I am in a long distance relationship so I only see my girlfriend every couple of months. My girlfriend is most definitely a PEP, having issues around a smothering mother. Her mother made everything about herself and expected to be taken care of by her daughter. She feels like we talk too much. I on the other hand am most definitely a PAP. I grew up with a very domineering mother who was incredibly abusive, both physically and emotionally. I am learning I am worthy of love.
I would like to talk every other day and text in between. Yet I know that my girlfriend is not responsible for my happiness, and I can understand where she is coming from. How do I stop my fretting when I don’t hear from her? Is it possible to make some compromises so we both get what we need? There are so many other parts of our relationship that make me feel secure and loved. We are both very committed to making this work.
– Tara, Cleveland, OH
That is such a great question. Thanks for asking! (By the way, for readers who don’t know: PAP and PEP are our abbreviations for “primal abandonment panic” and “primal engulfment panic” – those difficult feelings that come up for so many of us when it feels like our girlfriends are too far away… or too close. You can learn a lot more about them in our Video #2.)
First, it can help so much just to realize what’s going on. It’s great that you can see why both you and your girlfriend have the tendencies you do, based on your childhoods – and when you remind yourself of that, it can help you remember that her needs and actions are NOT ABOUT YOU. That is, her needs have nothing to do with your worthiness. You ARE worthy of being loved — and it sounds like she does love you, and wants to keep loving you better – which is wonderful! And of course, she too, is worthy of love – and it sounds like part of what she needs from you – part of what spells “love” to her – is having you fully respect and treasure her autonomy, her separateness.
I can see why it’s rough for you that it’s a long distance relationship. That does seem like a circumstance especially designed to push your PAP buttons (though I’m sure they’d get pushed in a different way if you were in the same town – because that’s just how it works. Life finds a way to push our buttons no matter what.) If you are really willing to take this piece of self-responsibility and self-healing on – which it sounds like you are! – then here’s what I’d suggest:
1. When you start “fretting” that you haven’t heard from her, do the SCORE Process. Step back into yourself and connect with yourself, with compassion. Compassion is an incredibly soothing balm for what ails us! Breathe in deep and slow, feel your body, come home to your body, and invite in a sense of love and tenderness for yourself. Remind yourself that yes, you are totally worthy of love. You can use the Metta prayer Michelle wrote – or of course, write your own. But here’s hers: