B.S. asks: First of all, I thank you for reading my email. I am suffering from this weird problem of over-caring for my roommate. I am a 26-year-old man and here is my story...
We met at work around two years back. Initially, we were just hi and hello friends, until we planned a trip together to the next city for a day and spent the entire day together.
After returning back I started developing this unusual attachment towards him, I started considering him as my best friend and a brother. I would constantly look for opportunities to be with him and talk to him.
He showed equal interest, which boosted the relationship and went ahead. Later on, when I got a chance I moved into the same room where he stayed and this boosted my attachment towards him. Now we are practically living together for more than a year.
I have started over-caring for him, if he is five minutes late in returning home from work I end up calling him. If I see him with someone else I feel extremely jealous. I don't like him talking to girls as I feel scared he might get into a relationship and forget me. If we don't have a day off together, I don't like him to go outside with someone else. And if by any chance he goes out without me I keep calling him asking where he is and when is he coming back.
I feel like I will not be able to live without him and I am always worried, what if tomorrow something happens and we have to part. He keeps telling me that no matter whatever happens, we will always be together wherever we are, but tomorrow anything might happen. I want to come out of this fear of losing him, as well as want to stop over-caring for him.
Melanie C. Schlatter (PhD, Consultant Health Psychologist, HEALTH PSYCHOLOGY UAE) replies: Thank you for your email. If I understand you correctly, it sounds like you have developed more than just a feeling of friendship towards this man — indeed you have developed strong, close, and protective feelings that one would experience in a mutual relationship. But, normal, healthy relationships are two-way; and my concern is that although he says you will always be together, it is not clear what he means by this. Does he mean, simply, as a best friend, confidante, or ‘brother’ — whereby he is just showing an appreciation of your close friendship? Because I am interested to know what other kind of hope he might have given you, such that you feel so attached to him. Just spending time with someone should not normally evoke such deep feelings, unless perhaps he is filling a void in your life that you were previously unaware of.
As such, do you know what started triggering your feelings for him? Did he say or do something? Or make you feel a certain way? Was it the quality of time you spent together? Could you inadvertently be making up for any losses or absences in your life, such as an absent or neglectful father figure? A lack of friends or emotional/physical security growing up? Has someone close to you passed away suddenly that left you fearful towards the concept of loss? Are you trying to nurture him or protect him, when in fact it is you who needs this nurturing? Or perhaps he has traits or characteristics that you would like for yourself, and which you find appealing or enticing?
You see, when we can figure out what it is about the person that binds us so strongly, we can then go on to amend the current and potential problems. At this time, you are already recognizing that you have both a fear of losing him, as well as a need to step back to prevent yourself from hurt. When we care about people, it is only natural to have a fear of losing them — but if this fear starts to override you, then it becomes unhealthy. In your case, you need to be cautious of your overprotectiveness taking control, as you could be misinterpreting his sentiments towards you as being more than they really are — which, coupled by the fact that you have the security of living with him (and thus knowing his routines and whereabouts) — may give you morsels of hope for some sort of continued emotional security in the future. Furthermore, I am also hoping that he does not take your caring for granted, or make you feel like you have to do more, in order for him to be in control or in some position of power — this could also lead you to become more frantic in trying to keep him as such.
You also have to turn the situation around and think about what you would lose if he were less ‘accessible’ in your life — for instance, were he to meet someone or come home less often. So don’t just fear losing him — break down the issue. What is it that you would miss exactly? Your answers will indicate not only the magnitude of your feelings for him, but a component worth investigating in your own life — for example: perhaps a lack of friends or direction in life; loneliness; too much time on your hands; low self-esteem, and so forth. So be honest with yourself.
Because you are not in any defined relationship, and given that you want to protect yourself, my overall advice is to start slowly detaching from him. Indeed, his actions suggest that he is actually interacting normally with others in his daily life, and thus I also fear that the day will come when he does find a female partner or decide to spend more time with other people. This could lead to a lot of pain, anger, and resentment on your part. As such, you can definitely keep him as a friend, but you do need to allow him the complete freedom of being that friend — coming and going as he pleases; and not having to be accountable for everything he does or whom he spends time with. Because in actual fact, he does not owe you an explanation for every move he makes — and your strong concerns for him are already tipping the boundaries of friendship.
Indeed, I would be very interested to know how he reacts when you call him or express your worry about his whereabouts. Ironically, an anxious, overbearing, or intrusive friend or partner (even if the intention is good) can actually drive people away, and I am sure you do not want this to happen. You may also need to look at moving out at some stage in the future if your feelings become too strong or time-consuming, such that your own quality of life is decreased.
As you go through this process, make sure you are mindful of the above questions, and try to seek out that which you think he is giving you, and that which you probably need in your own life. Is it time for you to meet other people and expand your own social network? Can you involve yourself more with opportunities to improve yourself, such as in your job, sports, or hobbies; or spend more time out of the home? You may also care to engage in basic stress reduction and self-care skills to reduce your anxiety. However, if you believe that his presence in your life is becoming unmanageable, then it may indicate that your feelings towards him are more complex that you can cope with.
As such, please seek the help of a mental health professional to investigate this further.
Write with your concerns to firstname.lastname@example.org and selected questions will be answered by a panel of qualified psychiatrists and psychologists. Your contributions will be modified for length and appropriateness, and will be open to other Gulf News readers to comment and suggest solutions. Let us know if you would like GulfNews.com to withhold your name from your letter should it be published.
Disclaimer: This blog is a conversation and is not an alternative for treatment. The recommendations and suggestions offered by our panel of psychiatrists are their own and Gulf News will not take any responsibility for the advice they provide.