How do I distinguish between self-abandonment/support and love?

I am working on finding myself, after having an eating disorder for 10 years now, and anxiety, depressive episodes. With the consequences of having trust issues, low self-esteem, body dysmorphia. And in relationships of all kinds, I tend to lose myself, wanting to support too much. I would like to find my balance between self-respect and supporting others.
Asked by Frekkle

Hello Frekkle,

These are such great questions. It sounds like you have a lot going on, but also a lot of insight about why your lack of confidence in the relationship may be adding stress. I do think that meeting with a therapist here on BetterHelp will be very helpful. Please forgive me if I'm not fully understanding what is going on... your therapist will be much more helpful as they learn about you!

Your therapist will be able to help you identify patterns in your past relationship that you can work on and also help you gain confidence with your current relationship. While you are waiting to be matched with your new counselor, here is some additional advice that may be helpful. Apologies in advance if this doesn’t fit – it’s hard to know much about your situation from your brief email, but your therapist will be much more helpful!

1) DON’T DEMAND IMPOSSIBLE ANSWERS. If you find yourself asking your partner lots of questions like “Are we good?” “Are you happy?” “Do you still love me?” “Is this going okay?” it suggests that you are insecure about the relationship status but don’t know how to improve things. Your intentions are good, but unfortunately asking questions like this to your partner can just stress them out since it’s difficult to answer and a simple “yeah, we’re good” probably won’t get rid of your sense of insecurity.

2) IMPROVE OTHER ASPECTS OF YOUR QUALITY OF LIFE. Sometimes we add additional pressure to our romantic relationships because we are generally unhappy with our life. I am wondering how much social contact you have with new friends as well as old friends and family from home. If you are lonely then it is especially important to find ways to get social support (in addition to the social support you get from your partner). Please consider whether you can join a church, social groups, or if there are opportunities to meet people related to your hobbies or work. Please also consider what connections with your past may be healthier for you. Do you have old friends that you could meet up with more regularly? Please also consider what else you can do in your current situation to improve your quality of life (perhaps a different job, better sleep, better food). In summary, if you are happier where you are, you will reminisce less about where you were and enjoy more about your partnership.

3)  TRY TO IDENTIFY THE TRIGGERS. We are creatures of habit, and we tend to be stressed or saddened by predictable things. It is important to start learning about the common themes of what makes you feel this sense of anxiety. Is it when your partner does something annoying? When you feel like you are not good enough? When you are bored or lonely? When you are sexually aroused? Everyone is different. The best way to do this is to start keeping a log of the times you experienced these feelings. Jot down in a journal or in an app like Google Keep these times, including:

-- Where was I when this happened?

-- What was I doing?

-- How was I feeling?

Over time, you will see themes that can help you attack the triggers.

4) CONSIDER WHAT YOU TRULY WANT. It is possible that this is not the right partnership for you. Consider listing what you would like to have in a partnership (whether it is with your current partner or someone else). Making a realistic wish list can help you identify your priorities. And please keep in mind that you are valuable and WORTH meeting these priorities. Ask yourself questions like:

- How should my partner and I solve problems when we disagree about little things (for example, the best way to wash dishes)? How should we solve problems when we disagree about big things (for example, how we want to spend money)?

- What kind of activities do I want to be able to do with my partner?

- How should my partner and I talk about what we want in sex?

- What kind of sense of humor is important to me? What kinds of things make me laugh, and is it important that my partner shares this?

- How much are looks important to me?

- What kind of dates do I expect?

What do I like to do when getting to know someone or spending time with someoneI care about?

- How fast should my partner get back to me when I text or call? Do we always need to pick up the phone, or is

it okay to have the call go voicemail if I’m busy?

- Should my partner and I to do fun things apart or only together? Is it okay if we do fun things with out friends without the other partner?

- How important is it that my partner get along with my friends? 

- How important is it that my partner get along with my family?

- What are my limits? Are there any things that I absolutely will not allow from a partner (like physical violence, certain kinds of substance use)? After making your list, consider how it felt. Do you feel you deserve to have these needs met? (I think you do deserve to have a good partnership that meets your needs). Are the needs realistic? Which ones are the highest priority? Of these high priority items, which ones do your current partner meet?

5) CONSIDER COUPLES COUNSELING. BetterHelp has the option through “ReGain” to enter couples counseling to help strengthen the bond with your partner and to see if there are things you can work together to improve.

I see good things in your future. You have already taken a huge first step and I’m confident that you and your therapist here on Better Help will be able to figure out better patterns for you.

Best wishes to you for a beautiful spring,


Note: If you are in crisis and feeling like hurting yourself, please call 911, go to your closest emergency department, or call the suicide hotline (the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline) immediately at 800-273-8255. You could also go to their website to chat at