General Question

LeavesNoTrace's avatar

How can I work through my irrational fear of my partner dying?

Asked by LeavesNoTrace (5674points) August 22nd, 2015

My partner is in his early 30s and in relatively good health except for the tendency for hypertension and high cholesterol he inherited from his father (who’s still alive and working full time in his 70s). I worry and get upset with him when he doesn’t watch his diet or take his cholesterol supplements because I want him to be around for a long time.

We simply adore each other and have an incredibly happy, loving, and drama free relationship—something I’ve always wanted especially after being in a couple of tumultuous and abusive relationships in my early 20s. I’ve never been so happy in my life and I think it terrifies me a little because losing him would be devastating, especially after losing my own mother to cancer nearly three years go.

I’m not talking about a breakup, which would suck but only happen for a good reason. (As long as things stay healthy between us, I don’t foresee that happening.) I’m terrified of him dying. If I read a story or see a show or movie where someone’s young significant other dying, I will cry and become terribly sad and worried. To lose this man would be to lose a part of myself and I think about what would happen if he were to be killed suddenly in an accident or have a health issue sneak up on him.

Last month he saw a dermatologist because I begged him to after he told me he’d had precancerous moles removed in the past and he hadn’t been in a couple of years. I begged him to the point of tears and my friends who I told about it thought I was crazy. but this is a legitimate fear that I have although I would never directly tell him.

I don’t want to be helicopter girlfriend and thankfully he doesn’t see my concern as a negative thing but I hate how these thoughts make me feel. If he even jokes about dying, I get upset with him and will start to choke up right in front of him.

Logically, I know that the odds of him going anytime soon are slim but knowing that it can and does happen to young lovers sometimes makes me feel a type of anxiety and powerlessness and definitely plays into my fear of abandonment. I’m afraid I would never be able to move on and that dating again would be a useless venture because I’d be able to love someone as much as I do him.

As a coping mechanism, I try to let these feelings be a reminder that I’m lucky to love and be loved this way and that doing such is a risk. We hope to be together forever and while we don’t plan for wedding bells in the near future, we’ve made it clear that we hope to spend our lives together. He makes me wish we could live forever.

That’s the other thing, when I think about growing old with him and him dying before me, I also get so sad it’s crippling for several minutes at a time. I recently saw my grandmother go through the loss of my grandfather after 60+ years of marriage. Although he was sick for a long time, her sadness is palpable I dread potentially going through that with someone I love someday. I’m afraid it would be even worse than losing my mother, which sometimes I can’t believe I was able to cope with at all.

If I’m this insane about a significant other, would having kids make me a nervous wreck? How should I cope with such feelings in a healthy and productive way? Do I brush them aside or face them head on?

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21 Answers

johnpowell's avatar

This is way beyond anything you read on a computer screen can help with.. It is time to seek professional help.

Don’t feel bad. My mom killed my dad when I was 10. Sort of had a problem trusting women ever since. I have been seeing a shrink for 15 years and it does help. And not all of those 15 years were about the trust thing. It is just nice to have someone to talk to that you don’t really know. I mostly bitch about my sister and mom and roommates.

DrasticDreamer's avatar

One good thing is that the fear you describe comes from a good place, but I agree with @johnpowell. It seems to run deep enough that no one but a professional can give you good advice. I have no doubt that a lot of people here would try, but we might not be successful, or even suggest the right way for you to go about overcoming your particular fears.

If you have a primary doctor, ask if you can be referred to a psychologist. Often times, they have direct connections and can set you up with someone who can help. Explain that you’re having really bad anxiety about some things and that you’d like to be pointed in the right direction.

johnpowell's avatar

^^ And it can be expensive. It is best to talk to your GP about “crippling anxiety” and get a referral to up the chance insurance will cover it.

Good luck.

JLeslie's avatar

See a therapist. If you are like this about your SO imagine if you have children. Everyone has fleeting moments of worry about losing their SO. Obsessing, as you are, is too extreme. It sounds like it is affecting your daily life. Also, you might be displacing your anxiety. There might be other things in your life you need to deal with and being anxious about your SO is like a distraction.

LuckyGuy's avatar

For a different perspective I’ll throw in an engineer’s take.
You are fortunate indeed that you dread losing him. That means you are in a healthy, happy relationship. Sadly all couples are not that lucky.

Sometimes I wonder if this is one of the reasons life insurance was invented.
Of course, nothing can replace the loss of your SO. But a large settlement check certainly doesn’t hurt and can really help the survivor move on in life. Just knowing that possibility exists might help you.
Term life insurance is relatively cheap when you are young. It might be worth getting some for a bit while your anxieties settle down.

Here2_4's avatar

You are obsessive. You need to deal with that.
You have a long string of questions here demonstrating clearly obsessive behavior.
I think you should follow all the suggestions listed here so far.
I agree with all the advice given so far. Get therapy, get better, but in the meantime, get insurance.
Hopefully you can learn to be adaptive, and cope, but if not, you should at least have insurance. I am thinking you should buy more than one policy. Cover your SO, your parents, your best friend, and so on.

Coloma's avatar

Yes, you are experiencing obsessive fears though not irrational as we are all going to die and we know not when or how.
Are you overly dependent on your partner financially or emotionally?
Is your identity/well being completely linked to the state/status of the relationship?

If so you could be suffering from codependency too.
Nobody wants to think of losing a loved one but, as sad as that might be it is also a hardcore reality and you cannot live in a state of paranoia and paralyzing anxiety.

Pandora's avatar

1. Remember that whether its sooner or later, it is always going to be too short. You gave your grandma as an example. Trust me when I say, it isn’t palatable to her. She feels he went too soon and left her behind.
2. Life is full of ironies. I bet the one thing that you are most worried about won’t be the cause of his death. Yes the percentage of him dying from that is increased but the reality is any number of illness or accident can take him at any time. So there is no point in worrying about it. Heck, you may go first. But he should do what he can to minimize his problems. You might want to point out to him that it may do worse than kill him. Left uncheck he can suffer organ damage that will cripple him and leave him feel like he is living in the body of an 80 year old for years. Wishing he had died instead and giving him many years of regret. Even a stroke. Leaving him alive but half of what he use to be. Having to rely on people to clean him and feed him.
3. Worrying diminishes the joy in your daily life. Point out what I said about his health and let it go from there. He needs to be responsible for his own health. Tell him if something were to happen to him that you will be there for him but if you feel he was totally reckless in taking care of himself, that you may end up resenting him, because you will always feel he cared more about his wants than your life together. Let him be responsible for his own care.

People tend to have a careless attitude toward whether they live or die when they are young. But over the years I realize there is a lot worse things in between. The biggest one is being careless with your health only to live and regret it later.

Coloma's avatar

@Pandora True, hence that old saying that ” if I’d known I was going to live this long I’d have taken better care of myself.” haha
Pretty common, but yep, either you accept people as they are or you leave, nobody changes until they are damn good and ready and it is never “personal.” People can love you but they have their own struggles that have nothing to do with whether they care about or love others in their lives.

Inspired_2write's avatar

Live in the present.
I remember a story about an older person looking after her sick husband , waiting on him day and night, and sometimes unneccessarily.
To make this a short story..
While the ambulance left the neighborhood everyone thought that the man had died of course from the long years of sufferring?
They were surprised to discover that it was the lady whom had died from the stress of worrying ,and waiting on this man for so long.
The man lived on for years thereafter.
So life is for living in the present and sometimes one knows when a person ‘may’ pass on , but is never sure.
Be prepared for the eventuality ( papers in place etc) then let the worry go , so that you can enjoy the present with that person in fullness and gratitude that he lived another glorious day.

Response moderated (Unhelpful)
LeavesNoTrace's avatar

Hi all, thanks for some helpful and insightful answers.

To answer some of the questions, we do live together but I’m not financially dependent on him. If something were to happen to him or our relationship I’d still be able to support myself.

We genuinely love each other and it’s not a codependency thing nor is it a dysfunctional or unhealthy relationship for either party. He knows that I get concerned about his health when he doesn’t follow his doctor’s advice but doesn’t know that I dread losing him.

I think that some of my problem is that after surviving an abusive childhood, the loss of a parent and two unhealthy relationships, I find it hard to believe that life would allow me to be so happy without cruelly and “unfairly” (not that life is ever fair) snatching it away from me. In a sense, I’m waiting for the other shoe to drop. This isn’t something that I necessarily think about every day, but it comes up every few weeks for me, especially if I’m under stress.

Sadly I’m still shopping around for health insurance so I have to wait to find a therapist.

JLeslie's avatar

Waiting for the other shoe to drop is very common for a lot of people, and I would say is encouraged by some cultural norms in some ethnic groups. I’m Jewish and assuming something crappy will happen is part of our schtick. Lol.

It’s not unusual for elderly couples to die within 6 months of each other. That’s how bonded they are. It’s not that the majority do, but the number is significant enough that it’s a thing.

You’re not that unusual, you have just taken it to an extreme where it’s too forward in your mind too often. You hit the nail in the head that when you are anxious about other things it triggers many of your other anxieties.

My earlier answer was to seek therapy, but since you can’t do that immediately I’d suggest writing a list of other things you need to think about or do that are productive and when your mind drifts to the negative refer to that list. Maybe go to a Zumba class, call a girlfriend, look up a subject you have been interested, visit a tourist attraction you haven’t seen yet, research and plan your next vacation. Especially, planning things in the future like a vacation gives you something to plan, but also to look forward to.

Coloma's avatar

Or…..realize that next thing you know 20 more years has gone by and now you want a divorce. If that happens you won’t care if he dies. lolol

JLeslie's avatar

Lol. I was thinking of mentioning that over time you will have arguments and marital stresses that will replace some of the time you spend on worrying about losing him.

LeavesNoTrace's avatar

@Coloma I truly hope that doesn’t happen. I’d rather keep the love and learn to manage my emotions/neurosis.

Here2_4's avatar

Look at your fear like a jealous bitch trying to end your relationship. Go on the offensive, and refuse to let it ruin what would otherwise be great moments for you. Take charge. Say, “No, you will not ruin my good times. You will not break our bond. I will turn my back to you, and cause your destruction by not letting you get me unhinged.”
Once probably won’t do it. You would likely have to face it down frequently, but be the boss, and don’t let it push you around.

Coloma's avatar

@LeavesNoTrace I hope not either, but…over half of all marriages do end in divorce so that is more likely than premature death. Nobody ever thinks it will happen to them, especially in the early years of a relationship, but it does.

JLeslie's avatar

Only 30% (ish, I don’t remember the exact number) of first marriages end in divorce. Let’s be optimistic. Still, even happy, long lasting, marriages, have crap happen that occupies your brain. You can only think about one thing at a time.

DrasticDreamer's avatar

@LeavesNoTrace Talk to your primary doctor (do you have a primary?) about it anyway, because they can still connect you with therapists who see people without insurance for nothing. Good luck.

rojo's avatar

I think this is a fear most of us have, yours is just more intense.
I hope you take the advice from several above and find someone with the proper skills who can help you get it to a manageable level.

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