Dear Dr. Diana,
Having been divorced once, I’m afraid of making the same mistake twice. My girlfriend is living with me and we’ve been talking about getting married but I’m not sure it’s a good idea. She has an insecurity complex and no matter what I do to reassure her, she is very clingy and worried about what I’m doing all the time.
My guy friends and I have a weekly deal where we hang out together at various bars. It’s guy time, no girlfriends allowed. I don’t fool around although admittedly I will flirt sometimes. But the way I see it, no foul, no harm. I also travel for business a lot and she has to hear from me throughout the day and at night before we go to sleep. It is suffocating at times. Does all this sound like a red flag for a chronic insecurity problem on her part?
— Cautious Joe
Honestly, it sounds like you may be on your way to making a mistake twice. This doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s your girlfriend’s fault or your fault. But the emotional connection between the two of you may not be as solid as it could be.
Insecurity can stem from any number of things in the past or in the present. It’s important for you to be able to understand what is causing her to worry about whether you are trustworthy or not.
Wanting a partner who understands you and that you can count on is healthy and natural. Most people looking for love are seeking a secure, loving connection. In our society, we are taught that as adults we are not supposed to need anyone, that we need to be self-reliant and independent. The truth is that we need each other. People who feel like they have a couple of people in the world (or even just one) that get them and are there for them tend to be more confident, independent, and giving. Your girlfriend may have an anxious attachment style for any number of reasons. Something to consider: when people have these kinds of conflicts early on, it can indicate that they are not right for each other. She’s going to need a guy who can patiently help her address her concerns. There’s logic to our emotions if we slow down long enough to listen. Her feelings are based on something, even if it’s picking up your ambivalence about getting into a permanent commitment again. If by any chance, your ex-wife had similar concerns, then you might want to have a chat or two with one of your happily married male friends and ask them how they maintain a loving, secure connection with their spouse.
Some people are comfortable with their partner hanging out in bars without them. Others feel insecure and like their partner is putting themselves in temptation’s way. Either way, it’s important to choose a mate whose lifestyle and security needs are compatible with your own.
Diana Weiss-Wisdom, Ph.D. is a licensed psychologist, Psy#12476 in private practice in Rancho Santa Fe, California.
She specializes in marriage counseling, stepfamilies, cardiac psychology, and couples workshops.
*Announcing: Dr. Jessica Buss is a post-doctoral psychological assistant who has joined Dr. Weiss-Wisdom’s practice. She specializes in couples, stepfamilies, adolescents, biofeedback, stress management, anxiety, and cardiac psychology. Dr. Buss has a sliding scale making her services more affordable for those who need a reduced fee. (858) 259-0146 or www.cottageclinic.net