Dear Dr. Love, I have met and fallen in love with a beautiful young woman. She has a child and has already started referring to me as ‘daddy’ in the child’s presence. She is only 20 years old (I’m 30) and lives with her parents.The relationship has been everything I could ask for and more, but she is moving to Texas with her parents at the 1st of the year, while I will stay here in California until my time in the Marine Corps ends in April.We are planning on getting married in April, but I’ve never been involved in a long-distance relationship, and am afraid that she will have a change of heart once she gets to Texas. She has given me no indication that she will, quite the opposite in fact, but why do I feel this way?Trying to Understand.
I think you are asking this excellent question because you sense that you have no objective reason to worry.Whenever we find ourselves struggling with a feeling that doesn’t seem to jive with the facts–in this case, the facts say she will not drop you even when she moves away, then it’s time to examine how the current experience is triggering related incidents from the past.The mind works by unconscious association, continually linking current events with similar situations from the past. This linkage is usually unconscious, which explains why we often experience emotional reactions that don’t seem to fit the current situation.What is actually happening is this: your unconscious mind is recalling traumatic events from the past and you are feeling the feelings attached to those events. Since the association is unconscious, you cannot grasp the memory itself. Leaving you with a phantom feeling that that makes no sense.So, let’s see if we can figure out what memory is being triggered for you. You feel afraid that once this woman moves away that you will lose her. In other words, you aren’t sure that your loved one will still love you after she’s far away.The fear that out of sight means out of mind develops at a very specific time during childhood. Let’s do a brief overview of human development, so you can see where your problem likely began.When infants are born, they have no sense of what is called ‘object constancy.’ What this means in lay terms is that when the mother leaves the room, the baby thinks she’s gone for good and will never be returning. This creates separation anxiety whenever the mother leaves, even for a brief moment.As time goes on, motor skills begin to develop. The child begins to crawl out of mother’s sight. But, fear grips the child once again. ‘I can’t see mommy. What if she’s gone, never to be seen again?’So, the child rushes back to mommy, to make sure that she is still there. After repeated separations and returns for reassurance, the child comes to learn that mommy is a constant object, who will be there to love him, even after periods of separation.It sounds like you never fully learned that a loved one will be there for you. This type of wound can occur if the mother isn’t available when the child comes back to her for refueling. If the child discovers that the mother isn’t there, he becomes clingy, fearing to leave her side, fearing separation.It sounds like this is what’s going on for you. How can you begin to heal this problem? First, you need to separate then from now. See how your girlfriend is constant and true. And, second, when you actually do separate, make sure that you take time to obtain the refueling and reassurances that you need.Good luck. This is a scary time for you. After her move, you will need lots of love and continual reassuarances from your girlfriend that you are her number one guy.