Dear Father Tony,
I can feel my boyfriend is slipping away from me and my stomach is in knots. I have been through this before. This is my third boyfriend so I know this feeling when it happens. He's not interested in someone new (I think) but it's like he is losing interest in me. Now every time I am going to see him, I am sick with panic. My friends tell me I'm a hottie and fun to be with. I do everything I can to make him happy but I can feel the difference now from how it was when we first got together almost a year ago. All day long I wonder what is wrong with me.
I don't want to sign this like this but it's how I feel.
Your letter makes me sad. Because I don't know you, it's almost impossible for me to pinpoint why this experience has been yours for a third time. I sometimes wish there were a counselor who offered a service called "Am I lovable?" where you sign up for three sessions in which you do all the talking and a final fourth session, in which the counselor does all the talking and gives you a ten point plan to avoid repeating a pattern that makes you unhappy. Absent that, perhaps I can say something helpful.
All relationships change over time. Some last and some don't. Some are short and some are long. You know, I'm not much of a bible thumper, but I sure do love the parables Jesus told and here is one from the fourth chapter of Mark's gospel that I think is wonderful.
Again Jesus began to teach by the lake. The crowd that gathered around him was so large that he got into a boat and sat in it out on the lake, while all the people were along the shore at the water's edge. He taught them many things by parables, and in his teaching said: "Listen! A farmer went out to sow his seed. As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path, and the birds came and ate it up. Some fell on rocky places, where it did not have much soil. It sprang up quickly, because the soil was shallow. But when the sun came up, the plants were scorched, and they withered because they had no root. Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up and choked the plants, so that they did not bear grain. Still other seed fell on good soil. It came up, grew and produced a crop, multiplying thirty, sixty, or even a hundred times."
This is just a guess on my part, but did you identify with the seed that fell upon a rocky place with not much good soil, springing up and then withering under the hot sun? If so, your task is to improve the ground in which you are planted. That might mean picking a better boyfriend, or it might mean polishing your personality in order to derive greater nourishment from the ground in which you find yourself.
Did you identify with the seed that sprouted among thorns? In other words, do you feel that other people and the circumstances of your life are to blame for your lack of success in finding love? If so, it might be time to take a sickle to those thorns.
The good news is that you are a viable seed. You are able to sprout. Many people bemoan the fact that they can never even initiate a relationship.
One suggestion. Go back to your friends who say you are a lovable hottie. Share your anxiety with them and ask them for the hard and brutal truth. They may share some startling opinions about you. Be prepared to receive their words graciously, but remember that most friends will never tell you the truth simply because they are your friends and they probably won't want you to return the "favor".
Share your anxiety with your boyfriend. I'm guessing that he will say that he feels you are smothering him with attention and solicitude in your efforts to keep the relationship alive, and that if you'd just relax and stop worrying, everything will be fine. Did your previous boyfriends say that to you?
Finally, keep in mind the fact that you cannot control love or a lover. You can control only you. You can be the best you possible and if love comes your way it will be because you loved yourself enough to make yourself irresistible to someone whom you also find irresistible and admirable and lovable. Whatever you do, do not compromise by accepting the attentions of someone whom you do not love. That would make you a loser.
When I read a letter like yours, I wonder about percentages. If we were to take a poll of all the people alive today, how many would honestly say that they have found love and how many would say that they have not found love?
One final note. If you enter a new relationship and once again feel your stomach in knots, relax and just shrug and realize that all relationships go through phases. It's natural. I'm guessing you are a tense and nervous person. Do you live in a place that isn't freaky about pot? Why not make a date with your boyfriend, rent "Fight Club" and light one up. I'm guessing he'll appreciate it and you may be surprised at yourself.
(PS: OK, so that last bit may be a bit of a reach , but you get my point. I hope.)