Dear Dr V. ,
I’ve been with this guy for a few months. On paper it looks like it should be a great relationship, but something feels off about the whole thing. He’s a great guy, smart, well-read, good-looking and in good shape. He adores me, and heaps attention and affection on me. The one thing is, he’s kind of possessive. Like he never really wants to go out and do anything with my friends as a group, and from what I can see, he’s only got one friend (though from what I know they’re super close), but even then he doesn’t want all three of us to hang out. He’s basically got this very intense, almost jealous focus on me. I’m kind of starting to wonder what’s really going on inside his head, and where the relationship will head if we stay together. One friend of mine said with a total straight face that he seems like a serial killer! I doubt that’s the case, but I am starting to feel kind of uncomfortable around him, which doesn’t seem right. What should I do?
I think your own intuition may already be hinting at the answer for you. The uncomfortable feeling you have could very well be your emotional sixth-sense telling you to make a move on this troubling set of circumstances. The situation you’re in seems like it’s heading for a critical mass where a decision needs to be made.
To put your mind at ease, your boyfriend does not sound like a serial killer (and let’s be thankful for that, no?).
However, it does sound like your relationship may be a bit out of balance. What’s important is to act on these issues as soon as possible, because the longer they go unaddressed, the more convoluted and difficult the situation will become.
Though I don’t know your relationship history up to this point, I can assume that at first it felt wonderful to be the object of such intense and focused devotion. In the early stages it must have seemed like a fairy tale come true: here’s this wonderful person who adores and worships you unconditionally, the proverbial Knight in Shining Armor.
However, like many Fairy Tales, the twist could be that now you’ve attained what you’ve been pining for, it may turn out to be the opposite of what you really need.
While I would almost always encourage romantic adoration in a relationship, I do so only with the caveat that the relationship be healthy and functional. I’m not questioning your boyfriend’s love for you, but I think there could be other issues attaching themselves to his feelings for you. Thus, these problems find an outlet to manifest in the behaviors you’re seeing. The root cause of these feelings for your boyfriend could be anything from low-self esteem, general insecurity, or even a narcissistic personality disorder. Without wanting to sound alarmist, I feel obliged to tell you that possessive behavior can often be the calling card for future abusive behavior. So it really is in your best interest to deal with this issue as soon as possible, for the best interests of everyone involved.
The current dynamic in your relationship sounds almost like an incomplete co-dependent circuit. By this I mean your boyfriend is attempting to step into the role of caretaker (and in a full-blown co-dependent relationship, this would be the savior, like the doting parent bailing their kid out of jail for drug related crimes for the umpteenth time). However, as from your letter you sound like someone who is not seeking out this kind of dysfunctional pattern, your boyfriend might feel as if he’s running into a wall; he’s waiting for you to finish a song you don’t know the words to (and this is a song you don’t want to learn). Hopefully, you and your boyfriend can work to break this unhealthy pattern.
So, what can be done? I believe an open, honest discussion would be your best strategy. As I always recommend with potentially confrontational discussions, try to approach the subject with empathy and sensitivity. After all, your boyfriend’s really only operating from his own emotional experience. He is not a villain. He wouldn’t be doing what he’s doing if he didn’t think it was the right thing. You could start off by expressing how much you do appreciate all he does for you, and the depth of affection you feel from him.
You could then dovetail this with the fact that you want to integrate your relationship with him, your friendships and so on. Explain that you don’t want to keep him separate. Perhaps he’d feel more comfortable getting together with a smaller group of people at first, and then moving on from there. You could even ask him if he’s worried about losing you, and if he is, set his mind at ease.
However, if he’s unwilling to try and address the issue, if he denies there’s a problem or becomes argumentative, then you may need to seriously reconsider what kind of a future you would have with this man. If / when you broach the subject, your boyfriend stonewalls you, this could potentially be a very bad, even dangerous situation for you.
Again, not to sound like Chicken Little, but maybe that feeling in your gut is your survival instinct kicking in, telling you to get while the getting’s good.
Note: All information in the Ask Dr. V column is for educational purposes only. For specific medical advice, diagnosis and treatment, please feel free to email Dr. V, or consult your doctor.
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