Need non-therapy therapies.
November 30, 2012 1:25 PM   Subscribe

I need therapy for really bad and unwarranted relationship jealousy and insecurity but I wouldn't be able to get started until sometime late January. What would be some alternatives I could pursue in the meantime?

Short Version:
I have a great gf that I should have no issues with, but yet my head causes me all kinds of crazy issues anyway and I am suffering quite a bit. Talking to her, journaling, and exercise isn't enough. Need other ideas until I can get into therapy.

Sorry This Got Long version:
I'm out of a marriage that featured significant neglect: a decade of celibacy, zero intimacy of any sort, and awful loneliness and isolation. I'm a 41yo male if it matters. I have a great gf now but I'm all nutty and I kinda feel like it's my first relationship ever; I've completely lost any sort of instinctive comfort level for how things work normally and so anything less than us lying alone and wrapped around each other in bed with her whispering her love to me seems to just pump me full of neediness and insecurities. I've got jealousy issues too. It's so bad that I have crazy physical symptoms; my head tingles, my chest hurts, sometimes I stay awake all night, weight loss, etc. Of course I can't keep my head straight during these bad times either.

Some of things that add to the difficulty I'm having:
* Our lives are very busy, and so often we can't get quality alone time for weeks at a time.
* She's recently divorced too and so we're hiding our relationship for a while.
* Originally needy and insecure with me too, she's become secure enough that I now take up a healthy place in her life, meaning the crazy intense attention she paid me at the beginning has tapered off.
* She's ultra-social and also generally prefers being friends with men. So she goes out a fair bit, talks to everyone, texts her guy friends all day, parties with them, will let them crash with her if they're too drunk, etc.
* She's unusually attractive and has a wild, open, and magnetic personality, so she is hit on constantly.
* I have crushing self confidence and self loathing problems. Oh, and sporadic ED to boot.

On an intellectual level I truly trust her, have no problem with all of the above (although I recognize that they're challenges for someone in my state), feel she loves me and likes me, feel secure that she wants our relationship to continue and grow, recognize that she makes considerable effort to find ways for us to be in contact or together, appreciate that she is okay with me and my problems, and believe I'm the only one she wants to be with. I really have it so damn good. Intellectually I accept that I'm the best bf I can be, work hard to get better, give her the benefit of the doubt always, and accept that if shit goes south then it was always going to happen no matter what I did.

But I can't seem to get my emotional understanding to conform to the same things, and can't control the amplitude. I get wigged out often, in awful mentally and physically uncomfortable ways, and I really need to get control of it. I'm doing a pretty good job not inflicting this stuff on my gf, that's not the problem, it's just the getting control of myself that's my problem.

She understands and listens, but I can't dump everything on her always everytime. I journal. I repeat the serenity prayer as a mantra. I exercise. I get down the road. I take things day by day.

This stuff all helps in tiny ways, and I'm getting better, but I need to step it up because I am suffering quite a bit and for really no good reason and would like to be healthier sooner rather than later. What other things could I try?
posted by TheManChild2000 to Human Relations (13 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: I am not a doctor or psychiatrist, but your symptoms sound like anxiety to me. I don't mean to suggest that you have an anxiety disorder, your anxieties could be perfectly reasonable responses to your environment, but if it's messing with your life, it's got to go. If that's the case, let me tell you that a friend of mine used the Anxiety and Phobia Workbook to get control over crippling anxiety at a time when he couldn't access traditional therapy, and he found it extremely helpful.
posted by KathrynT at 1:35 PM on November 30, 2012 [4 favorites]

Best answer: First I think it's super admirable that you understand this is your problem and not hers for being "X and always Y with the wrong crowd". Seriously that sets you apart right there.

IMO Jealously is squarely in the fear family of emotions, It may be married into hate. So for me focusing on positive things can really help. Sure journal as a place to put all that shit, but then find a creative outlet for a positive counter. Make elaborate romantic plans, find the perfect gift, plan the perfect sexy surprise.

Make security and fun your practice, it will start filling the negative space jealously is currently filling. Until it has no where to live in you or therapy starts... whichever comes first. Xanax could also help.
posted by French Fry at 1:36 PM on November 30, 2012

Yes, seconding KathrynT. Perhaps you could get in to see your primary care doctor soonish, describe this: "It's so bad that I have crazy physical symptoms; my head tingles, my chest hurts, sometimes I stay awake all night, weight loss, etc. Of course I can't keep my head straight during these bad times either" and see what he/she says?

I've found meditation podcasts to be helpful, too.
posted by Ollie at 1:38 PM on November 30, 2012

I would actually stop journaling, assuming you're writing about her or your thoughts about her. It just reinforces an obsessive cycle and isn't cathartic. Maybe take up some hobby that requires enough concentration and exertion that you can't think about anything else. Maybe rock climbing?

Also, meditation, for sure.

The physical responses get to be a vicious cycle, especially lack of sleep. I would strongly consider asking your primary care doc for something to help with that.

Don't cause yourself more anxiety by trying to keep all of this from her. It's good that you're trying not to inflict it upon her, but if she senses something is wrong, it's okay to say that you're anxious. Otherwise now you have TWO anxious people - you for trying not to show it, and her for wondering what's wrong.

I went through some very similar stuff when I first met my husband, which was exacerbated because it was a long distance relationship. I wasted tons and tons of time before I saw a damn doctor about my anxiety, and I'm extremely grateful for my husband's patience. You are doing the right thing and you're a great guy!
posted by desjardins at 1:55 PM on November 30, 2012 [2 favorites]

Best answer: This free online resource might help you with changing some of your thought patterns. This site is good, too.
posted by analog at 2:02 PM on November 30, 2012

Best answer: You know, you're already doing some of the things that mental health care professionals are going to suggest. And even once you see them, it's going to take time, and I think it's genuinely fantastic that you have a head start -- if you put off doing anything at all until you started seeing a professional, you'd be starting at square one, and now you'll actually have a head start.

This stuff you're talking about can take an awfully long time to address. I think it is important that you sit down and talk with your partner are say "these are the things I am working on, and I am working on it because I want to be as good a partner as I can be. These are some things I am going to struggle with, so please be a little patient with me if I sometimes mess up. And please let me know if I am messing up on these things, because sometimes I may be a little blind to it."

There are probably things you can fairly ask of your partner that will help this, although she always has a right to say no. I have found with jealousy issues that occasionally checking in helps -- people often respond to jealousy by being secretive about spending time with somebody who makes their partner jealous, but that's a minefield. There is stuff that she has a right to have privacy about -- in fact, it is essential that people have some privacy in a relationship. And she has a right to have whoever she wants to have as friends, even if you don't approve and suspect their motives (perhaps rightly). Ultimately, you have to trust your partner or not trust them and end the relationship. But it definitely helps for somebody to say "I'm going out with so-and-so to take in a movie," instead of sneaking out.

One of the things a professional is probably going to do with you is have you figure out what is threatening you. That's actually work you can start doing on your own as well. When you start feeling jealous or insecure, sit down and actually write out what it is precisely that you are worried about. And then ask how much of this is stuff that you need to get control of -- that's where the therapist can help -- and how much might be because of miscommunication. Is there something that triggers these feelings? Does she have relationships that don't cause insecurity and jealousy? What is it about those relationships that you're comfortable with?

Sometimes, insecurity and jealousy comes from comparing ourselves to others and thinking we come up short. I don't know if that's the case with you, but if it is, it's probably worth addressing. We're all different, and the goal of dating is to find someone who appreciates our specific good qualities and can work with us with the stuff we're trying to improve. It might be useful for you to identify the qualities that make you uniquely marvelous. And, if your partner is willing, if you're unsure what they like about you, just ask them, and be ready to tell them what you really like about them. Couples should do this regularly anyway. It really helps keep people from feeling taken for granted.

I know you said you feel like this is your first relationship. So, yeah, you're going to muck up a little. Hopefully, your partner will be forgiving, but that's going to require you being forgiving as well when she mucks up. My relationships got a lot better when, if I started feeling hot under the collar, I started asking "Is this my problem, or is this their problem." A surprising amount of time, it was my problem. When it was theirs, my next question is "Is this so big a problem that I need to address it?" People can be idiosyncratically goofy. It helps not to make too big a deal, or any deal at all, if it doesn't really amount to much. Let the little things go.
posted by Bunny Ultramod at 2:11 PM on November 30, 2012 [1 favorite]

Yes, seconding KathrynT. Perhaps you could get in to see your primary care doctor soonish, describe this: "It's so bad that I have crazy physical symptoms; my head tingles, my chest hurts, sometimes I stay awake all night, weight loss, etc. Of course I can't keep my head straight during these bad times either" and see what he/she says?

Thirding. Hang in there.
posted by Specklet at 2:57 PM on November 30, 2012

agree that journaling is not helpful for this kind of thing, and agree that meditation is a great idea, and also agree that getting immediate medical attention for the anxiety symptoms is the right call.
posted by facetious at 3:19 PM on November 30, 2012

Response by poster: Real quick, I just wanted to add that I have indeed visited the doc and gotten a thorough physical. No physical problems related to the stuff I mention dealing with above, and their suggestions were less helpful than what has already been offered here. I even asked for a scrip for Ambien because the sleeplessness used to be insane, but it didn't work. Only time and work and building trust and understanding helped.
posted by TheManChild2000 at 5:06 PM on November 30, 2012

Bummer that your doc was so unhelpful. I agree with other posters that they could be more helpful, although feel free to call me biased because this has been my own tack in the face of similarly time-framed problems. I told my doc of my anxiety symptoms (see above your staying up all night, ruminating thoughts, chest pain that they've comfirmed isn't physically caused), explained that i understand what's causing/have a long term plan for 'solving' them, but that in the meantime, i could use some pharmacological help in getting thru this bad time. Explain that you can't get in to a therapist until such and such date, and that your symptoms are severely impacting you right now and have been for some time. I would expect some sort of justification at least for why they won't give you an anti-anxiolytic (there are different types, so I won't say you should get what i did....). Getting a physical break once in a while from anxiety during times like you're describing via ativan is an enormous help to me dealing with the mental strain of it all. It would be a different sort of relief that Ambien or sleeping pills in general. Good luck - from your plan, it seems like you will feel better!
posted by Tandem Affinity at 6:17 AM on December 1, 2012

Out of left field -- it sounds like your gf, while awesome, would be difficult for many people to deal with in this way. Don't think this is all you. It's kind of you not to try to control her, but realize that it would be challenging for many people to have a gf that they only see every few weeks, who is extroverted, values her friends highly, and has a lot of male friends. Your reaction seems well within the range of normal.
posted by 3491again at 2:31 PM on December 1, 2012 [3 favorites]

This is really just a superficial observation, but it seems like you're depending on your gf to give you validation even though, intellectually, you know that it's not on her to do that for you. I think this is pretty normal on the small scale, but when mixed with your anxiety and relationship history, it has become a much bigger deal, and you have put a lot of pressure on "making the relationship better" vs. making yourself better.

And that's a lot of pressure, considering you really can only control yourself. (And not even *all* of yourself, but at least your actions and reactions.)

Basically, your self-worth is never going to come from your gf, which is why you keep falling back into jealousy and anxiety when you're not "lying alone and wrapped around each other in bed with her whispering her love to me." It's nice to hear those things, and validation is great in the moment, but you need to be constantly self-validating. You cannot depend on another person to make you feel good. You're 41, you're an adult. It's time to take care of yourself.

Take a step back and stop working so hard to be "the best bf ever." Instead, be the best TheManChild2000 ever (and maybe stop looking at yourself as a Man-Child). Work on bettering all the various areas of your life, and let the rest fall into place. Think about what it would look like to be happy and content and generous and fun. Then do the things that get you there. Exercise is always good. Maybe meditation works. How about eating healthfully? Cutting out sugar and processed foods that mess with your mood? What about work? Are you doing what you can to feel fulfilled in your job? Do you have other activities that give you a sense of accomplishment?

The most successful relationships I've encountered have been between two solid individuals that also happen to work well together. It sounds like maybe you lost track of your independence, and this is your opportunity to find that again.
posted by ariela at 10:43 AM on December 2, 2012

Response by poster: Re: meditation
No chance, I have the worst monkeybrain.... part of my nighttime brain scramble problem! And I don't have the time to make a project of it to really make a serious attempt.

Re: stopping journaling
Ugh... interesting that several people suggested this. Writing through issues is the #1 thing that helps me feel better. I'll consider it... one thing I've been thinking more recently is that this relationship needs to occupy less of my mental real estate, especially considering how secure things objectively are. Maybe I dial it back a bit and include dialing back the journaling as well. Something to think about.

French Fry
I work very hard in a positive way on our relationship, from romantic to practical things. It helps, like everything else, a little.

I actually do talk to my gf about stuff a lot, and she remains completely open about her life. She also does a lot specifically to help me through my issues. I honestly think that there is nothing else she could do for me other than cave in to my neediness, and I sure as hell won't get better that way.

I'm fairly certain of what is threatening me but will take a closer look. And gf frequently lists at length the qualities she appreciates about me... I should be sitting back, feet up, with a big smug and satisfied smile on my face at all times.

I hear you and pretty much get that. With this girl though, either one understands how she is and accepts it or you're fighting a losing battle where everyone loses. Her ex couldn't handle it, tried to control her, and lost bad (but only after tormenting her for a very long time). I insist on being man enough.

You're right, like I mentioned in the OP I have self-worth issues, and I'm working hard on this. One problem is that I had effectively no romantic human interaction for a decade, so the importance of this relationship is all out of wack in my head to what would be the case in a "normal" scenario. Another issue is that apparently I'm the king of the world (tall, fit, "hot", "hilarious", rich, clean, organized, excellent diet, "an amazing father", "great taste", successful in biz, kind, "thoughtful") but pretty much think of myself as a complete and utter tool.

Good stuff everyone thanks.
posted by TheManChild2000 at 2:42 PM on December 2, 2012

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