Used to be confident, got the girl, now I'm a wreck. Why?
February 10, 2011 10:02 AM   Subscribe

I was confident and had loads of self esteem right up to the moment I actually started a real relationship. Now I'm a mess. How did I lose it all?

I posed this question a week ago.

Since then I've been doing a lot of calls, but a lot of places require a referral from a family doctor. I got an appointment with a family doctor to register, but that's till in April. I'll keep calling around others from the College of Physicians site to see if any are accepting, but I've called about 5 so far and they're not.

My question is: how did I lose all my self esteem, when at the start of the relationship I was pretty confident and didn't worry so much about whether the relationship was going to end or not?

I'm not sure what came first, my depressive episode, or the lack of self esteem and confidence about this relationship. I think there is a very close link here, and this is very important. I think if I can get my self esteem back I'll feel much better. The thing is, I am very different from her, and I feel she might just one day soon say it's not working out for her, especially after I told her about my depression.

She's very outgoing, as in hangs out or does something every day of the week. I'm not like that, I need 2 or 3 days a week just being at home, and wouldn't mind if it was spent with her. Right now we see each other twice a week, and I sleep over some of the time.

The rest of the time she goes to dancing lessons, or hanging out with different groups of friends, or a house party on the weekend. While I love the fact that she's not introverted like me, I guess I am a little jealous of how much fun she has going out all the time. Note that I am not concerned about cheating, that's not it, I trust her. She always volunteers where she's going and who she's going with. I feel as if she is "better" than I am for having so many friends and socializing so much.

I keep thinking about her all the time, and it's exhausting. I also continually worry about where the relationship is going, how will it evolve? Will we just keep seeing each other twice a week, or will it be more? Will I ever get to meet her friends?

I realize that it's obviously very early in the relationship, and I've never voiced any of those questions above to her, because I know that would be weird, and what I am doing to myself is unhealthy. I've also not let on about how insecure I am either. I do go to the gym, and from time to time hang out with friends, but it's never every day of the week.

It's reached the point where I get really nervous about coming across as needy if I text her, or plan a time to meet up, because I don't know if I am coming across that way. I feel as if I'm always on the brink of messing things up. Sometimes I'm worrying so much I wonder if maybe I'm not cut out for dating, but I figure this is somewhat paradoxical, because this is the best, most healthy relationship I have ever had (after a string of crazy relationships that had me resort to AskMeFi too many times). So this is my biggest opportunity to develop healthy attitudes.

I am also somewhat irrationally afraid of being alone. I do honestly enjoy my alone time, but life is a lot better with a partner. I also dress reasonable well, speak well, am well-educated and I'm not too bad looking. So I know that rationally, I have a good chance of meeting someone else if this doesn't work out.

Where did my confidence and self esteem go? How do I just accept one day at a time and stop overthinking things? How do I stop wanting to fast forward 6 months into the future, and just enjoy things where they are at? How do I stop worrying and obsessing over her? I know I am going to doom things if I continue this way, I’ve only reached this far through an incredible amount of self restraint. Should I just congratulate myself, and hope it’ll get easier as time goes on?
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (23 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
 
It's easy to be confident when you have no external stimuli to cause you to question yourself.

Before you were in a relationship, it all seemed kind of idealized and theoretical. Now that you're with an actual person, who has her own quirks and foibles, it's easy to get into a cycle of interpersonal anxiety.

I am the same way; I could have written this question. Once, this past summer, I was complaining to a friend about some interaction I'd had. Not intending to be helpful, he said, "You know, your problem is that you just expect everyone to be predictable all the time." He was right. Now, when I feel myself getting anxious about someone's internal monologue about me, I remind myself that people are weird, and they do weird things, as though it is a mantra.
posted by easy, lucky, free at 10:23 AM on February 10, 2011 [3 favorites]


I could be your girlfriend. I had some relationships where I had activities and friends and my boyfriend didn't do much outside of our relationship and was a bit insecure and miserable. It didn't go well. That insecurity and buried jealousy comes across, no matter how you hide it. It does get to be a drag, feeling like you are your SOs lifeline and social connection, and he resents you a little for it.

I'd highly recommend working on a hobby and developing your own social circle to increase your self-perceived "social value", and also to give your mind something else to think about besides relationship-relationship-relationship. Your girlfriend takes dance lessons? Maybe you should find some classes to take, or a scheduled activity to participate in. Yoga, maybe? This often leads to new friends.

If you stay as you are, your feeling that she is somehow better than you and deserves a better partner will become a self-fulfilling prophecy and ruin the relationship. It doesn't really matter which person has more "value", because she may be valuing entirely different things about you. What matters is that you see a problem (your jealousy of her life) and take action to work on yourself and correct it.
posted by griselda at 10:26 AM on February 10, 2011 [3 favorites]


It is VERY important to realize this: A good girlfriend/relationship makes you feel BETTER, not WORSE about yourself. That is one of the few 100% true things I will ever say.

Don't let your boner lower your standards for a relationship partner.
posted by TheRedArmy at 10:27 AM on February 10, 2011 [7 favorites]


It seems likely that these worries and anxieties will diminish as time goes on, as you "settle down" into the relationship.

However, I am a big believer that relationships should not make us uncomfortable. If her lifestyle is a big mismatch with yours, and it causes you anxiety, maybe she's not the right person for you?

In the past, I've felt that I needed to try to make things work with people who, on some level, just weren't a good fit. There are lots of ways someone might not be a good fit, and lifestyle (such as "outgoingness") can be one of those ways.

Don't end the relationship impulsively because you're having a depressive episode. But at the same time, don't feel compelled to stay in the relationship because she's an awesome, lovely, dynamic person. Even if she's awesome, lovely, dynamic ... she may not be right for you.
posted by jayder at 10:27 AM on February 10, 2011


And trying to turn yourself into someone like your girlfriend will only mean you have sold yourself out.

The internet is the most powerful dating tool ever created for people like you and me. It allows introverts to find introverts on a scale totally unprecedented. I have two good friends who are a couple, and they both love nothing more than sitting on the couch, smokin' weed and playing Halo. Somewhere there's a sexy lady that likes to have 2 or 3 days just in the house, just like you.
posted by TheRedArmy at 10:30 AM on February 10, 2011


Griselda's comment is interesting:

I'd highly recommend working on a hobby and developing your own social circle to increase your self-perceived "social value" ...

This is precisely what you should NOT do, in my opinion. A loner/introvert does not have, objectively, LESS social value than an outgoing, highly social person. However, there is a widespread belief that loners ARE less valuable.

Don't try to structure your life to match hers, even in terms of "getting more friends," unless you really believe you NEED more friends.

This kind of desperate attempt to keep up with someone so that you can feel worthy of a relationship with them is kind of pathetic, and ultimately is not what a relationship is for, in my opinion.
posted by jayder at 10:31 AM on February 10, 2011 [4 favorites]


It is VERY important to realize this: A good girlfriend/relationship makes you feel BETTER, not WORSE about yourself. That is one of the few 100% true things I will ever say.

If you read the previous question, the OP has an untreated depression issue. So the idea that the girlfriend is not "good" somehow (when the OP pretty much only lists her good/considerate qualities) probably not even half true.
posted by hermitosis at 10:31 AM on February 10, 2011


So the idea that the girlfriend is not "good" somehow (when the OP pretty much only lists her good/considerate qualities) probably not even half true.

TheRedArmy's use of "good" was not meant as a judgment of her human decency, but rather meant "good" in the sense of "the right fit" for him. She can be wonderfully good and considerate and still not be a "good" girlfriend for him.

I would say a girlfriend whose lifestyle causes the boyfriend crippling anxiety, no matter how decent and considerate she is, is arguably not a good girlfriend for him ... through no fault of her own.
posted by jayder at 10:37 AM on February 10, 2011 [2 favorites]


Hermitosis: What are you talking about? He said he lost his self esteem when the relationship started. That is a no go. It is possible and even correct for your significant other to bolster your self-esteem.

I did read the previous question, and I have an intimate familiarity with depression, and I have also spent seven years in a relationship where my self esteem took a constant beating.

Your suggestion to an untreated depressed person to BLAME MORE STUFF ON HIMSELF is out of line, and I would hope the OP can see that.
posted by TheRedArmy at 10:37 AM on February 10, 2011


Pardon the excessive caps.
posted by TheRedArmy at 10:39 AM on February 10, 2011


I am naturally an introvert myself. Which is funny, because none of my friends seem to be aware of it. I have to force myself to go to gatherings, and I still hate large groups and public speaking, both of which I do on a regular basis anyway. The trick for me was inventing an alter ego that is similar to me, except he's an extrovert. I've improved my ability to play that role. You might enjoy reading Steve Cohen's Win the Crowd. His tips are aimed at persuasion and dealing with people and groups, but he has a lot of practical advice, a lot of which just explained why things I was doing were successful.
posted by Hylas at 10:40 AM on February 10, 2011 [1 favorite]


You should speak to her directly and clearly about this exact problem and get it out in the open. Instead of falling into the trap of wondering who she's with, worrying all the time, and/or asking her about details of her other interactions, just get it out in the open now. Make a time when no one is in a hurry, and you are feeling your most secure, and just let her know some of the things you are musing about here: You realize you have different social needs and preferences. You are ok with this and you trust her, but you have some issues with worrying too much, and you need her to be patient while you work on them. This can have a positive spin - tell her you think you might be worrying more because you like her so much. Encourage her to tell you if you are being too nosy/etc. in the future and be willing to take the advice. Tell her that you want to enjoy her now, and that all you expect is that if either of you is no longer enjoying the realtionship, you will tell the other in a direct, honest, and humane way.

However, once you get everything out there, do not continue to talk about it all the time. Find a friend or even a counselor to call when you are having these problems, because even if she is a great person, eventually negativity will wear her out. I was married 10 years and one of the biggest mistakes I ever made was thinking "confide in and trust your partner" means "tell them every transient negative thought that pops into your head". That's what drinking buddies or journals are for.

As far as worrying about being alone, it's normal. But learn to accept that there are cycles of all kinds in life, and live in the now, with what is available. If you are alone one night, do something you love that is better alone - watch a crap movie she'd hate; call an old friend; stay up late playing video games. If you are in a bad mood, acknowledge it and give yourself permission to feel that way, but don't delude yourself into thinking you always have/always will feel that way. If you are with her, appreciate it and tell her how much fun you are having with her. And so on. Truly being in the moment is a simple idea to understand, crazy hard to live by, and will benefit your relationship(s) in untold ways.
posted by freecellwizard at 10:48 AM on February 10, 2011 [1 favorite]


Aw, take a breath! Yes, it is possible for a new relationship to trigger this kind of depression and anxiety, even if that relationship is very promising. I have totally been there, several times. While it's impossible to tell if your fears are true or not, what is definitely true is that your REACTION to them is being driven by your mental state. It totally could be true that you two are incompatible, but you don't need to torture yourself over it!

Here's what you should do: aggressively treat your depression and anxiety. Get into a therapist ASAP and in the mean time, check out self-help resources like MoodGym. Stop it with the catastrophic thinking like "So this is my biggest opportunity to develop healthy attitudes."

And here's the most important thing for the relationship: talk to her about what you're going through. About your fear of seeming needy; about your desire for quiet nights at home together; about your anxiety about where this is all coming from.
posted by yarly at 10:48 AM on February 10, 2011 [3 favorites]


A loner/introvert does not have, objectively, LESS social value than an outgoing, highly social person. However, there is a widespread belief that loners ARE less valuable.

I'm totally not saying loners aren't valuable (that statement is kind of funny since I am very much a loner now). But it's the OP's self-perception that he is worth less that is hurting him, here. Going out and doing an activity will help in a few ways:

- it will give the OP something to think about besides the relationship (and something to talk about with his girlfriend)
- it will make the OP feel he is taking action to make changes
- it will help him feel more on par with his girlfriend (she has this, that and the other; I have this class/group that I like)

I'm an introvert. I have had introverted boyfriends who were jealous of my friends and activities and it amplified their insecurity, and it was really not attractive. I really did not like being someone's only social connection. So my advice to the OP is not to copycat the social role of his extroverted girlfriend, but since he is jealous of her life, to get his own version of one. Introverts can have lives, too.
posted by griselda at 10:56 AM on February 10, 2011


Something to consider that sticks out to me in your post -- you say you are the type of person who can't possibly go out or spend time with people every night. I too need a few nights off a week. But this is what I do to make myself happy.

You say, and others are responding as if, you also need this time to be happy. But you having this time isn't "charging your batteries" and making you happy like it does for me. It actively seems to make you sad.

You may want to think about what will make you happy, rather than what, so far, you think should make you happy.

(Do what you want -- but what you're doing isn't working, don't keep doing it.)
posted by MCMikeNamara at 11:03 AM on February 10, 2011 [1 favorite]


If relationship = drain.....not a good relationship. You are fine how you are.

I don't know your age. My feeling is that you want to feel like you and your appetites are literally being met on most levels. When I first had a relationship like this I realized that in my relationships before that, while very good, I was trying to be more than who I was. Putting out more than what I was getting in. Feeling that you are being met is very important. It doesn't sound like that is happening here.

You're fine how you are.
posted by goalyeehah at 11:47 AM on February 10, 2011



It is VERY important to realize this: A good girlfriend/relationship makes you feel BETTER, not WORSE about yourself. That is one of the few 100% true things I will ever say.


If you read the previous question, the OP has an untreated depression issue. So the idea that the girlfriend is not "good" somehow (when the OP pretty much only lists her good/considerate qualities) probably not even half true.
Not that this is true in the OP'scase, but I thought my depression problems were independent of a relationship I was in. I thought "no way could this person be causing this!" But then I took a closer look and yeah, they definitely made me depressed or at least significantly worsened my depression. Relationships don't have to be a drain. When someone is on your wavelength, things are much easier.

So this is my biggest opportunity to develop healthy attitudes.

No, it's not. You need to gain the independence to develop healthy attitudes independent of this single person.
posted by melissam at 12:25 PM on February 10, 2011


I looked at your previous comments too. You said things like "I also don't think anyone else can help me but myself;" . This is a kind of tricky belief that's very common in depressed people. The belief that there is something wrong with you but that no one can help them. You say that you believe you can help yourself, but you keep proving yourself wrong by staying depressed or trying something and having it wear off like the CBT. In your previous post you said "I want to feel better. I don't want to lose her." So you believe that unless you're "better" you will lose her. And now when it has become "this is the best, most healthy relationship I have ever had" you are "I feel as if I'm always on the brink of messing things up" as "I know I am going to doom things if I continue this way, I’ve only reached this far through an incredible amount of self restraint."

I'm saying this because I've been there too as have many others. On some level you perceive that she can't love you for who you are and so through "self restraint" you are keeping her.. as long as she doesn't know who you are completely and now if you can live up to who she is (outgoing, etc..) then it might persist. At the same time you have these depressive thoughts about yourself/life .. so there you believe things are wrong too and you can't love/accept yourself right now for who you are either.

A few observations. A relationship can't exist long term unless both people are really present in it. You won't be freely present as yourself in this relationship - so this relationship has a shelf life. That's not a bad thing. Any relationship that you're not who you are will get tiring after a while. You hope that you'll get tired before she does but that's not necessarily the case and the reason you're not yourself is to have her not run away when she realizes the "truth". So this is an opportunity for you to see what you can make of this given that you are handicapped here and like your depression you don't believe that you're likely to miraculously change overnight.

On the other hand. Your best outcome here is to confront your belief in your own unloveability. If you stop wasting all that energy believing that other people can't really love you or that you aren't worthy of love, or that you're not living up to your ideal of a loveable person, etc ...If you free up that energy maybe other things will be possible for you and self-esteem is just a natural consequence of knowing you're loveable.
posted by blueyellow at 2:13 PM on February 10, 2011 [2 favorites]


Seconding yarly- this doesn't sound that abnormal to me. New relationships are scary weird things- feeling anxious that this new great person who you're investing more and more in emotionally might suddenly stop liking you! Or turn out to be a bad person! Or in your case, quite probably because of your depression, that she might realize that you suck! You don't suck, OP, but if you think you do, part of depression is thinking that everyone else does too. So basically, I think this sounds like a side effect of depression compounded by the natural anxieties that come with a new relationship. This sentence- "The thing is, I am very different from her, and I feel she might just one day soon say it's not working out for her, especially after I told her about my depression." sounds like depressive thinking to me, not actual, grounded-in-reality worries. So far she seems to be happy, right? Trust that, not what your brain is telling you she's thinking.

Another sentence that stuck out to me: "I realize that it's obviously very early in the relationship, and I've never voiced any of those questions above to her, because I know that would be weird, and what I am doing to myself is unhealthy." And this: "It's reached the point where I get really nervous about coming across as needy if I text her, or plan a time to meet up, because I don't know if I am coming across that way."

A lot of the worrying you've written about here could be calmed if you just talked to her about what you're feeling. Letting her know that you feel a little intimidated by her socializing could let her tell you that she doesn't care that you're introverted. Or you could say "I was going to text you to hang out the other day, but I worried it was too much" and she could say "No I like hearing from you!" Etc. She doesn't know what you're worrying about or feeling insecure about if you don't tell her- and she's the best/only person around to tell you that you're worrying needlessly. Give her the chance!
posted by MadamM at 2:44 PM on February 10, 2011


I was the girlfriend in a similar relationship. He talked to me about his insecurities and I became frustrated with my inability to convince him I liked him just fine as he was. Eventually he became accusatory and I foolishly took responsibility for his insecurity. I canceled my plans, stayed home with him, talked to him for hours, etc. It didn't fix anything. He was still a black hole of insecurity, and it only got worse- he'd want me to spend every waking second with him, to promise him I wasn't going ever going to break up with him, etc. - nothing was enough. It went on until I was miserable, and ironically, then I really did want to break up.

Something that has always helped in MY moments of blackest need, is to remind myself "if you love someone, set them free." It's so easy to confuse clinging, desperate, jealous NEED for love, but it's the furthest thing from it. It's love's opposite masquerading as love. You'll know the truth of this if you ask yourself- do I love her? I think your gut will say "bingo" -that's the issue.

It could just be a bad match. When you really love a woman, what will likely happen is she'll motivate you to get out there and become a better man.
posted by Nixy at 3:54 PM on February 10, 2011 [3 favorites]


Ok, first. Introvert & Extrovert. Have either of you sat down and read about the characteristics of each type? That might help you understand your partner more, and perhaps, she you.

My gut reaction tells me that you really may want to look into griselda's comments. Definitely, that worked for me, both the hobby and meeting new friends.

First, the hobby occupies your free time. Hint: Look for a hobby you really enjoy! I explore a fair bit of stuff, often times taking something up for a few days and decide it's not for me. Explore! I have a few hobbies now, some I've dabbled for more than a decade old and still very exciting. Every time I get to the "next level", it's a massive self esteem boot.

Meeting new people wise... well this will apply differently to everyone. Let me share my experience. I'm supremely introverted, and get worn out very fast among extroverts. However I've been working on it, and it does several things: First, I get much better at small talk, and generally surviving extroverts without a need to run home and decompress. Also, meeting more people I am actually out there interacting with real people, not a book or pc. Some things I feel needs to be learnt hands on. The plus point here is, people become less scary, and going for meets (meetup.com is great to find people with similar interest) actually becomes more fun.

Finally, she might be someone you really love and like, but such feelings are chemical responses and they can blunt your logical mind. Ask yourself this: Is your partner the right one for you? Don't ask if your partner is in love with you. That way, you are in control (From a book by Jeffrey M Chernin - not with me right now but that's the gist I took from one of his quotes)
posted by TrinsicWS at 2:05 AM on February 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


There are many aspects to this, as discussed above, but for me the essential part for you is this: You are depressed. You are concerned because you have lost self esteem and are anxious. In my experience, low self esteem and anxiety can be symptoms of depression. Treating the depression can heal the self esteem and the anxiety. Sooo... I strongly recommend focusing first on the depression. Go to a therapist ASAP, begin therapy to treat your depression, and get the therapist's help to start on an anti-depressant. These are actions that will put you on the road to getting out of depression. These are the most important actions you can take right now. Take it from me. I've been there.

It's commendable that you've been treating your depression yourself with a book, but it hasn't made the depression go away, has it? That's no fault of your own. A book helps some but isn't enough for everyone, and it clearly isn't enough for you. You need the additional help that comes from therapy and an anti-depressant.
posted by exphysicist345 at 8:44 PM on February 11, 2011


Hey, I'm super late to the party here, but if you're still reading, I wanted to chime in with a piece of practical advice re: getting counselling:

If one of your obstacles to receiving care is that you need a referral from a family physician, you can go to any walk-in clinic to get the paperwork filled out. Just bring any required forms and fax numbers, and explain that you feel you've been depressed for a long time and would like to try X or Y program. This type of request is common at these clinics, and while the occasional place will charge you a small fee for filling out the forms, you should not feel even slightly worried about making more work for the doctor or "not being sick enough" for the clinic. It sounds like you're in the Canadian health care system (based on your mention about checking the College website), and one of the major functions of walk in clinics in our system is to do things like this for patients who don't have their own family doctors. A lot of clinics also have physicians who work on a regular schedule (e.g. every Tuesday and Thursday evening), so if you find someone you have a good rapport with, you can even see them for follow-up care or antidepressant initiation if you'd like. (Don't be frightened by the many Metafilter posts saying you should never ever let a family physician prescribe you antidepressants -- a *lot* more psychiatric care is done by family physicians in the Canadian system, so much so that the average family physician's practice is probably 30% mood and anxiety disorders -- we all become very comfortable with the ins and outs of antidepressant therapy, and with knowing when it's time to refer a patient to a psychiatrist for more complicated issues.)

Obviously, IANYD, but I *am* a Canadian family physician with a special interest in psychiatry who occasionally does walk-in clinic shifts, and I can tell you I am not a particularly rare specimen. It can be so easy to let any small obstacle stop you from getting help when you're depressed -- don't let your lack of family doctor do that to you! You have lots of options for getting the referrals you need.
posted by TheLittlestRobot at 11:31 AM on February 15, 2011


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