He can walk out at any given moment……

When I think about my two last relationships and now my short dating experience then there have been three men with whom I never felt secure enough. Surely with one of my exes, lets call him Robert, we even discussed marriage and children. We even discussed child names. However, Robert and me were in a long-distance relationship and he was postponing his move….constantly. He also let me know that he is not going to move unless he finds a good job. Even though we talked about me moving to his country, there was never a conscious effort from his side to help me with that. If I wanted to move, I was supposed to organize everything on my own….

This kind of ambivalence and lack of reciprocity I think characterizes my relationships. I am not talking about emotional closeness and affection here. Some of the guys I have dated with have been rather affectionate and loving, way more than I. What I am however talking about is that I never felt safe that these guys are going to stay. I did not feel as if I was part of their life.

I lived together with my recent ex for four years. Still during these four years, I did not feel like I was part of his life. He had his own little secret life when he was visiting his friends at his home country.  I did not belong there. His friends did not accept me with open arms either. Rather they made no effort to include me and somehow he accepted this. Again, I felt unsafe.

I could continue with the list of behaviors here, but I think more worthwhile is still analyzing this feeling of being unsafe and left out. I do not think I am imagining it. I think all three guys were not ready to share their life with someone else to the degree that is needed for a fully blown relationship. There was a lack of commitment and lack of commonality. I always felt like I had to fight for the common future. Like I was the one holding everything afloat.

My last experience with someone is finally starting to make me realize that this is not how one should feel. I have been so invested in trying to figure out how to make these guys commit and love me that I have never asked myself – do I feel good in relationship with these guys? I am going wild here and guess that if a relationship makes you constantly second-guess yourself and induces a lot of anxiety in you, chances are high that your partner is probably not fully ready to be in a relationship. Instead, they keep sending you some kind of contradictory signals about commitment, which you accept, because you are so invested in trying to get their commitment.

I am not sure yet what a good and healthy thought process in this situation would look like. However, what I do know is that I do not want to feel that insecure anymore. I also do not want to be someone who has to convince their partners to make a bigger commitment. This is something that is still a very sensitive topic and which I will devote more time to in the future.

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The fine line between vulnerability and neediness

At the age 31 I have no idea what a healthy relationship looks like. I mean there is another drawback for having chased after unavailable guys, besides the obvious ones. See the problem is that I have very little experience in being present in the relationship where we were both open and vulnerable. I mean the whole idea of chasing unavailable guys is that you will not get hurt because the disappointment is kind of coded into the future anyways. So now that I am actually opening myself up to guys who are not obviously unavailable I risk with truly getting hurt. And let me tell you, I have little idea on how to handle these emotions of vulnerability and hurt that come with truly being present with someone.

Since I have no experience I tend to verge between two extremes, either be truly submissive and accepting of shitty behavior or being truly closed off and distant. It is really complicated to hit the middle gear, simply because the whole experience is so new for me.

I am also noticing that I am dealing with the emotions of yearning and longing for someone and I have no good idea on how to manage this either. I mean, I know one should not act needy etc., but I have no idea on when is one acting needy and when is one just vulnerable and open. How should you respond when your love interest is withdrawing – did you somehow act overly distant and drove them away with your wish not to appear needy or are they just in need of space? Am I being needy when I go after them and tell them that I miss them or am I just showing natural vulnerability and interest? Is my judgement on them being less invested than me fair or is my fear of being vulnerable clouding my judgement? I mean there are tons of questions which I now seem to have in connection to this fine line between neediness and vulnerability. I have no idea what is right and wrong and it is not like someone has enough patience to start educating me from the ground up at my age. So I know I need to somehow learn this, but how……well this remains to be seen.

Control issues and hot and cold guys

Dating world for emotionally damaged is less than ideal to say the most. I have described plenty in this blog about my experiences with unavailable guys. Emotionally completely unavailable guys seem to have been replaced by hot and cold guys almost entirely. I think it is a development, but well, not exactly what I had in mind when it comes to the end result. The number of hot and cold guys that I have been lately attracted to is becoming a bit too big for me to pin it on bad luck, so I will try to analyze as follows what might be behind it.

So, my hypothesis is that my attraction to unavailable or uninterested guys was mainly related to me feeling unloved and feeling I needed to chase someone’s love. The fact that I do not do this anymore shows that I have greatly dealt with my unlovability issues which in itself is worth a whole celebration. However, hot and cold guys – well my hypothesis here is that this one is related to me having felt out of control my whole childhood. Let me elaborate.

Essentially my childhood was about my mother’s moods (and criticisms). And boy was she unpredictable. But not only in terms of moods, but also in terms of attachment. She could be nice one day and distant the other day. She could go on a work trip and be gone without any contact for a week or two (and yes first time she did this I was only 4). When I was younger I was with my grandparents, but at the age of 9 I was home alone.

So hot and cold guys? Well they take me back to this time. I can never guess their reactions and most of the time is spent by trying to figure out what they feel and how they feel (if they feel at all). Meetings, if at all, seem to be random and entirely on their control. I simply have no control in the matter. This feeling of lack of control is something which I think I keep repeating because it is so familiar. To me, in some perverse manner, this lack of control and emotional ups and down have come to signify love.

I guess the only thing here really is to work with these feelings of lack of control in therapy and hopefully leave the whole experience behind me.

Hot and cold guys

My relationship with my ex has been potentially one of the longest that you can have with someone who blows hot and cold. It started as a mutual dynamic, taken that I was unable to sustain intimacy of any amount of time. My ex still likes to claim that he does not run hot and cold, he is just reacting on my behaviors. Now, I am finally realizing that this is not true.

 
How? See I met another guy and I am noticing very similar habits and patterns as with my ex in the beginning of our relationship. So, lets call the new guy Tom. Tom is acting all flirty with me and trying to smooth talk me. Now, I am usually not very quick to fall so Tom is doing the smooth talking, emotional supporting etc for months. Finally, I start developing certain feelings about Tom as well. So I become more available and open and what do I see, suddenly Tom is distancing himself. He does this once, twice and the third time. At the point when he does it for the third time I am finally starting to think. So here is what I figured out.

 
The pattern with these guys is awfully similar, it is almost like you were dating the same guy all over again. They like to draw you in with emotional conversations – deep stuff, not some trivial compliments. They let you know they like you and you start becoming more smitten. When they notice that you are becoming smitten, they suddenly distance themselves. They stop being available. The usual dynamic which I followed with my ex was to call him myself, to chase him to a degree. Well, with Tom, I have not been doing this. Instead I become distant and cold myself which initiates another reaction – him question me about my distance and rejection issues. Let me tell you, it is so easy to fall for such things. You really start thinking – maybe I am mistreating poor guy. Maybe I, indeed, have strong rejection issues. It took three times of him distancing himself for me to understand that actually, no, I do not have rejection issues, but rather it is difficult to be consistently open and vulnerable with someone who acts all wishy washy.
I have to be grateful for Tom, I never fully realized my exes patterns in the relationship. Thanks to Tom, however, I am becoming clearer and clearer as to how my ex treated me for years, acting all warm and loving at one moment and then distancing himself, making me think that it was something about my behavior which made him do that. Hell, he was actually telling me constantly how it was about me and how he was just reacting.

 
Now, more interesting question is however, why do I keep falling for these on and off guys? What is it in me that finds them attractive? This is something to explore further through this blog.

What I have achieved last year

I thought, I will write a post on what I want to achieve in the next year, but it seemed like a list of things where I am still lacking. So, instead, I decided to focus on what I have actually accomplished during this year.

This year has been messed up. As in really, really messed up. I met someone I thought was close to being my soulmate and I lost this person. I broke up from my six year relationship. I guess those were the two main themes from this year. So what have I learned?

I guess I have become more independent. I am still vastly dependent, there is no question about it, but every time I visit my home again, I feel more independent. I have relapses. I have moments of great fear, but overall, I can think about the coming move to my own apartment without trembling in fear. I somehow have become to believe that eventually I will manage.

I also know that loss will not kill me. Chase died in August and it has been only four months. I am doing so much better than one month ago. In fact, every month I am doing better. I do not blame god, I do not think world is deemed, I just somehow remember him with kindness. For me, he is not dead either, because he will to a degree always be part of me.

Breakups, especially when you live together, are long and messy. There is no such thing as clean breakup. You are bound to have second thoughts, you are bound to tell to your ex how you miss him. No relationship is so doomed that you could easily let go (at least this is my opinion). When I looked at my ex, I see someone who is equally confused. I see a person who once loved me and still does and this to me speaks volumes about his character. On the other hand I also see someone who just cannot be present in the relationship to the degree I want. Maybe it is my unreasonable demands; maybe it is his lack of commitment – who knows. I know that I and ex had a deep connection and that will probably still be there for a while. It was not one of those superficial relationships where you act a role, no; my ex touched me to the core. I believe I did challenge him to the core as well.

The changes in life make you question who you are, especially if you are going through therapy. Too many changes and you might end up like a headless chicken. I think I am going through a headless chicken phase right now where I have no idea where to turn for support because well, there really is no viable source of support.

Strategies I use for abandonment issues

Recent events have pushed to analyze my abandonment issues further. Namely, I recently had a bit of a disagreement with my friend and I noticed how upset I became when he distanced himself. This has also pushed me to describe various ways through which I handle abandonment issues in my life. I believe these ways are perhaps also familiar to other people who struggle with the same problem.

My first way to deal with my abandonment fear is to surround myself with people. I make friends, I try to keep in contact, I try to avoid loneliness. Naturally this has become a lot more difficult with my move to foreign country, but also with people simply starting to have families. At the point where I still had ample choice of friends around, I put much less stress on my relationship. With fewer friends, I make increasing demands to my partner on having to be available to me. Furthermore, now that I am single, I get attached awfully easily. I meet a guy and my mind goes around already planning a future with him.

My second strategy to deal with my abandonment issues is through avoidance. When I get triggered I try to numb myself with alcohol, food or shopping (it could previously also be through contacting friends). I can also work obsessively or watch Netflix. All the replacement activities that there are.

My third strategy is self-improvement. I used to read tons of self-development books with the sole purpose of being more attractive as a friend or lover. I thought, that when I could make myself perfect enough, people would like me, come to communicate with me and definitely not abandon me.

My fourth strategy is distancing and try to control this fear. I have become aware of my abandonment issues and the toll they have on my relationships. So I try hard not to overwhelm people. When I get too obsessed or close, I consciously distance myself. It makes having sincere relationships from my side difficult, because I am constantly keeping in mind – do not overwhelm the other person, do not overwhelm them. Remember! Furthermore, the relationship obviously circles more around the other persons needs than mine.

Finally, something which I do very little these days, I blame the people for abandoning me. I mostly do this with my significant others. I tell them how they should have been there for me and they chose not to be and how unfair it is.

 

In a relationship with narcissist?

All  – my mother and my two exes show some signs of narcissism. I find that the definition of narcissist as someone who is hiding their true self behind some grandiose false self is quite fitting. It has taken me some time to actually start perceiving these behaviors and narcissistic traits, because I never questioned those.

Lately, with a little bit of distance I am starting to see such behaviors more clearly in my ex. I notice certain manipulative behaviors. For instance, my ex finds it necessary to fill me in, in terms of how many women flirt with him. Hell, he wrote a separate message to tell me. Actually, he was telling me also in the middle of our relationship about some women that flirted with him. This to me seems like a behavior which is catered towards showing ‘how wanted guy he is’.

Another behavior that I have recently noticed is his lack of regard to my feelings. When I actually tried to communicate my feelings in the relationship, my ex repeatedly said that I was overly dramatic and everything circled around my feelings in the relationship and his were never taken into account. Now, I cannot comment on how much I took into account his feelings or not, because obviously I am not an objective judge for that, but what I can say is, if he was really constantly taking into account my feelings over his, then his reactions would not have so often entailed telling me how insignificant those very feelings were. Namely there is a certain discord between him telling me how he never dared to go against my feelings and openly telling me that I was a drama queen. If he really had been so afraid to confront me, he would ha never be able to tell me something like this.

Now another thing, which I have pointed out repeatedly in this blog already was that my ex really did not like when I brought out his negative behaviors or traits. Mostly I thought it was just because he could not accept blame, but now I am coming to see that me pointing to these very weaknesses was actually threatening his false image. I was pointing too much to this vulnerable self that he was trying to cover up. My ex is still pointing out to me that he does not like to analyze himself and he does not like to deal with his feelings. In fact, he hates me doing this as well. I used to think this was some fault of mine – being overly obsessed with these things (ex also openly blamed me for that). Now I see this in a different manner, in fact if you have an open and loving relationship you do open up about these feelings and vulnerabilities. You do not see someone who tries to help you open up as an enemy.

There are multiple other behaviors which I am starting to see, but I will leave these for the next post.

Changing the dependency relationship

I have had one of those epiphanies again where I look back at my longest relationship which lasted for six years and realize how our dynamics were changing along my therapy. Since writing helps me to make sense of everything, I am just going to put it down here.

As I started dating my ex, I was a child. I was carefree, funny and playful, but I was also irresponsible and compliant. My ex was more of a caretaker – wise and comforting, but also at times somewhat dictatorial and inflexible. This dynamic was problematic from the beginning, because my ex did not do responsibility very well, whereas I was never fully compliant. Hence, even in the beginning we had our fights, but the duo worked much better then.

What happened over the years was that I started to slowly become less compliant and develop my independence. I started having my own opinions, instead of first looking at everybody else to find out what I should think and do. I also refused to take the blame for every mishap in the relationship. Suddenly there was very little tradeoff for taking care for me. Even though I have started to develop a bit of rebellion against being submissive, I had not fully developed the ability to be responsible grownup (as also witnessed by the last post). Hence the relationship with me became challenging to say the least.

I feel that I am currently on the last part of becoming fully independent – namely I am trying to take full responsibility for my actions and my life. I am trying to see and show myself as less of a victim and more of a person who accepts responsibility for whatever happens. Instead of going to become depressed or complaining about how life is so unfair, I am trying to figure out the appropriate cause of actions.

My ex, I think, has started his own little development. My changes have not left him completely untouched. He has noticed the problems with his anger outbursts. He is slowly starting to question his opinion on me just being a person with whom no one can have a proper relationship. However, since he started his route later than me, he is now somewhere in this inconvenient middle step, where he is giving up his caring tendencies, but still wants to control and dominate, making a relationship with him difficult to say the least.

If everything works out great, you will have two people in the world who can now express themselves without the bounds of the roles they once took over. I am still struggling with accepting responsibility and my ex is definitely struggling with listening and accepting other people, but I think we are on a good path.

Learning to be independent

I have spent my life being dependent on someone. First I was dependent on my mum and then later I was dependent on my boyfriends. It does not make me proud to admit, because well, who would want to say out loud – hey for the most part I have no idea how to take responsibility for my own life. Actually, I am pretty good at delegating this responsibility and then blaming the cruel fate if this does not work out.

So, yeah. Part of my growing up was unfortunately my mother making me dependent only to have more control and power over me. In the process she also put me down to the degree that I lost all belief in my personal capabilities and thought that I always need someone else to take care of me. Let me tell you, learning to take care of yourself at the other part of your twenties is tiresome. Especially since you feel like you are competing with people who have 15 years more experience.

Somebody would probably say here that life is not a competition, but lets face it. It kind of is. It is a competition when it comes to finding a job. It is a competition when it comes to finding a partner. I would reframe and say, people who merely see life as a competition are unhappy. However we cannot deny that there are certain age related expectations which I still to a day fail. I am slowly learning, but I often sense people’s surprise when I have no clue about something which for them seems obvious. Take for instance home insurance. I really did not have much clue about that. There are thousands of other grownup things which I suck at. It makes me embarrassed especially since nobody is going to come and say this to you, because everybody expects that you already know this stuff. Too bad if you do not…

I am still living together with my ex, because part of me is still scared that I will not manage independently. I know that I will move away, but I am gathering strength and courage. I know living alone will be a good thing for me, but there are just so many things I am worried about in the process. This is another thing which most people can do when they are 22 to 25. But it is a long process and I am taking it step by step.

Mutual support in relationships

This is a topic which has caught my attention lately, partially because I had an interesting conversation with my ex lately. Namely my ex has always thought that I am needy. On this occasion he went on to explain to me how no grownup man wants to deal with a woman who needs to call him when she has problems around the house. We were discussing on the occasion where we had a floodage and I called him to ask for our landlord’s number. He was away and I considered it extremely weird that he showed no interest later as to if the problem got solved or not. My ex, however explained that it was needy from me to expect that he would show interest. Furthermore, he also finds me calling him to ask for help in solving the situation needy and a sign that I am not really an independent grownup woman.

This discussion got me thinking if I am indeed needy and if perhaps there are things I need to change about myself. I do know that I have higher need for emotional support than an average woman perhaps. However, even after all the thinking and self-analysis I could not get myself to support his comment. To me, it seems that there is no value in the relationship where every time I want to call my partner for help, I have to first carefully think if actually I should not do this. Maybe me calling and asking help with this particular problem presents me as needy. Furthermore, maybe I am actually needy and helpless for asking for his assistance and support?

I have come to value highly emotional support and being there for one another in relationships. I will probably never start to understand what is the value of having a relationship when there is not mutual support. I mean even with my friends I would ideally hope that there is support when needed. The interesting part is that it is not that my ex does not show any support towards me, it is more that he can support me when he feels like it (when we were in the relationship). However, his giving is related to his state of mind and not my needs. So one can never say that he is not helpful or giving, it is just that he needs the idea that no one depends on him.