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How do I help him with his anxiety?

Posted by Meredith Goldstein  January 29, 2013 08:43 AM

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Q: My boyfriend and I have been dating for about six months, since he moved to the Boston area to start a grad school program. After New Year's, he traveled to visit and stay with my family, where I am originally from. I thought the visit went very well and spoke of him coming back over the summer. He said I was the girl of his dreams, and we joked about how many children we would have one day. A few days later, I noticed that he was not saying "I love you" any more, and when I asked him why, he said he felt guilty saying it and didn't know why. After more prodding, he said he didn't feel like he was treating me well. He is also anxious about introducing me to his friends, who are a tight-knit group that includes an ex-girlfriend of four years, and his mother, who has a terminal illness. These friends and his mother all live on the West Coast. Additionally, his graduate program requires him to do a six-month internship beginning this summer that will mostly likely mean him living away from Boston. He feels very unsure about the future and where he'll be after he graduates. He also said he has some issues he thinks he needs to work out on his own.

We broke up briefly late this summer when he thought he wasn't making me happy enough. He definitely sprung it on me, and we hadn't discussed any issues beforehand. A few weeks later, he said he missed me and we got back together.

My question is: What do I do? Can I help him work through his anxieties even if he wants to work through them alone? Am I on a sinking ship that is leading to the inevitable breakup? I worry that even if we move past these issues now, they'll resurface down the line. He is very bad with talking about his feelings or bringing issues up until I notice something is wrong. I wonder if he has already made up in his mind that I am "not the one" but can't seem to find a way to tell me. I thought he was the one for me, and I had envisioned a life together in the future. Any advice?

– boyfriend of 6 months has anxiety about the future


A: My advice is to admit that it's only been six months. You're still figuring out whether you can make each other happy. It's too early for you to focus on curing his anxiety so that you can live happily ever after.

You were content with this guy for a month or two and then you broke up. Then after a few more months of dating, he freaked out again. Meanwhile, you've already signed up for a life together. You decided he was "the one" despite evidence suggesting otherwise.

Sometimes we get so overwhelmed by our quest to get someone to commit that we forget whether they've earned it. Are you considering your own needs -- or are you simply focused on keeping him around?

You have a few months before he leaves Boston for the internship. Please spend that time thinking about whether he's making you happy. Is he a source of comfort, or is he stressing you out?

If he's not making you happy, don't try to fix him -- just move on.

Readers? Should it be this difficult at six months? Is this what it's like to date a transient grad student? Is his anxiety caused by her commitment? What should she do? Help.

– Meredith



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ABOUT LOVE LETTERS: Welcome to Love Letters, the place for love advice (giving and getting). Globe relationship columnist Meredith Goldstein and Boston.com readers are ready to take your letters and tell you what's what. Have a question? Click here to submit or email us at loveletters@boston.com.
Blogger Meredith Goldstein

Meredith Goldstein is a Boston Globe columnist who follows relationship trends and entertainment. She offers daily advice on Love Letters — and welcomes your comments. Meredith is also the author of "The Singles," a novel about complicated relationships. Follow Meredith at www.meredithgoldstein.netand on Twitter. Love Letters can be found in the print edition of The Boston Globe every Saturday in the G section.

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