Vail relationship column: Why am I pushing my boyfriend away?
Dear Neil: I was married for 11 years and never saw it coming when my husband asked for a divorce. I jumped into dating and started a pattern that has been really hard to break. Anytime a guy I’m dating doesn’t text me as much as I need, I start feeling anxious. I presume they’re going to dump me, so I find reason to end our relationship or I force the guy to end it.
I am now in a four-month relationship where I can’t seem to control my fears. Last night, my boyfriend was quiet, so I told him that I missed him — and I said I don’t think he ever misses me. He said that of course he misses me, but since we had just spent a long weekend out of town together, he was good for the moment. I asked if he would prefer that I didn’t come over so he could enjoy his down time and said that if he needed a break from me, I would understand. He said, “That’s not necessary.”
I know he loves me, but I keep doing this to him so he will eventually leave me. It all comes down to the fact that I don’t feel worthy of love, so it’s hard to accept being loved. What can I do to save this relationship from the same fate that all my previous relationships have had?
Scared of Love
Dear Scared: You were blindsided by your husband asking for a divorce, and you don’t feel worthy of being loved. So if a man falls in love with you, you fear he will discover that you’re unworthy and unlovable and then leave you. Therefore, you are dumping a man before he can reject you. But this assumes that he is going to leave you. And you’re making this assumption without talking with him about how he feels about you, about the relationship and about a possible future together. What if this assumption is completely wrong?
If you want to overcome your fears and not sabotage this relationship, then you’re going to have to allow yourself to feel vulnerable without running away — or forcing him to. And acting needy and insecure is not endearing, and these traits will indeed push men away from you.
A relationship requires us to be vulnerable. Feeling vulnerable to someone just means that you have opened yourself up and are allowing yourself to be known, and it is essential for both people to do that if you want the relationship to deepen and stabilize. So you could be very honest with your boyfriend and tell him of your fears and insecurities, and then you could guide him about how to handle it when you act needy and insecure.
What reassurances do you need to hear from him when you are feeling insecure? And quit asking him to continuously text you. Sometimes we get busy, tired or wrapped up in something, and we’re not always available when someone else wants us to be.
Neil Rosenthal is a licensed marriage and family therapist in Westminster and Boulder. His column is in its 24th year of publication and is syndicated around the world. You can reach him at 303-758-8777, or email him through his website at http://www.heartrelationships.com. He is the author of the new book “Love, Sex and Staying Warm: Keeping the Flame Alive.”