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…