ASK ABDI: HOW DO I DEAL WITH MY PARTNER’S FEARS?

QUESTION: My lover, in the sweetest, nicest way, is so worried about his parents becoming older. He says this is what it will be like when they are “gone” and that this is the reason we need to move to Europe to be closer to them. He’s done this with me too; he can become so concerned about me that he freaks me out! I find myself constantly trying to logically approach him on this to assuage his emotions, which is a habit of mine. What’s a better way to handle it?

ANSWER: So this is a really good place for you to practice your helplessness. Your lover is feeling anxiety, but it is unconscious. You can not talk someone out of that; you have to let them figure it out. But his anxiety is stirring up anxiety inside of you, which is why you are trying to smooth it out for him. So the focus has to be on you. Let him say what he needs to say, and if you feel like you need to say anything, you can be of most help by repeating back to him what he said. As in “so what I hear you saying is that you want to see your parents more because this is what it will be like when they pass”. Do not add your stuff, just repeat it. This allows him to know that he is being heard without you needing to fix it. Your "fix it" mode is how you deal with anxiety. Instead of doing what never works, how about sitting with the anxiety and see where it will take you?