Help me stop freaking out at my bf
January 13, 2012 9:11 AM   Subscribe

Help me conquer my insecurity in relationships!

It has come to my attention that I am one of those annoyingly insecure girlfriends. Several of my friends have called me out on it, and it's caused some strife with my boyfriend. My current boyfriend is a complete sweetheart and cares about my feelings, but we've been long-distance for about three months (dating for five). The first two months when we were together, I was not insecure, or at least if I was, it didn't harm our relationship in any way.

Examples of my insecurity:

1. last night my bf and I were talking about threesomes and he started to get way more interested-sounding than I was comfortable with. He texted me after we hung up to ask if 'I would really do that' and I started to think things like-- he must not care about me as much as before if he wants to have sex with someone else. He texted me this morning to tell me he thought I was the one who sounded more interested in it.

2. also last night, he tried calling me while I was at work, and I didn't answer. I called him later on my lunch break and he said he was working and couldn't talk. It was very late his time so I began to wonder if maybe he was just at home working and didn't want to answer my call, which upset me. I asked him if he was at work and he said he still was (so I was getting upset over nothing).

3. We were texting the other night before bed and I sent him a sweet text telling him he was cute, he answered and said why?, and I said you just are, am I not allowed to tell my bf that? He never answered that text (I am sure he just fell asleep or stopped looking at his phone) and I texted him the next morning to say, you never answered my cute text! I wasn't mad really and it wasn't that big of a deal, but maybe I should not have said that.

4. the one period when we were fighting, it was because I felt like I wasn't getting enough attention from him. We went from Skyping a couple hours a day to brief phone calls etc, which I have adjusted to but it was hard at first. We got in a couple big fights and I texted him a lot during them, I'm ashamed to admit, probably like 20 times in a row and just felt so ignored because I was so upset and he was just at a party not answering me.

I have been insecure in past relationships, but the guys have been pretty big douchebags (purposefully ignoring me, cheating on me, etc) so I've justified it as, oh well, they were treating me badly, so that's why I was insecure. But, now I don't have an excuse, because my boyfriend treats me really well. My friend said I need a ton of attention, and my other friend said I expect a text back from him way too fast (which is sometimes true, esp if we're in a fight, but sometimes I could care less if he doesn't answer for two/three hours-- it just depends).

There are, overall, just more times than I'd like where I started to assume something negative and it all turns out okay.

I do not at all have this issue with friends, although I am a pretty emotional person in general. I feel terrible and sort of sorry for my boyfriend and I sometimes feel like I am just undateable because of all this. I am not in the least bit jealous, I trust his fidelity 100% and we have never had so much as a hiccup over that, but I just get anxious waiting for texts sometimes, or start to think maybe he cares about me less than before. I don't want to be crazy girlfriend, and we have an overall healthy relationship that I don't want to ruin.

Is there hope for me? How do I change and chill out? I am 25, if that matters, maybe I will just grow out of it!
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (22 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
Mostly overthinking things. These sound like ripples to me, not big waves... and some of them (#2 him not replying to every text you send is a bit controlling) aren't even ripples.
posted by IAmBroom at 9:17 AM on January 13, 2012

This sounds exactly like a job for you and a cognitive behavioral therapist.
posted by Zozo at 9:18 AM on January 13, 2012 [4 favorites]

You are not undateable and you can grow out of it but the problem will not fix itself.

If you're in a fight, and you need to get a hold of him, text him once, and once only, to ask if he's someplace where he can talk, or to call you when he is. Leave it at that. Don't discuss your relationship via the medium of text messages and really, really don't fight via texts - it's an asychronous medium in which context is not always easy to grasp.

Honestly I'm thinking that Zozo is on the money here: the underlying issues are really something cognitive behavioral therapy could help you address.
posted by FAMOUS MONSTER at 9:23 AM on January 13, 2012 [2 favorites]

I used to be pretty insecure (and sometimes still am) until I realized there is no upside to it. None. It drives the other person crazy, it drives you crazy, it drives your friends crazy when you vent about it. It's the equivalent of banging your head against the wall.

You won't "change," per se, that is, you might always jump to OMG he doesn't really love me as your first instinct. But the less you act on that instinct (or fuel the thoughts), the less it becomes OMG urgent.

My advice: be mindful. When that OMG feeling comes up, sit with it. Just feel the bodily sensations - heart racing, breathing heavy, whatever. Don't do anything. If the urge to call him is absolutely uncontrollable, immediately do something else. Take a walk without your phone. Take a shower.

My other advice: really think on the fact that what another person thinks of you has no bearing on your intrinsic worth as a person. This guy could cheat on you, scream I hate you, and your worth hasn't changed one bit. Tying your self-worth to what other people feel is like tying a concrete block to your ankle and jumping in the ocean. There is nowhere to go but down, there is nothing to do but drown. No one but you will ever fill that void in your soul.

Be patient with yourself. Forgive yourself. Do things just for you.
posted by desjardins at 9:34 AM on January 13, 2012 [26 favorites]

One thing that jumped out at me was in your point #1 - this came up in another thread (about public speaking) that, in terms of voice, anxiety can be interpreted as excitement. Unless you were video chatting, he may not have been able to tell that you were getting distressed.

Maybe you're getting anxious and worried because you don't feel reassured of his feelings for you and your importance in his life - that sometimes comes with long-distance territory. This comes up on metafilter often, but take a look at the Five Love Languages and try to figure out what would mean the most to you, then tell him.

This sounds more like communication drama than serious issues - you may be able to address them by removing ambiguity. State how you feel, since he can't pick up on it over the phone. Make sure you're not communicating passive-aggressively, and if something confuses you, ask the question.

Uncertainty just leaves room for conjecture; if you tend to be anxious, that room will get filled with DOOM DOOM DOOM.
posted by bookdragoness at 9:39 AM on January 13, 2012

I agree with zozo and famous monster, you might want to consider seeing a therapist or getting a self help book.

We all take relationships differently and it is important to realize you cannot be someone who you aren't. But it is important to try to improve your perception on how others act. So you don't have to react in a way you don't like.
Sometimes I really don't like the way I react to others comments, and I realized it's me. I also realize this is usually during my time of the month. When I'm about to get to my time of the month, I let my husband know so he can help me with my perception of things said.
Good Luck :)
posted by redandblue at 9:43 AM on January 13, 2012

Your framing of each situation comes across as very problematic. This isn't something that cannot be repaired, but you need to change how you frame situations and how you handle confrontation and your insecurities. This needs to be addressed with your boyfriend because I'm fairly certain that he would have noticed this type of behaviour by now.

It's nothing to be embarrassed about because this is fairly common, but it shouldn't be ignored because there seems to be tension which may have resulted from insecurities.

In response to a few of the situations that you mentioned:
1. When your boyfriend says that he can't talk, then tell him that it's okay and that he can call you whenever he's available instead. Tell yourself that he is either busy or needs some space alone (like we all do) because he is either exhausted or not in a talkative mood right now. This is not a reflection of you, but rather how he feels. Give him the space that he needs so that he can talk to you when he's ready, has more time, and wants to actually talk to you (saves you from unnecessary conflict).

2. Personally, I would have said something like your boyfriend and asked why because I would have wanted to hear your reasons. But, if you told your boyfriend "you just are, am I not allowed to tell you that" then I also wouldn't have responded because this type of message would have made me feel very uncomfortable. This is because your message comes across as defensive and confrontational over something that was supposed to be cute and what not rather than confrontational.

Instead of saying what you said or "you never answered to my cute text!" you should have dropped it (especially the next morning) because the reality was that this initially cute text turned sour after you said the part about "am I not allowed to tell my boyfriend that?"

The more you try to increase the amount of contact because of your own insecurities, the more likely it is that people will want to steer away from you. This does not mean that you are a bad person because it doesn't seem like you are. But, people such as myself (and your boyfriend and probably your friends in general) don't like unnecessary drama or confrontation.

TL; DR: it's all about framing, you are not a bad person but how you approach situations really needs to change in order to avoid unnecessary conflict and increased tension; talk to your boyfriend because this really needs to be addressed. You and your boyfriend need to work on developing more trust and open communication with each other (the building blocks of any successful relationship, in my opinion).
posted by livinglearning at 9:49 AM on January 13, 2012 [8 favorites]

How long are you guys going to be long-distance? Is it indefinite or is there an end-date you can look forward to and plan for together? How often do you get to see one another? Do you have scheduled visits or vacations? Not being clear on this stuff can lead to insecurity in long distance relationships.

What seems like coldness on your boyfriend's part could be that he's overwhelmed with the amount of attention or contact you think you need in order to feel safe. You need to have a purposeful talk with him--when you guys are not fighting-- in order to lay down some basic communication techniques/schedules that will honour your needs for space and connection. For example, you could set twice weekly video chat dates, during which you both have lots of time to talk about anything and check in with each other, plus a daily text or something. Make your expectations clear, and be prepared to listen as well. That means serious compromise, but also teamwork, which can strengthen your relationship.

The big problem with insecurity is that it sometimes manifests itself in behaviour that drives people away, thus fueling your fears. But, and I'm sorry to say this: LDRs are hard and people grow apart. It's very difficult to try to have a life without feeling very lonely or growing away from your absent partner. But you can't shut yourself in and wait to have a life until you can be together, because for one thing that breeds jealousy and insecurity if your partner doesn't do the same. It's a big risk you have to take, and you have to have a goodly amount of trust and security to begin with. Talk with your boyfriend and make sure you are equally committed and go from there.
posted by sundaydriver at 9:55 AM on January 13, 2012 [1 favorite]

It was very late his time so I began to wonder if maybe he was just at home working and didn't want to answer my call, which upset me

Working from home is still working.
posted by empath at 10:12 AM on January 13, 2012 [3 favorites]

How quickly he responds to your texts (or doesn't) isn't necessarily an indicator of how he feels about you, and texting can be a weird enough way to communicate if you feel at all "off" or out of sync - it's hard to read tone (example A, livinglearning thought that "what, I can't tell my bf he's cute?" sounded defensive, I didn't think so).

People and relationships go through cycles, for a little bit maybe you skype and call a lot and then for a little bit you don't. But you can't text someone 20 times in a row,especially when you know they're at a party, and you can't stress about the quality and speed of every text response. You will drive yourself and him crazy.

Look, I get that you really, really like him and he treats you well, and you are anxious to hang on to that and your antennae are up for warning signs of trouble. But this is one of those situations where it's like holding a fish (a literal fish) - if you grab it all weird and tight it slips out, but if you hold it gently then it chills out and it's all good. At least I think that's how it goes. Point being that you can't manage the situation by trying to make it submit to what you want.

I'd say fill up that time where you want to text or be stressed about him - what can you do that you enjoy and that would keep your mind busy and happy? It's good that you're getting perspective from your friends, so keep their thoughts in mind too.
posted by mrs. taters at 10:15 AM on January 13, 2012 [3 favorites]

To add to what's mentioned above: when feeling insecure and wanting to poke the other person until they respond, I find it pretty helpful to keep reminding myself that I am actively repelling the other person with each text/comment/question/facial expression. Pushing them away. And then to go and do something to take my mind off it.

It's great when you get to the point where you don't want to do those things (and they're really not cute!), but before then, you can at least stop allowing yourself to actually do them.
posted by carbide at 10:19 AM on January 13, 2012 [2 favorites]

Re: 1 - Of course he wants to have sex with someone else. He doesn't want to an intellectual or emotional level, but he's a dude and even the most committed, wonderful boyfriend has sexual fantasies about other women. It doesn't have anything to do with you. It's a bit unfair to dangle the carrot of a threesome and then get upset when he seems more he interested than you think he should be.

I've had the same discussion with previous boyfriends, and while they've all been totally into the idea of threesomes, I told them that I wasn't that into the idea. I didn't play around with it coyly as a test and get offended when they were interested in exploring something that's a sexual fantasy for the vast majority of straight men that I know.
posted by ablazingsaddle at 11:04 AM on January 13, 2012 [2 favorites]

For #1, just be matter of fact: "I don't think so," or, "I dunno, it was just talk." Thing is, it's a LDR, so your interactions don't have the nuances of touch, so every expression is video, text, voice...all explicit forms of communication. I think it would be natural to try and spice things up, so whether he actually wants to threesome or stray is still a question we can't answer since he could just be trying to make the LDR more interesting. Plus, you've been cheated on before, so extra sensitivity here comes as no surprise.

am I not allowed to tell my bf that?

So, this is creepy. Why would you need to ask whether you're "allowed"? Tell him to quit being a putz and learn to take a fucking compliment. Then again, the LDR, so his "why?" may have been a lame attempt to fish for more compliments, like "because your cock is huge" or whatever. He may be being self-centered here.

I know you feel undateable, but nothing in your post describes this. It may be your history, it may be your personalities, but it's not a permanent situation. It's a little self-helpy, but I found this quiz interesting.
posted by rhizome at 11:06 AM on January 13, 2012 [2 favorites]

Having abandonment anxiety is pretty common. Learning how to manage it is pretty important.

Not being good at everything in relationships doesn't make you a bad person, it makes you a person who needs to work on some of the things you're not good with yet.
posted by Sidhedevil at 12:09 PM on January 13, 2012 [1 favorite]

I agree with the comments above. But what struck my during your post was how often you mention texting. Please stop trying to have super meaningful communication or arguments with your boyfriend over text. If it's so important, call him. If he doesn't answer, leave a message.

As someone mentioned above, texting is not nearly as nuanced as the human voice or your own face over skype. I don't know any couples who say that working through problems via texting is what makes them strong and happy as a couple (although I'm sure there's someone out there who really prefers interacting that way). In fact, most people I know have mentioned at least one story of how their SO tried to fight with them over text and was seriously annoyed by it and just wished they'd called.

You can get better at communicating with him and relieving your anxiety. I just think your medium of communication may be hampering you ability to be confident in him and yourself.
posted by Mouse Army at 12:28 PM on January 13, 2012 [3 favorites]

I agree completely with Mouse Army. Sometimes I think texting was invented by someone who had a traumatic breakup, and was so damaged by it that they wanted to sabotage all human relationships forever. Texting is NOT A GOOD WAY TO COMMUNICATE. Here is a list of what texting is good for:

1. Non-urgent factual information, ie:
    my flight has landed I am waiting at baggage claim can you pick up milk on your way home leaving work now be home in half hour etc
2. That's about it

Next time you are in-person with your boyfriend, I think you should have a discussion about dropping texting from your communications protocol, in exchange for phone calls and voicemails. My wife and I managed a LDR for a year when we were dating in the years before texting and IM and even email. You even had to PAY EXTRA for a long distance call back then, but we made it work because we talked to each other.
posted by Rock Steady at 1:10 PM on January 13, 2012 [3 favorites]

Hrm. My list of acceptable texts got munged onto one line. See how hard it is to communicate through texts!
posted by Rock Steady at 1:11 PM on January 13, 2012 [1 favorite]

You are okay, and dateable. I can see how past experiences might have increased your insecurity and ingrained some of the bad habits you think you have now. What your really need is to learn how to loosen your grip on "the relationship" (as something you really want to work out) and enjoy it working out from day to day. Repeat, enjoy it. Don't think of it as an all-consuming indication of your success or failure as a person, but as a positive addition to your life that you can keep returning to for comfort and strength (and, of course, a place where you provide comfort and strength). Long-distance makes this ridiculously hard, so you've got to get a grip on your coping strategies if you're intent on making it work.

1) Would you be into a threesome with another dude? Lots of people will tell you that guys will be guys and of course all guys want to bone unknown women, but a lot of women probably feel the same way (about other men or other women). If you would, I think a good coping step would be to acknowledge that you have the same feelings that you're afraid he has, and that they have nothing to do with how much you love him or he loves you. If he brought it up all the time and was a jerk, then he'd be a jerk, but he doesn't! That's great. It means he prioritizes your well-being over his need to feel desirable (i.e., desire to manipulate you into jealousy, &c.). Everybody wants to have sex with a bunch of people, it's not just some guy trait that straight women have to spend their lives reigning in. (Plus, a lot of guys would like to see their girlfriend with another woman because they find their girlfriend very sexy.) (Also, don't make this into a contest where you try to prove to your boyfriend how sexy you find other guys, or something. That will be even worse.)

2) If you're convinced that he actually does like you (which I'm sure he's proven many times), then believe that he has a reason for not calling you right away. If it helps to visualize it, imagine that you're kind of a glowing presence-- background radiation-- in his life, but important things are solids (of variable warmth and radiance) which periodically block his vision of you. You're always there, though-- he's not going to forget about you. This is how people feel when they love each other. Don't imagine panic scenarios where he stops having these feelings-- all people fluctuate in their feelings, but chasing it will just make it disappear.

If he actually didn't like you, he probably wouldn't just show it in tiny microscopic ways, there'd be a general shift. You'd notice. Or you wouldn't, and there'd be nothing you could do. You're probably getting progressively more and more anxious about abandonment, and therefore looking more and more for signs of love/annoyance, and it's becoming a kind of witchhunt.

3) I understand your reaction, because you probably felt a little hurt that he didn't spring back with "so are you!" or otherwise play along. But something I've learned from all my relationships (platonic and romantic) is that you shouldn't give praise or show love to get something back-- you should do it because you truly feel it and want to bring joy to someone. I know you didn't do it to be catty, but when he questioned it and you got defensive, I think it showed that you were either expecting reciprocation or you felt really shy about expressing your feelings in the first place (which you shouldn't!). But calling each other "cute" and using baby talk and that kind of thing is a kind of game that couples play, and some people like to "play" like that more than others. It doesn't mean he doesn't like you if he doesn't want to play sometimes. (There's a This American Life about this kind of thing, where two professionals talk about how embarrassingly babyish their interactions got when they had no time for each other, and I think it really illustrates that cute-play can be kind of soul-crushing for some people.)

I mean, what does "cute" mean, really? It can be a sweet thing to hear once in awhile if you're teasing, but it's not a real compliment like calling someone "smart" or "funny." It's not something typically endearing to others, it's just relationship-talk, which usually goes nowhere. Some people actually feel it is detrimental to their capacity to love.

4) This, to me, is the only extreme reaction, but in a way it's also the most reasonable. I think it's reasonable to feel a little hurt that you talk less and less when you'd like to be more in touch. I think you should talk to your boyfriend about feeling distant and tell him you'd like to be in touch more. On the other hand, paranoid texts or fighting by text is, just, never a good idea. Just try to never do it, no matter how awful you feel-- write your feelings down or imagine how you'd like to tell him in person, and wait until you can talk to him (your feelings will have changed by then, usually for the better). I honestly don't get people who text all the time, because it seems impossible to me to have any meaningful interaction at all that way.

This is an ongoing problem for both of you-- just because you're insecure doesn't mean his communication is perfect all the time. BUT, you need to focus on your anxieties and how to deal before blaming him, as you know. Good luck-- this is all stuff that will change with time if you're down with working on being a better person.
posted by stoneandstar at 1:28 PM on January 13, 2012 [2 favorites]

Ok my ex had this same tendency and not to be melodramatic but it is only a matter of time before this destroys your relationship, because it means on some fundamental level you do not trust him, and you can't have a relationship without trust. I'm glad you recognize this is bad and want to work on it.
I'm going to highlight the part where each of these interactions started to go wrong:

1. ... He texted me after we hung up to ask if 'I would really do that' and I started to think things like-- he must not care about me as much as before ...

2. ... It was very late his time so I began to wonder ...

3. We were texting the other night before bed and I sent him a sweet text telling him he was cute, he answered and said why?, and I said you just are, am I not allowed to tell my bf that? He never answered that text [and I began to think why? does he not like me? Does he think I'm ugly does he want to bang other women does he hate me oh god he hates me because...]

Basically you start playing "what if" games whenever he does anything outside of your control. This isn't bad in and of itself - it's our blessing and curse as humans that we are self-aware and can try to predict the future and other people's motivations, and you have to reality check every once and awhile. Except for you, the game is rigged because you are tilting the slope away from the "Good" answer. Your brain can tell you he probably just went to sleep, that he was just engrossed in work, that he thinks a third person could be a lot of fun if you're into it but isn't that important especially if anyone could get emotionally hurt. You can think these things, but you can't really accept them, because some part of you doesn't believe you're worthy and he's just conning you, and thus your head just relentlessly ratchets you towards the 'bad' reasons and away from the good ones and you get upset and demand validation that your thoughts are wrong.

Here is the problem though - That is a bottomless pit. It doesn't matter how much validation and support he throws your way, if you're not really ready to accept and believe it on the catching side. And the more you think and wallow in bad lines of thought, the more real they become to you.

On some level, you're just going to have to trust this guy likes you and wants to keep seeing you, and recognize you have no control over him and his feelings. This is a scary thing. It's even possible he IS a cad and is just stringing you along - but that's just something you have to live with the possibility of, and be secure in the knowledge that you'll handle it appropriately if that comes to light. I'm not saying blindly trust other people, you should reality check his actions, but you gotta give the guy a chance.

Just one guy's internet opinion.
posted by spatula at 2:18 PM on January 13, 2012 [11 favorites]

Don't have deep conversations or arguments over text messages. It's a recipe for disaster.
posted by Diag at 3:01 PM on January 13, 2012 [1 favorite]

Every time you feel yourself wanting to send more than 1 text in a row, stop. If you need to clarify something you texted earlier, call him (if it's important) or let it go (if it's not).
posted by devymetal at 3:10 PM on January 13, 2012 [2 favorites]

@desjardins, thank you for such an eloquent and true reply; you said it so well.
posted by lucy40 at 4:10 AM on January 14, 2012

« Older Waffled, wiggled, wavered: waffle recipes   |   OS on SSD, Users on HDD: Did I break Win7? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.