Help me not be a psychogirl.
November 29, 2009 8:23 PM   Subscribe

I'm exhibiting behaviors typically attributed to the architypal "psychogirl." And I hate it.

Another complicated relationshipfilter (I know, I know). Ok. I dated a guy last year, who was (and is) seemingly everything I want in a guy: independent, funny, handsome, ambitious, financially independent, creative & scientifically minded.

Problem: he just could not cut his severely close emotional ties to his ex, and would habitually come to the her rescue— even for little things she was capable of doing herself. This obviously started grating on me. (Caveat: I am ALL FOR being friends with exes, but the ties that keep you thisclose need to be severed for real friendship to occur.)

So at that point, we were about 5 months in, and he dropped a casual, "I think I might love you," right dead smack in the middle of a conversation and let it go. Never talked about it again. And I didn't have the chance to respond.

So about a month later, this bombshell was starting put me on edge and felt I needed to respond. I was starting to get nervous about the "where is this going/why won't he just let the ex go" type stuff. I was thinking about him obsessively (for me, anyway), and started distrusting him. I decided to grow a set and just tell him I loved him. Which I did. It did not go well.

He needed more time, so I gave him that. Meanwhile, I had started birth control, which evidently TURNS ME INTO A LUNATIC. The symptoms of lunacy came on gradually and imperceptibly, and pretty soon I was acting as close to pregnant as I have ever gotten. Obsessive, weepy, naggy, needy, frustrated, etc. And neither of us could figure out why I was acting like that. (DUH.)

BUT! Let's recap. I, at that point, was dealing with:
1.) an omnipresent ex
2.) potentially (??) unrequited feelings
3.) the birth control from hell

I couldn't stand it anymore- I was losing it. So we broke it off, I cried for multiple months, went to therapy, got healed, went off the birth control. Those were awful, awful months for me. A "turning point in life" type of awful.

Eventually, a year later, everything became clear, as it often does with hindsight. I did not like the situations we were in, but I can't help feeling that I would have dealt with them exponentially better without the birth control. (NO SHIT.) And I also believe the situations have changed, as in the ex is no longer so much in the picture.

Cue to about a week ago: I ran into him (after about a year) and we got to talking. Which led to dinner, which led to drinks, which led to him confessing that he misses me, joking about being brought back together, and telling me he never stopped thinking about me. I essentially responded with, "Whatever, buddy," but didn't exactly throw a drink in his face either.

So now it's on my mind. Great. He called to tell me that he'd had a great time that night, then went incommunicado. And I'm kind of getting back into the mild psycho-y habit of "where the hell is he? Why hasn't he called? What is he doing? I see he's online..." And I hate it. Severely. It's just not me.

So, my elevator speech questions are these:
1.) If he pursues, should I respond? Does he get another chance? (If so, No. 2 still needs to be fixed.)
2.) How in god's name do I just stop being a psychogirl, whatever the answer to no. 1 is? I want to not think about him, live my very busy life, and just take it a day at a time.

#Help, Mefi!

If you have follow-up questions, email at:
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (22 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Facing Codependence, by Mellody, Miller, and Miller. It is not about being related to alcoholics; it's about not being able to make good boundaries between yourself and others.
posted by Sidhedevil at 8:28 PM on November 29, 2009 [2 favorites]

It's not clear whether you specifically told him that his closeness with his ex bothered you before you broke it off. The answer would influence my opinion.
posted by mpls2 at 8:34 PM on November 29, 2009

Sometimes, the best way to not be psychogirl is to not be around psychoguy. You didn't say that, but I'll put that out there in case it's applicable... and it might be. He said he "might" love you at the 4-month mark; at 5 months, you said it too, and it "did not end well" and he "needed more time." In the meantime, some 5+ months after his previous relationship ended, he was still hanging around for her. And now, a year later, he's still coy.
posted by Houstonian at 8:36 PM on November 29, 2009 [15 favorites]

It sounds like you are in a state of limerence, which I can attest is not fun whatsoever (to put it lightly). But knowing what you're up against helps a whole lot. I would suggest that it's not him that you are constantly thinking about, but the idea of him. The idea of him can be replaced by another guy.. I think that makes sense..

If he pursues I would say chase the rabbit down the rabbit hole. Carefully. If it works out, great. If it doesn't, hopefully your limerence will be cleared up.

Remember that you're only human, just like the rest of us. Humans can't escape these emotional states, but we can deal with them smartly and without regret.
posted by pwally at 8:38 PM on November 29, 2009 [3 favorites]

I've managed to come a long way with #2, but what's been fundamental for me is not giving myself permission to act like a psychogirl (well, in my head, I call it "batshitinsane," but, same thing, really). Which means, first, that I do my very best just to act in accordance with the way I'd like to feel, even if it's not always an accurate reflection of my feelings (IE, I want to seem like a cool, non-jealous person, so I don't scream at my husband for going out to lunch with a female coworker, even if it feels right, in the moment). Then, when I feel myself starting to act batshitinsane, I divert myself and my energy: I go for a walk, go on metafilter, call a friend, rather than giving in. Finally, I don't seek ways to give myself permission or justify what I know is my own pettiness. I don't tell myself "Well, I'm PMSing, so it's okay if I want to burst into tears over X." I do my best to be aware of those thoughts as part and parcel of the problem, rather than a solution to the problem.

This was hard for me at first, and it's taken a few years (and, uh, a change of birth control, too). At first, I wondered if I was muting my own responses, and I was afraid I'd be walked all over. But that hasn't really happened. I still get angry when it's really, really justified, I'm just not angry/hurt/upset/jealous all the time. Independent of the relationship stuff, it's definitely been worth it for my own peace of mind and stress levels.

Good luck!
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 8:40 PM on November 29, 2009 [13 favorites]

But also, yeah, what Houstonian said. I call shenanigans on some of this dude's behavior.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 8:41 PM on November 29, 2009 [1 favorite]

He called to tell me that he'd had a great time that night, then went incommunicado. And I'm kind of getting back into the mild psycho-y habit of "where the hell is he? Why hasn't he called? What is he doing? I see he's online..."

One last thing: keep in mind that freaking out can sometimes be just a way to force the other party to pay attention to you--or at least it was in my case. Firstly, this isn't fair. Secondly, it isn't attractive. Thirdly, is the kind of attention you'd get for grilling him about his whereabouts after one date really the kind you want? Just something to think about.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 8:43 PM on November 29, 2009 [2 favorites]

There's definitely something weird about how he's acting. He doesn't know how to interpret 'enjoying someone's company', or he needs to feel needed (so he drops these little hooks into conversation), or he misses the attention you paid him, or he wants love but is terrified of it... I don't know. But there's something weird there, and there is evidence from the past that his feelings don't hold up from one conversation to the next. Try not to care too much; some people just say things. I do know from experience, though, that that's really hard to believe until you corner him and force him to admit "I dunno, it just seemed like the thing to say..." or "well, that was how I felt then, but I don't feel that way now (a week later)...". Some people can just get under your skin that way, and you may have to do the weird awkward confrontation thing to get him out of your head. Even though it's a bit 'psycho' to ask "Hey, when you said you'd been missing my company, what exactly did you mean?", it's not so bad as long as you can keep a level head and not go nuts on him. Have an image in your head of how you want to act.

Sorry to hear about the BC interaction, by the way - I had some of the same psycho effects but just like PMS, having the awareness that "I'm not really crying because of what you said, I'm crying because my body is full of crazy chemicals right now" helps me avoid lashing out and at least make an attempt at explaining that it's got nothing to do with whoever I'm with. For me it went away after a month or two, but I know for other people there's been great success from changing BC, so you might want to try a different brand and see if that works better for you (assuming you'd rather be on it than not, if it weren't for the insanity).
posted by Lady Li at 8:58 PM on November 29, 2009

Wait, why are you calling yourself names? It sounds like you're a human being.
posted by citron at 9:03 PM on November 29, 2009 [7 favorites]

My advice is to move on and forget about him- it just seems like if you start seeing him again, it will be too easy to slip into the old patterns. (which has already started happening). You're not Psychogirl and can date without turning into Pyschogirl- so maybe it's something about this particular fellow that brings out the Pyschogirl. Your goal should be to find someone who brings out the best in you, not someone who, for whatever reason, stimulates your insecurities.
posted by emd3737 at 9:14 PM on November 29, 2009 [4 favorites]

I first want to say... my god, do I ever feel your pain. Birth control can really be the devil (which is why I am no longer on it myself.) I'm sorry you had to go through that, and with someone who didn't seem particularly sensitive/understanding to boot.

Whether or not he gets a second chance is up to you, of course. If you still love him and want to make things work and feel confident that he'd give 100% of himself to such an effort, then by all means go for it. But it doesn't seem that way at this point, does it? In fact, it didn't seem that way when you guys were actually together, from your account of what happened. It seems like seeing you did trigger some nostalgic feelings in him, and of course he likely cares about you as well. Don't take that to mean he wants to get back together. He did his duty and called to tell you he had fun, and now he's keeping a distance. If he felt ready for anything more than that, I think you'd be made aware. You've made huge strides in moving forward, personal insight/perspective, etc. Please don't let yourself regress because of one night of nostalgia.

As per the psychogirl behavior - the constant wondering what he's doing, what he's up to, why he hasn't called, if he's online - I relate to this completely. COMPLETELY. And yeah. It feels psychotic. But you were able to overcome this before. And you did that with space. Space, distance, time. It's so important. You need that again. "I want to not think about him, live my very busy life, and just take it a day at a time." You CAN do this. Take him off your buddy list, first of all. Defriend him on social networking sites if that's an issue. Take his number out of your phone. Keep BUSY. Further, obsessive self-pressure to NOT think about something often has the opposite effect. You're going to think about him. There's no way to erase him from your mind. Allow yourself to do it. And stop labeling yourself as a psycho. You're absolutely normal and human.

I was once in this situation. My ex dealt with our breakup, and the later complications arising from it, by not given them one iota of compartmentalizing, avoiding, the point where I got the impression that he didn't care at all. (Which of course made me feel worse for obsessing from afar...which in turn made me feel like a pathetic loser...which in turn made me feel unlovable and worthless... while he was a-ok, keeping busy, going on with his life.) DO WHAT HE DOES. (I once wrote this on my hand to keep from obsessively checking email one day.) Is he checking to see if I'm online? No, he's busy at work. Is he wondering what I'm doing tonight? No, he's hanging out with his own friends. Is he waiting by his phone for me to call/text? Hellz. No. Do what he does. And do what you've already proven yourself strong enough to do.
posted by blackcatcuriouser at 9:19 PM on November 29, 2009 [10 favorites]

If you really like him it might be worth trying again as the circumstances are better. But give yourself permission to be a bit of an ice queen- don't feel like it's all on you. Give him a chance to make you happy this time. If he fails to do so, then move on.
posted by fshgrl at 10:13 PM on November 29, 2009

You already have a lot of good advice, so I will just say this. It's not psycho at all to be suspicious of someone who is behaving in a suspicious way. Someone who is constantly "rescuing" their very needy ex is behaving in a suspicious way.

And I don't think it's psycho to feel jerked around, by someone who is jerking you around. "I think I might love you/ I don't know how I feel, I need more space/ BRB, my ex needs me to tie her shoes for her," indeed.

I would say, if he wants to get back together, give it a shot with someone who wants *you* and is sure how they feel about you, first.
posted by Ashley801 at 10:23 PM on November 29, 2009 [5 favorites]

And I don't think it's psycho to feel jerked around, by someone who is jerking you around. "I think I might love you/ I don't know how I feel, I need more space/ BRB, my ex needs me to tie her shoes for her," indeed.

Yes, totally this. You may be psycho right now for any number of reasons, but in my experience (as a generally non-psycho person), if a relationship makes you feel/behave unstably, it's probably not very good for you. No matter whether it's your fault or his (or both, or neither), there's very likely something about your shared dynamic that isn't healthy or beneficial. He may be "everything [you] want in a guy," but I promise there are plenty of people out there who have those same qualities, and can remain friends with their exes in ways that don't make you nuts. Hold out for one of them.
posted by soviet sleepover at 11:02 PM on November 29, 2009 [6 favorites]

Just a thought: When you find yourself feeling really anxious and insecure in a relationship it may be because the other person is being elusive and evasive - in other words, feeding your insecurity. So consider that you are not actually "psychogirl" without reason, but that actually you are responding appropriately to the behavior and actions of the other person. Once you realize that, you can respond appropriately to his behavior rather than get emeshed in your own anxieties and fears. For example, if you send(t) an email (or other communication) and said it was nice to see him too, don't take on worrying if you don't hear from him; just resolve that it was a nice afternoon and leave it at that. Put another way, if he was saying things like he misses you and might want to get back together, he's playing you.

Oh, and you are falling for it.
posted by zia at 11:11 PM on November 29, 2009 [6 favorites]

The author of "He's just not that into you" was on a talk show, I remember..and he provided an illustration of a guy who has a batch of neckties in his closet..he said the guy likes all the ties ..but some more than others. He doesn't throw any of them away--because he likes to wear them all. The point is that all these ties are somewhat interchangeable. Your guy sounds like that guy. Someone who has plenty of choices--and he holds them all in a reserve until a really glam tie shows up and then all his regular ties will be shoved into the back of the closet. This sounds like the man you are describing.because if he were "that into you" I bet he would have gotten rid of the ex...because you undoubtedly showed him in some ways that you didn't like her buzzing around. He is keeping all the ties in his closet.

I think you could do better.
posted by naplesyellow at 12:19 AM on November 30, 2009 [5 favorites]

This is trite, but the only lines of a book I otherwise couldn't give a damn about: In The Accidental Tourist, Macon says "it doesn't matter how much you love someone, it's who you are when you are in love with them" [or similar].

This has been rolling around the recesses of my brain throughout my relationship history - what am I like when I am around this person? Am I being my best me in this relationship? Do I feel safe and happy, expressive and clear? I've been prone to the crazies with some partners, yet have gone for some years without a single tear, raised voice or hysterics with others.
posted by honey-barbara at 2:38 AM on November 30, 2009 [22 favorites]

Based on what you're saying, you don't like your own behavior when this guy comes into orbit, so I'm wondering if you're like this in all your relationships or just with this one in particular.

If you are doing psychogirl (and no stones here, sistah, I've done it myself) and obsessing about this one guy, then I'd like to think you're reacting to someone who sends ambiguous messages. How the H*ll are you supposed to react? Of course you'd be confused. "I like him, he acts pretty swell, then nothing..." would drive most people batshit. So I'd try to forget about him in particular.

But if you do this in all relationships (and again, so stones here, just asking for an honesty check), you possibly have some bigger issues about insecurities and dealing with men.
posted by dzaz at 3:21 AM on November 30, 2009

Heed the "keep busy" advice above--it's the best you're gonna get on this subject. And stop being so hard on yourself, all right? You're not a psycho. You're reacting appropriately to his rather inappropriate behavior. And it must be doubly miserable because frankly, this guy sounds like a d-bag. My condolences.
posted by balls at 5:23 AM on November 30, 2009

I assume that you are seeing him online through one of the instant messenger programs - remove his name from it. If you're seeing him online as a contact on gmail, you can set it to hide him. Removing the constant reminder to be thinking about him will really really help.
posted by stoneweaver at 9:03 AM on November 30, 2009 [1 favorite]

A quick reply from a guy who's dated A LOT of psychogirls...

EVERYBODY thinks obsessively about recent exes, just before the breakup (as you did), after the breakup (as you did), and after running into them followed by the ex making an open-ended pass at them (as you did). All perfectly normal, and terribly upsetting, alas.

Psychogirls act on those obsessive thoughts - especially the worst ones. They call repeatedly, leave begging, demanding, or "negotiating" messages; they show up at his house uninvited (even after being discouraged by him); they do stuff that they'd be embarassed to mention to their best friends and therapist - on a daily basis.

You don't sound psycho; you sound heartsick. There are many ways out of this, but none involve beating yourself up with inaccurate insults.

Best of luck.
posted by IAmBroom at 10:24 AM on November 30, 2009 [2 favorites]

"He called to tell me that he'd had a great time that night, then went incommunicado."

Ball's in your court. Call him back and let him know you did, too. That answers #1. As to #2, if you have a thought of wondering where he is or whatever, call and ask him what he's up to and if he'd like to hang out. If you're clingy now you're going to be clingy in 5 years so if that's not something he's cool with, you two should find out sooner than later. By reaching out to him you'll satisfy the "I want him near me" side so that the "he's not near me, I hurt, he must be hurting me, oh maybe he's a bad guy" side won't come around so much.

So I guess on #2, instead of treating yourself like a crazy person when you want to reach out to someone, just let yourself do it. It sounds like you're just being really hard on yourself and expecting yourself to be some blase, "I'll date 5 guys real casually for a few months before I pick one I like" kind of girls. Not everyone is, lots of people want to focus on one person, and that's OK.
posted by lorrer at 4:18 PM on November 30, 2009

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