Something that I have potentially struggled for years is feeling like I invest into relationships more than other people. I guess the investment would not even annoy me that much, but what I feel is that I take those relationships far more serious and care more about the people around me than they do about me. Now, I am not really sure if this is just a result of my twisted thinking or if this is anyhow reflection of the reality.
With my ex I would always get super confused about the fact that he could just disappear in his home country and not feel any need to communicate with me. Furthermore, he even told me how he is having such a great time with his friends that, conversations with me would only be a drag. With the ex before that, I ended up moving to another country whereas he could still make up his mind about his feelings for me. I guess it is safe to say that at least in these two relationships I got more attached to these guys than they to me.
This gets me thinking – have I just been investing into people who have not shown equal amount of care and love towards me and who take me more as an option? Have I somehow magically mirrored my feelings to them, assuming that they must feel the same and ignored all the signals which prove the opposite?
I remember how I once had this affection towards a guy, who I now can safely assume never felt anything towards me. Furthermore, he treated me on several occasions rather impolitely. However, I just kept holding on to my idea that he must have some secret feelings towards me.
I think I am slowly starting to understand that I have perhaps overinvested to several of my relationships. However the more important question is why. This is something I need to further explore.
I have a habit – getting stuck on dreaming of a guy who seems reluctant to have anything with me. Maybe it is not specific to me, maybe many women do this, but nevertheless I will first describe you the habit and then the underlying reasons for it.
See when I like a guy I have met, I start obsessing about him. I go into a dreamland where I imagine how and if we would fit together. Then a week goes by and the guy has not contacted me. Instead I will turn towards my friends and ask about their opinions on the guy. I will indulge in daydreaming. Anything but to let go of the poor guy who obviously has not been interested enough to contact me. Then I obsess around whether I should contact him myself. Low and behold, this can go on for months.
This is not really normal, but this was the pattern I got into when I was small. Back then, instead of daydreaming about guys, I daydreamt about having a perfect family, with father mother and a little house. Perhaps also a brother. This dream kept me alive during the darkest hours and I kept reading children’s books in order to keep that alive. At a certain point the dream of a perfect family got replaced by the dream of this one guy that will save me.
My dream was geared towards making me feel safe, supported and loved. Since the real environment around me was lacking in all of these aspects, I created an imaginary world. I guess the parallel is appropriate, my real world is currently lacking family and even a close knit friends circle, so I am keeping alive these dreams of guys I meet and have connection with.
I have yet to work on these feelings of absence on a more thorough manner. It is obvious that this kind of dreaming is a habit which I indulged in for years and it will take a bit to let it go. It has functioned so long as something that kept me alive, so I image there will be resistance about letting it go.
If anyone is wondering what I am talking about here, then you can find a better description of these types here (https://jebkinnison.com/bad-boyfriends-the-book/type-anxious-preoccupied/). Anyways, I started my therapy by being fearful-avoidant type. These types often crave intimacy, but find it difficult to accept when offered. This is the most disturbed type out of all the attachment types and is developed as a result of childhood abuse (mostly). There is little written on how one can change their attachment type or how difficult it may be. So I am going to contribute to this obvious lack of literature here.
So throughout my therapy I have peeled off the protective layers in my psyche so that I could finally face my issue without the intense walls. These walls served a good purpose during my childhood and helped me to deal with my life, but nowadays prove to be problematic. At this point I have reached the ‘level’ where I could categorize myself as anxious preoccupied type. The difference is that now I have lost the protective layers, defending me against abuse and just have a high need for intimacy and love. I have somehow managed to resolve the part of my childhood which made me extremely distrusting of others and forced me to carry a mask and have begun to trust others more and more.
Where I however still struggle quite a bit is in trusting myself. Trusting my ability to manage alone. Trusting myself to be attractive enough for others so that they would stick around. I am still anticipating abandonment and I do not trust that others are there for me after I have not communicated with them for a while. I dare to be more of myself around them than ever before, but I still think that they could walk away any moment. Furthermore, I still think that a lot of their behavior is about me and not about them. Someone being a bad mood – surely it is because of something I did and not something to do with some outside hinder. Someone not responding to my facebook message – surely it is because they do not like me.
Theoretically it is interesting how transforming from fearful-avoidant towards secure for me includes first becoming anxious-preoccupied type. I still have some way to go, unlike I thought couple of months ago. In fact there are still some quite big challenges ahead of me, but I believe I am somehow moving to the right direction.
I have been exploring a little bit more on my recent demotivation. Nothing seemed to be quite worthwhile pursuing. I have not been disinterested or low on motivation for quite a while, ever since basic school I would say, so there was a definite need to explore further these feelings.
So what I have discovered is that my core issue (because I believe everyone has one core trauma) might be that I felt I never mattered. I was not important. My thoughts were not important, my feelings were not important. I am still exploring this, so I cannot provide very elaborate discussions on as to why I felt that way.
However I can talk about compensation strategies which I have used over the years in order to escape this feeling. Mostly I have tried to compensate through achievements and through making myself socially more acceptable, more desirable. I have sought attention and desiring eyes. I have sought after people who would care about me, extensively. At the level which is probably over the top for any grownup relationship.
My feelings of insignificance have on the other hand also led other people to disregard me. To abuse and use me both in private and work situations. Let me tell you, if you do not believe you matter, others pick up on that pretty quickly as well. So this will be one of my major challenges still ahead.
My partner has a high need for alone time. Most of our evenings are spent with him staying at his computer and us barely saying a word to eachother. This has not always been the case, but went worse when he started telling me how emotionally needy I was and how conversations in our relationship were his favor to me. So for a while I just swallowed my needs and felt bad about being emotionally needy. Not only this, but he also pathologized my needs, by telling me how everything was caused by my childhood traumas and how no person in this world could potentially fulfill my emotional needs.
I took and victimized myself. I felt rejected and left alone. I also felt ashamed and took it as my mission to become super independent in therapy so that no one could ever tell me again how they are doing me favors in the relationship. This until……
I realized that the relationship cannot function based on one person’s needs only. Even though he has high need to withdraw, he cannot run this relationship based solely on his need. His need for emotional detachment is no healthier or more natural than my need for emotional closeness. When I finally realized this and stopped judging myself for what he called my emotional neediness, it was easier for me to negotiate the terms of the relationship. I suddenly realized that my needs are important and are not pathological, just different.
To be honest, being able to negotiate my needs was freeing for me. I have spent so much time feeling victimized and feeling as if the relationship runs solely on his terms that the whole idea that I can ask for what I need and it is also important feels like a totally new level of empowerment. It feels as if I do not need to spend my whole life trying to conform to someone else’s standards and go an extra mile to be liked by them, but that I can also have my own demands and needs.
I know that for many people that might seem simple and logical, but for me that is a real game changer.
They say that one of the reasons behind commitment phobia is a fear of expectations. I can honestly admit that I have kept my partners away from my life in order to avoid facing their judgement. I did not want them to witness what a mess I was. Eventually I had to still let someone see this mess – my current boyfriend and even he agrees that I was a hot mess when we started living together.
The funny thing about this fear of disappointing others is hence that it is completely justified. You do not want to go into a relationship warning your partner about you not having your life together. So when is the good point to tell them that well, actually……you have a depression or you are bad at housework etc etc.
In my case I am slowly facing the fact that I will never become a good family person. I believe that ship has sailed. I can try to compensate as much as I want, I can go to psychologist and I can heal my wounds, but there are some things I cannot change anymore. At least that is how I feel.
I grew up on my own. Or as my boyfriend likes to say – among cats. He has on multiple occasions compared me with a girl from a jungle – the one that has no idea how a family life should function. I have no idea how to conform to common meals. I still struggle cooking regularly. I have a tendency to hide myself behind my work. I struggle spending intimate time with my boyfriend. There is just too much to compensate for.
Family matters. Not only for psychological health, but also for our lifestyle. I have spent 30 years living like an hermit. The fact that my boyfriend is not the greatest fan of family life does not help. I feel that for any random guy I would be a complete disappointment in terms of my household skills or the lack of those. I terms of what I cannot do.
I can feel quite confident today in my skills as a social being. As a seductress. Even as partially independent woman. But I am not sure if I will ever feel confident as a housewife. And the fact that I am so painfully aware of all my misgivings in this area does not help.
My whole life I have felt unwanted. This feeling has been following me in life for so long that it has completely clouded my judgements about what is going around me. For instance I never entered to the relationship fully believing that these guys actually wanted to date me. I rather thought, well I could somehow trick them there, but wait until they find out who they are actually dating. Similarly, I felt major insecurity in social situations, where I would always assume that any moment now someone will ‘find out’ who I really am. That I am just pretending to be confident and having my life together.
This feeling of unwanted has also naturally motivated me to engage in series of relationships which were non-commitmental and long for guys who never had equal interest in me. The trouble is, I have real difficulty distinguishing when a guy is unavailable and when I am just based on my deep feeling of unwantedness over interpreting things. For instance I cannot to a date say if my ex boyfriend actually was serious about me and if he was only pushed away by my neediness and my beliefs that he does not love me or if he actually indeed did not love me. The same applies to a degree to my current relationship. I cannot understand if he is serious about me or not.
I have spent so long time believing that people do not care about me nor would choose me if they have a choice that well, all my life has basically been molded around this belief. The trouble is, this belief did not come from thin air. Naturally I spent years of hearing my mother telling me in various forms how I was unlovable and I spent years being bullied and casted out by my peers. These are painful memories which still seem so recent. Every time I feel somewhat left out of some social circle it feels way worse for me than for other people, because it just awakens all these old feelings again. Every time I suspect that my boyfriend never has had an intention to commit to me, it feels like I am not going to get out of this hole ever.
I am not sure how much of the healing has to come inside of me and how much of it has to actually come from changing the outside environment. I am starting to acknowledge that in fact several of the unavailable guys that I chased actually in fact did not want me. I am starting to acknowledge that my last visit to my boyfriend’s home was colored by his friends ‘testing me’ and being in general less than welcoming. I am also starting to acknowledge that many friends have forgotten me and many who I thought were friends cared very little for me to begin with. So everything feels somewhat a mix right now. I am trying to push through, but sometimes the pain is quite overwhelming.
My parents planted an idea in me that once you love somebody, this person will have the power to treat you like shit. Loving means being weak and letting yourself take advantage of you. This is why I never liked dogs. Part of me found it disgusting how these animals would run after their master and stay faithful even if the master was the worst asshole ever.
The message in my childhood was clear – if you love someone, they are going to hurt you. SO better not to love someone so fully. You do not want them to have all this power over you, because people…they cannot be trusted.
This message became even clearer in my therapy when I started enforcing borders. In the middle of the process I cut myself loose from my mother. Suddenly this woman who had treated me like a loyal dog my whole life showed me that she has the capacity to take me into account. The magical shift in my mother furthermore strengthened my idea that love is for weak people. I never made the connection that my mother perhaps was not fully capable of loving anyone and perhaps what made a shift in her behavior was not love but fear.
So I learned to keep my distance. Use push and pull to keep men hooked. Flirt and tease. Anything to not to let someone too close. My boyfriend saw me without borders in the beginning of our relationship. The loyal and the dedicated, doormat kind of love. The only one I knew. Long and behold, he also treated me like shit at this point. Once I finally started distancing myself from him, he began working on the relationship. So once again I took the wrong message home – there is no need to love anyone, they are just going to abuse you.
I am working deeper with my abandonment fear and it has brought up quite a contradiction – namely you can think that someone is not particularly good and still be scared to death of losing them. I still harbor all the negative feelings towards my mother for putting me through emotional abuse and neglect, but I also have to acknowledge that I was constantly scared of losing her.
I was not only scared when she threatened to leave me, but also when she went for her work trips. I was scared when she came home really late. I had lost three other people – my dad, my grandfather and my grandmother. I spent my childhood worrying that I would also lose my mother.
This fear of loss is something which is extremely difficult for me to acknowledge. For the reasons I brought out earlier. How can you potentially miss and yearn for someone who is not treating you nicely? Does this make you a doormat? Are you still a valuable person or should you be ashamed of this feeling?
Surely, it is easy to answer to these questions when we are talking about a child. For a child loosing their parent is always scary. No matter how abusive this parent is. But what if you carry those feelings to adulthood? What if you are constantly scared of losing people who are not treating you particularly nicely?
Being an adult who is afraid of letting go is somewhat shameful. We have all these concepts like codependent or pushover etc. In my case, feeling like I was a pushover for my whole childhood and finally getting angry at my mother for what she had done, made it impossible for me to explore all the fear that was still related to losing her. Somehow I thought that acknowledging this part would make me weak. It would be the most shameful aspect of my growing-up. The part that I still missed and also loved my mother.
Fearful avoidant attachment pattern was the latest addition to the attachment theory and apparently describes only about 4% of people. I can quite confidently say that I have fearful avoidant attachment pattern. As I go deeper into my psyche, I am discovering more and more distortions from my childhood. My boyfriend often functions as a sounding board for that.
So the latest discovery for me was that I never believe that people can be consistently there for me. According to my boyfriend, my mother shows very little motherly instinct. Growing up with her, I got used to the fact that she can totally forget about my existence for weeks. When other parents go away for trips and miss their small children (we are talking about 4-5 year olds), then my mother does not. No, I am not exaggerating, she really does not or well, she has buried these feelings so deep that it does not even occur to her that she might. She avoided building emotional closeness with me so that she could have this freedom of not being tied to anyone else.
Avoiding this emotional closeness also meant that my mother could throw me out to the street and wait for my apology. She could go away from home and sleep somewhere else just to frighten me. So I got used to the fact that she could disappear any moment now. There was no warrantee. She did not have any strong ties with me which could not have been replaced by someone else. I was replacable as a child.
So, my habit of running after emotionally unavailable guys is completely understandable. They do avoid building this bond. These guys can disappear for months and for me this is all part of normality. This is how I imagine love. I never questioned that these unavailable guys must really love me, because questioning that would have also meant that perhaps my mother did not love me.
SO there it is, my idea of love is completely twisted.