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Anxiety from trust issues
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Anxiety from trust issues

I have been dating my boyfriend for about a year. This is my first real relationship ( I am 25.) He treats me wonderfully, and we have a very emotionally open relationship (I think). However, we did run into a roadblock that I cannot seem to shake. In March, I discovered through an acquaintance that he was paying to be a member of a website of an adult nature. Basically it is a website for people looking for casual sex, erotic chat, fantasy, etc.The acquaintance had an issue with her fiance being on this site and is basically acting like a vigilante, scouring the site for people she knows (my perception anyway). I was completely devastated. He confronted me about it first, letting me know that one of my"friends" found him on this site and was trying to contact him via the site. When he responded to her message, she revealed who she was and basically gave him an ultimatum of "Tell her or I will."  I saw every message exchange, and nothing explicit was ever said. He seemed to be apologetic and swore that he was only on the site to chat and immediately canceled his membership. As angry and as hurt as I was, I forgave him, but I cannot forget. I am always wondering what he is up to when we are not together. I get anxious when he spends time with his friends (but he usually spends his free time with me). I even stooped as low as to check his phone while he was in the shower. I was so wrecked with guilt that I told him what I did right away, and he was furious with me. I am trying so hard not be so distrusting and he has done nothing to betray my trust since then, but I feel as though I am constantly waiting for the floor to drop from underneath me. I love him so much, but I do not want to drive myself crazy with anxiety and the fear of "what if." How can I effectively address this issue once and for all and keep my relationship in tact?
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I truly believe that you cannot control what happens around you and in the world, but you can definitely choose how to respond to what occurs.

One exercise that I recommend is writing a description of your ideal man.  Then take a moment to reflect on what initially attracted you to your boyfriend.  Make a list.  Do you still enjoy these qualities about him?  How close does he match your ideal dream man?  Where are the differences?  Are you willing to live with these differences?  What would you like to change?

Now, you’re probably wondering why I started focusing on the positive attributes of your relationship first.  The real reason is that you always have a choice.  If you don’t decide, you actually have made a decision.

So, the first step is to decide whether you truly want to stay in this relationship.  If the answer is yes, it will be important to sit down with your boyfriend and have a heart-to-heart about what you value about him and ask him what he is looking for in this relationship.  Again, you are starting with the positives.  You’re sharing with him why you love him so much and then you’re checking in with him about what he is really expecting in your relationship.  Then ask him, what is working well; what is not working so well, and what could be handled differently?

Yes, I admit, that so far you’ve been primarily focusing on him.  If you focus on him first, you might discover more about his true motivations.  This information will be very helpful to determine whether you are ready to meet his expectations.

Then I would ask him what he values about you?  Ask him to share what he loves about you and then let him know your expectations of the relationship.  Sometimes, when a partner strays, they might be feeling like they are missing something from the primary relationship or this might be a pattern of wanting something that is not easily accessible, which increases the excitement.

It will be important for you to discover if he is craving excitement that he feels is not present in his existing relationship, or if this is an indication of something else, including, but not limited to a recurring pattern.  Maybe, it’s as simple as adding some element of spice or fantasy to the relationship.  Again, you have to decide if you are comfortable with this approach, and only once you begin to understand what your boyfriend is craving.

If you are unable to discern his true motivations, I urge you to seek relationship counseling to help you process these issues.

In addition to understanding both of your expectations in your relationship, it is also extremely vital to develop awareness about why you are so upset about his past behavior?  What is it specifically that makes you anxious currently?

If it were to happen again, how would you react?  How would you handle it?  One technique that I recommend is to imagine a few different scenarios:  the “What If “ scenarios for you to run through your possible reactions.  It will help you clarify your feelings about the situation.  

Usually, past behavior predicts future behavior.  So, the odds are in favor that it will happen again, unless something in the relationship changes.  

If all of these suggestions might be too anxiety provoking, please seek a professional counselor to support you and help you identify what will work best for you.  These are broad recommendations and are only triggers to help you get started to pro-actively start to make choices in your situation.

Wishing you success in actively making these choices!
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