Love and Relationships

[Two Pronged] I’m an overthinker, and it pisses my boyfriend off

Margarita Holmes, Jeremy Baer
[Two Pronged] I’m an overthinker, and it pisses my boyfriend off
'We have these fights that are mostly caused by me overanalyzing everything. If he doesn’t talk to me, my stupid brain’s default thinking is that he’s cheating on or avoiding me.'

Rappler’s Life and Style section runs an advice column by couple Jeremy Baer and clinical psychologist Dr. Margarita Holmes.

Jeremy has a master’s degree in law from Oxford University. A banker of 37 years who worked in three 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 am a 24-year-old guy in a long distance relationship with a 19-year-old guy. We are committed to each other. He brings back the younger and easier person that I used to be, compared to who I’ve become now. But, at the same time, he kinda gives me anxiety.

We have these fights that are mostly caused by me overanalyzing everything. If he doesn’t talk to me, my stupid brain’s default thinking is that he’s cheating on or avoiding me or maybe finds me boring. It really pisses him off. It ruins the romance. It feels like I’m repelling him more, but it’s too hard to stop my mind from thinking this way.

In the earlier days of our talking stage, he lied to my face multiple times. He would assure me about this guy I kept asking him about, but I later found out that my speculations about them flirting was correct. We’ve already ironed that part out, though. It’s also worth noting that as a kid I was mentally and sexually abused by an older woman, so I don’t know if that trauma made me the anxious person that I am now (I also was like this in my past relationship).

Maybe he doesn’t validate me enough? Or maybe I do not have much going on on my plate, making me co-dependent? With these theories I made up in my mind, you can confirm how much of an overthinker I am.

Please help me; it’s so hard to enjoy things when my mind’s always so far ahead and always thinks of the worst case scenario. What can I do to stop it? How do I become less needy?


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Dear Rick,

It seems that you have two main concerns: your tendency to over-analyze and your anxiety, which may be linked to childhood abuse.

Given the difference in your ages and the nature (LDR) of your relationship, it may well be that you and your partner (let’s call him Sam) have different views of your situations.

Sam at 19 may still be at the experimental stage when it comes to relationships while you at 24 may have more experience, at least in years if not also in numbers of partners. He may be flirty by nature or just because he is beginning to spread his wings. You on the other hand are probably more experienced, even if only by virtue of being older, and the five-year age gap is more significant at 19 and 24 than it would be if the two of you were, say, 59 and 64.

Maybe it is therefore a question of recognizing and living with this until Sam becomes more mature or, alternatively, if you cannot reconcile yourself to his behavior, you need someone more temperamentally your own age.

It thus seems natural that your concern over his flirting and lying will almost inevitably make you anxious and this should lead you to wonder whether he is the right person for you.

An LDR will only exacerbate this concern. Whether this anxiety is a product of the abuse you mention is difficult to judge, but if it is a serious worry that extends beyond just your relationship with Sam, then therapy would seem a sensible and positive approach to beginning the healing process.

Overall, it would be helpful to clarify in your own mind what exactly are the causes of your problems. Simply blaming yourself is not a good start. Analyze where the real blame should lie e.g. your partner for flirting and lying, the older woman for the abuse. Put right what you can on your own and seek help from a professional if greater resources are needed.

All the best,
JAF Baer

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Dear Rick:

Thank you very much for your letter. Thank you too, Mr. Baer, for giving such a clear, understandable framework within which we can relate to Rick’s problems.

I shall not address the trauma you may have experienced in your youth. There is too much to unpack in just one column, especially since your current boyfriend is more immediate in your mind. Mr. Baer suggested you see a therapist for this, and/or please write to us again should you feel it will help.

What you wrote: “My stupid brain’s default thinking is that he’s cheating” reminds me of a Jeff Bridges line in the movie The Fisher King: “Just because you’re a paranoid schizophrenic doesn’t mean nobody’s trying to kill you.” You are not diagnosed as paranoid, PLUS you both have a history when he actually cheated, so it make sense that you are not that secure in your relationship.

You also mention that: “He lied to my face multiple times…would assure me about this guy I kept asking him about, but I found out my speculations about them flirting was correct.” 

I wonder what sort of person he was if he lied multiple times about his behavior. Even after you asked him again and again. Of course, this was early on in your relationship when fidelity was not expected. But then, he could have said it was none of your business. And not lie constantly. Because I can’t help also wondering what sort of person he thought you were that he constantly lied to you this way.  

Did he brush off your concerns as mere “kutob” (strong feelings, not evidence-based)? Did he feel that if he lied often enough it would sound true to you? Whatever the reason, he was gaslighting you, Rick.   

Perhaps this is what really hurts, what you cannot reconcile. This is the issue you need to put to rest, Rick, and if he remonstrates once more that you haven’t “moved on,” then he is trying to gaslight you again! True, he is young, but even at 20, you know not to be a jerk.  

But what really raises red flags is your statement: “It really pisses him off. It ruins the romance.” I worry that, not wanting to upset him more, you are probably walking on eggshells most of the time you are together. Not good, Rick.

Ikaw pa (to you, of all people), who is so quick to accept your supposed faults — needy, co-dependent, overthinker.

Please, please write us again if you think we are too harsh, or on the right track, or anywhere in between or beyond. I really hope you do. 

Many thanks,
MG Holmes


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