Dear Miss Emily:

About a year ago, I began dating this girl and for a while things were great.  We always had fun and we quickly became very serious about each other. When I first met her, I told her about my past and about how women in my life had repeatedly lied to me, cheated on me, or just used me for money. I also told her about my childhood, which needless to say was not the most wonderful experience in the world. I've always been treated badly by people, and this isn't just from my close friends, it ranges from complete strangers to my own immediate family. Ever since I was little, I've been beaten down and verbally abused by the people important to me and by people I don’t even know. This trend didn't end until I got into middle school and started fending for myself, I quickly became a "problem child" and was sent to alternative school. You can see where all of this is going, so I'll get to the point. Over my high school years, I have been in relationships with women who have been verbally and, at one time, physically abusive.  I have developed a serious issue with trusting anyone close to me. And I made sure she knew about this when we started dating. It hasn't really had much of an affect on our relationship, until now.  She's been fully supportive of me and answered every question I've ever had about her. She's even given up a few guy friends that she knows without me even having to ask her to. She's done everything she can to help me get through this, and I honestly feel as if I'm being unfair to her now. Recently, my issues have been causing a lot of arguments between us, because she feels as if she's proven her trustworthiness to me, and I couldn't agree more. She has completely shown me that she's not going to lie, cheat, or use me.  However, I still find it incredibly hard to let myself trust her or anyone else. I really want to believe it when she says she loves me more than anything else in this world.  And I would give anything to believe it when she says she wants us to last. She thinks that my issues are leading to a controlling nature and that even though it's unintentional, it's something she will not tolerate. She hasn't threatened to leave me over this or anything but she has said that it isn't fair and she shouldn't be punished for things that other people have done to me. I agree with her, but nothing I do seems to help.  I've been catching myself whenever I have these thoughts, and I try to block them out. But a part of me feels as if I'm just avoiding the problem and not solving it. I see that this girl loves me and that she would do anything for me but, now, she's just getting fed up. I don't want to lose her because I can't solve my trust issues. I do love her a lot, but my fears and insecurities seem to just be fueling all of this. I don't know what to do. Please help.
Can’t Shake The Feeling

--------------------------Miss Emily’s advice------------------------

Dear Can’t:

I have a friend who was raised by an alcoholic mother and a tyrant of a father.  Every time I see her sink into the negative behavior patterns she used to survive this horribly dysfunctional upbringing, I remind her of how destructive it is to her and those around her. These ingrained patterns are the very thing that have kept her from finding true contentment in her life.  I have told her this: “The worst part of being raised by this cruel father is that in your adult life, he still controls it.”  How sad is that?  Despite this, however, she is a caring and loving person, like you. Past, negative conditioning is so terribly hard to break.  For some people, if it ever happens at all, it comes at a time when they are too old to do anything about it.  As adults, we often pick relationships similar to those we had in the past, yet expect these people to heal the damage inflicted on us in our youth. In your present circumstance, you seem to have finally picked a woman who seems incredibly understanding and willing to meet your, almost, unreasonable conditions – and  I don’t envy her position.  The slightest faux pas, and it might mean you’ll see her as just another person out to do you harm, not realizing that your expectations may be completely unrealistic. You have been emotionally injured, I get that, but you are not an isolated case. You might subconsciously be setting people up to disappoint you.  Your self-image is in the pits, and you pretty much think that, as the saying goes: Why would I want to be a part of a group that would have me as a member?  Your girlfriend should be able to have friends and not fear that you are going to infer that these friendships are either a threat to you or suspicious.  She has her hands full with you, my friend.  I suggest you find a way to learn to judge people on an individual basis, and develop a thicker skin.  Your enemy is you, and the sooner you realize it the better.  It wouldn’t take years of therapy to get you to be where you want to be but, I suggest, if you haven’t thought about it before, now is a good time.  If this woman is as caring as you have stated, it might be worth your effort to see if you can develop some tools that will help you overcome your insecurities and paranoia. Volunteering (maybe at a homeless center) is also a way to get a better perspective about life. Most of us are struggling to make sense of the world, and to find our place in it.  You belong here as much as anyone else.  And you deserve to be happy as much as anyone else.  You might be the last person to realize this, but it’s true.  Move forward,  not back, and get on with your life!