Murphy’s Love: Advice on Intimacy and Relationships
Dear Stacy: This year I am resolving to do some things differently when it comes to my personal life. I turned 30 last year and dated a few guys for a few months at a time (all after a big breakup the year before with a boyfriend I’d been with for four years). At first these guys seemed great, but soon, when we got to the stage of spending our weekends together and had met one another’s friends, I would start getting really irritated by basically silly things. I would be highly critical of things they said (or wore), and wouldn’t hold my tongue, which sometimes led to an argument, but always led to hurt feelings. Those breakups were mutual, but I know that my criticisms had an impact. I don’t want to be this kind of nitpicking girlfriend. I want to know if there is anything I can do to prevent this behavior, because I really do know it won’t get me what I really want, which is a husband and a family in the near future. – ISO Advice
Dear ISO, Good news! You already may have answered your question about whether there is anything you can do “to prevent this behavior in the future.” From the start, it sounds like you recognize there’s a problem and you are taking responsibility for it. That’s an excellent first step – and one that is often hard-won. This is not going to be about avoiding these feelings, however. It’s going to be about noticing them, recognizing what triggered them and taking some time to see where the roots lead you. You know, one of those basic, mindful, self-awareness quests. But I have a hunch about where this might lead, so I’ll give you a crib sheet. If we were talking about one specific relationship, in which your criticisms of his ever-present Caps jersey showed up on his Facebook wall for all to read, this would be different. Instead, we’re talking about a pattern of behavior occurring with all of Last Year’s Boyfriends. Here’s the identified pattern: when things start looking serious, your radar lights up with criticisms that usher in the end of the relationship. To me, that sounds like a highly effective defense mechanism, protecting you from getting in too deep – keeping you safe, for the most part. You get out while the separation is “mutual,” READ: no real hurt feelings, no real lingering pain. Are you sure you are ready to be in a long-term relationship right now? Four years with Ex-Boyfriend was a long time. Have you fully grieved that loss? It would be too simple to label you a critical nitpicker. I think you might have a wounded heart that hasn’t quite healed enough to give someone else a true chance.
Stacy Notaras Murphy www.stacymurphyLPC. com is a licensed professional counselor and certified Imago Relationship therapist practicing in Georgetown. This column is meant for entertainment only and should not be considered a substitute for professional counseling. Send your confidential question to email@example.com.