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?
Can I talk to you? Can I trust you. To be honest I just feel so scared. Everything scares me. The world, the knowledge that I have to be brave enough to go outside and face it, it scares me.
It is easier when I am anonymous. It has always felt safer for me to be anonymous. I like living in big, unrevealing block buildings. Thousands of other people like me. More weirdness. More others to judge. Nobody notices. People not knowing and noticing feels safe to me.
I like to run away when I notice a familiar face. I have taken parallel streets just to avoid facing familiar people. I have literally escaped. What is so scary about those that know me?
Maybe it is the expectations. Disappointing them. Knowing that they judge me. Knowing that they can see me. I am suddenly not part of cityscape anymore. I have been noticed, spotted out.
When you are anonymous, you have the invisibility coat. Nobody can hurt you because nobody cares. But suddenly you have become a person. They have noticed you and singled you out.
Thousands of eyes on you. Everybody agreeing that you deserve to be picked on. That you should be casted out. That you do not belong.
As long as you are invisible, then maybe you can still enjoy the warm feeling of being surrounded with people, imagining that you are not alone. But suddenly you are put on a spotlight and your aloneness becomes apparent not only for you, but also for those around you. It is like a signal – she will have nobody to protect her. It is safe to attack.
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.
One of the most fundamental events in my life was no doubt meeting and breaking up with my ex boyfriend, lets call him here Paul. See Paul was this committed, hard-working, responsible, wise etc etc guy. I idealized him. Among other things Paul was however also very perfectionistic and I never felt that I measured up to his standards. Not really. A familiar feeling which had sent me my whole life with my mother.
Breakup with Paul devastated me. In my mind he was someone the kind I would never find in my life. After Paul I met Greg, my current partner. Greg seemingly at least in the beginning appreciated me the way I was. The problem was, I did not like myself very much at this point. I did not respect myself much.
Now all the self-help books tell us about affirmations and all the other bullshit. In my opinion telling to yourself six times a day that you are lovable does not really change much. And I am going to also make a really harsh statement here – sometimes you have some work to do with yourself in order to be at least more lovable. I know everybody keeps telling how one’s partner needs to accepted them for who they are, but frankly, if you partner is obsessive gambler – would you really want to accept them this way. Or furthermore, would it do them any good if you did? In my case I was irresponsible at the point I dated my ex. I did not take responsibility nor for my life nor my feelings. I just kept believing that a man could solve all my problems. I just shifted all the responsibility to Paul. Now mind me, but this is not a very lovable behavior.
During next years Paul’s words kept haunting me in my self-development. He was my staple for male ideal and I guess partially I wanted to become worthy of him. Now on some level it sounds sick and twisted, but on another level I think it is a good idea. It is similar to having role models in life. Paul to me helped to define who I want to be.
So who do I want to be and how has therapy helped me to reach there? Well, I want to be someone who does not complain about her life, but actually does something to improve this. I want to be someone who dares to show other her real colors. I want to have integrity in all parts of my life. I want to be faithful to my commitments.
I think the previous pretty much describes the most important values for me. So with five years in therapy I have lost quite a bit in my easy-goingness and my lust for life. I am also not the center of parties. I am not this cute, smiley and innocent girl. But instead I have become someone who I think if I met today, could respect.
I will never meet up with Paul again, I think. But I suspect that he as well, would be proud of me today.
Perhaps for the first time in my life I am not obsessed by someone needing to prove to me that I am lovable. Constant aching feeling in my soul is finally gone. Done.
Interestingly from this position my obsession about certain males and male attention in general seems weird. It seems kind of funny to think how I assumed that a man would solve all my problems. How someone wanting to marry me would turn my world around. I do not believe this anymore. Funnily I am also getting less and less obsessed about males around me. My view on love is getting more and more practical.
The important shift was me connecting with my feelings undeservingness and unlovability. This shift has happened this spring and almost invisibly. I feel like I am finally getting a sense of what it means to actually live normally…..live without constant feelings of emptiness and pain.
This would be a period for rejoicing if I also did not notice how fucked up the rest of life has become due to me focusing so intensely on my unlovabilty. I have been living so far with limited resources. Due to being on constant survival mode, I never really even imagined that the things other people have are possible for me. Now I know they are possible, but I also feel like I am years behind. I think it a similar feeling than for an alchoholic to finally become sober. You notice that you have spent years in this addiction while other people have been busy living their lives.
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.
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.
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.
This post is going to be rather personal. I am dealing currently with my anxieties and issues around the fact that I am soon probably the only one in my close circle that does not have a family. Sometimes I keep asking myself where did I go wrong? Sometimes I also keep asking myself, is it already too late for me?
My commitment issues have pushed me to be together in non-commitmental relationships. Hell, in my first relationships I did not even want to tell to anyone that I was in a relationship. No wonder that the relationships did not take off. My last relationship has had its own non-commitmental quality as my boyfriend has kept telling me that we will discuss family next year. Now that the next year argument does not fly anymore, he conveniently shifted the argument to – we will discuss family if you agree to move to my home country. Note that nothing says that we will actually have a family in this case, it is more that this is a precondition to even start a discussion.
To be honest I am sad and scared. In my heart of hearts I understand that moving to another foreign country for a guy who so far has not made any significant commitment would be another mistake from my side. See this is exactly what happened with my ex. I moved, he did not have to make any significant investment and was even reluctant to promise me anything when I moved. Somehow I keep putting myself to these situations and honestly I am tired of it. It is not always courage that saves the day, some risks are honestly stupid. In hindsight I would say that it was stupid to move to another country for someone who did not make any commitment.
Yes, I keep hanging out in these relationships, even though I also at the same time feel sad. The last phase is to figure out what attracts me to these guys and how to get passed it. One thing I know, I am so exhausted of such non-commitmental relationships that soon I am rather willing to be single than invest my energy into someone who keeps telling me that things will change if only….
Sometimes you just want things to change. You want them to change quicker than they do. I want my life to change. I want to change the kind of relationships I engage in. But I seem to be psychologically tailored towards wishy-washy guys and seem to be struggling to make these changes. To be honest, my belief in my capability to recognize a decent guy has gone down a lot. I am struggling with my dark foresight that the next relationship will just be much the same. The problem is also that it is not like these guys outright tell you that they have commitment issues (or maybe they have those with me). No, they keep telling you something about the nice future. I do know it has worked for some girls. The nice future aspect has never worked for me. SO you never know when to give up. I have been postponing giving up for so long that I am starting to question my ability to move on at all.
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.