Dear Dr. Norquist:
I’m hoping you can help me. I’ve never had this problem before and I don’t know what to do about it. I’m dating a woman who I really care about, yet I find myself angry at her a lot of the time. She doesn’t do anything to deserve the anger. I pride myself on being fair and just. It really bothers me to be feeling angry at her for no just reason. I have trouble trusting her, although she has done nothing to me to be deemed untrustworthy. She has done some things in her past that really bother me. Also she has an eating disorder that I am trying to help her with and I do get very angry when she doesn’t eat or vomits. I really care for her, but I don’t like who I become around her. I don’t know how to fix this, so I thought I’d see if you have any suggestions. I don’t like feeling so out of control of my emotions.
Dr. Norquist responds:
It is so good that you want to treat your girlfriend well, and that it bothers you so much when this is not the case. This is very loving of you.
Remember that this is who you are innately. The more you can recognize and love your own goodness, the more you can love and accept another.
Without more information, I can’t give you a succinct answer, but I can throw out some ideas for you to consider.
You both seem to struggle with control issues – she with food, and you with her behavior and emotions. It is vitally important that you imbibe the understanding that you cannot fix another person, and you cannot control another person’s behavior. It is common and normal to respond to destructive, out of control behavior on the part of one’s loved one by trying to control your loved one’s behavior. This never works.
It would be very helpful for you to immerse yourself in the co-dependency literature. A very helpful book in this regard is “Codependent No More: How to Stop Controlling Others and Start Caring for Yourself” by Melody Beattie.
It would also be very helpful to sort out what you each bring to the table from past experiences. Do you have prior painful experiences with trusting? How much of this is your fear rather than her untrustworthy behavior?
Also, are there similar patterns arising here relating to prior important relationships either of you have experienced?
It is common to attract partners who can unwittingly enact roles and patterns of behavior from past experiences in a subconscious attempt to heal these earlier unresolved experiences.
You both have much you can learn from grappling with this experience. We learn how to love and how to be in relationships only through the process of living and being in relationships. What a great opportunity this provides for you!
(Dr. Sallie Norquist is a licensed psychologist (NJ #2371) in private practice and is director of Chaitanya Counseling Services, a center for upliftment and enlivenment, in Hoboken.)
Dr. Norquist and the staff of Chaitanya invite you to write them at Chaitanya Counseling Services, 51 Newark St., Suite 202, Hoboken, NJ 07030 or www.chaitanya.com or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org, or by fax at (201) 656-4700. Questions can address various topics, including relationships, life’s stresses, difficulties, mysteries and dilemmas, as well as questions related to managing stress or alternative ways of understanding health-related concerns. 2009 Chaitanya Counseling Services