Dear Meg

Overthinking, trauma and anxiety

You deserve a partnership that is equal and open and honest and supportive, one that honors both your strengths and your weaknesses, your courage but also your scars.

Dear Meg

I hope your day is going well.

I’ve been a longtime follower and decided to reach out for advice on trust, betrayal, and relationships. Overthinking, and constant anxiety are consuming me.

I’ve been with my partner for about eight months. I love her deeply, and I really see her as someone who I want to spend the rest of my life with. However, I struggle to trust her.

Admittedly, traumas fuel some of my overthinking, making it challenging to discern baseless thoughts from valid concerns. Small lies she’s told raise doubts about more significant matters. I’ve tried discussing this with her, but she insists she’s not lying.

I must admit, I sometimes say hurtful things in frustration, and I deeply and sincerely regret it. And I know that my thoughts, traumas, and anxiety do not justify such words and actions.

I apologize if I’m not articulating my thoughts well. I’d appreciate your advice, as I really want to see things through a woman’s perspective to understand her better.

Thank you, and I look forward to your response.

Thank you for writing to me, and I’m sorry that you’re going through this tough time. Life is hard enough as it is, and it would be so nice to have a warm, comforting relationship to come home to. A place of joy and peace, a sanctuary.

Right now, it looks like what you have falls short of this. But I’d like to reassure you that things can always change: you can have the relationship you want if you put in the work, and this is a great first step you’re taking, asking for help.

I think a lot of young men do not get enough guidance in navigating relationships, which is unfortunate, because there’s so much to learn to become a good partner. Many of you, for instance, grow up without an awareness of male privilege, or how the world is skewed in your favor, which ruins nice things. I’ve written about it before, but to reiterate, I think expectations around relationships continue to be shaped by a framework that teaches boys to aspire to be the providers and decision-makers, while the girls accommodate their needs. We all deserve better than this. You deserve better than this.

You deserve a partnership that is equal and open and honest and supportive, one that honors both your strengths and your weaknesses, your courage but also your scars. Most of all, one that is grounded in your shared hopes and values, not in the social standards of centuries past.

It takes time to build such a partnership. I invite you and your partner, for example, to sit together and list down what you expect of each other. How many of these are unreasonable or unrealistic? Which ones are vestiges of a backward culture? Then, reflect on your individual and common dreams. What kind of a relationship would support these?

If you ask me, the point of being with somebody is to be inspired to constantly grow, especially through the pursuit of meaning, service, and community. It is not, and I can’t stress this enough, to become somebody’s possession, or the sole apple of their eyes. Relationships should not stop us from finding other people attractive. In fact, the very best ones should teach us that every soul is so absolutely fascinating regardless of imperfections, that we’d like to spend the rest of our life getting to know them forever.

I encourage starting with these points for reflection because once you agree on the big picture, everything follows. If you believe in what you want to achieve together and individually, then you will also work on yourselves to become the partner that the other needs.

On your part, there seems to be an awareness of mistakes made, as well as a sincere desire to not make them again. I respect that. But like they say, the best apology is changed behavior. At this point I’d remind that saying hurtful things out of spite is never alright, especially when you raise your voice. I think it’s part of male privilege, to not realize how scary it is to be screamed at by a man. May you learn healthier ways to express your anger and frustration, the next time you feel them.

I do not wish to discount the emotions and experiences that you say fuel your overthinking. But since your attempts to address these have not been productive (is it possible that your partner fears your reaction?), I urge you to focus on yourself in the meantime, and on becoming the partner you wish to become.

You’ve identified trauma as a possible source of these negative feelings, and that can be addressed by therapy. If you have no immediate access to it, are you able to discuss with your friends what happened before and how did it affect you? How are things different for you now, and how can you move forward? It helps to have friends who accept you as you are and believe in your good person, while also not condoning bad behavior.

Finally, I hope you can be a little more at peace with however this turns out. I think a relationship is worth giving your all, if it’s what you really want. But should it not work out, know that everything will still be alright. You will have learned something from it about yourself that you can carry with you in your next one, or in your own journey of self-discovery. Like I also said in that previous piece, fulfilling lives can also be very possibly led in singlehood. The most important thing is to make sure that you will be proud of your decisions, if you look back at this time five, ten years from now.

Wishing you a lot of strength as you face this challenge, R. And may you have all the opportunities to grow into the partner and person you wish to be.