Posted by fxckfeelings on May 2, 2011Share This Post
As feelings go, love isn’t so problematic—you feel good, you act nicer to others, and if all goes well, it is truly “all you need.” Unfortunately, if you’re not careful, love can easily triggers negative thoughts and actions that lead to a whole heap of trouble and turn love from something fuzzy into “a battlefield.” If you can remember who you are and what you believe in, however, you can take risks on love without losing your sanity, and find something more compatible with reality than pop songs.
You’ve probably had a disgusting amount of questions like the ones I’m about to put towards you, and that’s another thing that annoys me—I’m a cliché. 17 months ago my boyfriend broke up with me, explaining that he was too young to be in a serious relationship. I know this is perfectly logical but I have never been able to get over it, even though I do understand his point of view. I am still very much in love with him. I know perfectly well that realistically no one really marries their first love, that realistically it wasn’t even a proper adult relationship but I feel as raw today as I did the day it happened. I’ve been diagnosed with severe depression and anxiety. I have regular nightmares about him. Last Easter I attempted suicide yet it failed. I’ve been sent to counseling, but I didn’t like it. I dropped out of university as I was too distracted and there is nothing I can throw myself into to make me forget it. The idea of him with someone else would kill me. I keep thinking to myself, I’m only 21 and I shouldn’t take this so personally and seriously but I do and I have no idea why. I know I need to wise up but I can’t.
Some say love’s like a drug, but we think it’s more like a (sometimes) innocuous mental illness; it doesn’t make you “crazy”—at least not necessarily—but it does give you weird thoughts, sometimes long after the relationship is over.
While those thoughts are hard to stop and easy to believe in, at least they’re not true. Like anxiety and depression, love has a weird way of keeping itself alive by changing the way you think and act, until it changes your beliefs. That’s when you’re in trouble.
You think there’s no value to life once love goes from bliss to bad, so you try to remember and revisit and talk about everything that hurts the most, even though that keeps it hurting longer. Each time you think the thought, visit the memory, and talk about your feelings, you grind the loss in deeper, and the pain makes you do it again. You can set a Guinness record for miserable pining (i.e., a lifetime) if love-thinking goes unchecked.
Love has got you treating yourself like shit, and there’s nothing noble or beautiful about that. You feel worthless, treat yourself as worthless by trying to kill yourself, and then feel more worthless for failing and still feeling miserable.
Remember, there’s nothing wrong with being needy. OK, you’ve got a sensitivity to love, and in the right situation, that makes you open to certain kinds of joy and poetic feelings that others miss. Like some traits associated with mental illness, it has its good side (if there was no such thing as depression, most of the good art in the world would not exist).
Besides, the most likely reason you have this trait of sensitivity is that you were born with it, so don’t waste time wondering why you’re suffering, what you did wrong, or what you need to do to change. You are who you are, and you happen to be vulnerable to lost love. You need to manage that part of yourself better instead of focusing on it and feeding its destructiveness.
Big Pharma has yet to release an anti-love potion, so take treatment into your own hands by challenging the thoughts and memories that keep the disease going; keep busy while accepting the sad fact that you’re miserable, you can’t control it, and you can’t stop it. Almost everything you want to do about it will make it worse, so force yourself to do the opposite.
Find a recovery coach, or a recovery support group, that can remind you that you have a self that’s independent of your sadness and loss and that you deserve to respect yourself for carrying on with your life, in spite of your pain, one day at a time.
If you ruminate, visit old haunts, or try to share your sad story, they can tell you to shut up and do whatever you’re supposed to do when you “slip.” Prepare to fight negative thoughts and feelings every day for as long as it takes.
You will recover, learn from your experience, and do better next time, but only if you accept the unfair burden of your disease. There’s no cure for love, but if you work hard enough, you can manage your mind again, and then maybe one day find a truly healthy relationship.
“Right now I don’t care about living, but I’ve never believed that the meaning of my life is much related to how I feel. I respect myself for doing what I think is right and being a good woman and that hasn’t changed. I’ll stand by that view for as long as it takes.”
My husband and I have been married two years. Before we were married, we had been living separately and co-parenting our then 4-year-old son (we had split up when he was 18-months-old because I suspected he was cheating on me). He became involved with the woman I suspected, moved in with her and got engaged all within a year of us breaking up. Then, she cheated on him and they broke up. We began hanging out with each other and “dating.” I broke it off with him when he admitted he did not consider our relationship “exclusive.” I moved on again with my life. Then eight months later he proposed marriage stating that he knew he had made mistakes but was now certain he wanted nothing more than to be with me exclusively for life. I have trouble getting our past out of my head and trusting that he will not abandon me for someone else again. We have trouble getting along sometimes and his passive-aggressive behavior bothers me. My goals are to get over my feelings of mistrust and to be able to communicate better with my husband.
Being abandoned feels terrible—the word suggests the helplessness of a newborn left alone on a wet rock—so don’t apply the word to yourself if you’re an adult unless you intend to abandon yourself, which I’m sure you won’t do unless you’re thinking too much about your husband.
Besides, you did fine without him before and you’ll do fine without him again, if necessary. Meanwhile, ask yourself whether life is better with him around, assuming that you can’t get rid of your suspicions. Put aside, for the time being, whether your suspicions are true or not; assume you’ll find out someday and, if you do, you’ll deal with it then.
One thing you don’t want to do is to get rid of your suspicions by asking him for reassurance or watching him closely. That’s a good way to kill your relationship, drive you both crazy, and improve my business.
It’s unfair you should have to live with painful suspicion, but as long as you decide he’s a worthwhile partner, it’s part of your job description. That’s what you get when you re-cycle a flip-flop guy, which is why deciding his worthiness is so important—otherwise, it’s a lot of suffering in vain.
Don’t blame yourself for your suspicions, and don’t blame him; you can’t help having your feelings and he can’t help stirring them up. All you can do is not make things worse (see above) by keeping your feelings to yourself and not being overt about checking his email.
Remind yourself that you’re independent and not a fool. If he strays, you’ll find out sooner or later. At that point, you’ll know it’s not because he’s “too young for commitment,” but because he’s too self-absorbed to be faithful. Luckily, you seem self-reliant enough to “abandon” his sorry self and move on.
“It’s hard to live with suspicion, but I can do it if I think it’s necessary for a good partnership, and not because I’m too needy to say good-bye to a jerk. I can live alone again if I have to. Whether my husband proves true or not, I respect myself for taking risks in a good cause.”
More advice from Dr. Lastname