Estimated reading time: 16 minutes
Hi Dr. NerdLove,
I am a newcomer, and I really appreciate all the work you put in for so many people!
I’ve been In a 10 month relationship, and this is my second official relationship.
A bit of a background check, my first relationship only lasted a month. I tend to get anxious with relationships and, it was getting too hard to carry, so, I broke it.
Now for my current relationship, I met her for the first time in my neighborhood as she was a friend of my cousin. We got into contact, and, we used to talk constantly, until I realized I had feelings for her. I asked her out, and she said she needed time. I asked her out a month later again and she accepted. So, we got in a long distance relationship.
I got anxious about the relationship after just one month and I kept fighting it until I overcame it within 2 months. The primary reason for my anxiety was because she and I didn’t share a lot of common interests, so I always feared that she will realize that we are different and the relationship will fall apart. But, in the end, I convinced myself she won’t break up with me for this reason, and we carried our relationship further and over time gained multiple common interests.
Throughout the relationship, my main goal was always to keep her happy. I always awaited her texts, and I kept planning ways I could make her life better. I always have lots of task up my sleeves, but even after all those, whenever I heard her notification ringtone, I always got excited and got ready to talk to her regardless of what I was doing.
I always just wanted to see her happy, I always felt bad for how crappy her life was and I just wanted to improve her life, spend my life with her, and live happily together..
Some months ago, anxiety struck again.. I kinda screwed up, and I was treating my passion projects as a necessary task and forcing myself to work, which lead to loads of stress and I got so scared of doing anything that I eventually got really anxious about everything.
She was always by my side throughout this, helping me at any moment. And now, after 2 months, I no longer feel too much anxious about things and am doing better. But, here comes the problem…
When I was going through anxiety, I was so overwhelmed with things that I couldn’t feel my love for my partner. Or for anyone for that matter. I always thought that I’ll feel It back again when I won’t be anxious about everything.
But, now that I am not overwhelmed, I still don’t feel the love. I still feel mildly anxious every now and then for no particular reason, but I guess that’s only natural. And, I don’t know If that’s what making me feel this way.
The thought of making her happy, no longer excites me the same way. I dread whenever she texts me, I am always afraid that in some way, talking to her may bring back the anxiety. Even though she only loves me more than ever. When I talk to her, everything is great, I love her more than ever, but I do feel scared at times.
I am too afraid of having to go through that again. The feeling of being overwhelmed, stressed out by everything. And, this fear makes me afraid to be with her at times. And, not thinking of ways to make her happier anymore, makes me feel like I’m not being a good boyfriend…
She even suggested herself that, we should break up if the relationship is causing more harm than good, and even my friends suggest the same. But, I know that, we can change our mind and not our partner to fix things many a times. And this Is certainly one of those times. But, I just don’t know how.. I really do love her, I know that, but, not in the same way I used to, and, I don’t want to be someone who wants to gain happiness from a relationship without returning it.
Sorry if this was confusing, thank you for spending your time reading this.
Anxiety Ruins Everything
Right, so there’re two things going on here, ARE. Let’s start with the surface level: how your anxiety has made you feel about this relationship.
What you’re experiencing is actually pretty common. One of the reasons why fears, phobias and anxieties can be so tenacious is that they often have unintentional knock-on effects. Much of this is due to the ultimate reason why we have fears and phobias: they’re a form of self-preservation. We experience trauma or have a negative exposure to something and the pain, discomfort or other unpleasant experiences carves a groove in our brain, and that groove says “I don’t want to go through that again.” As a result, we have a visceral, negative emotional response to what we perceive as the cause of that experience.
If you – just to pick a random example that has absolutely no relationship to anything at all, I swear – climb a tree as a child and get stuck near the top and can’t get back down again safely, you might develop a fear of heights. As a result, being in places where you’re high up in the air, you start having all the physical effects of fear – the racing heartbeat, the adrenaline dump into your system, the way your body tenses for the fight/flight/flee response and so on.
But here’s the weird thing: our brains are very bad at understanding why we feel a certain way. They take the sensations we feel and create a reason for it afterwards based on the evidence at hand. And because a lot of fears are born out of negative experiences – including extreme discomfort – you can often end up with an aversion to not just the thing that you’re afraid of, but the physical and emotional sensations of that fear as well. You’re literally afraid of being afraid because those feelings were so deeply unpleasant and intense and you don’t want to experience them again. So as a result: you associate other things, things that aren’t necessarily directly connected to that fear trigger, with that fear.
That’s almost certainly part of what happened. Because your anxiety spiked while you were busy and you associated that anxiety spike with being in contact with your girlfriend, there’s a secondary connection between your girlfriend and your anxiety – one that’s reinforced by your previous anxiety about the relationship. So now your brain has made the association between your girlfriend and that anxiety and it’s in self-protection mode. It doesn’t want to experience those intense negative feelings again and so it’s pushing the associations away.
There are ways of undoing this, mostly by reinforcing the positive aspects of being with your girlfriend and all. But if I’m being honest here? I don’t think that’s actually a good idea. Which is what brings us to the second issue – your first anxiety spike and your relationship itself.
Now I want to be clear: I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with your girlfriend or that she’s a bad person, nor am I saying there’s anything wrong with you. However, I don’t know if this relationship is actually one that you want, or that it’s going to be good for you in general.
I fully understand that this is your second relationship ever, and so you don’t have a lot of experience under your belt. I suspect that you’re also dealing with a certain amount of self-esteem and self-worth issues. But the way you describe, not just your relationship but how you act in it, sends up some flags for me.
Let’s start with an obvious question: what do you like about your girlfriend that isn’t either her looks or the fact that she likes you? What does (or did) this relationship bring into your life that isn’t just “I have a girlfriend”? What do you all share that makes this relationship worth it for you?
Give those some serious thought before you answer, because… well, I’m not entirely sure there’s much there. The fact that you and she don’t have a lot in common is something I see crop up when people round physical or sexual attraction up to “love” or try to build a relationship out of a purely physical connection. You can be attracted to someone, even have intense physical chemistry with them – so much so that you have to fight to come up for air in between banging out on every sturdy surface in the house – but not have enough to make a relationship work. Physical chemistry and sexual connection is important in a long-term relationship, yes, but it’s not the only thing you need to make a relationship work. Especially since that New Relationship Energy will always fade; it’s just part of how we’re wired.
I’d also like to know how you feel about yourself. There’re a few things in your letter that scream to me that you may not see or believe in your own value and worth. When you’re barely a month into the relationship and you’re already feeling like the Sword of Damocles is hanging over your head, that’s usually a sign that something’s wrong. Either you know on a subconscious level that there’s something off here, or you don’t believe that someone could care for you because of who you are.
That carries over to the way you behave with her and your attitude towards your relationship. The attitude of “I have to make sure I’m always making her life better”, to the point that you’re neglecting your own interests, isn’t healthy. It’s the sort of thing that suggests that you feel as though you have to be constantly doing things for her, with an unspoken “or else” lingering in the background like a smell after a fart. It’s easy to frame it as “trying to be a good boyfriend” or “I love her so much so I sacrifice everything for her”, but quite frankly, that’s not a healthy attitude. Every relationship requires balance. Yeah, you need to do things for the relationship and for your partner, but you also need to do things for your relationship with yourself. Losing yourself in your relationship and feeling responsible for their feelings and actions is the literal definition of codependence.
Overbalancing towards having to making someone’s happiness the exclusive goal in your life isn’t healthy – not for you, not for them and not for the relationship. It suggests a level of insecurity and fearfulness with relationships and the belief that you can only be loved or appreciated for what you do for people, not for who you are. That’s not a great place to be in general, and it’s especially not a good place for making a relationship work. Even if you’re with a good partner who doesn’t take advantage of this – or who doesn’t exhibit codependence of their own – it’s the sort of thing that can result in the exact sort of burnout and anxiety you’re already experiencing.
So while I don’t think there’s anything wrong or bad with your girlfriend… I don’t think this relationship is a good or healthy one for you. I think your girlfriend and your friends are right: you should probably let this relationship go for your own good. You don’t want to be setting yourself on fire just to keep other people warm, even if they weren’t demanding it of you. All that happens is that you hurt yourself and make your own life that much more difficult and traumatic.
I know it’s not what you want to hear, but I think what you need to do right now is back out of this relationship and focus more on the relationship with yourself. If I’m right and either you have an insecure style of attachment or self-esteem issues, you’d be better off working with a counselor and getting yourself into a better place, mentally and emotionally.
And here’s the thing: if you and your girlfriend do have enough in common to make things work, that doesn’t mean that breaking up for now is the end. If you go and work on yourself and get yourself into better emotional shape, there’s nothing stopping the two of you from circling back around to this relationship and giving it another try. If she’s right for you, she’ll still be the right for you when you’re healthier and in a place where you can be a good boyfriend without tying yourself into knots about it. But right now, you’re not in a position to be good for her or yourself, and you need to prioritize you for a while. There comes a point where you have to be willing to say – to paraphrase the sage – “I may love you, but I love me more”.
If you love her, then love yourself enough to take care of yourself for a while. If this is meant to be, it’ll still be meant to be when you’re in a better place.
I am a man interested in feminine, supportive, educated, reserved type of girl. I know those women exist, but it is very hard to meet them.
A little info about me, I am 24 years old, I am studies computer science in university, currently I am working in a 6 figure 9-5 engineering job. In my free time, I am an amateur boxer, I spend a lot of time in the boxing ring. So as you can tell, my circle is male dominated.
I am in a decent shape, decent looking, very well dressed (received a lot complements for my style of fashion from female friends and ex). I am a little bit short (5`8).
What I value a women is a stable personality, good education level, a healthy life style and some healthy hobbies, and of course, she has be a decent good looking person.
I have tried to expand hobbies to expand my circle, I have tried street dancing (didn’t like it), co-ed sports (badminton, frisbee, didn’t meet anyone I interested, and they are not my favorite sports), yoga class (liked it, still doing it, but it hard to talk to people when people are just trying to focus on the class) and photography (just started it).
What changes should I be making to make my dating better?
Looking For Ms. Goodbar
I’ve written a lot about where to go and how to meet amazing women, LFMG, so my first suggestion is to go through the archives and read up on the subject. But since you’re here and you’re providing me with the opportunity, I want to take a moment to approach this from a different angle – something I’ve noticed a lot of guys often don’t think about.
From the sound of it, you’re looking for a fairly “traditional” – in the gender essentialist sense – woman as a partner. But how would those personality traits, background, education level and so on line up with your interests, your lifestyle and your background?
I ask because… well, you give very little about who you are, just what you do. Dressing well and being active is all good, but those are descriptions; they don’t speak about your personality or interests, values or passions – things that need to line up and intersect in order for you and a potential partner to be compatible. A lot of folks who are looking for a “traditional” sort of women often don’t consider this, and end up frustrated, because what they are looking for can often be summed up as “likes me and supports me”, without much consideration for their inner and outer lives. That’s not really a recipe for a long and happy relationship. Relationships are partnerships, and that means balancing both your side of the equation and theirs. So there needs to be a mutual “here’s what I bring to the table that you like, here’s what you bring to the table that I like, how do we put these together?”
If that balance isn’t there, not only is the relationship is unlikely to work, but you’re also making it that much harder to actually find someone in the first place.
This is why it’s helpful to consider not just what you want in a person but why you want it.
Another thing that you’ll want to do is to think about the sort of person who would have the qualities that you’re looking for. You have a list of what you’re looking for in a partner, and that’s cool. But let’s consider something for a second. Imagine the sort of person who would have those aspects or would be that kind of person. Imagine her personality, her interests, what she’s likely to be into and not into. Now ask yourself: do those things line up with who you are and what you have to offer? What non-material things do you have to offer that would make you someone she would want to date and spend time with? How would your lives mesh up if the two of you were to date? What would you be doing that would help you fit into her world as much as you would want her to fit into yours?
To give an example: you’re an athlete. Obviously, being an amateur boxer is important to you, and you spend a lot of time in that world. That’s all well and good; I enjoy boxing and martial arts myself. But, if you want a partner, you’re going to want someone who can appreciate this side of you – even if they don’t necessarily share your interest to the same level you do.
That’s where you run into the supply issue, as it were. Consider the sort of women you’re looking for and ask: is that a world that’s going to interest them? Are they the sort of person who’s into sports and especially combat sports? That specific combination of reserved, feminine, educated and likes boxing or similar sports are going to be thin on the ground.
Another thing to consider is how your life will change while you’re in a relationship with them. As I said: relationships are about balance, and being in a relationship with someone requires making adjustments. There are, after all, only 24 hours in a day, and literally everything you do comes with an opportunity cost. If you’re going to share a life with someone, there’re going to be things that you’ll have less time to give your attention to, because you’ll be giving that time to something else. If your ideal relationship with your ideal girlfriend would mean that the only thing that changes is that she’s present… well, that’s not really a relationship, that’s an accessory.
This is where the mutual interests and passions come in, the things that she has in her life that she can share with you as well as the things in your life that you can share with her. If you haven’t put much thought into that… well, that’s going to cause friction, sooner or later.
This is why it’s generally a good idea to consider not just the outward aspects of what you want in a person but what the holistic individual would be like. Sometimes what we consider to be our “must-haves” will conflict with life and the changes that’re necessary to make a relationship work. That’s when you need to decide things are truly important and what you’re willing to compromise or give up. After all, nobody, not even the hottest celebrity you can imagine, gets 100% of what they want in a partner. No one person can be everything to someone else; we all get 60-75%, even 80%, but count what we don’t get as the price of entry. But the important thing is: that 65%, 70%… that’s all so great that we don’t mind what we give up in exchange.
So while you’re looking for a new relationship, put some thought into what’s really going to be important for you, what you’re willing to compromise on and what you have that this theoretical person would want – and again, things that aren’t just purely physical or material.
Get a good handle on that, and you’ll have a better idea of where the people you want to date are likely to be hanging out.