Adapted from a recent online discussion.
Hi, Carolyn: My boyfriend is very laid-back. Nothing bothers him. On the other hand, I get in a tizzy about certain things — I have a jealous streak and I pay close attention to our relationship. For example, I’ll bring it up if we’re not spending enough time together, getting intimate often enough, etc. He just doesn’t think or care about these types of things. He goes with the flow.
How can I stop worrying about things and regain my power and composure when these types of issues arise? I can’t change who I am as a person, but I also don’t like nagging and being vulnerable while he just coasts. Thoughts?
Always in a Tizzy
If you want to stop worrying about things, then you need to stop regarding your “jealous streak” as part of “who I am as a person.” You don’t make that connection explicitly, but it’s certainly implied here. Do you agree?
If so, then the part of you to address now is the need you’re feeling to have everything go your way in this relationship. Or, to look at it differently, to get comfortable with the idea of something either going wrong or just down a different path from the one you envisioned.
Who decides, for example, how much is “enough”? And why is it a matter of jealousy when your standard of “enough” isn’t met? Jealousy says that you need X amount of his time and Y amount of sex before you’ll believe he actually cares about you and believe he isn’t off with someone else. Why isn’t it just that you love his company and have a strong sex drive and just miss him when you don’t get to be with him? And are disappointed when you have to go without but you’ll manage?
Why is being laid-back something he does *to you,* instead of just who he is?
The difference is insecurity, which I don’t believe is a personality trait. It’s a fear that you won’t be OK if you don’t get exactly what you want, and frankly that’s a stressful and exhausting way to live. Life doesn’t just serve up what we want. It puts us in situations we can’t control, it introduces us to people who have their own ideas and agendas, it makes us sick or better sometimes on a whim, it subjects us all to temptations and feelings and variables we can’t predict.
The only way to sail through all that with any kind of equanimity is to trust yourself: “I will be OK.” Whatever comes. Even when you don’t see it coming.
It’s hard to pin down, obviously. But it’s so much bigger than any given boyfriend or a Thursday night when your plans fall through. It’s about choosing people who are good for you and then trusting your own judgment enough to think big-picture-only instead of micromanaging every exchange between you. It’s about being able to step back, breathe deeply, and say, “If this doesn’t work out, I will be fine,” or just, “I’ll figure it out” — and doing so enough times that it becomes a reflex instead of a choice. Only through trusting yourself will you be able to trust someone else.
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