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How I'm Sabotaging My Chances Of Finding Love

This must happen to other people ... right?

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illustration of couple riding a bike with cloud of anxiety over the female by tara jacoby
Tara Jacoby
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I saw a beautiful redhead walking down my street last Saturday morning. Her legs were toned, and she was the wash-and-go type of woman who, I’m sure, looked stunning as soon as she got out of the shower. My palms began to sweat and I asked my kids if they’d ever seen her before. They hadn’t. What if she moved in close? What if he sees her? What if he’s more attracted to her than he is to me? My hair doesn’t look like that. I’m pretty sure she’s at least a decade younger than me.

My heart started racing and it was hard to swallow. I imagined my new boyfriend checking her out on the way to visit me. On our first date, while getting to know each other better, we spilled the beans about what we found physically attractive in other people. He said he had a thing for redheads. I am not a redhead. At the time, his comment didn't faze me. I felt confident, I looked great. We ended our night with a kiss, he told me I was beautiful and that he couldn’t wait to see me again.

A few weeks later, we started dating exclusively. That’s when my anxiety spiked. I’ve met his kids. I’ve spent time with his family and friends. He loves introducing me as his girlfriend. He’s affectionate and doesn’t let me pay for a thing. He opens car doors for me and always compliments how I look. He never hides his phone or acts shady. In other words, he’s doing everything right and I have no reason to doubt the strength of our relationship.

Maybe he’ll go out with his friends one night, have too many beers and go home with someone else. Then, I can start a fight and end this. I can stop waiting for a shoe to drop.

If he doesn’t text me when I think he should, my anxiety will take me to a really bad place. If I see one of my attractive, single friends while he and I are together, I’m petrified to introduce them for fear he might choose her over me.

Anxiety is a third wheel with everyone I’m involved with, whether we’re exclusive or not and regardless of how much, or little, I like them. It makes no sense. I’m a confident woman. I’m in the best shape of my life. My friends, family and ex-husband come to me for advice. I’m a damn good mother. I’m financially independent. I’ve taken responsibility for the mistakes I made in my marriage. I have a tight, supportive circle I can count on.

When I start to like a man, it goes to s**t. If there isn’t an obvious thing to plant a seed of doubt in my mind, you can bet I’ll search until I find one. Then I’ll fixate. And the cycle continues.

No one knows what I go through — except for a few close friends who listen and remind me to breathe. I hide it from my partners so they won’t realize what’s really going through my mind. They don't know I’ve cried after reading what I thought was a lukewarm text. They don’t know how much reassurance I need. It’s an embarrassing amount. They don’t know I live in the what-if-this-doesn't-work-out space. They don’t know my mood can turn in a split second based on how they act or don’t act.

My anxiety wants answers. Is this going to work or not? Because if not, I want out right now. Anxiety doesn’t like to wait to see how things play out. Anxiety wants certainty and it will push you to the edge to find it — to cause it even, because it hates the unknown.

This must happen to other people … right? So, I went to Google and found countless articles about relationship anxiety. It comes in all forms and isn’t just for those who’ve been in a traumatic relationship.

My marriage was pretty healthy and ended amicably. Maybe it comes from my parents’ divorce? It could be the childhood sexual abuse I thought I’d healed from coming back to wreak havoc.

Or, it could be that I have such a need for control that letting another person in — even a person who makes me happy — is just too damn scary. The other day on my run I listened to a Podcast about anxiety that really resonated with me. There are times when you need a definitive answer, but don’t get one. In those moments, tell yourself to float; image yourself floating through the feelings. This allows us to focus on and enjoy the present without putting so much pressure on the what-ifs.

I’m happy to say it’s starting to work. Instead of white-knuckling my way through the most exciting parts of a relationship, I’m trying to float through the fear and doubt — float right into the knowledge that I deserve the love I get.