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Penny Rayas, MFT
Penny Rayas, MFT, Therapist
Category: Mental Health
Satisfied Customers: 395
Experience:  I have 20 years experience in the mental health field
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My boyfriend is counter-dependent; I've just realized this.

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My boyfriend is counter-dependent; I've just realized this. Things were going well with us for a few months and then he had to travel for work for a while. I think this distance triggered something in him because he put up this wall and is now not talking to me for no reason. I have known for a while that he had intimacy issues, but they seemed to go away for a while so I just let it go, but now that he has put this wall up I realize the the issue is very deep and needs to be addressed.
How can I approach this topic with him and not scare him off? He's supposed to come home in a couple weeks, but after I pick him up from the airport and drop him off at his place I don't know if he will respond to me or continue to push me away and not take my calls. I want to be able to address this issue with him as sensitively as possible because I may only have a brief window to talk to him when he gets back.
Also, should I let him know that I care about him through text and email while he is away? I don't want to threaten his space, but I don't want him to feel alone either.

You describe intimacy but don't give much information. If there are intimacy issues then you need to address them with him. That may include meeting with a professional together. Intimacy issues can be due to anything including history of trauma, inability to communicate needs, inexperience with a healthy relationship etc. He has to be able to at least acknowledge his lack of intimacy skills. One of the best remedies for such issues is positive communication. You have to work together to develop ways to express your feelings and how to best connect. That connection is different for all couples, but you must learn to have the connection in an emotional and physical way.

You must convey to him that you are concerned in this area and need to work on this either alone or with a professional. Any progress made even small will help. Find self help or professional resources on communication as well. My favorite is Mars and Venus Together Forever. It talks about this in depth.

I think you should especially text while he is away. This maintains a connection that you don't have at home. This adds to the romance of having this connection. You can even say things this way that you or him may find embarrassing or uncomfortable if facing each other. You can take a risk by these means.

You have to communicate more effectively and that just takes more effort. You have to do this together. If he shuts down then you can't fix this alone. You have to be able to state their is a problem and agree to work on it. He has to be equally as committed. If he isn't nothing will change. So start by having a talk at a very personal level and see what you both are willing to try and how much of a commitment you have to each other.

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Customer: replied 5 years ago.
There are definitely intimacy issues. I wasn't sure how in depth to go with this question. I realize that he has to make the decision to deal with these issues and that if he decides not to then I will have to walk away. BUT, I feel like I have at least one chance to talk with him face-to-face and want to make sure that I communicate to him as best as possible that there is a problem that he needs to face. He recognizes that something is wrong and has told me about his ongoing depression, but I think he is too proud to ask for help with it and he thinks emotions are for the weak.

He is not talking to me at all right now. He won't respond to a text. For the first couple months that he was away we were texting most days and would talk on the phone for a few hours on the weekend. Now, he has completely shutdown and will not talk to me at all for no reason.

I've known him for a while and he has told me of a lot of issues in his family, etc. Understanding that I am not an expert, I researched this as much as possible and know that there are intimacy issues, but he has very deep issues he has surpressed for a long time. He very clearly fits the description of a counter-dependent.

When he was here, we were actually communicating pretty well as far as responding to my wants/needs and opening up about his past. But, he has never expressed an emotion and I know he feels threatened when I bring up feelings. It's just recently that this communication shutdown occurred.

Also, I do recognize that we are together and it would be great to work on this together and I know that I mean something to him even though he can't express it. However, I don't know that he will agree to working on 'us'; he has a really big ego masking his deep insecurities. The wall that he puts up can be massive. I'm not perfect in relationships, but if he agreed to work on this together I think we'd be able to figure it out. I'm preparing myself to walk away but hoping that he is open to working on this.

My question is more, if he is so hurt inside and runs away from us what are some parting words that I can leave with him. Should I tell him I think he needs to see a therapist? Should I tell him to look into counter dependency? OR should I frame it in the context of our relationship and say X is something we have to work on? Should I start with small steps to get him comfortable with us again and set clear boundaries? Should I make sure that I am setting up a healthy relationship on my end and see if he follows suit?
Customer: replied 5 years ago.
Relist: Inaccurate answer.
Hello there and thanks for asking JA. I would like to ask a bit more about your boyfriend's family background. Let me know there was alcoholism in his family. I would also like to know if he lost a caregiver or a caregiver was not there emotionally, for instance his mom was sick or mentally ill. I would also like to know a bit about your family and what were the dymanics in your family of origin. People in relationships have complimentary needs. So a question to ask you is what are the things you like in the relationship?
Customer: replied 5 years ago.
Thanks for your questions. His father was an alcoholic, but he said he recovered but I don't know the timing on when that happened, but I thought he said it was before he was born (not that that would prevent scars). His dad left when he was about 8 and he is the oldest of four kids, so he became kind of like the man of the house.

To be direct, I've had all awful personal relationships and fall into the co-dependent category being neglected as a kid but my parents stayed together and are still relatively happy. But, I went to therapy before and have figured a lot out in the last eight years or so.

I would say when we initially got together about a year ago we were both codependent. We split and during that time, I had a breakthrough and feel much more emotionally healthy. Nor perfect, but I understand boundaries much better. And when I saw him again we were on a streak of having fun together and I forgot about the past problems. I didn't hold in how I felt anymore and he listened. Everything felt so different.

As for what I like in our relationship... lots of things. We have lots of similar interests, we are silly together, he is an amazing listener and always takes the time to listen to me, we also have very similar values, we are also both intelligectually a match, he's generous and thoughtful. As far as compatibility goes, we are very suited for each other... but I know emotional health is the foundation of any relationship and he struggles there. I think part of him knows something is wrong.

I know I have issues too, so I don't want to leave without trying. I guess I have trouble thinking he may want to work it out as an issue of my own, but he has completely shut me out right now.

I think it is great that you are doing all this work and feel healthier than before. I understand your desire to help your boyfriend out to resolve his own issues, after all you can empathize with his codependency issues. The problem I see is that you changed and you are healthier now but he may not be healthier. You want to help him out but to him it may feel like you are pushing too much. Just imagine that you are running a race and someone is trying to push you hard up the hill. The person who is pushing you will feel resentful and they person you are pushing will feel like they can't do anything right, they are not moving fast enough. He will be afraid he will disappoint you and feel pressured. I also wonder if you boyfriend is suffering from a bit more than codependency an attachment disorder. Adults with attachment issues run away from relationships when the relationship gets to close for comfort. I understand not wanting to give up on your relationship but relationships take two people. The best thing you can you do now is give him the space to figure some of those things out. If you need to say your peace meet with him and tell him how you feel. Telling him what the problem is with him may turn him off to you and he may see you as controlling. I am not telling you what to do but I just want to bring up all the possibilities. I understand wanting closure but I think you should talk more about how you feel about his behavior. If he wants feedback you can say that you think that he should look into codependency and seek counseling. My feeling is that the is not ready to hear this now but eventually he may ask you what you think went wrong. I think this person may have been the right person for you a year ago but now that you are healthier you may need to move on and leave him behind. He may be a great guy but he does not seam to be ready to work on his issues.

Penny Rayas, MFT, Therapist
Category: Mental Health
Satisfied Customers: 395
Experience: I have 20 years experience in the mental health field
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