Ask the Author: Question & Response
I’m in a long term relationship and I feel like I messed it up by not treating my boyfriend well. I didn’t treat him badly (abuse him physically or mentally). I was just neglectful because I’m a busy person and didn’t spend much time with him. He told me he is not happy with me because of this (can’t blame him one bit) but he loves me and would like to work on the relationship. I’ve been working on the issues, but I just get the feeling from him that he’s going to be non-compliant and unappreciative of my efforts and things aren’t going to work out. If I had treated him better in the first place, it may not have ended up like this. Now I feel guilty because God gave me the person I have been waiting for all my life and I messed it all up by taking my own path, by tending to my needs instead of the path God made for me to be with him and tending to his needs as well. If we break up, I will have to live with the guilt and feel really bad for a long time and have it haunt me for the rest of my life. How would you interpret my situation and what do you think?
– Christa, Delaware, USA
The first thing to work on would be to truly understand your actions. When you write: “I didn’t treat him badly (abuse him physically or mentally),” and immediately after that, you write: “I was just neglectful,” it shows that you do not yet understand the extent of your actions. Neglect is a passive form of mental abuse, and regardless of how passive it is, it is still hurtful. Neglect means to give little attention or respect. Put yourself in his shoes, would you want to stay in a relationship where your partner gives you little attention or respect?
To be commitment-phobic does not only imply that you avoid becoming involved in a long term relationship. This behavior also manifests itself by sabotaging a relationship when you fear it’s becoming too serious. Being neglectful to the point that your partner is thinking about leaving is a sign of commitment-phobic behavior. Equally so, commitment-phobic individuals often have self-worth issues. If a relationship seems too good to be true, commitment-phobic individuals begin to find ways to sabotage the relationship because, deep down, they believe they are not worthy of the experience.
“I’ve been working on the issues, but I just get the feeling from him that he’s going to be non-compliant and unappreciative of my efforts and things aren’t going to work out.” Putting aside that your tone is pessimistic and that attitude is unproductive, your job now is to show him that you are making a sincere effort to change your behavior and the unproductive patterns that brought you to this point in your relationship. Although you might perceive that you are doing this for him, you are actually doing this for yourself. Deep down, your truest desire is to become a caring person and partner, and a more considerate and compassionate human being. So ask yourself: “What can I do to accomplish and live out my truest desires?” Do this for yourself. Work on healing yourself, then this healing will naturally extend outward, touching everyone that you come across.
“If I had treated him better in the first place, it may not have ended up like this.” The relationship is where it is. You can not change the past, only the present. As thoroughly as possible, express to your boyfriend your new understanding of your past actions. Then, with your actions, show that you have changed. Put a plan on paper and discuss it with him. Find out how much time and support you both need to start feeling more cared for. Find out what you haven’t done that you could be doing to help him feel that you truly care. Look within and find the fears that are sabotaging this relationship. Identify them and talk to your boyfriend and/or a therapist about them.
“Now I feel guilty because God gave me the person I have been waiting for all my life and I messed it all up by taking my own path, by tending to my needs instead of the path God made for me to be with him and tending to his needs as well. If we break up, I will have to live with the guilt and feel really bad for a long time and have it haunt me for the rest of my life.” Wow, pretty dramatic. Relax, breathe and center yourself. You took the path you needed to take to get you to where you are now. This is actually a gift. You have been supporting, consciously or not, behaviors and actions that could only lead you to where you are now. The result of these behaviors, this thought system, is your current situation. The only way to dig out and bring to the surface the cause of your current situation was through the physical manifestation of this relationship. Be thankful for that. Be thankful that you now have a better understanding of how you got here. Be thankful that your partner is still willing to work with you, to help you become a less neglectful and more caring being.
Become more productive with the time you have by taking a class, reading a book or researching time management strategies. Look for ways to bring focus to your mind, such as a yoga or meditation class. A mind focused on the moment participates more richly in the moment, and others will feel enriched in your presence. Feeling cared for has a lot more to do with how you participate with your partner in the moment, than how many moments you actually spend together.
This Q&A Includes The Following Topics: