Do you worry endlessly that your partner will leave you or die? In today’s Not Crazy podcast, we take a deep look at abandonment issues. Gabe opens up about his constant fear that his wife Kendall will suddenly decide she is too good for him and take off, even though there is no basis for his worries. What’s the real reason behind these types of fears and what can be done about them? Tune in as Gabe shares his thoughts with Jackie, who helps him work through this issue. Click the player below to listen!
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Computer Generated Transcript for “Spouse Leaving” Episode
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Announcer: You’re listening to Not Crazy, a Psych Central podcast. And here are your hosts, Jackie Zimmerman and Gabe Howard.
Jackie: Hello and welcome to this week’s episode of Not Crazy. I am here with my co-host, Gabe.
Gabe: And of course, I’m here with my co-host, Jackie.
Jackie: And we were talking this morning about something that’s been weighing pretty heavily on your mind, and I thought let’s make this into an episode because that’s our lives. So you’ve been talking a lot about anxiety around the idea of your wife leaving you.
Gabe: It’s true. I don’t know why. And she’s given me no reason to think this. I just I wish. And I know this is kind of a messed up thing to say, but I wish that she gave me a reason to feel this way because then I wouldn’t feel so crazy. We were married almost eight years. There’s no problems. We’re not in the middle of a fight. I just have this gut, gut, visceral, strong feeling that the woman’s gonna leave me.
Jackie: Have you had this feeling in your marriage with Kendall or in any past relationships before?
Gabe: Well, I’m having this feeling in my marriage with Kendall right now.
Jackie: But like previously, like, has this ever happened before?
Gabe: No. No, it’s never happened before with Kendall. It has happened. You know what? No, no. This is the first time I have ever been jealous or had these feelings ever in my life. You know, now that I think about it, no. When all of my other relationships ended, I was completely blindsided. I have always been the dumped, never the dumpee because. Yeah. Yeah. Well, my first marriage, it just turns out women don’t like to be married to untreated bipolars.
Gabe: And in my my second marriage, we’re still friends, which is weird, but it was messed up.
Jackie: Ok, another thing.
Gabe: Yeah. It’s like memory lane. Thanks. Thanks.
Jackie: You’re welcome. That’s what we’re here for,
Gabe: I get dumped a lot.
Jackie: To make you feel miserable.
Gabe: That’s awesome.
Jackie: But you’re talking about this in therapy, which like Yahoo! for therapy, we know. I love it. What does your therapist say?
Gabe: My therapist likes to do this thing chain analysis, where we know that I have this feeling. So now let’s back up to why I have the feeling so and then when you connect those things, you can work on it. The problem is, is backwards doesn’t lead anywhere. I have this feeling, OK, what’s the one step back? Well, I don’t want my wife to leave me because I love her. OK, what’s the one step back from that? Is she giving you any reason? No. The best that I can come up with is that my wife, she’s beautiful, she’s intelligent. And this is one of the burdens of marrying somebody way younger than you. You know, she was like 26 when we got married. And now she’s not. She’s just achieved so much in the last eight years. And she’s not the same person. And this person is so incredible that it would be lunacy for her to stay with me.
Jackie: What do you bring to your marriage?
Gabe: I mean, I bring bipolar disorder to our marriage, a panic disorder, and anxiety disorder. I mean, those are some pretty nifty things to bring into a marriage.
Jackie: Ok. Right. But what else do you bring to your marriage? Smart ass.
Gabe: Obviously, I do bring things to the marriage, I do all the cooking, I do all the cleaning. I handle like the household organizational tasks, like, you know, the minutia of life is all handled by me. I do bring that to the marriage.
Jackie: Ok. But I’m going to ask you again, what else do you bring to the marriage? Because you basically are like, I’m her personal assistant through all of those things. What else makes your marriage uniquely yours because you’re in it?
Gabe: I just told you I was her personal assistant. I am her personal assistant. I handle all of that stuff for her, which is why it wouldn’t be so big of a loss to lose me. The other day I said to Kendall, If I left, you would have all the same things that you have now except the dog. I’m taking the dog.
Jackie: And she said no. Right?
Gabe: Oh, yeah, yeah. She said no. And it’s sweet, loving, hugged me, kissed me, told me I was wonderful. But come on. What’s she supposed to say? You can’t tell the dude that you’re married to that you’re living with. Yeah, that’s a good point. I could hire all of the things that you do for me and not have to tolerate your dumb ass.
Jackie: Ok. You’re looking at all like literally the physical things that you bring to your marriage. Right. You are there. You do all of these things that are like, I physically exist in the same room as my wife. What you’re not remembering or not seeing or not acknowledging is that you bring more to your marriage than just like the acts you perform. And the reason why this is really important to me personally is because I live with two chronic illnesses, one of which could make me completely physically unable to take care of myself at any moment, literally at any minute. M.S. could be like, you can’t walk anymore. You can’t feed yourself. This is a real fun party. So you bring more to your marriage than just like the acts you perform for her. You offer her companionship. You offer her comedic relief. You offer her emotional support in everything, I’m sure. And well, I’m sure you’re gonna tell me. It doesn’t matter because you’re bipolar, because you detract as much as you give. Blah, blah, blah. You’re failing to see that the root of your marriage is the relationship you have formed with Kendall. And all those other things are like a bonus.
Gabe: I’m not a stupid person. I agree with you. And if the tables were turned, if you were calling me up and you were saying, Gabe, Adam’s going to leave me, I would say all of the things to you that you are now saying to me, and I get it, I get the idea that Kendall is a grown woman. And if she has chosen to be married to me, she obviously wants to be married to me and she is getting something out of it. I don’t know. Maybe I make the best spaghetti. I listen, I honestly don’t know what it is. And I have asked her. I have. I’m like, why would you be married to me? And she’s like, well, my life is never boring. Why is this a priority? What do you mean? Your life is never boring? One, have you looked around? We live in suburbia. All the houses look the same. Our life is as boring as fuck. I just I can’t find that thing. I just. I can’t find that thing.
Jackie: In lieu of turning this into full blown therapy, because as we know, I love therapy, I’m not good at giving it to other people.
Gabe: Are you saying that you’re not a licensed therapist?
Jackie: I am not. And I also don’t know how to therap-ize other people, so
Gabe: Ha ha.
Jackie: I’m just, you know, taking what I’ve learned here. But I would encourage you to go to Kendall and ask her to work, to elaborate. And maybe she’s good in writing, maybe she’s good at talking like speak to her strengths of helping her understand what you bring to your marriage, because I assume that “it’s never boring” is a umbrella statement for a lot of tiny things that are great about you and what you bring to your marriage. But, therapy session over, what is really happening here is a lot of unwarranted anxiety and you’re trying to navigate it. Right?
Gabe: I’m just scared that she’s going to leave and I feel that I need a backup plan for when it happens. And the keyword there being when. I’ve been through two divorces, I had a significant relationship where we lived together, and my biological father took one look at me when I was born and was like, yeah, no. I’ve suffered a lot of loss of people who are alive. And I haven’t even gotten into the loss I’ve suffered from people who have passed away. And I’ve lost a lot of people, relationships, jobs, social status from living with bipolar disorder. So loss is just ingrained. It’s just ingrained into me. In fact, I firmly believe that I have lost more people than I have gained. And what happens when Kendall is one of them? I don’t want to be caught with my pants down. That’s not a double entendre. I just I sincerely mean, I just, I don’t want to be alone. I don’t want to call my mom and dad and tell them that I blew another marriage. I don’t want to reach over in the middle of the night and have nobody be there. And I want to know how to protect myself from that happening, because if she goes away, that’s going to happen to me. That’s going to happen to me again. And I don’t know that I can get through it for a 15th time.
Jackie: Oh, I have so many things I want to say, and most of them are encouraging. First and foremost, like, you know, that you will get through it because evidence of your life has shown that you have gotten through it. Every time you survived. Right. It may not have been pretty, but you did it. You’re still here. All those other losses did not destroy you to the point of no return. I know you’re gonna want to like say well, but, you know, I did get admitted, blah, blah, blah. Right? Like all those other things. But like, you’re
Jackie: Still here.
Gabe: I’m very resilient to being dumped.
Jackie: You’re a functioning human being, you’re on the planet. You have survived everything so far. Right or wrong?
Gabe: Sure. But, you know, come on, there’s people that have had their limbs hacked off that have survived. I don’t subscribe to this notion that whatever doesn’t kill you only makes you stronger.
Jackie: Oh, I don’t either.
Gabe: There’s lots of things that don’t kill you that make you really fucking weak.
Jackie: Agree, but at the root of it all, you have gotten through all of it, right? It wasn’t fun. You didn’t want to, but you did. You got through all of it. And you currently lead a life that is good and happy and sustainable.
Gabe: And let’s talk about that for a moment. You’re right. This is the best I’ve ever been. And sincerely, that’s part of the problem. This is the best my life has ever been. I am 43 years old. This is the most stable. This is the happiest. This is the healthiest. This is the wealthiest. This is the most in love. This is the everything. I mean, even if we want to, like, turn it into, you know, money equals happiness. Well, I’ve got the biggest house. I’ve got the nicest car and I’ve got the least amount of debt. If you want to turn it into. Oh, it’s the people you know. I know Kendall. Kendall’s amazing. I know you, Jackie. You’re amazing. I have like two best friends. I’m not saying I don’t want more friends. I’m just. We all want more. But if I just take a base look at what I have, it’s the most I ever had. And all I can think of and all that goes through my mind is this is the most I will lose. So when you talk about will I get through it? I don’t know. I’ve never fallen from this height.
Jackie: I’m having a really hard time responding to that because I am, because I’m tearing up, because I relate to it. And looking at a position in my life where I have the most to lose because I am doing well and I am very happy and very loved and successful. But I think that that’s when we start to catastrophize things, when things are going the best. We’re always waiting for the other shoe to drop. And for you right now, it’s manifesting as Kendall leaving. I’m always thinking about Adam dying. Always. I’m always thinking about Adam dying. And it’s the worst. I’ve never loved anybody so deeply and appreciated their presence in my life so much that I’ve had to think about what does it mean when they’re gone? So I can relate. It’s different, but I can totally relate. But I think that you’re in an important position right now, because now you have to figure out how to not turn this into a self-fulfilling prophecy, where you tell Kendall over and over and over again, you’re going to leave. And then finally she’s like, I can’t handle this anymore. I’m gonna leave, you know?
Gabe: Catastrophizing. Right. It’s making a mountain out of a molehill and, yeah. I know that I’m doing that. Again, the logical part of my brain is absolutely firing on all cylinders. And the second thing is that self-fulfilling prophecy. If I look backwards from this vantage point, I drove people away. I’m not saying that they were 100 percent right and I was 100 percent wrong. It’s never that simple. But I’m just saying that constantly worrying about something and obsessing over it and focusing on it, it does mean that you’re not focusing on the things that keep a relationship healthy and safe. If I look at Kendall and I think what can I do to get you to stay? I’m going to Of Mice and Men her you know?
Gabe: I’m going to pet the rabbit to death. I don’t want to do that. But when I lay awake at night, it seeps in, and it obviously open communication is a powerful tool for this and it is helping.
Jackie: We’ll be right back after we hear from our sponsors.
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Gabe: And we’re back discussing our fear of losing our spouses.
Jackie: Have you talked to Kendall about all of this?
Gabe: One hundred percent. This episode is not going to shock her in any way. I’ve told her how I feel. We’ve talked about it a lot and that has helped. Like that is probably the biggest defense in all of this. Previously, I just internalized it 100 percent and I answered my own questions, which frankly is just a jerk move, right? When you’re having conversations with another person and you’re speaking for them and they don’t even know the conversation is going on like that just makes you a jackass. So I have these fears and I just said to Kendall, I feel like you’re going to leave me. And she, of course, said, I’m not going to leave you. Why do you think that way? And I told her why. I imagine for you it’s a little harder, Jackie, because I don’t know if you’ve told Adam that you’re afraid he’s going to die, but it’s obviously a lot more difficult for him to reassure you. And that does make me wonder, like, what has been your tactic for this? Because like you said, you’re at the highest point of your life as well.
Jackie: I have talked to Adam about this, and honestly, the most reassuring moments, you can’t reassure somebody you’re not going to die, right?
Jackie: This isn’t Captain America.
Jackie: Where you’re like, I promise I will never die. But he said to me, I think about that, too, because I thought it was just me just panicking, like worst case scenario. When’s the shoe gonna drop? What if he dies? What do I do? How will I ever get through this? And he told me he thinks about it, too, which is weirdly comforting. It doesn’t solve anything for either of us, but it was like he feels the same way about his life. He’s afraid of losing what we’ve got too. And again, these are different scenarios. But I think the difference between where you and Kendall are right now is that Kendall is not afraid that you’re going to leave because she’s super, super confident in where you’re at and she believes in what you have. And I’m not saying that you don’t. But I’m saying that like you’ve got some life experience and some internal doubt. Probably maybe there’s some internal conflict. Maybe you’re –
Gabe: I have abandonment issues out the wazoo. I mean, just let’s call a spade a spade. This has nothing to do with Kendall. I have unresolved abandonment issues that have gone unchallenged for way too long and became a thing.
Jackie: So check, check, check. You know, the root of all this. And you know that like you’re projecting this, you’re kind of putting this on her. Of I feel this way. I’m afraid of this. And it’s manifesting into like what I think you’re going to do about it. I am always going to tell you to keep going to therapy, because I think that, like, therapy is the best place that I’ve worked out my abandonment issues and even I’ve even talked about like, I’m afraid Adam’s going to die. And basically, what I learned, the quiet thing that people who are happily married don’t talk about is we’re all afraid our spouses are going to die like any minute. The second I started talking about that was the first time I had multiple people be like, oh, yeah, I think about this all the time. And I was like, oh, that’s what marriage is. Constantly being afraid that your favorite person in the whole world is going to die, which is, you know, awful. It’s a bad commercial for marriage, but it shows how much you value that person. And I think like that’s the root of this, right? You value Kendall, you want her around and you add in abandonment issues, especially ones that have not been tackled into probably something very tiny. I’m sure there was a catalyst and it was something so small. You either didn’t realize it or it seemed mundane. And it has slowly started to build into a full blown divorce. And that’s the kind of shit that ruins marriages. You know?
Gabe: Jackie, I think about these things a lot because of our job, right, it’s our job to research all of these concepts, to put together shows and to figure out what part of our personal lives we’re going to discuss and what part of our personal lives we’re not going to discuss. And where’s the gray area and what’s too far and what’s not enough? And we lead very open lives. And on one hand, that’s great because I want to educate people. But on the other hand, you know, sometimes I get email and they’re like, oh, my God, your marriage is so perfect. I wish I could have your marriage. And I think to myself, my marriage isn’t perfect. Kendall’s going to leave me at any moment, which is completely manufactured in my head. And then I tell people that and I talk to people in support groups or just, you know, out and about when I’m speaking or whatever. And people will say to me, I want your marriage. I’m like, well, listen, you know, my marriage isn’t perfect. You know, we fight about the dishes. You know, we have to discuss how to spend money. It’s just the world is not the Internet. Facebook is your best self. Instagram is your best pictures. There are no double chins on Instagram. Everything’s filtered, and I think that’s part of my problem, too. I honestly believe that my grandparents have a better marriage than they probably do because my grandparents aren’t going to fight in front of the kids. They’re not going to sit me down and say, hey, we had this conflict back in 1922. You know, I don’t know what they’re fighting about, but it’s their personal relationship. So we’re comparing everybody’s public self to our private self. And I think that tolls on me as well, because I’m just constantly looking at other people’s marriages and deciding that mine is bad, which is only going to end in disaster.
Jackie: As your friend right now, I want to tell you all the things I’m supposed to tell you, right? Like, Gabe, you know that’s not right. You can rationalize your way through this. You can talk to Kendall. You can, you know, everything that I’m supposed to say right now. So let’s pretend, like, I said all that stuff, because I want to and I mean it. But I mean, the reality is like sometimes specifically with anxiety, you can rationalize your way through it to your blue in the face, but it doesn’t make it go away. It’s still there.
Gabe: One of the best books that I ever read was by a gentleman named Dr. Gleb Tipursky, and he wrote a book called Never Go With Your Gut. Now he wrote it in the sense of business. You know, if you’re making a business decision based on your gut, that’s stupid. And he gives many, many examples. But one of the examples that he gives is that the reason that people get conned is because they’re trusting their gut. Con men are really good at making you excited, making you feel good. You know, they don’t talk about the $10,000 you have to send the Iranian prince. They talk about how you’re going to spend the hundred thousand dollars that they’re going to send back and they get you excited about that. You feel really good to get this influx of money and to help your family. And your gut is telling you this is fantastic and it overrides the logical part of your brain that says, hey, you’re sending $10,000 to a stranger in another country. There’s a lot of that here that I think is just exceptionally powerful for all of us to remember and all of us to know. Our gut lies just because something feels good doesn’t make it good. And taking that pause to remember, Kendall loves me. I think we can all be smarter in remembering that. And I really think that that is the best way forward.
Jackie: It’s really easy to get caught in the cycle in your brain of like this will happen and then this will happen and then, and you get in this incredible downward spiral where you’re at rock bottom in like four seconds. You’re like, wow, my life is shit now. Even when none of those things have happened. And it’s really hard to come out of it because now you’ve convinced yourself it’s gonna happen no matter what. One of the things that I do, I will take it to the worst case scenario to see what happens. And almost every time I’m still alive at the end of it, which is a silver lining, I guess maybe my life is terrible, but I’m still alive. So I’ve got that. But another thing that I do that is probably less depressing is I will journal out the good things. I practice gratitude. I try to do three a day in a tiny journal. I’m not very good at it, but I do think about it. And it’s almost always, I’m so grateful for Adam, I’m so grateful he’s in my life. And sometimes it just ends up being writing those positive things over and over and over again. A page of like, I’m so happy. I’m so grateful. Everything is fine. I will be okay. And even if it only solves it for like thirty five seconds, it’s still thirty five seconds that I don’t feel like the biggest pile of shit on the planet.
Gabe: And it’s important to remember that thirty five seconds is a lot and it’s forward progress and it’s forward momentum. Listen. Am I going to become the happiest person tomorrow? Probably not. But I really do think that I can do better. And, Jackie, of course, obviously, you’ve been talking to me about this for weeks and we didn’t have to talk about this on the air. So kudos for suggesting that you get paid for it.
Jackie: Yeah, I know I’m a genius, right? But part of it also, though, is what we do. There is a level of forced vulnerability, right? We could not talk about any of this. We could just keep it all behind the scenes and do like uplifting pop culture reference shows. But that’s not real and that’s not the show that we wanted to do. So, right back at you, like you chose to share this part. And I think it’s important.
Gabe: Thanks, Jackie. And hey, listeners, we got Not Crazy stickers. If you want some, e-mail show@PsychCentral.com and we’ll tell you how to go about it. Stay tuned after all of the credits because we always put funny stuff there. And finally, wherever you downloaded this podcast, please subscribe. Please rank. Please review. Share us on social media. Email us to a friend. Hey, if you have a social circle and you’re all at dinner, tell them about the Not Crazy podcast. Jackie and I would consider it a personal favor.
Jackie: We’ll see you all next week.
This article originally appeared on Psych Central as Podcast: I Fear My Spouse Will Abandon Me.