Shift away from the question – does he want to marry me to do I want to marry him

I think I am not exaggerating much when I say that women are taught to be obsessed about male approval. I mean, look at the journals – seven ways to cook delicious dinner for your boyfriend, sex tricks to keep him hooked etc etc. I wonder when we will see the day that one male magazine will start talking about how to impress women with seven course dinner or at least recommendations on which kind of restaurant to take the wife. One could argue that men impress women differently, through making money etc etc, but I would still assert that there is so much stress around will he like me and nearly not enough stress on will she like me.

I read relationship blogs for fun. I like to analyze people and forums are the perfect place for this. Once in a while you get a woman asking questions like – my man cheated on me with another woman and now he cannot make up his mind as to with whom he wants to be, what can I do to make him stay? Again, at this point alarm bells should start ringing, because the real question should be, what can and should he do. By rewarding his bad behavior – cheating, you are just going to send out the message, that this is a good strategy to get you working harder.

This all is of course very personal, because I have dedicated my life to being liked by guys. My own relationship has not moved much during the last couple of years and we have had many heated discussions on family and kids. All this time I was trying to figure out how to make him commit, but to be honest, that was the wrong question to begin with. The real question is, do I want to commit to him. Is he measuring up to my standards?

Now this is a question which presumes that you do not have strong abandonment issues. My abandonment issues made it impossible for me to ask this sooner. They also made sure that my boyfriend felt like he was in total control because I would never leave him. I am currently working on my abandonment issues and to be honest as a result I understand how tired I am. I am so tired of guys who cannot make up their mind and drag the relationship on and on. I am so tired of guys who assume that of course it is woman’s dream to have a family and marriage and hence it is the woman who needs to impress him and sell him this idea. I guess I am in general tired of convincing someone of anything. In the end if the commitment is so difficult to make for one side, what is the value or the point?

Commitment phobia and trust issues

I am starting to understand that my addiction towards unavailable men has two main causes. One has been my feelings of unlovability which have now finally been addressed. The other one, however, is feeling that I cannot trust anyone. This is all evasive feelings which is now coming up strongly.

Finally I understand how I in fact do not want to let anyone close enough. I am afraid. I am afraid that they either become mean and put me down or that they will leave me. It is somehow safer to be in distance, because then at least nobody can hurt me. Then they will not endager my safety. I am at least somewhat in control. But somebody coming in, trying to torn down my wall of safety……this is so damn scary.

I am also starting to understand why physical contact has always been problematic for me. Why I needed to get drunk in order to enjoy physical contact. It is again the same feeling – I am unsafe. Someone is coming inside my bubble. They cannot be trusted.

It is very difficult to describe this feeling to someone who has never experienced it before. It is partially the feeling that you are all alone and partially the feeling that someone is trying to torn down the walls that you have built. You do not understand that in fact these walls to assure that you will be all alone. But you want to protect yourself against other people, not to show that you are so alone and defenseless. You assume that if they would know, they would automatically use it. If they knew you are so helpless they would abuse you. So this is how you never even give people a chance to prove the opposite. They will never get close enough for you to be convinced that they in fact are safe.

So who are the people who are willing to be in a relationship with someone like this? Other people with intimacy issues. No sane person would like to hang around someone who is mortally afraid of intimacy.

Wanting someone to fight for me

I am realizing that part of my addiction towards unavailable men or men who blow hot and cold is, that I finally want someone to come for me. Instead of chasing my unavailable parents, I want them to chase me. I want to prove to myself that people do care and are willing to go extra mile for me.

Never before have I realized how much it hurt that my mother was willing to threaten me with abandonment during our fights. I felt like I was a commodity that could be easily cast away. Just as long as I am useful and compliant I am worth keeping, but as soon as I am not useful anymore, well – bye bye.

So I want to reverse the pattern. I want someone to care about whether they are losing me or not, instead of me constantly fighting for their love and care. I want for the first time in my life feel that I am in control, instead of constantly worrying about others abandoning me.

Quite ridiculously though, I am seeking this feeling of control, appreciation and loyalty from all the wrong sources. I am seeking this for people who are unavailable or used to being in command themselves. I am repeating the old patterns of chasing someone’s love and loyalty. No, not only in love relationships, but also in friendships. My desire to have someone fighting for me has lead me to people similar to my parents (yes also my unavailable father who kept showing up once in a while, wanting me to convince him to visit me more often). Somewhere there is a hope that once I get these people to chase me, all the evils of my childhood will be undone.

Slow acceptance

I have been in quite a bit of pain lately. Mostly because my feelings of unlovability and all the cases of rejection have resurfaced. I am assuming that it is part of my therapy work, because anything else would be dad depressing. So I literally woke up with the feeling of needing something to dull the pain and went to sleep with the same feeling. I needed something or someone to take the pain away. Just as I have always needed it. The only difference was that in the past I did engage with activities that would seemingly dull this pain – shopping, comfort eating, chasing unavailable guys, reading horoscopes, dreaming – you know all this stuff. But my main drug was still my love addiction which I carried with me in the hopes that this perfect guy will solve all my problems. The problem was that in order to sustain this idea, this perfect guy and meeting him had to always be in the future. No current boyfriend should do.

So now, I have just stayed with the pain. It hurt a lot to relive all the cases of rejection and to experience again how badly I have been treated by so many people. It made me hopeless and the world seemed like a cruel and judgmental place. People and the world looked exactly like my mother. Until….

Yesterday I felt a tweak of hope. I am not sure how lasting it is, but I could spend today without constantly needing to dream of getting drunk. A certain shift seemed to have happened. When I think back to the most depressing situation of my life – the point where my ex told me that he is not sure what he feels for me, but he has never been in love with me, it stopped being about me. Finally! His unavailability has nothing to do with me, but with him (poor guy, how confused and pressured he must have felt). This is funny, because once this shift has happened, it seems almost impossible to imagine that you once thought of it differently. That you once thought that in fact no one can love you.

I would not go as far as to say that I now can think of all the situations of rejection the same way. But overnight I seem to have developed a somewhat more relaxed attitude towards love. It is slow moving process, I assume, but nevertheless, something that will most likely turn my world around.

Difficulties in enforcing the borders

I find enforcing borders still somewhat an alien concept. It is as if I have read somewhere that I need to enforce borders in order to make other people respect me, but something inside of me still wants to say “yeah, but what if they abandon me”. As a result I feel as an impostor most of the time – it is like telling yourself that you really love veggies, because you know that they are good for you, but on the inside you would just want fries.

This ambivalence sometimes creates contradictory situations where I have enforced a border and then start acting the ways which shows that I would want to take it back. This is not made easier by the fact that the price I pay for my borders is sometimes losing the people who have been in my life for a long time. These are some really difficult choices to make.

Lets take one example from my work. I am leading a group and yesterday was a deadline for one task. However, naturally the task was not delivered. I really had to convince myself to send out the email today which asks people to send their contribution at least by Thursday. I noticed similar self-doubt lurking in – am I doing the right thing, what if this messes up my relationship with my colleagues once and for all. What if what if….

So I keep reading the literature on borders and try to test around with those. However, I am afraid that I leave a rather wishy-washy impression for the outsider as my borders appear in random places and sometimes rather strongly. I suspect that it will take years for me to get right as it took years of bad treatment to lose all the borders to begin with. It sucks and makes for a lot of confusion for both you and others, unfortunately. Furthermore, I feel that in some relationships the disrespect has become so big, that it will be impossible for me to claim respect now. That probably means giving up some more relationships in the future. This unfortunately does not make one feel as if one is improving their life, but rather as if things are only getting more difficult.

Realizing and negotiating your needs in the relationship

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.

Feeling unwanted as a distorting lens

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 experience with martyrs and conditional love

I made a relative breakthrough in my therapy recently. Namely, I realized that I had grown up with the knowledge that I did not deserve my mother’s care nor love. So when she gave it to me, it must have been because she was so giving and not because I actually deserved to be loved.

Yes, my mother was an excellent martyr. Excellent at pointing out what all she had given to me and how selfish I was. The thought of, maybe I deserved to be given all these things never occurred to me. It is funny, because I did not fully buy into my mother being this selfless creature either. I knew she was neglectful, but part of me still believed that I was undeserving of even what little she gave me.

The same pattern has continued in my current relationship. My boyfriend makes an excellent martyr. Unlike my mother, he does give more and he is more generous with his love. However, he has left me in no dark about all the favors that he is continuously doing for me.

I spent years feeling very thankful, but also resentful for everything that he had done for me. After all he was there when I really had a difficult time in therapy etc. It never occurred to me that maybe I deserved to be listened and helped. Maybe it was my value that motivated him doing these things. Maybe he did not love me because he was such a good and giving person, but maybe he loved me because I was such a good person.

Martyrs unfortunately have the tendency to make love about them. You hear them talking about how they are so loving and giving, but you rarely hear them saying how others in fact deserve their love. Hence it is not difficult to pick up a message that maybe you are unworthy of all their care and effort. Maybe you should be eternally grateful, because who else will love such a selfish beast you are?

Feeling like you are not good enough in the relationship

I have spent last years feeling that I am not good enough for my boyfriend. Oddly enough this feeling is so ingrained in me that it usually takes a third person to point out fallacies in my thinking. Before I get into why and how exactly I have felt like I am not good enough, let me explain the background of this feeling.

The conflicts in my family were usually solved in one way – me apologizing for being wrong. Actually, come to think of it, I do not remember a single instance where my mother has ever admitted to being wrong. So it got ingrained in me – I was fallible. So fallible that in fact, I should first and foremost always look for mistakes in myself. Furthermore, I should not have any expectations on how other people should behave with me, but rather I should take care of fulfilling their expectations. This is the pattern I have continued in my relationships. I have been mighty concerned about satisfying my boyfriend’s expectations.

Few days ago a friend asked me introduced me to a mind blowing perspective – in all situations your partner should take into account who you are. It is not fair for him to expect that you become a social butterfly when you are not. This somehow challenged something deep in me. I have spent so much time thinking how I am behaving in imperfect ways that I have totally neglected that my partner in fact has very little consideration and respect towards who I am. If I do not behave according to his expectations in certain situations, I am made to take a blame for my ‘inappropriate behavior’. These situations hardly ever take into account who I am and his interpretation of these is always that I am in fact wrong.

I have yet no idea what to do with this information, but I shall continue my reframing process.

The development of self-esteem in therapy

One of the key topics for all the therapy patients is self-esteem. Or well….the lack of it. I always assumed that I had the lowest self-esteem possible, after all I loathed myself when I started therapy. I recently realized that this might not necessarily have been the case.

Even when my ex told me that he is not sure if he loves me, however would be willing to continue and see if he can develop these feelings for me, I instead decided to break up. Even though I hate changes in my life and I had moved to foreign country to be together with my ex, I somehow found enough strength and self-belief to say – I am worth better than this. I imagined my whole life being spent with someone who takes our relationship only as a duty and I decided, even I deserve more.

What exactly I deserved, was really unknown to me at this point.  I also ended up pining for my ex for two consecutive years, thinking that I have lost the love of my life, but at least, somewhere inside of me I found so much self-belief to do what needed to be done.

So, I am thinking, many of us, even really badly abused, still have some remains of self-esteem left. The problem is that these might be activated only in the case of real crisis. Mostly, these ruins of self-esteem are covered by all the other stuff about how worthless we are. So, the therapy is about peeling off these layers of negative self-talk, so that we can finally get access to our self-love.

Why am I thinking about this now? Well, because I made massive breakthrough in my therapy – coming terms to my feelings of rejection. I am finally actively using the idea of relying on myself to define my self-worth, instead of needing to find some external source. I do not want to get ahead of things, because I still believe that some  work needs to be done, but overall it feels pretty great.