Join Date: Jan 2006
Fear of Failure
I'm new here and thought I would post my story. I've been dating my gf for three years now, after getting together just out of high school. Both of us had never been with anyone else, but we knew we had a good thing going. We are both 21 now and in University together. As this was my first love, I naturally adored her as she did me, and we would see as much of each other as we could. As good students, we could easily find the time to be with each other, only sacrificing some of our out of school activities and interests. We have both matured in these important years of our lives, but have grown even fonder of each other, which was a relief as most grow out of their high school and early college relationships. She tells me that she will never leave me as it would hurt her too much, and frequently tells me how much she cares for me.
So why am I asking for advice then? Well, after a year of dating her I found out she had a profound fear of losing the things she cares for the most. We were working together at the University that summer and I soon realized that she was jealous and anxious about me outperforming her. I didn't think it was healthy for her to be jealous of someone she loves, so I tried to explain that we weren't involved in a competition. She was likely behaving this way due to frustration perhaps, as she desperately wanted to impress me and for me to respect her. From this she developed the idea of being inadequate and subsequently descended into what I can only describe as aggravated depression. She would go off at me all the time if I mentioned anything that made her feel inadequate, as if I were evaluating or judging her all the time. As an example, while we were working together at the University, she was in a particularly foul mood one day. We received a phone call and she answered the call and handled the caller, someone she did not know, very rudely. I told her shortly after that it was quite rude, not something to be done while working in a professional environment. She broke down after that and ran out of the building claiming that I thought she was rude, obnoxious and a horrible person. The slightest remark, even in casual conversation would make her think that I was targeting her and belittling her faults.
Most guys my age would have left her at this point, as she was completely out of hand. I even spoke to her parents about her talking to a counselor or some other third party for help. I still loved her and knew it was something I could repair. All men approach something like this as a problem that can be fixed, and I'm sure most would agree that she was behaving unnaturally and could be calmed down. I was very patient and caring whenever I spoke with her, trying to show her that I had always cared for her and only wanted her to be happy. She finally told me one day that when she was younger and lived with her grandparents, her grandmother favored her cousin and constantly made my gf feel useless and unwanted. She has a very good memory of her past and likes to dwell on it, so I suppose she felt I might be turning into her grandmother, a rather bizarre correlation. It was difficult to understand as I loved her completely and had never complained or insulted her. Yet, whenever I gave her the idea I was pointing at one of her faults she would become extremely aggravated, as if she were protecting herself from further torment. Unfortunately, I had no idea how to approach the situation and her aggravation and depression worsened. I eventually decided to leave her for a while, near the end of that summer, after which she would leave for school again and I would stay. We originally went to different Universities but this year I am at the same school. She broke down when I told her I would give her some time to think about how she had treated me. Guys can put up with a lot, and see around things, but I thought the only way to get her to listen to what I was saying was to leave her.
She came to visit me a few days later, obviously feeling very sorry and guilty. I could see how much the prospect of being apart from me scared her and decided that I wouldn't torture her anymore. Thinking back, I think this was a big mistake as I had not given her enough time to really think about what had gone wrong and it was only her grief that had made her apologize. We went on to enjoy another year together before I realized that that summer was still haunting her.
This brings me to today. My gf has been complaining that I don't listen to her for quite some time. She was very jealous recently after I was talking to another girl about our studies in front of her. She didnít understand our conversation and so didnít participate, and complained that I spoke to this other girl for too long while ignoring her. While I was talking she was surfing the internet so I didnít think I was ignoring her. I had spent most of the day with her so she really couldnít complain about enough attention. Itís getting harder for me to think logically when she accuses me of all these wrongs. She now fears that I will leave her in the future because I do not find her interesting and cannot stand her faults. We are still very close and I still care for her like I used to in the past, but her idea that I am losing interest and giving up is really getting me down. Iíve told her countless times that I still love her very much, and she behaves as if she believes it sometimes. I havenít given up because there are still times when she is happy to be with me and appreciates all that I have done. But her fear of me leaving, and her belief that I do not value her presence in my life are always lurking underneath her veiled exterior. She sometimes pretends to be happy with me, but I still believe she has done nothing to uncover the root of her insecurity and fears. This is the reason for my hesitancy and lack of confidence around her now. Iím unable to have a ďgoodĒ conversation with her because I know she will be evaluating it for hidden messages, and will likely misinterpret its meaning, associate it with her feeling of inadequacy and end up feeling worse off. So Iíve been reduced to listening to her about how itís not only her fault but mine for giving her all these indications that I am not satisfied with her anymore.
Her fear of failure, of not living up to my expectations, is what gets her down the most she says. She uses her grandmother analogy to make me feel guilty for mistreating her when I have never done anything of the kind. To be completely honest, after being the caring and understanding bf, I recently tried a more aggressive approach, try to get her to listen to me and evaluate her anxiety herself. I was outwardly angry with her for the first time, showing her that it was really bothering me. But that is the most I have done, and with my intentions only to help her, I find it difficult to call mistreatment.
As long as she is consumed with her memories of her past failures and never stops to think about the good in our relationship, I feel she will continue to behave this way. Iíve tried almost everything to encourage her move on, but she does not understand that I am not consumed with it all as she is. Her fear of me leaving her just might become a reality if she doesnít put an end to this nonsense, but I am unable to talk any reason into her. I canít be happy until she starts believing that I am a source of happiness and good in her life, not a constant reminder of her short falls - not a very healthy relationship at all. If I keep triggering this fear of failure, anxiety and insecurity, wouldnít it just be better to leave her? Iíve made the same argument with her, and all she does is try to make me feel guilty as she says she would never recover and I would ruin her life. She would get over me just like everyone else, I know, but I donít want to be a lesson in her life, I want to continue to love her and cherish the wonderful aspects of her character. She is a lovely person and a very intelligent young woman.
I need a new strategy; Iíve tried everything my inexperienced mind can come up withÖhow can I convince her to let go of the past like I have and start being happy with me again?