Nobody owes you a relationship 

I am occasionally reading a family forum where once in a while there is a topic about new girlfriend of a man who has chosen to leave his family (of course with the question as to how they can potenially every be happy with this guy knowing he left his former family). Maybe I am not the best to give value judgements here, because no one has ever left me because of some new woman (men were so miserable with me that they did not need a new woman to help them :D). I can understand the feelings of betrayal and disappointment when you are being lied to or cheated on and I think both the new woman as well as man should be held accountable for that (in case there was a parrallel relationship). However what I do not understand is the kind of mentality which I often think follows such posts, which is thinking as if these men owe it to be with the wife.

I think this kind of mentality is very dangerous and I have seen it with my ex best friend as well as my mum in relation to me. Mostly in their case they imagined that because of what they had done for me and because of our history together, they could treat me however they wanted and I somehow owed them my company and loyalty. I am a very loyal person as well as very grateful to everyone that has ever done something for me or showed caring. However, there was a point where even I had enough.

In my best friend’s case there were examples such as me going to my home country for two days and she lamenting about me not allocating her the exact time she wanted. Whereby she just asked why the hell I bothered to come at all if I do not even have time to meet her. Mind me, the next time we met, she was mostly criticizing me and telling me what I do wrong with my life. So that was the point where I understood that she does not put any value to my loyalty. She takes me for granted and even more so, she thinks that I ought to be loyal and offer my company to her. What happened to my mum was pretty much the same.

So every time I hear someone accusing their ex for being an asshole for leaving them, I get suspicious. If someone is unable to point out a single mistake they did in the relationship which might have caused their former partner to leave, I can fully empathize with the leaver. Quite honestly, I would leave as well. It is difficult to be together with someone who thinks that they are never at fault and is so keen on blaming everyone else, besides themselves. I understand if this is a period, but if someone meets me one year after their breakup and they are still mainly convinced that their ex is an asshole and they were the greatest partner ever, then I will try to distance myself from this person.

In my mind people who have the entitlement complex are dangerous. They assume that just because this other person once chose to be with them, that somehow makes them entitled for their love. No, it does not. You actually need to keep treating this person nice; you have to actually listen to them when they are trying to communicate about potential relationship problems. They do not owe you a relationship or family. There is no reason why your problematic behavior should somehow be ignored. If they leave, it is probably because of you both, not only because they were unable to be a good partner.

 

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What relationships teach us

Years ago my main issue with relationships was that the guys I was attracted to, were not even interested in me. We could explain this in many ways, through suggesting that my self esteem was so low that I could never like anyone back that liked me – you know I would never belong to a group that accepted me as a member. We could also suggest that my self esteem was so low that I scared away the guys I was interested in with my desperate people pleasing and my fear of ever being authentic. I think it was probably a combination of those and some more things.

Then there was a period when I was mostly falling for guys that were already in relationships. Those same guys, once being single and offering me a real possibility of a relationship, scared the hell out of me, because now I was faced with intimacy. Intimacy, at this point, however was so scary that I really could not handle it. So it was safe to fall for committed guys, because then I could actually indulge myself in dreams which greatly exaggerated my readiness for a relationship.

So, I seem to have entered to the third phase of my relationship experiences. Now I am falling for guys who are indeed interested in me and single, but still have glaring emotional issues and are either hesitant to get into a relationship with me or flat out tell me that they cannot offer me a relationship. So how could I explain away this occurrence? I am afraid, at this point I cannot, because I probably have not learned the lesson yet. See the two previous lessons seem obvious now, but only now from the distance. Once I was in this mess, getting those experiences, I never really realized what the problem was. The good sign that you have moved pass the issue is once you actually start realizing what was wrong in you that you were trying to fix with these experiences.

Unfortunately for me, right now I am just confused and still trying to understand the reasons for my current pattern in dating. I know that unless I learn the lesson and change, I will keep on repeating those experiences.

All the relationships without emotional intimacy…..

See I have had plenty of relationships and they have not been short. What surprises me today is however how little emotional intimacy almost all of relationships had. It is funny really, because just the fact that you have a relationship might make you think that you are doing quite well, however it is often a misjudgment. However, first things first, what do I mean by emotional intimacy?

Emotional intimacy is really the courage to open up about yourself. If you have a fight, it takes a lot to say, your behavior hurt me because I am afraid you will leave me or I am scared that I will never be enough. A lot of people would instead choose to say to their partner how their behavior is totally inadequate. This is usually how distancing in the relationship starts. Both sides throw accusations on one another and neither dares to open up. Sometimes they do not even know, because they have hidden their vulnerabilities so deep down. In their mind they are just angry or annoyed, they do not even recognize that deep down there is either fear or sadness.

So, in most of my relationships I kept these vulnerabilities neatly hidden behind a strong wall. I praised myself for the ability to read my partners much better than they could read me. I was proud over my ability to put on a mask and hide parts of myself. Letting these parts out would have meant that I was weak and that I could be hurt by my partners.

You know, usually there are two such people that get together and then play a relationship. If you have one person that dares to be vulnerable and the other that is completely closed, the relationship fizzles out quite quickly. Why? Because the daring person notices that they are not satisfied by the half-hearted investment of their partner. So given my own emotion unavailability I can only make guesses about my former partners.

If emotional intimacy was not something that was practiced at your home, you will probably have some quite abstract feeling as if something is missing in your relationship, but you cannot really put a finger on it. I did not feel particularly attached to my partners for a long time. I thought that it was because I did not love them and that love was some mythical thing that depended on my partner. I never understood that maybe I, myself, was unable to love at this point.

To be honest, my case is not singular. I look around and I see many people avoiding emotional intimacy and vulnerability in their lives. After all it took me years to understand what it is and how it functions. I still struggle with practicing it, because man, it feels scary. But I am trying, at least, now.

It is Ok to want to be loved

I think current self-development literature is often counterproductive towards those with low self-esteem and feelings of unlovability. Namely you can read from everywhere how you need to love yourself first, how other people cannot be solutions to your self-esteem issues and how in general you should just work harder on yourself if you feel that way. Let me tell how these sentiments have impacted me.

First, they have made me feel ashamed for wanting to be loved. You feel as if there is something so deeply wrong with you for not feeling it inside you and for seeking other people to love you. Second, they have me be stuck with guys that were either totally unavailable or ultimately did not love me. I just assumed that me feeling unloved in these relationships was my deep personal problem and maybe, actually these guys did love me, I was just too needy. Furthermore, since I was notoriously broken and had this deep ingrained issue of not being able to provide for myself, what other people did, maybe I did not even deserve a loving man?

It is easy to stress on self-sufficiency and the need to love oneself and not be dependent on someone else’s love if you have had a good loving family. It is clear that if you felt support throughout your childhood, you also developed self-compassion, empathy and healthy self-esteem, so you probably do not need to seek for these feelings in other people. However, coming from that position and telling to people that spent their childhood feeling unloved, that they should not look for other people to feel loved is pretty short sighted. It is almost like telling to a five year old kid that they should just love and provide for themselves and be more independent and not rely on their parents. Usually that was how these kids that felt unloved got treated. They got told that their dependency needs as well as ingrained wish for love from their parents was inappropriate or downright bad.

So here is my suggestion as to what people that have felt unloved their whole life need. Instead of telling them to learn to love themselves, I think we should tell them that they in fact did miss out on something big. It is OK for them to feel unloved and look for love, because they in fact were never coddled and loved. There is nothing and absolutely nothing wrong with how they are feeling, because it is rather an accurate representation of reality. Hence, there should be no shame around feeling unloved. It should be acknowledged that there is a strong reason why someone does feel unloved and there is a strong reason for them to look for love outside. There is nothing wrong with wanting to be loved by other people, because most people that judge you for being needy or feeling unloved had the very same desires, the difference is just that those desires were met.

Social anxiety and female competition

So social anxiety is something I have suffered from my whole life. Mind me, most of the time I was unaware that I was suffering from it, because I thought it was normal to every time when one is going to the party try to suppress the overwhelming anxiety. Try to tell to yourself that everything will be OK. I also thought  it was normal to always want to have some friend or boyfriend with me, as emotional support.

Let me tell you, this is not normal. This is not how most people feel. This is ultimately also not how I want to feel. However, I still feel that way.

Do not make a mistake of assuming that I am a bad communicator. I think I am actually quite good, socially. It is just that every time I go to social event, I remember my early and teenage years of relentless bullying and it my mind, it will all just repeat itself.

I really do not have good ten minute advice on how to combat the situation. Believe me, I, myself, am surprised that I still struggle with it, even after all these years of therapy. However, being aware of it, I will try to work on this next.

My anxiety is mostly about girls. I know, how to handle guys. Not a single guy has ever bullied me. I usually get along perfectly with guys (unless they are my boyfriends…..Ok that was a joke). But girls….

Take the last event that I participated. I was joking around with some guys and they made it more sexual than it needed to be. However, I caught all these judgemental looks from other girls. Well, mind me, the first girl was already judging me because of my profession, telling me that what I do is pointless. I mean, why? I still cannot understand what makes someone tell to the other person that their day job is not worth anything….

But the problem is, I feel threatened by the looks and by the words from these girls. It reminds me of my school years. I know that if one girl takes a disliking towards you, they will be able to collect a lot of their friends and convince them to hate you too. It is that simple. It never works like that with guys, but with girls the pack-mentality is just so much stronger. Plus, I seem to somehow be good at making girls my enemies and even after 30 years, I have no idea why and how. There is always this one girl at the party that takes an instant disliking towards me.

So, parties for me are stressful because of girls. If it was a party filled with guys, I would go there without a care in the world. I really struggle to see how come, my ’enemies’ are always girls. I don’t think it is because I am super charming or hot, there is something else at play here. I am not even sure if the solution to my problem would be to work on the reason girls tend to dislike me or to work on me caring so much and being intimitated by it.

Don’t get me wrong, I have good female friends. I am not one of those people, who hangs out only with guys, thinking that girls are stupid. In the latter case I would understand why other girls might dislike me, but currently it really is a mystery.

What confidence can and cannot do?

In the world of self-help literature, I often stumble upon these cookie-cutter suggestions which lead you to think that all it takes is to be confident. As if there is this magic quality that successful people embody – confidence, and once you get there, you will be successful as well. I am not going to discuss here the fact that confident people usually embody other qualities which have made them feel confident in this particular sphere, rather I am going to give couple of examples from my life which illustrate how merely confidence does not cut it. Examples could apply to many areas of my life, but I chose to use dating in this particular post.

I am a rather sarcastic person and often use teasing in my communication with guys. Unfortunately in my particular country of residence, sarcasm and teasing tend to scare guys. Now over the years I have become more confident about myself and my humor which leads me to use it not more frequently, but perhaps more assertively. What do you think is the effect on my dating life and on the numbers of guys I can score?

When the first example was cultural, then lets also give a personal case. I have always been somewhat dreamy, inattentive and walking in the clouds. The difference is that these days I do not feel the necessity to constantly apologize for my inattentiveness. However, there are plenty of guys that cannot tolerate such characteristics in a woman. No, these guys have not started to like me any better after I stopped apologizing for my inattentiveness. They will still be judgmental about me. I also doubt that they will respect me more only because I these days feel better about myself.

My point here is that confidence can only get you so far. In certain contexts confidence can be counterproductive. You must all know someone who is crossly over evaluating their abilities in a certain area. What confidence can do, is make you feel more relaxed and less obsessed about other people’s opinion, however, in the context of dating, it will not automatically make you attract more dates. Often times there are certain other qualities which are extremely valued by the majority of men (frequently depending on a particular culture). So the lack of these qualities will probably make you the minority taste. If you are confident, it probably will not matter to you.

The problem is, a lot of unconfident people view confidence as something that allows them to compensate for their lack of confidence. This is a very confusing sentence, so let me try to clarify it further. If you lack confidence, you are immensely invested into how other people perceive you. You think that if they only liked you, you would feel better about yourself. My point here is that, confidence will not automatically make other people like you. What confidence can do, however, is making you invest less meaning to other people’s opinions. So there might not be a huge impact on your social life, but there might be a vast impact on how you feel internally.

Rejecting the people that like you and chasing people who do not accept you

For years I have watched the photos and the behavior of popular self-confident girls.  There always seemed to be some inescapable gap between me and them. I wanted to be one of them. I did not even want to be friends with them, I wanted to be them. Most importantly, I wanted to be someone else, not me.

I have come to the conclusion that this has resulted from my mum never approving me. Her constant criticisms and statements such as – “I wish this girl would be my daughter instead” or “Sometimes I wish you had never been born” or “When I was your age, I was much …..(smarter, responsible, prettier etc.)” led me to feel like there was something wrong with who I was. Not with my behavior, just with who I was.

The people that actually liked me, well, assumed that they were losers like me.  Unconfident, ashamed of themselves, not really measuring up for someone else than me. So they had to accept me. Any guy that actually accepted and genuinely liked me got dismissed because of aforementioned dialogue in my head. I only wanted guys that did not see me as sufficient, because well, that meant they had a decent taste and could choose someone better.

I spent years trying to become someone else. This criticism that other people gave me was in my mind treated as the truth not a particular preference of this person. Naturally I chose as my partners and even my friends people who similarly to my mum were never happy with me. So I spent so much energy trying to keep them satisfied (because I never even entertained the possibility of them being happy with me).

It is somewhat weird that I am starting to wake up to the feeling that I was always an OK person and there were always people who genuinely liked me. Granted I believe that I had many problematic behaviors, but as person, in my core, I was OK. Naturally because of therapy and because of having worked with a lot of my natural weaknesses, I am a better person today, but the whole premise of my self-development and the idea of turning myself to a different person was wrong.

Today, my friends are genuinely weird people. Meaning, they would probably never win any popularity contests. However, I feel more accepted than I have ever felt before. I cannot say that I am completely without fear, no my relationships feel still for me fragile and I am afraid of alienating people, but at least I am starting to get the sense that the people currently in my life actually like me. This is the result of me finally choosing to surround myself with people that can appreciate me for who I am, not to people who lead me feel insufficient.

 Do people-pleasers know who they really are?

To be honest, lately I have this weird feeling that I am losing myself. There is this fear of not knowing who I am anymore, becoming totally lost in my being. I think it makes sense that I would feel that way. I think it makes sense because…..

Well, as a people pleaser I have always identified through others. Making other people happy and assuring their support made me. They appeared as pillars of support in an unsafe environment. Now that I am trying to become more independent and rely less on others I am also faced with the fact that most of my life I have actually had little idea who I was. I was whoever I needed to be in order for other to be happy. Yeah, I had some limits, but in reality, not really. I would go to extreme lengths to grant people’s approval. If most of your life has been defined by being what others want you to be, how would you even know who you want you to be?

It is quite ironic really. I probably have more idea on who my mum wanted me to be, who my ex wanted me to be or who a random man on the streets wants me to be. I don’t think I have ever asked what kind of a person I want myself to be. You know, I, without the ulterior motive of – I want to be liked by as many people as possible.

Given all this, it is no wonder that I find myself confused and feeling as if I am disappearing. I literally have no idea who I am anymore without all these judgmental people around me. Suddenly I could have the freedom to be myself except, I have no idea who myself is. Neither do I have much idea how to start looking for myself in thirties. I mean, it is not like google will give you many hits on – how to find out who you really are. So in the meanwhile I guess I will have to accept feeling and being lost…..

How to deal with guys that disappear and reappear

So, because I had an experience with a guy that disappeared and also partially because my ex had this habit, I have thought about this topic lately quite a bit. I think the most difficult for me to accept is the fact that ultimately I was not as important to those guys as they were to me. This is a tough pill to swallow and I have been trying to avoid accepting it. Somehow we always try to deceive ourselves thinking as if he – just is denying his feelings, he loves me, but does not know it ….fill in the blanks. On one hand deception serves to avoid feeling bad about ourselves in this moment, but on the other hand it is also what keeps us in denial.

I lived in denial with my ex for years. Something in me refused to admit that he just was not committed to our relationship. It was easier to think that I am over-reacting or I am needy or whatnot. Well, I was all these things as well, no doubt about that, but still it does not erase the fact that my ex was never as invested as I was.

I have one male friend who keeps appearing in my life once in a while with occasional short messages. To me his behavior has always been somewhat confusing because I am thinking – well what kind of a friendship is that? I mean what is the point?  Until today I realized. I bite every time. His messages make me feel important and I invest emotionally and write a really nice and loving response. That is why he keeps messaging to me occasionally…I mean who would not want to have some dosages of love for so little effort?

The same applies to my ex and the disappearing guy. I mean if you had a chance to get your dosage of love and even your sexual needs met without fully investing, would you say no? I mean everything would be right and nice, if I did not emotionally invest. If I managed my emotional investment the same way these guys do. I mean lets face it, a guy who writes to you a short message in every four months does not invest anything. It would be stupid of you to them treat him as dear and close friend.

So, I have been emotionally investing into people that have not done the same with me. Not at least to same extent. This is a difficult topic however, because I do not want to be a cold person. I want to be a warm person, but I need to learn how to make my investments to other people correspond to their investments to me. Furthermore, I need to understand why I am so gullible that one facebook message can somehow turn me over and I can instantly become loving and caring. I can now clearly see that I am in a habit of overinvesting and letting both my partners and friends take advantage of me in that way. But I have no idea how to correct this nor how many friends I have left at the point where I have critically evaluated my investments.

So to go back to the original topic – the way you deal with the guy that disappears and reappears, you do not get invested emotionally. He has proven you with his actions that he is not that invested. I mean if he can disappear, his investment is not that high. So, you hold yourself and do not get invested either. You do not behave like me with my friends by giving him love whenever he makes appearance again. Instead you treat him based on his actions and he has just acted like a casual distant acquaintance so this is the kind of spot he should have in your life and in your heart.

Why some people act entitled?

I am currently visiting my mother and that has given me so much food for thought. Today, inspired by a recent event with my mum, I wanted to talk about entitlement.

The event in itself was following. My mother asked me to help her with something. However it quickly appeared that she had most her days booked and she in fact had only very few times she could do the chore. Instead of telling me, OK fine, I must have made a miscalculation here, she started blaming me for never helping her and resorted to her room where she sat pouting the whole evening. This behavior just puzzled me so much, because there were so many things wrong here. I mean…..

If you ask someone a favor, in my mind you are going to be accommodating towards this person and you do your damnest to agree on a time that fits them. What you definitely do not do is to demand that they cancel their plans. Finally if they refuse, you do not go into pouting mode, which only lets the helper know that you are unable to take into account their needs.

So I concluded that there are some people that just feel entitled. Mind me, my mum does not feel such entitlement about other people, but she feels it about me. She feels that she is entitled for accommodating and nice behavior from me, irregardless of how she behaves herself.

And now comes the moment of honesty. My ex told me numerous times that I acted entitled during our relationship. I never understood what he was talking about. In my mind he had issues with people’s expectations (and he did). However, I am now starting to see his point of view. So why did I act entitled?

I acted entitled, because I thought asking people for things made me inferior. It set me to the position of one man down, so I did not do that with strangers, but in relationships, I thought I should not have to do that. This imaginary position of inferiority made me feel so bad that I would rather go around and tell him what he owed me than actually ask for things. Of course, my ex would also go around telling me constantly what he had done for me, so this did not help with my feelings of inferiority.

Anyways, based on my own behavior, I assume that people who act entitled feel extremely vulnerable when asking something from someone. In order to avoid feeling vulnerable, they would rather go and aggressively demand it, because then the other people do not see that they are actually in need of help. Instead they show as fighting for their rights or whatnot. Anything but not weak and vulnerable. I think, at least for me, understanding where this entitlement comes from, makes it easier to deal with it.