To celebrate my one-year anniversary writing for YouBeauty.com, I thought I’d take a shot at a Q&A column. You’ve asked some great questions on the website, and these questions make for good jumping-off points for a larger discussion of relationship issues.
Before I begin, one proviso. Although I am a licensed clinical psychologist, my advice here is not meant to replace that of an experienced professional who can work with you directly on a one-to-one basis. Many of the problems we’ll discuss here are serious and have implications for your mental health, as well as the prosperity of your relationships. I can’t “solve” these relationship issues via the internet; I just don’t have enough information to do that. Instead, my hope is to give advice that might encourage some new thinking about old problems and potentially shed new light on what in these difficult situations. If the issue is very serious, I urge you to seek the help of a licensed psychologist in your community.
OK, that’s all for the qualifications. Let’s tackle a a couple problems. Here’s our first (I’ve shortened it a bit), submitted by soak925:
I have been seeing my boyfriend for about eight months now. He has all the check boxes - smart, attractive, good job and a home, however he is fiercely independent. I, on the other hand, tend to be somewhat insecure in (relatively) new relationships.
I find myself asking him where he's been, who he's been with, which is always interpreted by him that I don't trust him. There have been some occasions where he has been evasive when those questions are asked. I don't believe that it is because he was doing anything wrong, but rather that he doesn’t like being checked up on. He answers my questions, but not without a fight. I think he feels like somehow his independence is being threatened if he surrenders to answering me. I've tried explaining to him that this sort of reaction actually just perpetuates my insecurity about our relationship, and while I think he's trying to improve how he reacts to these situations, I don't think he truly understands how his reactions affect my perception.
How do we get to some middle ground? I promised to be more cognizant of "checking up on him." But how can I get him to understand that it's going to take time, and that we're not going to get there if he's not going to work with me?
An excellent question! Your relationship situation is not at all uncommon. And it illustrates one of the hardest parts of making any relationship work: Each person has their own unique history in relationships, and by the time we’re adults we often have pretty set ways of behaving.
Your boyfriend tends to be “fiercely independent” and you tend to be a little more anxious, and when these two tendencies come together, there’s potential for real frustration on both sides.
I think you’ve handled your situation extremely well. First, you recognize that you’re a little anxious and that you might be over-reacting a bit. You might not be, too, and I’ll get to that point in a minute. Second, you’ve expressed yourself clearly, and you’ve indicated to you boyfriend that if he just responded in a totally straightforward way, your anxiety would go down.
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