Sometimes we lose sight of our priorities. Or maybe, we don’t exactly know what our priorities are. Especially when it comes to dating. We can often meet a really good looking guy who lavishes a mound of attention upon us and, poof! Just like that, we forget what we’re looking for, what we need and what will ultimately serve us well in the long run. Worse yet, we can easily get caught up in a fantasy of what we think we want and need. For the sake of immediate gratification, we forget all our values and fling ourselves into what we hope will be the relationship of our dreams.
For love addicts, we tend not to know our values. We tend to have a very immature, superficial idea of love that is not so much based on health, as it is on neediness, an urgency to fill a void, and a desperation to use people and relationships as a way to cope or worse, to avoid the reality of our lives.
But having a healthy relationship takes patience and the courage to say no to the wrong people. It takes a strong sense of self to be able to recognize good qualities in others, and not so good qualities. And above all, it takes the determination to love yourself to the point where you want healthy people, places and things in your life.
So, how do you know good qualities from bad? How do you recognize healthy people versus unhealthy? Well, you look for people who do this…and not that…
- DOES THIS: Asks you out on a date. NOT THIS: Waits around for you to ask him out on a date
- DOES THIS: Calls you and/or calls you back NOT THIS: Doesn’t call you or call you back, and if he does it’s five days later.
- DOES THIS: Makes time for you, wants to spend time with you. NOT THIS: barely has time for you and when he does it’s usually in the bedroom.
- DOES THIS: Lives a clean, healthy life. NOT THIS: smokes, drinks to excess, does drugs, doesn’t face or deal with his health issues, eats poorly, etc.
- DOES THIS: Takes care of himself financially. NOT THIS: Still lives with parents, borrows money, in debt, doesn’t work, or doesn’t have a stable job where he can pay his bills and pay for a roof over his head without depending on others.
- DOES THIS: Communicates well. NOT THIS: Bottles everything up and won’t talk, or communicates only minimally, refuses to face emotional discussion, poor listener.
- DOES THIS: Lives an honest, respectful life. NOT THIS: Cheats, lies, is evasive and deceptive, dishonest in business, in personal matters or with strangers.
- DOES THIS: Treats you (and others) with respect, care, kindness and dignity NOT THIS: treats you poorly, ignores you, avoids you, repeatedly unkind to you, controls you, etc.
- DOES THIS: Enjoys you and likes you for who you are, not what you could or should be NOT THIS: Expects you to be something or someone you are not.
- DOES THIS: Is a genuinely happy person NOT THIS: is a genuinely unhappy or angry person
- DOES THIS: Feels and acts passionate towards you NOT THIS: doesn’t feel or act passionate towards you, withholds sex, love or affection, cold or inappropriate behavior, fear of intimacy
- DOES THIS: Is a grown up and acts like one. NOT THIS: is immature and refuses to grow up.
At the suggestion of my husband, who watches everything under the sun, I thought I’d check out the Netflix dark comedy Love. He kept insisting I watch this show because the main character, played by Gillian Jacobs, is supposed to be a love addict a sex addict and an alcoholic.
Well, for someone who doesn’t watch TV, let alone comedy series’ on her iPad, I spent the whole day binge-watching Love and got through the entire first season.
And while I liked the show–the characters are quirky and unmanageable but well developed and believable–there is still a long way to go before Hollywood can truly capture the love addict in all his or her chaotic glory without presenting a typical scripted character.
Yet, Gillian Jacobs does a pretty good job. I have to say, there were moments I cringed watching her fumble through some awkward moment, cross boundaries, have sex out of manipulation and not love, hurt her friends to feed her addiction and embarrass herself by stalking her main love interest.
Perhaps the most interesting reaction I had was to Paul Rust’s character–Paul Rust plays Gus, a goofy, “nice guy” who follows the rules but has an edgy side to him. I found myself unable to see him as a love interest for Mickey and was turned off by the idea of the two hooking up. In fact, it brought me back to a time and place where I would date a guy simply because he liked me, not vice versa. And no matter whether I found him attractive or not, I would have sex with him–almost as a “gift.” Within months, however, I would come to my senses and run away out of disgust and shame for dating someone I was so unattracted to. But as the show progressed Gus grew on me. There was a cuteness to him simply in how “nice” he was to Mickey.
I guess I could liken this love story to my own–though it’s quite different. I met D after I had a good deal of recovery behind me. And, I thought D was pretty damn hot. But, he wasn’t my type. That’s for sure. Whereas Gus and Mickey meet when she’s still in the clutches of her addiction. And let’s be honest, that’s where the show takes somewhat of an unrealistic turn. Water tends to seek its own level, and Gus is definitely the “healthier” of the two characters. Or is he? Being able to cross-date–a love addict with a healthy person– is extremely rare. This is where Season 1 leaves you. At the end of the beginning where they decide to be a couple. Well, it worked for D and I. Let’s see what happens with these two.
Gentle warning: while I didn’t find this show overly romantic or triggering, you need to judge for yourself. My advice to a newly recovering addict is to stay away from all TV and film until you have a little time behind your belt. If you’re in a good place, this show will have its intended effect–to make you laugh. If you’re in a bad place, sex, love and lifestyle could leave you longing for a fantasy life.
It’s Spring! And many of my dear friends on the LAA boards have started to date again (or want to date), after a long winter of introspection and recovery work. But are they ready? Are you ready? If this wasn’t a love addiction blog I would definitely say, Carpe Diem! Seize the day! Go for it! But a recovering love addict is a totally different, unique individual who has to approach dating with far more precaution than the average guy or girl. Just as a recovering alcoholic has to reconfigure the people, places and things in his sober life, so too does a recovering love addict. And when you know this, the safer and more successful you will be. So, without further ado…
1. Know when you are (really!) ready to date. You may think you’re ready. You may even fantasize about the hot guy or girl at the office who gave you a “look.” But when it really comes down to it, and the question gets popped (How about Saturday night?), some of us are simply not ready, emotionally, mentally or physcially. How do you know? You know when the idea of dating doesn’t scare the hell out of you to the point where you simply cannot make the date, when it sounds “scary” but exciting too, when you don’t curl up into a ball and start crying hysterically after a first date because all you can think about is your ex, when you start to feel comfortable around strangers (not 100% but enough to have the courage to do so), and when being alone is not a bad thing, but you’re ready for something new…
Many love addicts who still have a person of addiction (PoA) on their brain long after the relationship has ended (this is a torchbearer, by the way) do so not because they still love them or think they will get back together, but as a form of protection. If you are still emotionally attached to a person, it keeps you safe from having to date someone new, and thus, experience the possibility of new pain and rejection. Some love addicts become emotionally or sexually “anorexic,” which is a form of sex and/or love addiction also. Lastly, there is the issue of replacing one PoA with another, diving from one relationship into another, thus being “ready” for the wrong reasons. In this latter case, the person is not ready to date. He or she is simply looking for their next “fix.” How do you know the difference between being ready and looking for your next fix? See Tip #4. Otherwise, these areas of emotional and behavioral unrest need to be resolved first, before you’re ready.
2. A date is JUST a date. Learn to put dates into perspective. A date is not romantic, it is not your future, it is not love, it is not a dreamy Hollywood story of passion and ardor. And while a date may have elements of all those things IF there’s chemistry and attraction, don’t get too hung up on the chemistry and attraction. A date is a meeting. Someone finds you physically attractive (or you find them physically attractive, or both), and they want to get to know you a bit more. They want to talk to you, maybe they even want to kiss you at the end of the night. Who knows! Whatever the case, treat it like a meeting. It might be fun but it might be awkward; it might make you happy, but it might make him never want to call back. Who knows! Your first date will most likely not look like the fantasy you’ve created in your head. WHen you meet up with someone for the purpose of getting to know you, and vice versus, you have to try and remove the romantic element, otherwise, you leave yourself open to fantasy and high expectations, which brings me to tip #3…
3. Lose the expectations. If you go into a date looking for your soulmate, you will probably be sorely disappointed. Why is that? Because you’re expectations are far too high for an unsuspecting stranger who doesn’t know what you want or need and basically owes you nothing but a little common courtesy–that’s about as much as can be expected on a first date. Any more than that and you’re barking up the wrong tree. You see, understanding the concept of expectations is probably a love addict’s biggest hurdle. We have high expecations too soon, or of the wrong people, and then, once we see that our expectations are not getting met, we whine about it, but settle anyway. But there’s a simple formula for expectations: we can only have high expectations of people who are healthy enough, interested enough and capable of meeting our expectations. And we also have to be willing to expect the same from ourselves. You can’t go on a first date and expect to be treated with basic human kindness and respect from someone who is not a kind and respectful person. You can’t go on a first date and expect that a person will call you back for a second date, if that person is not interested. And you can’t go on a first date (or a second or third) and start expecting that the two of you are automatically a couple. These are all unrealistic expectations and you are setting yourself up for a huge let down. Expect NOTHING. And be happy. Don’t expect a call back! Don’t expect a text! Don’t expect a second date! You are owed nothing. You didn’t go on this date “expecting” for a second or third date. You went on this date to simply ENJOY this person now. That’s all you get. (P.S. Having high expectations like, “I will be respected,” comes under “Values” in #10)
4. Know the difference between dating and desperation. Are you ok with just you? Or are you looking for someone to save you? Can you handle being alone? Or do you hate your life because it’s missing a soulmate? Is it a combination of both of these things? Knowing what is driving your desire to date can have a huge impact on WHO YOU CHOOSE to date. If you are OK within yourself then you can be far more discerning with whom you choose to date. Why? Because you have nothing to lose. You’re not dating out of need or desperation to fill a void. You are simply dating because you would like to meet someone that you can enjoy. Period. A love addict has to be on constant alert of his or her personal motives. If you feel a void within you, you may pick and choose prospective dates for the wrong reasons. You may be willing to overlook red flags, put up with abuse or neglect, or date “down,” all for the purpose of stuffing that void within you. Remember, when we date, we are not looking for our second half. We are not looking to be “completed.” We must begin to understand that we are complete, as is. And if we don’t feel complete on our own, we need to bring ourselves there first. Healthy dating is about meeting other people who are also complete.
5. Let things happen organically. Letting things happen organically means removing the fantasy…100%. That means that when the date is over, it’s over. You can think about the wonderful feeling of his touch, but do not try on his name and imagine the two of you on an Alaskan Cruise as Honeymooners. You can certain enjoy the thoughts of her that pop into your head the next day, but don’t imagine what your children will look like. Letting things happen organically means living in the now. If he hasn’t called, he hasn’t called. Gently push those wanting, needing and fantasy thoughts from your head and replace them with thoughts on your work, or what you are presently doing. Remove the ruminating! If he doesn’t call in two weeks, let it go. The more you fantasize, or obsess the more you remove the organic nature of what is meant to happen versus what is not meant to happen. This is hard work, but in the end, it’s EASIER this way!!!! Trust me.
6. Step away from the computer. One of the most important steps a recovering love addict can take is to abandon any idea of online dating. DOn’t do it. Say goodbye to it. Online dating sites are a petrie dish of toxicity for the love addict. Why is that? Because they are filled with three things: the hope of instant gratification (finding someone with one click), the promotion of fantasy-based exchanges (when you don’t have a clear picture of someone you are free to “fill in the blanks” and create what you want that person to be), and the almost complete removal of the crucial human necessity to judge someone realistically, in person, FIRST, before getting emotionally attached to them. Because love addicts need to learn to defer gratification, control their susceptibility to fantasy, and be able to judge people realistically, online dating is a bad idea. It’s like an alcoholic hanging out in a bar after he has given up drinking. It’s only a matter of time before he will slip. Online dating may be great for healthy people, but not for love addicts.
7. Don’t have sex on the first date. Cosmopolitan magazine recently wrote that not having sex on the first date is “outdated.” In other words, go ahead, girls, that rule is “antiquated and harmful” and produces “unnecessary anxiety and shame about something normal and natural: dating and sex.” Unfortunately, they were NOT talking to a love addict. Like it or not, you need to play by the antiquated, SAFE rules from days of yore. I say this not just to the women, but the men as well. Sex to a love addict is never taken lightly. It means something. It usually means a full blown commitment and an excuse to obsess over someone. That’s why it needs to be put on the back burner for a significant amount of time (3 months? 6 months?). A love addict’s job is to learn to defer gratification. To sniff out a person for red flags FIRST, before making any heavy duty commitments, physical or otherwise. And here’s something Cosmo won’t tell you, what’s the hurry? If you’re into someone, and they’re into you, and you plan to spend your lives together, why not wait? You’ve got all the time in the world. Why not make it about other stuff first? Sex on the first, second, third, etc. date is Russian Roulette to a love addict. Put it off. It can wait. He/she’s not going anywhere. And if he/she does leave, they weren’t worth it anyway and you were able to hold on to your dignity. More than that, it might save you from obsessing more than you would if you did have sex.
8. Do keep a journal. The perspective and instincts we have before we get to know someone intimately are amazingly sharp. I am convinced that every red flag a person might have pops up on the first or second date, if we really pay attention. Trouble is, when we something bad enough, we are willing to ignore the red flags, and ignore our gut instincts. Keeping a journal helps us to stay on track and remember how we felt and what we sensed in those first hours. Be sure to write down your first impression, how you felt, if you noticed or felt anything funny, if something didn’t add up. What was your logical brain picking up on, versus your heart (emotions)? While this may seem like overkill, it will help you in your process and your ability to “learn” to date healthily. Looking back we always see with perfect vision.
9. Don’t trust your emotions. I know. It sounds counterintuitive when talking about dating. But it’s not. A love addict can’t trust his or her emotions. Not yet, anyway. Why? Because we tend to be ruled by our emotions and our logic goes right out the window. We are imbalanced in this way. Our logical brain will pick up on abuse, red flags, neglect, shame and general danger. Our logical brains are screaming at us to leave a bad relationship. But our emotions are screaming back, “Never! I love him!!!!” This is an extremely unhealthy way to make life decision. You cannot be ruled by emotions only. You need a balance of both your head and your heart. Trouble is, because we have been off balance for so many years, we need the pendulum to swing in the opposite direction. We need to depend more on our logical brain so that we begin to trust it again. Only then are we able to allow our emotions to “speak up.” Once our logical brain has first determined that we are safe and secure. So, all those emotions howling at you, telling you that they are convinced 100% that it’s love, after the first or second date. IGNORE THEM. Focus on the brain. On the logic. Turn back to your journal. Check for red flags. Don’t be afraid to ask questions, to seek out the possibility of red flags. And don’t be afraid to walk away if you unearth something that you know in your head and your heart you probably cannot or should not live with if it doesn’t agree with your set of values.
10. Know Your Values. Attraction, chemistry, passion, flirtiness–those things are fine and good and all. But they can’t shake a stick at something called values. Knowing your values is critical to dating. If you don’t know your values, how can you know if someone else’s values are right for you? How can you tell if someone has the same belief in loyalty, respect or kindness as you do? Does he or she share the same work ethic, family values, or relgious beliefs? Where does he or she stand on marriage, affairs, children, parenting, age, eating, working out, drugs, sex, and so on. Most of these things seem world’s away from a first-time meeting. And I do not suggest you try to find out what your date thinks about child rearing on date #1. But I do suggest that you know what YOUR values are on all these things so that you know what to look out for and how to assess the other person. Case in point, I went on a date many years ago with a good looking guy who, on our very first date, asked if I wanted to get high. I said, no thanks, and despite it bothering me enormously (because it’s something I can’t handle) I kept dating him. I kept dating him because I didn’t know my values. I knew I didn’t like drugs and I knew I didn’t like being around people who did drugs. But I didn’t know it was SO IMPORTANT to me that the relationship would not work. And it didn’t. I eventually couldn’t take his smoking. Had I known my values, I would have saved myself a lot of time and emotional angst.
You need to hold people up to the light and really look at them and not be afraid of what you might see. Your happiness depends upon you being honest with yourself. And while I do not suggest scrutinizing people too early on in the dating process, I do suggest being open to communicating, and being patient in cultivating a relationship. You will not get to know someone over night. It takes months, years. You cannot rush things. People who fall in love fast are red flags. That goes for you, and for your date. It is a sign of instability. Healthy people are cautious, curious, protective with their emotions. They don’t call every two seconds, they don’t profess love right away. They don’t drink like a fish or do drugs or try to sweet talk you into bed after a 2.5 hour date. Know the signs of healthy partner, and be one too.
I think we hold on to ex boyfriends (or girlfriends) so tightly and for so long, long after they’re gone, because we consider them a part of who we are. Like an arm or a leg. Like a family member. We compartmentalize them and arrange our lives around their memory. They may even be like a lifeline to something that bears connection to something much bigger than ourselves.
For me, I kept journals all my life. Each journal was literally devoted to a different GUY. The eras of my life were broken into who I was dating at the time. It was how I categorized and moved through my entire history. There’s the G era, the R era, the D era, the other D era, the P era and so….Trying to get rid of this kind of ingrained classification system is almost like trying to erase big chunks of your history. It’s impossible unless you are willing to train your brain to think differently. Instead of associating huge tracts of my life with some man, I have started to associate other things within that timeframe: school, travel, work…And it helped. 1989 is no longer the H era, but the Paris days. 2008 was not the S year, but the year my Uncle died, and the year I got serious about my recovery. But even when I try to redefine my history, those pesky exs keep popping back into my memory and with good cause. That is who I was. That is how I lived my life for so long. I cannot erase my history.
Also, I used to hold on to old letters and memorabilia from ex bfs. Boxes upon boxes of letters from inconsequential guys telling me, “you’re hot,” or “I love you.” I saved them because I envisioned others finding these letters when I was dead and gone. They would read the letters and think, “Wow! She was truly loved by so many…” But what silliness!
More realistically, my great-grandchildren would find those letters they’d think, “Grandma was a slut.” Or “She sure did get around.”
Definitely not the legacy I want to leave behind.
So now, it’s all about slash and burn. I no longer feel validated by those letters. They no longer define my worth. If anything, they burdened me, and so they all got tossed. Interestingly, I used to feel such a deep sense of loss at the thought of throwing the stuff out that I never did it. But now I feel as though the empty space is more of a gain. I feel free.
So…how do you hang on and how do you plan to let go? Write it out. Talk about it. Do you physically hold on to memories, or do you hold on emotionally. What do you think will happen to you if you let go? What are you afraid of?
Over a year ago, as some of you may know, I met the lovely Pernille Grønkjær, a film director and documentarist. We talked about love addiction in great length and, at the time, as I was still dealing with G, I allowed Pernille to consider me for her documentary. Well, she is still looking for people who might want to share their story and become a part of something that could possibly help millions of people. Pernille is hugely accessible, warm, friendly and easy to talk to. Her documentaries are also extremely beautiful. This is not a Jerry Springer-type film at all, but something deeper and more relevant to those who suffer from love addiction. I strongly suggest emailing her or calling her. She needs your help, feedback, stories etc. Below is her announcement…
DOCUMENTARY ON LOVE ADDICTION
We are looking for people who would like to participate in a documentary on love addiction. If you are addicted to love, love becomes more of a struggle than something great and joyful. Love addiction can rule your life in a destructive way. As someone addicted to love, you ignore your own boundaries and needs, and your attempts to loving someone are seldom returned. Love addiction can lead to obsessive thinking, anxiety, despair and loneliness. With this film we would like to tell the world around us more about love addiction and help people understand. We hope you would like to help with your insights and experiences. There are many types and stages of love addiction, and we are interested in hearing about any one of them. We will be in the US in November and December 2009. Learn more: www.loveaddictiondoc.com Write us: email@example.com Warm regards Elvira (research) and Pernille Rose (director)
We are almost at the three month mark and things have changed. Here is a list of things that might be running concurrent to my previous post “Don’t Give Up.”
- He said he’s falling in love with me. I said I was thinking the same thing.
- We are booked to go to Nassau for the last week in April
- We’ve told my family about “us”, and he’s coming over for Easter with his children
- We’re spending more time together
- I have finally experienced my negative, awful mood and have asked for more space and time a part
- We have had our first series of “discussions” that have caused us discomfort and awkwardness.
- He has told me that he wants/sees a future with me.
I think it is with all these new, super intimate advances, that I have become a bit frightened and have pulled back. I feel doubt, anger, disgust, confusion. Other times I am high on our love, sure, and calm. I vacillate between these two extremes. I even get a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach. This part of the relationship is about negotiating. Hopefully, the negative feelings will go away and I’ll be happy again. I’ll keep you informed!
It’s been exactly a month since my initial post about D, and I feel as though I owe it to this blog to add this new relationship to the unfolding story of my life. Is this love addiction or isn’t it? I don’t know. But it’s all a part of the process of being me, so I’ll dish. Since my last post about him I have to say a lot has definitely transpired. For starters, we got closer.
We waited about 7 weeks before actually having sex, and when we did it was wonderful, close, loving and tender. The emotional build up was really exciting (sex tip: everyone should wait as long as possible. It’s so worth it). During the time before sex we went out to dinner several times, talked incessantly and drew closer to each other. After sex, it seems we’ve gotten even closer, more intense, more comfortable and deeper. We go out more, we laugh more, we seem to be building this thing between us that is growing larger than we are, and it’s amazingly good. We have maintained a relationship of writing to each other every day via e-mail, we see each other every weekend and meet for lunch sometimes during the week. He’s taken me out to some really wonderful places, paid for everything, bought me a book on the Pine Barrens, made me CDs of some of the best music ever and on and on…He’s definitely a giver. In fact, last week, in congratulations of my getting accepted to the MFA program in Creative Writing, he bought me a beautiful silver ring with a seafoam green stone in it and a card that said, “My favorite place in all the world is next to you.”
But here’s the best part:
As I am a “recovering” love addict, I am obsessively trying to keep things in check and AVOID drama at all costs. What that means is this:
- I don’t try to see him at any cost. I pretty much let the natural flow of events happen. We can’t see each other as much as I would like, but I am grateful for the time in between for “me” time- and I also like how laid back I am about not seeing him all the time. It seems to make the quality time when we do see each other so much nicer.
- I avoid telling him too many negative things about my past. I am trying to be healthier. It’s not that I am lying to him. If he asks I tell him. But there’s no need to bring unnecessary drama into the relationship by telling him of things I have overcome.
- I don’t delve too deeply. I am a very analytical person, however, I’ve rather been in the mood to keep things light instead of so serious.
- I am not using the “L” word. Nor is he. We are instead flirting around with “I adore you,” You amaze me,” I am wow’ed by you,” and so on. I also keep telling myself that this is not Love. It’s too soon to be love. Whatever it is, or whatever it’s called is very, very nice. But it’s not Love.
- I am trying to be patient. If he doesn’t e-mail me right away, I’m OK with that. I’m OK with that because I trust that he really, really, really likes me.
- I am not putting this relationship up to any standards. Whatever happens, I allow it to.
- I don’t call or contact him first. I let him make more of the effort and he actually likes it better that way, I think. Besides, it takes a lot of weight off me.
- I always put my children first. They’ve only met him once but other than that, I have not brought him into my world and if I have a priority to them, I have to cancel plans with D. Same with my family. We are waiting before we tell everyone.
- Despite this feeling new and good and despite there being a lot of passion, I am not allowing myself to get overly obsessive. I try to keep other stuff like work and family in the forefront of my mind.
- I still go to the gym. I still maintain my normal routine. I still meditate. When I need to refocus on me I have a song that brings me right back to ME. It’s wonderful how that can happen.
- I am not on an extreme HIGH. I really like D. There’s passion. But I am grounded.
- Lastly, I don’t over-analyze any of his behavior (because he doesn’t do anything that would trigger me to be suspicious, i.e. lie, drink, do sneaky stuff). If I do find myself doubting something or feeling uncomfortable (rare, but it happens), I allow it to pass through me without drawing too much attention to it. I give him the benefit of the doubt and I let it pass, calmly.
A HUGE part of the equation to being in recovery is that you tend to pick and choose better quality men. I believe I have done that. And yet, I am not being too sure or overconfident about anything. I am still cautious. I am still reserved. I’m not throwing myself into this emotionally or otherwise like I often tend to do. Also, because he likes me so much, I am not nervous or wondering where he is all the time. I have faith that he’s there and when he has the time, he’ll call or try to spend time with me. That’s not to say that I have given him all the control either. Ours is a mutual relationship. There’s a very nice give and take between us.
I am keeping my eyes open for red flags. So far there are two which he’s admitted and hopefully you’ll laugh when you hear them:
- he loves watching sports on TV (during baseball season)
- he’s afraid he will bore me some day.
Somehow I don’t see those as being red flags as much as normal issues that couples have to deal with.
Anyway…so that’s where I am for today. I hope it grows. I hope it gets better. I hope I can set an example for others who have suffered with love addiction and let people know that it is possible to someday be “normal” and “healthy.” In another 6 months I will have a much better grasp on this relationship. I can give you a better picture. Until then, wish me the best!
I’m so damn tired. Run down. My body has been crushed under the weight of massive amounts of pleasure and now, I feel broken. Good broken, though. Like the kind your body feels after hard labor.
I had a very guilt-ridden dream last night that my son and one of the girl’s from his class were snooping around in my room and found all my lingerie and sexy bras and panties. They brought them to me and threw them down in a pile at my feet, completely disgusted with me, tears in their eyes. “Is this who you are? Is this the only thing that you have to offer the world? Is this what you are teaching you’re children?!” I stared down at them and the pile, dumbfounded and somewhat ashamed. I tried to come up with some smart response. But nothing. “Stay out of my stuff” I said. And I locked myself in my room.
I’m assuming this comes after a talk I had last night with D. I often think in terms of black and white when it comes to intimacy. I sometimes see ideas and “acts” as tarnished or pure, dirty or clean. Nothing in between. But is sex so black and white? I hope not. I hope, after all these years of living under the oppressive beliefs of the Roman Catholic church that taught me to think this way, that I can overcome this type of thinking for a more Taoist one. I’m surprised at myself for not having overcome it yet. I do believe that virtually anything can be seen as good and beautiful when there are huge amounts of love and trust between two people, as well as a shared interest in the same kinds of stuff.
But anyway, the dream very well may run deeper than I’m admitting. I suppose more or less I am questioning the very fabric of my being. Who am I? What do I have to offer the world? What am I teaching my children? Hopefully I am worth more and giving more than the sum of my underwear drawer.
oh pleasure. oh guilt.
It’s cold, it’s winter and so starts the dreaming…
I had this really sexy dream about, dare I say it, someone from FB. I’d give the initials but it’s just too risky. I don’t want anyone to know anything about what’s going on inside my little head aside from what I write here. I will say that I think about this person from time to time, whenever they happen to pop up on a comment or post. But not more than that. And he’s not a good friend, mind you, none of the usual suspects, but just this guy for which I have been able to form some sense of curiosity. Good enough for a dream, anyway.
I can’t remember where I was but it must have been a party at someone’s house we happened to both be at, he and I and a bunch of other friends. But it was getting late and I found myself to be very sleepy, so I laid down on the floor in front of the TV. He came and sat beside me. He leaned down, very close into me and whispered in my ear, “don’t go to sleep,” and all my senses awakened. I could smell his clean skin and feel his breath, and hear his voice so clearly. And i remember thinking at that moment, I want this. And as i turned toward him, smiling and sleepy, I kissed his lips and touched his face. His hands ran down the length of my arm and over my hips and around to my belly and his face remained quite close to mine, smiling tenderly. And then I woke up. The moment was so sexy it woke me up. So…as is my custom, I will dream of this person all day.
This dream followed one of great horror. I was at another party, looking for G and someone said he was out in the courtyard. I went outside into this beautiful, Spanish-style sunny courtyard and there he was, in the corner, looking very sick and pale and he was sitting on one of those toilet seats on wheels with rail guards for handicapped people. Right out in the open courtyard. And he was shitting himself. And there was shit every where, all over the patio. But worst of all, I was barefoot and stepping in it. I ran over to him and being the caretaker I am, I said, “what are you doing? we need to clean you up.” And he just laughed at me and said, “this is who I am, baby. Get used to it.” I was so disturbed.
This second dream was hugely symbolic. I had recently written an article about G on his uncanny ability to live green. As we’re dumping some 20 metric tons of C02 into the atmosphere every year, he’s only dumping about six. A heroic feat. So, I have been in contact with him more than usual. He came over last night with a beautiful bracelet that he had “acquired” for me. It was a Christmas gift. And the thought was quite nice. But my brother was over when he arrived and I was nervous about the dynamics. Mikie doesn’t like G too much. Never has. Anyway, G comes in looking more homeless than usual (are there actual degrees of “looking” homeless- yes). The dingy layers of black and gray hoodies, the dirt under the fingernails, the wirey Grampa Herman-looking side-burns. Oh! And the smell of fried foods from the diner. I have always loved G for who he is inherently, underneath the shoddy exterior. And when we were together I had a certain amount of influence over how he kept himself. But I was actually grateful last night that we are NOT dating anymore. I don’t know how I was able to put up with that. I see it as a sickness now. An inability to care for oneself.
Anyway, we watched Superbad and had a few laughs. Mikie left around 8:30 and G around 10ish. No hugs, no kisses, no nothing. I was content about that.
But I now see how my brain is translating the events and why I dreamed the dream about the sexy guy. G represents where I was and where I no longer wish to be. And the FB guy represents where I am headed. Whether anything ever comes of this FB guy and me is not the point. The point is that my brain craves maturity, intellect, sexuality, cleanliness, normalcy (one person in particular from the forums subtly helped to guide me to this realization). For a few years now I have been seeking out the superficial stuff– the musician, the rebel, the super sexy Rockabilly guy with tattoos and long hair. There is definitely a side of me that is drawn to that. But I have learned the hard way that those types of men don’t seem to answer my craving for normalcy– of which a huge part of me needs. It’s not that I have dated “bad” men or cruel-hearted men. It’s just that their goals and dreams are quite different from mine.
I remember when I dated M, briefly. He used to say to me all the time, Tracy, I’m a family man. This freaked me out. Scared me to death. I didn’t want a family man. I wanted a rebel. I wanted a man who represented where I wanted to go, who I wanted to be. I wasn’t able to make peace with the fact that I am a family woman. I’ve always resisted it. Like my suburban housewife friend SD always says, “I am not a suburban housewife.” Well, I too struggle with that reality. I am an artist. I belong with an eclectic clique of writers and illustrators and musicians. Don’t I? OK, in fantasy-world, yes. But my reality is quite different. My reality is that I am very family-oriented. I am a homebody. I enjoy my children. I can’t really live the life of a rebel. I’ve never been able to. When will I finally realize that?
Oh anyway…Despite needing to make peace with my reality, I’ll take a night of sexy dreams for now. I can’t come to terms with my whole life too fast. Besides, I quite enjoy the freedom of fantasy. And at least I am dreaming of a man who has kids. That’s a huge step for me.
I would very much like to explore the idea of submissive (S) and dominant (D) role-play relationships and how they might relate to the love addict (LA) and avoidant (A) or seductive withholder (SW) relationship. Because dominant/submissive roles often fall under the umbrella of sexual deviance, I have decided to not post this on my normal LAA forums. I don’t want anyone to misunderstand that I am not talking about sex at all, but rather the act of submitting to another human being and what that entails.
I recently came across the blog Persephone’s Obedience, a relatively mild account of a submissive girl who had become a pet to a dominant couple. And by mild I mean that overall, the blog was not heavy on the sexual exploits. It was, however, extremely well detailed in matters of the dynamics between one sub and two doms and the emotional consequences that went along with it. Anyway, the more I read, the more enmeshed in this girl’s life I got. And based on some pretty graphic moments of punishment and humiliation, it occurred to me that being a LA is not so different from being a Sub. I thought how humiliatingly bizarre some of the situations this woman ALLOWED herself to be put in; groveling on her hands and knees, begging, collar around the neck, being treated like a dog; things that shock and abhor “normal” people. But the more I read, the more I realized that I too have allowed men to symbolically put a collar around my neck, to metaphorically expect me to crawl on my hands and knees. OK, so I never actually crawled around or used terms like, “Master” or “Owner.” God forbid, I never had a collar around my neck or licked anyone’s boots for that matter. But I certainly played the submissive role in that I groveled and allowed myself to be treated like shit. I was abandoned, neglected, humiliated, used, and so on, much like Meg (that’s her official name on her blog). Only difference, she actively chose that lifestyle and took pleasure in it, I did not.
I read more and became intrigued over the emotional power these two wielded over Meg and how dependent and submissive she herself became the more they dominated her. There were moments when she was embarrassed, hurt, sad in pain and yet all the while, aside from using her “safe word” on occasion, she continued to maintain her subservience in their presence. Never breaking role.
I can’t help but think of G. How he denied me sex for so long (about 1 year). I allowed him to torture me. And I hated it. I hated being denied. But unlike Meg, I saw no value in this form of torture like she did. She, of course, questioned some of her punishments, but always rationalized them, approved of them. It was her goal to learn to blindly “trust” in the inherent goodness of her masters. But me…like a dog who is being starved and left out in the cold, I torn up the world I was in. I became enraged, hateful, savage. G would pacify me and I’d be alright until the next flair up. He tended to play some very powerful mind manipulation games with me. Other times I drew inward, became apathetic, gave up. But he definitely subjugated me to a less than respectful or dignified life. And the more he did so, the more resentful I became. My punishment, unlike Meg’s had no lesson behind it. I had nothing to learn. I wasn’t even being bad in that I deserved to be punished! I was simply being demoralized. In a D and S situation you are humiliated and demoralized in a power exchange based on the ideas of obedience and trust (if, of course, you are with the right D). Your punishment and oppression then, has a purpose and it gives meaning to your life: to learn to surrender thy will, to trust, to learn discipline and respect, to possibly learn what it means to be powerless and humble.
A love addict is oppressed and humiliated and demoralized but there is no purpose in it. You are a love addict not out of strength of character like an S, but rather out of weakness and low self-esteem like the lowest, ugliest creature in existence. An A or SW can strip you of the meaning of your own life if you let them. Whereas the relationship between an S and D can build both partners, as they are meeting each others’ needs.
That’s the clincher.
In an S/D relationship needs are being met. One needs to suffer and the other needs to inflict suffering (or order or authority etc.). It’s a conscious choice between partners. And though it seems imbalanced, it is not. In a LA/A/SW relationship needs are NOT being met. At least not the needs of the LA. Both parties are greatly confused over the dynamics of their interconnection and both eventually fall into the negative pattern of emotional withdrawal and emotional neediness. It gets very ugly. Desperate. Imbalanced. Undefined. In an S/D relationship the roles are clearly defined. I am your master and you are my slave. Period. No ambiguity. If you are a responsible D, then you recognize that you hold someone’s life in your hands and you care well for them. This type of role play never unfolds in a LA/A/SW relationship. Yes, patterns emerge. But they do so subconsciously.
I then thought of S and how balanced I felt in the beginning. But it was only a matter of time before he too began to not so much dominate me, as abandon me. I read through many of our old e-mails over the course of a few months. It is disturbing how little he engaged me. How he avoided adult conversation at almost any cost. How severely withdrawn he was. There was no depth of psychology to our relationship but rather, an undercurrent of pain and avoidance. I did nothing about this but occasionally ask for an explanation as to why he was so withdrawn. “Why? Do you not love me anymore?” He always responded with devotion and said, “yes! I love you and I value you…” But the actions were not there to back anything up. There was no activity in his devotion. I was confused. Then, of course, there was a severe lack of communication and sharing. It hurt, it was cold, it was detached. Eventually we could not experience closeness at ALL, and yet, I continued to stay. Not out of want but rather out of need. And not because my needs were being met, but rather in the hopes that they would soon be met.
In that waiting and longing for attention and care I damaged myself. I starved myself. I surrendered myself to a God that had no kindness for me. A man, who had no depth of love for me or enough pity for me as a humble creature that is deserving of not only love but attention. So…where is the submission in that? There isn’t any. It’s only a personal, private humiliation, not being imposed upon me by HIM, but my myself. And of course, unlike Meg, who underwent punishment, there was always a reward after.
But anyway, to wrap this up, Meg’s situation got me thinking of God and how, in order to recover through the 12 Steps of LAA, you must surrender to your Higher Power. You must surrender to God. When Meg decided to surrender to her Owners was it any different than a fallen soul who surrenders himself to God? The role of submissive and dominant is in play in both cases. Needs are being met. No one is getting hurt (relatively). The Owners punish Meg just as God punishes us for our sins, and so forth. The S/D relationship, if lived out correctly, is a highly religious one. Owners can represent God and the S who wishes to surrender can do so in the presence of their D. D’s who have a god-complex can live out their fantasies with an obedient S.
I could go on and on. But my point in all of this is that love addicts do, whether they’d like to admit it or not, have submissive tendencies. And in order to recover and make peace with the ugly side of their passivity (being treated like garbage without their needs being met) they have options: like Meg, they can seek out a D couple and live for a time as a true submissive pet. This option would certainly be interesting. And there is the ability to fulfill a consensual, safe fantasy, or to satiate a deep-seated need to submit to another human being, which allows the LA to address his or her passive side. However, one does run the risk of finding the wrong D, getting hurt, wrapped up in the wrong world (BDSM or sadism) or not understanding the perplexity and depth of the S and D relationship. An LA by nature is needy, wanting and has the low self-esteem that one would think would be perfect for the role of a true S. But many LAs are more self-serving that an S. Many LAs tend to be more dominant, angry or aggressive. They have, after all, dealt with a lifetime of indignation and abuse. Not only would many LAs find it disturbing and unnatural to submit to someone else (despite doing it most of their lives anyway), they might also find it impossible to justify as a means of recovery. To many LAs, the meaning of recovery is to STOP being submissive. Not to embrace it.
Another option is to submit to therapy. Therapy is a safe way to experience the relationship between a person of authority (the therapist) all the while remaining a S (the client). There is a dual need being met, the therapist gets paid, the LA is learning and growing inside and out and there is virtually no threat of the LA being overpowered or misunderstanding his or her role in therapy. At least there shouldn’t be. The relationship is safely defined and exploratory and socially acceptable. But with all therapist/patient relationships, a good therapist will not dominate or submit. They will try to remain neutral. This approach leaves the LA exposed to the discomfort of neutrality. Normal, healthier people accept this well. LAs do not. There is an inherent need in us to submit. To attach. To follow. To depend. To lose ourselves in another person. Therapy is great for self-evaluation, but it does not answer that deep-seated need to surrender.
The best option by far, is to surrender to a Higher Power. I do think, based on the nature of LAs and how closely related to Ss they are, that submitting to SOMETHING is in order. God is possibly the most profound, most rewarding and most appealing entity for which a love addict’s submissive nature will find the approval, the care, the power and the authority that it seeks. God opens the door to know thyself, he dominates, he loves, he blesses, in kindness and care. There is an emotional, mental and spiritual reward that comes from submitting to a HP. Besides, a HP is something a little more powerful and less threatening than say, some guy with a dominant streak and a leather paddle. I mean, if you want to crawl around on your knees, at least there’s dignity in it when it’s for God, not man.