Adapted from a recent online discussion.
Therapist can help coax out underlying roots of problem
I'm fine, USA: I have fallen into the pattern of acting as if things are okay, and they aren't.
In this case, it's that things are fine and I am happy in my relationship.
It's becoming clear to me that I'm going to have to say something to my boyfriend soon, but I don't know how to approach the topic, because I can't put my finger on a specific reason things don't feel right.
Communication shouldn't be this hard, I know, but I'm really pretty bad at identifying — much less voicing — my emotions and needs. I guess a big part of it is being afraid of how he'll react. How do I begin a conversation that I should have started months ago?
Carolyn: What would you say if you had no fear of a bad reaction? Tell us — what's the truth you desperately wish weren't true?
I'm fine, again: I guess I would say the truth is that what seemed beautiful and right initially is not right for me. Or that maybe I'm not even ready to be in a relationship. Maybe I would say, I can't give you what you need — I can't even give myself what I need.
I thought I was finally on the road to things I wanted — a partner, children. Now it feels like I'm back to square one (do not pass Go, do not collect $200).
I'm in my late 30s, and I'm feeling like there is this time pressure (I know, not rational, there are many ways to become a parent). And it feels like everywhere I look, people are happily coupled and/or pregnant.
Carolyn: People who are coupled because they felt pressure, from time or anything else, may be happily pregnant, but they're rarely happily coupled — which is good for neither parent nor child.
A sense that you have to grab X because it's your last chance has to be the most common element in regretted decisions, whether X is a person, a car, a house or a pair of shoes on sale. It's not irrational to feel the time pressure you're feeling — but it's also not productive. The pressure creates artificial demand.
That's why it's so important to concentrate on what you have, and not on what you fear not having.
That said, the much bigger issue is that it doesn't sound as if you know what's going on with this relationship; you had an opportunity to be ruthlessly honest with us, and you didn't take it.
You didn't say, "He bores me to tears" or "I think I'm smarter than he is" or "The way he interacts with family and friends leaves me really uneasy" or "I enjoy him but something keeps me from trusting him" or even "His little mannerisms turn me off."
I agree with your own self-assessment, that you are "pretty bad at identifying — much less voicing — my emotions and needs" (although you articulated that aspect of yourself quite well, ironically). Because you're toggling between malaise and feigned contentment, and because you're frustrated in your attempt to think clearly, talking to a carefully chosen therapist might make more sense than spilling this out for your boyfriend.
Get some help teasing out the truth that's hiding in here.