Dear Dr. Love,I am a 17 year old student. I have always had bad relationships therefore I get scared to open up to my boyfriends and I would try to push them away so I wouldn’t get hurt again. Well, I finally ran across this great guy, and I did that to him. Although he was patient, it really did damage to our relationship. Several times we have broken up, and each time, I realized that I had been pushing him way. I would try to change, but I would always go back to ‘my old ways’ because I never really thought that I would lose him.We were together on off for almost a year and a half (we broke up three times once for a week, then for a couple of weeks, and now this time. ) I do love him very much. This last time we broke up I kept trying to hold on to him, but his friends gave him an ultimatum, either them or me. He says he wants everyone to be happy and if he choses one then the other gets upset, so he doesn’t know what to do.When we are alone I know that he loves me I can tell by the tone in his voice, and the look in his eyes. I keep changing my mind whether or not to hold on to him, I just want him to be happy, but he doesn’t even know what to do anymore. We started to spend time together this summer, and he ended up canceling plans less than a week ago because his grandfather was taken to the hospital. He told me he would do ‘whatever he had to to make it up to me. ‘ Since then he hasn’t called me.The day after he canceled plans, I called him to see how everything was and we talked two different times that day, the last time we talked was at 6 in the evening and he had to call me later due to company that he had. Since then he hasn’t called me and I have left my phone line open just for him, and that was 5 days ago. I don’t know whether to keep hope or to let go. Whenever I decide to let go something happens, and I realize that I love him to much to just let go of him. I really don’t know what I should do anymore, please help me.I am getting tired of crying myself to sleep at nights (For the past couple months I have done this), crying to almost every song that comes on the radio, and just crying for no reason at all. I really feel as though I need him, but I don’t have a clue on what I should do. I don’t know if I should follow my heart, and hold on to him and the possibility that we can work things out like he has asked me to do since we broke up, or if I should let go like my mind says to do. Please, I am begging for your help.Lost and desperate for something to stop the tears and pain.
I hear how much you are suffering, and we have to put our heads together and help you to feel better. From the sound of your letter, you are smart enough to realize that the real problem here isn’t about deciding whether or not you should break up with your boyfriend. You really need to understand more about the distancing (pulling away) that you do in relationships. Because, unless you get a handle on this pattern, you will always be mourning one lost relationship or another. So, if you’re game, let’s find out more about your distancing. First, I think you know already that pulling away is a form of protection (a defense). When someone pulls aways, his/her mind thinks: If I run away, I can avoid a painful feeling. I sense that you are running to protect yourself from being rejected? It sounds like you may be jumping the emotional gun–pulling away before he dumps you. Next try to figure out how this pattern relates to your childhood. Did you feel threatened and unsure in your parents’ love? Did someone love you and leave you? Did a parent threaten you with loss of love if you didn’t behave? You need to find out where your wound originates. I know you said that your distancing began after a string of bad relationships, but I want you to realize that there is a good chance that your problem began earlier in your life. There’s a good chance that you had a string of bad relationships because your mind was hoping to resolve unfinished business from earlier in your life. So, once you figure out where your fear of abandonment began, then you need to take a hard look at your boyfriend and remind yourself how he differs from the people who abandoned you in the past. Recognizing the differences helps to ease the fear. Keep reminding yourself that he is not an abandoner. Haven’t you tested him enough times to know that he keeps returning to you? And, finally, you must train yourself to not act on the urge to pull away. That is, every time you feel like distancing: 1) Stop; 2) Get in touch with the feelings. In your case, realize that when you want to run you are afraid of being abandoned. Remind yourself that running will only insure your abandonment; and 3) Talk but don’t act (or run). Feel the fear, talk about it with your boyfriend, but stick around. You will find that as you learn to talk not act (run), you will become stronger and the fear will become weaker. After you apply my steps, let me know how you are doing. And, if you want to work more on this issue, contact me again in my private counseling section.