August 15: I dreamed that P and I took the Audi and drove over to Carmela’s house into the driveway and saw her working and saw her husband with his long hair and John Lennon glasses. We looked around, but didn’t get out of the car to stir anything up. When we left, we realized her husband latched onto the bumper and was riding with us, asking what we were up to. I was quite surprised but I told him, “Your wife cheated on you with someone I was in love with. She threw herself at him.” He said he was aware, but told me not to gossip about it. I said OK and he left. I looked at P afterwards and we said, “That was creepy.” …Read More
Who hasn’t had this thought pop into her head: If only my boyfriend saw a therapist, everything would be different.
I can’t tell you how many times I wished this exact thing. And why did I wish it? Because I believed that after all the self-help books I’d read, therapy was the answer. Not to my problems, of course, but my boyfriend’s. And if my bf would just go to a therapist, said therapists would back me up and convince my guy that he needs to change, (just like I said he should) or he would risk losing a relationship with me.
Looking back over all the men I dated, only two were willing to go to therapy “for me,” my ex husband and G. Both therapy sessions went horribly wrong.
The first time my ex husband and I went to a therapist he lied about his cheating and had no real interest in changing his behavior. He merely did it to appease me, and probably because he felt bullied by me and just gave in. I was desperately trying to save my marriage, singlehandedly, and the only advice we left with was “You two need to date again.” This didn’t exactly resolve anything. But, it did delay the inevitable. And the inevitable came with a flip flop. It was now me who wanted out of the relationship. And so, the second time we went, it was on his instance to save the marriage. But, by the time I got to therapy, I was completely unable to be “convinced” to stay in the marriage and we divorced shortly after.
When I dated G, I was in therapy because I was unable to accept G’s “flaws” and I was trying to figure out why I was always so frustrated and depressed. He always said he loved me, and he called all the time. What was my problem? Well, my problem was he smoked pot and never wanted to have sex with me. So, I thought if I could get him to meet with a therapist, she would convince him these things were interfering in our relationship and he should change his ways to save the relationship.
This didn’t work. He liked smoking pot and he had an extremely low libido (most likely because of the pot), and he had no desire to change.
So what did these men learn from therapy? Probably nothing. What did I learn? That’s more important here. I learned that just because a well-educated relationship specialist understands what it takes to have a healthy relationship, they could not convince someone to love me or to BE what I wanted them to be. Just because my therapist and I agreed that my boyfriend’s behavior was not acceptable, it didn’t mean he also agreed or even cared. And therein lies the problem.
Therapy doesn’t convince anyone to love you, especially if they don’t want to be convinced. And believing in therapy as a way to “fix” a relationship that is founded on neglect, disrespect, avoidance or any other ingrained behavior is wishful, unrealistic thinking.
Therapy ONLY works when two people are committed to each other and when those two people share the same value in working on the relationship. More importantly, what we learn from therapy is often something we don’t particularly want to learn: that we cannot control or convince others to love us. And the “everything will be different” fantasy typically comes when you ditch the guy who clearly doesn’t love you and replace him for one who does. And, surprise! When that happens, you typically find yourself not needing therapy at all!
August 14: Wow! What an amazing night of crazy dreams. I spent the whole day at the shore and laid on the beach from ten till two. At 3ish, we got off the beach and I went over to say hi to Guy Petersen who was setting up to play guitar at the Shell for his weekly gig. Chit chatted with him for a while about C and then left and went out to dinner, then arcade with kids, then shopping. At about that point, I got horrible pains in my stomach. Anyway, we made it home by 7:30pm and I was even able to shower, finish up some work, and write P back some silliness about Che Guevera.
So, the dreams…Read more
August 13: I have to say that yesterday was the closest I felt to P in a long while. He touched me all over, and massaged my neck, and took care of me, all because I had an excruciating headache. And I mean excruciating. He called me in the afternoon and asked if I could come down and eat with him since he didn’t have to be at work until 10:30pm. I said sure, but once I got there, the headache turned ugly and I felt horrible. And yet, it felt so nice to have his hands on me like that. He even insisted on driving. We ended up at Applebees eating bad food that we regretted eating. Before that, I…Read More
My life has been somewhat chaotic for the past several years. In 2013 I quit working with my brothers at our company because I felt I was being treated poorly, and so in July 2014, I started my own business (a smoothie bar inside a fitness center). But, after a year, I felt trapped and wanted to do more with my life. So, I sold the business in September 2015. From September to the beginning of November I had no job and so, my goal was to return to grad school to get my Master’s in Counseling. During that time of no work I was sick almost every day, fought with my husband, felt depressed and was bored out of my mind. But, on November 6, the president of our company died, which thrust me right back into having to work with my brothers. While I was once again in a situation where I was being bullied, mistreated, ignored and hated, I eventually felt as though I had a greater purpose–to save my company. All the whining I did in between jobs, all the panic attacks and anxiety and yelling at my husband, all vanished once I had a huge problem outside myself–once I had something to overcome.
I see my love addiction the same way, and you, as well, should consider the idea that your love addiction, or, at the least, your PoA (person of addiction) may fill a much needed purpose. He or she might be helping to distract you from yourself, so you no longer have to deal with JUST YOU. So often we create problems or hold on to problems as security. No matter how bad they get, they seem to offer a painful “thrill” to an often humdrum existence.
I don’t know how to resolve this need in me to have a “struggle” or a problem. And, I am not so sure it’s an entirely bad thing IF I work towards solving the problem and making the problem my life’s work. Despite the pain I must endure from my one brother who regularly attacks me, I am struggling to help rebuilt a company. And when I focus on that, I feel good about myself.
So, ask yourself, if your problem or struggle is a dead end or has a worthy purpose. What parts of it are you in control of? What is out of your control? If you are struggling to convince your PoA that he should love you but you continuously find yourself being ignored or neglected, this may not be a “healthy” problem to solve, but rather a toxic one that could be draining you.
If my only problem was to fight with my brothers, I would say this problem of mine was a toxic one. In fact, that’s how I felt in 2013. I was unable to make any changes in the company (because the president was still alive), and so, the problem of dealing with my brothers was mostly beyond my control. This time around, my brothers are still beyond my control, but I now see a PURPOSE hidden within the problem. I only see this purpose because I am able to see REAL AND POSITIVE RESULTS from the work I am doing. So, for now, I will take on this problem as a healthy one. Yes, it is distracting me from myself, but it is also giving my life purpose.
Is your love addiction giving your life purpose? Or is it sucking the life out of you? Choose your problems wisely.
August 12: God! I have never wanted someone to quit his job more than I wanted P to quit his job at the supermarket. It’s stressing me out as much as it is him. He has actually apologized for taking on this job and the stress it’s caused us both. Even though I said, “no need,” I kinda do feel like I should have an apology. It would be validation. It would mean that at least he realizes what a crummy situation it’s put us both in. Basically, this new part-time job has created a man-made wall between “us.” And I can’t help but wonder if in its dysfunctional appearance, it serves a function by playing into P’s increasing avoidance of this relationship. A protection of sorts, sold to me in the following language: “I really need this job; it’s the only thing I can do to pay my bills,” etc. Read More…
August 11: Cool, damp, cloudy. There were thunderstorms all day yesterday except while we were in Brigantine. The sun and sky were beautiful over the ocean and I got some sun. Elaine’s house was beautiful. Joe really did a lot to it. Nice materials too—stone, granite, tile, etc. And he did it all himself. If only P were so handy. How nice would that be. Well, he’s got his beautiful garden.
Mom and I talked a bit about my relationship to P. She said that my personal emotional issues are probably not as bad as I make them out to be. That I have good reason to be mistrusting and scared in a new relationship (based on what I experienced in my past relationships) and that any man who loves me needs to understand…Read More
August 10: Ten months no smoking! I can’t believe it’s only been 10 months. It seems like a lot longer. I feel like, on the one hand, I made great strides in the quitting smoking department, but on the other, I relapsed and returned to my other addictive behaviors. Now, I have to start all over. Of course the “C” addiction is not yet (and hopefully will never be) full blown. Yet, I leave P and go back to C and entertain fantasies of marrying C. Dear Lord. What happened to that strong Quit Mentality of 10 months ago? And the genius of applying it to all other addictions? I can’t just say, “Oh well.” I have to reestablish my boundaries and reaffirm my commitment to quit C once and for all.
C IS a cigarette…Read More
August 9: Martha Wainwright was great last night. I was so high on life and P and I both looked so cute. Him in his suit and me in my 1950’s yellow dress. We laughed on the way down to AC, then talked to some woman sitting in the row behind us. Martha was fabulous. I practically cried when she sang BMFA. It has always been such an empowerment song for me. My divorce theme song, actually, you bloody motherfucking asshole…Read More…
I recently joined a Facebook group called Empaths & Survivors of Sociopathy. When I first came across it I was fascinated. Many of you who know me know that my father was a sociopath, so technically, I’m a “survivor” though, honestly, I tend not to think of myself as such. We’re all, in one way or another, survivors of loads of crazy stuff. So, I didn’t think anything of it and never really read further on this group. And then it popped up again. Again, my fascination was peaked, and I wasn’t sure why. Eventually it came to me: the empath-sociopath relationship was identical to the love addict-narcissist relationship, except for one major difference. Empaths describe themselves in a positive light as unwitting victims against a perpetrator ; love addicts describe themselves as people who are obsessed, in love, addicted; not a victim, per se, but a someone who suffers from the pain of a partner who continues to hurt them.
Let’s look at definitions of both:
Being an empath is when you are affected by other people’s energies, and have an innate ability to intuitively feel and perceive others. Your life is unconsciously influenced by others’ desires, wishes, thoughts, and moods. Being an empath is much more than being highly sensitive and it’s not just limited to emotions. Empaths can perceive physical sensitivities and spiritual urges, as well as just knowing the motivations and intentions of other people. You either are an empath or you aren’t. It’s not a trait that is learned. You are always open, so to speak, to process other people’s feelings and energy, which means that you really feel, and in many cases take on the emotions of others. Many empaths experience things like chronic fatigue, environmental sensitivities, or unexplained aches and pains daily. These are all things that are more likely to be contributed to outside influences and not so much yourself at all. Essentially you are walking around in this world with all of the accumulated karma, emotions, and energy from others.–Taken from The Mind Unleashed
Love addicts live in a chaotic world of desperate need and emotional despair. Fearful of being alone or rejected, love addicts endlessly search for that special someone – the person that will make the addict feel whole. Ironically, love addicts oftentimes have had numerous opportunities for the truly intimate experience they think they want. But they are much more strongly attracted to the intense experience of “falling in love” than they are to the peaceful intimacy of healthy relationships. As such, they spend much of their time hunting for “the one.” They base nearly all of their life choices on the desire and search for this perfect relationship – everything from wardrobe choices to endless hours at the gym, to engaging in hobbies and other activities that may or may not interest them, to the ways in which they involve others in conversations and social interactions. Taken from The Ranch
As you can see Empaths define themselves in a spiritual, almost supernatural way, whereas Love Addicts tend to be defined as people who “live in a chaotic world desperate” for love and attention.
But, here’s the deal: Both Empaths and Love Addicts, when in a relationship with a narcissist, are making one heck of a bad choice.
I’m not sure which camp is better. If I am an empath, it’s not my fault. Because of my sensitivity, I have been victimized by the big bad sociopath. If I am a love addict, it’s all my fault. I can’t do anything right and so, the longer I stay, the better chance I have of making it right. This of course is a gross simplification of the two different ways people perceive themselves. But the bottom line is this: if you remain in a relationship with someone who treats you poorly, repeatedly, it’s no longer their fault. It’s yours. And whether you choose to recover from love addiction or “escape” a sociopathic relationship in the end doesn’t matter. What matters is that you take positive action to take care of yourself.
Long day yesterday. Spent the morning on the computer. Got the boys lunch and then my sister-in-law was over by 1:30. We were at the airport by 2:30. We waited two hours until they finally cleared customs at 4:30. We didn’t get home until almost 7 due to traffic. We had a quick dinner while Abuelo and Abuela played with the kids. They left by 7:30!
I talked to P a bit at night. We laughed. I tried to just keep things light. He so resists help though. He’s cutting back on cable and I said, “Well, you can always come here and watch TV.” He said, “Or just go down to the bar and watch.” Dear Lord.
I feel like telling him that he is so out of touch with himself. And almost completely incapable of handling a relationship [Irony?!]. It’s sad. It’s sad when a man holds on to…Read More
Let’s start here: rejection scares the hell out of most of us. Agreed? It’s what keeps us from going up to strangers and asking them out on a date. It’s what keeps us from going on stage and speaking publicly, for fear we’ll be boo’ed. And it keeps some of us from doing the things we love, for fear that we will be rejected by others who might be doing them better. But the worst kind of rejection is when we are rejected by whom we consider to be the most important person in our lives–our spouse, our partner, our love interest, our crush. Rejection from this person is the absolute worst, because let’s be honest, he or she is the one who defines and validates us and gives us our worth. When he reject us, we feel worthless. And this is where things go wrong. No one defines us. And no one validates our worth, except us.
But, back to rejection. It happens. And there’s virtually no way on earth to avoid it. So…how do we handle it?
For starters, we need to change our perception of what rejection logically, actually is, not what we “feel” it is. So, take the gut-wrenching, terrible, awful, dreadful, unbearable feelings you feel about rejection and switch over to using your brain. Are you in brain mode now? OK, read on…
1. Rejection is neither good nor bad. It’s neutral. And yet we typically assign it as something negative. But, just for argument’s sake, let’s start to look at it as a positive force in your life. First off, it won’t kill you. It’s not a disease which can make you ill. It doesn’t take any money, clothing, shelter or food away from you. It doesn’t physically beat you up. And it doesn’t change you in any way shape or form other than help redirect you towards a new life. It’s often disguised as a loss, only to, later down the road, be a gain, as most people will tell you. So, no matter how you “feel” about rejection’s evil powers, try to keep things a bit more clear. Rejection, is neutral. At best, it’s a positive force that pushes us to redefine our lives and move on. The more we stay focused on the neutrality or positivity of rejection, the better.
2. Rejection isn’t personal. This concept is tricky, and one that people have the hardest time understanding. Let me say it again: rejection is NOT PERSONAL. I’m sure you believe that if you were personally rejected on the grounds that your boyfriend doesn’t like you anymore and even left you for someone else, then this is personal. But it’s not! He’s not rejecting you as much as he is opting to choose another life for himself. She’s not rejecting you as much as she is selecting a different path to walk down. And while that may seem like rejection from your end, there’s actually a much deeper issue at hand. People come together, and ultimately move apart based on their set of Values. A value is a thing (a principle, a belief, a standard of behavior) that we regard as essential to our being, so essential, in fact, that without it, we feel lacking or wrong or worthless. It’s a MUST HAVE, not a want or a wish. And when you reject someone, or they reject you, it’s typically based on values, and not much else. When people’s values are not aligned, the healthy response is rejection of the relationship. This of course, doesn’t happen in unhealthy relationship for love addicts. Why? Because love addicts tend not to know their values, and because the idea of holding onto the relationship is far greater than any personal values. So, even if someone is completely wrong for a love addict, they will still stay–out of fear, desperation, loneliness, whatever. So, start to see rejection as a healthy thing, a gift the other person is giving you by setting you free to make another choice for yourself. Remember, no one validates you or defines who you are. Only you do. So, get cracking! Figure out who you are. The more you know you, the more you can find others like you, who are less likely to reject you, based on shared values.
3. Rejection is a huge part of nature. Animals select one mate over another based on instinct to help perpetuate their species. Animals don’t take rejection personally or cry if they weren’t selected by one over another. Instinctually, they know that rejection from one frees them up to make more natural selections with another. They don’t feel the pain of rejection because rejection is not painful. Remember number one? It’s neutral! To animals, it’s a signal to start looking elsewhere for a more appropriate mate.
When we think of our own bodies, think of all the things it rejects on its own. If you drink too much alcohol, say, or eat contaminated food, the body rejects these things by vomitting or getting sick. If we catch a virus or a bacterial infection, the body rejects these “bugs” by getting a fever. If we have a foreign object inside our bodies (like a cancerous tumor), the body uses all its resources to either get rid of it or protect against it by building a calcium encasement around it. A miscarriage is also nature’s way of rejecting a fetus that may not be able to sustain life outside the womb. Even when an apparent good thing enters our bodies– a flower, a diamond, a particularly beautiful object, a heart transplant, our bodies will have an extreme reaction to it and reject it because it doesn’t belong in our system.
When we think of rejection in this way, and remove the emotional, negative feelings we associate with rejection, it helps us to understand that rejection is not personal. It is simply nature’s way of redirecting you and letting you know that you do not fit in this particular person’s world–not because you are bad, no good, worthless, ugly or unlovable. It simply means you fit somewhere else. And that’s a good thing. Rejection is a gift that allows you to consider new options– a more natural, organic path that you are currently denying yourself, if you hang on.
Case in point: I dated a pretty nice guy. He was attracted to me; I was attracted to him. So, we tried to have a relationship, as is the natural course of attraction. But soon enough, after the initial high of us being together started to wear off, I started to notice his avoidance of me. Why was he rejecting me? I’m a great catch! ;) To make a long story short, he started to feel uncomfortable with me. He was into smoking pot, and listening to the Dead, and I was so not into that stuff. He felt I had little respect for his lifestyle and in a way he was right. When he mentioned this, I actually tried to change, to be more open and understanding of his likes. I so desperately wanted the relationship to work that I was willing to become someone else! But it was only a matter of time before I started to feel uncomfortable and untrue to my nature. Even though we both wished it would work between us; even though we were both highly attracted to each other, our lifestyles and personalities, in the end, didn’t really mesh. No one did anything wrong. No one was worthless or unlovable. We simply were not meant for each other. Period. And yet, I still felt rejected until I was willing to accept that that’s what dating is all about. It’s a risk we take to decide whether we should remain with a person or move on. And it was clearly time to move on in this case.
You can think about it like this too: how many of you have had multiple relationships? How many times have you said, “This is the one!” only to find that someone better has come along? If you or your ex had not rejected the relationship, it would not have freed you up to be where you are today. Rejction is natural! Try to imagine yourself as a salesman. Even if you had the greatest product in the world, you still can’t convince every person on the planet to buy your product. No matter how great it is, not everyone will think so!
We don’t have that much control over who will like us and who won’t. We might find someone attractive, but they might not share the same feelings. We can’t take this personally! How many times has someone shown interest in you and you’ve turned them down? Maybe you didn’t find them attractive. Maybe you didn’t like their style or their personality. Just because you rejected them doesn’t mean they are unlovable or unattractive or worthless. The same logic applies to your situation.
Rejection is not something you can control. So, you might as well stop sweating the natural selection that is happening. What you can control, however, is how you perceive your self worth and whether or not you are selecting a mate who is more in line with who you are and what your values are. Are you kind, friendly, honest, loving? Are you family-oriented, or do you prefer hanging out in clubs every night? Do you believe in loyalty? Are you religious? What are your values? Now is the time to get to know yourself . The more you do, the better chance you have of finding someone less likely to reject you.
Maybe I need to stop having fantasy-like expectations of a relationship. I don’t even want to go “there” today—more complaining, more expecting…
How about this:
- I will not try to “win” anyone’s love today.
- I will not seek out C as a resource of comfort, or anything for that matter
- I will not have any expectations of P. I will do exactly as I have been doing, giving my same level of input, and being ME, without any expectations or fantasies. I cannot continue to say and do things and expect certain responses (and then be upset when I do not get the response I want, or that I imagine is best). I just need to be me and allow him to be him.
My man is struggling. He is trying to pay down his debts. It has nothing to do with me. He is not running away from me. Distance is not rejection here. When he’s emotionally distant or unavailable it’s not because of me. It’s something inside him. He’s tired, he’s angry at his financial situation. Whatever it is, he said it’s not me, and I must believe him.
You see, the trouble is… Read More
Drab and humid.
I’m supposed to go down to my sister-in-law’s tonight. I almost want to drive up to Brooklyn to see Marie. It very well might save me from doing something destructive like calling C. Every time I get pissed off with P and think he’s lied about something, I want to run to C where all my problems were apparently resolved. I don’t believe P worked last night. I think he wanted to make sure I didn’t expect him over. Then again, he’s usually able to voice that and say, “I need my sleep tonight,” or something else. Maybe he wanted his excuse to seem out of his control. Read More…
You know I’m always preaching about availability right? And my most important point is that if you get into a relationship with an unavailable person, you’re the one who is really unavailable. I can’t remember where, but I read a really fabulous article on how we make ourselves available. And one of the best “feng shui” things we can do is get rid of all the guy “friends,” and the “friends with benefits” and the ambivalent ones who haven’t made their move in two years. It turns out we tend to keep characters in our lives like this merely to pass the time and help us wait out the loneliness and boredom until someone real comes along. Trouble is, these types of guys do two detrimental things: they keep you from being 100% available by driving off potential suitors, and they don’t allow you to experience the true sense of aloneness that we all must, if we are to appreciate living a more authentic life.
What would happen if you got rid of these hangers on? What are you afraid of? Let go…
The other big move you can make to be more available is to stop dating or investing your time in unavailable partners. They waste your time, they keep you at a constant “safe” distance and they are unable to commit to a healthy relationship by holding up their end of the commitment. When you date a person like this, it leaves you unavailable for someone who is truly willing to love you and be committed to you.
I’ve had a few conversations this week with readers who find themselves in the common and oftentimes unavoidable trap of believing that “all men are unavailable.” I too thought ALL men were unavailable. I thought that all my life, and no, I never dated one healthy person prior to D. Not one (and I dated many!)
When you live in poverty, you see the world through the eyes of a hungry person. When you live in a crime-infested world, you see the world through the eyes of a criminal. And when you are a love addict, you see the world through the eyes of a person who has a very narrow, desperate sense of who people are.
This is a false belief. And when you have this false belief it gives you the freedom to continue to settle for unavailable avoidant partners. If you believe no one is available, then you will settle for unavailable.
My suggestion: surround yourself with healthy people, healthy couples. Familiarize yourself with what a healthy man looks like. I know that for many years I tried to avoid being in situations where I was in the presence of a healthy couple. They kinda made me want to gag! They made me jealous and feel like my own life was lacking. But the truth is, I needed to learn what to look for in a healthy partner because I had no clue.
Last night was pitiful and divine. I read my journal from September 2000 when Liam was born up until we moved into this house. It was triggered by Marie and I talking about New Orleans, so I went back to research my 24-hours there and my rather brief affair with Randy the male nurse when I was separated from R. I had met Randy online playing one of those ridiculous roleplay games that R wanted me to get involved in, but then, basically moved out and dumped me. I was left playing alone until I met Randy.
Reading through those days sickens me. I was a loser. I was married to a loser, and I was dating a loser. The only flowers rising up out of that ugly evil bad world of darkness were my two beautiful sons.
After hours of reading through those pages, I realized I’m sick of men. Of trying to please them, of not being treated with dignity and respect. I’m not sure I will ever get over the trauma that R caused. No one should have to put up with that shit, ever. There is no where to turn for consolation from that sad life, and yet, here am. I am still standing.
But am I? The more I thought about it the more I realized …Read More
I talked to C in the morning. Then to Kathy. Did more yard work. Tried to get out of seeing P but couldn’t do it. Waited for him at home until he showed up and then we all went down to the shore together. The water was amazing and clear and calm and I went in past the breakers with P. He stayed out there and road the waves with the boys and aside from a southwest wind that brought a few greenheads the day was perfect. We laughed the entire time and I called P “Puddin’ Bear” as a silly joke and got in trouble for it, and then we ate greasy food at Scooter’s. We flew home late in the afternoon and then P left. I made sure the boys took showers and then we all headed to Kathy’s where I dropped the boys with the babysitter. Kathy and I then went to Fisher’s where we talked and talked and talked. She thinks I need to go back to therapy because of all the unresolved issues with C.
But I know what’s going on with those unresolved issues…Read More
August 4: I so need a life, a career. Something to distract me from my obsessive thoughts. I’m getting my period and I can’t sleep. I’m jittery, and I’m making unhealthy choices like seeing C yesterday morning and calling him back at night after seeing that he called me. Not wanting to see P today either (what’s the point if it’s only for a few hours). I want to push him away. Go! Get out! You are hurting me. So, I’ll go back to someone else who has hurt me a little less.
And how is P hurting me? It’s so subtle but it’s happening. He’ll come all the way out to my mom’s house for dinner but he won’t come back to my place, which is right around the corner. He has to “run.” Or, he’ll offer to come tomorrow while he has a half day at his day job and work at night. That’ll only leave us about two hours. How convenient. And he won’t come today on his day off because he has “doctors” to see??? Nope don’t want it. Tracy say no. I think I need some Tracy time. Definitely. Because right now I am hating a lot of stuff about P. Here’s the list of what bothers me most…Read More
I recently read another love addict’s blog online and felt compelled to comment on her post about worthiness. This is basically what I said to her that I would like to share with you:
You only need one reason to be worthy of love. To exist. Nothing more. But here’s something I would very much like to suggest, as a fellow love addict. At first it may sound hopeless, but trust me, it’s not: what if you lived your life and appreciated everything you had in it but ONLY what you had in it now? That doesn’t mean you don’t already appreciate your life. It means, what if you removed the idea that you are complete if only you had a relationship? What if you simply resolved that you are perfect as you are now, and you removed the prospect, the hope, the wish for romance? What if you pretended that romantic love were not a possibility?
And, what if you were not so much worthy of love, as in, you should be given something that is owed you because you are worthy of it, but rather, what if you were simply perfect as you are now, not owed anything, just alive and grateful within yourself for that life?
Losing the hope of romance or finding someone may sound completely depressing, but for love addicts it’s a fear we all need to face in order to truly find ourselves and heal. For some of us, it’s our greatest fear. I know it was mine. The thought of dying “an old maid” horrified me. It made me scared to be alive. It made me chase after anyone I could get my hands on. And yet, when I finally faced it, it had the opposite effect that I assumed it would have. I didn’t die. I didn’t collapse into oblivion. Instead, a deep sense of relief washed over me. The searching was over. The against-all-odds effort that went into longing and hoping and wishing and dreaming was finally over. It had all been so draining. It had all been so life-zapping.
Accepting my life and only what I had in it at that moment in time–and being grateful for just that, and removing the wants and the needs for all the things I didn’t have– was enlightening.
Seem impossible? Well, swap out the longing and perseverance for love with, say, money or fame? Could you imagine if your biggest and most important dream was to be a millionaire? Or to be famous? That, as the law of attraction states, if you think it, it will be yours? And if you don’t achieve that goal you don’t feel alive? Fulfilled? Accomplished? What kind of a fulfilled life would you have if you couldn’t achieve this goal no matter how hard you worked at it? Sure, you’re worthy of being a millionaire, sure you’re worthy of being famous, but will it happen?
What if it doesn’t? And if it doesn’t, can you be happy anyway?
The lesson is this: happiness is in the now. Not in hoped for outcomes. Be the best YOU you can be, and whatever the universe gifts you, be grateful for it. Work hard. Live. Challenge yourself. But remove longing. And use hope in its intended purpose–as the potential for possibility, not the guarantee of it, and not as a crutch to support your loneliness or dissatisfaction with life. And worthiness doesn’t mean we receive something in return for our worth (love). It means we recognize that we have value and we live our lives according to that value. And, if someone doesn’t recognize that along with us, it means we value ourselves enough to move on.
One of the clearest signs of an unhealthy, addictive relationship is when you invest more time obsessing over your partner than you do focusing healthy attention on your own life. Investing in, analyzing, obsessing, and fantasizing over another person to the point where you are exhausted, suffering and in pain is like investing money in typewriter stock in a computer world. You’re not going to get much return on your investment.
YOU are your biggest and best investment (as well as your children). And when you start to really understand that, your entire life will have more meaning, purpose and worth.
Why do we continue to believe that our partner or love-interest will take us out to dinner or buy us flowers or call when he said he would or make himself available at the spur of the moment, or any of these things when, habitually, he has proven not to do them? Why do we continue to expect a certain level of intimacy when it rarely happens? And why do we continue to make an effort to convince him or her to love us, when we have never yet received the love we so crave?
Sounds like insanity to expect something different when all you get is the same lack of interest over and over again. Right?
Well, you’ve heard the cliche that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result. And while this definition doesn’t exactly define true insanity, I think it’s safe to say that for some of us who repeatedly put up with the same situation from the same type of people and never seem to see the results we hope for–but we stay anyway–it surely defines love addiction.
In fact, I think it’s also safe to say that this type of behavior is what separates love addicts from healthier people who refuse to put up with things like avoidance, neglect, apathy, abuse, unavailability, lying or cheating. A love addict puts up with these things. But why?
- She thinks this is the best she’s ever going to get
- She hopes that things will change and eventually he will come around
- She doesn’t know that there is a healthier way to relate to people
- She has become dependent on the relationship, to meet most if not all of her needs
- She is living in fantasy
If you are sick and tired of being sick and tired and want change, you need to stop repeating the same behavioral patterns and stop accepting them from others. You need to step out of habitual actions and do something different if you want different results. One of the best changes we can make toward better health and healthier relationships is to align our words and our actions.
Here’s an example. Often, we say one thing with our words: “If you flirt with her again I will leave.” Then, we don’t back it up with our actions. Time goes by, things are good. And he flirts again with another woman. And yet, you don’t leave. Instead, you create excuses. Well, circumstances were different, or He didn’t flirt with the same girl, or This time he seemed sincere in his apology.
The truth is, you sent the following message: I SAY that I don’t like you’re behavior at all, but, MY ACTIONS ARE THAT I’m willing to put up with it as long as you stay in my life. Not only does this send mix messages it sends the wrong message! It teaches people that you don’t mean what you say. It teaches people not to trust you. And it teaches people that you are WILLING and TOLERANT of inappropriate behavior, despite being hurt by it.
In order for the insanity to stop, you need to stop repeating the same behavior patterns and stop accepting them from others. When you say, “I no longer accept this behavior,” you need to back that up with appropriate action, or nothing will change. Just yelling at someone, or complaining or crying or shutting them out for a while doesn’t do the trick. Sincere action must take place. And love cannot be more important than safety, security, dignity and respect.
This may or may not mean a break up. But loving yourself and valuing your personal worth demand that you be willing to accept the consequences of your newfound self-respect. If your current partner doesn’t like the “new you” or the new conditions, then you need to find someone else who does.
August 3--Very sad. Period brain, hurting. I think he loves me but he doesn’t know how. And I think what crops up in its place is egocentricity. I think I give too much like I did to C. I think he now thinks I’m an easy catch. He can do anything or nothing and still feel loved. That must be a great feeling because I don’t feel it. Sometimes when I’m in this mood I can’t see the forest through the trees. I only see the end as being the only way. Why do I always see it that way? Gosh.
I dreamed of C last night as if he’d have the answers. As if life was so much better with him. I so badly want to introduce the two. I want both in my life. C’s communication skills were indisputably the best ever. But P is clean and good-looking and dresses well and has a warm heart. But C was a work workhorse and I loved his pioneering spirit and passion for building, working, hauling, digging and being part of the earth. But P has more time for me. But C was less self-centered and a better listener. But P doesn’t smoke pot. But C… oh, the list goes on.
C hugged me more. So, I dreamed of C hugging me and I so desperately want to call him right now.
But, what will that do? Where will that get me? Especially after last night’s ordeal with P. Read more…
If you’re frustrated that your “partner” seems unavailable, it might be YOU who’s unavailable. Think about it. When we are truly available and ready for love, we choose partners who are also available and ready for love. When we are available, we seek out people who are not afraid of commitment, intimacy, and responsibility. So look closely. Not at him, but at YOU.
Most people know a red flag when they see one. And I don’t care how healthy and grounded you are, responding to subtle signs of incompatibility once you notice them is really hard to do. And yet, that’s what sets healthy relationship seekers apart from unhealthy ones. A healthy person will ultimately choose to walk away from a potential partner if the “signs” warn danger. An unhealthy person will most likely see the signs, but ignore them. The reason we do this is because being in a relationship–any relationship–is often more important than the quality of the relationship, and, because being alone is perceived as far more unpleasant than being in a relationship with a mate who might not be good for us.
That being said, here are 10 warning signs, or red flags to look out for when dating. When you see them, detect them, notice them or confirm them, he (or she) is most likely not the best catch. Move on!
- They have one or more episodes of cheating in their past Many people are on the fence with cheating. Some say, once a cheater always a cheater. Others say, people can change. I’m not sure which side I’m on. Personally, I’d like to know that the guy I am about to date has never cheated and has my same values. I think if they mentioned that they cheated in their distant past but they have proof of a long-term stable relationship where no cheating took place, there may be hope. Keep an eye out on this one.
- They’re married If you meet a hot guy out at a club who is clearly giving off “the vibe” only to find out he’s married, this is the red flag of all red flags. Honestly, unless there’s proof that they moved back in with their parents, or have completely severed ties with their ex and divorce/settlement agreement has already been registered with the courts, this is one guy or girl you need to stay away from. Heck, if he’s interested and you think there’s a chance, tell him, When your divorce is finalized, then you can call me.
- There’s more secrecy than you feel comfortable with She said she’d be going out for the weekend, but wouldn’t tell you where. You’ve never met her friends. You don’t know where she lives or, for that matter, where she works. Red flag, red flag, red flag. People who are available are engaged in sharing and opening up to you. Maybe not all at once. But, enough for you to feel like there’s definitely a willingness to be somewhat vulnerable.
- They do not speak well of their past relationships, and/or it was always the other person’s “fault” that the relationship ended. One of the things that I loved about my current husband when we were first dating was how kindly he spoke of his ex, even though she had left him. She was, in his mind, the mother of his children and even though he was hurt by her, she still deserved the respect of not being talked badly about. Granted, this hurt a bit. Sometimes we want to clearly be the center of someone’s world and we want to be elevated while everyone else is demoted to bitch, or monster, or most hated. Some of us feel “safer” when our love interest speaks badly about others. It’s as if we are the only one they love. And yet, the way your date speaks about people is a direct clue into his own personality. So, unless he is putting his ex on a pedestal (not good), you don’t want to date someone who trash talks his ex.
- They continue to impose strange restrictions after a decent amount of time dating (i.e. “Don’t call me at the office,” “Don’t show up unannounced,” etc.) People who like you typically want to be around you. And, unless you are coming on too strong and showing up unannounced all the time (not good), this type of restriction is a bit strange. Case in point: I was dating this guy for five months. By this point we had slept together, said, “I love you,” and we were even leaving clothes and toiletries over the other’s house. I had very clear boundaries (never showed up unannounced, never called his office, unless he specifically said it was OK). At any rate, one afternoon, I happen to be passing by his house and thought, “Let me just pop in.” Bad idea. He opened up the door, barely let me in and I felt immediately uncomfortable. No, no one was there. He wasn’t cheating on me per se, but he was smoking, something he said he had quit. Anyway, you don’t want to ever just “show up” unannounced. Not a good dating move at all. But, you also don’t want to date some guy who imposes those types of restrictions when it’s not warranted.
- They fall in love with you almost immediately Most people don’t see this as a red flag, although, heck yeah. It’s a biggie. People who value their heart and know the seriousness of commitment don’t “dive in” so quickly. That’s not to say they won’t feel passionate or hugely emotional towards you. But they will refrain from things like moving in, saying I love you, proposing marriage, or even having sex.
- They’ve never had a longterm, committed relationship. OK, so, anyone around the age of 25 might not fit this particular red flag. But, if you’re dating someone 30-years-old or older and they have not had a longterm committed relationship this could be a sign of social anxiety, intimacy issues, avoidance, emotional unavailability and so on. One of the best signs of a healthy partner is that he or she has had healthy, relatively successful relationships, or it’s something he or she is working towards. People change, there is hope. But, for love addicts, you want to stay away from people who cannot commit. It’s too much of an oil and water relationship.
- They say one thing and do another; they lie This is a classic move of Miss or Mr. Unavailable and a red flag if ever there was one. It is essential that a healthy relationship be built on trust and honesty, and the only way for that to happen is if a person’s words align with their actions. If you are detecting lies, then, you are most likely embarking on a lifetime of distrust and feeling hugely distance from your partner. When a person lies, they want to put distance between you and them. When a person tells the truth, they are seeking closeness.
- They do drugs; drink too much Whether you partake in recreational drugs or drinking or not, you definitely want to stay away from someone who does to excess. What’s excess? That’s up to you to decide. But here’s the bottom line: drugs and alcohol use is a relationship barrier. While “a few drinks” may loosen you up and help you relax, it ultimately keeps you from experiencing true reality (especially the uncomfortable kind) and worse, true, deep intimacy. Not only that, but no one has EVER had a serious conversation when they were stoned, drunk or on drugs. You need to see and experience people as they really are, and if your date is always drunk, then, who are you dating? You’ll never know.
- They treat people poorly, take pleasure in hurting others (including animals) or express an unusual amount of hate and anger toward people, placed or things. Always be on the look out for subtle clues of a potentially violent, sadistic or disturbing past. These are the types of red flags that, when ignored, can be very dangerous.
When our desire for a relationship, love or sex overcomes our capacity to think logically, rationally and to take care of ourselves, we may be a love addict. Take a look at the people you’ve dated in the past. Can you clearly see their red flags? What did you do when you noticed them? Ignore them, or leave? How does your current partner sum up? Does he or she have red flags? Are you just “dealing with” those red flags in hopes they go away, or are you working toward getting out of the relationship? Red flags are warning signs. If a potential partner or date is waving a red flag, pay attention and take action. That doesn’t mean work to change him. It usually means moving on to someone with no red flags.
So, you met him in your hiking club and he flirted with you incessantly until you finally caved and gave him your number. You thought nothing of it until he called you a mere 8-hours later. With a little timid flirting, you agreed to a first date. You were giddy. Already the wheels were turning. He could be the one.
Your date was a dream and you had three more magical ones, each better than the next. You learned that he’s a physician, he drives an Audi TT, takes annual trips to the south of Spain and is a fabulous lover. During sex (yes, you’re having sex already, of course), you stare deeply into each other eyes with an unmatched intensity.
And then…suddenly, you don’t hear from him. Not even an email.
WTF? You were on the high of your life only to have it all taken away in an instant. It’s killing you to wait to see if he calls you back (maybe there’s a logical explanation), but, on the third day you panic, and reach out. A quick text to say, hey, remember me? He casually responds that he’s working overtime. But, something in the back of your mind says, Nah. You recall a conversation in which he said he didn’t have to work this week. Something inside you twists. Like your heart is an aluminum can being crushed under foot into a flat, discarded piece of metal. You switch from rational to rationalizing. OK, maybe he got called to work at the last minute and failed to tell me.
A day after that, you decide to push. You call him and gently tug at him to come out with you and your friends to a party. You think, If I’m casual about it and just pretend like I do this all the time he’ll bite. And he does. After a bit of coaxing, he comes out, looking as hot as ever, but something’s off. It’s not the same. He seems distant and this is the fifth time he’s checked his phone. He apologizes and says, “Work.”
You decide to confront him. What you’re really doing though is looking for reassurance. Do you still like me, you ask. He smiles. For a second everything feels weirdly awkward. “I really think you’re amazing, but I live with someone. We’re kinda broken up. But, she wanted to get back together, and, well, I told her no. It’s all good,” he says. “I just want to be up front with you.”
Instead of seeing this for what it is: a huge red flag of unavailability and narcissism, your mind is racing. All logic has been thrown out the window and your emotional brain has hopped in the driver’s seat. What does this mean? He said they broke up. He said, “It’s all good.” Does that mean he’s free to date me? You play back his every word. He thinks I’m amazing. He smiled. He did, after all, come out. You also play back all those hot scenes on dates one through three, the deep kissing, the passion, the intensity, the laughter. He’s so hot. I want him. We’re perfect for each other, you think.
But, here’s where you need to get your head out of the clouds. He’s not perfect for you. He’s not even partly acceptable. He’s completely, unequivocally Unavailable. And instead of hanging on to only the positive information you’re receiving from this guy, you need to be a big girl and see the whole picture, which means looking at the real, not-so-pretty, fantasy-busting facts he’s feeding you. You need to acknowledge the following signs and start to understand that these signs typically mean UNAVAILABLE.
- His impulsiveness to date you
- The intensity and rapidity with which your relationship started
- The sudden disappearance and or lack of interest in you
- His excuses for not calling
- Catching him in a lie, or not being able to back up what he says one day, versus the next
- His ambiguity and lack of attention paid to you
- Constantly checking his phone
- His ambiguous, confusing story that seems to leave too many open-ended questions
- The fact that he probably lives with his girlfriend who most likely doesn’t know he’s out with you.
In a sea of romantically passionate and fantasy-fulfilling moments, these several negatives don’t seem to weigh too heavily. And yet, they weigh heavier than you are willing to give them credit.
An unavailable man or woman may come on strong and show great intensity, but they are not emotionally invested in the relationship, nor do they plan to be. And while they may see you every day, or call you, or be slightly more available than the guy described above, there will always be something keeping the unavailable individual from committing fully.
Unavailability also looks like a lot like avoidance. An avoidant may verbally commit to a relationship, but then avoid intimacy, conflict, romance, communication, whatever triggers him to “avoid” and seek safety by turning inward. You then feel “neglected.” An unavailable person, on the other hand, typically does not verbally commit, but instead, may be more prone to engage in sex, communication, and romance, but only partly, thus leaving you feel confused, with mixed messages, as though he is only marginally invested in the relationship.
Unavailable people have myriad ways in which they remain unavailable. They could live far away. Work, family or other responsibilities might keep them from ever being able to move closer. They could have a job that keeps them from going out on dates, or they could live with someone, be married, or be in a previously committed relationship. Subtler but no less significant signs of unavailability might be that they blame you for having a trait or a lifestyle or a habit that makes it impossible for them to commit to you. I once dated a guy who told me after a year of us dating that we could never be more than just lovers because I made too much money and it made him feel “emasculated.” Whatever it is that keeps him from getting closer, it’s usually an insurmountable obstacle that he will not be able to overcome in order to be with you.
In The Break-Up Journal this week P’s unavailability is getting more noticeable, and yet, I only seem to mention it as if it doesn’t relate to me. I don’t yet see how staying with an unavailable person makes me unavailable also.
You heard right. The important thing to understand about unavailable individuals is that if you continue to pursue one or stay with one, YOU become unavailable as well. Why is that? Because you cannot be willing to fully to commit to someone who only half commits to you. If you are serious about love, intimacy and relationships, it means that you are willing to find a partner who is equally interested in love, intimacy and relationship.
Having little trust is not such a bad thing. We think we have to immediately begin trusting people as soon as we meet them. Phooey! Being suspicious (especially after what we’ve all experienced) is a way to protect ourselves.
You don’t want to trust people right off the bat. Trust must be BUILT slowly and let me tell you, it’s a very delicate construction. You can start to build trust in someone and you’re going along and everything seems to be building OK, and then, one day, you catch him or her in one little lie and the whole foundation of trust crumbles. Is that you being over-reactive? NO! Should you learn to be more accepting of “little lies”? I think not. You’re in recovery. You need time to heal and grow. If a flower pops out of the ground in early spring, it will die instantly under the effect of one night’s frost. You too may lose something you have worked hard to build if you remain with someone who cannot respect the basic tenets of trustworthiness, reliability, dependability, sincerity. Let’s be honest, in order to be stronger, happier and healthier, we all need honesty from others to thrive.
Before D, I had NEVER met or dated a man who didn’t lie. I thought it went with the territory. I thought every man lied (this is toxic thinking that comes when your trust has been violated most of your life, by the way). So, when I met D, I proudly exclaimed that one of my best talents was that I could sniff out a lie in a matter of seconds. I had become such a pro at this that I was proud of my talent. His response? He looked at me with a rather blank stare. “Um, I’m not sure what you mean. I don’t lie,” he said plainly. And I laughed. “Every man lies” I said.
“Well, think what you want…” he responded.
And I did. I didn’t trust him at all. I remained alert. On the look out. I called him on things that I didn’t understand. I asked him to explain events that in my mind, seemed like perfect opportunities to lie. I kept my eyes wide open. And I was on high alert. Thing is, he never lied. All his stories backed up. His actions matched his words every day, every week, every month, every year. ANd it wasn’t until maybe a year into the relationship when I FINALLY started to believe that maybe he was right. He doesn’t lie. This, in fact, caused me to mourn my marvelous talent for sniffing out lies. It was a talent that had been rendered obsolete. In its place, I finally felt SAFE and able to trust again. Of course, now that we live together, I am still triggered by him staying up late at night (my ex would stay up late at night and chat with other women). But every time I wake up and seek him out, he’s watching TV, or reading, or exercising. It might take a while to begin trusting in this department, and toss out my old triggers. But I am being patient with myself and with D.
Love addicts need to find someone with high morals and ethics. SOmeone who believes in honesty and respect of men and woman. It’s not that we need PERFECT. It’s that we need conscientious. Because our process of recovery is a delicate one. And remember that trust equals intimacy. Without trust there is no intimacy–only intensity.
So don’t rush in and expect yourself to start trusting others right away. Bad idea! Take your time and mistrust everyone. Let them prove their worth and honesty to you by their actions first. Not just a day or a week…but many, many months. And be willing to walk if they don’t meet your high expectations in this department. Here’s a great article in learning to build trust in others AND, equally important, being a trustful person yourself.
Lastly, remember that trust will not come from just you. It is build between two people. It will come at a point in a long relationship (romantic or otherwise) where you finally feel comfortable again based on one fact: that your spidey sense for deceit and your superhero radar to sniff out lies or betrayal has not been used in a very long while. And while nothing is ever certain, you will at least be moderately content knowing with good probability that you are in a safe relationship. :)
In The Break-Up Journal this week (July 19) I talk a bit about distance between couples…
I started reading “A Fine Romance” the other day, by Judith Sills. Despite it being a little hard to understand in the beginning, it has some major good points. For one, it describes this woman who considers closeness to equal love, and distance to equal rejection. And any time her partner would become distant, it would trigger her fears of neglect. But the writer says that part of the courtship dance is, in fact, about distance. That just as we move close, we naturally move apart too, for breathing room, to regain our sense of self, to reconsider, to adjust, to think, and to simply revisit who we were prior to being a “couple.” But her biggest message was…don’t take it personally. It’s not about you. It’s about the nature of dating. Wow! I was blown away and very happy to know that I could view my situation with P in this light. I really needed to read this. –The Break Up Journal
The way we interpret situations and behavior in early dating has a lot to do with the success of our relationship. If we, like this woman in the book, consider closeness to equal love then we might think that distance coming from our date is the absence of love. And if that is how we feel, we may be inclined to respond as if we were being rejected. We may increase our attempts to make contact, withdrawal inward,feel hopeless that another date has lost interest in us, even get angry and attack. When we don’t recognize that a certain amount of distance is necessary and naturally built into the courtship process, we run the risk of responding in unhealthy ways.
So…the object of the game in early dating is this: recognize that distance is part of dating. It’s not personal. And, just as two people have the desire to come close, we also naturally have the desire to hold on to our individuality (distance).
But a word of caution: don’t confuse the natural phase of distancing with avoidance. The difference is subtle and lies in an individual’s personal degree of closeness and distance. Is it extreme? Is it constant? Do you increasingly feel the need to push the relationship forward? Are there other signs of avoidance present? When you sense the normal “retreat” phase, it’s time to be aware, not push. It’s time to have patience and let the other person have his or her space. And while you may instinctually press for reassurance that he or she is not going anywhere, it’s time to accept that you cannot have that reassurance. Just yet. It will come either way. You will either know that he/she wants to be closer and move forward, or that he/she doesn’t. And so too must you listen to that voice within yourself. You have your own degree of intimacy, closeness and distance that you need to be aware of and know where it’s coming from.
In The Break Up Journal, I am clearly trying to determine at this point in the relationship if P’s inward retreat is a normal healthy part of our courtship, or if I am dealing with the first glimpses of an avoidant personality. In reality, I know deep down that it’s avoidance. And yet, I don’t exactly want to accept that just yet. I am still holding on to hope that his behavior changes, and this is just a phase. Ho hum. You definitely can’t fault me for hanging in there. But I am reminded of the Rudyard Kipling poem, Gunga Din. Gunga Din is a scrappy Indian soldier, with great spirit, who continues to help the other soldiers recover and drink water, even after he’s been shot. And while that’s pretty valiant of good ‘ol Gunga Din, I don’t want to be that kind of person. So…don’t keep pursuing and pushing and having high expectations of someone if you sense distancing OR avoidance. Allow the relationship to happen or not happen. You don’t ever have to “fight” for what is essentially yours. And besides, letting people distance themselves and come closer (within moderation) is how you love YOURSELF.
Wouldn’t it be great if we could meet this really hot guy, have a few intense, passionate first dates, and then seal the deal with a commitment of love and exclusivity?
It would be great, if we were a love addict, that is. But to a healthy person, this scenario sounds nuts.
When I think back to my earlier days dating D, we actually had a conversation to “define” what this was (i.e. our relationship) and we decided that we were not going to define it and that whatever was going to happen, would happen “organically,” meaning no pushing, no pressure, no lines drawn, and no hoped for outcomes. If it worked it worked; if it didn’t it didn’t.
Well, for a love addict, this scared me to death. Why? Because it meant I would be out of control. It meant I could lose this man. It meant I could not possess or push or manipulate…or be secure. And more importantly, it meant we would not be in a death grip of eternal love with each other and he and I would both be–gasp-– free to date anyone we wanted.
- a love addict wants exclusivity almost immediately. We want to lock in the deal so we feel safe, validated, loved, secure. And, we’re willing to dive right in to commitment long before we are able to determine if someone is right for us.
- a healthy person, on the other hand, does not want exclusivity in the early part of dating, but rather wants to play the field, or simply, take time to get to know a person. They are not willing to give up their freedom so fast because they recognize that a relationship is a serious commitment and they value the time it takes to be “sure.”
- A love addict does not recognize that a relationship is a serious commitment in a healthy sense, nor does he or she value time; a love addict is looking for a relationship to save her, not compliment her, and so, she has other goals. Taking time to be “sure” if someone is a right choice is not one of them. This is a life or death situation and we love addicts need to think and act fast! That means get the commitment first, ask questions and get to know the person later.
So, when neither of us gave each other the right to exclusivity in the beginning–even though we both liked each other and even though neither of us were, quote-unquote, players, it felt uncomfortable to me. It didn’t feel normal. I was always used to diving in and committing within weeks, days. When you know, you know. Right? Intensity and immediate commitment are good things, right?
In reality, we don’t know anything about people except that which we can vaguely sense or vaguely see with our eyes. And even then we cannot be sure of what might lurk undercover. And so, this arrangement of denying exclusivity in early dating is the best way to protect ourselves. It’s not a liability; it’s an asset. My usual way (to lock in a deal ASAP so as to be in control and have my security) was the unhealthy way. The “organic” way, was THE way.
But I had to fight battles within myself at this phase. I had to make a commitment to the following principles:
1. NO FANTASY: I did not allow myself to dream up scenarios with this man in them. I did not allow myself to think of hoped for outcomes. And I did not allow myself to have dreamy reveries of the future. When we do incorporate fantasy into early dating, we set the tone for an imaginary belief system. We start to hold this virtual stranger accountable to a reality that doesn’t yet exist. For years, I would meet someone and within hours I would start to imagine the two of us on our honeymoon on a deserted beach in Fiji. When we met again I was already “in love” because my brain had reinvented him. I took the parts of him I liked, erased the parts I didn’t, gave him a huge dose of attentiveness, sensitivity and charm, made him a great communicator and lovers, and voila! He was the man of my dreams. And yet, the person I was sitting across from was absolutely not the same guy in my dreams. This is what’s called cognitive dissonance: the mental stress or discomfort experienced by an individual who holds two or more contradictory beliefs, ideas, or values at the same time, or is confronted by new information that conflicts with existing beliefs, ideas, or values. Wikipedia) Remove fantasy. It’s hard, but you gotta do it. Every time you catch yourself in la la land, bring yourself back to now, to work, a hobby, a book, any current distraction. And if you’re anything like me, don’t even let yourself bask in thoughts of sexy scenes from the night before. Militant, I know. But worth it in the end.
2. NO EXPECTATIONS: Not only did I give up fantasy, I gave up the expectations that normally go along with dating, like, “I expect him to call,” or “I expect him to be with only me,” or “I expect flowers,” and even, “I expect not to be ignored.” Nope. Didn’t expect any of those things. And while this may sound hugely contradictory to every How To Date book you’ve ever read, hear me out: WE CANNOT HAVE EXPECTATIONS OF PEOPLE WE DO NOT KNOW. Early dating is not the time to lay down your laws, draw up your demands and institute your rules. He has a right not to call you back. He has a right not to have to buy you flowers. He has a right to ignore you. Of course, if he does those things you have the right to walk away and never look back. But these things cannot be expected. Early dating is simply for getting to know someone and hopefully, enjoying them. When I dated D I only had BASIC expectations in place (I expect to be treated kindly, I expect to be treated with respect, and I expect to feel safe). If these items were not met, I would have moved on abruptly. So, only pull out the bigger, meatier expectations once you have a sense that this person is capable of meeting your expectations–and that may take a while.
3. A NEW DEFINITION OF DATING: Every time I dated in the past I attached to it the same definition: to find out if the person I was dating was The One. At the very least, to find out if he was the one I would have sex/kill time with until I found The One. Not this time. This time, I let go of my usual definition and I changed it to “Whatever this is, my only goal is to ENJOY this person.” If I no longer enjoy this person, or it becomes difficult or a chore, that’s it, it’s over. But more than that, I removed all the previous layers of “purpose” that dating held for me. I tried to maintain a “take it or leave it” mentality. I was done with dating anyway, so this was kind of easy for me at this point. I subscribed to the idea of life (not just dating) being ORGANIC and happening on its own time. No pushing. No controlling. It actually felt freeing. The hardest part was realizing that dating was not meant to be romantic, comforting, loving or even intense (though sometimes it was). Dating was meant to be a mystery. Sometimes clumsy, sometimes quirky, and almost always fun if you have the right perspective. Before, I was burdened with hope of what this person could be for me. Now, I was free to simply be myself, not try to impress anyone, not look for impressing qualities in him and just BE. Ahh.
4. A WILLINGNESS TO LOSE: Letting go is very difficult for a love addict, but where I had come from I felt as if I had already experienced the greatest loss of my life. How could it get worse (barring death of loved ones) than being told after 8 months of a whirlwind love affair with a man I thought I was on the verge of marrying and spending the rest of my life with, “I don’t love you and I don’t think I ever did…”? So, I approached this new relationship not jaded, but resigned. I submitted to the will of the universe, as some would say. I was Free to expect that I was inevitably going to lose this relationship, so, I might as well just enjoy it while I can. A willingness to lose definitely takes away the pressure to try and hold on. When you know you’re going to lose someone (I mean, REALLY know), you savor them. No pushing, no clinging. You’ve been defeated. You simply let go. You accept. Losing is inevitable. If you have the “Failure is not an option” mentality, you’re on the wrong playing field. Dating is not a game of “winning” or “take no prisoners.” It’s a game of eating humble pie, where you must accept that the universe is in charge, not you.
5. TIME RULES: When we rush to lock in a relationship because we “feel” chemistry or we “feel” that it is right, we are ignoring the almighty educator Time, who sheds light on the world around us and the people in it, slowly, and we thus, undermine our chances of making educated decisions about people. As hard as we try, we can’t beat the clock. We must respect the fact that getting to know the person we are dating takes time. And since that is so, and since we cannot be secure until we know, we might as well find something else to do in the meantime. And so, I approached the issue of time, which I once hated (hurry up already and let this guy ask me to marry him) as a gift. It allowed me, for the first time in my life, to see that time could protect me and wasn’t so bad after all.
6. FAKE IT TILL YOU MAKE IT: This last point is going to seem counter to everything you ever learned about honesty. What? Be fake? Well, yeah.
Once I recognized my unhealthy behavior and I knew I had to keep it under lock and key UNTIL healthy behavior became second nature to me. As Susan Peabody used to say, “fake it till you make it.” I never truly understood what that meant, until I got to this point in my life. And that’s exactly what I did. Early on there were two weeks where D kinda disappeared and didn’t really contact me. It was here that I was tested. In my past life I would have “pushed” (“Where have you been? I miss you…”), but I ignored the unhealthy voice and did not let it slip out. I “pretended” to have it all together, when I knew I really didn’t. It was then that I knew I had joined the ranks of other healthy female single women who date. You see, we all have insecurities. We all want the love-life of our dreams. But, unhealthy people will try to control or manipulate others to get it. Healthy people will sometimes bury their pain and deal with it until they’re called to make a decision in their best interest.
In the end, I learned that D was seeing another woman (good for him. We were not bound at this point), but only to “wrap it up” with her so he could see me. D’s ex wife also wanted him back at another point. Fine. Go. I’m doing great with or without you. Had I jumped to conclusions or made assumptions about what could have happened, I would have acted from an unhealthy place. And worse, my (faulty) assumptions could have brought me to taking actions that I may have regretted.
In the end, as a “dater” your only responsibility is to protect yourself. You do that by listening to your gut and looking out for red flags. And guess what, dating other women at the same time or going back to your ex-wife are NOT red flags. They are normal parts of dating, whether we like them or not. And so, I had no right to assert my will on D simply because I wanted him all to myself (unhealthy). Suppressing these feelings and urges, and faking a smile UNTIL I had a clearer picture of who he was and how things would play out was one of the healthiest choices I could make. Dating takes patience. It is not until after there is an agreed upon commitment in place that we can begin to assert a little more control and expect exclusivity.
SO, remember the healthy approach. Exclusivity too early on is not healthy. Could you imagine signing up for a job before meeting the boss, the team or even finding out what the work entailed? Could you imagine flying off to a foreign country for a vacation knowing nothing about the location? Your experience would be hit or miss. And while some people thrive off the rush of the unknown, in matters of love and dating, it’s best to play it safe and proceed SLOWLY…
Ever find yourself hanging on to certain people and just desperately needing their attention? In most cases, we become clingy and needy with people who tend to keep us at a distance or avoid us. How can you test this theory? Well, I’m betting that you are NOT needy and clingy with other needy/clingy people. Think about it. Think about someone from your past (a friend, an ex, a family member) who showed you lots of love and never let you out their site. How was your behavior then? Probably not clingy. Maybe even a little avoidant?
The world works in yin and yang. It works to balance out loss or gain.
Even if you have no example of that type of situation in your past, where the tables were turned, we still exhibit clingy, needy behavior when we feel avoided. But how do you change that kind of behavior? Most of the time people think this type of behavior comes from loneliness. They say, just learn to do stuff on your own! But that is not exactly the answer. A better approach is to surround yourself with people who give you a good amount of attention, love and kindness. When we improve our self worth, and believe we are worthy of time and attention, we automatically attract better quality individuals.
If that, however, is still not enough, you are very possibly trying to “fill the void” with other people. In that case there are two approaches:
1. Start to fill your (imaginary) void with things that are important to you. Hobbies might not cut it. You might need to search for what makes you passionate (hint: leave people out of the equation and search for ideas, beliefs, career paths etc.). My all time favorite advice was “work with your hands.” When you do that your brain becomes focused on something other than meandering thoughts. It becomes focused on the task (at hand).
Or, better yet….
2. Stop believing there is a void. Allow people’s attention and friendship to be “ENOUGH.” Whatever it is they are willing to offer, it has to be “enough.” Practice “enough.” The next time you are with someone and they go to leave, let them. Practice being OK with that and saying, “Thanks for hanging out,” or “OK, bye.” NO matter how much it pains you. Don’t try to push or force the situation. When they leave and you are once again alone, allow yourself to feel that emptiness and aloneness, but don’t equate it with a VOID. It’s not a void. It is simply you growing and learning what “enough” means. Like hunger pangs to someone on diet…you are merely attempting to shrink your stomach and readapt to a smaller portion of whatever it is you think you NEED.
Here’s more on “filling the void“
The Break Up Journal this week is all about obsessing. The more I read, the more I feel sorry for “this girl” (ahem, me). She’s trapped. She’s acting a little crazy. She has forgotten (or perhaps she hasn’t yet learned) that we obsess over that which is not ours. She senses there is something wrong with this relationship, she senses that P is not 100% committed, and yet, she continues to question, think, obsess and dwell over his every little action, looking for clues of deep love and permanency. And yet, one list after the other keeps glaringly telling her, It’s time to dump this guy. But she just won’t.
Why? Because letting go to a love addict is a really scary thing. It means complete and utter abandonment. And that seems like too heavy a cross to bear.
I would like to go back in time, tap her on the shoulder and say, Look, you see how you’re obsessing? Obsessing is a pretty obvious sign that what you sense is true. That this guy is not one-hundred percent in the game. If he were, you would not obsess. You’d be at peace. We only obsess over people, places or things we do not have. That are not ours. How do I know? Because you only have to take a look at the family, friends and relationships you’ve had in the past where you KNEW in your heart of hearts that there wasn’t a shred of doubt that someone not only loved you but wanted to be with you. Did you ever obsess over that person? Chances are you did not.
Perhaps a solution back during this time would have been to start writing a list of my Values. And see if they matched up to what I was getting from P. It’s always best to turn the analyzing back, inward, onto yourself. Constant outward analyzing of your guy or girl will pretty much get you no where. Well, you’ll be really good at psychoanalyzing people. Perhaps you should go back to school for counseling! ;)
Dating is such an enormous challenge for people recovering from love addiction. Because we’ve been hurt so deeply by past relationships many of us try desperately to dodge any future problems by creating a set of dating rules or expectations, just so as not to get burned again. And while a certain amount of protection in the form of rules or boundaries is a good thing, too many will insure that you pretty much never date again. here’s how to cut back on a few of those iron clad rules…
Don’t make assumptions about people before you know them: My mother used to say, Believe none of what you hear and only half of what you see. And that especially goes for dating. Dating between two healthy individuals is tricky, tricky, tricky, but for recovering love addicts, it can seem hopeless. Many of us come from a world where our circle of friends or family members were dysfunctional. We’ve learned to mistrust people, we’ve learned that people can be unreliable, and we’ve learned to protect ourselves from people who might hurt us. So, when we come out of recovery, we tend to bring with us all that mistrust, fear and skepticism about the world, and often, we make blanket assumptions about people that lean toward the negative because that’s all we know. Here are a few examples:
- Assuming all people lie
- Assuming you will be rejected because, “he’s too good” for you
- Assuming he’s not the one because of the way he dresses or looks
- Assuming he/she will be boring because of their [job], [lifestyle], [interests] (fill in the blanks)
- Assuming you should not date someone who has only be single for a few months
- Assuming you should not date someone who has been single for a few years
- Assuming you should not date someone because they don’t “seem” like your type
When we pull information about people from our fantasy-brain, we may or may not be correct about our assumptions, because, like I said, your assumptions come from what you’ve learned in the past.
But keep in mind that the healthier you become through recovery, the better quality people you will meet and attract. And so, you don’t want to write off someone for the same reasons you wrote off past partners. Why? Because, YOU’VE changed. Because you’re different. And because the process of dating is getting to know someone first, before making decisions about them. Remember, you’re not looking for perfect. Mr. Perfect doesn’t exist. You are looking for shared values, attraction, compatibility, kindness, respect and so on. And because you’re not omniscient, you are unable to know who people are until you actually do the work of getting to know them.
Don’t be a Seinfeld: There’s a great episode of Seinfeld where he breaks up with a woman because he doesn’t like the fact that she eats her peas one at a time. In fact, part of the humor of that show is that all the characters on Seinfeld all suffer from the same neurotic attribute of fault-finding in others. No one is ever good enough for them; and so, they’re eternally stuck with just themselves. Perfect for a sitcom, horrible if it’s your real-life situation.
Extreme pickiness is an unhealthy state. When you find fault in everyone you meet you are either a.) attracted to and pursuing the wrong type of person, or b.) you are unable to accept people and relationships on healthy terms. We all have faults. You do too! And usually, extreme pickiness comes from a place of insecurity within ourselves, and fear of commitment. When we do not accept, tolerate or forgive our own faults, how can we do so in others? When we cannot tolerate little things like the way a person eats, or the way they laugh, or the length of their fingers, we need to ask ourselves if we are creating these barriers to attraction because we’re really not attracted to this person, or, because we are afraid of being available and vulnerable to a relationship. If it happens once in a while–say, you meet someone and they have an unappealing laugh, then, most likely, you’re not picky. It’s them. If it happens all the time, and you always seem to find something wrong with people, then you’re picky. It’s you.
Remember too, that there’s a healthy level of pickiness. We want to have relatively high standards of people, we want to make sure their values are the same as ours. We want to take it slow, get to know people and not dive into something too quickly. And we certainly want to be attracted to our partner and like who they are. But we don’t want to be so extreme that we dump a really great guy simply because he has a crooked smile or a hair out of place. Don’t let pickiness be your way of over-protecting you from a relationship.
Don’t give up too quickly: People are strange. They hold back. They don’t always make good first impressions. A while back, there was a friend of mine who would date a guy and if he didn’t impress her, or say the magic words (who knows what they were!) by the second date, she would not go out with him again. In her mind, she didn’t want to “waste” her time. In retrospect, she was lazy. Dating is work. It takes time. It takes effort. You have to be willing to put in that work, time and effort if you want to successfully find someone right for you, and that means hanging on through a few possibly awkward dates, to see if there’s anything deeper there. If you find yourself breezing through men the way you skim through your Facebook newsfeed, you’re probably doing it wrong. And keep in mind there’s always obvious moments where giving up quickly is a good thing–if you find yourself really turned off by someone, that might be a good sign that you don’t need to give this a second go. But, think of your friendships. I am sure you have friends that you didn’t click with right away, but eventually grew to love. It’s the same with dating. Don’t set your expectations so high that no one can reach them. Dating is absolutely NOT about clicking and falling in love on the first date. It’s a slow, somewhat awkward, but exciting process of getting to know someone. A good rule of thumb is three to five. Three dates aught to tell you whether or not this person is worth investing in. Five dates is usually the amount of time it takes for some of the more glaring red flags to make themselves known.
Just watch out for your own red flags. Don’t let “don’t give up too quickly” turn into “hang on for dear life and don’t let go.” Remember it takes two to date. If he bails out before you’ve determined whether he’s right for you, then, he’s not right for you! You don’t get to go chasing after him in a moment of “Wait, we could be perfect together!” He has his own ability to determine if someone is perfect for him or not, and you need to respect that, just as you would hope he’d respect you. Dating is not a game of trying desperately to hold on or convince someone of your worth. You are worthy! But maybe not for this person. And vice versa.
Likewise, if things to do continue well for a few months, and you become serious, know that you’re never too far along to get out if things go wrong. In this week’s The Break Up Journal, that’s exactly what is happening. Five months into a passionate relationship, I felt too invested to give up and walk away. I continued to think, he’ll change. Or, I can put up with this because I love him.
Bottom line: dating is all about using your brain. You need to be able to negotiate your way through the dating world by using your logic brain first and foremost, then your heart, and quite often your gut. But sometimes, love addicts use only their emotions (never a good idea), or haven’t yet learned how to trust their “gut” or their emotions. So, we need to give people time and not make quick assumptions about them either for good or bad. We also need to remove the “fantasy” idea that dating is all about love and sex. It’s not. It’s about learning. Having fun. Experiencing the world with this one particular person. No quick investment. And no quick write off. And lastly, you need to take a look at your own behavior and your own level of pickiness about people. If you’re finding fault in every potential partner, you’re doing so for a reason: to protect you from a deeper, more intimate connection with someone for fear of getting hurt. If that’s the case, it’s time to do a little more work on yourself before heading out into the world of dating. It’s rough out there!
Deep down, I think love addicts are attracted to the bad boy type because he is the type we relate to. He is what we see in ourselves. I always fancied myself an independent artist and writer, traveling around the world, smoking cigarettes and drinking wine in smoky bars, with my rebel attitude and free spirit. But, the truth is, that’s not exactly who I was. When I really took a look at myself, I was a mother of two sons. I drove a minivan. I liked to bake pies and spend time with family and travel every once in a while. Did I like the arts? Sure. But I wasn’t even an artist! In fact, any time I hung out with my wilder, artist friends they all stayed out late, smoked, drank, partied, and ignored their kids, if they had them. I couldn’t handle any of that stuff. What’s more, I didn’t believe in any of that. And yet, I was still going after these badboy types, driving them around in my minivan with my screaming kids, baking pies for them. Oh sure, it’s funny now. But back then, I was angry that they didn’t want to go to family events, sit around with my kids or bake (they all loved eating the pies, though!)
Anyway, the trick to a healthier relationship is KNOW THYSELF. And when you write out your list of descriptions about who you are, don’t describe yourself as you wish to be, but as you truly are. This is hard. But, take a look at your world around you. Don’t write down what’s in your head. Write down what you SEE. Minivan = person who drives minivan. You may, in your heart of hearts want to drive a Ferrari but you’re not driving one. That’s not who you are at this moment. The minivan is. Sorry.
Second, look for people who share those similarities (and values). Partying and living the rockstar life only lasts so long. Eventually, we all want stability, warmth, comfort and even a little predictability. And, if you’re not into partying, why date someone who is? You’ll just end up frustrated, trying to pin him down. It’s not going to happen. Instead, what about searching for a good, stable, healthy man with some adventurous, slightly “wild” or even quirky traits (if that’s who you are, that is)? Bottom line, look for qualities similar to your own. The whole opposites attract thing doesn’t hold over very well as far as values are concerned. You want to be similar on that front.
Lastly, stop thinking in black and white. Giving up the bad boy doesn’t automatically leave only “boring” types in the dating pool. That’s ridiculous. People are not ALL bad boy or ALL boring. What’s more, there are some pretty boring bad guys, and some pretty exciting nice guys!
When I first started dating my husband D, I initially feared that he was boring. Why? Because he was nice, had a professional job, wore suits to work, had a family and lived a very normal life. In my mind, those were the traits of a boring guy. But, I was so off the mark. He also played guitar and drums, was in a band in college, loved the arts, and was kind of a bad boy in the bedroom (TMI?!). Plus, he had a fantastic sense of humor, which is really important to me. Sold!
And while there were still times early on when I actually mourned the bad boy fantasy I was holding on to (gosh, I had held onto it for so many years), I eventually grew up, made peace with who I really was, and got real about the qualities a healthy partner should have, not the qualities I wished he had.
Read more on the LAA forums.
So, D and I were up last night talking about intimacy. What’s your definition? I asked. He said something to the effect of “a deep connection with someone.” And I said, “well, what is your definition of a ‘deep connection?'” And it went on like that to the point where neither of us could really come up with any clear definition of intimacy.
What we could define, however, was intensity: that powerfully charged feeling of passion and sexual energy that makes us feel alive and on fire. Simple.
It occurred to me that despite the fact that intensity doesn’t last nearly as long as intimacy, it’s far easier to define. Possibly because it has a beginning, middle and end. We know it exactly when we feel it. And we know exactly when we don’t. And, of course, intensity is part of the addict’s problem. Our addictive high is “intimately” dependent on intensity, and the basis for nearly all our decision-making. If someone doesn’t make us feel that lighting bolt of passion, or, if our loved one removes himself from our lives, thus removing the extreme highs and extreme lows of a chaotic relationship, we feel doomed, depressed, lonely, detached. When intensity is the missing ingredient, our pain is all too evident. So much so, that we even try to create it on our own (drama, anyone?). Intensity, far more than intimacy, is what motivates addictive behavior.
But back to intimacy. D and I decided that intimacy could be sitting face to face with someone you love and staring deeply into their eyes. I was quickly reminded of one of those couple’s retreats in the 70’s led by a bald-headed guru in a long robe where couples practice tantric sex and hum “OM” through one nostril. We tried it. Not the tantric part, or the OM. Just sitting on our bedroom floor and staring into each others’ eyes. We couldn’t stop laughing, for starters. And then, I insisted he look at my right eye instead of just my left. When we finally got into a groove, we both admitted that our eyes glazed over and we weren’t exactly staring “into” each other at all as much as we were hyper focusing on each eyeball, darting back and forth, like you would a ping pong ball lobbing across a net. Fail.
I then suggested that intimacy might be exposing your vulnerabilities to someone. Like, if I feel shame or embarrassment about some aspect of myself, but I expose it to my partner anyway, and he still lovingly accepts me, then this is true intimacy. But is it? I exhumed my age old issue of shame regarding my body. D loves my body; I often do not (I’m getting better). And while I’ve pretty much gotten over the need to cover up as soon as he walks into a room, his presence in front of my naked body doesn’t exactly draw me closer to him, nor does it make me feel any heightened sense of love. If anything, it causes me to be all too aware that if I stand there long enough without my clothes, I can almost guarantee my husband will jump me.
So, if none of that is intimacy, what is? And, why choose it at all if intensity is the clear winner when it comes to making love addicts, or anyone for that matter, feel exhilaratingly fabulous?
I found a blog this morning, that sums it up nicely:
Possibly the simplest definition of intimacy is this: knowing another and being known. Intensity is defined as strength, power, or force- in relationship terms, it’s getting a surge of whatever makes a person feel good. Intimacy is developed over time, with patience, with love, with understanding, with compassion, with sacrifice. Intensity happens quickly and fades quickly- it is not long lasting. Those that trade it for intimacy will find themselves dissatisfied and using people like objects. —Taken from: The Jog
Knowing another person and being known. This thought makes me smile. No, it doesn’t blow me away or make me feel high or even exhilarated. It makes me feel grounded, loved, appreciated, whole, human. It makes me feel I did something right in my life to experience something like that.
Intimacy is work. It’s a long-term goal, not a short-term one. It doesn’t exactly “feel” intense or give you an immediate high, and it often cannot even be defined by two people’s ability to stare into each others’ eyes. Intimacy is in between these acts. It’s the black matter that cannot be seen, but glues the universe together. It is the daily work two people put into loving themselves, and loving the other.
And it’s not something a love addict sees value in, until the intensity of their most recent relationship wears off.
When we go after intensity we definitely know we’ve found it. We feel it, sense it, love it and, sadly, blow right through it. Intensity doesn’t last. It’s immediate gratification. A thing that children and teens consider valuable, but not emotionally mature grown-ups.
Grown-ups look to the future. They see the benefit of deferred gratification. And intimacy can only be gotten through deferred gratification. When we go after intimacy, it’s not always so clear. It means waiting. It means being patient. It means putting in long hours getting to know someone, first, before going after more intense moments. It means we will not always recognize true intimacy, but that we have to make healthy choices for ourselves, anyway. It means giving up and letting go of people who can’t possibly offer more than chaos, pain and intensity. And above all, it means that those who we do hold on to, with whom we become intimate, may not offer us the thrill of the roller coaster ride, but rather the warmth and security of being “known” without sacrificing who we are and what we value most.
So, in this week’s episode of The Break Up Journal, I grapple with expectations. Mostly my expectations of others (my PoA in particular) and whether or not they are realistic or unrealistic. On the one hand, I’m angry at P for being “lazy” and not reaching out to me enough while I am away. On the other, I turn my anger into a sort of “suck it up” attitude, directed inward, and basically determine that I am a whining, complaining, ungrateful person who should be happy with a boyfriend who is a hard worker and does the best he can.
So, which is it? Is my anger warranted? Or am I being too whiny and demanding?
This type of dilemma is very common in love addiction and the reason for it is based on values, or, better yet, lack thereof. When we do not have a firm grasp on our values– a thing (a principle, a belief, a standard of behavior) that we regard as essential to our being, so essential, in fact, that without it, we feel lacking or wrong or worthless–we cannot determine which way we need to go to “feel good” or be right within ourselves. We especially don’t know who date! Had I known that trusting a person I am dating is one of my values I probably would not have stuck around in this particular relationship. Had I known that I cannot be with someone who smokes pot is another of my values, this relationship would have been over before it started.
In the July 9 blog, I am angry with everyone BUT myself. I am blaming others for not supporting me or meeting my needs or reading my mind or catering to my loneliness. But, if I were driven by my values versus depending on others for my happiness, I most likely would not be so angry.
Healthy people choose their values over their relationships. Unhealthy people do not.
And yet, even knowing that your values need to come first, it’s often very hard to figure out if you are being realistic in your expectations of others, or unrealistic. In The Break Up Journal example, should I expect P to step up to the plate and give me more attention, or is this expectation unrealistic?
To answer that, I would need to calculate the times he gives me attention versus the times he doesn’t. If I ask him 10 times to spend more time with me and the response rate is low (i.e., I only receive the attention I am looking for 1-3 times out of 10), it would be unrealistic of me to think he is capable of meeting my needs. I, therefore, have no right being angry with him because at this point, the onus is on me to recognize this. More importantly, I would need to turn to my “values” to see if I am holding true to one that states, “my partner pays me a realistic amount of attention.”
The flip side of this argument, of course, is, Am I being unrealistic in the amount of time I am demanding from my partner? I find this to be an extremely important question that must be asked. The trouble is, you most likely won’t like the answer. Why? Because it’s ironic. We tend to seek the most attention from people who have trouble giving it. The more distant or avoidant my partner would become, the more I craved his attention. This pattern was repeated for years until I finally caught on and finally knew how to recognize the avoidant personality.
Expectations are not bad. We want to have them. We want them to be relatively high (perhaps not too high), but in direct proportion to our self-esteem. But, more importantly is that we have expectations of the right kind of people. If I date a man with a high school diploma and expect him to think, act and perform as if he had a PhD, who’s at fault here? Are my expectations of him realistic?
I’ve said it before, I often feel sorry for the girl (me) writing in The Break Up Journal. She desperately wants to grow and change, but she’s not there yet. She’s still holding on. And yet, I smile, knowingly. A complete transformation is only months away from her. Unfortunately, from her vantage point, she simply cannot see it. Perhaps YOU are in the same situation. ;)
I had to look up the word “fleeting.” It’s so over-used I wanted to make sure I used it correctly:
fleeting: adjective: ours was a fleeting romance: brief, short, short-lived, quick, momentary, cursory, transient, ephemeral, fugitive, passing, transitory; literary evanescent. ANTONYMS lasting.
I had the luxury of witnessing a healthy response to “fleeting” love this past week while in Spain. But not romantic love. My children and I, as many of you know, go to Spain ever summer so that my kids can visit their grandparents and extended family members who are from Madrid. Because there is so little time to spend together, there is a sense of urgency among the grandparents and the aunts and uncles to try and squeeze in as much possible time together before saying goodbye until next year.
I compared this scenario to a love addict’s. For a love addict who senses an impending loss of relationship (even though he or she wants to ignore it and hope it just goes away), there is an urgency and desperation too in his or her actions and emotions. Obsession takes over. And the harder we hang on the less “the loss” might hurt.
In a healthy situation, the loss hurts too and there’s holding on, but it’s brief. Loss is accepted as part and parcel of life. We cry. We hug. But then, we let go. There is no certainty that we will see each other again. There is only hope.
July 5, 6 and 7 of The Break Up Journal are out. They are about loss. I am days away from seeing my “love” and I have sacrificed my own personal happiness in anticipation of a “better life” in the future. I am spending exorbitant amounts of money just to “numb” away the pain of waiting, I am not enjoying my kids, and I am miserable. I don’t think I need to say that this is an unhealthy response to love. This kind of behavior comes from a person who has no life of her own, no identity of her own. Who lives for one thing and one thing only. Most importantly, this kind of behavior comes from a person who SENSES, but ignores the possibility that her relationship may be fleeting…
When you choose to not “live in the now” and instead, live in a fantasy of “life will be better once we are together…” you deny yourself a truer, fuller experience of life. You close your eyes to what is happening around you and live in an unreal, shut-off world where others have trouble relating to you, and vice versa. Because, at this time in my life, I was on the edge of love addiction and true freedom from it, it was very hard to be present, yet I was trying. So, you can see the struggle. As hard as I try to get out into the world of Spain and experience it, I’m really only killing time until I can get home. Aside from one day spent wandering through a particular area of the city on my own, looking for vintage shops (which, by the way, I had lost interest in years ago, but was only “into” them again because P was into vintage), my only real joy came in the form of contact with P. That’s all I lived for. Shutters closed to everything else. The waiting game is ultimately a trust game. We tend to wait impatiently when that which we are waiting for may leave us, or may not be ours to possess. There’s an eternal sense of urgency to get back so that you can hold on tighter. It’s a sickening feeling that I don’t know if I get across well enough in these journals.
In current life, D and I just got back Sunday from separate trips. He took his kids out West to see the Grand Canyon, and I went back to Spain with my teenage kids to visit the in-laws and do a little side traveling. Because I have the luxury of knowing that my relationship is safe and secure with D, I am now able to experience travel in a totally new way. My focus is on squeezing everything out of a trip, experiencing everything I possibly can, taking risks, tasting every new food, and ultimately, not wanting the trip to end. What a strange feeling! And something I talked with D about last night. As much as I love him and as much time as we normally spend together, it was odd to be away from him and really, deeply, emotionally, mentally be away. I was free to experience the world without any associated guilt for not occupying all my time thinking about him and wondering what he’s up to. What a new sensation and quite honestly it scared me a bit. Had I wandered too far away from him? Should I have thought about him more, or tried to call more? And don’t get me wrong, I wasn’t thinking or fantasizing about being single or dating another man. I do want to be clear about that. What I was experiencing was a sense of freedom to be myself that I had never really allowed myself to experience before. That freedom scared me. But, at the same time, it was exhilarating.
Eventually, I concluded that as long as I come home and re-establish my typical level of closeness with D it’s all good. And that’s naturally what happened. Living in the now. As soon as we saw each other after ten days, we hugged, kissed and talked and talked and talked. And I was quickly reminded why I love this man so much. He and I are best friends. And when a best friend gives you a sense of safety and security that they are not going anywhere, even when you go out into the world, you ultimately build trust that you can come and go without serious repercussion.
I want to remind you that The Break Up Journal is a story of an unhealthy relationship and to watch out for signs of unhealthy, toxic thinking. Try not to focus on the superficial “love, love, love” stuff that I was imagining. What is boiling under the surface is desperation to be loved and validated, not from within, but from an outside source that, quite frankly, was never worth waiting for in the first place. Oh, hindsight is always 20/20.
Part of the recovery process for any addiction is grappling with what we want versus what we need. We may want the donut, but we need the apple. We may want the “bad boy,” but we need the “nice guy.” And this is a very hard emotional trigger to overcome. It requires a level of maturity that we previously never had, as well as a complete overhaul in thinking.
Want and need are wrapped up in several things, the first of which is the concept of immediate gratification versus deferred gratification: I want the pain to go away immediately, so I will call him and break my promise of no contact (NC) even though it’s not in my best interest. We place a higher value on feeding our emotions and getting what we want right at the moment as opposed to putting it off until there is a more appropriate (but often more difficult) way to deal with the pain. When you think of immediate gratification versus deferred, think of saving money versus spending it. When you hold off on buying stuff you want right when you see and you save your money instead, you are able to buy bigger and better things that have more value. My son is learning this lesson now (or not!). He had saved over $2000 for a new car. He needed only about $1000 more to get the model he wanted. Instead of waiting and working a little harder, he ended up blowing almost all his savings on t-shirts, food, and other stuff over the course of several months. When school started, and everyone was driving their car, he had to ask for a ride. Because he didn’t invest in a car, he is now dependent on others and has less freedom to go where he wants, which was his ultimate goal.
You need to see yourself as an investment. You need to see that the more you invest in yourself, the more hard work, love and education and experience you put into yourself, the more rewarding life becomes for you. The more valuable you become. Not only to yourself but others.
The second thing want versus need is wrapped up in is emotional thinking and logical thinking. Somewhere along the line, I don’t remember where, I learned that you think with two brains! Your emotional brain (which is ruled by your inner child), and your logical brain (which is ruled by your inner adult). To be a healthy individual means that there is a balance of power between these two brains, AND that both brains think in a healthy way. Most love addicts are ruled almost entirely by their emotional brains. And what’s worse is that their emotions are not very healthy to begin with. An emotionally-thinking individual tends to want what feels good. A logically-thinking individual tends to want what is rational, right and what makes sense. The conflict comes in when the two brains are not in alignment and desire different things. I am sure most of us can relate to this scenario: we are dating an avoidant person, someone who causes us a great deal of pain, yet we stay. Part of us doesn’t want to give him or her up (the emotional part), whereas the other part of us (the logical part) was driven to seek out help and knows the relationship needs to end.
Know that when something is right both the emotional brain and the logical brain are on the same page. They are in alignment. They want the same thing. When want and need are in alignment, both brains want the same thing. The trick is to give value to your logical brain and start to take it a hell of a lot more seriously than you have been. Many of us over-glamorize emotional and creative thinking. We tend to put a very ugly spin on “logic.” We see logical people as cold, rational, unfeeling, unemotional people who have no heart. Whereas we see emotional people as the salt of the earth. They are warm, passionate, loving and more “fun.” Not only is the kind of black and white thinking grossly untrue, it is detrimental to your health. You were given logic AND emotion and it is important to use both. By only using your emotional brain you cause a huge imbalance. “Want” wins out over “need” and the price becomes evident in the fact that you are not investing in yourself or caring for yourself properly. I do want to clarify that I do not think emotions are bad. But I do think that during recovery, a love addict cannot and should not trust or depend on their emotions. In order to balance the imbalance, use your logical brain most of the time. Until your emotions learn to feel in more healthy ways.
Want versus need is wrapped up in your personal belief system and level of maturity. I’m sure you’ve heard people say, “It’s better to spend money today than save it for tomorrow. Tomorrow might never come.” And yet, if you don’t plan for the future, and tomorrow does come, then what? What do you have to show for yourself? While this personal belief in immediate gratification has some merit, it is an immature belief. While it addresses the human need for immediate comfort and to enjoy the now, it does not address the equally important need to protect oneself for the future. This plays heavily into self-care. In order to take care of one’s self, you need to set goals, plan, save, and protect yourself by postponing things you want.
While the “bad boy” might seem like a great option now, and while he may make you feel wonderful and sexy now, what can he provide in the future? What’s his staying power? How will he benefit you a year from now, five years from now? Twenty? When we choose a partner, we need to have some bit of forward thinking and that comes from a level of maturity and an ability to see people as healthy choices or unhealthy choices. Choosing the bad boy, for me, was based on an immature notion I had had in my younger years of who I thought I was and what I thought was best for me. I learned that rather late in life that what I want did not match up to what I needed. I needed a family man. I needed a professional man who could take care of himself. I needed someone I could rely on, trust, and respect. More than anything, I needed someone who did not cause me pain and suffering. You tend not to think of any of those things when your goal is to find something you WANT.
So, my advice:
- Recognize the importance of deferred gratification. Oftentimes postponing pleasure as a way of achieving something of more value is the better option.
- Turn off your emotional thinking. At least for a year or two. Make logical decisions about things. Choose options not on how it “feels” but on its logical benefits. This is how you train yourself to align emotional thinking with logical thinking.
- Tweak your personal beliefs. Stop believing in things that don’t serve you in the long run. If you want to spend a little money now, that’s fine, but save a larger portion of it. If you want to satisfy a craving for love and emotional attachment do it in small doses with healthy people. Stop believing that expending all your emotions on the first date is healthy. It’s not. Think of the impact and consequences of your actions.
- Strive for maturity. That means making logical decisions, based on long-term outcomes. It means not empowering your demanding, needy inner-child by giving her free reign. Put her in a time out. It’s not all about her. Besides, she can’t make healthy decisions anyway (has she ever?!) And recognize that want is temporary; need is permanent. Lots of things in life are worth waiting for….
June 26, 27 and 28 of The Break Up Journal are up. And the icky downward spiral continues. I wasn’t able to figure out why this guy P was not writing to me every day. On the one hand, I grappled with feeling like a nag, always wanting attention, questioning his love for me. On the other, I had valid concerns that this new guy (not so new; we had confessed our love for each other after a couple months) should write more than a line or two after not having seen me in a few days. Was I detecting a red flag? Was I dealing, yet again, with another avoidant? Or, was I to blame? Was I being overly needy and demanding?
Anyone, healthy or not, can get stuck at this point. But for the recovering love addict, who has trust issues and feeble self-esteem, it’s a very perplexing dilemma.
It’s important to remember though, that when love addicts begin a new relationship, it takes a lot (and I mean A LOT) of effort on the part of the partner to help build trust. This is especially true if he’s dating a love addict who has had his or her fair share of deceitful or mistrusting relationships. A new, HEALTHY partner needs to be as honest as possible, have a decent amount of patience for a love addict’s mistrust issues (not forever, but for a relatively reasonable amount of time–6 months? a year?), and be willing to put in extra effort so that the love addict can heal and (re)establish trust. His words must always back up his actions, and his actions must point in the direction of care, respect, love, kindness and maybe even a little selflessness.
As for the recovering love addict, for her part, she must keep her eyes open for red flags, question the validity of her partner, test him (without being rude, deceitful or cruel) and work hard at facing the reality of the relationship (as opposed to keeping her eyes closed so as not to see anything that might remotely mean “the end”). She must be willing to accept and deal with whatever comes her way, good or bad, even if it means a possible break-up. And that means that she must always turn to her values, constantly checking to see if her partner shares those same values. Does he believe in communicating while apart? Does she? Is it more important that he have “me time” while they are apart, or is it important to touch base? If two people do not share the same expected values, a conversation should be had on the subject and compromise and negotiation should follow. I really need you to write me an email every other day, just a few sentences. That would make me feel better. Or, I really need to do my own thing and not feel obligated to write to you more than once a week. Neither of these requests are right or wrong. They are simply personal. And so, based on the couple’s ability to compromise, (he either writes the letters or he doesn’t; she either encourages him to write the letters, or she let’s it go and enjoys her trip), the recovering love addict can formulate her own feelings as to what she is willing to deal with. Can she live with her partner not writing every day or can’t she?
In the case of P, I could not live comfortable with the idea that he wasn’t writing every other day. And the reason is because I had not yet established trust with him. To me, if you love someone, you reach out to them. To me, that would have established trust. Years later, I was put in the same situation with D. I went away to Europe. We were newly dating. I told him I really needed him to write me long letters every other day. He did.
D built trust. P did not.
On the LAA boards today, someone posted the following cry for help: HOW exactly do I change, get well? HOW?
I have answers and solutions, but you probably won’t like them. They are more difficult to do than choosing to remain a love addict. You see, being a love addict is EASY. The pain and suffering comes second nature to people like us, so, because that’s familiar, we just settle for it. The alternative–facing ourselves, facing our fears, actually taking actions and GROWING UP is far scarier and far more a risk–at least from our perspective, we think it is. But essentially that’s what you must do.
1. Face yourself and accept yourself, as is. Not who you’d like to be, or who you envision yourself to be. Or even who your parents envisioned you to be. Or who the last or next PoA wishes you’d be! Just you, as you are now. Possibly broken, still alive, scrappy, but human, and beautiful in your own right. And perfectly able to grow and change.
2. Face your fears. Love addiction or alcohol addiction (as you well know with your great insight) is not about addiction to the substance or the person, it’s about AVOIDANCE OF THE SELF. We avoid ourselves because there’s something scary there that we don’t want to see, or there’s a really scary task we desperately want to avoid–scary tasks we want to avoid can be anything from living alone, growing up and taking care of yourself, becoming financially secure, giving up a long held fantasy or belief, feeling uncomfortable or doing something you’re not good at, etc. Find out what you are most afraid of. It’s usually something right in front of your face, and most likely it’s what you are avoiding right now. Once you figure it out, DEAL WITH IT. FACE IT. ADDRESS IT. No matter how scary.
3. Know that there are two energies at work inside you: your emotional energy (the child within you) who you are most likely giving all the power to, and shouldn’t, and your logical energy (the adult within you) who wants to become healthier and brought you here. These two energies are battling for power over you. Let LOGIC win, for now. Force yourself or teach yourself about both energies and how to turn off your emotional energy, at least until you can balance out the two energies, and at least until your emotional energy knows its place. Right now, my guess is, your emotional energy is ruling your brain. It shouldn’t be. Emotions don’t make logical decisions and as adult grown ups, we really, really, really need to make logic decisions. What this means is, stop making decisions based on “what feels good now.” What most likely feels good now is no pain, and so, to dull the pain, we run back to a PoA, or pick up the bottle. Or “zone” out. Stop making choices on what feels good. Make logical, rational choices. I am in pain, but the garbage needs to be taken out. Or, I don’t feel well, but I need to go to work. Or, I am lonely, so, I will find something all by myself to do, etc.
4. All your great “insight” is just a start. You actually have to change your behavior and that means physically taking different actions. I too had great insight. Most love addicts, believe it or not, do. I knew everything about love addiction and still nothing changed. It’s because I never put all that knowledge into action. I knew what to do, I just didn’t DO IT. You know the expression “practice what you preach.” Start preaching healthy and then start practicing it. What do healthy people do? Well, they most likely don’t accept unhealthy people into their lives. They don’t sit around all day fantasizing about a better life. When they detect red flags they are not afraid to acknowledge them and if need be, leave a relationship because of them. They also have a set of personal values that outweigh the need for a relationship. Love addicts have values, but the relationship outweighs their values and becomes more important. Many healthy people do not see the world the way addicts see the world: a place where people and substances are available to take the edge off a painful existence. This is how I perceived the world for many years. Until I didn’t anymore. Find healthy people and start to surround yourself by them. Copy their behavior. Learn from them. Chances are you didn’t have healthy models of love growing up. Neither did many of us. BUT, you’re an adult now. You are free to find healthy teachers in this world and learn new ways of coping and managing your life. Also, learn your VALUES and stick to them. Make them more important than the relationship.
5. Change your perspective immediately. When I was at the very beginning of recovery, I felt overwhelmingly frustrated. I had no idea where to begin to get better. I was finally sick and tired of being sick and tired. Yet, I kept imagining that someone would come to my rescue and teach me, or do it for me, or give me the answers. But because this never happened (well, I received many answers, but they weren’t good enough), I then imagined taking pills to dull the pain. And then, at some point, I gave up these FANTASIES. And little by little I started to work on some RANDOM problem I was having. And then I worked on another. And another. And after five years of chipping away at my problems, I built a new me. And some of my learning came easy, and some didn’t. And I fell on my face MANY times in the process. But the one thing I think I had through it all was a sense of determination to succeed. I WILL get better, I said. You can’t read a 50,000 page self-help book and not come away without learning SOMETHING. And you cannot unlearn all you’ve learned about being healthy. What you can do (and what I did for many years) is refuse to practice a healthy life. Give up trying. And the only thing that causes you to give up is that you’ve lost your positive perspective. So…don’t do that. It’s hard to always remain positive. But it’s all you’ve got. It’s the ONLY thing standing between a love addict and a healthy person. Perspective.
6. Give up. Yes, I said it. Give up. Give up the neediness for a romantic relationship. Give up the EXPECTATION of a romantic relationship. Give up the fantasy that you deserve a romantic relationship and that it is owed to you. It’s not. You need love and companionship in this world for a more humane existence. And you definitely need sex to procreate. But you do not NEED a romantic relationship. This is a cultural construct of western civilization and once you stop watching love stories and reading romance novels and take a good look at human history and anthropology you will come to understand that human beings don’t need romantic love. They simply need closeness to people to survive AND to thrive (yes, can you believe it? You can thrive without romance–most people do). You can get closeness and thrive through family, friends, pets, a satisfying career, etc. And because the world doesn’t owe you a romantic relationship, and there’s no knowing whether you’re destined for one or not, REFOCUS YOUR LIFE’S PURPOSE ON YOU AND WHAT YOU CAN CONTROL. Here’s an exercise for you: imagine you are living in a world with NO CHANCE OF ROMANTIC LOVE. What would you do? What would you look for? What would your goals be? Who would you befriend? As a love addict, we all must imagine ourselves as individuals separate from any romantic notions. When we are truly able to do that and we can focus our attentions on other things, we have won half the battle. And while love addiction is not about love or romance at all, but rather, about avoidance of the self, we (as love addicts) still need to deconstruct the fantasy that we’ve built around the notion that we are DEFINED by whatever partner or romantic relationship we happen to be in.
7. Learn better coping strategies through better management of your life. In my opinion, it is not the addiction that needs to be dealt with, it’s the addictive personality. The rest of your life, you may most likely want to turn to SOMETHING (who knows what) to dull your pain. And you will most likely do it obsessively, unless you understand what drives your addiction. If it’s not alcohol or men it might be shopping. Or gambling. Or whatever! There’s no sense in going to AA, then switching to LAA, then switching FAA or SLAA, or NA, etc. It’s all the same. Whatever you are addicted to is irrelevant. It’s your WAY to protect yourself. Once you build yourself up, learn how to cope with stress and manage your life like an adult and suddenly, poof! the need to run away is gone, or lessened. So, how do you learn to manage your life better? You live it. Stop running away from things. Practice, practice, practice. One of the things in life that scared me to death was working. At a job. Well, it stressed me out so much because I had zero experience, zero confidence, and being in situations that I didn’t feel comfortable or confident in stressed me out. So…I would avoid working by hopping in to a relationship. And then of course, I would be broke and need money and the vicious cycle would begin. So….go to school. Learn a trade. Get good at something. And allow yourself TEN TIMES to practice a hobby before giving up. Learn about better communication, how to create boundaries, when to talk, when to shut up. Learn how to manage your money, your free time, your living space, your stress. Yes, learn to manage stress in healthier ways. The more control you take over managing your life, the more confidence you will have in your life and the less you will need to depend on men or booze or whatever other object we can shove in the perceived “void.”
Shall I go on? Because I’m really not finished yet! Bottom line: you are in the right place. You are beginning a journey that has MANY MANY opportunities for growth. I’m glad you’re here. Keep reading.Keep posting. Become part of this community. Read my blog thelovelyaddict.com. And whatever you do, DO NOT GIVE UP ON YOURSELF. You, not anything or anyone else (except maybe your kids if you have them), are your best investment. Really try to understand that. YOU are your biggest and best investment. The more you learn about better health, and the more you do to work towards better health, the more of an investment you are making in yourself. It’s that easy.
Three new entries have been posted on The Break-Up Journal. Don’t forget to scroll all the way down on The Break Up Journal’s main page and click the “Follow this Blog by Email” link so that you receive notices of new posts.
My favorite entry of these three is June 24th. A lot of soul searching and a perfectly formed description of what I now understand to be introversion:
…As I drifted through the streets yesterday and took in all the people and their sad and lonely faces and their bad smells and rotten circumstances I came to the conclusion that I do not belong in a city. I am too delicate. Fragile. Too easily influenced by the energy of others, both good and bad. Actually, too drained by the energy of others, good and bad. I don’t have a way to shut the world out and be peaceful within myself. I let everything in. I would like to learn evasiveness. I would like to imagine a wall around me where I can look out, but not let anything in to disturb me.
There’s a reason love addicts are attracted to sex addicts, avoidants and narcissistic types. What do all these types all have in common? They offer very little in the way of true intimacy, and that, my friends, is something a love addict cannot handle either.
Instead of focusing on the sex addict, the avoidant and the narcissist, focus on yourself. Ask yourself this very difficult question: if I crave the intimacy of a relationship so desperately, why is it that I keep going after people who cannot give that to me? If I crave an ice cream cone, why on earth would I go to find it at the hardware store????
Love addiction is a paradox. It is not about love. It is about avoiding the self and avoiding true intimacy (with yourself and with others). At least sex addicts and avoidants can recognize their intimacy disorder. It seems that many of us can’t. And yet, we are the same. We are opposite sides of the same coin.
Don’t be fooled by the “love” in love addiction. There’s not much love in a love addicted relationship. What is there instead? Fear (of abandonment), need, desperation, drama, pain…
So, I’ve created a new body of work called The Break-Up Journal. Many of you, throughout the years, have asked me how I recovered and what happened, and so, instead of “telling” I am showing.
The Break-Up Journal is an actual account of my last love-addicted relationship, the break-up that ensued, the withdrawal and my ultimate struggle into recovery. Because this is an actual account, transcribed from hand-written journals, nothing is held back. But, because of that, reading can often be cringe-worthy. There are ridiculously stupid lapses in judgment on my part, huge slips, relapses, and several stellar losses of dignity. At times, reading is painful. And trust me, when I re-read this journal, I want to whack this girl over the head and say, What are you an idiot? Don’t you see?!
Fortunately that girl is long gone, but her story remains, and hopefully it can and will add insight into your own struggle with love addiction.
I am planning on posting five entries per week. It is meant to be read chronologically, so that means starting with May 31 (on bottom) and reading up.
Be sure to check out the About the blog page and the Cast of Characters, so you have better insight into the story line. And while names and dates have changed to protect identities, if you are familiar with my blog, you will probably be able to figure out who’s who.
My guess is, if you’re a love addict, the concept of “discipline” either makes no sense to you (that’s only something the military needs to practice, right?), or you recoil from the mere mention of it (sex dungeons, disciplinary parents and hard work, oh my!). Either way, love addicts have virtually zero self-discipline. At least when it comes to relationships.
How and why we tend to be less disciplined people is a mystery. From my own experience, I was raised in a somewhat unruly environment. I would certainly get into trouble if I did something wrong (I used to sneak into my mother’s closet, pull out a dress of hers, and then take scissors and cut it up into pieces so that it fit me. Needless to say, I got into trouble from time to time). But on the whole, I would have to say my parents were not disciplinarians, nor was their parenting very consistent. I grew up, in fact, believing that discipline was a bad thing for creative individuals and that people “like us” should be without boundaries or rules, simply living free so as to express themselves…
Those beliefs, as idealistic and freeing as they seemed at the time, were not very realistic. They translated into a rather directionless, undisciplined adult who ended up not really knowing the benefit of boundaries, rules, self-discipline and deferred gratification. And who certainly never had the self-discipline to make many of her creative ideas come to fruition.
Only now, after years of recovery, do I truly understand how faulty and self-sabotaging those beliefs were. And they were all based on a lack of understanding about the idea of discipline. To me, it was “bad.” Discipline was for non-creative, military-types. Period.
I was so wrong.
Setting the record straight, here are three powerful definition of discipline, taken from Wikipedia:
- Discipline is the assertion over more base desires, and is usually understood to be synonymous with self control. Self-discipline is to some extent a substitute for Motivation.
- Discipline is when one uses reason to determine the best course of action that opposes one’s desires, which is the opposite of Fun.
- Self-discipline—what many people call “will-power”—refers to the ability to persist at difficult or unpleasant tasks until they are completed. People who possess high self-discipline are able to overcome reluctance to begin tasks and stay on track despite distractions. Those with low self-discipline procrastinate and show poor follow-through, often failing to complete tasks—even tasks they want very much to complete.
For a love addict wanting and needing to become healthier, self-discipline is a must. We must learn to overcome obsessive thoughts, stop reaching out to our PoAs, change our current behavior, and change the way we think about certain big ticket items like love, relationships and who we are. All this takes loads of self-discipline.
So, how do you become more disciplined? There are a few resources on the internet to help. Forbes magazine gives a leadership version here. And then there’s Pick the Brain that offers tips for self-discipline when it comes to things like getting to the gym. Both set of tips can be applied to love addiction. But my personal favorite resource on self-discipline comes from Uncommon Help, a site designed for self-help and awareness. Read the 7 Self-Discipline Techniques. Then, print it out. Read it daily. Repeat.
Discipline is not scary. It’s the internal force that allows you to choose the apple over the donut, get up and go to the gym when you don’t feel like it or make decisions based on reason and logic, rather than emotion. Discipline is often a trait you’re born with, but it can be a learned behavior. But it is one concept that many love addicts fear. Why? Because discipline means change. It means giving up something in the short term to get to something far greater and far more rewarding in the long term. It means kissing the safety blanket of your addiction (i.e. your person of addiction and your addictive behavior) goodbye by stepping up to the plate and taking control of your life. It means having the willingness to take the risk to be a better person.
If you need a motivating mantra to start being more self-disciplined, use this: Enough already. I need to grow up. I need to stop being a little child, acting out, getting what he/she wants and crying when I don’t. I need to see value in disciplined behavior. Especially if it means living a more authentic, happy life.
Now, go get ’em!
All the self-help books tell you you have to meet your own needs. And while, for the most part, that is true, it’s not entirely true. If I break my leg and get rushed to the ER, there better be a team of competent doctors there to meet my needs because heck if I have to operate on myself.
Love addicts have a rough time figuring out which needs they can and should meet themselves, and which needs they believe should be met by others. I believe that much of the confusion over this choice stems from an inability or refusal to see one’s self as an adult versus a child. Love addicts tend to need attention and care that would normally be bestowed upon a child. But we’re not children. We are adults. And as an adult here’s how you figure out what needs you should be meeting yourself, as opposed to which needs others can meet for you…
YOU are responsible for meeting your basic needs: water, food, shelter (that means taking care of yourself financially), and clothing are all examples of basic needs. Basically, you need to be at the least self-sufficient.
YOU are responsible for meeting your own mental, emotional and physical needs: this means taking care of yourself, making healthy choices, keeping fit, eating well, incorporating spirituality into your life, filling your own void (if you think you have one), and working through or resolving any mental, emotional or physical issues you may have. This is no one else’s job but yours.
YOU are responsible for meeting your higher needs: higher education, finding and cultivating appropriate and rewarding friendships, finding a partner who is kind, respectful, loving, and compatible, being happy, finding and having a fulfilling career, entertaining yourself and being the person you aspire to be are all examples of higher needs. YOU are responsible for meeting those needs. No one else.
So, what needs of yours are others responsible for meeting?
The need to communicate & be social
The need for intimacy
The need for common human decency: Whether you know it or not, you have a human need for respect, tolerance, decency and to be treated humanely. Everyone is not expected to love or even like you, but they (and we) must meet the need of every human to treat others with dignity and respect. Many love addicts ignore this kind of need in exchange for other seemingly more important needs (sex, companionship, etc.), never realizing that you should not ever have to give up this need. We all deserve respect. Period. If you’re not getting it from certain sources, you need to reassess why that person(s) is in your life. You need to recognize that this is a valid and essential need, and that it should be met by yourself AND others. If it is not, you move on.
The need for friendship: while you are responsible for going out and trying to make friends, those friends, in return, are responsible for meeting your need for a compatible friend. If, however, they cannot meet that need you should move on, or stop expecting them to be a friend.
The need for intimacy with another human being: while you are responsible for going out and trying to find a mate, that mate, in return, is responsible for meeting your need for a compatible, respectful, intimate and loving partner. If, however, they cannot meet those needs you should move on, or stop expecting them to be your partner.
Lastly, I think it’s important to note that no one owes you anything, once you are an adult, except for respect (and sometimes you don’t even get that). And while you are able to expect that some of your needs can be met by others, you, my friend, are responsible for the bulk of those needs being met. If you are not meeting them, today is a great day to start!
I want to talk about healthy as a culture, not a singularity. To be healthy is not to find one way of being and then, do that behavior (not drink, not act out, not see the PoA, etc.). That is often not enough. Creating a healthy person means surrounding yourself with healthy people, healthy work and healthy activities. In AA when recovery is underway, they suggest you “change people, places and things.” Don’t hang out at the bar anymore, ditch the drinking buddies and get rid of the alcohol bottles from your home. When you make choices like that, you stand a better chance of recovering.
For love addicts, we need to do the same. We need to find healthier people to hang around, we need to create a better home situation (one of peace, respect, kindness, happiness). We need to take our work, job and careers more seriously and if necessary, find work that is meaningful and positive. Working in a fitness center or a bar where the atmosphere can be superficial and meat-markety might not be the best career choice for a love addict.
The same can be said about our interests. Reading romance novels, listening to love songs, watching love stories in films is not the best way to shake yourself free of romantic/fantasy notions of what a real, healthy relationship can and should be. Finally, if part of your unhealthy lifestyle entails staying home, filling in your time with hours of fantasy, you need to get out of the house and “do.” Put down the cell, quit checking your text messages and social media sites and walk, swim, shop, drive…Do. Be.
Surround yourself with healthy activities and people.
And lose the excuses. If you can’t quit your job or leave a marriage, try to create a healthier atmosphere right at your desk or in your home where you live and work. Go to therapy. Take a different route down the hall. Hang out with a more positive crowd. Create a space in your home that is “sacred” and only let positive things and people in this room (including you!). Figure out a way to improve your environment so that your environment is a healthier one.
If you think I give a lot of advice in this blog, you should see me as a mom. I dole out advice like a factory conveyor belt lined with Peeps at Easter. And one of the best responses I always seem to get in response to all my wise advice is “I know.”
You need to wear a jacket, it’s cold out.
You shouldn’t hit your brother.
You were supposed to take the trash out.
My kids say “I know” to almost everything. They know it all! It’s become a knee-jerk response to a question they know the answer to. And yet, in reality, they plan to do or have already done something else entirely.
Love addicts often have the same response. We know what’s right, but we tend to do something completely different.
You shouldn’t stay in a relationship with a man who hurts you.
Don’t go crawling back; have some dignity.
Stay away from bad boys.
Oops! So, if you KNOW all this stuff, why do you still do it? If you KNOW you are worth more than scraps, then why aren’t your actions proving that you know this?
I’m not sure I have the answer, but I do know (I know!) that better health comes when our words and actions sync up. When we stop with the childish response, “I know.” Who cares if you know! Don’t just tell me (and don’t just tell yourself) that you know, PROVE that you know by your actions. A head full of “knowing” but not “doing” is fantasy. In recovery, we need our actions to be louder than our “I knows.”
The words just slipped out. I could feel them clinking around in my head for moments before letting them loose: If you’re so mad at me then divorce me! Who needs this shit! And yet, divorce was the last thing on either of our minds. No issue, no fight, no behavior nor secret-thought has ever led to either of us wanting a divorce, and yet, there they were. Cold words that fell upon silence and couldn’t be reeled back even with the most sincerest regret. We were fighting about who knows what. But we were fighting long and hard with our emotions. Logic was long gone. It was late. We were weary. The words came out as a form of manipulation. But, I know this only in retrospect. They were designed as a challenge, not to receive the response, “OK, I will divorce you!” rather, to receive the response, “No! Why are we fighting? I love you and I’m sorry. I’ll never leave you.”
Sadly, manipulation rarely bestows upon you the hoped for outcome. If anything, it causes more trouble, especially if you’re arguing with someone who doesn’t subscribe to manipulation. Which is my husband’s case. And yet, there I was, reverting back to scrappy love-addict tactics that really only worked in my unhealthy relationship, and, if I’m honest with myself, didn’t even work then. And so, the night raged on. He became even angrier with me, which led to us sleeping in separate rooms, which led to us having a huge fight in the morning, which led to loads of crying and sadness and emotion and drama and shame and fear and…wait…Was I back to living that ‘ol life of chaos again?
Say it isn’t so.
OK, it isn’t so.
But, if I am to be realistic, arguments happen even in the best relationship. And we ultimately worked it out and went back to our happy selves. But my eyes opened to how much I needed to improve in this department. And I definitely realized, that night, I needed to change a few of my bottom line behaviors from here on out if I was going to fight fair and be a responsible, loving grown up. I especially needed to stop engaging in “love addict tactics.”
So, here’s my 8 points to help you argue with your partner in a healthier, more dignified way. But, a word of caution: this list is written for healthy relationships, or rather, for individuals who have each others’ best interest at heart. It’s not a way in which to negotiate or “fight fair” with an unhealthy individual whom you can’t seem to get a long with in any way. If you find yourself arguing incessantly, that’s another blog with different advice. And while you can (and should) certainly change and improve your arguing skills with darn near anyone, for your own sake, you may not get a matching result from your partner. If you do, this is a good sign! It means you are both moving in a similar direction and are equally working towards peace. If you don’t, it’s a sign that you are moving in separate directions and it may be time to reassess the value of the relationship.
Without further ado…
- Lose the drama: love addicts love drama. They say things and incite problems simply to drive the drama up to heightened levels. And for what reason? To feel alive? To release built up anger or emotions? Or simply because drama is something their chemistry craves. I don’t know. What I do know is that drama doesn’t equal dignity. Reassess your goals (in your head, while you’re arguing) by asking, what’s my hoped-for outcome? Is it self-centered? Is it to just yell and scream and blow off steam? Or is it to ultimately work towards peace with this person?
- Argue conscientiously: as hard as it may seem to switch off your impassioned, emotional brain and switch on your logical one, it can be done! I can clearly hear the rumblings of logic in my head when I am arguing, and in the past, I would often push those rumblings aside and opt for some crazy emotional response. Now, I try to focus. I take pauses. I breathe. And I use my logical brain as much as possible to get my point across. Arguing doesn’t always have to be hot and fiery. It can be approached from a level-headed, cool perspective. You’re in charge.
- Don’t manipulate: Saying or doing something to incite a response in your partner is manipulation. The classic example of this is the individual who screams, “If you leave me, I’ll kill myself!” That’s manipulation and quite frankly, it’s evil. My example, above, though not as extreme, is still manipulation. You cannot control people, and what’s more, people don’t want to be controlled. That’s the goal of manipulation, and it will only get you so far. Remove it as a communication skill. It’s an unhealthy one.
- Be honest: I read somewhere that truth brings you closer to people, whereas lies keep you apart. For love addicts, as much as we crave love, we often fear intimacy, and so, we lie to keep a “safe” emotional distance between us and the object of our desire. If you’re in a healthy relationship, or simply changing the rules from unhealthy to healthy, you need to lose the lying and as scary as intimacy might seem, it’s your responsibly to yourself and to your partner to be honest.
- Listen: Arguing inevitably entails two people trying desperately to be heard, albeit screaming their point across to the other, trying to grab center-stage and win over the other. Fight fairly. That means give the other person a chance to get his or her point across, to speak his or her mind. Don’t sit there and think of all the things you plan to say when he’s done. Really listen. You’d like it if he listened to you, yes?
- Put yourself in her shoes: people are different. They want different things and they respond differently in different situation. No matter how much of the time you’re on the same page, you and your partner will approach things differently. And oftentimes, they will seem like aliens to you! As hard as I try, I sometimes can not understand why D does certain things. But if I love him, I have to try to put myself in his shoes and trust that he knows what he’s doing. This is very hard to do. But worth it.
- Keep it real and keep it in the now: How often in an argument do you find yourself dredging up the past? If you’re anything like me, a lot. Well, don’t do it unless it’s part of the current landscape of discussion. There’s no need. You’ve forgiven for past transgressions and there needs to be a clean slate. I’m not talking arguing over chronic abuse that continues to happen. If this is the case, why are you arguing to begin with. You need to get out. And speaking of getting out, you need to keep your arguments REAL. What I mean by that, is don’t argue from a fantasy perspective, rather a reality-based one. Are you trying to change your partner? Get him or her to do what you want him to do? Are you unsatisfied with his or her behavior, but, if he just stops doing this one thing, it’ll all be alright? This is called fighting for the fantasy. And it looks like shadow boxing. You’re merely swinging hits at your own shadow and will not accomplish anything, especially not changing him. When we argue it has to be from a personal perspective, not a “I know what’s best for you” perspective. You are not dating your son or daughter. You are dating a grown adult. Keep it real. Accept his or her reality.
- Bow out gracefully: Who’s right? Who’s wrong? Who knows! Take some cool down time to think it over. Apologize if you need to. I know I have a very hard time with this (I think I’m always right!), and so, apologizing feels like defeat. It’s really not. It’s deferring to the relationship, not always the other person. Letting go of a belief that you hold dear (as long as it’s not a value, big difference!), is tough. But, sacrifices and compromising are an occasional requirement of a healthy relationship. Ask yourself, what is the higher good? Being right, or sharing happiness between the two of you?
I heard the term “sexual communicator” many years ago, though not exactly in that form. My mother used to say that I had to be careful not to “communicate sexually” with people I was not sexually attracted to, otherwise, they’d get the wrong idea. Looking back, I definitely communicated on a sexual level, but I didn’t see it as a problem, until I got into recovery.
Sexual communication most often has three associations:
- communication that is sexual in nature and appropriate between two people who are or who plan to be sexually intimate,
- narcissism as it applies to the narcissistic personality disorder, and
- excessive flirting as it relates to the sex addict
I do not want to talk about any of these types of communication, although the last one might be closely related to this discussion.
What I’m talking about is far more subtle and difficult to recognize. Here are some of the signs you might be a sexual communicator:
- Difficulty talking to men as “friends” or “acquaintances” on a non-sexual level (especially men you are not attracted to or who are unavailable)
- Not feeling comfortable in clothing unless it’s “sexy”
- No interest in going out with friends unless the potential for flirting or meeting and talking to mates is present
- No interest in people, places or activities that don’t have a sexual element to them
- Feeling most comfortable only when able to flirt or speak using sexual innuendos or behavior
- Averting eye contact with people, unless there is sexual communication
- Displaying sexual body language or leading the conversation in a sexual, flirtatious direction with almost anyone
- Consciously or unconsciously wondering if the person you are talking to finds you “attractive.”
If any of these points sound familiar, you may be a sexual communicator. But here’s the thing: communicating sexually with someone you are intimately involved with is acceptable and healthy; communicating sexually with your married neighbor, your co-workers, your boss, your friends, your friend’s boyfriend, or people you do not intend to have an intimate relationship with is, well, dangerous and unhealthy.
Communicating sexually puts all conversations –even platonic ones– on a heightened sexual level and removes the possibility of knowing people on many different levels, thus narrowing the scope and experience of relating to the world. When you remove sexuality from a conversation, what do you have? To a sexual communicator, you have a boring conversation. But to a healthy person, you have the potential to understand and know people on an intellectual, emotional or spiritual level. You also have the potential to create non-intense relationships that you are not instantly bound to. Sexual communicators tend to become intense and locked into close relationships with people, cross boundaries, date people with many red flags and hop into relationships they later regret.
So, how do you change the way you communicate if you’re a sexual communicator?
The first step is to be aware of these signs, aware of your motives when speaking to people and aware of your ability (or inability) to change your behavior.
I was a sexual communicator nearly all my life–until one experience changed my life. I was in grad school and took a part-time job teaching at a community college. As many of you know, male students can and will flirt with their teachers. And nearly all my life, I was very used to flirting and getting male attention. But, I knew it was my responsibility as a teacher to create clear boundaries between me and my students. I noticed, however, that any time I spoke to a male student I would wonder, as I always had, “Is he attracted to me?” Almost immediately, I felt this wasn’t a healthy way to relate to my students. I was nearly 40, I was professional, and these students were here to learn, not to flirt with their teacher! It was at this point in my life I forced myself to communicate another way and block my sexually communicative nature. By doing that, it opened up a whole new world of relating to and understanding people.
I sexualized men all my life. Every man I would meet I would only be able to relate to him on a sexual level. This was so narrowing and limiting. Now, I communicate with men as friends and am able to have a better understanding of who people are on a personal level, not a sexual one. More importantly, was removing my habit of communicating sexually while dating. This allowed me to get to know my husband as a friend first. And while we are free to communicate on a sexual level now, it’s not the ONLY way we communicate. How nice.
As badly as most of us want a healthy relationship, we’re simply not ready for one. I liken it to wanting to hop into a career before getting a degree. And I am reminded of a story I read recently in the news where a woman was arrested for practicing law without her law degree. She had taken a few classes at law school, but dropped out because she couldn’t afford it anymore, and instead, lied on her resume, got a job as a law clerk at a courthouse and then opened her own practice, taking on clients. Eventually, she was found and arrested. And while I’m not sure if her clients were pleased with her work her not, she was still a fraud. She operated through layers of deception and deceit and in the end, she had nothing to show for herself.
We often make this kind of misstep in our love life. We are not out of one relationship before diving into another. Or, we don’t have a decent model of a loving relationship, and so, we grab whatever comes our way.
Here are a few examples of not being “ready” for a healthy relationship and what you can do about it.
- No model of a healthy relationship: If you witnessed your parents fighting all the time, or your dad ignored your mom, or your mom was an alcoholic, these are not the best models to follow. And yet, we go out into the world and find mates based on how we learned to love as a child. As an adult, however, you can learn to follow a new healthier model. I wrote a blog about it here.
- No proper grieving period: When a relationship is over, whether you called it or not, you need to grieve. Period. You need to spend a decent amount of alone-time trying to put your life back together, figuring out who you are and finding your center. Without this period of coming to terms with the end of that relationship and self-centering, you risk choosing a new relationship based on flimsy things like loneliness, neediness and sadness. A mate is not supposed to “fill the void” in your life, he or she is supposed to compliment your own awesomeness. Not grieving is also a sign that you were not exactly in the last relationship for intimacy with the person, per se, but rather, for the intensity of any relationship. This relates closely to the next point…
- Jumping into a new relationship before the old one is officially over: Like I said above, when you do not have a healthy amount of alone-time in between relationships, it tends to be a sign that you were not exactly in the last relationship for intimacy with the person, per se, but rather, for the intensity of the relationship. Almost anyone with chemistry can create that intensity, so replacing him or her is relatively easy. The healthier option, is to spend some serious time looking back at the person you broke up with to see where YOU might have gone wrong. What you might want in a new partner and what you might want to avoid.
- Choosing the same unhealthy person over and over: My mother used to say “God will give you the same problem until you learn to fix it.” If you’re dating the same “type” over and over (especially one who tends to hurt you, frustrate you or create suffering) you have not learned to “fix” this problem. Read more about love addiction, build your self-esteem, learn what your values are. Learn what it takes to change. These are all ways in which you can grow out of repeat patterns that hold you down.
- Not being a healthy person yourself: How do you expect to attract a healthy partner if you, yourself are manipulating, lying, cheating, acting out, abusive, angry, miserable and so on? You can’t do it. Well, you might be able to attract a healthy partner, but you will not be able to sustain a relationship with a heathy partner if you possess these qualities. Why? Because, forget what you were told about “opposites attract.” Not in this situation. In this situation, like attracts like. Water seeks its own level. You need to be the healthy person you want to connect with. And that means building self-esteem, being able to take care of yourself mentally, emotionally, financially and physically, and be able to enter into a relationship as an equal partner, not someone who is looking for a fix or a hole to fill.
- Expecting too much from dating: I’ve added this in because let’s be honest, dating is something you need to learn. It’s not exactly something that we all inherently know how to do. And for love addicts, who tend to set expectations way too high when it comes to dating, a book or two on how to date, what to expect and what not to expect is helpful. You can read my “Tips on Dating for the Love Addict” as well as Judith Sills “A Fine Romance,” which will really put dating into perspective.
Bottom line: A healthy relationship is a fantasy, unless you put lots of hard work into yourself and into your “career” as a healthy person!
Here’s the year in review, folks!
Here’s an excerpt:
The Louvre Museum has 8.5 million visitors per year. This blog was viewed about 110,000 times in 2015. If it were an exhibit at the Louvre Museum, it would take about 5 days for that many people to see it.