He can walk out at any given moment……

When I think about my two last relationships and now my short dating experience then there have been three men with whom I never felt secure enough. Surely with one of my exes, lets call him Robert, we even discussed marriage and children. We even discussed child names. However, Robert and me were in a long-distance relationship and he was postponing his move….constantly. He also let me know that he is not going to move unless he finds a good job. Even though we talked about me moving to his country, there was never a conscious effort from his side to help me with that. If I wanted to move, I was supposed to organize everything on my own….

This kind of ambivalence and lack of reciprocity I think characterizes my relationships. I am not talking about emotional closeness and affection here. Some of the guys I have dated with have been rather affectionate and loving, way more than I. What I am however talking about is that I never felt safe that these guys are going to stay. I did not feel as if I was part of their life.

I lived together with my recent ex for four years. Still during these four years, I did not feel like I was part of his life. He had his own little secret life when he was visiting his friends at his home country.  I did not belong there. His friends did not accept me with open arms either. Rather they made no effort to include me and somehow he accepted this. Again, I felt unsafe.

I could continue with the list of behaviors here, but I think more worthwhile is still analyzing this feeling of being unsafe and left out. I do not think I am imagining it. I think all three guys were not ready to share their life with someone else to the degree that is needed for a fully blown relationship. There was a lack of commitment and lack of commonality. I always felt like I had to fight for the common future. Like I was the one holding everything afloat.

My last experience with someone is finally starting to make me realize that this is not how one should feel. I have been so invested in trying to figure out how to make these guys commit and love me that I have never asked myself – do I feel good in relationship with these guys? I am going wild here and guess that if a relationship makes you constantly second-guess yourself and induces a lot of anxiety in you, chances are high that your partner is probably not fully ready to be in a relationship. Instead, they keep sending you some kind of contradictory signals about commitment, which you accept, because you are so invested in trying to get their commitment.

I am not sure yet what a good and healthy thought process in this situation would look like. However, what I do know is that I do not want to feel that insecure anymore. I also do not want to be someone who has to convince their partners to make a bigger commitment. This is something that is still a very sensitive topic and which I will devote more time to in the future.

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The fine line between vulnerability and neediness

At the age 31 I have no idea what a healthy relationship looks like. I mean there is another drawback for having chased after unavailable guys, besides the obvious ones. See the problem is that I have very little experience in being present in the relationship where we were both open and vulnerable. I mean the whole idea of chasing unavailable guys is that you will not get hurt because the disappointment is kind of coded into the future anyways. So now that I am actually opening myself up to guys who are not obviously unavailable I risk with truly getting hurt. And let me tell you, I have little idea on how to handle these emotions of vulnerability and hurt that come with truly being present with someone.

Since I have no experience I tend to verge between two extremes, either be truly submissive and accepting of shitty behavior or being truly closed off and distant. It is really complicated to hit the middle gear, simply because the whole experience is so new for me.

I am also noticing that I am dealing with the emotions of yearning and longing for someone and I have no good idea on how to manage this either. I mean, I know one should not act needy etc., but I have no idea on when is one acting needy and when is one just vulnerable and open. How should you respond when your love interest is withdrawing – did you somehow act overly distant and drove them away with your wish not to appear needy or are they just in need of space? Am I being needy when I go after them and tell them that I miss them or am I just showing natural vulnerability and interest? Is my judgement on them being less invested than me fair or is my fear of being vulnerable clouding my judgement? I mean there are tons of questions which I now seem to have in connection to this fine line between neediness and vulnerability. I have no idea what is right and wrong and it is not like someone has enough patience to start educating me from the ground up at my age. So I know I need to somehow learn this, but how……well this remains to be seen.

Taking responsibility and the anxiety

Who is afraid of going to massage because it might divert her from her daily routine? Yes…you guessed right – it is me. I am starting to understand, however, that this kind of anxiety which I feel if I have to even tiny bit do something out my regular routines is not really normal nor healthy.

It is weird, had you asked me five years ago if I was a person who was stuck with her routines and really loved predictability, I would have protested loudly. I did not see myself as someone who is micromanaging things. I laughed over my friends’ attempts to control things. Little did I know that I had purposefully chosen such friends so that I would not have to take responsibility nor control anything. I mean it is easy to not be upset or anxious if you perceive yourself having little control and are willing to give it to someone else.

Things have changed. I have given up my controlling friends. I have begun to give up the idea of ever meeting some boyfriend/father figure who would take control over my life, protect and manage everything for me. As long as I had this hope, I really did not need to worry about the future, because I could always comfort myself with the knowledge that, maybe I did not have to. I have let many things just stand without wanting to even take a look at these. My finances is for instance one thing. I just did not even want to go over of my spending because I was too afraid of what I will find.

How does this all relate back to me feeling anxious about massage? Well, now I know that I am expected to show up on time. There will be consequences if I do not. I also know that I have thousands of other responsibilities, so going to massage on a work day was aversion from these activities, but was something I perceived necessary because I was collapsing under these other responsibilities. Quite honestly, it comes down to managing my life and my responsibilities on my own and boy is that anxiety inducing. I think this is just a beginning of me exploring this issue though, because there is a lot more to dwell on here.

Control issues and hot and cold guys

Dating world for emotionally damaged is less than ideal to say the most. I have described plenty in this blog about my experiences with unavailable guys. Emotionally completely unavailable guys seem to have been replaced by hot and cold guys almost entirely. I think it is a development, but well, not exactly what I had in mind when it comes to the end result. The number of hot and cold guys that I have been lately attracted to is becoming a bit too big for me to pin it on bad luck, so I will try to analyze as follows what might be behind it.

So, my hypothesis is that my attraction to unavailable or uninterested guys was mainly related to me feeling unloved and feeling I needed to chase someone’s love. The fact that I do not do this anymore shows that I have greatly dealt with my unlovability issues which in itself is worth a whole celebration. However, hot and cold guys – well my hypothesis here is that this one is related to me having felt out of control my whole childhood. Let me elaborate.

Essentially my childhood was about my mother’s moods (and criticisms). And boy was she unpredictable. But not only in terms of moods, but also in terms of attachment. She could be nice one day and distant the other day. She could go on a work trip and be gone without any contact for a week or two (and yes first time she did this I was only 4). When I was younger I was with my grandparents, but at the age of 9 I was home alone.

So hot and cold guys? Well they take me back to this time. I can never guess their reactions and most of the time is spent by trying to figure out what they feel and how they feel (if they feel at all). Meetings, if at all, seem to be random and entirely on their control. I simply have no control in the matter. This feeling of lack of control is something which I think I keep repeating because it is so familiar. To me, in some perverse manner, this lack of control and emotional ups and down have come to signify love.

I guess the only thing here really is to work with these feelings of lack of control in therapy and hopefully leave the whole experience behind me.

Has therapy made my life easier?

I am going to try to express here my latest feelings around therapy. So I have been somewhat frustrated lately, because let me tell you the last half a year has really been a challenge. I seem to get to the situations with people that are just conflictual. I seem to finally notice how messed up and insecure life around me is. And well, everything seems….a bit difficult to handle at once right now.

My friend told me about cycling. His point was that the cycling never really gets easier, but instead you become faster and faster. I am starting to think that with therapy and life it is the same way. No, your life will not get easier, magically, after certain amount of therapy. Instead, you start taking on new challenges. But these challenges are as difficult as ever. Unfortunately. Maybe I have still not developed far enough to see the point where life indeed becomes easier.

So what am I currently tackling? Well, I am tackling still my addiction to hot and cold guys. I am tackling my financial issues. I am tackling my habit of drinking wine at least during three evenings a week. I am tackling dealing with insecurities in both my professional and personal life. I am tackling being honest with people. All this at once. And let me tell you – it is not easy. It is actually fucking difficult. I feel like I need tons of therapy to handle everything. And yet, I cannot have tons of therapy so instead, I let myself be overwhelmed and try to forgive myself for not having it all together yet.

Strategies I use for abandonment issues

Recent events have pushed to analyze my abandonment issues further. Namely, I recently had a bit of a disagreement with my friend and I noticed how upset I became when he distanced himself. This has also pushed me to describe various ways through which I handle abandonment issues in my life. I believe these ways are perhaps also familiar to other people who struggle with the same problem.

My first way to deal with my abandonment fear is to surround myself with people. I make friends, I try to keep in contact, I try to avoid loneliness. Naturally this has become a lot more difficult with my move to foreign country, but also with people simply starting to have families. At the point where I still had ample choice of friends around, I put much less stress on my relationship. With fewer friends, I make increasing demands to my partner on having to be available to me. Furthermore, now that I am single, I get attached awfully easily. I meet a guy and my mind goes around already planning a future with him.

My second strategy to deal with my abandonment issues is through avoidance. When I get triggered I try to numb myself with alcohol, food or shopping (it could previously also be through contacting friends). I can also work obsessively or watch Netflix. All the replacement activities that there are.

My third strategy is self-improvement. I used to read tons of self-development books with the sole purpose of being more attractive as a friend or lover. I thought, that when I could make myself perfect enough, people would like me, come to communicate with me and definitely not abandon me.

My fourth strategy is distancing and try to control this fear. I have become aware of my abandonment issues and the toll they have on my relationships. So I try hard not to overwhelm people. When I get too obsessed or close, I consciously distance myself. It makes having sincere relationships from my side difficult, because I am constantly keeping in mind – do not overwhelm the other person, do not overwhelm them. Remember! Furthermore, the relationship obviously circles more around the other persons needs than mine.

Finally, something which I do very little these days, I blame the people for abandoning me. I mostly do this with my significant others. I tell them how they should have been there for me and they chose not to be and how unfair it is.

 

Learning to be independent

I have spent my life being dependent on someone. First I was dependent on my mum and then later I was dependent on my boyfriends. It does not make me proud to admit, because well, who would want to say out loud – hey for the most part I have no idea how to take responsibility for my own life. Actually, I am pretty good at delegating this responsibility and then blaming the cruel fate if this does not work out.

So, yeah. Part of my growing up was unfortunately my mother making me dependent only to have more control and power over me. In the process she also put me down to the degree that I lost all belief in my personal capabilities and thought that I always need someone else to take care of me. Let me tell you, learning to take care of yourself at the other part of your twenties is tiresome. Especially since you feel like you are competing with people who have 15 years more experience.

Somebody would probably say here that life is not a competition, but lets face it. It kind of is. It is a competition when it comes to finding a job. It is a competition when it comes to finding a partner. I would reframe and say, people who merely see life as a competition are unhappy. However we cannot deny that there are certain age related expectations which I still to a day fail. I am slowly learning, but I often sense people’s surprise when I have no clue about something which for them seems obvious. Take for instance home insurance. I really did not have much clue about that. There are thousands of other grownup things which I suck at. It makes me embarrassed especially since nobody is going to come and say this to you, because everybody expects that you already know this stuff. Too bad if you do not…

I am still living together with my ex, because part of me is still scared that I will not manage independently. I know that I will move away, but I am gathering strength and courage. I know living alone will be a good thing for me, but there are just so many things I am worried about in the process. This is another thing which most people can do when they are 22 to 25. But it is a long process and I am taking it step by step.

Acceptance towards your mistakes

I am going to describe the recent quite substantial experience I had. Namely, lately I have been walking around with this intense anxiety about being judged. I literally imagined every person at the street looking at me and coming up with all kinds of criticisms. I could not even attend social events because the anxiety got so bad. All I can say is that I guess the therapy really brought out these feelings which had been buried for years.

 
Luckily however, I finally figured out how to release this intense fear. It seems so obvious when I now think of it, but doing it was far from easy. Namely, I understood that there was almost no acceptance and forgiveness in my childhood. All the perceived and actual misgivings and doings were punished harshly. This was how I learned to treat myself as well, never giving any excuses nor understanding towards my issues. I kept mercilessly comparing myself with others and always falling short.

 
I understood that one of the central things I missed when growing up was someone coming and giving me a hug after I had for instance received a bad grade. Not someone telling me that if I do not start excelling at school I might find myself at the street at some point. It was not about denying that I had made mistakes, but rather accepting that I did those mistakes, but still being forgiven.

 
Similarly to my childhood, I myself struggled with forgiveness. I had hard time forgiving to myself for all the things I was not perfect in. I had hard time forgiving myself for the mistakes I did and instead tried to convince myself that those were in fact not mistakes. The point where I was actually able to admit that I have made mistakes, but not scrutinize myself for those, was the moment of release. I could literally feel the anxiety leaving my body and I understood, forgiveness and acceptance are the things I needed for all these years.

Being attracted to inconsistent and (unstable) partners

For years I have been attracted to guys I could never quite figure out. They either sent out conflicting signals or remained unobtainable. I would say that before starting a therapy I was mainly attracted to guys who were never into me, but ever since I started therapy, my attractions have more been towards guys who actually did have some level of interest in me, but they were not quite consistent for various reasons. I think I have finally figured out the reason for this pattern.

See when I was a child, my mother was highly unpredictable. She could be one day in a good mood and be all nice towards me and the other day she could be extremely angry and threaten to kick me out. Such variation is also in fact very characteristic to my ex – Marc. There were days when Marc was the best boyfriend ever, he could give me massages, he would listen to my childhood issues etc. Then there were moment when Marc threatened to leave me or was ranging to the point where I was actually afraid of him. Then there were also period when Marc disappeared as he was visiting his home country.

This all left me very confused. I could never make sense of Marc the same way I could not make sense of my mother. Both had their great moments, so it was unfair to call them evil or what not. In fact during their moments of greatness they were way better human beings than I was. However during their low moments they were also way worse human being than I was.

See the problem with such relationships is that you can never really fully relax. You are constantly alert and unaware of what is coming. When I started dating Marc, I developed a habit, which I never had before with my boyfriends. When he did not call, I would get extremely worried. I thought that maybe it was sign of my neediness and I had just suppressed it with my former boyfriends, but actually it has more to do with me not knowing what was going on. With my consistent partners I could relax even when they did not call, because my first thought was not – oh god maybe they are angry at me, maybe they are going to leave me. However, with Marc I was constantly anxious about having potentially done something that angered him or pushed him to distance himself. It was the exact copy of my childhood environment.

However, it has taken me till now to understand this pattern and fully emphasize with how I have been feeling my whole life. In fact, since this is quite a new discovery, I am sure I will write a bit more about it in the future.

 

 

Rejection fear and social anxiety

I am currently working on something in my therapy which I for a long time refused to admit I have – namely social anxiety. See, my ex Marc pointed this out on regular instances that I have issues with small talk, networking, being social. I did not want to believe this, because before I actually left for my new country of residence, I had plenty of friends and acquaintances. Hell, even today when I can actually force myself to go out, people like me. I am funny and charming. However, every time I need to go out on an event where I do not know people or where I have not met those people for a while, I first need to have huge fights with myself.

So what are these fights about? I am afraid that people will judge me. There is always something which I think is substandard, so I get myself worked out about this perceived misgiving of mine and there we go. When I actually enter the event, all I can think of is how everybody will now be able to see this misgiving and how soon enough they will laugh and I am forced to hide in the toilet. There are just way too many social events from my childhood that ended exactly like this…

On side of this fear is hence me imagining that other people will always find me weird, out of the place; they will find something wrong about me and will relentlessly bully me because of this. The other side is that I am afraid I will have no possibility to leave. I have tried to avoid the events which tie me to the place my whole life. I need to have the idea that I can actually leave.

Interestingly my social anxiety has really skyrocketed during last years. I am not quite sure why that is, there could be numerous reasons, starting with the fact that I have had very few social events during the last years and ending with the fact that my ex has done quite a bit to increase my social anxiety by pointing out all the ways I misbehave. The explanation that I secretly hope could be used is however that this fear is now finally swimming to the surface and I am able to deal with it. It was not like it was not there before, it was just that I was constantly pressing it down. What I am hoping is that with some work I can finally say in half a year or so, feel that I can enter to the random social occasion and just feel good and not have to worry about what other people think of me.