We are both afraid

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This topic contains 22 replies, has 6 voices, and was last updated by  Mark 2 days, 13 hours ago.

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    Great to know that, Connie. Wish you all the best.



    Dear Connie:

    I want to understand a bit what happened here: you met a man recently, and “we agreed to be exclusive really early on”. Mid September he asked you to be his girlfriend and you gladly said yes. Within a week, “things changed drastically”, he shut down and became “really cold”.

    He then told you that even though he “fell really hard for” you, he “needed some space to think”, that “he was scared of everything”. He asked you “why I liked him”. Soon after, you texted him “that I really missed him and even though we are both scared, I am determined to go through everything with him”.

    Hours later he replied to you that he loved you and “asked to spend time together”. When you met he was apologetic and told you that “he collapsed sometimes and needed time to be alone and isolate himself”. You asked him then to let you know next time when he wants to be alone, so that you “would know what’s going on and how to help him”. He told you then that “it would  never happen again and he would make sure to let me know if otherwise”.

    He then told you that “he loved me and wanted to marry me… to move in together, have kids with me.. Everything seemed so wonderful”.

    Two days later, the two of you arranged a two-night sleep- over at his place. Right before you headed to his house, he texted a cancellation to you, “because he was sweaty and gross”. A little later he texted you that “he had dinner ready and wanted me to come”, asked you if you loved him and the two of you did get together. “That night we also talked a lot and he was really affectionate”.

    Two days later he shut down again, “He got mad over something that’s really small”, then twice hung up the phone on you. Later he told you that “everything happened too fast and too much”, and that “he couldn’t do this anymore”.

    During this short relationship you “gave him a lot of patience and warmth.. stayed cool and collected when he first disappeared.. didn’t blame him at all… I was calm and tried to communicate with him in a rational sense”.

    My thoughts: that he was scared, that is a n0-brainer, isn’t it? He rushed into intimacy and then rushed out of  it, ran toward love and then ran away from  it. Problem is that this kind of behavior on his part, that cannot be something new for him. He has been in this kind of a situation before, maybe every time. Why didn’t he share that with you then, is my thought.

    If I was you I would  have asked him at the time to tell me about his previous relationships with women- is this rushing toward and then rushing away, if that has been a pattern for him. I would have shared with him a bit about my relationship history, so it is not a matter of you fixing him but the two of you helping each other.

    Did you ask him about his relationship  history when he first shut down and became cold?




    Hello Anita

    Thank you for getting back to me. I had to collect my thoughts in the past week because there were too many things going on.

    First of all, no, I never really asked him about his past relationships. We talked briefly about it but I couldn’t handle so much information. I told him I needed time to process his past with his exes.

    He came back to me after some days of silence. In the beginning, he acted as nothing had happened. As we talked more, he started opening up and telling me he was sorry for being distant and wanting to end things when he didn’t really want to.

    We talked about his insecurity and why he had to run. He said he’s a “manchild”. Having strong feelings for me was too overwhelming because he hadn’t had any feelings for so long. He forgot relationships need work and at the same time, he felt he was letting me down because he turned down my plans of going out for a date night.

    I felt he had a switch. Some days he is extremely affectionate and caring, but some days it almost feels like he’s “switched off,” acting really indifferent and strange. When he gets better, he would come back and apologize because he was fully aware of what he was doing to me.

    I don’t doubt his feelings for me and I have been thinking a lot. We do want the same things in the end. But perhaps we are just walking at different paces. We have a lot of things in common and always feel we are connected to each other even when we are apart. We are so similar to a point I almost feel loving him is loving myself.

    I also thought about his emotional unavailability. I just realized that there are some things that switch me off as well – when he talked about his past relationships, when we get too close and it becomes overwhelming, and when I can’t respond to him after the silence. Those are the times I become emotionally unavailable. The only difference between us is that it takes me a shorter time to break my silence but my unavailability is still there.

    And I forgot the fact that “relationships need work.” I used to fantasize about meeting my Mr. Right and things would work out magically and we would live happily ever after. This Mr. Right is a perfect figure that doesn’t really exist. Even if he does, am I the Ms. Right? Do I magically make his world better? Can I accept all his flaws and imperfections without any complaints or doubts?

    I am still learning this person and learning myself.



    Dear Connie:

    Excellent articulation, the way you put it into words: “And I forgot the fact that ‘relationships need work.’ I used to fantasize about meeting Mr. Right and things would work out magically and we would live happily ever after. This Mr. Right is a perfect figure that doesn’t really exist. Even if he does, am I the Ms. Right? Do I magically make his world better?”-

    No such thing as magic, so we have to do that relationship work. Even if the two  people work hard and long, still no magic. But a healthy relationship that will make life better for the two people in it- that is possible.

    If you and this man went to couple therapy with a good therapist- that would be best to get the two of you started on a good, healthy relationship that will make the two of you feel safer. In the absence of such, there are plenty of books (and workbooks) in libraries and bookstores, as well as online, I imagine, regarding interpersonal skills, learning such and practicing those. The two of you can embark on such self-help learning together.




    A bit of update:

    I just discovered that my boyfriend might be suffering from depression.
    It seems to me that when his emotions get overwhelming, he will start withdrawing himself from everything. We would make plans and stuff and he would have to cancel it in the last minute.
    I am not sure what to do here but allow him time and space to recharge. He told me that he gives a lot to his work and people who created him. He has had abandon issues and sometimes he just feels that he needs to run away from everything.
    I am trying to get used to it. But I still feel kinda hurt every time when he feels the need to shut himself off. I guess it’s just hard for me to see him having to go through everything.
    He also cries a lot recently whenever we have a heart-to-heart conversation. He wants to know my past and everything. However, every time I tell him about things in my past, e.g. my past abusive relationship and my childhood unhappy experiences, or just simply the hard things I am going through life, he will have a hard time adjusting it. I am not exactly sure why he wants to know all of this because those things seem to be too much for him to take in.
    We both feel we are very similar and so connected on the emotional level. It almost feels like we finally found each other that knows us so well. But at the same time, everything is so overwhelming.
    Does that I said even make any sense?

    • This reply was modified 4 days, 4 hours ago by  Connie.


    Dear Connie:

    I am looking forward to read and reply to you when I am back to the computer in about 11 hours from now.




    Dear Connie:

    What you wrote makes sense to me: that he suffers from depression. Depression and anxiety are closely related: when a person experiences too much fear for too long, the brain gets overwhelmed and sort of collapses into depression (he told you earlier that “he collapsed sometimes and needed time to be alone and isolate himself”). The collapsing involves withdrawing from situations and people (“withdrawing himself from everything.. make plans and.. cancel it in the last minute), and he withdraws from his own emotions (becoming “really cold… “shut himself off”). This withdrawal from people and from his own emotions is what depression is about.

    To prevent the high spikes of anxiety that lead to his shutting down aka depression, some SSRI psychiatric drugs may work for him. Quality psychotherapy as well. Regular exercise, hikes in nature (maybe with you), other physical practices such as yoga and tai chi, guided meditations available online, and Mindfulness exercises and practices (lots of info on that).

    When you share with him about your distressing past, following him asking you, share in small portions, in bite-size pieces that he is more likely to be able to handle without collapsing. When you make plans with him, make smaller plans that he is more likely to handle without collapsing/ withdrawing/ shutting down.

    I get the feeling that he understands that he found someone special in you and therefore I am thinking that he may be motivated to get better so to be with you in a functional relationship- something that is possible for him with help, such as the things I suggested above.





    He sounds very insecure with himself… He seems to ask you often how you feel about him… which sounds like he cannot accept or love himself. I sort of know what that feels like.. if he cannot love himself, he will constantly question how you could love him.. he will move close to you, question everything about himself, and then move away form you… until he gets to a point of self acceptance/love, he will constantly move back and forth emotionally.. In my case, it would not be about commitment as much as it would be a fear of someone realizing how truly worthless i am … (even if that reality is not true) It would affirm my own worthlessness.. Any little comment about anything you make.. he could work that into negative support of his own self image.. and you won’t even understated what you said or why he is suddenly distant… It is a terrible way to live .. for each of you… and for him, it dooms him (and anyone in relationship with him) to a cycle of emotional roller coasters. He needs to work on himself before he can be functional in a healthy relationship …



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