Dear Neil: My boyfriend and I are now in our fifth year. Ever since we started our relationship, we have been very attached. We were always together or constantly texting each other. I’m 24 and he’s 26. Two years ago, I cheated on him and he found out. Yet he still accepted me, and he’s made a way for us to be okay and to move on.
Then I started to be possessive: I’d get jealous of his classmates and friends (most of his friends are females). I started to be clingy and possessive, to the point where I began to look like an investigator or a spy. I feel like all of his time should be focused on me, which is how we were in the beginning of our relationship.
I know that the mistake is on me, and that we should both have our own lives. But I’m confused about what I should do in order to prevent him from falling out of love with me.
Dear Clingy: You are insecure and clingy because you are making the assumption that you are not worthy of being loved. In essence, you do not feel deserving of love, fidelity and commitment from your boyfriend. As a result, you are assuming your boyfriend is going to fall out of love with you, and eventually dump you for another woman.
So no wonder you are clingy, possessive and insecure. And it certainly doesn’t help that you are 5 years into a relationship, and the chemistry that defined your early relationship has waned a bit, like it does for everyone. You also may be assuming that because you cheated, so could he—which is making you jealous and threatened by his friendships and dealings with other women.
Here’s what you could do in order to give yourself an opportunity to live more in peace—and for your relationship to become more stable and secure.
First, you are needing way more reassurance than you are getting. So ask your boyfriend to reassure you every day, by saying something like: “What I like about you is…” “What I love about you is…” “I respect that you…” “Some of your best qualities are…” “What I like so much about our relationship is….”
You (and he) could add other things that would help you to feel reassured, but be sure to tell him what you like, love and respect about him as well—because he may also need reassurance that you’re not going to step out on him again. You might find being held or cuddled to be reassuring as well.
Now comes the hard part: you’re going to have to improve your feelings of self-worth, and the feelings that you aren’t worthy of love and fidelity. Find a psychotherapist that specializes in self-esteem, and buy some books (and work the exercises) on how people improve self-esteem. Without that, you will forever fear your boyfriend is going to dump you for another woman, and you will be more likely to push him away by clinging too hard.
One other thing. You are focused on him, who he’s with and what he’s doing too much, and not enough on yourself. Find interests, hobbies, classes, hikes or other activities that will occupy your time when you are alone.