I have "commitment issues", which are incompatible with what I want.
September 17, 2014 7:58 PM   Subscribe

I've always known that I want to find someone and fall in love and raise a family, the whole bit. That's my end-goal, no other ambition in my life is more important to me.. But I always freak out in relationships. I'm almost always the one moving things forwards, because I know what I want, but I get so anxious sometimes.. I'm currently dating someone who is actually perfect for me. He's like me in every way, I've never had better. I don't want to lose him, and I'm not planning on it, but I'm hoping to get advice as to how to stop "freaking out".

A little about my dating history, for clarification. Before and in between my "big" relationships, I dated many people, always with the intention of staying together but always wound up just feeling wrong about it and ending them, always within three months. I hurt a lot of people that way. My first "big" relationship ended up lasting three years, and we were engaged. I spent the first several months freaking out constantly, but I was open about my issues and he was understanding and allowed me to fetal in bed for days at a time, and was always still there. After six months of flat refusing to leave him, regardless of how badly I wanted to run, it got much better. The final year turned back into the first six months and I was so depressed that I broke it off. It was painful. The other two "big" relationships lasted nine months each and both ended because they were emotionally abusive. I flat ignored any "freak outs" for these two as well, at least until there was a basis to leave anyway.

The main thoughts that gets me down is "What am I missing out on?" "I can do better." and "What if I screw up, which I totally will?" and the only thought that makes me feel better is "What's the worst that could happen if I stay? I lose a couple more months of being free and people get hurt. It happens, people heal, no biggie, right?" It helps a little anyway.. Thoughts like how great the person is and how much I love them don't help. I logically know these things, but the "freaking out" isn't logical. I also tend to have crushes as normal, even when serious about someone. They're just as powerful and meaningless as if I were single, and this does not help!

How do you cope? I can't even imagine what made me this way... Probably Disney. >__>
posted by Ellabelle797 to Human Relations (7 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
You have a lot of set things in your mind regarding things. Wanting to fall in love, raise a family, the whole bit. "Big" relationships.

You're raising the stakes by labeling things as "the whole bit" or "Big." And meeting those expectations are what is making you anxious.

And you approach that anxiety in a personally tough way, you ask yourself if you are missing out on something, you could improve on relationships, or you could screw up. You're goal setting in a way that is personally tough on yourself.

What are you missing out on? everything. and nothing. You just cant have all possible good experiences and you don't have to try to not miss any.

The worst thing that could happen if you stay is that you get hurt If you are ok with occasionally feeling emotional pain due to loss or betrayal. And you can give yourself the power to drop the bad ones.

What if you screw up? Well, you would screw up then. Would you experience some emotional pain too? Yes. I guess I'm saying its ok if you do, even if it sucks.
posted by Ironmouth at 8:52 PM on September 17, 2014 [2 favorites]

I'm not actually sure that what will help you is random philosophizing from people on the internet (rather than, say, anti-anxiety medicine and CBT or something), but for what it's worth, I've had these thoughts on occasion. I find it helpful to remind myself of the fact that this impression of endless choice is an illusion - a total mirage. The alternative to your current partner isn't some kind of open-ended choiceless perfection, but another real person with real limitations (and, of course, real strengths!). That mirage of perfection is something you can never actually have, because as soon as you reach out to grasp it, you end up entirely empty-handed. Far better to invest in one concrete choice than to dabble in the puddles of lots of different possibilities. Thing is, any choice you make necessarily excludes other possibilities. You might feel like by breaking up with your boyfriend and dating lots of different people, you are avoiding having to make a choice. But this isn't actually the case. In that case, you get the chance to experience lots of different partners, but you never find out what it is like to be in a long committed relationship with someone - what it feels like to have 20 years of shared history with your best friend, etc. In other words, choosing some possibilities and necessarily excluding others is part of life, and the best thing you can do is embrace your agency in it and use your anxiety about it as an introspective tool to help you determine what is really important in your life, and what choices will most likely get you there.
posted by ClaireBear at 8:52 PM on September 17, 2014 [12 favorites]

The main thoughts that gets me down is "What am I missing out on?" "I can do better."

I would examine what it is you think you're missing in this relationship and see if you can get it with your partner.

"What if I screw up, which I totally will?"

Tell yourself: "If I screw up, I will cross that bridge when I get to it."

I also tend to have crushes as normal, even when serious about someone. They're just as powerful and meaningless as if I were single, and this does not help!

Crushes are normal and human. You can even, if you're lucky, actually talk about your crushes with your partner. It can be a fun, light hearted thing that you actually bond over: "Gosh.. My new co worker is so hawt. Totes have a crush." "Oh rrrrrrrllllly?? What does he look like?" Then you have a good laugh about it.

I think therapy might be a good thing to explore for reducing your anxiety.
posted by Gray Skies at 12:11 AM on September 18, 2014 [3 favorites]

Ah, the myth of the one perfect choice that will guarantee happiness...
I think you are putting too much pressure on yourself.
There is no perfect choice, only a good enough choice based on the information you have. Pick the partner who has no deal breakers, and then make the commitment to work on the marriage/ relationship every single day forever. Which means developing better relationship skills than curling up in a fetal position. Lots of people are willing to help you with that.
The thing is your partner could be perfect and you still might not get the dream life. Because there are tornados and murder and infertility and birth defects and tragic accidents and life is hard and uncontrollable, and what we want and deserve we usually never get. So you make a good enough choice and roll with the punches and learn serenity and develop courage.
Falling in love is easy, living takes skill.
posted by SyraCarol at 6:08 AM on September 18, 2014 [8 favorites]

I do want to be clear that CBT especially would be excellent for your situation. The best book on romance and CBT is Intimate Connections by Dr. David Burns. Read it and do all the exercises for several months.

The points I'm making above are distilled versions of what's in the book. You face all or nothing thinking, primarily, with some catastrophizing and should statements mixed in for good measure.
posted by Ironmouth at 9:08 AM on September 18, 2014 [1 favorite]

"I dated many people, always with the intention of staying together..."

When does this intention kick in?

My concern is that you are more invested in living up to a fantasy (a.k.a. finding safety and security in a well-defined gender role). (And this may include the risky complication of attracting drama lamas who like to play prince charming...)

Or, as others have suggested, perhaps OCD-type issues are interfering with your life.

Can you slow it way down with this guy while you work on anxiety and compulsive behavior?
posted by Lesser Shrew at 10:20 AM on September 18, 2014

This sounds like textbook attachment issues and my guess is you are trying to force things to work with someone without actually asking yourself if you even like that person. Then your subconscious kicks in (doesn't it always?) and tries to sabotage it because you don't actually like that person, you're just "making it work" because you are 100% focused on the end goal, to the exclusion of what is really going on.

Remember that if you get married... you have to stay married to that person. Like, the marriage is not the end goal. The relationship - the every day, living breathing relationship, is the outcome. The marriage is a side effect. If you were entirely desperate to be married you would have married that last guy. But your subconscious kicked it. Maybe you didn't like him. Or maybe the act of getting engaged re-triggered the attachment anxiety and abandonment fears. You could have fears of intimacy, engulfment; fears of being controlled. Maybe you're afraid of abandonment so you run away before they can leave you. There's not enough detail here to say what the root is, but I can promise you it is NOT Disney, but something in your formative experiences. Were things unstable growing up? No one to attach to or rely on? Did people go away? That kind of thing.

I typically don't like to jump into the therapy bandwagon here, but you sound like you really need it. Good luck.
posted by St. Peepsburg at 8:44 AM on September 19, 2014

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