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!
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.
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
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
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
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.
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. 🙂
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.
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….