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Dear Panel,

I find that my current boyfriend is quite the opposite of my ex. He gets angry, almost downright nasty when I roll over and try to talk or snuggle in for a hug (I find physical contact does a lot to dampen the panic - something my ex boyfriend taught me).

This is really distressing me. Am I asking for too much?

-- Trisha

Female, age 32, Canada

[read the entire question below]

Dear Panel,

I've been dating my partner for about 10 months. Things are mostly well in the relationship - he is quite supportive in many ways, we really enjoy each others company, are good friends (the relationship stemmed from a friendship), are committed to each other, committed to an equal relationship, etc., but as with any relationship, we do have a few issues that crop up.

My Attacks Are Related To Past Trauma

One of the issues at this time is I've been plagued with middle-of-the-night panic attacks (over the years I've struggled with family of origin abuse and trauma issues - my father was a violent alcoholic with a short temper, a history of depression and several suicide attempts, including one last summer). These attacks are just unbearable - sometimes I wake up in a sweat, with stomach cramps, heart racing, hands and limbs shaking.

My Ex Was Always There For Me

I've dated previous people (including my ex-boyfriend I used to live with - we broke up in January 2000) who had no problems talking to me in the middle of the night when I woke up, and was willing to invest the time to help me relax, etc. He just seemed to be always there when I needed him at night (we broke up for other reasons - mostly money/cultural differences, etc.).

I find that my current boyfriend is quite the opposite of my ex. He gets angry, almost downright nasty when I roll over and try to talk or snuggle in for a hug (I find physical contact does a lot to dampen the panic - something my ex boyfriend taught me). I try to do it as gently as possible -I don't freak out or yell or anything when I'm panicked and when I try to talk/cuddle.

This is really distressing me. Am I asking for too much? I mean is this an unrealistic expectation? It doesn't happen too often - at the most, 1-2 nights per month, and once in awhile it's a few nights in a row (maybe every 2-3 months).

Is my boyfriend being selfish when he tells me he doesn't ever want to talk at that time of the night? He tells me that his sleep time is "his time" and he "needs his sleep" and doesn't ever want to be disturbed to address my panic.

I'm In Therapy

For the record, I am going to therapy for my abuse/trauma issues and I am taking antidepressants which do have a slight sedative effect which have helped the panic, but they're not foolproof. And because of the therapy, many things have improved in my mind/emotional life, but the panic thing has not gone away.

It's just the loneliest feeling in the world when I wake up from a nightmare or a panic in the middle of the night, and turn to him for support and he's not willing to help. Not only is he not willing to help, he sometimes, well often, is downright offended and angry that I've "bothered him" and "invaded on his needs". When this happens, not only do I feel all upset on account of the panic attack/nightmare, but I feel chastised, unsupported and unloved by my partner.

It just doesn't seem to matter how many times I explain that him supporting me when I'm scared at night would mean an awful lot and would really help the situation. He just doesn't want to budge on this.

Also for the record, I've always offered my number or my shoulder for friends in needy times, even willing to wake up at night for upset roommates, friends or boyfriends in the past. To me, providing this kind of unconditional support (as long as its within boundaries and not abused) is just a no-brainer. I just can't understand why he's not willing to do the same.

Thanks for any help.

-- Trisha

Female, age 32, Canada

Jeannie, Jimmy, Annabelle, and Shaggy answer this question.

 

 

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