[Two Pronged] Putting in more effort in a relationship
Jeremy has a master's degree in law from Oxford University. A banker of 37 years who worked in 3 continents, he has been training with Dr Holmes for the last 10 years as co-lecturer and, occasionally, as co-therapist, especially with clients whose financial concerns intrude into their daily lives
Together, they have written two books: Love Triangles: Understanding the Macho-Mistress Mentality and Imported Love: Filipino-Foreign Liaisons.
Dear Dr. Holmes and Mr. Baer,
I'm currently in a same-sex relationship with someone I have just met in college.
Prior to exclusively dating him, I have been in a number of hook-ups and ghosted so many people. I didn’t quite believe in the idea of settling down with someone – in a long term outlook.
One could say I was there for a good time, not for a long time.
Since I met him, this disposition of mine changed. Put simply, my entire viewpoint changed (cliché as it may sound). I also suffer from anxiety and this has gotten worse in college with me being away from family and all. My relationship with him, I might say, doubled the occurrence of these episodes – from all the worrying of him leaving me and finding another.
Although he gives me reassurances, I can’t quite get over my head and overthink things. I also feel like I’m putting in more effort – in lowering my pride, being more understanding, and changing myself altogether – for the benefit of this relationship. It’s as if I see little to no effort from him. Not quite sure if this has something to do with my anxiety and overthinking issues or if this is just the way it really goes.
I am lost. I am unsure if whether I should keep fighting or not since I feel myself rapidly draining. I want to stay, I really do, but he easily gives up amidst minor inconveniences which makes it so much harder to do so. It is the first time that I am this emotionally invested in someone, and I really, really, really want us to work. Please help me.
You say that this is your very first long term relationship and that you are doing everything in your power to make it work. However you, do not see your partner (let’s call him Alan) putting in anything like the same effort, to the extent that the smallest problems seem too much for him. You think that this relationship may have something to do with the increase you are experiencing in your anxiety attacks.
Let’s consider your enthusiasm of this relationship first. It is perfectly reasonable to have high hopes, especially if Alan is your first serious partner, but the chances of your first being THE relationship are not good. By all means, invest as much as you wish in its success but don’t blind yourself to the possibility that it will not prosper. Relationships are like learning to cook – first efforts seldom produce perfection.
Not blinding yourself means a realistic assessment of how the relationship is actually developing. You appear to be quite aware of Alan’s shortcomings and of course, the increase in your anxiety attacks is a significant warning sign. Whether or not there is a direct cause and effect is well worth exploring, both for this and future relationships.
In summary, while it is noble to give your all to a relationship, it is also wise to take stock if your efforts are not matched by your partner. If in addition, it is affecting your health, it may be that your body is telling you that this is not meant to be.
All the best,
Thank you very much for your letter. I am so sorry that, in addition to the stress you are experiencing because of your relationship with Alan, and your being away from home, your anxiety is ratcheting up even more. There are so many ways anxiety can affect or be an effect (or both) of other things going on in your life but I shall refrain from discussing these, important though they are, because there is one other things I want to focus on. That is what I call CM – counterintuitive (or weird) math.
Mr Baer and I have noticed a phenomenon we describe as Counterintuitive Math whenever one person is more invested in the relationship than the other.
It goes this way: Your relationship can only go as far and as deep as the person who wants less will let it. That is because the person who has invested less has more power in the relationship. The person who has less to lose calls all the shots — UNLESS his partner (the person who invests more) decides to call it quits.
In your relationship, you are more invested in this relationship than Alan is. You will be devastated if this relationship breaks up. Alan reassures you that this relationship is important and he will not leave you, but something keeps you from believing him entirely.
Thus, it is you that does most of the running—lowering your pride, being more understanding (READ: more accepting — at least on the outside).
You know this, but cannot find a way to level the playing field. That is understandable. There is no way you can force or make kulam (bewitch) a person to love you more. So it seems like your only options are to suck it up (which is your choice at the moment even as it drains you) or leave.
The thought of your relationship ending is probably making you even more anxious. I am so, so sorry, Bam, but sometimes reality can really be anxiety-making. Sometimes anxiety can work in your favor, because it helps you leave a miserable situation much more quickly.
If you are at the stage where you can leave once you deem your relationship hopeless/not worth the screwing you’re getting (as in: Is the screwing you’re getting worth the screwing you’re getting?), then terrific! And if you’re not, then please write to us again because I think, I hope, we can help see you through till you see light — however flickering — at the end of the tunnel.
All the best,
Need advice from our Two Pronged duo? Email firstname.lastname@example.org with subject heading TWO PRONGED. Unfortunately, the volume of correspondence precludes a personal response.