A common theme on AskMeFi is that a person should be able to take care of themselves first before they can be ready to establish and maintain a healthy relationship. What if the relationship itself is the driver of positive personal growth? And what if that process has been kind of painful so far?
I've been dating a guy for a few months now, officially boyfriend and girlfriend for 3. It's been a little bit up and down while we're figuring each other out, and we're both relatively new to relationships so neither of us has the benefit of healthy LTR experience to draw on. We click really well, have great physical chemistry, he is supportive and funny and kind, and up until a few days ago I would have unthinkingly said I was crazy about him, except that I hit a low point again and I've since lost that positive energy.
I have an anxious attachment style and he is definitely more secure. If something happens in the relationship that I'm not happy about, I have a tendency to ruminate about it for hours, not talk about it, and 99% of the time withdraw until I've recovered (by venting to friends, reading advice columns, just snapping out of it with self-talk, and only very rarely by discussing it with him). I previously posted this question
about difficulties communicating my needs, so I know this is something I have to work on. Plus I have a boatload of trust and self-esteem issues and just generally feel like this boy has no idea
what he signed up for.
The times I've come to him with my problems he's been very supportive. He doesn't mind when I'm in a grumpy or non-talkative mood and encourages me to vent if I need to. He's 'ridiculously into me' and has told everyone from his high school friends to his dad about me. He's good at reassuring me and tells me I should 'call him out' when I have a need I want met. (I still have difficulties with this because I'm paranoid about becoming the nagging girlfriend.)
But just because of who he is or differences in our personalities, sometimes things hit trigger points in me that on bad days send me into anxiety spirals. He's an extroverted, pretty popular guy with friends from all over the world and a fun, interesting friendship circle. From the outside, I can be very outgoing but I've always had trouble forming friendships and getting close to people - my network is quite small as a result. I can get quite down comparing myself to some of his gorgeous female friends and how close they are to each other. He himself is very good-looking whereas I look good in person but photograph terribly, which adds a lot of weird social media pressure.
I've noticed that sometimes low points coincide with uni stress (his timetable is much more relaxed than mine, I often have 8-5 days) as well as associated lack of sleep/irregular self-care routine; work stress, PMS, or occasional bouts of sickness.
Example scenario: My friend had to talk me down the other day when I had an anxious episode over the fact that a female friend of his had moved onto his most-snapped list on Snapchat (it updates weekly). In the ensuing breakdown, I told her how much I hated this part of me and that I wish I were with someone who didn't - even unknowingly - keep triggering this painful stuff in me. She told me very firmly and truthfully that I had blamed myself too for my ex breaking it off with me, that I'd believed he didn't want me because of who I was fundamentally as a person. And that I'd have the same problem again if I were in a relationship with someone else, because the problem was that I didn't like myself enough.
Today he posted pictures of himself with close friends he met at a semester abroad a few years ago (he's been overseas for a few weeks), and my mood dropped for the whole morning before I pulled myself out of it, because of course he should be happy, he hasn't seen these people in years! But even now I still can't reply to his messages through my envy.
I have had the same problem in all my past relationships, where I find something to get obsessive over (bf's ex, friends, even family) and fixate on it until the relationship is ruined for me and I want to leave. I guess the solution here is 'be single again and work on yourself properly', but I feel like being single gave me even less reason to work on my issues - when I was single I found it very easy to coast through life with superficial friendships and relationships and appear (to everyone else including myself) to be a happy, confident person.
When I have really low points I wish I'd never met my boyfriend at all, because of how hard it's been to learn to work out what I feel, assert myself and communicate my needs, and actually try to compromise and work problems out, instead of just cutting and running. I worry sometimes that my anxiety is still keeping me from being present in the relationship. But in the end, I really like this guy and I want this to work out. The problems just seem to be mostly on my end. I haven't talked to him about the anxiety/self-esteem bits - he just knows that I can get sad/moody and that I sometimes have trouble asking what I want.
MeFites, do you think we should keep trying or is it a bit of a lost cause?
FWIW, we're both early-mid 20s, I've been in therapy since last year.