August 16: I simply do not know how to resolve this issue. The fucking pot issue came up again. And, I feel sick (not to mention the fact that I am sick).
So, there we were again out with Jackie (P’s niece). He was upset with her for not calling, but, we went to the Pub anyway for dinner, that horrible place. We laughed; we had fun despite the fact that I was a little worn out and didn’t particularly like being there. Plus, I didn’t feel good. Anyway, in private, when Jackie went to the ladies room, he was super cavalier about the idea of smoking pot, as if it were a good thing, and the idea came up that he may want to go back. Well, where does that leave me? I specifically said I don’t date pot smokers. He said he felt guilty about that, that he knows he’d need to make a choice. A choice? What? Are you insane?
Long day yesterday. Spent the morning on the computer. Got the boys lunch and then my sister-in-law was over by 1:30. We were at the airport by 2:30. We waited two hours until they finally cleared customs at 4:30. We didn’t get home until almost 7 due to traffic. We had a quick dinner while Abuelo and Abuela played with the kids. They left by 7:30!
I talked to P a bit at night. We laughed. I tried to just keep things light. He so resists help though. He’s cutting back on cable and I said, “Well, you can always come here and watch TV.” He said, “Or just go down to the bar and watch.” Dear Lord.
I feel like telling him that he is so out of touch with himself. And almost completely incapable of handling a relationship [Irony?!]. It’s sad. It’s sad when a man holds on to…Read More
Let’s start here: rejection scares the hell out of most of us. Agreed? It’s what keeps us from going up to strangers and asking them out on a date. It’s what keeps us from going on stage and speaking publicly, for fear we’ll be boo’ed. And it keeps some of us from doing the things we love, for fear that we will be rejected by others who might be doing them better. But the worst kind of rejection is when we are rejected by whom we consider to be the most important person in our lives–our spouse, our partner, our love interest, our crush. Rejection from this person is the absolute worst, because let’s be honest, he or she is the one who defines and validates us and gives us our worth. When he reject us, we feel worthless. And this is where things go wrong. No one defines us. And no one validates our worth, except us.
But, back to rejection. It happens. And there’s virtually no way on earth to avoid it. So…how do we handle it?
For starters, we need to change our perception of what rejection logically, actually is, not what we “feel” it is. So, take the gut-wrenching, terrible, awful, dreadful, unbearable feelings you feel about rejection and switch over to using your brain. Are you in brain mode now? OK, read on…
1. Rejection is neither good nor bad. It’s neutral. And yet we typically assign it as something negative. But, just for argument’s sake, let’s start to look at it as a positive force in your life. First off, it won’t kill you. It’s not a disease which can make you ill. It doesn’t take any money, clothing, shelter or food away from you. It doesn’t physically beat you up. And it doesn’t change you in any way shape or form other than help redirect you towards a new life. It’s often disguised as a loss, only to, later down the road, be a gain, as most people will tell you. So, no matter how you “feel” about rejection’s evil powers, try to keep things a bit more clear. Rejection, is neutral. At best, it’s a positive force that pushes us to redefine our lives and move on. The more we stay focused on the neutrality or positivity of rejection, the better.
2. Rejection isn’t personal. This concept is tricky, and one that people have the hardest time understanding. Let me say it again: rejection is NOT PERSONAL. I’m sure you believe that if you were personally rejected on the grounds that your boyfriend doesn’t like you anymore and even left you for someone else, then this is personal. But it’s not! He’s not rejecting you as much as he is opting to choose another life for himself. She’s not rejecting you as much as she is selecting a different path to walk down. And while that may seem like rejection from your end, there’s actually a much deeper issue at hand. People come together, and ultimately move apart based on their set of Values. A value is a thing (a principle, a belief, a standard of behavior) that we regard as essential to our being, so essential, in fact, that without it, we feel lacking or wrong or worthless. It’s a MUST HAVE, not a want or a wish. And when you reject someone, or they reject you, it’s typically based on values, and not much else. When people’s values are not aligned, the healthy response is rejection of the relationship. This of course, doesn’t happen in unhealthy relationship for love addicts. Why? Because love addicts tend not to know their values, and because the idea of holding onto the relationship is far greater than any personal values. So, even if someone is completely wrong for a love addict, they will still stay–out of fear, desperation, loneliness, whatever. So, start to see rejection as a healthy thing, a gift the other person is giving you by setting you free to make another choice for yourself. Remember, no one validates you or defines who you are. Only you do. So, get cracking! Figure out who you are. The more you know you, the more you can find others like you, who are less likely to reject you, based on shared values.
3. Rejection is a huge part of nature. Animals select one mate over another based on instinct to help perpetuate their species. Animals don’t take rejection personally or cry if they weren’t selected by one over another. Instinctually, they know that rejection from one frees them up to make more natural selections with another. They don’t feel the pain of rejection because rejection is not painful. Remember number one? It’s neutral! To animals, it’s a signal to start looking elsewhere for a more appropriate mate.
When we think of our own bodies, think of all the things it rejects on its own. If you drink too much alcohol, say, or eat contaminated food, the body rejects these things by vomitting or getting sick. If we catch a virus or a bacterial infection, the body rejects these “bugs” by getting a fever. If we have a foreign object inside our bodies (like a cancerous tumor), the body uses all its resources to either get rid of it or protect against it by building a calcium encasement around it. A miscarriage is also nature’s way of rejecting a fetus that may not be able to sustain life outside the womb. Even when an apparent good thing enters our bodies– a flower, a diamond, a particularly beautiful object, a heart transplant, our bodies will have an extreme reaction to it and reject it because it doesn’t belong in our system.
When we think of rejection in this way, and remove the emotional, negative feelings we associate with rejection, it helps us to understand that rejection is not personal. It is simply nature’s way of redirecting you and letting you know that you do not fit in this particular person’s world–not because you are bad, no good, worthless, ugly or unlovable. It simply means you fit somewhere else. And that’s a good thing. Rejection is a gift that allows you to consider new options– a more natural, organic path that you are currently denying yourself, if you hang on.
Case in point: I dated a pretty nice guy. He was attracted to me; I was attracted to him. So, we tried to have a relationship, as is the natural course of attraction. But soon enough, after the initial high of us being together started to wear off, I started to notice his avoidance of me. Why was he rejecting me? I’m a great catch! 😉 To make a long story short, he started to feel uncomfortable with me. He was into smoking pot, and listening to the Dead, and I was so not into that stuff. He felt I had little respect for his lifestyle and in a way he was right. When he mentioned this, I actually tried to change, to be more open and understanding of his likes. I so desperately wanted the relationship to work that I was willing to become someone else! But it was only a matter of time before I started to feel uncomfortable and untrue to my nature. Even though we both wished it would work between us; even though we were both highly attracted to each other, our lifestyles and personalities, in the end, didn’t really mesh. No one did anything wrong. No one was worthless or unlovable. We simply were not meant for each other. Period. And yet, I still felt rejected until I was willing to accept that that’s what dating is all about. It’s a risk we take to decide whether we should remain with a person or move on. And it was clearly time to move on in this case.
You can think about it like this too: how many of you have had multiple relationships? How many times have you said, “This is the one!” only to find that someone better has come along? If you or your ex had not rejected the relationship, it would not have freed you up to be where you are today. Rejction is natural! Try to imagine yourself as a salesman. Even if you had the greatest product in the world, you still can’t convince every person on the planet to buy your product. No matter how great it is, not everyone will think so!
We don’t have that much control over who will like us and who won’t. We might find someone attractive, but they might not share the same feelings. We can’t take this personally! How many times has someone shown interest in you and you’ve turned them down? Maybe you didn’t find them attractive. Maybe you didn’t like their style or their personality. Just because you rejected them doesn’t mean they are unlovable or unattractive or worthless. The same logic applies to your situation.
Rejection is not something you can control. So, you might as well stop sweating the natural selection that is happening. What you can control, however, is how you perceive your self worth and whether or not you are selecting a mate who is more in line with who you are and what your values are. Are you kind, friendly, honest, loving? Are you family-oriented, or do you prefer hanging out in clubs every night? Do you believe in loyalty? Are you religious? What are your values? Now is the time to get to know yourself . The more you do, the better chance you have of finding someone less likely to reject you.
So, you met him in your hiking club and he flirted with you incessantly until you finally caved and gave him your number. You thought nothing of it until he called you a mere 8-hours later. With a little timid flirting, you agreed to a first date. You were giddy. Already the wheels were turning. He could be the one.
Your date was a dream and you had three more magical ones, each better than the next. You learned that he’s a physician, he drives an Audi TT, takes annual trips to the south of Spain and is a fabulous lover. During sex (yes, you’re having sex already, of course), you stare deeply into each other eyes with an unmatched intensity.
And then…suddenly, you don’t hear from him. Not even a text.
WTF? You were on the high of your life only to have it all taken away in an instant. It’s killing you to wait to see if he calls you back (maybe there’s a logical explanation), but, on the third day you panic, and reach out. A quick text to say, hey, remember me? He casually responds that he’s working overtime. But, something in the back of your mind says, No way. You recall a conversation in which he said he didn’t have to work this week. Something inside you twists. Like your heart is an aluminum can being crushed under foot into a flat, discarded piece of metal. You switch from rational to rationalizing. OK, maybe he got called to work at the last minute and failed to tell me.
A day after that, you decide to push. You call him and gently tug at him to come out with you and your friends to a party. You think, If I’m casual about it and just pretend like I do this all the time he’ll bite. And he does. After a bit of coaxing, he comes out, looking as hot as ever, but something’s off. It’s not the same. He seems distant and this is the fifth time he’s checked his phone. He apologizes and says, “Work.”
You decide to confront him. What you’re really doing though is looking for reassurance. Do you still like me, you ask. He smiles. For a second everything feels weirdly awkward. “I really think you’re amazing, but I live with someone. We’re kinda broken up. But, she wanted to get back together, and, well, I told her no. It’s all good,” he says. “I just want to be up front with you.”
Instead of seeing this for what it is: a huge red flag of unavailability and narcissism, your mind is racing. All logic has been thrown out the window and your emotional brain has hopped in the driver’s seat. What does this mean? He said they broke up. He said, “It’s all good.” Does that mean he’s free to date me? You play back his every word. He thinks I’m amazing. He smiled. He did, after all, come out. You also play back all those hot scenes on dates one through three, the deep kissing, the passion, the intensity, the laughter. He’s so hot. I want him. We’re perfect for each other, you think.
But, here’s where you need to get your head out of the clouds. He’s not perfect for you. He’s not even partly acceptable. He’s completely, unequivocally Unavailable. And instead of hanging on to only the positive information you’re receiving from this guy, you need to be a big girl and see the whole picture, which means looking at the real, not-so-pretty, fantasy-busting facts he’s feeding you. You need to acknowledge the following signs and start to understand that these signs typically mean UNAVAILABLE.
- His impulsiveness to date you
- The intensity and rapidity with which your relationship started
- The sudden disappearance and or lack of interest in you
- His excuses for not calling
- Catching him in a lie, or not being able to back up what he says one day, versus the next
- His ambiguity and lack of attention paid to you
- Constantly checking his phone
- His ambiguous, confusing story that seems to leave too many open-ended questions
- The fact that he probably lives with his girlfriend who most likely doesn’t know he’s out with you.
In a sea of romantically passionate and fantasy-fulfilling moments, these several negatives don’t seem to weigh too heavily. And yet, they weigh heavier than you are willing to acknowledge.
An unavailable man or woman may come on strong and show great intensity, but they are not emotionally invested in the relationship, nor do they plan to be. And while they may see you every day, or call you, or be slightly more available than the guy described above, there will always be something keeping the unavailable individual from committing fully.
Unavailability also looks like a lot like avoidance. An avoidant may verbally commit to a relationship, but then avoid intimacy, conflict, romance, communication, whatever triggers him to “avoid” and seek safety by turning inward. You then feel “neglected.” An unavailable person, on the other hand, typically does not verbally commit, but instead, may be more prone to engage in sex, communication, and romance, but only partly, thus leaving you feel confused, with mixed messages, as though he is only marginally invested in the relationship.
Unavailable people have myriad ways in which they remain unavailable. They could live far away. Work, family or other responsibilities might keep them from ever being able to move closer. They could have a job that keeps them from going out on dates, or they could live with someone, be married, or be in a previously committed relationship. Subtler but no less significant signs of unavailability might be that they blame you for having a trait or a lifestyle or a habit that makes it impossible for them to commit to you. I once dated a guy who told me after a year of us dating that we could never be more than just lovers because I made too much money and it made him feel “emasculated.” Whatever it is that keeps him from getting closer, it’s usually an insurmountable obstacle that he will not be able to overcome in order to be with you.
In The Break-Up Journal this week P’s unavailability is getting more noticeable, and yet, I only seem to mention it as if it doesn’t relate to me. I don’t yet see how staying with an unavailable person makes me unavailable also.
You heard right. The bottom line when it comes to unavailable individuals is that if you continue to pursue one or stay with one, YOU become unavailable as well. Why is that? Because you are choosing to commit to someone who only half commits to you. If you are serious about love, intimacy and relationships, it means that you are willing to find a partner who is equally interested in love, intimacy and relationship.
Having little trust is not such a bad thing. We think we have to immediately begin trusting people as soon as we meet them. Phooey! Being suspicious (especially after what we’ve all experienced) is a way to protect ourselves.
You don’t want to trust people right off the bat. Trust must be BUILT slowly and let me tell you, it’s a very delicate construction. You can start to build trust in someone and you’re going along and everything seems to be building OK, and then, one day, you catch him or her in one little lie and the whole foundation of trust crumbles. Is that you being over-reactive? NO! Should you learn to be more accepting of “little lies”? I think not. You’re in recovery. You need time to heal and grow. If a flower pops out of the ground in early spring, it will die instantly under the effect of one night’s frost. You too may lose something you have worked hard to build if you remain with someone who cannot respect the basic tenets of trustworthiness, reliability, dependability, sincerity. Let’s be honest, in order to be stronger, happier and healthier, we all need honesty from others to thrive.
Before D, I had NEVER met or dated a man who didn’t lie. I thought it went with the territory. I thought every man lied (this is toxic thinking that comes when your trust has been violated most of your life, by the way). So, when I met D, I proudly exclaimed that one of my best talents was that I could sniff out a lie in a matter of seconds. I had become such a pro at this that I was proud of my talent. His response? He looked at me with a rather blank stare. “Um, I’m not sure what you mean. I don’t lie,” he said plainly. And I laughed. “Every man lies” I said.
“Well, think what you want…” he responded.
And I did. I didn’t trust him at all. I remained alert. On the look out. I called him on things that I didn’t understand. I asked him to explain events that in my mind, seemed like perfect opportunities to lie. I kept my eyes wide open. And I was on high alert. Thing is, he never lied. All his stories backed up. His actions matched his words every day, every week, every month, every year. ANd it wasn’t until maybe a year into the relationship when I FINALLY started to believe that maybe he was right. He doesn’t lie. This, in fact, caused me to mourn my marvelous talent for sniffing out lies. It was a talent that had been rendered obsolete. In its place, I finally felt SAFE and able to trust again. Of course, now that we live together, I am still triggered by him staying up late at night (my ex would stay up late at night and chat with other women). But every time I wake up and seek him out, he’s watching TV, or reading, or exercising. It might take a while to begin trusting in this department, and toss out my old triggers. But I am being patient with myself and with D.
Love addicts need to find someone with high morals and ethics. SOmeone who believes in honesty and respect of men and woman. It’s not that we need PERFECT. It’s that we need conscientious. Because our process of recovery is a delicate one. And remember that trust equals intimacy. Without trust there is no intimacy–only intensity.
So don’t rush in and expect yourself to start trusting others right away. Bad idea! Take your time and mistrust everyone. Let them prove their worth and honesty to you by their actions first. Not just a day or a week…but many, many months. And be willing to walk if they don’t meet your high expectations in this department. Here’s a great article in learning to build trust in others AND, equally important, being a trustful person yourself.
Lastly, remember that trust will not come from just you. It is build between two people. It will come at a point in a long relationship (romantic or otherwise) where you finally feel comfortable again based on one fact: that your spidey sense for deceit and your superhero radar to sniff out lies or betrayal has not been used in a very long while. And while nothing is ever certain, you will at least be moderately content knowing with good probability that you are in a safe relationship. 🙂
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…
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! 😉
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.
I had to look up the word “fleeting.” It’s so over-used I wanted to make sure I used it correctly:
fleeting: adjective: ours was a fleeting romance: brief, short, short-lived, quick, momentary, cursory, transient, ephemeral, fugitive, passing, transitory; literary evanescent. ANTONYMS lasting.
I had the luxury of witnessing a healthy response to “fleeting” love this past week while in Spain. But not romantic love. My children and I, as many of you know, go to Spain ever summer so that my kids can visit their grandparents and extended family members who are from Madrid. Because there is so little time to spend together, there is a sense of urgency among the grandparents and the aunts and uncles to try and squeeze in as much possible time together before saying goodbye until next year.
I compared this scenario to a love addict’s. For a love addict who senses an impending loss of relationship (even though he or she wants to ignore it and hope it just goes away), there is an urgency and desperation too in his or her actions and emotions. Obsession takes over. And the harder we hang on the less “the loss” might hurt.
In a healthy situation, the loss hurts too and there’s holding on, but it’s brief. Loss is accepted as part and parcel of life. We cry. We hug. But then, we let go. There is no certainty that we will see each other again. There is only hope.
July 5, 6 and 7 of The Break Up Journal are out. They are about loss. I am days away from seeing my “love” and I have sacrificed my own personal happiness in anticipation of a “better life” in the future. I am spending exorbitant amounts of money just to “numb” away the pain of waiting, I am not enjoying my kids, and I am miserable. I don’t think I need to say that this is an unhealthy response to love. This kind of behavior comes from a person who has no life of her own, no identity of her own. Who lives for one thing and one thing only. Most importantly, this kind of behavior comes from a person who SENSES, but ignores the possibility that her relationship may be fleeting…
When you choose to not “live in the now” and instead, live in a fantasy of “life will be better once we are together…” you deny yourself a truer, fuller experience of life. You close your eyes to what is happening around you and live in an unreal, shut-off world where others have trouble relating to you, and vice versa. Because, at this time in my life, I was on the edge of love addiction and true freedom from it, it was very hard to be present, yet I was trying. So, you can see the struggle. As hard as I try to get out into the world of Spain and experience it, I’m really only killing time until I can get home. Aside from one day spent wandering through a particular area of the city on my own, looking for vintage shops (which, by the way, I had lost interest in years ago, but was only “into” them again because P was into vintage), my only real joy came in the form of contact with P. That’s all I lived for. Shutters closed to everything else. The waiting game is ultimately a trust game. We tend to wait impatiently when that which we are waiting for may leave us, or may not be ours to possess. There’s an eternal sense of urgency to get back so that you can hold on tighter. It’s a sickening feeling that I don’t know if I get across well enough in these journals.
In current life, D and I just got back Sunday from separate trips. He took his kids out West to see the Grand Canyon, and I went back to Spain with my teenage kids to visit the in-laws and do a little side traveling. Because I have the luxury of knowing that my relationship is safe and secure with D, I am now able to experience travel in a totally new way. My focus is on squeezing everything out of a trip, experiencing everything I possibly can, taking risks, tasting every new food, and ultimately, not wanting the trip to end. What a strange feeling! And something I talked with D about last night. As much as I love him and as much time as we normally spend together, it was odd to be away from him and really, deeply, emotionally, mentally be away. I was free to experience the world without any associated guilt for not occupying all my time thinking about him and wondering what he’s up to. What a new sensation and quite honestly it scared me a bit. Had I wandered too far away from him? Should I have thought about him more, or tried to call more? And don’t get me wrong, I wasn’t thinking or fantasizing about being single or dating another man. I do want to be clear about that. What I was experiencing was a sense of freedom to be myself that I had never really allowed myself to experience before. That freedom scared me. But, at the same time, it was exhilarating.
Eventually, I concluded that as long as I come home and re-establish my typical level of closeness with D it’s all good. And that’s naturally what happened. Living in the now. As soon as we saw each other after ten days, we hugged, kissed and talked and talked and talked. And I was quickly reminded why I love this man so much. He and I are best friends. And when a best friend gives you a sense of safety and security that they are not going anywhere, even when you go out into the world, you ultimately build trust that you can come and go without serious repercussion.
I want to remind you that The Break Up Journal is a story of an unhealthy relationship and to watch out for signs of unhealthy, toxic thinking. Try not to focus on the superficial “love, love, love” stuff that I was imagining. What is boiling under the surface is desperation to be loved and validated, not from within, but from an outside source that, quite frankly, was never worth waiting for in the first place. Oh, hindsight is always 20/20.