DR. WALLACE: I have been with my boyfriend for almost a year, and while he is the most kind and supportive person I know, I experience overwhelming anxiety when something goes wrong between us, even if it’s seemingly insignificant. I have failed at many relationships in the past, including friendships, and I can’t help but worry that I’m destined to only have defective relationships. How can I ease my anxiety in this area of my life? — Often Worried, via email
OFTEN WORRIED: Reading over your question, I feel as though something more pervasive is at the root of your relational worries. You said that you have “failed at many relationships in the past,” and it sounds as though you are worried about failing in your current relationship with your boyfriend.
I would like to ask you what it would mean for you if you did end up failing in your current relationship with your boyfriend? My guess is that if I kept asking you what it would mean for you to fail in your romantic relationship or in your friendships, it would ultimately boil down to you expressing that it would mean you are a failure.
Believing oneself to be a failure is a common core belief that many people hold, and it influences the way a person perceives themselves, other people and their future. The problem with this core belief is that it is born out of black-and-white thinking. I guarantee you that there are some components of relationships in which you thrive and succeed. Because the human brain is hard-wired to look for confirmatory evidence for its beliefs, however, you may at times fail to acknowledge the relational victories you have experienced.
There is no way for me to truly know what the quality of your relationship is like with your boyfriend, but I can guess that the quality of the relationship you have with yourself is likely poor given the way that you automatically associate yourself with failure. It sounds to me as though you believe that every relationship you are a part of is destined to be defective. My best advice to you is to challenge the narrative you are telling yourself by looking for evidence that supports the contrary. I have a hunch that this evidence is more abundant than you may imagine it to be.
I HAVE MY FIRST CRUSH
DR. WALLACE: I’m a 13-year-old girl who will turn 14 in November, and I think I have a crush on a boy at my school. He has no clue about it at all!
I’m sort of close to my mom and want to tell her about my crush, but I’m not sure how to bring it up and just thinking about talking to her about this is embarrassing.
Do you have any suggestions for me? Should I talk to my mom about this, or should I just keep this to myself? After all, my crush might just fade away soon and then I wouldn’t have to worry about it at all. — Experiencing My first Crush, via email
EXPERIENCING MY FIRST CRUSH: Absolutely discuss this with your mother! Don’t be nervous; this is a normal part of life. Remember your mom was once your age and she no doubt went through a series of crushes when she was a teenager herself. She loves you and wants the best for you, so she will no doubt earnestly talk to you about how to deal with your feelings.
Don’t ignore this crush in silence and simply hope it will go away because even if it does, a new one will pop up one day in its place. The sooner you learn how to understand your feelings and how to act accordingly regarding them, the better your development from a young girl into a young woman will successfully occur.
Dr. Robert Wallace welcomes questions from readers. Although he is unable to reply to all of them individually, he will answer as many as possible in this column. Email him at [email protected] To find out more about Dr. Robert Wallace and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.