Question: My ex was diagnosed with anxiety disorder in his late teens and has struggled with it for over 20 years. He has had problems with relationships because of it. His work is very demanding and he is an only child looking after his sick parents. When he is really stressed he withdraws and then asks for space. After a while he comes back, and things are okay for months and it happens again.
I am his first relationship with someone securely attached and we broke up a month ago because he was stressed with work, Covid and his parents’ health. We have remained in contact and on n good days, he initiates contact and is open and chatty, but on bad days he doesn’t contact me and does not respond to my texts. When he does, he is negative pessimistic and feels life is hopes. He also tells me to move on because I can find someone without mental health issues.
He recently started seeing a therapist again (he had stopped). I asked if he wants me to stop contacting him and he said he feels better when he talks to me. I love him Yangki, but I don’t want to add to his stress. My question is, given that I am not actively trying to get him back, what would be a reasonable contact in this case? I would like to keep building on our emotional connection but not sure how often to contact him because of his anxiety disorder. Thank you, Yangki. I value your advice, it is the only relationship advice that makes sense to me.
Yangki’s Answer: Loving someone with anxiety disorder is not easy. My respect for you for not giving up on him.
As you may have read in my articles:
- There is no ‘right” number of times to contact an ex. Every ex is different in terms of how much contact and connection they are comfortable with at any given stage of the process of trying o attract them back. Depending on their attachment style: Some exes want more contact the whole time and feel something is wrong when you contact them less. Some exes want less contact from when you start trying to attract them back and even after you get back together. And some exes want less contact in the beginning and more contact as things pick up.
- No one falls in love with another because of the number of times they contact them. People fall in love because of how we make them feel. This is why my approach is not about the “right amount of contact” but about creating the “right feelings” that cause someone to fall in love.
However, considering that he just started therapy for his anxiety, he may not yet be able to handle much contact. Also given that you are not actively trying to get back together, ‘emotionally connect” once or twice a week is reasonable.
As his situation improves or as he withdraws less and less or withdraws for shorter periods of time, increase the amount contact to three times, then four etc. Again, the emphasis here is not “amount of contact”, the emphasis is creating a dynamic where he feels that he does not need to withdraw from you in order to manage the other stresses in his life. You can be that stable base that he needs to feel secure, and less anxious.