I have a dear friend, a bit younger than me, who I made the mistake of going out with two years ago. Because of our difference in religion he decided not to pursue it. I have been through a lot of loss in my life and the fact that he was attracted to me was desperately exciting. As he was the first person to be there for me without leaving, I poured out my entire life and heart to him. Since then, I have kept this hold on him and expected him to be there for me for the longest time. I have cried and been very angry when he won’t love me the way I want him to, and I get jealous when I see him horse around with or be physically comfortable with any of our other female friends. I don’t know what I’ll do when he gets a significant other. I feel like I want to be the most special person in his life. He is getting to a point where he’s getting tired of this, and I don’t live in the dorm anymore but still go to see him everyday. What can I do to make our relationship better? He is a dear, dear, DEAR friend, has done so much for me, and I want the friendship to last… I want to be there for him, but he’s a real introvert and doesn’t talk too much. I feel like I’m so scared to let anything go, I’m choking him, and losing everything anyway. What should I do to be a good friend? How do I get over my feeling that he is my security blanket? How do I love him without depending on him?
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You have the answer (at least theoretically) when you say, “I’m choking him and losing everything anyway”. If your relationship with this man is to last, you will have to stop choking him. You seem to be quite a needy young woman (that’s perfectly okay – many of us are that way at times in our lives). The tendency when you are needy is to latch onto someone and try to get them to meet your needs. This is a great way to burn out any sort of relationship in a hurry. In any relationship that works, there is mutual respect and mutual give and take. Because of your neediness, you are unable to properly respect this man and the limits of what he is willing to be to you. It’s as though you are drowning and he has attempted to save you by swimming out to you. Of course you’ve climbed on top of him in an effort to stay alive. Of course he’s dragged down by your struggling and has gotten tired of it. The proper way to save someone who is drowning is to throw them a life-preserver while keeping your distance. That way – the struggling person is able to get some support, and the rescuer’s own life is not jeopardized. What you need is a life-preserver. By this, I mean that you need some source of support that is capable of bearing some of your burdens, while not allowing themselves to get inundated in the process. Therapists and counselors are good places to look for this type of support. Such persons can provide you with a safe, supportive space where you can unburden yourself, but at the same time the relationship remains formal enough so that your problems don’t harm them. Support groups, group therapy, some clergy and some internet chat groups and forums can also be good places to look for this sort of support. You probably won’t find it with friends or lovers – at least not until you are self-possessed enough to be able to give back as much as you take. You’ve got some growth and healing work to do, some mental health work (Note that I don’t say ‘mental illness’; you’re dealing with a maturational and spiritual issue here, not a disorder). The goal you might strive for is to become more self-sufficient and self-possessed, less needy and more able to support others as you have required support. There is no set way to accomplish this, but generally the tasks that need to be accomplished involve grieving for losses you’ve sustained, learning how to comfort yourself and cope better when you become agitated, learning how to be self-sufficient and to believe in your own self-worth as an individual at least as good as everyone else, and learning how to empathize with others and to compassionately give of yourself to support them. As you travel down this path, you’ll find it much easier to be a good friend to your friend, and a better lover to lovers you will take in the future. Good luck.