Lately, my live-in boyfriend of two years has gotten back in touch with an old female friend of his. This normally wouldn’t concern me, but I feel like he is keeping it a secret. I looked at his phone, and he has many texts and calls from this one particular girl. I have met her and think she is nice, but I don’t know if I would trust her. I know I shouldn’t have looked at his messages, but my curiosity got the best of me. He never mentions that he is in touch with her, and when I confronted him about it, he became very defensive. Am I being paranoid, or do you think this is something to worry about?
Much of what we worry about never happens. Even when it does, the energy devoted to fretting fails to inspire a sane solution to the dilemma at hand. So why worry? Whenever we feel powerless, we attempt to rectify that discomfort. Agonizing, losing sleep, being suspicious, racing through scenarios imagined from scraps of evidence and half-truths makes us feel as if we’re doing something. Becoming the author of a relationship drama—sorting out the characters, nosing out a trail of clues, arriving at conclusions—allows us to feel in charge. It’s a grand illusion.
Relationship crises of the sort you describe activate what remains unhealed within us. You struggle with being truthful with yourself and your boyfriend about your fears. Without honesty, it is difficult to trust. You don’t trust your boyfriend, you don’t trust his girl buddy and you fear being the last to know what is going on. There are remnants of an old emotional pattern here. Does your past hold a memory of a parent or friend suddenly leaving you? And later, shifting back through the relationship, did you search for signs pointing to how things would eventually go sideways? Hints you think you should have seen when they were happening? If so, those unresolved feelings are partially fueling the current drama with your man.
You can’t control your boyfriend or his friend. You can’t wish away their history, either. But you can share your fears with him (“I am afraid of losing you”), and you can befriend her. More importantly, you can harness the copious amounts of energy invested in mentally questioning their relationship. Tackle a project, class or goal that you always planned to master “someday.” Focus on creating a more vibrant, competent and interesting version of you to replace the woman worried about being left behind.
My mother-in-law always pressures my wife and I to be at her home for Thanksgiving. In past years when we accepted the invitation, she barely acknowledged us. Her husband spent the entire day watching television. I later realized that she just wanted to tell her friends that her daughter and partner came over for Thanksgiving. We have not accepted her invitation, but she seems to think that we are coming. How do we get out of this without caving?
Why not cave? Not to your mother-in-law, but to the part of yourself that understands and embraces a wide concept of family. Register for Run to Feed the Hungry and take an invigorating walk or run Thanksgiving morning. Or call local charities that are serving meals to those who are struggling financially and offer to help. If you have the week off, book a trip to Mexico to relax seaside and boost their economy a bit in the process.
After you make your plans, call your mother-in-law, apologize for being unclear previously and explain that you have made other plans for the day. And, in the future, don’t lead her on just because you’re uncomfortable. It’s not kind.