I know his anxiety isn't his fault
July 22, 2010 7:11 AM   Subscribe

My boyfriend and I are about to take The Bar Exam in less than a week. A few days ago, my boyfriend was having severe anxiety attacks and suddenly decided he'd be better off at his folks' house. We talked about it, I supported it, and he flew home that night. Now I'm alone in our house and I'm freaking out dealing with my own depression and anxiety. I know (I know, I really know) that what happened isn't his fault, and that he needs to do what is best for him, and that this doesn't mean he doesn't care about me. But my irrational me keeps feeling abandoned. I need advice on how to recontextualize the situation or something because with four days left I don't really have time or energy to spend being irrationally angry.

My boyfriend and I have a very good relationship and are very open about our individual emotional and mental issues. We'd spent a whole summer taking a bar review course and studying together, and stressing out together. We live together, so we've also been exposed to some pretty extreme stress-induced behavior on both sides, and we each have a pretty full understanding of the other's quirks issues.

He has suffered, on and off, with severe anxiety with physical manifestations, including nausea and insomnia. We tried a few things to help him sleep better, but nothing short of prescription meds really seem to work for him. I've never been diagnosed, but in the last year I suspect I may be suffering a mild depression, or at the very least have been enormously bummed out by my failure to get a job and anxiety about the future. I don't have any physical symptoms but the stress about the exam has exacerbated my already fragile emotional state, and has prompted daily crying fits, exhaustion, and a general inability to be motivated to do anything. And while I don't necessarily need someone to be at my beck and call, it's really hard for me to be alone right now. With my boyfriend gone and my best friends all in the same position as me (studying and freaking out themselves), I don't really have anyone to turn to for even a nice little pep talk.

And the worst part for me is that I do understand, I wasn't lying when I told him he should do what he thinks is best for him right now and that I wasn't angry or upset in any way with him. And I'm not, really. I love him so much and I recognize that in hoping I could help him deal with it I was convincing myself I could be useful, which went a long way toward shaking off my general malaise. And I rationally understand that it is selfish.

But he's the worst long-distance communicator ever even in the best situation, and the infrequent communication makes me anxious and sad, and then when I do chat with him online I feel the impulse to be passive aggressive, like I'm compelled to make sure that he knows I sacrificed my emotional well-being so he didn't have to. I know that is crazy. And then every few hours the thought will creep in that he left me, he gets to be home with his parents taking care of him and a full fridge and no street noise and he left me to deal with the house and everything else all by myself and then I get mad. I know I can't be mad.

I guess what I'm looking for is insight from people who have been in either my situation or his, and who can give me a better idea of how best to be supportive of him while still (probably after the exam) communicating how I felt. I don't really have experience with his kind of anxiety so I don't really know how to best handle it. I want to be a good girlfriend, but I can't pretend that I don't need help too.

Note: We don't really have access to therapy now but it is a first priority for both of us when we relocate next month.
posted by mishamashes to Human Relations (29 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Do you have someone else in your life (a best friend, a relative, a co-worker) with whom you can share four days' worth of anxiety and passive-aggressiveness? You know that the time is limited and that the circumstances that are triggering his (and your) anxiety will be over after that time.

You can discuss your feelings when you both have taken the bar, but I think it's just going to make both of you feel worse if you try to hash it all out between now and the test.
posted by xingcat at 7:18 AM on July 22, 2010

Bar exams are like going through labor. You should forgive both him and you for anything you may say or do during this time.

Specifically, accept your own feelings. I'm not even going to say "forgive yourself," because you have nothing to forgive yourself for. Of course you're upset. It's an upsetting situation. It blows goats. Saying this actually makes things better, I have found.

If you possibly have time to eat ice cream and watch a ridiculous Britcom this afternoon, whatever would make you less anxious for an hour or so, please do so. Otherwise, make some chamomile tea (really it is very slightly psychoactive) and bitch and moan and do what needs doing next.

Once you've addressed how miserable you feel, and been open about it -- even with him -- dealing with the fallout of his anxiety won't be so fraught for you.
posted by Countess Elena at 7:19 AM on July 22, 2010 [3 favorites]

I really don't mean to be blunt about this, but my brother is taking the bar next week, as well. I e-mailed him about something unrelated yesterday, and his response was "bar in six days. Check back with me next Thursday."

He doesn't need to know how you're feeling right now, nor do you need to tell him how you're feeling. You have a huge test in a few days. Spend your time and energy on that. Focus on communication later.
posted by roomthreeseventeen at 7:20 AM on July 22, 2010 [3 favorites]

give me a better idea of how best to be supportive of him while still (probably after the exam) communicating how I felt.

Yeah, the key phrase is "after the exam."

I completely understand that you have some relationship issues to work through and that you were hurt by what he did, etc. But now is just not. the. time.

If possible, try to imagine that you mutually planned this in advance so that the two of you could have some necessary quiet and solitude in the last few days before the exam.

Even if he were a better long-distance communicator, you still wouldn't want to be spending time talking about deep relationship issues with him. From now till the end of the month, your whole life is going to be the bar exam. I know: that sucks! Well, that's what you and millions of other people signed up for when we went to law school.

This is just not "relationship" time for you right now, in late July of your bar-exam summer. It's black-letter-law time.

Now, what are the elements of that one hearsay exception you have trouble remembering again?
posted by Jaltcoh at 7:24 AM on July 22, 2010

Best answer: My long term boyfriend and I broke up a few weeks before his bar exam. It's a crazy time. If it were me, I'd basically make a plan with your boyfriend to have one communication period each day [maybe 30 minutes of phone calling, not chat or email] and stick to that. Having him keep a schedule with you that you both agree to is something that will reassure you that whatever craziness is happening, you're both on the same team. It's tough when two people are both stressed out and you have to go into triage mode and figure out who is most in need of the limited relationship energy that you both have, but you're the one who has slightly more ability to manage than he does. This is a kindness you are doing for him, allowing him to take care of himself because you actually can take care of yourself [you just don't like it, and that's fine].

Keep a list of things you'd like to talk about. Keep all talk focused on the goals the two of you have and the passing of the Bar that will help you reach those goals. You're a team, but the best way for the two of you to operate is at a distance for the next few days. In the meantime, take care of yourself, exercise and do the minimal amount of other stuff that will make you feel hard done by [whatever "taking care of the house" entails] and get yourself into a good place so that you can move forward with the plans the two of you have. Good luck.
posted by jessamyn at 7:30 AM on July 22, 2010

Best answer: Every second you spend checking this site for answers is a second you are not studying for the bar examination. Stop waiting for your feelings to get better so you can focus.

So, my answer to your question is this: Get up at 7 every day. Eat a good breakfast and shower. Take your time. At 8 AM sharp, start studying. Study for exactly 55 minutes. Take a break of 5 minutes duration, read, play a video game, whatever. Then repeat, until 12 PM. Take an hour for lunch, eat, relax, laugh, whatever. Then at 1 PM start the 55 on, 5 off cycle again. Do until 6 PM. Take another hour for dinner. Then the same cycle from 7-9. Then rest. Repeat every single day until the exam.

This is how I passed the bar. This is how you will pass the bar. Do nothing else.
posted by Ironmouth at 7:32 AM on July 22, 2010 [23 favorites]

Also, if you're taking Maryland, I took it six years ago.
posted by Ironmouth at 7:33 AM on July 22, 2010

Do you have access to Xanax? I am not being glib here. I am not usually for medicating away one's emotions, but this is exactly the kind of stressful situation is for me the exception.

As for your boyfriend, think of it like that pamphlet on airplanes: put your own oxygen mask on first, and then help your partner.
posted by Sara Anne at 7:37 AM on July 22, 2010 [1 favorite]

Triage. In this case, it's easy - sort out what must be done now (study) and what can be done later (everything else). Take Ironmouth's advice, scheduling in a brief contact with your boyfriend, just long enough to say "whew, sure is nice to hear your voice and not be studying" then go back to studying. Everything else can be addressed later, and will.
posted by itstheclamsname at 7:45 AM on July 22, 2010 [1 favorite]

At the risk of sounding like a jerk - *relax*. Seriously. Your boyfriend is freaking out over the bar - it happens. It sounds like you're freaking out too - don't do that.

Here's the thing: This is just a lengthy standardized test. You've been taking these things all your life, and doing damned well on them - or you wouldn't have even gotten into law school. The bar exam does not require brilliance, it does not even require encyclopedic knowledge of the law, and it certainly doesn't require that you devote 12 or 15 hours a day to prepping.

You did BarBri, right? Possibly Kaplan as well? So, at this point in the summer, you know what right anwers and wrong answers look like, both on the MBE and essay exams. Maybe you need to memorize a few FREs, or review a distinction between your state law and MBE-law. It's certainly worthwhile to write practice essays.

But good grief, woman - you're practically a lawyer already. Even if you don't have every hearsay exception memorized to the point you can spout it at will, you know enough about how the FREs work that you can most likely identify a correct answer on the MBE, and craft a decent answer if you've got a hypo on the essay exam. The same holds true for torts questions, con law, crim law, and so on.

You will be fine. You really will. Most people are. Even if you're in, say, New York - once you eliminate bar-exam-retakers, folks who went to bottom-tier law schools, and foreign LLMs, the bar passage rates magically become much less scary. This is just another law school exam, albeit a lengthy one.

And if you can make yourself believe this - and you should, because it's true - you will feel much better about the boyfriend situation. You're worried and stressed about that because you're worried and stressed about *everything*, because you've convinced yourself that the Bar is this big, terrifying thing.

It just isn't. Hand to Ford, I can't recall a day I spent more than four hours studying for the bar last summer, outside of the prep classes. After the classes ended, I probably only spent three hours a day studying, tops. And I passed. (Maryland, not NYC or CA - but there's no such thing as an easy bar). I'm not saying this to say "oh, look, I'm so smart" - because I'm not. Graduated dead-middle of my law school class. Nor am I saying you need to be *as* laid-back about this as me. If you're more comfortable with a six or eight-hour study-day, so be it.

But you will be fine. And even in the unlikely event that you don't pass - you'll still be fine. I have friends who failed the bar the first time - yet the earth remained below them and the heavens above.

You will be fine.
posted by Mr. Excellent at 7:48 AM on July 22, 2010 [1 favorite]

I don't know about the Bar exam, save that I've heard from many people that it's extremely stressful. I do know about grad school however, and when people are going through either their qualifying exams or the final stages of their PhDs they are immensely stressed and, in fact, not really themselves. Just accept the fact that you're both freaking out -it's perfectly normal. Once you're out the other side you'll see that and you can deal with whatever residual problems you have then. For now there's only one priority and that's studying.
posted by ob at 8:02 AM on July 22, 2010

Best answer: The two of you are not in a good place to support each other in the run-up to this exam. Both of you are in the SAME BOAT as all those friends "studying and freaking out themselves" - ie not well-placed to give support to other people including each other. I suspect you're probably jealous that your boyfriend was able to put himself in a position where he could get some basic support - his parents house - while you could not. This is a much better and more accurate way to look at it than that he abandoned you, which he did not.

It's OK to be envious. He got something you would like to have had and you didn't. That's life. Recognise that and move on.

You can spiral this into a huge fucking thing if you want to - he left you! you have to buy all the food yourself! you have to do all the dog walking and feeding! you have nobody to study with! - or you can just deal with the fact that you are studying separately for a week like thousands of other law students and get on with it.

Follow Jessamyn and Ironmouth's good advice. Do not deviate from that plan. You should not be IMing and distracting each other. If you want to talk for 20 minutes every day, talk about how studying is going and what you had for dinner, but even that is optional.
posted by DarlingBri at 8:04 AM on July 22, 2010

Don't worry about it. Honestly, think about the worst case scenario, learn to deal with it, and try to feel strong no matter what. Failing the bar exam isn't the worst thing in the world and it doesn't mean anything to whether or not you'll end up with a successful career. If it makes you feel better, make plans for a safety net of what you do in case you fail.

I'm sure a ton of law grads are going through what you're going through right now, and maybe you can find some support online that can help you have some friends to go to a bar with or study with.
posted by anniecat at 8:06 AM on July 22, 2010

At the end of the day, taking the bar is a road each person walks alone. When I took NY, I was married and living with my now ex-wife; she is a doctor, and so had some perspective on big bad tests, but she didn't really get what it was like to have to learn evidence for the first time for the bar as a transactional lawyer who would literally never need to know it after the exam was over. Same thing with about 40% of the other subjects--it's hard to learn (in detail) maybe a dozen subjects you never heard of before the exam and will never need after the exam. Commercial paper? WTF?

I took the MA bar in a new city, marriage over, just broke up with my then GF, knew few people in town, living alone, spoke to next to no one for about a month.

Both scenarios were hard. I'm sorry you're not feeling supported, and I feel like I've been there, too. But no one can really support you through this (and having the two of you together could, in fact, be a disastrous feedback loop of anxiety). Indeed, even when I was studying for NY with all my classmates, I intentionally cut them out of my life for the last week--you really don't wan't to find out that they have been cramming on the subject you've been ignoring and then feel bad about your study program.

Put it out of your mind for now. Concentrate on studying and treating yourself right. You can totally do this. Good luck!
posted by Admiral Haddock at 8:13 AM on July 22, 2010 [1 favorite]

Is the time you're spending on "not being mad" cutting into the time you need to (a) take care of your basic needs, and (b) study? It sounds like it might be. I haven't taken the bar, but I've gone through PhD comps and dissertation defense, and I flipped the hell out in the process.

Set the timer on your microwave for five minutes, get a piece of paper and a pen, and write your mad down. Get it out, get it down, take a shower, and get back to what you need to be doing. Part of the reason you're freaking out is that you have this strong emotion and nobody with whom you can discuss it. Later, you can burn the paper, flush it, wad it up and throw it in the garbage - it doesn't matter, because it's served its purpose by absorbing the anger that's getting in the way. Five minutes to save five hours? Worth it.
posted by catlet at 8:15 AM on July 22, 2010

1) I would have seriously killed both my husband and myself if we were taking the bar at the same time. Oy vey. Talk about a stress stew.

2) After the bar was over, I was like, "Wow, I cannot believe I put that much emotional energy into freaking out over something that was not that big a deal." It will seem much less bad after it's over.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 8:16 AM on July 22, 2010

Look, by this point, you've been through the high school, SATs/ACTs, undergrad, LSATs, law school final exams and the MPRE. If you've put even a minimal amount of effort into studying for the bar exam, which it sounds like you have, you'll be fine.

It's actually not a hard test, relative to something like the CPA exam or the bar in Japan (<5>
Everyone deals with this kind of stress in his/her own way.

The Bar exam is nerve wracking for everyone. I passed. You and your boyfriend will too.
posted by banishedimmortal at 8:26 AM on July 22, 2010

Best answer: Huh. I tend to disagree with everybody else. Get this thing with your boyfriend settled now, then get back to studying.

I have friends and relatives who have taken the CA bar, so I know how hard and long the process is, and how much cramming can actually help. (Isn't it comforting to know that cramming for a test is a critical ability for certifying lawyers?)

However, my2c is you're going to do a lot better on the test if you get your feelings about your boyfriend resolved ASAP, because it's obvious that those feelings are not resolved and/or haven't been completely communicated to him, and it's obvious that it's affecting your ability to prepare for the test.

I'm compelled to make sure that he knows I sacrificed my emotional well-being so he didn't have to. I know that is crazy.

That is not crazy. You would be much happier and do much better on the test (and be able to prepare for the test better) if he were living with you. That seems to be what you're saying. He has chosen not to, for his own reasons. I'm sure he considered your feelings, of course, but like me, you may be wondering "how much did he consider them?"

He has decided that he would rather be on his own, or study with the support of his parents, leaving you with the support of ... ? Not only has he indicated that his performance on the test is more important than yours to him, he's also indicated a willingness to let you hang on your own. That kinda sucks.

And then every few hours the thought will creep in that he left me, he gets to be home with his parents taking care of him and a full fridge and no street noise and he left me to deal with the house and everything else all by myself and then I get mad. I know I can't be mad

But you are mad, and saying "I can't be mad" doesn't seem to be helping. In fact, it seems to be making things worse.

Of course you don't want to get into a protracted "fight" that ends up ruining your ability to prepare for the exam any further. (I would advise against that at all costs.)

However, I personally think that you need to resolve the issue with your boyfriend. It seems like you need some acknowledgment that he truly understands what you have sacrificed for him or how you are feeling about it now. An "I understand and I'm sorry, but I had to do this" can sometimes mean a lot ... especially if it has never been said.

You can discuss your feelings when you both have taken the bar, but I think it's just going to make both of you feel worse if you try to hash it all out between now and the test.

You don't need to hash everything out. But I think you DO need him to acknowledge your feelings (if he hasn't already).

As usual, it's all about communication. In this case, I would recommend a short conversation (however you do it best, IM or phone or whatever) explaining how you feel and asking him to verbally acknowledge it.

Don't worry about apologies or larger causes or anything like that. Just get on the same page with him.

Living apart from a partner when it's not your choice is not fun. At all. I would make sure he knows that and understands what you have done for him.

If you've ALREADY done that and had that conversation/exchange, than yeah, try to forget about it and focus on the test for the next week. There are some good suggestions above, including the one about writing for a specific time about your mad feelings.

This is a kindness you are doing for him, allowing him to take care of himself because you actually can take care of yourself

I guess that's part of the problem for me. Did he offer to take you with him to stay at his parents? Why not?

The thing is that he's NOT taking care of himself. He's got his family to likely help with meals and probably laundry too. And you've got what you've always got. It's like he decided to go on a vacation to a hotel by himself to better prepare for an event ... that you both were preparing for.

The problem is not that you can't take care of yourself or even that you don't like to. The problem is the inherent unfairness of the situation. He needs to acknowledge that and perhaps even apologize for it.

Last note of a tl;dr: for god's sake, if you're studying for the bar, log off bloody metafilter!!
posted by mrgrimm at 8:26 AM on July 22, 2010 [2 favorites]

In this case, I would recommend a short conversation (however you do it best, IM or phone or whatever)

Actually, wrong. Sorry I would definitely recommend a face to face conversation, over dinner or something. (I'm assuming you're living with biking/driving distance.) Full stomach recommended for that (short and hopefully rewarding) conversation.
posted by mrgrimm at 8:29 AM on July 22, 2010

Great advice above. I really like the idea of a schedule -- mine was a little different from Ironmouth's. For New York, 1) I got up early, padded down to a cafe, planted myself there for the morning without my phone, worked through the stuff on my schedule, identifying any problem areas; 2) went to the gym over lunch; 3) came back to my apartment for a few hours of further study only; 4) decompressed -- (possibilities include watching bad television, reading comic books, jumping around to old punk rock music, talking to boyfriend for a few minutes, vomiting all the stressy stuff out in a journal, and whatnot.)

Your mental state is important here, and you might need to be a little creative about how to address it for the next few days. Sleep is paramount -- would your doctor prescribe a sleep aid for a few nights so you can get some rest? Do you have a non-bar-taking support system? Call your folks, your old friends, etc. to get some perspective. Also, if you can keep yourself from cramming until the last minute, you will probably go in stronger -- give your brain a chance to rest.

Your mental state is also really important during the test. The people who did not pass during my administration were those who were trying to plan a wedding during bar prep, those who were really tweaked out because they studied all night and hadn't slept for days, and those who failed to appreciate that they had to really study and couldn't get away with just being smart. I almost whiffed it myself because I thought I did so badly that I almost didn't go back after the first day. You will feel like this, I suspect. It's a sign of really grappling with the material. You will pass. You will get your life back.
posted by *s at 8:41 AM on July 22, 2010

Response by poster: @DarlingBri: Yeah, I know. I've been annoyed with myself for being angry about stupid things, this is the problem. I wouldn't be annoyed with myself if I felt completely justified. But the last few days have reminded me that there are many delicious takeout places in my neighborhood that I've been neglecting.

@Ironmouth: Ha, I actually set a timer and told myself I would study for an hour straight before I checked back.

@mrgrimm: What you said is pretty much exactly how I feel, however unfair it might be to him. I definitely needed that bit of vindication so I could get rid of the guilt from being angry.

Thanks for the advice, everyone. I know I'm in the same boat as so many other people --actually surprised there wasn't already an "OMGTAKINGTHEBARWHATTODO" question yet. Other than being mad and envious, I'm doing all the right things (yoga, food, magazine and beer before bedtime). I guess I just couldn't figure out what to say to him and whether I should lie and say everything's hunky-dory (he would probably know I was lying). I certainly won't embark on any Significant Relationship Conversations anytime soon, especially because I can't see this being a problem in about a week. Until the next time something stressful comes up, I guess.

@Ironmouth pt. 2: okay, breaktime over
posted by mishamashes at 8:48 AM on July 22, 2010

My wife and I were married for five years when she took the bar exam and we have now been married for 21 years. During the time she was getting ready to take the bar I fantasized about strangling her. If we were both taking the bar, I think someone would have gotten killed (I think I'm exaggerating). Several couples that she attended law school with broke up during this period. All of them fought. I have come to regard that time as something similar to my wife being possessed by aliens. We weren't nearly as good at being a couple as we are now, so maybe we could handle it smoothly now -- but I doubt it. I think of it as a time that is similar to one of us gets very sick or has a death in the family -- the rules are suspended and the affected person gets to be a terrible partner for a while. Sadly, in your case, you are both going through it, so there is little to do but deal with it.

I would strongly suggest that you take note of the fact that lots of us had relationships go to hell during the process and came out of it on the other side stronger and better couples. The key to getting right is to take plenty of time after the bar to discuss in detail how you feel (and felt) and to help him to truly understand what it meant to you. When he understands, I'll wager you will feel a lot better about things and his reaction will comfort you.

However, right now, this is noise. When you need to calm your mind, you can remind yourself that lots of people have had the same experiences as you and it worked out fine -- but mostly you need to shut off that part of your mind as best you can and focus. If you try to work on it long distance with both of you strung as tight as a fiddle, it will go badly. And everything will be that much harder. Put it on the shelf, promise yourself to work on it after and memorize more civil procedure.
posted by Lame_username at 8:57 AM on July 22, 2010

I can tell everyone from experience that the situation involving the bf is a method for distracting oneself from the anxiety about the bar. You cannot solve the communication problem, because your mind will continue to create problems to avoid thinking about the bar anxiety. Instead, focus on the bar anxiety. You don't have time to do anything else.

the idea that working things out with a bf will help one do better on the bar exam than actually studying for that exam makes no sense. Half of what studying is doing is just relieving fears via working on the problem.
posted by Ironmouth at 8:58 AM on July 22, 2010 [5 favorites]

I think it really depends on your own personal psychology. If I have unresolved emotional issues causing anxiety, I *know* that I will perform worse on most focused tasks. I strongly believe in the power of positive thinking, and emotional stability is a big part of that for me. YMMV.
posted by mrgrimm at 9:55 AM on July 22, 2010

Been through dual bar studying too - it is certainly stressful. Our rule, fwiw, is that we couldn't each freak out at the same time. It actually worked - the one whose 'turn' it was to not freak out was able to control himself/herself to comfort the other.

That said, in your scenario I recommend that you:

(1) Supress the stress/anger - you don't have time for a big, blown out fight at this point. Regardless of who is right and who is wrong, you also don't want to trigger the kind of stress-induced nastiness that could really send one or both of you into a tailspin. Imagine how you will feel if you trigger a really nasty, drawn-out, emotional fight and then one or both of you fail the bar. O even how you would feel if, for two to three months - before results - one or both of you think that the fight caused you or him to fail the bar.
(2) Give yourself permission to raise those issues fully AFTER the bar. Some of what you're angry about does sound valid (i.e. why didn't he offer to bring you with him), so maybe allowing yourself to merely postpone the argument will allow you to get through the next few days;
(3) Prevail on your freinds - even bar studying friends - for at least some venting/pep-talking. I certainly would have made time for my friend even 4 days before the bar - it would have been my study break for the day;
(4) Get through the next 4 days by plugging away at it and remembering that in 6 days it will all be behind you!
(5) Try to give him pep talks - you might just cheer yourself up in the process. Remember you are a team, and you love each other.

Very, very soon this stress and anxiety and depression will evaporate with the pure joy of being DONE with bar studying and bar test-taking. You'll see!
posted by n'muakolo at 10:08 AM on July 22, 2010

After the dust has settled, I might consider what I thought about a partner who would rather turn to his parents for comfort than me. Good luck with the bar.
posted by CwgrlUp at 12:02 PM on July 22, 2010 [1 favorite]

My fiancée and I did the double bar study. Went pretty well. Take some deep breaths, don't stress out too much, and take the occasional evening off. Things will be fine.
posted by craven_morhead at 1:12 PM on July 22, 2010

Can you get out for a few hours? I took two bar exams and passed them both, and I made sure to get out of the house for a few hours a day. Some of my friends thought I was crazy, but in retrospect it kept me sane and stopped me from really freaking out.
When I took the bar exam in California, I only had to take two out of the three days because I was taking the attorney's exam. You know what I did the second day when everybody else was taking the exam or studying? I read Harry Potter. All.Day.Long and I relaxed and I passed the exam (only a 30% passage rate for that exam that year). I also studied all day until 10 p.m. and then I went to the late movie and turned off my brain.

So my advice is to not think "OMG, OMG, OMG, OMG, the exam is FOUR DAYS and I HAVE TO STUDY EVERY HOUR UNTIL THEN AND MY BOYFRIEND LEFT ME HERE ALONE...." But instead to say, "I will study for a reasonable amount of time (8 hours a day) and then I will have some time off and drink a glass of wine/go to a movie/get out of the house/see some friends. Taking this time off will not undermine my performance on the bar, but instead will help me relax and focus and be well-rested and in a positive mood when I take the exam.

Good Luck. The bar's not worth a panic attack. really.
posted by bananafish at 4:05 PM on July 22, 2010 [1 favorite]

You say both that you understand and support his decision and love him so much that you wanted him to do what's best for him, and that you are having a great deal of trouble being alone right now. It sounds to me like you think that denying your own needs, so that he won't have to do anything for you, is an act of love and compassion for him.

It isn't. It's true that this is a time of great stress and the rest of life won't be like this, but it's also true that what people bring to times of stress is the same self and patterns and tendencies they bring to all of life. You are setting up a pattern where he is the needy one and the way you take care of him is by not having needs. Then you feel unloved and want him to see what you've sacrificed for him. At present you see yourself doing this. If this pattern becomes set, you won't see it anymore. You'll just do it, over and over.

You don't need to be mad at him to see that you deserve more than permanent caretaker status. Your support and his acceptance of it were in good faith. But you are both struggling with a lot. You need to find a way for that struggle to be together - the two of you against the anxiety and the stress. You both need to be caretakers and be taken care of. So AFTER the bar you can tell him that you see this pattern happening - and that you need to change it because it's not good for your relationship or for either of you, and that you know you need to give him a chance to give love and support as well. If it turns out he only wanted to be taken care of - well, apparently his mother doesn't mind. But I bet he'd like the chance to show that he is more than just a big pile of needs.
posted by Betsy Vane at 11:21 PM on July 23, 2010

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