I receive a decent amount of email from readers, but the below was a conversation that I couldn’t resist sharing. There’s too much great stuff here not to post it.
ANONYMOUS READER: After reading your posts both on here and on your LovelyAddict blog for eight months, I figured it was time to reach out to you…to say THANK YOU. You are a brilliant writer and your words have helped me more than you could ever imagine. Trying to crawl from the depths of this addiction have rocked my world the past year–it has made me feel incredibly crazy and like a waste-of-space. I, too, was married to a sex addict (who had a secondary addiction to alcohol and went into rehab when I was pregnant with our second child). I actually handled things quite well (or so I thought) for the first two years after the divorce, but when I started dating last fall things when downhill fast…but that relationship brought me here, which I am incredibly grateful for! I did the whole torchbearer thing until someone new came along in August…and things have ended badly again. Both guys were avoidants and I lost myself in them and/or tried to rescue them (which I swore I’d never do again–grr). Tonight I reread “A fish is not a bird,” “You are entitled to something better than scraps,” and the “500 pound elephant in the room“…I GET IT intellectually…but emotionally my mind stays on the roller coaster. I know there’s a bigger picture in all of this. I know I have everything I need within me…but I just can’t get past needing external validation.
Anyway, I could not have made it through these last eight months without your writing. SO THANK YOU for the time you have taken to help people like me move forward. THANK YOU for showing up and sharing your experiences and your wisdom. And THANK YOU for your honesty so that I know I’m not alone!
LOVELY: This is one of the best letters I’ve ever gotten. Thanks so much for reaching out. It had a huge impact on me today. Never not reach out to someone!
And I hear you. I too was in your same situation. I mentally GOT IT. But still, nothing could change my behavior except a string of distinct happenings in 2008. Sadly, no two paths are alike. For me to learn what I had to learn took dating some real weirdos, and I wouldn’t suggest you do anymore of that! But how about this: I am actually working on two posts today (that may go up over the next day or two). There are both on relevant topics, so I suggest you look out for them.
And what about your values? Do you ever post on my blog? Write out your VALUES. Your values force you into making correct decisions for yourself. For example, one of my values is “WIll not ever, never, EVER date an alcoholic man.” When that makes it on to my values list, it becomes the highest goal. Higher than dating anyone. So, when I do go out to date (or when I did go out to date someone) I made sure they were not an alcoholic or any kind of addict. If they were, I walked away no matter how cute they were. Same with “avoidants”. Put them on your list of values too! “Stay away from avoidants.” But how do you know if you’ve got an avoidant??? It’s tricky but here’s a blog post about it.
ANONYMOUS READER: Thank you for the post today on avoiding avoidants. Loved it and I really needed that! You rock! I have never posted…too scared. I do have a rough draft of my values but I really need to officially get them into writing. I’ll work on that.
I have a question for you. I am a person who has a lot of energy. I’m very loving, affectionate, happy, etc. so when I’m in a good place people love to be around me. Unfortunately, if I’m in a bad spot (PMS, mega stress, I’m around an avoidant-LOL) I have that same amount of energy but in a negative way. My question is this: in a normal relationship, would a man just see me through those short episodes without shutting down? I’m “one of those” who, the more a guy shuts down, the more I obsess/text/call and can’t let go. Not pretty and I can’t seem to stop it in the moment.
Also, I have a very hard time going at a snail’s pace (not physically by any means, but emotionally and wanting to spend a lot of time together). Will that be easier if I fill my life with my own stuff and stop losing myself in the guy? I would guess so. Again…intellectually, I get it…but the childlike emotions seem to get the best of me when a man comes into the picture.
LOVELY: So, let me help you out here a little, and please try not to take offense. This is from my own experience…
It’s wonderful that you have lots of positive energy! But it may be too much. And I say that because if you are balancing out all that great positive energy with an equal sum of negative energy you may be off balance. What I mean by that is this: Love addicts tend to operate in extremes. We gain extreme highs from love, only to feel extreme lows from a loss. Some of us impose solitude (which sometimes turns into sexual anorexia) on ourselves for months or years just to recover from the highs and lows of a tumultuous relationship. The more balanced you are on the inside, the more balanced your behavior. That’s number one.
Number two, there are not many healthy people I know, men and women alike, who can tolerate bouts of negative energy, especially when and if it’s directed at them. We have no right as humans to expect people to tolerate that kind of behavior. And those that do seem to tolerate it are most likely unhealthy themselves. But I believe this kind of behavior, maybe it’s anger, comes from the frustration you feel when you are with an avoidant. Yes? Do you exhibit this same kind of anger when you are single as well, or with people you love? If so, it’s something you need to address. I too was always angry every month…and frustrated by the men I was with. It was because I was dating the wrong man! I was dating losers! When you date someone who is kind and good and attentive and loving, it has a calming affect upon you. I almost never get these huge mood swings anymore, where before I got them every month.
So, to answer your question, a healthy (loving) guy would surely see you through genuine pain and suffering. He may even put up with moodiness or anger temporarily. But a healthy guy would not go avoidant on you and stay. He would leave. And who could blame him? That’s not appropriate behavior. It’s not an appropriate way to communicate. A man who loves himself would not put up with abuse. So, try to figure out the source of this negative energy and see where it’s coming from. That should help.
To address your last concern: I’m guessing it’s hard to go at a snail’s pace for you because you are ruled by your emotions. This is one of the most difficult things to control for most LAs. But I think the difference lies in the type of man you date. If you start dating a man who is also falling in love fast, this isn’t exactly a good sign. You said you have kids, which tells me there’s a bigger picture there. When you date, you can’t let your emotions do the thinking for you. You have to think of your kids, your reputation, your safety, etc.
This kind of runaway train mentality, when it comes to a man, also signifies that you are making men and relationships your highest priority. They shouldn’t be. You and your kids are your highest priority. If you have a list of values, they should be your highest priority. And YES, when you have a life for yourself and other interests, you are less inclined to risk everything you’ve got for the sensation of fallling in love. When you’ve got nothing, when you’ve built nothing, you’re more incline to take uncalculated risks. So, going at a slower pace is not just an action. A lot more goes into WHY you should take it slow and that’s probably where you need to focus.
Here’s a helpful tip to remember the next time you are confronted with a date or the possibility of a relationship: love addicts have NO interest in cultivating a relationship (which takes time and takes deferred gratification and takes not always getting what you want when you want it). They only want two things: to be saved, and to forget themselves becasue they do not have a strong sense of self worth. People who have a strong sense of self-worth are MUCH more careful about who they date, who they sleep with, who they introduce their kids to, who they INVEST in. So, they wait until trust is built, before sacrificing their emotions to someone else.
SO, the next time you are faced with a hot guy, remember that. Remember what you want as a love addict and compare it to what you want as someone with a decent amount of self-worth. Align your behavior accordingly. It’s hard! But you will get it and you will change when you’re sick and tired of being sick and tired.
ANONYMOUS READER: I’ve reflected upon whether or not I have my high and low emotions when I am single. I don’t think so. Not that I don’t have normal emotions and get sad/angry/emotional at times, but when I’m single I feel carefree, generally happy, and pretty confident. I surround myself with people who I enjoy and when I’m around people who drive me batty, I turn to Al-Anon literature to get a grip. But the difference is, I don’t expect anything from any of those people. But I do from my PoA. For instance, I have struggled from some health issues the past few years, so I have debilitating migraines. My ex-husband was very loving and supportive through these health issues. So now, I would like the man in my life to also be supportive when I am struggling physically. This last PoA (R) was not emotionally supportive at all. Could that be a value for me? I want someone who is emotionally supportive when my health issues get unbearable? My two PoAs after divorce were quite opposite…one only showed me attention when I was sick and the other wouldn’t give me any attention when I was sick, unless I kinda begged. Umm, happy medium, please? Yes, the anger I feel is definitely coming from the avoidant’s disconnect from me and his defense mechanism of shutting down…he did that when I thought things are going well and wanted to talk a few nights a week or see each other on a regular basis. But that d**n texting…I drove him batty. Oops.
The source of my negative energy, I think comes from an instant downhill spiral in self-esteem when a man enters the picture. I never felt as though my ex-husband was attracted to me. I come with daddy issues in that same area but I think I’m now so worried about making sure that someone is physically attracted to me, so my self-esteem goes down the tubes immediately. But when I’m single, I’m happy with how I look. When my health allows me to, I exercise regularly, I eat well b/c it helps with inflammation, etc. I think I may even be okay and feel somewhat confident when I’m with a man, but when he doesn’t compliment me, I start to question myself. Compliments are one of my “Love Languages”–love that book!
When you wrote about making men my highest priority, you nailed it. That entire paragraph is life-changing for me…THANK YOU! I really need to especially cling to: “wait until trust is built before sacrificing emotions to someone else.” I do the opposite….here are my emotions…save me! Yikes! I may feel good when single, but I must not have a STRONG sense of self-worth. It’s time to actually open my Self Esteem Workbook!!
Oh, one more thing, if you are willing…I really feel awful about spewing so much negative energy on R at the end. Is there a time down the road when I can apologize, or do I need to let it go and chalk it up as a learning experience? I just really feel guilty and sad about making him so upset.
LOVELY: I’ll answer your last question first: let him go. Leave him alone. There is no time “down the road” to make amends to this one. He made a CLEAR request of you, and you need to respect it. So often LAs don’t HEAR men’s requests because we didn’t respect them to begin wth. Respect his wishes to be left alone. And forgive yourself. You did the best you knew how at the time. You didn’t kill anybody, rob, cheat or steal. You simply interacted with him the only way you knew how at the time. He’ll be OK. And so will you. And guess what, your whole life will not be judged by your interactions with this one person. You will be able to make amends with others. You will be given a second chance! TRUST ME!
Second, this is GREAT news to hear that you are happy and carefree and relatively balanced when you are with people you enjoy. I’ll get back to that in a minute. As for the people who drive you batty, of course you can manage them and walk away and don’t have any expecations of them…YOU DON’T LIVE WITH ANY OF THEM. They are not in your space. And you probably have great boundaries when it comes to people like this. I have a drug addicted friend. I love him to death. But we are a safe distance away that I do not depend on him for anything, so I can remain friends with him without being hurt in anyway. But hell if he moved in. I’d be very unhappy. With a spouse or a bf it’s different. You have expectations of YOURSELF and how you wish to live your life, and when you’re dating someone “batty” your expecations of the way you want to live your own life are not being met. Because dating is so intimate, boudaries have to be down. You can’t really “protect” yourself against the person you’re dating, and so, if he’s batty, or not your type, you feel raw and exposed, which then probably makes you angry and frustrated.
So, two things are an important lesson here:
1. You need to study the people who make you happy, who you enjoy. Write a list of them and look deeper into their qualities. These people do not trigger you. They probably also share your same values. PLUS (and here’s the biggie) you know and trust that they love you. This is who you need to date…men like your favorite people. This is who will keep you relatively calm and happy. We are, after all, different with different people. Don’t think you can just date and fall in love with anyone. You can’t.
2. Along with that, you may have to let go of some of your expectations of the care and effort you expect men to put into your life. I get the sense that you want them to maybe not pamper you, but “fill a void.” Do any of the people in your life you enjoy have that same responsibility? Maybe you secretly wish they did, but you know that you’re responsible for your own happiness and so you do not demand it so much from them. You know your place, so to speak. But sometimes we think that a man should be responsible for our happiness. He should not be. It’s not his job.
Read my post on NEEDS. “You DO have a right to be loved. And you DO have a right to be respected. And you DO have a right to have your needs met in a commited relationship. But you do NOT have the right to demand it from someone who is unable or unwilling to give it.
This is one of those moments where you simply need to say to yourself, “Grow up! Not everyone will love me, and not everyone will meet all my needs.”
This means that not just anyone will suffice. And it is also a really good argument for taking your time and choosing someone who shares all your core values. When that happens, your needs are already built into the fabric of who that man is and what he is capable of giving you. That’s a tricky concept. But here it is in a simili: You can fulfill your need for food at a restaurant or a grocery store. You CANNOT fulfill it at an auto mechanic shop. Make sense?
As for your medical issues, YES, it is absolutely imperative to your health and well-being to find someone compassionate about your condition. But again, you have to understand (whether you like it or not) that you cannot force or beg someone to be compassionate. It has to be built into the fabric of who he is. You can’t date some guy who you believe is perfect in twenty ways but one. That ONE issue, even though it’s just one, is like the one hole in a boat. You’ll sink. You have to share all your values (“Must leave toilet seat down” is NOT a core value, by the way). And so yes, put “must be compassionate about my condition” on your values list. It’s part of who you are and that need needs to be met. If I had only one leg, why would I date someone who had an aversion to amputees? Strange analysis, but it’s the same thing.
Lastly, yes again! Get thee to a library or book store and pick up the Self Esteem Workbook. I don’t care if you’re fat, thin, pretty, ugly, if you have purple hair or you’re a midget. Beauty is all relative! Nothing defines your looks but YOU. And when you believe you are good and beautiful, others feel it and believe it too. This is the kind of lesson you learn by turning to celebs. Superficial, I know. But, take a look at Rosie O’Donnel, or Oprah. Imagine them WITHOUT their fame and fortune. Imagine them with low self esteem. They’re pretty average looking, right? They’re both overweight, they’re both relatively unattractive (to me, anyway). ANd if they were just average citizens, they wouldn’t have much to offer the world because none of their fame and forture was attached to them. Right? Wrong. They were average citizens and nobodies a long time ago. But they believed in themselves. What right did they have to think they were beautiful and talented? No more right than you, my friend.
ANONYMOUS READER: It means a lot to me that you’ve taken the time to write such in-depth responses to my questions. So please know you have helped me immensely!! Thank you! I’ve clearly had enough pain/misery and am ready to do anything it takes…and I am ready to let L go. It’s a hard pill to swallow, but I needed to hear it. Your explanation really helped me put it into perspective. I truly appreciate you and am so grateful for your help!
Posted with permission.
- How to avoid the Avoidant (thelovelyaddict.com)
- Who are you? (thelovelyaddict.com)
- The Healthy Relationship pie chart (thelovelyaddict.com)