My partner of five years and I split up. It was ugly – there were a lot of accusations and gossip afterwards.
I stayed above it (but for an occasional “what an idiot!”). My ex had terrible depression, suicidal ideation, and a drinking problem.
I stayed for fear of what would happen otherwise, but also because I was afraid of starting over.
Two years later, I’ve met the most amazing man. We love each other.
We're engaged, and very optimistic. He's supported me in getting back to my dreams of becoming a physician and I'm well on my way to doing it!
Everything’s great, until this happens: I'll say something or do something and suddenly I’ll experience a rush of regret and fear, and panic sets in.
I then apologize profusely to the point of occasionally even breaking down.
He just looks at me puzzled, usually asking, "Why on earth would you need to apologize for that?"
I recognize the pattern but can't stop it mid-freak out. Every fight, argument, and manipulation from my past relationship bubbles back up and I feel like I'm cut in half, deflated, and out of my mind!
This man, who’s been through much worse than I ever have, looks at me and just chuckles because my apologizing for just being myself is completely ridiculous to him!
I want to break this pattern. I worked it into a habit for five years… now it's just a default reaction and it’s driving me mental!
What’s going on with me and what do I do about it?
Fear and Panic
You’re doing something about it right now: Recognizing a pattern from that harsh past, and resolving to change whatever brings it on.
You’ll not let your ex’s behaviour shadow your current and future happiness.
Your steps to becoming a physician should be helping you see that a treatment plan’s necessary.
See a mental health professional (psychologist, psychiatrist, or therapist) to become aware of which triggers cause fear and panic, and what strategies will help you avoid that self-deflating reaction.
Fortunately, your fiancé’s very supportive and will undoubtedly understand your need for this.
Take the next step now, by finding the right professional to start the process. (Your family doctor may refer you to someone and/or you can research professional associations and ask about the practitioner’s approach).
Reader’s Commentary “The polyamorist who wrote you (May 25) may know something about open relationships, but little about cheaters.
“Not everyone’s wired or comfortable to have an open relationship, even if fantasized.
“Only a certain kind of person can handle the jealousy responses, and ability to share their partner.
“Polyamory isn’t a counter-approach to cheating. A cheating partner needs to do so on a non-cheating partner (e.g. the one who pays bills, remains faithful, is child-oriented, works to support the family, etc.) or else there’s no reliable partner to dupe and transgress.
“A cheater would have the wind knocked out if their chumped partner fooled around too.
“Equality is not on these peoples' mind, rather they’re invested in double-standards, privilege, entitlement, and selfishness.
“Polyamory takes a lot of communication, trust, equality, negotiation, boundary setting, etc. none of which a cheater has, even under the confines of monogamy.
“Plenty of cheating people claim to be in open relationships, unbeknownst to their partner, in order to sidestep the issue of their being attached and cheating.
“A cheater accepts exposing their partners to disease and emotional hurt and abandonment, things which polyamorists strive to avoid.”
FEEDBACK Regarding “Harshly Judged,” whose recent, much-older boyfriend yelled at and insulted her (May 27):
Reader – “He should be dumped ASAP!
“He had a meltdown when she was momentarily unavailable, and punished her by launching an attack against her maturity and responsibility, despite knowing the age gap from the start.
“He used these flimsy character assassinations to threaten the future they planned together, forcing dependency on her premature love (three months?!) to work harder, under threat of losing him.
“Her questioning how to win him back, instead of how to safely kick him to the curb, tells me – and anyone who’s survived a narcissistic/abusive relationship – that she’s being conditioned to accept more insults under the guise of "improvements."
“It’s a losing game. The longer she remains in this "whirlwind romance," the harder it’ll be to leave and stay away with whatever self esteem remains intact after the cycles of power and control play out.”
Tip of the day:
Get professional help to stop the memory of past stress/abuse from overshadowing your present.