“It’s very hard, for most of us to tolerate being loved.” – George Vaillant
On the surface, your request seems like a straightforward concern requiring a straightforward answer. However, it is a deeply layered call for unpacking the push and pull within the relationship. I’d like to look at each part of your call for a solution to see if there is something in your request that gives a clue to the answer.
Your first sentence: “I bring up problems in the relationship because I think I don’t get enough from my boyfriend,” is intriguing because it looks logical, and yet is shows the divided nature of your request. The motivation is coming from you feeling you do not get enough. So, what are you getting and how much is enough should be the first questions identified so there would be room for negotiation, discussion, and evolution. You not only don’t mention these, of the possibility of identifying and talking about them. Rather you jump right into your behavior. Instead of moving toward the issue for the purpose of relationship building you identify the first thing that you do is bring up what’s wrong with the relationship. Relationship science would find this initial strategy as a cause of what is making the relationship fall apart — not a reaction.
Joe Wilner’s blog at PsychCentral identifies some of the most important elements within a relationship. In essence, you’ll want to be searching for, acknowledging, and supporting the positive things your partner has done. By identifying the gratitude you have for him daily, you’ll be shifting your focus from what’s wrong to what’s strong in the relationship.
This also means that you’ll want to look for things your partner has done to celebrate in the relationship. The term for this is called Active Constructive Responding (ACR) and means that you’ll respond with enthusiasm to his good news about some aspect in his life, rather than a passive response, focusing on what’s negative, or talking about your achievements. Focusing on the good things rather than the negativity is essential if you want things to get better. While talking about what you are not getting seems logical, it is missing two essential things: acknowledging what is good in the relationship already, and if indeed you are wanting too much from the relationship.
To learn more about Active Constructive Responding check out this video. It will give good examples of the four responses people usually give to good news — with an emphasis on what the best one is.
The second part of your statement: “I feel anxious, inadequate, not good enough for him,” tells the tale of what’s happening. It is your feelings of inadequacy that is very likely underneath this process. It is less about what he’s giving you and more about your feelings of being unworthy. For this, you’ll want to use methods of generating self-compassion. There is an excellent article by Margarita Tartakovsky explaining the many ways self-compassion can be nurtured.
Finally, the first part of your last sentence: “I get how me complaining makes him feel inadequate…,” is the way you feeling unworthy is pushing him away. The second part: “…its a vicious cycle id like to break,” is an illusion. This isn’t a cycle of any kind. You are systematically pushing him away because of your feelings of inadequacy. The work is for you to begin a daily routine for nurturing your self-compassion and looking for ways to initiate active constructive responding with your boyfriend. If you are looking for a complete workbook on building self-esteem (which is typically the underlying cause of feeling inadequate) you’ll want to read this blog and check out this book on self-esteem by Dr. Marie Hartwell-Walker.