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Jean
Jean, Psychotherapist
Category: Mental Health
Satisfied Customers: 433
Experience:  Masters degree in counseling, Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW)
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I am coming to the close of my first year in my first

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I am coming to the close of my first year in my first relationship. I'm having trouble trusting my significant other and opening up fully to him emotionally (e.g. I often have trouble speaking out when something [that he does or that has happened in general] is wrong.) I often worry that he is cheating or that he is not completely invested in our relationship. And I feel that there is always a power struggle involved, with me continuously trying to remain in control of the level of emotion, even though I believe I'm in love with him. I've discovered I have authoritarian parents from a collectivist African culture.
I've had issues with my parents, particularly my domineering and somewhat abusive father, who has recently disowned me for my decision to pursue a profession other than medicine.
I'm afraid I'm beginning to see connections between my family structure and my behavior in my current relationship, and I'm also afraid that I'm repeating patterns with my boyfriend (I think I interact with him as I do my father).
What should I do? Should I discuss this with my boyfriend--who currently has only a slight idea about my past and how I feel concerning relationships?
Jean N/20pluscounts :

Hello, thank you for your question today. Welcome- I am available to assist you.

Jean N/20pluscounts :

Are you available for a live chat?

Jean N/20pluscounts :

Almost a year in your relationship- sounds like you care about this man- and may be time to share a bit more with him.

Jean N/20pluscounts :

You sound very aware, and insightful about where this has originated from- growing up. How does one find that partner who is an image of a parent?? This is so common-

Customer:

Actually, I just graduated with my degree in psychology. But having all of this information just confuses me. It's much easier to analyze or answer other's questions...


Customer:

I do care about my significant other. I would even say I love him, however I'm not exactly sure where he is in the equation and I don't feel comfortable asking.


Jean N/20pluscounts :

The thought is that we find that person who is an image of the parent who we feel hurt by- in order to heal this. Imago therapy is the type of therapy that describes this.

Jean N/20pluscounts :

You are afraid?

Customer:

I am. I don't really feel comfortable expressing emotion like that. But I would like to figure out where we stand without being the first one to do so...I also worry that I'm really transferring my issues with abandonment onto him. That I don't really even love him, but want to be appreciated by my father. I can't tell whether what I feel is legitimate.


Jean N/20pluscounts :

When a relationship gets to more of the commitment or serious stage- there's more to lose- and the fear tends to show up. You love him, so the fear is you will lose him- the mistrust is an example of this. What do you worry will happen if you share more openly with him? Gets confusing between what is hurt from the past and what is present- it's good you are trying to sort this out, process this.

Jean N/20pluscounts :

One forever looks for acceptance by a parent- no matter what our age.

Customer:

I worry that maybe...he won't ever love me. That he's just comfortable that I'm here, that I'm invested. That he really doesn't appreciate or cherish me, like I do him.


Customer:

And I worry that he'll see that I struggle with all this, that I'm not as secure as I seem. Really a mess, underneath everything else.


Jean N/20pluscounts :

The first step may be exploring a bit more the emotions towards your father- really take a look at what's left unresolved in that relationship. Disowned you?? We would hope we would get unconditional love, care, and acceptance from a parent. I'm sorry for that. Expectations are high and really specific with your father- sounds like. You are good and lovable no matter what profession you seek. Yes- you describe the fear- to be abandoned.

Customer:

You're right...I feel that everything is conditional with him. He's said that "the family can get along" with out me. And since that time, he has not attempted to call/contact me in any capacity. Literally cut me off, making remaining in contact with my mom and four sisters difficult...


Customer:

I've always felt uncomfortable with relying on others, but I feel like this recent situation justifies that.


Jean N/20pluscounts :

I'm sorry for that rejection from your father- that sounds hurtful-abusive. Yes you keep it to yourself because you worry he will judge you, not love you. When we share the really honest stuff- that's what builds intimacy in a relationship- but it does take courage. If our father can disown us- well anyone can- or we expect that they will- but it simply is not true.

Jean N/20pluscounts :

It does feel true- I understand.

Customer:

So I should talk to him about it?? How much should I tell?? Sometimes when we're joking around, he'll say something that triggers my thoughts with interactions I've had with my father. And I get upset and don't explain why. I don't want to sabotage my relationship because of my dad...

Jean N/20pluscounts :

You said you are "afraid" in beginning to see the connections between the family stuff and now- that's scary but a huge step towards healing. Does not hurt any less- however.

Jean N/20pluscounts :

We tend to create the thing we fear the most.

Customer:

Hmmm. Maybe that's right...

Jean N/20pluscounts :

Yes, you may want to take small steps in opening up, even just explaining what is coming up with the rejection by your father. Let him know it's really hard for you and to be patient and understanding.

Jean N/20pluscounts :

We all have stories to tell of what we experienced -and bring them into relationships- the baggage so to say. You sharing will help him to understand where you are coming from.

Customer:

Right. You're right. Okay last question. What happens if he...isn't receptive to what I'm going through? Or if he isn't supportive? I mean, what if he does turn out to be like me father? What do I do then?


Jean N/20pluscounts :

You could open it up and ask him if he has questions about you- your family. Quite sure he has his own story of sorts. If he's not supportive- hmmm- you deserve support in a relationship. Start with something small and see how he reacts- a small worry you may have.

Customer:

Thank you. That's really quite helpful.


Jean N/20pluscounts :

If he turns out to be your father- may be the best opportunity to heal- find your voice, learn to be more open and assertive with him. You may feel like that "daughter" young girl, but you are in a different place, you are an adult- need to find your voice. Yes- it's scary, and a risk- but take small steps.

Jean N/20pluscounts :

You are welcome- my pleasure- check out the Imago therapy info. good stuff.

Customer:

Okay. Imago therapy. Got it.


Jean N/20pluscounts :

Best wishes to you!!

Customer:

Thank you again!


Jean N/20pluscounts :

Let me know if I can help again-

Customer:

Absolutely.


Jean N/20pluscounts :

Please rate my answer so I can get credit- much appreciated!!

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