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August 14, 2000   CONTINUED e-mail e-mail to a friend in need

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There's scared, and there's scared.

Getting into -- heck, being in -- a relationship is scary. What if s/he says no? What if s/he decides s/he doesn't like you? What if you play your cards wrong or "don't listen" or "ask too much" or "don't spend enough time" or...eek, so many possible wrong turns! In a way, it's -- aaaaaalmost -- scarier to be in a relationship than it is to be single: scared you won't find anyone vs. scared you'll lose or mess up this precious thing you're so lucky to have found.

That, my dears, is stage fright. The nerves that turn into do-my-best energy...with a willing and supportive cast/crew/crowd. The butterflies that co-exist with confidence, that flit around all the otherwise solidly great times and conversations and vibes you share.

But see, stage fright is not FEARfear. As in: Fear that something really bad will actually happen, and it will be your fault.

"He gets mad so easily, I am almost afraid to talk to him." -- Becky

Fear of failing to live up to impossible standards.

"I fear losing him every day because I am not his perfect (i.e. virgin) girl." -- Confused

Fear that you will get hurt.

"I really don't feel safe in my own house." -- Jon

"She has a problem with anger control, and has hit him twice." -- LB

"Nothing I do is right. He's hit me several times -- grabbed my arm, pushed me against the wall, forcing me into sex." -- Eleanore

Especially if you leave.

"Two weekends ago I told him for the 30th time that I want out. I soon found myself pinned to the floor by my hair being told that if I leave, there will be connections of his coming for not just me, but for my mother too." -- Scared

Or that your loved one will hurt him/herself.

"The last time we broke up I said something along the lines of not getting back together and he lost it. Ranted and raved and threw about suicide threats. Yes, I wanted him back, but I felt rather pressured to be with him again...save his life or some such. Like, I'm the only one keeping him afloat and if I mess up and he drowns it's all my fault." -- Frazzled

You guys: your relationship is supposed to be where you do feel safe. Where you go in order to feel safe. Where it's safe for you to just be yourself. Where someone's making sure you wear your helmet.

And bottom line: you can tell all these differences. You can. That's why people like Becky up and write in the first place. It's just that no matter what your gut might be hinting at inside, it's hard to step outside of yourself for a "Wait, is this normal?" perspective. Especially because getting used to the way things are is one of the ways your defense system deals with the way things are. So is not wanting to admit that anything's off in the first place. So let's summarize.

Checklists: What are the signs of healthy/unhealthy relationships?


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