Q. Here’s the scenario: I am a late-20s professional, hard-working woman. I have an 8-year-old son and a teen brother who live with me. Just me and my boys. I have been single for about seven years by choice. After leaving my son’s father, I decided to work on my education, my career, and to nurture my relationships with friends and family. I’ve dated on and off within those years, had a few short-term monogamous relationships (five months max), and had a lot of fun being single. I’m a highly confident woman and I very much know my worth.
Being the happy, single gal that I am, I was taken completely off guard by an amazing man I’ve been dating for about three months now. He is more than I could have ever asked for. Our relationship thus far has been very successful and healthy. The problem is me. I’m a runner — as in I run away from relationships. Which is why I haven’t had any long-term relationships in years. But he is honestly the first guy that I haven’t wanted to run away from. He’s good to me and for me. We fit. I want to stay, but every day I have to talk myself into not breaking it off with him. Every day. And he picked up on this from the beginning. He is loyal and a man of integrity. He knows my worth as I know his. But the anxiety I’m suffering from this is stifling. I just want to give up because I have way too much going on and I’m not sure I can care for another person, not the way he deserves. Why am I trying to sabotage this good thing by leaving? He has me flustered and confused with no plan and no way to prepare because I don’t know how to do this love thing. It’s turning me into a hot mess.
Anxious in Love,
A. You mention that you’re worried about caring for him, but he’s not another kid or sibling. He’s a grown-up who can take care of himself. At three months, your only responsibility is to enjoy him.
You also mention that you’re frustrated that you don’t have a plan. I understand that single parenting takes some serious planning, but love doesn’t, at least not right now. You just have to keep dating him. That’s the best I can do for structure.
For the record, this kind of anxiety is pretty normal. Good relationships often freak us out more than mediocre ones. You must continue giving yourself the daily “don’t run” pep talks because they’re part of your process. Sometimes we have to train ourselves to be happy.
Whatever you do, please don’t sit around and talk about this with him too much. Just repeat the mantra and let yourself continue this relationship. Deep down, that’s been your plan all along.
If you really do like this man, get it together before it’s too late.
This letter writer is a perfect candidate for some short-term therapy. If she can get a handle on what she fears and work through it, she can prevent herself from running from a good thing. Otherwise, this guy may start to think it’s about him and be the one to leave.
I‘m going to throw down the therapy card. Its time for you to figure out why you are trying to sabotage your relationship. You also need to figure out why you “can’t do this love thing.” I agree with Meredith that your boyfriend isn’t someone that you have to take care of. You are already taking care of your son and your teen brother. Let your boyfriend take care of himself and make the effort to allow him to take care of you.
You certainly don’t have to “take care of” this man — he’s capable of doing that himself. He knows what he’s got in you. If he didn’t like it, he would have run himself. Stop thinking so damn far down the road. Everything in life doesn’t have to be planned. In fact, when you try to do that, it blows up in your face. Just date him.
And enjoy the relationship
I’m going to disagree with Meredith and say this level of anxiety does not sound normal. I’m also going to offer two possibilities: 1) Your gut is telling you to run for a reason; and/or 2) you have deep-seeded anxieties related to commitment.
Sounds like you feel you don’t deserve this good thing. At least you can see the signs that you’re self-sabotaging this. Meredith is right. . . . You don’t need a grand plan three months in . . . and he doesn’t need to be taken care of. Sounds like you’re projecting too much into the future of what this could be . . . instead of just relaxing and enjoying the now.
“Good relationships often freak us out more than mediocre ones.” Memo to Meredith: only if you’re crazy.
Meredith wrote: “For the record, this kind of anxiety is pretty normal.” Really? Who says that having to talk yourself out every single day from breaking up with the man of your dreams is normal? Contrary to Meredith’s advice, you are not able to overcome your problems on your own. Seek professional help. You’re not crazy. . . . You just need a professional to help you make a major course change here so that you don’t lose this wonderful man.
“Good relationships often freak us out more than mediocre ones.” Yep. It sucks to fall in love because it’s makes us vulnerable. If we give someone our heart, they can break it.
This talk of “know my own worth” sounds empty if you’re freaked out about connecting with a good person and being unwilling/unable to enjoy the relationship. Telling yourself how confident you are doesn’t make you that way. As for the previous relationships you mention, it sounds like a lot of people coming and going from your child’s life. Best slow that down. You seem to be jumping through relationships — perhaps you should explore why.
Me thinks the other reason why you run is that you are not comfortable with your self. I do think a little bit of time in therapy will help you work things out.
MHOUSTONThis column and reader comments are edited and reprinted from www.boston.com/loveletters. Meredith Goldstein can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. She chats online Wednesday at 1 p.m.