My crazy is escaping! Help me pull it back in.
January 28, 2013 10:36 AM   Subscribe

Bad divorce, after many years of pretty much only dating men I really didn't care about, I finally met a great guy that I want to care about very much. Help me not fuck it up.

So, I was in basically an abusive marriage for over 20 years before I finally found the strength to break free. The whole situation broke my heart. And my spirit. For a very long time afterwards, I was both really afraid that I would repeat the pattern with someone new and basically so numbed out by the whole trauma of my marriage that I either didn't date at all or only dated men that I didn't really care about. I've been through a good bit of therapy and work and I recently met a man a care about a lot. He's someone I knew before my marriage so that's helpful because I know him and I feel really sure that any relationship with him would not be a repeat of my relationship with my ex.

We've been dating for 3 months and it's been great until just a couple of weeks ago - I felt really comfortable with him, we've had a lot of fun together, I was relaxed and happy - and my feelings have grown for him to the point where I'm in love with him and he says he loves me. The problem? Now I'm freaking out!

Suddenly, I have someone I value and care about and, with no evidence to go on, I worry constantly that he's going to break up with me, that he'll stop liking me and that my heart is going to be broken. It's gotten so bad that I can't be natural around him any longer because all I think about when I'm with him is how what I just really want him to do is to reassure me constantly that he still likes me. I haven't asked him to do that but I think I'm probably behaving in ways that he would think are unlike me because when I'm around him now I feel skittish and nervous.

I know that if I can't get past this feeling that ultimately one of two things will happen - either I will start constantly asking him to reassure me that he loves me and that will stop our relationship from being as fun as it has been or I'm going to retreat too far into my head because I'm constantly thinking about how he's going to break up with me and so our relationship will suffer because I'm not really part of it. Not to mention the fact that this all I think about when I'm not with him - what is he doing? Are his feelings changing for me? Is he, right now, meeting somebody he likes better than me?

I know this is crazy - the reality is that I'm 3 months into a relationship with a great guy and that I should be enjoying this time and this new thing. I've dated other guys for longer than this, but I've basically always only dated guys who were more into me than I was into them so I never worried about whether they broke up with me because I was sure that they loved me and also I didn't care as much as I do now. And I should emphasize that this guy constantly tells me that he loves me, treats me with respect, does little things that show he cares - the problem here is very much with me, not him.

But knowing about the crazy and stopping the crazy are two completely different things. How can I put this behind me so I can go back to enjoying myself and also not freak him out? He's got to be noticing that I'm not as fun as I used to be.

To answer the obvious solution, I'm already in therapy but I can only see her every two weeks and the problem is getting worse, not better. I have an appt on Thursday, but I could really use some talking down from the ledge before then. I'm seriously considering either scaling back the relationship or ending it altogether since I clearly have issues, but I don't really want to do either. I want to get past this so I can move on.
posted by Lizlemondrop to Human Relations (14 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
 
If you two have gone so far as to say you love each other, perhaps this is something you can talk about with him. Does he he know you history? Are there some things he can do to be supportive of you?

Talking to him might relieve some of the pressure you are feeling because you are hiding your concerns.
posted by michellenoel at 10:45 AM on January 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


I'm seriously considering either scaling back the relationship or ending it altogether since I clearly have issues

So... because you're afraid he might scale back or end the relationship, you're considering scaling back or ending the relationship?

I have a close friend who has this pattern too: where she gets more and more worried that something bad might happen and ultimately pre-emptively makes that bad thing happen, just to get the anxiety over with. In her case just the conscious realization that that was what she was doing was enough to help start to combat the tendency.

That and being honest and open with the other people involved about what's going on inside her head.
posted by ook at 10:47 AM on January 28, 2013 [2 favorites]


This is totally a thing, FWIW.
posted by Wordwoman at 10:49 AM on January 28, 2013


I know that if I can't get past this feeling that ultimately one of two things will happen - either I will start constantly asking him to reassure me that he loves me and that will stop our relationship from being as fun as it has been or I'm going to retreat too far into my head because I'm constantly thinking about how he's going to break up with me and so our relationship will suffer because I'm not really part of it.

You might just try allowing those feelings and seeing what they feel like without the presumption that you have to do anything about them. When they get very intense, try sitting quietly and welcoming them; notice where they are in the body and let your attention rest there. You may find that over time they resolve on their own.
posted by Wordwoman at 10:56 AM on January 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


Best answer: I know that if I can't get past this feeling that ultimately one of two things will happen - either I will start constantly asking him to reassure me that he loves me and that will stop our relationship from being as fun as it has been or I'm going to retreat too far into my head because I'm constantly thinking about how he's going to break up with me and so our relationship will suffer because I'm not really part of it.

This unsupported belief is the source of your problems. Take a piece of paper and write that sentence at the top and write the percentage of belief you have in it. Now draw two columns. To the left, the advantages of believing this is true. To the right, the disadvantages. Then write a new version of the belief at the bottom. Do this every day for a few weeks and see if you think it is still true.
posted by Ironmouth at 10:57 AM on January 28, 2013 [10 favorites]


Talk to him. Tell him that you're having this problem. That's the very first thing that should happen, and it should happen the very next time you see him.

Then see what he says. Odds are he has noticed that you've been acting differently, and this will come as a huge relief to him. From there, you proceed according to what the two of you decide.

I know what you're thinking: "The best way to kill a relationship is to take its temperature." But if you're really having a problem, then you need to give the other person in the relationship a chance to help.
posted by Etrigan at 11:00 AM on January 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


BTW, I think you should know that a LOT of people who've been hurt freak out internally once they meet someone they really like, because really liking someone is scary. You need to find a way to deal with this, but you are not crazy.
posted by Countess Sandwich at 11:05 AM on January 28, 2013 [3 favorites]


Best answer: I think Wordwoman and Ironmouth both have excellent advice. Being present with this belief, and recognizing it as an unsupported belief, are both crucial. There's a lot of woo around Byron Katie, but I really really like the four essential questions that she puts forth for dealing with things like this, which can be conceptualized as false narratives we're telling ourselves for one reason or another:

1.) Is it true?
2.) Can you absolutely know that it's true?
3.) How do you react, what happens when you believe that thought? (Sometimes I will change this one to, "What is benefiting from that thought?" Usually for me I will say something like, "This thought is allowing me to fear which is providing me an excuse not to do X".)
4.) Who would you be without that thought?

I think you sound very self-aware and that you can cope with this as gracefully as possible. I also don't think it's a bad idea to bring it up with your SO-- not in the sense of, "OH MY GOD please fix me," but something like, "You may have noticed I've seemed distant/clingy lately. Here's what's going on. This is just leftover stuff from past bad relationships-- nothing to do with you. But I wanted to let you know, and let you know that I'm working on it, and that sometimes I might want to check in with you just to get a nice reassuring slice of reality, which is that you love me and we are great together."

Also, one last thought: are you doing lots of other things in your life that make you feel like a worthwhile, valued person? I find my relationships become much scarier when I am not being as much of a b@dass as I would like (for me it's badass, for you it might be as much of a creative person, or empathic person, etc.), When I'm feeling a lack of a full life that is "my own", suddenly I feel like I'm really uninteresting/uncool and that makes me worry they'll leave me, and also I feel like I'm leaning harder on the relationship to take care of entertainment/fulfillment needs. Maybe something else that is very rewarding would help, like (if you are in a place where you could do this comfortably) volunteering at a women's shelter?
posted by WidgetAlley at 11:20 AM on January 28, 2013 [6 favorites]


Best answer: Emphasizing I don't see evidence of a problem with him - however, in the worst case scenario in your mind, whatever that is, you should know that you will get through it and be okay. Look at what you already made it through. Nobody gets a guarantee that someone will stay in love, but so far the evidence seems weighted towards you two staying together and being in love and happy. So take advantage of it. (Yeah, I know, I bet you've told yourself this twenty times already. Easier said than done.)

You may as well talk to him about it if you can't get over it. Just minimize the crazy. In a somewhat similar situation, a friend did so and they made a pact, early disclosure if they were having a problem with each other or the relationship. No penalty. If you love and trust this guy, then you take him at his word until you have reason to do otherwise. You have nothing to lose - you won't be more devastated if your worst fear comes true in one month or six months or two years. It would basically be just as horrible either way, no?
posted by mrs. taters at 11:22 AM on January 28, 2013


Look, whatever happens in the relationship will not be solely your fault. Are you healing from years of abuse? Yes. It's okay. Cut yourself slack.

But something in this particular relationship may be causing you anxiety that has nothing to do with before. Are you sure you're ready to date? Anything can happen in a relationship, even the nightmare of being abandoned or rejected suddenly. You have to be okay with that possibility.

Do you really like and love yourself enough yet to not drive yourself crazy over this? If no, then spend more time alone outside of a relationship. It's okay not to be ready for this yet, especially since it sounds like the anxiety level is way too much.
posted by discopolo at 12:50 PM on January 28, 2013


Best answer: First of all, because he has noticed a change in your behavior, I think it would help things a lot if you tell him about the emotions and anxieties you're dealing with. Tell him too that you want to break out of them, that you're working on figuring out how to minimize your anxieties, that you're in therapy, and you don't want your relationship to be one where he has to constantly reassure you about his feelings.

Then here's what you can do by yourself: even if you aren't able to trust anyone fully now, think about what a person who is trusting and believes that they are loved would do, and behave as if you were that person. Hopefully one day you will become her.
posted by capricorn at 2:23 PM on January 28, 2013 [1 favorite]


Best answer: One of the best things about being in the right relationship is that your partner is the one to whom you say, "My crazy is escaping! Help me pull it back in." I didn't know this til I found it and I don't know how I did without it for so long. You don't know this because you were in a shitty relationship for so long. But seriously, just tell him. He won't freak out. He'll be awesome about it.
posted by juliplease at 2:48 PM on January 28, 2013 [2 favorites]


Response by poster: Thanks to everyone for all the thoughtful advice. I don't usually mark multiple answers as "the best answer" but this time I felt like several answers were worth calling out. @Juliplease and everyone else who suggested that I talk to him about this -- I will really try. But that is scary. The few times I've tried to even vaguely talk around some of the things I'm feeling, I've sounded weird and incomprehensible, even to myself. And I will at least fake being a trusting person.
posted by Lizlemondrop at 12:07 PM on January 29, 2013


@Juliplease and everyone else who suggested that I talk to him about this -- I will really try. But that is scary. The few times I've tried to even vaguely talk around some of the things I'm feeling, I've sounded weird and incomprehensible, even to myself.

Don't try to do it vaguely. Tell him, flat out, "I am freaking the fuck out because A, B and C. I am working on it with my therapist, but I will probably continue to freak the fuck out for a while here, and I ask that you not hold it against me for a little while, okay?" Write it out beforehand. Hell, you don't even have to say it to him if that's too much -- write it out and give it to him. Just make sure you're there when he reads it.
posted by Etrigan at 12:26 PM on January 29, 2013


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