Love FAQ

Love FAQ
You Can Lead a Horse to Water (But You Can’t Make It Hook Itself Up to a Car Battery)

Lara Crigger | 22 Jul 2011 12:00
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LoveFAQ is a weekly advice column for geeks, by geeks about love, life and maxing out your romance meter. Got questions for LoveFAQs? Send them to [email protected].

Dear Love FAQ,

I've been in a relationship with my girlfriend for over a year now, and we're really happy. But as we've gotten to know each other better, I've noticed that she has some issues with confidence: mainly, she has none.

She doesn't accept my compliments, because she doesn't believe them. She also believes she needs to lose weight, even though she's a healthy weight. And when we first started dating, she was really worried about me cheating on her or leaving her for another girl, even though I made it clear I'm not that kind of person.

I recently met her family, and they all agree that she's gained more confidence since being with me, but she's still not able to stand up for herself like she wants to. She's stands up to me when we disagree, though, but she also knows I won't dump her simply because of a difference of opinion.

I love her and think she might be "The One," but I hate to see her not pursue her dreams or stand up for herself. So how can I help her become more confident? She has expressed an interest in me helping her, and we both think that she'd be happier if she had more confidence.

-- Looking to Buff

Dear Looking to Buff,

Your girlfriend is looking to everyone for validation and approval: her friends, her family, even you. Everyone, of course, but herself.

But confidence isn't a bottle of wine you can hand out as needed. It's a moonshine brewed in your own bathtub, fermented from your own blood, sweat and tears. Your girlfriend can search for validation from every Tom, Dick and Sarah Connor in the phone book, but the only place she'll truly find confidence is within.

That's not to say you can't encourage and support her, of course. You can be an emotional rock, a sounding board that reminds her of her strengths and not her weaknesses. You can role-play stressful situations with her, such as asking for a raise or arguing with a parent. You can even undertake physical challenges with her - running a marathon, climbing a mountain, etc. - that serve as a metaphor for confronting her fears.

But in this battle, you can only be an NPC, not the tank. You can't build her confidence for her, no matter how much you want to - or how much she might want you to. I know it's tough to watch someone struggle with self-doubt. But if you try to do this for her, it's just going to break your heart.

Fortunately, however, she already has everything she needs to brew her own confidence; she just needs to do it. And until she does, just keep on encouraging her and supporting her - from the sidelines.

One last thing: A few cues from your letter suggest that your girlfriend may suffer abandonment issues. This and her lack of confidence are undoubtedly linked, and if she's not talking to a therapist or counselor, you may want to encourage her to see one.

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