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The relationship test

Can I drive them away before they leave?

That’s not the question to be asking yourself says our elder—if you want to avoid another failed relationship.

Dear EWC:

Every time I get into a relationship and the person moves in, after a while I pick holes in everything and emotionally shut down despite loving the person. I have lost 2 relationships because of it.

I have recently lost what I would say is the love of my life because I seem to criticize everything they do. I emotionally shut down and do not show any affection. I tend to moan about everything and end up grinding the person down until they want to leave. I am always sorry after but sometimes it is too late to repair. I do want my partner back and would do anything for them. But I know firstly I need to get to the bottom of my issues.

I really do not know why I am like this. I tend to drive everyone away and make myself unhappy in the long run. I am beginning to think I have serious mental health problems. I hold down a full time job with people with mental health issues and seemed to cope well at work but soon as I’m at home the criticism starts. I have had this issue for several years and cannot get to the bottom of it. Now that I have driven the love of my life away I know I need serious help.
Why do I feel I need to test the relationship to the point of them breaking up with me?

Grandpa-Matt replies:

While I do not know you or what has gone on in your life, I will have to make some guesses about the causes of your behavior. If I am off base, please let me know.
I think that you have created a defensive posture building an emotional wall of protection to avoid the pain of being hurt by your partner. Why and how did this come about? What I think occurred to you (and many others) is that when we were growing up, we were told that somehow we did not “measure up” to the expectations of those we looked to for approval.

It doesn’t matter where you got that idea, whether from parents, teachers, strangers, or wherever. If we don’t experience those symbols of love, such as appreciation, attention, approval, caring, hugs, and the evidence of support that most of us crave, we think we failed somehow. We conclude that we are not enough. We feel we are not good enough, not attractive enough, not intelligent enough, not capable enough, not acceptable enough, etc. We think that perhaps we’re unlovable or that we have little worth or value.

The question of being good enough needs to be addressed. How do you gain the confidence to succeed in life? We have to examine your thoughts that you are not enough. The question is, not enough for whom? The decision that you didn’t measure up came from other people’s opinions. Opinions are only ideas of others that they made up to manipulate you to conform to their ideas of how they wanted you to behave.

The moment that you think that you are OK, then you are OK. This is all it takes to escape the fear pattern that you have established for yourself. There is nothing wrong with you that a bit of self-trust and self-appreciation will not fix. My advice is to accept who you are, warts and all.

Trusting yourself is the key to taking the risk to let down the barriers to being vulnerable, affectionate, and giving the relationship exactly what you want in return. I hope this advice will enable you to find more loving, joy, and happiness. Please write back and let us know how you are doing.

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