Dear Annie: I've been with my significant other for five years. We're each other's "person." I'm more comfortable with him than I've ever been with anyone else, but there's a catch. We've noticed a trend: that I'm better at taking care of myself when he's not around. It's not a conscious thing. I'm not intentionally sulking. But it seems that my depression and anxiety come out of the woodwork — I've been stable for quite a while — when I'm alone with him. When we're apart — for example, one of us goes out of town — I flourish. I'm confused by this pattern. I don't understand why someone I am so comfortable with seems to hinder my growth and well-being. He is a wonderful, loving partner. I have no complaints about how he treats me. We have awesome communication and talk about absolutely everything. And yet, a part of me feels trapped. I don't want us to break up, but maybe we're no longer a good fit. — Dating but Drifting
Dear Dating but Drifting: Perhaps what you're feeling is the result of codependence, counterintuitive as it might sound. It's possible you only feel like you can give yourself permission to focus on your own well-being when he's not there. Check out Mental Health America's "Characteristics of Co-Dependent People" at www.mentalhealthamerica.net/co-dependency, and see if you recognize yourself in the list of traits.
Alternatively, maybe your relationship is simply in need of a refresh. Take a trip with your boyfriend; try a new hobby together. Sometimes, all it takes is shaking up the routine a bit to remember why you fell in love with someone.
Finally, it very well could be that this relationship has run its course, and your anxiety is telling you it's time to move on. If that is the case, it is better to rip that Band-Aid off sooner than later.
Dear Readers: Recently, I printed a letter from "Missing Out on Friends," who wanted to adopt a cat but wondered what would happen to the cat should something happen to her. I asked you all to share any insights, and share you did.
1) Adopting an older cat is a good idea. But keep in mind this means budgeting for veterinary expenses. I pay about $150 every six months for a veterinary exam and blood tests.
2) Buy a wallet that opens to show two vinyl windows, one for your driver's license and one for a homemade card that says "Notice to Emergency Responders" and shows a picture of your cat. Explain on the back of the card that you live alone, and give instructions for whom you'd like to take care of your cat in an emergency (probably your vet). This is why it's important to choose a vet with boarding facilities.
3) Prepare and post a chart in your home with a picture of your cat, list of medications, feeding instructions and hiding places. Include your veterinarian's name and phone number, and the shelter you trust the most to take care of your cat in the unlikely event of your premature death. Ask your veterinarian for recommendations about the local shelters.
Dear Annie: As a longtime volunteer for a kitty rescue, your advice to volunteer at a shelter was spot on. Not only will the kitties provide companionship, so will the other volunteers. We have people volunteering for us as cage cleaners, socializers, adoption staff, special events coordinators — you name it, we need people. We also have a program called Senior to Senior, in which senior citizens become permanent fosters for senior cats. — Ann A. in Connecticut