Posted by fxckfeelings on August 3, 2015Share This Post
Most of the time, you don’t want to try to pay attention to two things at once—the TV and the oven, the road and your texts, your kid and your moody pet alligator, etc.—but other times, it’s more dangerous not to. It’s a problem for those people who pay too much attention to the reaction they have to other people and ignore their own actions, as well as those who pay too much attention to their own actions and ignore how it impacts others. If you’re a single-minded person and want to avoid being blind-sided, learn how to divide your attention and pay it at the same time. That’s the only way to be mindful of relationships and your own priorities (and hopefully oncoming traffic).
I like to be close to people and I tend to fall in love really easily, so, while my relationships are often intense and fulfilling, they never last very long and never end well. Anyway, my life has been going reasonably well, and I’ve been dating a girl I really like who I think would be a good wife, but my roommate is also my best friend and, since he’s started dating someone, he’s stopped being around very much. Neither one of us is gay, and we’ve never technically hooked up, but we’ve always been really comfortable with each other physically, and our bond is really close. Maybe that’s why I really resent his relationship and find myself being very angry at him for no reason and jealous that someone else has his attention. I really don’t think I’m gay, and I love my girlfriend, but I’m freaked out about my feelings. My goal is to figure them out and get back to having a happy relationship with my best friend.
For those who are prone to powerful emotional reactions, having strong feelings can be a lot like getting blackout drunk; you’re very certain where you are now and what you think about it, but can’t seem to remember how you got there. You lose the part where you keep falling into intense relationships and only focus on the fallout when they come apart.
The intensity of your post-entanglement emotions not only blinds you to the pattern of needy behavior and faulty decision-making that repeatedly puts you in these situations, but to the more important reality of how he or your current girlfriend fits into your future partnership plans.
So, instead of focusing on your anger and jealousy, give serious consideration to what you really want from your roommate; better to take a moment to assess your priorities than follow your feelings to another destructive conclusion.
It’s worth considering that guys who are very emotionally attached to one another sometimes do have strong homosexual feeling, and sometimes they don’t. If you and he are really more sexually attracted than you care to admit, then maybe you really do want a life together. More likely, however, the sexual feelings are not as overpowering as your emotional neediness, and partnership is not an option.
Yes, it would be nice if you didn’t feel jealous and needy but, from what you say, you’re prone to those feelings in all your relationships with either sex. You try to satisfy your needs by jumping in deep and this is what happens. Just like the blackout drunk, you wish the lost nights wouldn’t happen because they spoil an otherwise excellent and happy relationship with alcohol.
So live alone or find a roommate of either sex who doesn’t interest you; either way, get used to your own company. Build up your ability to go slow in relationships, avoiding the excitement of intense mutual confessionals, and learn how to give yourself and friends some breathing room. Then you won’t find yourself getting so angry and disappointed when friends are unresponsive and you’ll be much better at aiming your relationships where you want them to go.
Think harder about selecting the kind of person who would be good for you. Given your experience, it should not be someone who is as emotionally reactive as you. You need someone who is slow, steady, and very reliable; someone who does not offer the quick intimacy or excitement you crave, but is much more likely to create breathing room and protect you from your own neediness.
Discussing your negative feelings for your roommate will only intensify your relationship with him, and ruminating on these feelings will only keep you stuck in a dramatic rut. If you don’t want to be with him, then it’s time to let both him and your intense feelings be.
Put your neediness aside, build distance, and think harder about the kind of person you need for a partnership. Don’t let your intensity and neediness prevent you from finding the kind of steady relationship that you truly need.
“I hate feeling like a jilted lover when my best friend spends time with his new girlfriend, but I know that’s an unavoidable result of my tendency to get over-dependent. Instead of dwelling on unhappy feelings, I’ll select friends and partners who are more independent, less reactive and, ultimately, more available.
I thought my wife and I were cruising along, with her staying home to care for the kids, which is what she wanted to do, and me working my butt off to support the family and then relaxing in the bar afterwards with my old buddies whom I’ve known since high school, which worked great for me, as well. Then she suddenly tells me she’s had it, I’m doing nothing in the marriage and expecting her to do all the work, and she wants to end it. I had no idea where this came from, so either she’s cheating on me or her mother has finally turned her against me. My goal is to figure out what’s wrong with my wife and why she’s suddenly so unhappy with a marriage I thought was going so well.
It’s certainly possible, but highly unlikely, that your wife was as happy with your marriage as you were and suddenly changed her mind. It’s much more likely, however, that she was gradually getting unhappy and you just didn’t notice, perhaps because you’re not perceptive about that kind of thing, or just because you weren’t really around to see it. So don’t assume there’s something wrong with her before you check out the possibility that she was unhappy and you weren’t aware.
Ask yourself whether she tried to tell you she was fed up or whether she’s the sort of person who hates conflict and can’t tell you things you might not like to hear. In either case, don’t focus on what’s wrong with your wife unless you want to have another fight. Instead, try to figure out what went wrong with the marriage and whether you want to—and can—make it better.
If you do want to fix things, ask your wife what bothered her the most. You probably know, but asking lets her know that you care enough about the marriage and her feelings and that you’re thinking hard about how to meet her needs. Ignore her personal criticism about your shortcomings and instead try to define the behaviors she didn’t like. For instance, if she accuses you of being too absent as a father and husband, don’t tell her how hard you work and how you need to relax. Find out what you would need to do to meet her expectations.
Without wasting time debating whether you should have done better, ask yourself whether it’s worth your while to try to meet her needs now. Add up the benefits you would lose by leaving the marriage, including financial hardship on everyone in the family. Then think seriously about what it would cost you to spend most of your evenings complying with her wishes.
If you decide that changing your ways is worth trying, don’t do it to make her happy; that motivation will disappear after your first fight. Do it because you have a good family and marriage worth saving, and you think the sacrifice is worth it.
“I feel blindsided by my wife but I’m determined to improve my understanding of where she’s coming from without letting anger and hurt get in my way. Then I’ll know whether maintaining our marriage is possible and worthwhile.”
More advice from Dr. Lastname