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Why Do I Keep Questioning my Boyfriend?

by Dr. Marie Hartwell-Walker

I’m 18 and I’ve been with my boyfriend approximately 2 1/2 years. Shortly after graduating high school, around August 2006, I had a thought that maybe I don’t really love my boyfriend; maybe I want to be with somebody else. Seems normal enough, right? Well, what isn’t normal is ever since then, I can’t get it out of my head. There are days when I’m okay and days when I am not. Sometimes my anxiety is so immense that it interrupts how I function in daily life. All I can think about is him and how I might not want to be with him. I don’t want to do anything but think about it because it feels like it will make it better, when really, it makes it worse. It hurts really bad, and I’m always sad because of it. I’ve been trying to get advice from my Mother and a couple of close friends, even him. When they tell me I obviously love him, my response is “but I don’t know if I do.” But if they tell me to break up with him and go on with my life, I burst into tears and break down, because the last thing on the planet I want to do is leave him.
Please help me. I don’t understand myself and I hate it. I don’t understand my own thoughts or where they come from. I do know that I was happiest with him when I was in high school; when I had a social outlet and an outside group of friends. I took a year off to go to college and he’s basically been the only person I see, outside from immediate family, of course. I don’t have many friends, and I used to have quite a few. In fact, I have about one friend that I see about once and month and not for very long. I’ve worked full time but not with people my age or who I even get along with. I’ve been depressed, and so maybe I have pinpointed my boyfriend as the problem, and he’s the thing that makes me happiest.
My dilemma here is; I stay with him, and I possibly continue to suffer. I break up with him, and I indefinitely suffer. If I stay with him, I could try and fix it. A huge part of me believes that it’s not him that’s the problem, it’s me and my obsessing.
I also want to say that these questions do not enter my head when considering dumping him:
Who else would have me?
Would I be completely isolated without him and hence I’m dependent?
What would I do on the weekends?
Who would I hang out with?
** Am I just afraid to hurt him?
** This question I have asked, but not when I’ve thought about breaking up with him. I’m more afraid of hurting myself than hurting him. I wouldn’t stay with somebody out of pity.
I probably don’t even deserve him. He deserves somebody who is going to love him deeply and not make him doubt himself. I have done that. I’ve been very selfish.
I’m terribly worried that he’s going to get fed up with me, and yet here I am doubting! I don’t know what to do.
Please help. It would mean so very much to me.
Thank you so, so, so, so, so, so, so, so much!

You’ve been with your boyfriend since you were only 15. It makes sense to me that you are feeling the natural desire to learn more about yourself and about who you want to be with by exploring other relationships. It also makes a kind of sense that you have become so dependent on this young man. By being together for such a long time in your adolescence, you kind of protected yourselves and each other from having to deal with a lot of high school drama. Unfortunately, you also “protected” each other from doing the growing that comes from knowing lots of different kinds of people and trying out different relationships. My guess is that you’ve both become far too separated from friends and from people your own age. By being so together, neither one of you has given yourself the room to find out who you are separate from the other. As confusing as it is, I think there’s a healthy part of you deep inside that’s clamoring to get out.

I think you both need a break. It’s time for each of you to meet some people, to explore new activities, and find out who you are. No one your age at work? Then join a gym where young people hang out or take a class at a local community college or get involved in an activity where you’re sure to meet other teens. Yes, it will be hard. Yes, you will want to run back to what is familiar whenever you get a little scared. But if you and your boyfriend really love each other, you will want each other to have the chance to grow into a solid, separate person. You want to be with each other because you choose it, not because you are tangled up in a co-dependent mess. I hope you can talk about it and wish each other well. Go your own ways for at least six months. Be brave and try new things. Once you have a full life, you can check out whether you are still interested in each other.
I wish you well.
Dr. Marie

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