Thursday, October 22, 2009

Distant boyfriend, I start to cry



Dear Edahn,

I have been in a relationship now for about a year with a great guy that really cares about me. He shows me that he cares by calling, texting, making regular plans, being my best friend, having great sex and generally "showing up" in all the right ways. However, I find myself getting very emotional with him about all kinds of things. He encourages me to talk about my feelings, so I tell him what I'm feeling a lot of the time. The problem is, I seem to get upset a lot, which is not fun for either of us.


For instance, if he is a bit distant or tired when we are spending time together, I get upset and make a comment about it, which causes him to react a bit defensively, and then I start crying. He says he doesn't mind the crying (see, great guy!), but if I'm not happy that's another problem. I AM happy with him, that's the confusing part. What can I do about my level of extreme sensitivity? Do I keep it to myself, sort of "fake it til I make it?" I don't understand why I get so emotional in romantic relationships but seem to have no problem in my friendships. Help!

Wait -- we're not supposed to mind the crying? So I shouldn't be saying "There's no crying in baseball sex romance!" in my Tom Hanks voice? Cr. Ap.

As best I can tell, this is what's happening. You want him to stay engaged and show signs that he is invested. He, naturally, needs to relax and introvert (using it as a verb here) once in a while. That leaves you feeling a little empty or uneasy, as if his distance is a signal that you guys are unconnected, or rather unconnecting. (To take it one step further, the uneasiness overshadows your sense of security, taking down your sense of self with it, and without your sense of self you panic.) You respond by expecting and trying to get him to reengage which he takes personally as a sign that he's not okay; he fires back to protect his freedom and you, already worried about the relationship coming apart, get sent over the edge, almost as if he's rejecting you and breaking up with you. That, I'm guessing, causes him to feel sorry, at which point you know that he's still invested and you feel calm and reassured again.


The first thing you can do is just recognize that this (or something similar to this) is occurring. You're interpreting his disengagement from his thoughts as a disengagement from you personally. On the surface, sure, he is disengaging from you. But it's not the type of disengagement you need to panic about; it's the type of disengagement he needs to refuel, and refueling will give him the ability to connect to you on a more intimate and personal level and really appreciate you in a simple, pure way. So you don't have to panic. Phew.

But alas, for the time being you still will panic because your mind is still conditioned to launch into the worst case scenario and interpretation: that he will forget about you and that you won't be able to reconnect. That's okay. Just know, even just intellectually, that it's not the harbinger of doom your mind (and body) are saying it is. If you know that and appreciate that, then you can claim responsibility for your reaction rather than rushing to correct it by pointing the finger at him and making it his responsibility, or by getting him to feel sorry as a tool to reengage him.

When you see the whole drama -- it's kind of like a play, isn't it? -- start to unfold inside you, just take a second to let it be there, even if it makes you feel like ass. That's one of the luxuries of being in a relationship -- you're not expected to be "on" all the time. It's okay if you feel off, or feel a sense of doom. You can tell him what you're feeling, but do it with the intention to share, not to have it corrected by him or to have him feel sorry for you.

Instead of reacting by turning to him, you can try one (or some combo) or these: 1) Let it pass. Just wait. It will. Seriously. Even if you think it won't, that's fine. A few tries will show you that you'll end up coming back and so will he. 2) Be understanding with yourself. You have a whole drama being triggered. We all do. That's exactly what karma is -- conditioned thought. No need to rush, no need to freak out, no need to worry. Patience is all you really need, since that will give you perspective of what's happening and guide your actions and decisions in a smart, wise way. 3) See a little humor in the situation. Everything is not going to shit; the dude is just unwinding. :) I'm picturing a guy like Michael Cera innocently walking over to the water fountain to take a sip, totally oblivious to the fact that his girlfriend is totally freaking out. OMG OMG OMG, it's over! This is kind of the same thing. If you can see the absurdity in that situation, you can start to see the charming absurdity (and humor) in your own situation. 4) Using your understanding of the situation, face the uncomfortable feeling directly. Yes. It sucks to feel panicky and it sucks to have that security slip, but it's not THAT THAT THAT bad. Ask yourself if you can be strong and endure it without running away or having to change it. You can even try talking some shit (to the thoughts, not your boyfriend). I ain't afraid of you, biyatch!

Try some of these out or invent your own thing using your understanding of the situation. If it works, repeat. The main thing really is to take it slow and consider what's happening and how you want to respond, rather than just going into autopilot. And remember, no shame! We're all growing together. Like fungi. Emotional fungi.

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

Dear Edahn,
I am attracted to a guy in his late twenties and who is also six years younger than i am. As far as I can tell he likes me. I have been out of a relationship for some time though i would not mind going out with him. We talk, but we are not close. How do you think I should go about it? I need some help.

Edahn said...

Dear Anonymous,

Why are you posting here, of all places? Interesting. I'll answer your question next.

Edahn said...

I want to add one thing. Even if you don't feel strong enough to deal with the uncertainty, confusion, and feeling like something is horribly wrong, you should try. I am confident that you will be able to and then see that the situation you were so worried about is actually okay, because you're still there, still alive, still yourself. The confidence will follow the experience, and the experience will follow trying. So try.

Anonymous said...

Oh Wise One...who are you and where did you come from? I am a 38yo woman and have dealt with similar relationship issues my whole life. I experienced severe parental rejection as a child, which kinda messed with my head. Fifteen years of on and off therapy, plus some antidepressants, and I haven't heard such good solid basic information about what happens when I panic in relationships, or conversely why I am attracted to unattainable men, or men who are attainable but disconnected. Happily, most of the time I am able to self-talk my way out of excessive anxiety, but I don't think it will ever go away: my ability to trust has been irreparably damaged (if your parents can't love you, who in hell would?). I like that you give permission to be fallible, but still be a good and lovable person. I have managed to achieve a pretty strong self-image over the years because I've had to address it head on, but it hinges on not being relationally dependent. Thanks for your insights. Thank you for the practical tips and advice. Very wise....