The Book Doctor | An Anxious Future
Dear Book Doctor,
My girlfriend is heading to the opposite coast for work for a month. We’ve been together a little over a year, and it’s the first time we’ve been separated for so long. I’m really worried about it. When I bring it up, she tells me I have nothing to worry about and that I should trust her.
I don’t want to nag her or seem like a needy wimp by raising the issue over and over—plus I do trust her, so logically, I know there’s nothing to worry about. Why do I feel so bad, and what can I do about it”, Worried
06 June, 2016
My Dearest Worried,
First off, I want to affirm your feelings and tell you that it’s great that you have the self awareness to write in! It’s no wonder that you’re feeling a little uneasy—a month is a while, and you say you’ve never been apart for so long. Plus, you’ll miss her—that’s an understandable strain, too.
You’re wondering why you feel so bad, but I’m wondering something else. Think back: is it pretty typical for you to feel some level of anxiety around your relationships”
A book I’d urge you to whisk out and pick up today is Attached, by Amir Levine and Rachel S. F. Heller, a pair of psychologists who have set out to help people have better relationships through understanding Attachment Theory. I recommend it to you because your worry reminded me immediately of what I read about one of the three types of attachment style they describe, anxious attachment. Here’s how it breaks down: Anxious people are preoccupied with their relationships and often worry that their partner doesn’t love them enough. Imagine, for example, that you call your partner while she is at work because you miss her. Yet, rather than getting to hear her voice on the phone, you hear the dial tone as she rejects the call. You get nervous and worry, thinking that she might not love you anymore. Half an hour later, after you’ve become sick with concern, she calls you back to apologize, explaining that she was in a meeting and couldn’t answer her phone.Does this resonate with you at all, dear Worried? The answer to your question “Why do I feel so bad?” might be that you have an anxious attachment style.
Now, on to what you can do about it. First off, understand that you need someone with the emotional resources available to give you emotional security. Were you to date someone who couldn’t handle your needs, then your relationship would provide you no comfort. You’d do best to find someone who finds it fulfilling and natural to meet your need for unmitigated access. Someone with a secure attachment style, who is probably comfortable with intimacy, will make you feel deeply loved and understood. They will recognize your needs, and thus always be willing to talk with you about your worries.
Right now, I imagine you’re happy with your current lady friend, so shuffling the decks and breaking up before her work foray is obviously not the answer. You might start with communicating to her what you now know about yourself—you simply need access to her and comprehension of your worries to feel secure. Maybe you two could check in every morning before work, just to say hi, or write a daily digest email at the end of the day—even if it’s Twitter length because you’re busy.
And while she’s gone, find some new things to do! A potentially very fruitful place to start would be with reading Attached, so when she’s back, you can work together on making your relationship stronger than ever.
The Book Doctor
More on relationships:
30 Lessons for Loving
30 Lessons for Loving
- 13 min reading time
- audio version available