Disappearing act

Joey Garcia

I adore everything about my live-in boyfriend of six months, except his unhealthy behavior. If I meet up with a girlfriend, work late or go to a family dinner (nearly all instances where he has been invited along), he accuses me of looking for men. I can convince him of my love, faithfulness and desire for a monogamous relationship, but when he is upset he just leaves without telling me. I have chased him and become completely distraught. I understand needing space, but I have asked him to tell me that he is leaving. His behavior triggers something painful in me, so it feels disrespectful and cruel that he won’t let me know where he is going. Is asking him to communicate too controlling? Am I overreacting? He is going to counseling now, but I keep wondering if I am doing something wrong.

The only thing you’re doing wrong is blaming yourself. Here’s what you’re doing right: labeling your man’s behavior as unhealthy. Your boyfriend suffers from anxious thoughts about losing you. It’s not romantic (sorry!); they’re irrational fears about being alone, what others will think about him if he is betrayed and the general terror of trusting someone with his heart. Comprende? He lacks awareness that all of those thoughts should be confronted and released. Instead, he responds to his thoughts like a slave because he believes controlling your interactions with others will soothe his anxiety. But when his attempts to control you fail, his anxiety hits the stratosphere. At that point, he is flooded with fear and runs away. It’s the primal fight-or-flight mechanism, and it’s so automatic, he can’t even tell you he is about to bolt.

Of course, despite the adrenaline speeding through his body during these episodes, your boyfriend is not in danger—his ego is. If he has a competent therapist and learns useful coping skills, he will begin healing the neurotic parts of his personality. He will gain the freedom to choose his responses to situations rather than overreact. So if you did do something unkind, he would not take it personally, he would ask you directly about it and forgive you. That’s what adults do. But even if he becomes emotionally and spiritually healthy enough to relate to you as I’ve just described, you have to be ready to be an equal partner. Yes, that means you ought to attend therapy, too—but alone, not with your man—because when your boyfriend walks away, you fear he’s abandoned you. I want you to be a strong woman who rejoices in the amount of steadfast love she has in her life, not a woman who constantly forces herself to prove her affections or struggles to manage a relationship that is an emotional roller coaster. What do you want?

There is a period at our weekly staff meetings where we are encouraged to give accolades to other employees. People are always praised for doing their job, never for going above and beyond, because none of them do. How do I get our boss to see that this is just a waste of time?

We live in a culture where every child on a sports team receives the same end-of-season trophy, so applauding people for doing their job is no surprise. These celebrations are ingrained in your company’s culture, so your boss doesn’t see the obvious. You can raise the bar by verbally honoring those who went beyond their job descriptions or stay silent knowing it will be over soon. If you choose the latter, pepper your quiet time with gratitude for having a job and for co-workers who like each other, even if they can’t stop being people pleasers.

Meditation of the week
“How awful to reflect that what people say of us is true!” wrote essayist Logan Pearsall Smith. How well do you accept compliments?

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