How to prevent self sabotage?
February 20, 2012 5:11 PM   Subscribe

Asking for a friend: How can a person get over a crippling anxiety of getting dumped?

This pal of mine is a late 30s male. He doesn't have a lot of dating experience. Whenever he is in a relationship, he will overanalyze things to the point of ridiculousness (e.g. "She didn't text me back for 15 minutes. What do you think that means?") All of this leads to him trying to present an image of himself that he thinks the woman will find attractive. This inevitably spells doom, because he feels he is unable to maintain the facade and gets more and more neurotic as time goes on.

He's now been in a relationship with a woman for the past 8 months. They've exchanged "I love you's". He says that she told him that she feels like he's been holding back info about himself (e.g. this pal didn't tell his girlfriend that he hangs out with an ex of his from time to time until last week.) I think that this girl is the one for him, but he and I had a 30 minute text conversation today where he was freaking out that he hasn't told her everything about himself that a significant other should know after 8 months of dating. He thinks everything that's happening around him is an omen of doom for his relationship.

Is there anything he can do to help manage the anxiety and neuroses and just be himself? I've already suggested meds and therapy, but he won't go for either.
posted by stedman15 to Human Relations (11 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite

People around here seem to like Moodgym for online CBT work.

There are some other suggestions for online anti-anxiety sites in this thread.
posted by rtha at 5:35 PM on February 20, 2012 [4 favorites]

Yes - the short answer is professional help, online help, something structured.

Do you think the gf suspects he has issues? Does he think she understands on some level? Why is she putting up with whatever he's doing because of his problems with relationships?
posted by Lesser Shrew at 5:39 PM on February 20, 2012

Question: has the friend explained the resistance to therapy or meds?
posted by swngnmonk at 5:41 PM on February 20, 2012

Is he willing to risk his relationship due to his aversion to meds and therapy?

I was an anxious, overanalytical person who was sure that my then-boyfriend was going to dump me until I got on anti-anxiety meds and CBT.
posted by sugarbomb at 5:46 PM on February 20, 2012

(Then-boyfriend became my husband of 9 years and counting).
posted by sugarbomb at 5:47 PM on February 20, 2012 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: swngnmonk: I think it's mostly the perceived stigma associated with mental health meds and treatment. I know he's been on anti-depression meds in the past, but when I suggested anti-anxiety meds, he flat out said no to any meds.

Lesser Shrew: His girlfriend told him on Friday that she feels like he's holding back from her emotionally. He says that he is still in the "wooing" stage, so he feels the need to hide his "warts". I'm getting this secondhand, so no way to say what truly was said.

sugarbomb: I honestly don't know if he'll get over this. I've seen him wreck 3 other relationships because of crazy neuroticism, so this could be #4. I'd like to help prevent that.
posted by stedman15 at 6:05 PM on February 20, 2012

Set him up with the female version of himself? Worst case scenario, he sees how annoying his behaviors are in another person first hand. Best case scenario, they fall madly in love with each other.
posted by stockpuppet at 6:08 PM on February 20, 2012

Maybe your friend could try communicating some of his anxieties to his SO instead of keeping them to himself and panicking secretly. In my experience, once I start talking about feelings that seem (in my head) overwhelming, they start to seem less so. It's a good step towards breaking down the need to put up a front, which ends up just contributing to the stress.

Of course it's also important to be mindful of the other person - you don't want to go overboard and talk about your worries all the time. I think it's a balance. But I find that when I'm more accepting/open about my nervous feelings, they have less power over my thoughts. I think the key is not trying to banish fears, but rather accepting and acknowledging and processing them (without laying blame either on the self or the other person).
posted by parapluie at 6:45 PM on February 20, 2012 [3 favorites]

I'm w Parapluie - the more you are able to talk about / address / acknowledge your anxieties, the less overwhelming they feel.
There are plenty of good self-help books (I like David Richo personally) if your friend is skittish about seeing a professional. Therapy is def worth considering though as a relationship with a therapist can help the patient work on developing social skills!

There's the saying that a person will only seek help when he is sick and tired of being sick and tired, no matter how obvious it may be to the rest of us. So while you can't bludgeon your buddy & drag him into therapy, letting him muck his life up a little can help him get himself there.
posted by HolyWood at 8:17 PM on February 20, 2012 [1 favorite]

Best answer: He needs to want to change. If he's rejecting every suggestion you make, he probably doesn't want actual suggestions, he just wants to vent. Stop taking responsibility for him.

IMO his neurotic behaviour derives from his not feeling worthy of love as the person he is - that's why he's self-censoring so much towards her and trying so hard to manage her expectations of him. There's nothing anyone else can do, with the limited exception of the girl in question, to prove to him that he's worthy. Therapists of various kinds and medications of various kinds can help him with that, as can talking to a friend like you, however the key words there are help him.

Just reassure him that you believe he is worthy of this girl, that she apparently thinks so too, in fact no-one except him thinks he isn't, and he should try actually having an honest conversation with her rather than sabotaging what could be a good relationship in this silly way. Ask him if he is really, seriously, open to being helped, and if he is, whether he believes that professionals whose entire working lives are spent helping people like him, could help him. And if not, what's so special about him that they can't?

Don't get into it any further. It's not really any of your business, and it's not really helping him or you for him to vent the same things over and over again. Whatever friendship the two of you have is hopefully based on some activity or common interest other than him whining to you - do that with him. You need to take care of yourself as well.
posted by aeschenkarnos at 11:24 PM on February 20, 2012 [2 favorites]

Maybe not rely on texting for human interaction? Goes for both of you.
posted by kjs3 at 10:30 AM on February 21, 2012

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