I am having a hard time trusting my partner right now, but I’m not sure if the problem is really him or if it’s me. I love him very much, but I am also aware of the fact that I excuse a lot of his behaviors that I don’t like for fear of loosing him and being alone. I have never felt very good about myself even though I have been working on my self-esteem with the help of friends for a while. I know that this has a lot to do with my problem. My boyfriend of two years does show me that he cares about me and I do believe that he loves me, but at the same time he tends to tell me that I’m too needy when I feel that I am just communicating openly. He also recently told me that the reason he doesn’t join me in doing things that I am really interested in is because it’s boring for him. And he also tends to get “sick” often when it’s time for him to show up over the weekend. I often to let my mind go to the worst possible place, but in asking this question I am trying to find some balance. Am I loosing my boyfriend or am I letting my insecurities get the best of me?
Let’s first acknowledge the important insights that you have realized. Knowing your own dynamics around loneliness and fear is so important. Great job for being honest with yourself about how you might be playing into things with your boyfriend. Sometimes our insecurities can exaggerate even the smallest problems. Even worse, the tendency to ignore what you don’t want to face will likely lead you to a position you don’t want to be in, like an unhealthy and not so nurturing relationship. Not many people look at what’s really going on in their lives; they tend to look into the mirror of their own projections of what they want to be happening. But looking can only help you further along on your path to healthy relationships. It’s important to find a balance in trusting your guts when you know that you could be making adjustments, but also not claiming all of the responsibility for what clearly isn’t working. Considering all of this, I’m going to call it for you: it’s both.
Keep working on that self-esteem. What you put out into the world in terms of your beliefs about yourself and others is what will create your every day reality. You cannot attract friends or mates that will respect and like you for exactly what you are if you don’t respect or like yourself. I know everyone says it, but for one moment think about those people that you like and respect. Are they generally individuals who have a positive outlook and genuinely care for themselves and others? See the pattern? In any relationship, especially romantic ones, this is a very key element. You must both respect yourselves and live a life that manifests a sense of self-appreciation if you are going to have anything to offer one another.
More specifically, with your boyfriend, here is a good way to find balance. Listen to what he is saying and then step into his shoes. Can you understand where he is coming from if he has learned that open communication implies neediness? How often does he express his own needs? This could be more indicative of his way of being in the world than of how he feels about you. Can you see where he might be coming from when he says certain activities are boring? Does he appreciate when you join in on activities of his that you find boring? Do you ever acknowledge that this is what you are doing for him and that you believe this should be a mutual respect within the relationship? Perhaps you have done this, but if you haven’t then it’s a good place to start. From there, I would find a way to very clearly communicate how these things make you feel and what your expectations are of him, offering the space for him to accept or decline based on what he feels like he can offer to you in these areas. Expectations can be tricky, so remember that when you tell him what you want he has the right as a whole person, not just your boyfriend, to decide that he either does or doesn’t, can or can’t meet that need for you. It’s up to you to accept what he offers or not. If he cannot give you what you want and you are doing the deeper self-work that helps to keep your expectations in check, then maybe, despite your fear of being alone, he just isn’t right for you. And maybe, if you are brave enough to consider it, whether or not he’s a good boyfriend, you could consider being on your own to become healthier around loneliness so that you are really ready for that great relationship that’s waiting for you to find it. Loneliness is a sacred human experience; we can all benefit from making friends with it before we bind ourselves to another. Just chew on it a little, ok?
Lastly, if your boyfriend is getting sick a lot, this could be one of many issues. I personally think it’s important for partners to hold each other accountable in living healthy lifestyles. We all have our days and our moments of weakness when it comes to naughty habits, but generally this should be a mutual effort, for yourselves and each other. So, if you are already supporting your boyfriend in his sickness, challenge him to do a better job of staying healthy so that it doesn’t have such a negative impact on the relationship. It’s not selfish to ask him to make this a priority. He should be his first priority, and you should be making that top 4 list too. And if this is really about something else, then there needs to be a conversation about what’s appropriate for together and alone time. Both are necessary, but no one should be lonely in their relationships. This will be good self-esteem building practice for you. Assert your needs here. It’s ok to ask for more time, or for more creative solutions to maintaining time together amidst the demands of life. If he disagrees then I think it’s time to keep moving, lady. Someone will eventually appreciate you the way you should be, even if it’s not easy to think about that being farther away than the loneliness. Focusing on loving yourself as much as you wish he did will make this whole process easier. I promise.
You can ask Samara and Caroline questions for the Love & Life Advice Column here at firstname.lastname@example.org.
* The ideas and advice presented here are not a substitute for professional advice. Talk to your psychologist, counselor, physician or health care professional for situations that warrant further analysis.