Hey Doc, let me start by saying “Thank you” for your work. It helped me get into dating and relationships when I was terrified of the prospect and provided uplifting-but-no-bullshit advice when I needed it. Now I ask you more directly for advice since a) I haven’t been able to find this topic in your website and b) it might help other readers in the same situation.
Basically, I think I’m struggling with insecure attachment/enmeshment issues. For background, I’ve been in a committed relationship for over three years. My partner is very patient, caring, trusting, and dedicated – but going into our second year, I turned jealous and highly insecure (I concealed it from him, mostly out of shame).
I hated it when he went out with his friends. I had a full-blown panic attack when he didn’t call me after work one night. My day was ruined if he didn’t text me “Good morning” or declined to call me during lunch break. His (female) co-workers felt threatening. An evening he preferred to stay at home resting meant he hated me. I felt totally split – I’d spend a day or two in absolute despair, unable to sleep or focus – and then suddenly “leave the fog,” wondering how I convinced myself that he’s unfaithful, dislikes me, wants to break up, etc.
I didn’t recognize myself. I used to be very independent before we met, having fun dating, spending time with friends and balancing work and college; I was pretty happy. Now I was a helpless, pathetic, depressed mess without him, and when I was with him every ambiguous comment or behavior was fodder for my insecurity.
I saw a counselor for 4 months (the third one in five years for unrelated anxiety and depression) and I’m doing much better today, but there are times I still struggle. Last time he spent the evening with friends I cried half the time he was gone. If he doesn’t want to be intimate I take it personally. Knowing he’s had other romantic/sexual partners and the fact that he (being human) still finds other people attractive leaves my guts wrenching.
I don’t know how to stop. I’ve tried “getting my own life” like joining clubs but it’s hard with my schedule. My friends live 30-40 minutes away and everyone is too busy for weekly meet-ups. I’m too ashamed to discuss it with my partner. I’m on the waitlist for another therapist at my college but the wait is long and other options are unlikely, being uninsured. Sometimes I wonder if being in a relationship is worth the emotional turmoil it’s generating in me.
I know that my low self-esteem and attachment problems have nothing to do with him. I don’t actually think he is unfaithful or uncaring or dislikes me. I feel so embarrassed about how out of control my emotions seem – it’s nothing like the empowered, independent image of myself I try to project.
How do I solve this before I sabotage what we’ve built?
Dependent and Despondent