In my first long-term relationship, I was a completely different type of boyfriend than I am now: I was clingy, obsessive, jealous, manipulative, and I was anything else you could possibly imagine. Deep down inside, I always hated being those things because it occupied a lot of my time, and it messed with my mind. It got so bad that I was snooping through e-mails on a semi-regular basis, checking text messages secretly, and looking through anything I could get my hands on without being noticed. I didn’t always assume that something was going on behind my back, but I felt like knowledge was power; I felt like knowing what was going on behind the curtain would help me keep control of the relationship. At the very least, if anything were to happen, I’d see it coming.
I used to believe I was super analytical. I was confident in my abilities to read partners, and felt that if a woman wanted to leave me, I’d be able to spot the deterioration before it leads to the final act (the breakup). All of the manipulative, clingy, obsessive, and jealous things I did was done out of fear. I was manipulative because I avoided situations that would put me in vulnerable situations, I was clingy because the more time spent together, the more I could supervise and, at the very least, know that they aren’t doing anything behind my back while I’m with them. I was obsessive because I let that fear control my life. I hardly was ever home, I lost a great group of friends because I stopped hanging out with them, I lost interest in hitting the gym, going to school, and going to work.
As you might suggest, my motivation for going to such extremes was because of the fear I had of losing that particular person. The fear is very real, ladies and gentlemen. Justified or not, it is a strong emotion that can easily mess with our minds.
Of course, my mind thought the fear was justified. I thought my behavior towards the relationship was rational. You love someone more than you love yourself, why shouldn’t you be afraid to lose that person? You think you’re doing all the things you’re doing for the relationship, but what you’re really doing is doing irrational things because you’re afraid. That’s what we do when we’re afraid; we often resort to extreme measures. We try to get a grip on the relationship, gain as much control as we can, and we convince ourselves that everything is under control. That is, of course, until you actually lose that person.
I don’t wish that kind of pain on anybody, but that pain made me the boyfriend that I am today. It surely is a demon I had to wrestle with because it was very difficult seeing my new behavior as the norm. Originally, I felt like a bad boyfriend for being carefree about the relationship, but people suggest otherwise. People say that it’s not being a bad boyfriend; it’s being a healthy boyfriend.
Being a healthy boyfriend is a far more productive way of keeping a relationship than it is to be the kind of boyfriend I used to be. However, to be a healthy boyfriend, you have to have a healthy mind. If you hate yourself, wanna kill yourself, and having a girlfriend is the only thing in your life that gives you a reason to live, there is nothing healthy about the way you view your relationship. If you’re at that kind of mindset, you’ve put too much into the relationship to let it go that easily, so you would literally fight to keep it. That fear of losing someone is something that you don’t want to experience because when you let the fear control you, it defines who you are and what you do as a partner. Every action you make is not done in a genuine manner; every action is done to avoid as much as humanely possible the possible. The problem isn’t just that, but it’s also the possibility that you don’t even realize you’re doing it. In your mind, your actions are justified, so you don’t think twice about it. In your mind, there is no doubt because if anyone argues otherwise, it’s just a way of them saying that they don’t love you as much as you love them. If they refuse to let you snoop into their e-mails/texts, then they’re the ones who are guilty. You think you aren’t the problem, but you are exactly the problem.
It’s a hard truth to swallow, but getting rid of the fear reeaallllyyy opens you up. When you get rid of the fear, you deal with the raw emotions of the relationship. You enjoy the relationship for what it is, and not what you attempt to create. The experiences aren’t all artificial. The gifts you give aren’t given to keep them beside you; they’re given because you want them to have it. You don’t wake up every morning without them feeling like they’re doing something behind your back, or not eating for weeks when they’re gone on vacation with family because you’re afraid that they’re going to come back and explain to you that they cheated on you. You’re not afraid to be yourself, to spend time with friends when you can, to do things outside of the relationship when you know that your life is the only thing you can control the most of; and arguably, you can’t even control that, either.
Letting go of the fear is embracing the possibility that she will cheat on you, she will break up with you, she will leave you for the Mexican neighbor. As corny as it sounds and as much as you hear it, the idea is completely true: relationships are about teamwork. Openness with your partner goes a long way. Now…that path might lead to something uncomfortable (such as divorce, breaking up, separating, etc), but if you’re really truly honest with your partner, the tough decisions can be as neutral as they can possibly be. Divorce straight up sucks, I imagine, but I think anyone could agree that if you’re going to divorce your partner, it’s better to do it when you both agree with it. On a much smaller scale, I’d imagine breakups being the same way.
Being honest is…well…super tough, and it takes both people to keep an open dialogue. Keeping an open dialogue takes an open mind, because the minute someone starts ridiculing something you’ve confessed, you’re less likely to tell that person the next time. Knowledge is a luxury, ladies and gentlemen. Just because you’re dating someone, doesn’t mean you’re entitled to know everything there is to know about that person at all times. What you know about someone is what’s been presented to you: whether it’s from the partner themselves, or through some kind of record they didn’t care enough to hide. And just because you may find something that they didn’t tell you doesn’t automatically mean they’re trying to hide it; there’s a lot of things that happen in our lives that can easily slip our minds.
What you know about someone is almost completely based on what they want you to know about them. It takes a lot of strength to maintain composure when someone confesses something you don’t want to hear, but it takes even more strength to confess something they know you don’t want to hear voluntarily. As previously mentioned, if someone wants to get away with something, there’s ways to do that: we’ve got VPN’s, disposable email addresses, private browsing, etc.
We all know this. However, if you were/are anything like I used to be, you were in denial of this truth because it’s too much for you to deal with. Sure…she might give you a password or two to some of her accounts, but what about the other accounts you don’t know about? What about the text messages, all the contacts she claims to be “John” from work, or “Cindy” as the woman she used to hang out with in high school? What about the numbers she’s got unlisted, or the phone numbers she’s got stashed away on page 78 of her U.S. History 102 college textbook?
How certain can you really be? Unless you’re physically with your partner 24/7, there is always going to be uncertainty…no matter what you do! You can install your hidden software, you can raid her text messages while she’s in the shower, you can browse her e-mail while she’s at work, you can install security cameras “to keep her safe,” but…is it really worth it?
The old me would’ve said “yes.” However, that’s because I used to think I was smarter, more observant, than the average bear. I thought I could beat the fear; I thought I could control the relationship, and make it how I wanted it to be. At the end of the day…what I “tried” to prevent still happened, regardless.
Where does this fear come from? Obviously, it comes from within us. People hate being single. Why? People don’t like to be alone. Why? We’re afraid of losing the people we love. Why? The people who hate being single hate being single because they perceive it as a bad thing. People hate being alone because they perceive it as a bad thing. People are afraid to lose people because they assume that the result of losing someone is going to end up in bad circumstances (you can’t afford house payments, you’ll lose custody of the kids, etc). While they are bad circumstances to be in, people worry about these things before anything even happens. More importantly, they worry about things but don’t actively create a backup plan on the off-chance that it does happen. That’s why we have these things called emergency funds, access to loans, a network (friends), to help pull us out of a rut when we’re faced with circumstances we can’t deal with on our own.
Again…there are bad circumstances, but the impact of a circumstance largely depends on how you handle the situation. Of course…every circumstance is different; if you lose your job, you can fill out all the applications you want but that doesn’t guarantee you’re hired. However, when we’re dealing with the fear of losing someone, the outcome is the same: we become single. Again…some people have to deal with more (such as legal issues and whatnot), but the issue with losing someone you don’t want to lose is being forced back into the dating scene that you don’t want to be a part of. For most of us, that’s the worst part. However, being single is really not that bad. Sure…you have to deal with not having your partner in your life, which is unfortunate, but you’re given a chance to start over with someone new and potentially better for you, anyway. In the mean time, you can enjoy the freedoms associated with being single. Those months/years you spent with your previous partner weren’t for nothing, of course. Every relationship and every setback you experience shapes you into the partner you are today.
If being single is tough for you, then you’re not really single. Your mind isn’t in the right place. Again…it’s about being healthy minded. That’s why people say that you can’t love someone until you love yourself; it’s not that you can’t love someone, but when you create a dependence on your girlfriend, you create risks. Some people go their whole lives with only being in one relationship, and that’s great; however, others aren’t so fortunate. A lot of us have to go through bad relationships, bad experiences, to get the people we are compatible with to share a life together. A lot of us have to learn hard lessons in life to be able to differentiate between a good woman, and a compatible woman. When you create unnecessary risks, you set yourself to fail. If you have a joint bank account because you’re married, that’s a necessary risk because it makes sense. However, if you’re using fear to spend more time with your girlfriend when you should be studying for that test, or making extra money to afford your bills and add onto your emergency fund, then you’re putting unnecessary risk on yourself. And as much as we love our girlfriends, we shouldn’t have to burden our partners with paying our bills all because you wanted to spend an extra Monday with her so could chaperone while she’s out with her friends. It doesn’t work like that. It shouldn’t work like that. That’s not a healthy relationship.
I’ve grown to view healthy relationships as two people doing what they enjoy, supporting each other in the process, and enjoying each other in the process for as long as it lasts. That’s all you can really do. You can still hope that nothing bad happens, and you can still love your partner to the best of your abilities, but what it all comes down to is that your life is your life. If you don’t develop a healthy mind to get rid of the fear of losing someone, then the fear is what’s going to prevent you from being the best partner you can be. One way or another, we all learn. Unfortunately, the hard way is always the best way to learn valuable lessons in life, but it doesn’t have to be.
It’s your choice, and it always has been.