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.
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.
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.
I am going to try to express here my latest feelings around therapy. So I have been somewhat frustrated lately, because let me tell you the last half a year has really been a challenge. I seem to get to the situations with people that are just conflictual. I seem to finally notice how messed up and insecure life around me is. And well, everything seems….a bit difficult to handle at once right now.
My friend told me about cycling. His point was that the cycling never really gets easier, but instead you become faster and faster. I am starting to think that with therapy and life it is the same way. No, your life will not get easier, magically, after certain amount of therapy. Instead, you start taking on new challenges. But these challenges are as difficult as ever. Unfortunately. Maybe I have still not developed far enough to see the point where life indeed becomes easier.
So what am I currently tackling? Well, I am tackling still my addiction to hot and cold guys. I am tackling my financial issues. I am tackling my habit of drinking wine at least during three evenings a week. I am tackling dealing with insecurities in both my professional and personal life. I am tackling being honest with people. All this at once. And let me tell you – it is not easy. It is actually fucking difficult. I feel like I need tons of therapy to handle everything. And yet, I cannot have tons of therapy so instead, I let myself be overwhelmed and try to forgive myself for not having it all together yet.
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.
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.
For years I have been attracted to guys I could never quite figure out. They either sent out conflicting signals or remained unobtainable. I would say that before starting a therapy I was mainly attracted to guys who were never into me, but ever since I started therapy, my attractions have more been towards guys who actually did have some level of interest in me, but they were not quite consistent for various reasons. I think I have finally figured out the reason for this pattern.
See when I was a child, my mother was highly unpredictable. She could be one day in a good mood and be all nice towards me and the other day she could be extremely angry and threaten to kick me out. Such variation is also in fact very characteristic to my ex – Marc. There were days when Marc was the best boyfriend ever, he could give me massages, he would listen to my childhood issues etc. Then there were moment when Marc threatened to leave me or was ranging to the point where I was actually afraid of him. Then there were also period when Marc disappeared as he was visiting his home country.
This all left me very confused. I could never make sense of Marc the same way I could not make sense of my mother. Both had their great moments, so it was unfair to call them evil or what not. In fact during their moments of greatness they were way better human beings than I was. However during their low moments they were also way worse human being than I was.
See the problem with such relationships is that you can never really fully relax. You are constantly alert and unaware of what is coming. When I started dating Marc, I developed a habit, which I never had before with my boyfriends. When he did not call, I would get extremely worried. I thought that maybe it was sign of my neediness and I had just suppressed it with my former boyfriends, but actually it has more to do with me not knowing what was going on. With my consistent partners I could relax even when they did not call, because my first thought was not – oh god maybe they are angry at me, maybe they are going to leave me. However, with Marc I was constantly anxious about having potentially done something that angered him or pushed him to distance himself. It was the exact copy of my childhood environment.
However, it has taken me till now to understand this pattern and fully emphasize with how I have been feeling my whole life. In fact, since this is quite a new discovery, I am sure I will write a bit more about it in the future.
If anyone is wondering what I am talking about here, then you can find a better description of these types here (https://jebkinnison.com/bad-boyfriends-the-book/type-anxious-preoccupied/). Anyways, I started my therapy by being fearful-avoidant type. These types often crave intimacy, but find it difficult to accept when offered. This is the most disturbed type out of all the attachment types and is developed as a result of childhood abuse (mostly). There is little written on how one can change their attachment type or how difficult it may be. So I am going to contribute to this obvious lack of literature here.
So throughout my therapy I have peeled off the protective layers in my psyche so that I could finally face my issue without the intense walls. These walls served a good purpose during my childhood and helped me to deal with my life, but nowadays prove to be problematic. At this point I have reached the ‘level’ where I could categorize myself as anxious preoccupied type. The difference is that now I have lost the protective layers, defending me against abuse and just have a high need for intimacy and love. I have somehow managed to resolve the part of my childhood which made me extremely distrusting of others and forced me to carry a mask and have begun to trust others more and more.
Where I however still struggle quite a bit is in trusting myself. Trusting my ability to manage alone. Trusting myself to be attractive enough for others so that they would stick around. I am still anticipating abandonment and I do not trust that others are there for me after I have not communicated with them for a while. I dare to be more of myself around them than ever before, but I still think that they could walk away any moment. Furthermore, I still think that a lot of their behavior is about me and not about them. Someone being a bad mood – surely it is because of something I did and not something to do with some outside hinder. Someone not responding to my facebook message – surely it is because they do not like me.
Theoretically it is interesting how transforming from fearful-avoidant towards secure for me includes first becoming anxious-preoccupied type. I still have some way to go, unlike I thought couple of months ago. In fact there are still some quite big challenges ahead of me, but I believe I am somehow moving to the right direction.
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.
I have only recently come to realize that I have a habit of fixing my partners. You know, I choose someone who is not quite it or more often not quite there and then I start passionately guiding them. How does it work out, well, hmmm, mostly it does not.
I have to give my current boyfriend some credit as he has actually followed some of my guidance over the years. However, the whole premise of starting a relationship with someone who needs fixing to begin with is highly problematic. Naturally all of us need ‘some’ fixing and guidance and it is excellent if our partner helps us to see our blind spots. However, this is not quite what I do.
With my current partner I saw from the beginning that he has problems with functioning and pulling off his everyday life. I also saw financial issues. I thought that somehow I could make these problems go away. You know fix him to the point where these things would not be issues.
With my ex, I saw that he had problems being emotionally open and vulnerable. Again I thought that I will heroically help him to reconnect with his emotions. That did not work out.
I am not sure if I am super critical of my partners or I just choose partners who need fixing because that feels safer. Because then you always have a reason as to why not to invest so deeply yet. This is something I need to spend some more time thinking about.