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I am 26 years old, and I struggled with extreme separation anxiety from my boyfriend for years.
The phrase “my other half” gets thrown around just as often as “I love you.”
But what if your partner literally is your other half? What if your partner is the only person who can make you feel whole again?
My Struggle with Separation Anxiety From My Boyfriend (& How I’m Recovering)
CONTENT WARNING: This post mentions self-harm, suicide, and sexual abuse.
THE BACKSTORY – MY UPBRINGING
I didn’t have the easiest childhood.
From neglect to emotional, physical, and sexual abuse, I endured a lot of experiences with abandonment.
A lot of negative emotions and memories I pushed aside for years and years, until I entered a relationship with my boyfriend back in 2013.
When you have a lot of repressed feelings of abandonment, when the first person you actually become deeply invested with enters your life, emotions can run rampant.
Through It All:
Together, we discovered the hidden demons of my childhood sexual abuse.
Together, we had to push through my terrible anxiety, panic attacks, and my OCD.
My boyfriend was there throughout my parents’ disgusting divorce.
He was there when my mom chose money over me.
He saw how much I struggled with my dad’s alcohol addiction on a daily basis.
We fought past my severe depression, self-harm addiction, and suicidal thoughts and ideations.
And these don’t even count what he’s gone through in his own life, in his own head. His battles. His ADHD.
Because my boyfriend was there through it all, a part of my inner child grabbed hold of him tight. Desperately.
It’s like my entire world became revolved around if he was safe. If he was okay.
If he was abandoning me, too.
STRUGGLING WITH SEPARATION ANXIETY
I NEVER thought is a kajillion years that I would be somebody who became so dependant on someone else for my stability.
Nobody wants to admit that they have dependency issues.
Nobody wants to admit that they are so dependent on one person that without them being there, they completely shatter.
When He Was Busy:
When I was not with him, I was a mess.
I couldn’t concentrate on my work, or even on the movie I was trying to distract myself with.
The time I spent with other people was tampered by thoughts of his safety and whereabouts.
It was like I couldn’t focus on anything but him.
If he was at work or school, I could breathe a little easier because I knew he was more likely to be okay.
But as soon as he was supposed to get off and I didn’t hear from him for a while, my anxiety overtook me.
I shook and shook and shook. I would cry. I would hurt myself.
Despite my separation anxiety, I tried to encourage him to keep relationships with his friends and family in good standing.
However, when he hung out with his friends, or even his family, without me, it took everything in my power to not break down from fear.
When we were out in public and he was away from me for more than a couple minutes, I thought he must’ve stranded me.
Even if he went into a different room for too long, I thought something terrible must’ve happened to him.
“What if he’s purposely ignoring me, because he’s sick and tired of dealing with me? What if he left me for someone else? What if he’s in the hospital right now? He must’ve died.”
Separation anxiety is one of the most terrifying anxieties I can describe.
It’s an all-encompassing panic attack. I go numb. I go dizzy.
Horrible, horrible feelings run throughout my entire body.
And my terrible, irrational thoughts pound at my brain over and over.
I feel more worthless and more depressed.
It makes the self-harm urges even stronger. It makes me want to end my life even more.
It took over my entire life, and I was spiraling out of control.
For more of my symptoms:
How I “Coped”:
When I was in the thick of my separation anxiety, I use the term “Coping with My Separation Anxiety” very, very loosely.
Truth is, all the coping I did was anything but healthy. My “coping” mechanisms were incredibly unhealthy.
Sometimes I instantly wanted to hurt myself, because I couldn’t cope with my thoughts.
Sometimes, I would drink cough syrup or take a handful of over-the-counter painkillers to numb myself down.
I was honestly so scared of what I would do to myself. But then again, I didn’t care.
My anxiety and my depression turned into what could’ve been a fatal mix.
THE IMPACT ON OUR RELATIONSHIP
After years of our relationship (and individual lives) being impacted by separation anxiety, our relationship began to turn unhealthy.
There’s no sugarcoating it. There’s no other way to describe our relationship.
It began to turn toxic.
We began to have so many disagreements and misunderstandings and arguments. Nearly every single day.
He began to resent me. I began to resent him for resenting me.
He began to say that I liked to control him. He said that feels he needs permission to do things. He said, “I can’t do anything without you freaking out!”
I could hear him sigh; I could see him roll his eyes.
He would even say “here we go again” whenever I began to tell him what was racing through my head.
There were too many times I thought about leaving him before he inevitably left me.
I thought, “He’s going to leave me one day. I can just feel it.”
My separation anxiety began to take an extreme toll on our lives.
It got to the point when I couldn’t even enjoy the time we spent together, because all I could think about was when he was going to have to leave me again.
I would count down the minutes until we had to say goodbye, and I could never fully live in the moments we had together.
Plus, I knew his hobbies and passions were going to have to take him away from me from time to time, and that scared the absolute crap out of me.
And I hated myself that he had to sacrifice his enjoyment with other things, because he constantly worried if I was okay. He could never fully enjoy the moment.
Life is meant to be lived fully. To explore every opportunity as it comes.
And thinking I could potentially ruin my boyfriend’s life is what hurts me most of all.
I would never be able to live with myself if I was the reason he held back on life.
I knew I needed to do something.
To anyone who doesn’t understand separation anxiety, I know all of this sounds completely ridiculous, irrational, and over-dramatic.
But why would I ever choose to be this clingy, needy, or so dependent on someone I can barely function?
Who in their right mind would ever choose to live like this every single day of their life?
I wished I wasn’t like this. I wished for everything in my power that I was different.
But separation anxiety from my boyfriend was extremely difficult to overcome.
Because the only cure I had was him. He was my remedy.
WHAT HELPED MY RECOVERY
Years and years and years went into my recovery.
I can’t emphasize this enough.
Years of Tears. Pain. Denial. Grief. Acceptance went into my recovery.
And no, I’m not fully recovered from my adult separation anxiety.
Sometimes the panic is so urgent, so intense that I fall back into self-hatred.
But, recovery is a daily decision. Recovery is taking it day by day, minute by minute, breath by breath.
Here are some of the things that helped me:
Therapy can be a crucial part of managing and uncovering the reasons for your separation anxiety
Maybe, like me, your separation anxiety stems from your childhood or feelings of abandonment.
Exposing yourself to unresolved trauma is beyond beneficial for your recovery.
Did you know that there is affordable online therapy?
BetterHelp is the largest online counseling platform worldwide. It makes professional counseling available anytime, anywhere.
There are several amazing options and therapists available, and you don’t even have to leave the comfort of your home.
You can get counseling in four ways:
- Exchanging messages
- Chatting live
- Speaking over the phone
- Video conferencing
What I love about BetterHelp is that your monthly payment will be the same regardless of the number of messages and sessions you have with your counselor.
This means you can communicate with your counselor as often as you’d like and whenever you need.
You never need to worry before getting help.
2. SELF-HELP BOOKS
The Dialectical Behavior Therapy Skills Workbook was a complete gamechanger in my recovery.
Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) is a proven treatment option for a range of mental health obstacles.
Its goal is to help you considerably improve your ability to handle painful experiences without losing control and acting destructively.
Since my separation anxiety manifested itself into self-harm, I knew I needed to get to the root of my emotional destructiveness.
The workbook helps you build skills in four key areas: distress tolerance, mindfulness, emotion regulation, and interpersonal effectiveness.
Being in the moment and being mindful was an incredibly difficult concept for me to grasp at first.
It took a tremendous amount of patience and trial and error to reach a part in my life where mindfulness comes more naturally.
Excel at Life offers free resources that completely shifted my life for the better.
They have countless audios and articles for anxiety, relationships, and trauma.
Highly, highly recommend you check them out!
4. COMMUNICATING WITH YOUR PARTNER
Communication, understanding, and removing our pride is the thing that helped my relationship the most.
I can’t stress this enough.
Communicate constantly. Even when you feel tired of communicating.
Communication Tips That Helps:
All these tips work for both you and your partner.
If you’re the person struggling with separation anxiety, communicate with your partner that these are your non-negotiable needs.
1. Get into the habit of telling each other your plans (whether with other people or just by yourself) as soon you make them.
2. Keep in contact.
If you have plans outside of the house, let them know when you leave your house. Alert them that you arrived at your destination. Text them when you’re headed back home. Let them know when you make it home safely.
5. GIVING EACH OTHER DISTANCE
Due to my parent’s divorce and my money-hungry mom, I had to move 600 miles away from my boyfriend 4 years into our relationship.
Entering a long-distance relationship and having separation anxiety sounds like just about the worst combination ever.
However, it has improved my independence in so many ways.
I had no choice but to choose recovery.
My advice is to really expose yourself to your separation anxiety.
The only way past anxiety is through anxiety.
Take time away from your partner a few times a week to sit with your anxiety.
Be mindful and breathe into your anxiety and acknowledge its presence.
Recognize that even though anxiety is incredibly difficult, you will always be stronger than your anxiety.
For more ways I cope:
Final Thoughts on Separation Anxiety from My Boyfriend
Separation anxiety is not about controlling the person you love.
Separation anxiety is about loving the person so much that you’re deathly afraid of them leaving you in some capacity.
Through my personal story of suffering to recovering, my hope is you’ll be able to live a life free from separation anxiety.