Asking for Reassurance in All the Wrong Ways

Dear Neil: My boyfriend of 7 months moved to another country for work, and I agreed to follow him as soon as possible. But for most of our relationship, I have been pushing him away, criticizing him and not giving him enough space—and I get needy as well. In the meantime, he has grown withdrawn and disconnected, and has been talking about us breaking up. What can I do to reconnect with him?

Afraid in France

Dear France: It sounds as if you are very insecure in the relationship, and that might very well be why you are alternating between pushing him away and then acting needy and clingy around him. In fact, you may be testing him—hoping that when you push him away, he will proclaim that he can’t be without you—and that would assist you in feeling reassured and more secure in the relationship.

But for anyone else, this will feel like crazy making behavior, and they will run screaming into the night. I am saying that you are asking for reassurance from your boyfriend in all the wrong ways.

Here’s how you could do it more effectively: In the big picture, what do you think you are asking for when you are pushing away from your boyfriend? More affection? More time? For him to declare for you? More romance? To be taken care of? What are you unhappy about in the relationship that you would like fixed?

Now look at what you think your boyfriend is unhappy about, or what he has been trying to tell you. What does he want you to do differently, stop doing or do more of? (If you’re unclear about what he would answer, ask him.)

The goal of these questions is to assist you in talking about what you are wanting in order to feel more comfortable, stable and secure in the relationship, and also to look at this from his point of view. So stand back and look at the large issues about which the two of you are in conflict. If you can talk about those issues directly, you’ll give yourself a much better chance of succeeding in your relationship with your boyfriend.

Dear Neil: I am a man in my early 50’s and was married for 22 years before getting divorced. After I divorced, I found myself sliding into the same mentality that my 2 brothers and 2 of my friends have adopted, which is that I don’t plan on being in a relationship again. Comments like: “It’s awesome to have your freedom” and “I do what I want, when I want” fit how I feel now. I have joined a variety of clubs, activities and a church, but I’m done looking for a woman and I’ve taken myself off the market.

Living Alone and Happy

Dear Alone: Some people do not have positive histories with love and warm feelings about marriage, and who else other than you can say what is the best choice for you? However, make sure you are doing this because you would prefer to live alone and no longer be tied to anyone, and not because you feel burned in love and have therefore turned cynical and jaded. Jaded people tend to turn bitter and have a lot of regrets as they grow older.

One comment on “Asking for Reassurance in All the Wrong Ways

  1. Dear Nial, I’m in what I believe to know is a toxic relationship, however I love him with all my being still, we live together (12 mo lease) and we have a dog together, I love his family, and I feel practically adopted in. We seem perfect on the outside (his mom knows we’re not) I LOVE HIS MOM 🙁 and he’s not very nice often times, he’s cheated (more than once), he’s put his hands on me(not purposely and most of the time drunkenly unless sexual) he’s incapable of what seems to be having emotional sex, he loves me I know he does but I don’t think he loves me in the way I love him, I’ve been with him for 3 years.. hoping he’d be ready for marriage and kids as I am.. granted we are 23… I think we’re just in different places in life right now. I want to be with him, but in my healing process I need reassurance and for him to show he’s changing but he thinks getting us tickets and being what he thinks is nice is suddenly gonna make things okay.. he says if I keep asking him questions and that I accuse him that he’s done, but if anyone should leave I should be the one. I just don’t know what to do, I love him with every single fiber of my being, but I think this is so toxic. Sigh and I think it’s a now or never thing with him for me no breaks I can’t wait for him to grow up and possibly fuck some dumb bimbos then come back and be no where were we, no.. I’m ready for so much more in life and I think if I stay with him and try to grow with him that we can be great, happy and have the most beautiful family, but I need help, please.

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