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QUESTIONS & ANSWERS:
Relationships Department

Please remember, this column is designed to help the consumer seeking behavioral-health information, and not intended to be any form of psychotherapy or a replacement for professional, individualized services. Opinions expressed in the column are those of the columnist and do not represent the position of other SelfhelpMagazine.com staff.

Question

When I am in a relationship I become overly possessive of my partner. Though I know this behavior drives the person away and makes my worst fear -- being abandoned -- become a reality. I am a very domineering person with my loved ones and get very jealous when I am not the center of their attention. I am also very passionate and tend to be very emotional. Sometimes I am cold as ice; I cannot forgive or forget the people who have wronged me and I harbor a grudge for a long time. I do not like being this way. Do I need professional help?

Answer

All people need to have stable relationships with parents during their formative years. We need relationships that are constant, nurturing, and caring in order to develop a sense of security and a the knowledge that someone will care for us. Our self-esteem depends on these early connections with constant loved ones who let us know that we are the most important person in the world. We need to know that nothing we do will stop that love. This unconditional love is a necessary condition for healthy development.

If these relationships do not develop we feel insecure and uncertain about the stability in our lives. If a parent is often unavailable or is self-centered, the child does not get that sense of security and specialness. The child may develop a longing for that constant loved one who adores him/her. As an adult this person wants to possess others to quiet that sense of anxiety, emptiness, and insecurity, just as s/he wanted to possess the unstable or unavailable parent. S/he may constantly search for that which was missing during those earlier years. And when s/he believes s/he has found someone to fulfill that role, s/he becomes possessive and jealous. When s/he feels hurt, s/he turns off emotionally as a form of self-protection. The hurt reactivates the childhood pain and fears. S/he then becomes angry, and blames others for the hurt. Reactions are usually more intense than the situation warrants since s/he is expressing the hurt and anger that has been lingering since childhood.

S/he wants a person all to him or herself, not wishing to share him or her with anyone, much as the child wants to possess its mother (or primary caregiver). This behavior often frightens their partners off. No one can fill that earlier hunger or make him/her feel as special as s/he needs to feel. Psychotherapy can help these individuals to understand their early childhood and its impact on adult development. Through the relationship with the psychotherapist, they can work through their early hurt and learn new and more effective ways of relating to themselves and others.

3/5/98

Dr. Edward A. Dreyfus is a Clinical Psychologist, Marriage, Family, Child Therapist, and Sex Therapist. Dr. Dreyfus has been providing psychological services in the Los Angeles-Santa Monica area for over 30 years. He offers individual psychotherapy to adolescents and adults, divorce mediation, couples counseling, group therapy, and career and vocational counseling and assessment.His book, Someone Right For You, is available in the Amazing Bookstore Catalog.

Dr. Dreyfus can be reached at: (310) 208-5700.

 

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