Vail Relationships column: How to quit obsessing about relationships
Dear Neil: How do I stop myself from getting too invested in a relationship? I am a 37-year-old female with a good job, and I have spent almost a year with this guy. But he had to move away for work, so we’ve had a long-distance relationship for the past three months. He is practical and says he has to focus on work. I am dreamy, centering everything on the relationship, thinking about him around the clock — and I want to talk with him throughout the day.
I have become too attached and come across as needy and psycho. He says that we are not teenagers and that there is more to our lives than our relationship. Are my expectations too high? How do I quit obsessing over him?
Needy in India
Dear Needy: It sounds like what you’re describing is that you are way more attached and committed to the relationship than he is. But it is also possible that you are driving him away by being so demanding of him, especially during work hours.
Most people cannot afford to engage in a conversation with you during work hours without compromising their effectiveness. So you could begin by ceasing your expectation that the two of you communicate during working hours.
I am not clear about whether you’re smitten with him alone — or if he feels similarly toward you — and I am not clear how committed or invested he is in you. So here is what I would advise you do.
Pay very close attention to how he behaves around you and what he says to you. Is he interested in you, your life, your struggles, your feelings, your hopes and your wishes? Is he attentive to you? On a scale from 0-10, how connected is he to you from what you can tell? How close does he feel toward you? What priority are you in his day, week and month and which priorities in his life rank higher than you? Is he emotionally available to you, or is he more emotionally closed off? You need to answer these questions with your eyes wide open, so you don’t stay in a dead-end relationship hoping for a future that he has no real interest in.
Have you guys talked about what happens long term? Are you being invited to move in with him or close to him, or is there no agreement about what this means to the future of the relationship? And if you were to give up your job to be closer to him, then is he prepared to take care of you financially until you are able to find another job?
My best guess is that you are in a serious relationship with him, but he is in a more casual relationship with you. If I’m right, then this relationship is likely to end badly for you. So redirect your focus from obsessing about him to carefully looking at how interested he is in you, and how invested and committed he is in a future with you.
Neil Rosenthal is a licensed marriage and family therapist in Westminster and Boulder. He is the author of the bestselling book, “Love, Sex, and Staying Warm: Creating a Vital Relationship.” Contact him at 303-758-8777 or visit neilrosenthal.com.