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‘I need constant reassurance from my girlfriend – and it’s pushing her away’

Ask Roe: ‘You’re in a safe and loving relationship but you’re afraid it could disappear any moment’

Dear Roe,

I’m a 25-year-old bisexual woman and have been with my girlfriend for eight months, and I’m afraid that I’m about to ruin our relationship. I have had two relationships before this, and both were filled with a lot of toxicity and screaming and drama that left me with a lot of anxiety. My last ex particularly had a bad temper that left me walking on eggshells, and they blamed me for everything that went wrong in their life.

My girlfriend is always kind and loving but I find that because of previous relationships, I constantly need to check in with her in case she's angry with me or I'm annoying her (she always says no), and I need a lot of reassurance from her that she likes me. She knows my history and says she's trying to be patient, but that she's becoming overwhelmed with my constant need for reassurance. I know this means I should stop asking her, but the idea of losing her has made me even more nervous and I feel I'm getting even clingier. I really love her and don't want to be like this, how do I stop?

Object permanence is the understanding that items and people still exist even when you can’t see or hear them. Babies usually learn this between four and seven months; it’s when they begin to understand that even if they can’t see their caregiver that very second, the caregiver still exists and will come back eventually.


You're still afraid that it could disappear at any moment, and so constantly monitor every sign you are given

In your previous relationships you never learned object permanence when it came to love and affection. Instead you learned that your partner’s affection was unreliable, constantly wavering, always in danger of disappearing. Instead of recognising that their inability to healthily process their emotions was their issue, you believed them when they blamed you. You held yourself responsible for their volatile emotions, and as a defensive measure you learned to constantly monitor their moods to know whether you were safe or not.

Unless you were being explicitly told that your partner liked you, that they accepted you, that you hadn’t done anything wrong today, you believed that the opposite was true, and acted accordingly, in order to try mitigate or simply survive their temper.

Now you’re in a safe and loving relationship but you still haven’t learned object permanence around love and affection. You’re still afraid that it could disappear at any moment, and so constantly monitor every sign you are given. Given your relationship history, this is understandable – however, at some point you must recognise that your anxiety may not be your fault but it is now your responsibility to try to manage it. And you should because it’s not serving you.

You want love that is stable and connected and trustworthy, but your anxiety is getting in the way of that. Through not being able to trust your girlfriend, by badgering her, by demanding more affection and reassurance than she can give, you are pushing her away.

Please get a therapist and begin to work through the trauma of your past relationships, and ask for some strategies to help you ground yourself when you feel anxious. Have an honest conversation with your girlfriend and tell her that you are aware of how these issues are affecting your relationship and that you are taking action to address this.

Taking care of yourself will not only be an important step for your relationship, but for you as a person. You deserve to feel safe and believe that you are loved. Take the first step towards a future that feels safe and secure.