniecat at 6:34 AM on December 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


I get this sometimes from my girlfriend. I am studying Behavioral Psychology at university, and she complains that I analyze her. Over the past 4 years we've been together, I've learned that while it is easy for me to take what she says, and run down the psychological bunny trail with it, it's not a good conversational technique, and she doesn't enjoy it. So I've stopped. Just like I've stopped making sexist jokes, which she also does not enjoy.

Whether your boyfriend does or does not "analyze" you is entirely under his control. He may have the ability to do so, and he may do so out of habit, but that does not mean that he must do so, or that it's his personality to do so. Like Eyebrows McGee said, if he does mention any type of analysis to you, he is just doing it conversationally. Or, he may be trying to help you, but would you also turn down the help of an accountant or lawyer boyfriend, just because that was his profession?

I think you're afraid of him judging you. Because he is in the mental health profession, you believe that he has special insight into you, and is therefore able to judge you more intimately than anyone else. However, like Bebo said, anyone can do this. You could date a pastor and worry that he is judging your soul. You could date a cop and worry that he judged you for speeding. Or you could worry that a physician boyfriend judged your diet. This isn’t really a question of whether your boyfriend gets in your head so much as it’s a question of whether he respects you for who you are, or believes that it is his duty to tell you who to be and how to live your life.
posted by rebent at 6:37 AM on December 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


I'm a little scared that he could really "get inside" my head

You say that like it's a bad thing. But isn't getting inside each other's heads the whole basis of intimacy?
posted by flabdablet at 7:10 AM on December 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


I would only worry if he is, IN FACT, saying things that indicate that he's analysing you or treating you like a patient in any way (or, as would be true if you were dating a bricklayer, saying judgemental or odd things about you, including your past relationship(s)).

I have a somewhat close friend who is a therapist. My experience with her (just agreeing with others before me in this thread who said similar things) is that the last thing she wants to do in her free time is analyze her friends.

I asked her a question once about a mental bee that had gotten in my bonnet, and she was nice enough to sit down with me at a Starbucks and talk about it. She switched on "therapist mode," we talked briefly and informally about the matter at hand (conclusion: change a couple of mental habits and otherwise don't worry, as the behavior is fairly common), and then she switched off "therapist mode." And we've never discussed the matter again. Can't remember - hopefully I paid for the coffee; if I didn't, I'm *really* an asshole.
posted by randomkeystrike at 7:14 AM on December 13, 2010 [2 favorites]


I would only worry if he is, IN FACT, saying things that indicate that he's analysing you or treating you like a patient in any way (or, as would be true if you were dating a bricklayer, saying judgemental or odd things about you, including your past relationship(s)).

Yes, yes, yes!

People aren't always "on" with their jobs. I'm an editor, and I don't go around correcting my friends' grammar; you probably don't bring your job into everyday life; I really doubt that this guy is analyzing you, or that his being a psychiatrist would enable him to go all Svengali/Hannibal Lecter on you and manipulate your mind.

It's perfectly understandable that you have irrational fears about relationships right now, because you're coming off a very stressful and upsetting relationship experience. But this is an irrational fear.

(If he does analyze you, then he's a jerk and you should dump him. Just as people should dump me if I were to correct their grammar!)
posted by Sidhedevil at 7:40 AM on December 13, 2010


The people who go into these fields are sometimes in as much need of help and analysis as any other person.

Hooo boy, yes. My friend's brother is a psychologist, and he makes immensely stupid relationship decisions all the time, to the point where I wonder [knowing him as a person] if he could possibly be a good psychologist, since he just DOES NOT SEEM TO COMPREHEND HUMAN BEHAVIOR AT ALL... there can be a real disconnect between professional knowledge and actions/responses in an interpersonal relationship. I wouldn't worry about him getting in your head! We all have blind spots and weaknesses when it comes to our partner, psych -ologists or -iatrists included.
posted by bitter-girl.com at 7:44 AM on December 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


If he's actually a psychiatrist (not a psychologist, social worker, or counselor) he probably doesn't actually do much talk therapy/psychoanalysis anyway. Most psychiatrists pretty much only handle the prescription side of things, these days. He would have gone to school to learn how, but it's less likely that it's what he does for a living.
posted by restless_nomad at 8:59 AM on December 13, 2010


We both disclosed that we have anxiety problems, and I said that I was in therapy, and he told me that he's taking an SSRI and recommended it to me.

I don't know how much this applies to your experience, but I come from a somewhat "medical" family. My dad is a physician and my mom is a nurse. Several other close relatives are also nurses, or pharmacists, or physical therapists, etc etc.

One thing that a lot of them do is that they tend to view the world through the lens of their careers. "I can prescribe you some X for that" and "Have you considered taking Y?" are common reactions from them. Or relating something relatively normal to a case they once saw, or a pathology they know about.

It's probably the same way that, as someone who works in media, I'll say "I saw a movie just like this once" or "have you seen Mad Men yet? I'm curious as to what you'd think of it..." But because their shop-talk is about Big Scary Medicine and not Light Entertaining Media, theirs seems a lot more serious.

Is it possible that this is what's going on? Maybe you should ask him to cut the shrink talk if it gets under your skin. Or just talk to him about your trust issues and how, when he relates your life to his career, it feels a little invasive to you.
posted by Sara C. at 9:52 AM on December 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


Thanks again everyone! This has been really helpful. One of the things that bugged me a little was after we disclosed our anxiety problems, he showed me his SSRI, nothing wrong with that...then he was trying to convince me to take it. He wasn't going to write me an Rx, but he was definitely pushing it. I know now that he was probably just recommending it...like how my dad the food scientist pushes multivitamins on me. BUT I don't really like the idea of SSRIs and how it'll screw around with my brain chemistry.

I'm seeing him again tomorrow so I'll try to observe what happens. I do have to point out that he's a resident and so he could just be stuck in that work mode.
posted by skybluesky at 10:55 AM on December 13, 2010


As someone from a family full of medical and psyche professionals, it's completely fair to set a very firm "no diagnosing" boundary, which of course would include pushing meds.

If you get far enough into the relationship, you can soften it by telling him that if he's REALLY worried about something going on with you, he can suggest you go to a different, completely separate professional, if he promises to accept their diagnosis.
posted by small_ruminant at 11:51 AM on December 13, 2010


Think about the SSRI thing as him doing something that really works for him and so he want to share it. Imagine you had found a restaurant that served the most delicious haggis. Normally you would think of haggis as gross, or not think about it, but this haggis was soooo delicious you just felt the need to tell everyone you knew about it. "Oh man, you should really try this haggis! It is so delicious!" Most people would hem and haw and go "Man, haggis? That stuff is weird, I had it once and it was pretty bad." etc etc but you would know the awesomeness of the haggis and really want to share it! Maybe SSRIs are like that for him. He felt kind of blah before, and didn't really care much about them, but then he took them and his life was SO MUCH BETTER he wants other people to experience the awesomeness. He doesn't have to even be a psychiatrist to have this opinion.

A psychiatrist may be trained to see things a normal person doesn't. But that doesn't mean that he'll judge you for it. It sounds like you're doing pretty well for yourself, in fact, which should be something to be proud of, not to worry about!

It would be sad if psychiatrists had to be like monks and nuns, single and chaste all of their lives due to their calling.
posted by that girl at 5:51 PM on December 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


Nthing the "call him out on it" if you feel he's analyzing you, prescribing, etc. Or if you get upset with him about this, clarify what you're looking for. For example:

Sky: I can't shake this crappy feeling.
Psych SO: Non traditional anti-depressants can help...
Sky: Thanks, but I was just hoping you'd say you feel down when it rains for a week too/you understand/whatever.

My mental health friends and I go to each other for advice but often rag on each other for "therapizing."

"Man, today sucked."
"Say more about that."
"Shut up, ShadePlant."
posted by ShadePlant at 6:43 PM on December 13, 2010 [2 favorites]


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