I keep having bouts of self destructive behaviour in a relationship. 23/M Best ways to stop it?
May 18, 2012 12:19 PM   Subscribe

I keep having bouts of self destructive behaviour in a relationship. 23/M Best ways to stop it?

I having been seeing a girl for 6-7 months, sometimes being long distance and sometimes not. Whenever we get really close something triggers me to freak out. I get scared and inevitably have a day where I just try to do things wrong subconsciously to fuck things up because I am so terrified of being that vulnerable again. I had a bit of a fucked up childhood and I'm trying my best to learn all the rules of a relationship. I seem to be able to hold it together in person but when we're this far away, it can be hard to not accidently fuck up. How can I stop these subconscious fears?
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (8 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Everyone is going to say, "therapy."
Because, really...therapy would be useful here.
posted by vivid postcard at 12:27 PM on May 18, 2012 [2 favorites]

Therapy, seriously. You had a fucked up childhood which was traumatizing enough to affect how your interact with others when it comes to being intimate, expressing your emotions, and learning how to trust others.
posted by livinglearning at 12:30 PM on May 18, 2012 [1 favorite]

Considering we have exactly a single paragraph of vague information, it would sort of be irresponsible to tell you to do anything outside of "seek help from a professional."
posted by griphus at 12:32 PM on May 18, 2012 [5 favorites]

I'd look into Dialectical Behavioral therapy. Depending on what area of the country you're in, it ranges from very available to hard to find. If you have trouble finding DBT look for local universities or university hospitals.

Of course, lots of therapeutic options can help, but DBT is specifically geared towards dealing with impulsive behaviors in intimate relationships and fears of abandonment (among other things).

It also teaches specific skills and strategies, which it sounds like is what you want.
posted by the young rope-rider at 12:43 PM on May 18, 2012 [3 favorites]

I had a bit of a fucked up childhood and I'm trying my best to learn all the rules of a relationship.

This is not something you're required to do all by yourself, or in the company of someone who may not know or understand the rules much better than you do. You really don't have to reinvent the wheel.

Which, you know, therapy. There are also books that lots of people seem to find very helpful; I'll let those recommendations come from others.
posted by rtha at 12:45 PM on May 18, 2012 [1 favorite]

I'm always recommending the book How to Be an Adult in Relationships precisely because it starts from the premise that dysfunctional relationship dynamics from how we're raised will get played out over and over and over again in adulthood until we can start to think mindfully about them. This leads to learning how we can take responsibility for addressing our own personal needs and boundaries with compassion and clarity, so that we can build healthier relationships with partners. This book -- along with therapy -- helped me undo literally decades of (unconscious) sabotaging behavior in my own relationships.

(Caveats: despite the title, it is not really a "how to" book; also, the author uses certain concepts and language of spiritual growth in a Buddhist-influenced framework that I'm aware can be a little off-putting to some readers who might find it somewhat hippy-dippy.)
posted by scody at 1:39 PM on May 18, 2012 [5 favorites]

oh, and based on what you say about doing things to push your girlfriend away: the author discusses what he calls the fear of engulfment (vs. the fear of abandonment), and how that fear lead to specific types of behavior patterns in the present as an echo of specific types of things that may have happened to us as children (and the coping mechanisms that we developed at the time). So that may be something particularly useful for you.
posted by scody at 1:45 PM on May 18, 2012 [3 favorites]

Nthing the suggestion of therapy. Based on what you say about your childhood, I would look into someone who specializes in trauma or treats a lot of people who have childhood issues that have affected their adult lives.
posted by emilynoa at 7:41 AM on May 21, 2012

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