Anxious about the future … and everything else

Just had a computer issue in Germany. Posting this (retyped) on a German computer that has weird keys (and the Y is in the wrong place), so I hope it all makes sense. I'll read your comments tonight.

(Writing this in a tiny German hotel at a weird hour makes me feel like Jason Bourne.)

Ok. Have fun.

I am in my mid-20s and have been dating a wonderful man for a few months. He is all that I am looking for -- smart, kind, attentive, interesting, funny, and fun to be with. I would venture to say that I love him. I'm very physically attracted to him, trust him, and know he feels the same way about me. I would like letter readers to know that I have had a number of fairly serious, functional relationships and also that I am in therapy because I suffer from anxiety, often connected to relationships. This relationship feels adult in a way that the others haven't.

So what's the problem? Well, I recently started my first real "job" after a long bout of unemployment. It coincided with the beginning of my relationship. Although the job may help me in my career, it's a bit harrowing and not really what I'd hoped for. I began my job search after traveling and teaching in Europe. While abroad, I was part of a relationship that got out of my control (we moved in together too quickly, I suspect he was cheating on me, there were language barriers, etc). I suffered from so much anxiety and depression while abroad and in that relationship that I am extremely fearful in continuing my current relationship, even though I had been single for a year and a half before meeting my new beau.

I love my current boyfriend and want to explore this new relationship, but I am really scared of what it means to give up my single and unemployed life. It sounds dumb, but I was able to define my identity as that person. I feel really "settled" all of a sudden, and he has finished graduate school and is working a job he loves. I'm scared because I know most relationships don't last forever. I'm scared because some of my friends are getting married and I really don't feel ready for that. I'm scared because I will probably leave this city in the next year or two. I'm scared because I don't really know what I want from my career or from a relationship, but I want to be open-minded about exploring the possibilities, especially when I've met someone so great.

How do I hold all these "knowings" and "not-knowings" and be OK with them? How do I stop myself from running away from a relationship that is really healthy, fun, and great? How do I let myself be in my mid-20s without taking myself so seriously?

(I'd like to note that I have discussed this in depth with my therapist and we've agreed some anti-anxiety techniques and medication may help.)

– Anxious Explorer, NY

I'm happy that you're in therapy, AE. Please continue going. It's important to learn techniques to help you cope with "not-knowings." Because there are so many not-knowings in life.

It's also important that you ask questions. Lots of questions. If you quiz your friends and your boyfriend about their choices, you might learn that you're not the only person who's worried about the future. We spend most of our lives with our fingers crossed, hoping that things work out for the best. It's easy to get overwhelmed and to forget that everyone has doubts. Reality checks from peers will help you feel less alone.

Also, give yourself some time. You found a new job and a new significant other just a few months ago. Let it all sit for a bit and see how you feel. You might realize after time that some of this anxiousness is just the butterflies caused by excitement. Butterflies can be uncomfortable and scary, but they're not bad.

Readers? How can she calm down about the future? Is this just too much change at once? Does her last relationship have anything to do with this? Help.

– Meredith