The weirdest idea about my relationship with my ex-boyfriend just struck me. Namely, throughout the whole relationship I felt this sense of duty and responsibility from him, but not really big emotions towards me. After years from our break-up I think I can finally make sense of this feeling.
You know people that make lists with all the character traits that they want from their partner? You know your friend who is just looking for a man for the sake of having a man? Or thousands of women who date a man who they do not quite like, but they hope that they can change him so that he would eventually fit the bill. Let me explain further, by looking someone who would fill a specific spot in your life, you are assuming that the other person should fulfill a certain role. It is like an audition for the lead character in the movie – the script is already written and it is your job to fit to the role.
This is how I felt with my ex. I felt like his future plans and his life had very little to do with me or about who I was. He felt like at a certain stage in his life he could do with a girlfriend so he showed me some kindness and affection in return and there we went. The problem was – I never really felt loved for who I was. I rather felt that there were certain things expected from me and it was my job to somehow mold myself around these expectations.
Interestingly one can make a good connection with my childhood and my mother. I think I spent my childhood as well feeling like who I was did not matter. In fact, what my mother had envisioned for me mattered much more. I was not good in chemistry – well I better work really hard on it so that I become good. My real abilities in chemistry did not matter – my mother had a certain image of how her child should be and there we went. So no wonder that I felt unseen my whole childhood and that I felt what I wanted and who I was, was insignificant.
That being said, I am guilty of the same crime and this is something I will elaborate further on next post.
One problem with psychotherapy is that it totally takes away your attention from life planning. For a while you will be happy if you can get daily things done, but you will have no strength nor wish to focus on wider goals.
Well, now I am slowly entering to the phase where I am looking at my wider goals in life again and it freaks me out. You know, I have always considered myself quite helpless to do things like this and thought that life happened to me rather than me leading my life. So all this sudden responsibility and the idea that I now have to take a look at my life again and the things I want from it scares the hell out of me. I feel alone and unsupported and lost. I feel like there have been many areas of my life that have been seriously neglected through all my time in therapy. Needing to tend these areas now just freaks me out, because it looks messy.
As I am becoming more aware of my needs and things I want from my life, I am also made acutely aware of the problems in acquiring those things. Furthermore, it seems like I am some ten years late with thinking about all these things. So suddenly all these life goals overwhelm and confuse me. I am expecting some really big changes in my life and I am scared as hell. Taking responsibility for my life and my decisions has never been my strong suit. Sustaining the momentum and then complaining about it is something which I have developed above average skills in. So obviously this new idea that I need to go, alone and take responsibility and there is no one to guide me terrifies me.
So this is it. I am still on the scared phase, but I am hoping that the fact itself that I now start to recognize my agency is a development.
Well, this is my record, two post a day, but I have just noticed something amazing about myself. Namely as intriguingas it may sound, after years of being attracted to unavailable guys, I am finally starting to develop a certain tiredness about them. The mind games, the chasing, all this seems like a bad copy of the real thing. The really deep relationship. I mean how much depth can you really have if one or both sides keep disappearing and taking their distance? So yeah, guys who are inconsistent start to tire me. Or rather even kind of bore me, because eventually even they become predictable in their ways.
Here is the thing. Unfortunately that also includes my partner, who has always harbored a habit of disappearing when he is visiting his home country. He is a caring man, who once in a while needs to demonstrate to me that I do not have a complete hold of him. It is like he is protesting against something by becoming unavailable. Telling me, you do not own me.
Well, to me the messages is finally coming across, loud and clear. I really do not own him. I really do not even have him or if I do, then only temporarily until the next exit. But what is the point of this insecurity? Really why do I need someone who is in and then he is out. Sure he can be the most caring person ever when he is in, but seriously? How much can I really enjoy this feeling knowing that he will be out soon again.
But my tiredness of such guys and my wish to distance myself from taking responsibility for their behavior is actually a good sign. I used to be confident that there was something I did that would drive my boyfriend and all the other unavailable guys away. Like it was my fault when they were distancing themselves.
Finally I am starting to see these guys for what they are – Guys trying to avoid closeness because they are too afraid of being controlled. Guys who will see the attempt to control even where there is genuine concern. Guys who will probably never become consistent and guys who will never provide me for what I want.
I grew up with the feeling that I was doing everything wrong. After all, when something happened at home, I was the first one to point a finger at. If my mother was in a bad mood, I was the first one to be blamed for it. Inside of me, there grew a feeling that I could never get it right.
So this is how I become people pleaser. I wanted to get it right. I really tried hard. When I got negative feedback, I tried harder. I worked longer. I went out of my way to achieve whatever I thought would bring me my mother approval.
It was not only that I grew sad because of constant blaming. No, I also felt afraid. Afraid that again, I might have done something wrong and this would entirely ruin my safety. After all, my mother angry was a horrible view. She did not control her actions at all. For a small child it felt life threatening.
So, in order to avoid dealing with this anger, I internalized her messages. I developed a strong critic that was always able to see potentially pitfalls in my actions. I started to see myself as always wrong. Soon she did not even have to say anything, I already blamed myself to the degree that what she said was completely irrelevant.
So when my inner critic got stronger, I started feeling more and more wrong. Inside of me there has always been this sadness. Feeling of being devalued and unregonized. I, in fact, have devalued myself the most. I have no idea how to solve this yet, but I am trying to move slowly towards banishing this inner critic so that I could stop blaming myself for all the things in my life that I have not achieved.
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.
This is going to be an akward post, because it is going to contain a lot more shameful disclosure than I am used to. However, I think it is needed in order to illustrate how many of us are escaping from our pain.
Throughout the years I have used different things to ‘feel normal’. No my addiction were never the ‘typical addictions’ such as drugs or alcohol, even though I have resorted at times to drinking vine every evening. But as follows I will give examples of my addictions if for no other reasons, than for illustrating the wide variety of things that can become tools for us in avoiding to face our issues.
Before the therapy I had numerous coping tools. One could even say that the whole image and lifestyle that I was trying to sell was a coping tool. I was trying to advertise myself as a successful globetrotter. Then there was my eating disorder. I had a problematic relationship with food, sometimes I would indulge myself and then ended up running ten miles in order to be sure that I was not getting fat. See, my mother had a reverse relationship with food….she was really overweight. In my mind I absolutely did not want to become my mother.
Then there self-development. All these books about how to become a better person, how to become a better catch. Ultimately they served to satisfy my love addiction (my belief that another man would fix my problems). I believed that if I could only get this next man, everything would be fine and the pain would disappear.
Throughout therapy years there have been many other addictions. There was a shopping spree whereby I would end up buying a lot of new clothes. Remaking my style…..Then there was an addiction to online psychics. Then there were still constant guy obsessions. And then there was drama in my current somewhat dysfunctional relationship.
The problem with all these addictions is that they distract you. They make the pain a bit better but soon you are in for another dosage. The effect is never long-term and it can dull the pain for a very limited period. You get addicted to the temporal high….The period where you cannot feel the pain. You want it to last…
Yes, I have decided to give up all my addictions to certain period of time and face my emotions as they come. To deal with them hands on. But, it has taken me five years in therapy to be able to make this decision.
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.