When I was younger, all my relationships were sexual affairs and they were over before they started. There was no dating at all. Just sleeping with someone when they were available. I used to think sex was sacred and that if I was having it with someone they must love me or have feelings for me. But, when I tried to talk to them or spend time with them outside of the bedroom, they didn’t want to be bothered. I cried for HOURS, DAYS, MONTHS, YEARS, trying to figure out why this was so. Eventually I concluded that men were jerks and I was unworthy of real love.
Later in life, I did start to actually “date.” I matured a little and recognized that sex only begets sex and lead no where. So, I tried a different approach and held off on sleeping with a guy right away. A new type of guy appeared in my life and my relationships were definitely a step up from the purely carnal ones of the past. There was passion disguised as love. But they were all short lived. I dated men who I met over summer break, who would only be in town for a few months and then they’d leave. I spent about 5 years in this mode. Falling in love with men who were bound to leave me. Again, I questioned this. Why do I always meet men who leave me? I blamed it on the men. Once again, men were jerks.
In later life, I dated men who were emotionally distant, neglectful and avoidant. Every one of them. And again, I simply couldn’t figure it out. WHY was I dating people that avoided me? I wasn’t a disgusting horrible person. So why were men treating me like the plague? Why was my very own husband neglecting and avoiding me???? Wasn’t I worthy YET of love? Were ALL men really jerks?
The reason I had such a difficult time figuring out why I kept dating inappropriate, avoidant, distant men was because I never took into consideration my responsibility for dating them. I was, after all, allowing these men in my life. I was, after all, attracted to them and willing to overlook (at least temporarily) their rotten behavior. At times I was even willing to overlook it to the point of trying to change myself to stop their behavior and neglect of me.
What I didn’t realize also, is that they weren’t neglecting me, per se, they were just neglectful people. They weren’t avoiding me, exactly. They were just avoidants. Or they were immature men who only wanted sex, or they were foreigners who lived other lives. Their behavior had very little to do with me, after all. It was me, on the other hand, who had all the control in the world as to who I dated and it was ME who chose to date people who treated me poorly.
Why would I do this if it hurt so much? Was their behavior so different from my own, after all? Here are the conclusion I eventually made…
- I was immature. I had a very immature sense of what love was and I didn’t put a lot of effort into finding someone who was more compatible for me.
- I was impatient. Immediate gratification was the most important thing in the world to me. Live in the now! I used to say. I knew nothing of the importance of deferred gratification. I acted on my impulses and thought “chemistry” was the only ingredient necessary for a relationship (it’s not).
- I had no model of a loving relationship. My dad was an alcoholic, my mother was co-dependent. Even my grandparents had weird, distant, avoidant marriages. WHat did I know of love or compatibility?
- I had no values. I had no standards. Well, my one value (or so I thought) was that I had to be physically attracted to whomever I dated. And I had to have some chemistry with them. But other than that, I figured I could overlook or put up with any behaviors I didn’t particularly like. I figured I could “learn to love” just anyone. In fact, I used to fantasize being trapped on a deserted island with someone “hot” so they had no choice but to love me. Looking back, however, I even overlooked the value of being attracted to my partner. In reality, I dated many men I wasn’t very attracted to.
- I had a very shallow notion of intimacy. If I liked a guy’s looks and he was fun at a party, what else was there? As one of my friends always says, I “filled in the blanks” with my own imagination as to their other “endearing” qualities. I also mistook sex for intimacy. If we were having sex, we were intimate. I was so wrong!
- I had low self-esteem and little confidence. Actually, I had a great amount of confidence and self-esteem when I’d walk into a dive bar and flirt with a bunch of losers. Shoot low, so you feel better about yourself was my motto. And so that is who I always surrounded myself with. Later in life it was “artists” because they had a more liberal sense of acceptance of other people (i.e. an artist would be less picky about who he dated and thus, more willing to date someone like me). I never in a million years saw myself dating normal, good, healthy men because their expectations of me would be too high.
- I didn’t know myself. When you have no identity, when you only have the vaguest sense of who you are, how in the world can you recognize what you want and need? You can’t. You’ll take whatever “feels” good at the time, like a child. There’s no discriminating, no sense of entitlement, no using your brain to figure out the difference between right and wrong.
Looking back, I spent a lot of time blaming people and circumstances outside myself for my troubles. Even though people would tell me that I needed to love myself or “fix” myself first, in order to find a better match for me, I didn’t get it. I didn’t know how. But once I really opened the window onto my own behavior, only then was I able to change things and find a more appropriate partner for me.
Today is Wednesday. Make it your goal this weekend to figure out who you are. DO so by writing out a list of past and present boyfriends, girlfriends, or people you think you’ve been addicted to. Write out a list of friends, family members, coworkers you hang around with. Next to their names jot down a list not of their good qualities or bad, but rather, jot down their overall spirit. Are they positive? Are they superficial? Avoidant? Lazy? Calm? Drawn to drama? Shallow? Depressed? Immature? Angry? Game-players? Artists? Drug-addicts? See if you can notice a pattern. And once you notice that pattern, see if you identify with that pattern. See if you like who you are despite the people in your life. Is it time to make a change? Or are you content right where you are? This list might also add insight…
Look at the people in your life and that is who you are.
Look at the drama or lack of drama in your life and that is who you are.
Look at the anger, fighting, hostility in your life and that is who you are.
If most of your relationships (romantic, familial, friendships etc.) are fraught with pain, hostility, anger, frustration, neglect, this is not a coincidence. This is who you are.
If most of your relationships (romantic, familial, friendships etc.) end badly, mean-heartedly, and are followed by sadness, pain, cruelty to the other, this is who you are.
If most of your relationships begin abruptly and end abruptly, this is who you are.
If most of your relationships are only about sex and are shallow beyond that, this is who you are.
If most of your relationships lack intimacy, this is who you are.
If you are hanging around with superficial people who shop for clothes all day and are only interested in looks this is who you are.
Likewise, if most of your relationship are peaceful, loving, passionate, long-term relationships, this too is who you are.
Take responsibility for creating your own reality.
Look at the patterns of your life and the people with whom you associate to determine who you are.
Water seeks its own level. People are reflections of the self.