My history of bad relationships has made me suspicious
I constantly think my wonderful partner is looking at other women when we are out together
PROBLEM: I am a 35-year-old woman who suffers from crippling insecurity. I am on the verge of destroying the best relationship I have ever had. After a string of awful relationships throughout my 20s and early 30s where I was cheated on, lied to, stolen from and psychologically abused, I have finally met an amazing man who loves and cares for me deeply and would do anything for me.
I am very much in love with this man and I know we could have a wonderful future together. We have spoken of buying a home together and getting married. The problem is that, as a result of my past experiences, I’m completely irrational.
For example, if he makes plans to go out with friends (which he doesn’t do often – maybe once a month) I suffer from crippling anxiety that he is doing something without me from the time he tells me his plans until it’s over. This could be weeks sometimes.
I feel as though there is a concrete slab on my chest restricting my breathing, and my heart thumps so fast I fear it might burst out of my chest. I constantly think he is looking at other women when we are out together. In my heart I know he isn’t, but my mind runs away with itself.
If he rings five minutes later than he said he would, I imagine all sorts of goings-on. I know I’m being irrational but I just cannot help it.
This man would never cheat on me, hurt me or let me down. He doesn’t have it in him, he is a wonderful caring man, but he knows something isn’t right. He has begun to ask me constantly what is wrong and why I am so quiet, and I just keep giving the same answer: “Nothing’s wrong. I’m fine.” I’m beginning to feel completely hopeless because I know that if I can’t have a happy relationship with this man I will never be able to have one with anyone.
ADVICE: You show remarkable understanding about the nature of the problem: “my mind runs away with itself”; “I imagine all sorts of goings-on”. If this situation continues, it is likely that you will lose the best relationship of your life, so now is the time to tackle it.
The depth of your anxiety is so elevated that you are having heart palpitations and possible panic attacks. This is not something you should ignore or tolerate. The fact that you are hiding this from your partner might also be contributing to the escalation of the symptoms.
There is something in human nature that when we finally find something that makes us happy, we enjoy it for a very short time before the fear that we might lose it sets in. Anxiety results from this fear taking a hold in our minds and emotions without any let-up. A pattern of permanent anxiety can set in.
It sounds like your anxiety is bad enough that it would benefit from some professional help: you can ask your GP for a referral or look up psychotherapy-ireland.com for accredited professionals in your area.
It seems that you trust your intelligence to tell you that your partner is a loyal and caring person and that you have nothing to fear, but your mind goes to your poor past relationships and tells you that you have been hurt and let down.
This past trauma is so vivid that you have a physical as well as an emotional response, and this warning system ratchets up to a frightening extent so that you are aware of the danger and that you should act to protect yourself.
However, your method of protecting yourself – hiding your fears and growing suspicious and anxious – is now causing you more emotional pain than the original hurt from past partners. The way forward is to express your fears, accept the support of a loving partner and face your anxiety. This needs to be done in a timely and safe way. The starting point is to let your partner into your inner life and have faith in your relationship to support you through this process.
Your fear is that your partner will reject you because of your “irrationality”, but the alternative is that you are growing mistrustful and emotionally distant in the relationship. If this continues you will contribute to the possible demise of something that has wonderful potential. Intimacy requires that we are completely ourselves with our loved ones, and this dependency forges a strong and enduring bond in our romantic relationships.
Do not let fear stop you from experiencing happiness. Get some help now and take the risk of speaking honestly so that you can start the process of letting go of your negative thoughts and enjoying the happiness that is in front of you.
- Trish Murphy is a psychotherapist. Email firstname.lastname@example.org for advice. We regret that personal correspondence cannot be entered into