Relationship patterns when you feel unlovable

I have always held this deep belief that there was something fundamentally unlovable in me. Low and behold multiple experiences with guys who were not all that smitten with me did not help with it. I translated these experiences with these guys always in one way – yet another proof that I could never be loved.

There were multiple reasons why these guys were not smitten by me, but I always gave them one interpretation. Some guys I did not even like that much, but in the moment of break-up it all became down to me thinking I was unlovable and trying to hold on to the relationship as strong as I could. It was not rational and on several occasions my former partners indeed saw that there was no point in attaching oneself to the bad relationship.

But then there was another thing. I subconsciously sought out guys that had problems with vulnerability and intimacy. You know the group of people – for them feeling their feelings seems either threatening or promises to bring about many negative feelings from the past. So they have decided not to feel.

Normal people do not date people that are blocking their capacity to feel. Normal people don’t think that if they just put in enough effort, somehow their unemotional dates become loving partners. I dated these guys and spent enormous energy in trying to convince them that I in fact was worth loving (not that I actually believed it myself).

So what did I do? Well, people pleasing is the most common pattern…but then there is also achieving and proving your value through being good in everything…but then there is also the kind of power dynamic where both sides know that you are the one that needs this relationship more….And whoever needs something more, has to make sacrifices, right? I mean, if you are dependent on getting their love, you better make it worthwhile for them to be with you. And then of course you have these awkward moments where they have again showed you their lack of emotional involvement…be it then by telling you that they are not sure if they love you….be it by suddenly disappearing and reappearing…where your natural instinct should be to walk away….albeit people that do not think they are lovable instead try to fight harder to get the love of a person that has shown them that they don’t love them.

This is a highly tumulus circle and let me tell you…if you feel unlovable inside, you are not going to choose a loving partner. I mean – there has to be something wrong with a club that accepts me as a member. You choose someone who is ambiguous at best, but at worst looks down on you for trying to win their love.

How much effort should you invest to the relationship before you give up?

In the past, I seem to have had fundamental differences with several of my partner’s on how much effort is enough in the relationship – as in when are the problems too big to solve. I always thought that these guys never worked hard enough, never wanted to look at their problems and instead hoped that the next relationship will be less problematic.

It is probably not that all men are like this, but it is more that the men that I have been attracted to have been like this. There is probably a reason for that.

I think some of my efforts have been motivated by my deeper level of dissatisfaction with myself and my thoughts around there never being anyone who finds me acceptable as I am. So there has been a dysfunctional part in my patterns with these guys.

Being aware of this dysfunction has made me question my ideas on how much work or effort one should invest before giving up. It has also made me understand things on a new level.

I think there can be basic incompatibility between people. This is definitely not something where I would encourage effort. I have been together with guys who obviously wanted to be together with another person with a different personality. The fact that I somehow wanted to mold myself into a different person shows quite well my deeper issues.

But then there are certain dysfunctions that people have. For instance my ex was deeply insecure about his attractiveness. In my opinion it was his personal issue which he should have worked with. I was willing to help him with that, but I always thought that he somehow secretly hoped that this would not be an issue in another relationship. He sure blamed me for not being more sexually active and all the other things. Well, guess what? – my ex is feeling even more insecure now that he is single and can spend hours complaining to me about his insecurity.

The latter case, if you have such issues and dysfunctions in relationships I think it is quite obvious that you should work on them. Not even for the sake of relationship – but for yourself. You walk away hoping it will be all different with a different person, but it probably will not be. Surely, I also made some critical comments to my ex after he put on some weight and did other things that probably contributed to his insecurity, but I was never the reason why he felt insecure. For him it was just easier to ignore the work that he needed to put in to address this issue of his and blame me.

So for me when you have some bigger dysfunctional patterns you definitely should work on them. I think it is also reasonable to be willing as a partner to support and encourage this work. Naturally there are certain boundaries as in if your partner is a drug addict and spends all your salary on drugs you might want to question your choice to be together with this person. However, otherwise I think it is reasonable put in efforts from both side to work with such issues.

What does caring about another person mean?

Lately I have been pushed to think more about what the idea of caring means to us. When do you say that someone cares about you? And I have come out with an idea that caring means that the other person does everything to alleviate your pain. See this pain can be both emotional or physical…but they care, they want to be there for you when you are hurting.

It is easy to be with someone when they are on the roll. When they have achieved some success and feeling that they are going upwards with their life. They will be happy and confident and will not present any issues for you as their partner or friend. There is a reason why they say that you will find out who your true friends are during your troubles, but it is not only about some people escaping out of selfishness when you need help. It is also about some people genuinely not being able to be there for you because of their own struggles.

I have been the latter person. I have been so overwhelmed by my own emotional issues that I have failed to be there for my friends. So obviously defining caring based on people being there at your crucial moments might not be enough.

It is difficult to dedicate your care and attention towards other people while you are hurting yourself, badly. I have had periods in my life where I was absolutely incapable of caring for someone else. But events in other people’s lives do not ask if you are in a place to be there for them. So hence we run into a trouble – how do we actually determine if someone cares for us?

I guess to me it boils down to guilt. But this is a rather difficult one, because people might not always express their guilt. I know that I still feel guilty about certain moments when I have not been there for someone who I thought needed me. But guilt is a very internal feeling…you might never find out if the other person feels guilty or not. However, what usually happens when someone feels guilty is that over the years, when they are in a better place, they try to make amends. They might not say much, but they will try to be good towards you. However admitting that you have not been there for someone that needed you requires maturity that a lot of people don’t have. No one wants to see themselves as a bad guy…So here comes the real punchline…if someone is willing to admit to themselves that they have not been there for you..they have not been the best friends…whatnot…and is willing to make amends..this is when you know that they care for you.

We need to talk about neediness

Neediness was thrown around a lot in my previous relationship, to the point where I now feel that whenever I wanted something my ex was unwilling to give to me, he just categorized me as needy. The situation is a bit more complicated though, because I do feel that my abandonment and loneliness issues made me cling too much. The fact that I could see myself as needy made it so much more difficult to actually understand when my ex had a point and when not.

The way I see it – needy – is an empty vessel word. The only point I see with the word is to assign guilt for a certain issue to someone. We had a fight about me being out late….lets not explore the fact that perhaps I could have called, but instead repeat the statement that you are needy. Few fights ever get solved if you just call your partner needy.

But the reason why I find neediness such a pointless word is – needy about what? Is it fair to for instance say that when my partner wants more sex than me they are needy? Or when they want me to cook for them, but I am unwilling to do this – are they needy? The word neediness takes an issue which should be about the mutual discussion and interaction and somehow frames one person as solely responsible for it.

In my case, my ex achieved with his constant comments on my neediness the state where I was afraid to need and want anything from him. When I needed something from the store, in the end I would never call my ex, because I could as well have received a lecture on all the things he constantly needed to do for me. His criticism on my neediness made me look at relationships in a rather unhealthy way – namely as a union where the purpose was to not need the other one at all.

Today I think it completely healthy to need one another. The whole purpose of the relationship is to be stronger together than apart. I admit, that there are unhealthy dynamics, such as for instance co-dependency, where there is obviously unhealthy need for the partner. However, I still would not call even co-dependent partners needy, I mean what does this term really give for describing the complex situation. Instead I would focus on particular needs which might be deemed appropriate or inappropriate. My fear for my ex whenever he was being out late and inability to fall asleep was what I would call an overreaction.

People that do not communicate their borders

So I have had multiple cases with people who never really communicate that they are either annoyed or feel violated by some behaviour of mine until it is too late. At this point they either lash out and have gathered months and months of resentment or just decide to disappear. I guess behind this behaviour is a fear of rejection and abandonment – they think that when they actually establish a border they will be abandoned.

Boy do I know quite a lot about fear of abandonment and rejection as well as willingness to please everyone. I also do know about this sense of violation and silent anger that starts to build in you as you think that people are exploiting you and do not notice what you are doing for them. However, unfortunately this was my problem and not the problem of people that I thought were exploiting me.

People behave with you they way you let them behave with you. Although this statement sounds like the world is full of other people just waiting to exploit someone, the situation is usually much simpler. Most people simply do not desire to spend hours and months figuring out where your borders lie. Surely there are some people who deliberately exploit other people or do outrageous things, but most people truly are not like this.

I have now been on the other side of the coin and as I mentioned, had various experiences with people that did not communicate their borders with me. I find these people truly iffy and unreliable. Namely, because they put the responsibility for their feelings on me. They assume me to take a close look at how they are feeling and what behaviours are acceptable in their eyes and whatnot. To be honest sometimes this seems like a full time job. Furthermore, usually these people tend to also run from one extreme to another – on one hand they follow their fear of rejection by being overly accommodating and then they lash out following their feeling that they were used. This kind of pending between two extremes is just very confusing.

So in general these days I find it much easier to hang around with people who are able to communicate their wishes and exert their borders if need be. Furthermore, I find this kind of lashing out or disappearing to be increasingly emotionally exploitative itself, even if it is not meant to be like this. But it does take a lot of toll on people who are at the receiving end of this behaviour.

How do you know if it is constructive or destructive feedback in a relationship?

Years of rather questionable relationships and well, lets face it, also my mother’s continuing negative feedback made me feel like a failure. Several of my exes were always rather quick to point out what was wrong with me, some of them probably not completely understanding how hurtful it was. The thing is, I still believe it is important to be able to receive criticism in a relationship. So throughout receiving negative comments from my exes I always pushed myself to change and probably also gave them more credit than they were worth.

From the other side….I have criticized my exes as well. I have suggested some helpful and not so helpful changes. I have been selfish in my advice to my exes as well as more helpful….But how do you distinguish this?

For me it seems that there are two aspects about negative feedback or attempts to change your partner. The first question one needs to ask is – is it something minor I am trying to change or is it a vital part of the other person. From my side, several guys have tried to make me earthlier and more practical and this has never been who I was. Trying to change this aspect of me is like saying that they reject me from the core. Mind me, I do think I still relatively practical in my usual crowds but this is beyond the point. The other question one needs to ask is – is this change that I am suggesting for the benefit of my partner or for the benefit of me. I once suggested my partner to change his hair colour. Mind me I was 17, but I still feel bad and embarrassed about it. On the other hand, I suggested one other partner to work with his perfectionism, also bringing forth some strategies….I don’t feel bad about the second one, because I could see how his perfectionism led him to miss deadlines and to spend hours just obsessing about something which, in my opinion, for most people would have been fine anyways.

These two points apply both for the criticism and feedback that is given to you as well as the feedback that you give to others. Ultimately it is also quite clear that for instance in the case where I suggested my ex to change his haircolor…haircolor was not really a problem. Rather it was something superficial that was easy to point out without any deeper analysis. Most likely when you come up with all these things which your partner should change that are rather superficial – they are not really the real problem. In my particular case at seventeen my problem was the lack of spark between us. We were really good friends and still are, but there was never a real spark or chemistry between us. But instead of putting it on him, I should have just analysed my own feelings.

Loving people for who they are or for what they do

Some months ago I was seeing someone who made me uncomfortable. I never understood why he made me uncomfortable and there was still a fascination about him. He had something unexplainable and that always gets me going. I have been delving on this uncomfortable moment on and off and I think I finally figured out why I felt uneasy with him.

I grew up trying to prove myself to my mother. I turned to all kinds of achievements to win my mum attention…however, she was always busy with her work. She hardly ever took a second look at my achievements and usually would just encounter them with some achievement of hers which surely was much more impressive. The message I got was that I just ought to try harder. I mean the problem was just that I had not been impressive enough with my achievements not her premise that I ought to somehow earn her love, right?

I realized, I had a same issue with a guy, lets call him Mark here. I guess we do search for our parents in our partners, hah. The way Mark talked about his exes always got to me, it was like they were more like objects…he would tell me what they did for him. It was not a very obvious thing, as I as well, could on occasion mention what my ex did for me. However, I think there is a particular way of talking about relationships as some kind of exchange of goods versus two people sharing something beyond this exchange of goods.

I do think that with Mark, he discovered that there was more between us, which made understanding the whole dynamics a bit more difficult. But ultimately I would also hear complaints about things I had not done for him with him also listing things he had done for me. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think grownup relationships should be unconditional and if one side is pulling the whole caravan there needs to be discussion on that. However, there is a very subtle difference there as to whether the discussion centres around – “You have not done enough to earn my love” or “I feel a bit ignored by you and wish you would be more expressive with your love.” It is whether what you do is the basis of their love or if the love is there, but what you do is not enough to assure the other person that you love them as well.

I am of the opinion that the first kind of love – based on the exchange of services, is easier to ditch. I mean if you have to leave your hairdresser you might perhaps feel sad for a bit, you might have even developed some personal attachment towards this person, but ultimately you are sure you will find another hairdresser that can offer you as good service. The same, in my opinion, happens with relationships that are focused on exchange…..You might be sad that you lost this guy who was oh so good at listening to you or this woman that looked so fabulous, but in the end these are replaceable qualities.

I do think that most relationships are a mix of both – valuing and seeing the other one for they are, but also focusing on what one can get from the relationship. That is normal. We should not invest into things that do not give anything to us. What I do think, however, is that the ratio of how much there is love for whom someone is and for what they give is different. In my opinion, the first one should make up over 50% of the considerations in the ideal case.

 

How to distinguish between friends with benefits and dating?

When I was still little….I mean in the end of my teens and beginning of my twenties, distinguishing between serious intentions and not so serious intentions was simple. Men stood up, invited me for dates and then we would have this first awkward kiss and everything felt clear. Nowadays I feel nothing is clear anymore. We are talking about new dating phenomena such as submarining, ghosting, benching and what not. The ambiguity is just…….

What has perhaps confused me the most though, is that the men that I thought pursued only some kind of friendship with benefits scenario with me seemed to be of the opinion that they were offering more and moreover, are upset about my lacking input. Perhaps I am old school, but I sometimes really cannot shake off this ideal where you just go out, on multiple dates (and no the guy does not have to pay) and then it progresses and both of you know that it is serious. But how do you know?

Well, I have thought about it a little and for me there are really three indicators. The first indicator is that there is an idea of shared future or future plans. You are interested in each other’s future goals and at some point, you even start to discuss the commonalities between your future goals.

The second thing is that there is consistency. You don’t have to figure out where they disappeared for days or weeks on end. There is also coherence in what they are saying, they don’t tell you one thing on one day and the other thing at the other day.

Finally, there is a certain common life that you are beginning to have. They let you in to their life and you don’t feel like an outsider or just some occasional visitor. They want you to be part of their life and you don’t have to force your way in.

So, what happened then with these guys that were so disappointed by my lack of effort? Well from my side, I did not see those three elements. The idea was often that we meet on an irregular basis (not necessarily only for sex), that we are free to go wherever we want in our future (no future planning) and I knew bits and pieces of their life, but I was never really part of it. So I naturally assumed that these guys were only interested in some kind of loose friends with benefits scenario which I on several occasions declined.

The idea of those guys that somehow I should have put in more effort to obtain something more with them or somehow push things further surprises me however. This is still something I cannot quite make sense and will be exploring further. How can someone who is acting inconsistent want that the other one invest all their effort and time in them – where would they even come up with this idea? (Also a disclaimer, I think both women and men inhabit this low effort behavior and have these expectations of the other side needing to invest more to catch their attention)

 

Are you willing to compromise yourself to be in a relationship?

Today I was hit by a weird thought – I would rather be on my own than aspire to change who I am for someone else ever again. Let me just caution that, by aspiring to change I don’t mean occasions when your partner asks you to give up putting your feet on livingroom table or when they ask  you to, instead of silent treatment, work on sharing your feelings beforehand…..no, I mean people who ask you to change some significant part of you.

While I was writing and exploring the issue of gender roles yesterday, it hit me, that I have spent years aspiring to become someone else for my partners. One of my exes thought I was too impractical and I somehow became more earthly while being with him….he even wanted me to choose another specialty at the university…..Another one was annoyed about my messiness, my lack of housekeeping and also eventually my practicality….I worked hard to become more practical again….This list could continue. But this is eventually not about my partners, it is about me deeming that being in a relationship was more important than being myself.

To be honest it all started early on. My mum was never happy with me. So I changed. Some of the habits I picked up were useful. For instance, thanks to my mum I am always on time and I always meet my deadlines. Some of these things were not so useful – like learning to be ashamed of who I naturally was and cover it up and hide it as long as I could.

So for the most part I was not conscious about my pleasing activities, I just naturally tried to be more like my boyfriends wanted me to be. During this activity I got lost. I was not prioritizing figuring out what I wanted from life and not even what I could potentially give…I was not being myself but a reflection of who someone else wanted me to be. I would have probably been lost with or without these guys…so nothing to say against them.

So partially the problem was that because of my childhood, I had lost track of who I was. But another part is that I was so keen on seeking approval, getting someone to love me and being with someone that who I was, was not even a question that entered into my mind. I was willing to abandon a lot of things just to be in a relationship. Work on becoming someone else – YES!, why not. What would you want me to be? Surely I can achieve this with some hard work and effort.

I am not yet sure how common my experience is because this is a new experience for me…like a change of perspective. I would have never thought that my own road, my own self is more important than being in a relationship for a year ago. But now I feel like giving up oneself is a betrayal which is ultimately leading us to failure anyways. So if being myself means I need to be myself alone…so be it.

Are they really sorry when they apologize?

I don’t think my mother has ever apologized before me…at least there is not a single instance that I can recall at the moment. This probably does not indicate that she was always right, but rather that she had difficulty accepting that she might have ever been wrong…Wrong in anything, plus apologizing in her mind makes he appear weak. It means giving away power that she desires for herself.

When people like my ex started to apologize before me, I was stunned. It took me years to adjust to the fact that not everything was my fault. At first I considered people apologizing as a true win..see I never had this happen in my life and I was behaving from the viewpoint that whenever something went wrong, it was all me. But it took me years to understand that people apologizing might not really mean much either.

The way I see it, there are two main objectives for people saying sorry, well three if this is an especially vile and manipulative soul. But lets assume it is a rather average person that says to you that they are sorry and lets assume they mean it. People are sorry for two reasons, as said.

One, they are sorry because their behaviour has caused them some negative consequences. It is rather common for a spouse to say they are sorry, because well maybe the other one has kicked them out of their bedroom. They have experienced some negative repercussions, so they are sorry for themselves rather than you. Sometimes they might hold on to the belief that they did not do anything wrong, but apologize still, because they want to stop experiencing these negative consequences.

Then there is the other category – people that are genuinely sorry and understand the effect their behaviour might have had on you. It is quite easy to check if they are truly sorry. Ask them why they are sorry and ask them why they think you reacted the way you did. You can even ask what they would want to do differently next time.

But see, depending on how large of a miss it was, in my experience people that are truly and genuinely sorry don’t stop at sorry. It is easy to say sorry (well even that is hard for some people), but to actually follow-up, this is the difficult part. So, if they are truly sorry, they will try their best to make amends and change their behaviour. This change might not happen overnight and might be long and difficult process, but if you see them trying – this means that they are truly sorry. Otherwise, a lot of people throw around apologies like it was nothing. Apology there, and then rinse and repeat. This means that either they don’t consider their behaviour really that bad that it would instigate a change or you and your feelings are not really a priority for them.