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Dr. Michael
Dr. Michael, Psychologist
Category: Mental Health
Satisfied Customers: 2177
Experience:  Licensed Ph.D. Clinical Health Psychology with 30 years of experience in private practive and as a clinical psychology university professor.
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Now that I am aware, I have some issues with abandonment

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Now that I am aware, I have some issues with abandonment that I work hard not to carry into my relationships. A few years ago I pushed away I man that I loved very much as a result of what I didn't understand about myself.
I am in a new relationship now and I am 2nd guessing my reasons to end it because of mistakes from before. I am having a hardtime finding that certain balance and knowing what is real or my issue. Any suggestions?
I will try to answer your question. It is not uncommon for some individuals who have been hurt badly in past relationships to push new relationships away when they become intimate and we become both attached and at the same time, more and more emotionally vulnerable. (The deeper we love, the more it hurts if we are abandoned, it seems). I'm sure you understand this already very well. What you experience in pushing people away and becoming scared if things become intimate is quite normal if you have had some very traumatic breakups, been sexually or physically abused, etc.

It does "help" in the short term, when we are developing an intimate relationship and begin to feel scared that we are getting "in too deep" and are increasingly vulnerable to do things to chase someone away, before they abandon us (at least we fantasize they might. If we push them away, we control the relationship, the breakup and our level of hurt). But nearly always, there is remorse and regret for what MAYBE giving up what could have been the relationship we've always dreamed having.

Talking to someone, processing our emotional experience while in the midst of developing a new, increasingly intimate relationship is helpful because we can gain a second opinion about our perceptions, they can help us avoid tunnel-vision, because we can be easily carried away by emotion rather then reason. And, most importantly, the supporting person can help us take the small emotional risks that MUST accompany the eventual development of any truly intimate relationship. It is much like we need help with a clinical phobia; we have fears, anxiety of being hurt, and it really helps to have someone hold our hand and help us stick our toes in the water, then our foot, then our leg, etc. So LEARNING TO TAKE RISKS and learning to tolerate the anxiety associated with the risk (rejection fears) is what we primarily need from a close confidant or therapist----and it truly helps to have a working relationship we are developing with someone to experiment with i.e., a new partner. The learning best takes place in vivo or when a relationship is unfolding; it isn't something that can be easily learned by talking and retrospective reflecting about a past relationship. When we help someone with a phobia, it helps to be able to gradually expose them to the threat and help them through it. So I'd speculate that this is the type of new learning experience you need.

I will pause here and let you think about this and respond. I'm sure I haven't answered your question fully. I will be gone for a number of hours......but, I will not leave you hanging if you want to follow up with me on this.......
Customer: replied 7 years ago.

In the current relationship I am in I don't think or feel that I am at risk for being abandoned. I will admit that I am not as emotionally "into it" as I was with the other relationship. Many things about this new relationship works, thinking with my head but thinking with my heart I am guarded. This new man, Jim would do about anything for the relationship to work. I struggle between wondering if he is healthy enough to be in one.

I didn't realize how much pain and how much I loved the relationship that I pushed away, Greg, until afterwards. When I realized the pain and regret that I caused myself for 4 years, its been hard to forgive myself and get pass the mistake that I had made.

Soooo that brings me to, Jim. We've been seeing each other a year now. Some things we like together are easy and great. However, I find him to be selfish with his time, and it takes a lot of effort and discussion for him to compromise. It is sometimes like he doesn't hear me until I push the point "VERY HARD" that he disregards ***** ***** I mention. He focuses on his agenda. When I point it out he does really well and making the effort again. However, its not his natural thing to be accomodating in a relationship.

I find it frustrating and wonder if efforts are enough to overcome is selfishness. Do I hang in there? Or is jumping ship...he'd like to get married.

You are describing some fairly significant differences between yourself and Jim that are naturally causing you to stop and think about whether you are adequately compatible. These do seem to be fundamentally different than the concerns you had with your former boyfriend----because this was more about your anxieties and insecurities than about his deficiencies (if I am reading your posts accurately).

I think you can make this decision if you identify some of the very important deficiencies you experience with Jim and write them down, being as clear and specific as you can. That is, be able to describe the behaviors and even count or measure it, so anyone could understand what you are talking about when they hear it. For example, when a teacher says a child is "disobedient", she may actually be saying she gets angry when she requests that the child sit down in their assigned seat immediately, but they ignore her, even after making two requests. So, try doing this in terms of nailing down what you are concerned about regarding Jim.

After you've made your list, you may want to talk to Jim about your concerns, e.g., "I know we are becoming more serious and perhaps are both thinking about a life together, but frankly, there are some differences in values and priorities that I don't think we are compatible about; I'd like to talk to you about them and get your take on them".

I think the key to your question is: 1) SLOW DOWN and make sure you give yourself enough time to consider this relationship. It is a really big step to get married. You are quite able to sort out what are "your issues" from what are his behaviors/values/actions that concern you; you can keep these from contaminating one another in your thinking if you give yourself time. What is the rush to decide about getting married or not? Would 6 months of additional time really make a difference in the timing of a wedding, for example, if it meant giving up the extra time you might need?

So what do you need the extra time for? After discussing the things that appear to be obstacles to your moving forward with more commitment in this relationship, you should quietly, secretly have some measurable standards in changes you want or expect to see in Jim's behavior. Frankly, she sounds a bit self-centered, even narcissistic, and getting married to someone with serious narcissistic personality traits leads to very unhappy spousal relations. So, what would he need to do differently, across enough time, to allow you to trust that he is making changes in his behavior, ,sufficient for you to ever commit to marriage? Decide what these are, then take the time you feel is reasonable to see them happen. You are smart enough to know that one cannot ever eliminate all risk in a decision such as this i.e, whether to get married, but you can at least base it on better evidence than you have right now.

I hope this response answers your question. PLEASE let me know if I have overlooked any aspect of your question.

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