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Ry

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  • #378712
    Ry
    Participant

    Dear TeaK and Anita,

    Thank you for taking the time to reply… Wanted to write a quick reply before I head to the gym.

    To address your posts, TeaK. I do not know if it’s that I cannot say “no” to women. Part of me wanted to have sex because it has been quite some time since I had. While I could convince myself to the first time, there simply wasn’t a connection/attraction to her to continue to simply have sex for purely carnal or selfish reasons.

    I think my issue is more that I feel a sense of guilt/shame when I hurt or disappoint women. It feels as though women see me as something that I may not always be: A good man or a better man than most. I try to live up to their expectancies but often don’t. I’m sure some of it can be traced back to not wanting to disappoint my mother, but I honestly do not know.

    I did deal with anger issues with I was younger. I have never been physically violent with any woman, but I did kick a wall when I was maybe 21 after a fight with my wife at the time. I been in therapy off and on for 15+ years now, and time and work on myself and lessened the fire inside me.

    Anita, yes, I have certainly felt Acute distress and despair (and continue to do so at times). There are days—or periods of time during a day—when I am in the throughs of a dark spiral and cannot find a way to stop. I’ve learned that poor sleep or undereating “feeds” these feelings, so often a good meal or simply taking a nap may help a bit.

    As far as joy is concerned, it is a rare emotion. I have often been asked by counselors over the years if I feel joy, and my responses is nearly always no. While I treasure having the ability to get outside, and feel the endorphins when I go for a hike or a walk, I rarely find joy in it. I recognize that I am fortunate (blessed?) to have the physical ability to explore the world with all my senses, but there simply isn’t joy in it for me.

    I’ll try to expound more later.

    Ryan

    #378179
    Ry
    Participant

    Dear Anita,

    No, I don’t think that is the case. I was alone for nearly all of 2020 and I had these highs and lows. I’ve dealt with these waves most of my life. This may take a longer post to properly explain, and that will have to wait. CBT has helped me as much as it can I think, and I’ve placed myself in a good position in life by serving in the military, getting a graduate-level education, and working for the US government. (Much of my stress in the past came from living essentially paycheck-to-paycheck, and I did not want to end up working so hard for so little as my parents did.)

    To offer a quick take: Much of my disillusionment stems from never feeling truly “at home” wherever I am in life. Rarely feeling connected with someone–which, again, therapy has helped immensely. And, generally, and existentialist-view of the world. Not a great combination.

    Ryan

    #378167
    Ry
    Participant

    Dear Anita,

    Not so much “emotional mountaintops” in terms of social interaction, but more just in a general, emotional sense. It’s nothing new–dealt with these highs/lows most of my life. Some days, I feel quite good. I’ve slept well or feel a sense of excitement for the day ahead. Then, the next day I’ve done a 180 and I have little will to do much of anything and an inability to focus. I’ve been Rx’d 76 mg. of venlafaxine for a number of years, based on the GeneSight test, and while I feel it does help balance me, I feel that most of my depression/anxiety/etc. is situational based. This is one reason why my current counselor has encouraged me to cease living such a nomadic life and find a place to call home.

    And while, the possibility of a mutual connection and relationship with my former colleague did help to an extent; but, as you know, it also caused me to overthink and become anxious at exactly “what we were.” I knew that we were never going to have a romantic relationship early on, but her overall inability to let me get close (with the exception of a handful of times), pushed me to want to find a way to find a closeness.

    Ryan

    #378155
    Ry
    Participant

    Dear Anita,

    Thank you for your reply. Yes, the battle with my childhood and MDD continues. The “social-emotional isolation” wears on me, but quite inconsistently, as I move from emotional mountaintops to the abysses. My next counseling appt is not until late May, but I I know this will require work on my part (and a new counselor when I eventually relocate). I do find it cathartic to write here, however.

    Thank you again for checking on me and for your reply, Anita.

    Ryan

    #378123
    Ry
    Participant

    Good evening Anita,

    Thank you for reaching out… My apologies for being away, as this month has been someone chaotic.

    This started my second week of work at my new job. I do not yet have a laptop, so I’m using my personal computer to read regulations and guidance. I’m trying to be excited, but I fear it may not be as wonderful of an opportunity as I think. This will be my third federal job in as many years, and I want it to be my last (for a while at least). I’m tired of moving and changing jobs and I do hope this is where I can plant my feet. Unfortunately, the job is 100% telework for now, so I do not have to move right away. This means I’ll be working a new job from my same home office here in Appalachia. Yet, I try to remain expectant that, once the dust settles, and I’m working in the big city down south, perhaps things won’t seem so dreadful. I’d like to be there by mid-summer—just awaiting what the pandemic does in this country and how the federal government moves to reopen its offices.

    I’ve been rather self-destructive (to an extent) these past few months. The previous job brought me no joy and I did not dedicate the time to it that I should have. I was always behind and playing catch up, and feared what would have happened had this lackadaisical mindset continued. I just was not able to will myself to focus on work. I’d spend hours every day doing anything but work. And I became that jerk who handed off unfinished work to a team of already overtaxed coworkers. I felt like a piece of crap (to be blunt), but there was just nothing left in me to focus on this job. However, after returning my laptop and hardware a week ago last Friday, I started this job with a mentally clean slate last Monday. It’s all I could do. Hopefully, my government-issued laptop arrives in the coming days!

    In the past four weeks, I’ve ceased asking my worker to hang out. I’ve expended too much energy into this one-sided relationship, and it was not worth it anymore. She has probably asked me to hang out with maybe four times this year—with decreasing frequency since the cabin trip in January. A switch flipped in her mind after that weekend and she did not seem to want to explore even a deeper friendship. She has often FaceTimed me from work in the mornings, but there is never really any talk of anything more. It feels as though I’ve become more of a sounding board than someone she’d like to spend time with socially. Strange as I have not really experienced this before.

    She continues to work her second job on the weekends and has begun a return to the gym. I think her time is limited and she is focused on herself and her friends. She is also dipping her toes into dating again, so I have been relegated to the back seat. We FaceTimed for a bit last week and she actually cried. Her therapist had had to cancel an appointment the day before, which just happened to coincide with her ex’s birthday. She still felt shame about not seeing the signs of his drug addiction and promiscuousness, but also felt anger because a year ago she was in love and spend time making him a birthday cake from scratch. However, he would not see it until late at night, which she later found out was because she was doing drugs with friends. To me, she strikes me as not yet willing to open her heart up to anyone, but misses companionship that comes from a coupling, so I think she’s dating to hope she’ll find that spark or connection again. She said in our FaceTime that she feels numb and empty and knows that isn’t fair to those she gets close with (to include me). As much as I wanted some sort of intimate relationship with her, my posts here and your counsel Anita made it clear that she isn’t the one for me, and that a relationship would have been unwise. Hopefully, I showed her a bit of goodness and respect, and she can meet someone who offers her the same.

    Finally, I allowed my loneliness and self-destructiveness to lead me astray. I tried Tinder off and on these past six months, but the dating pool here is quite shallow. I never really took it too seriously. I’ve chatted with a few women here and there via the app, but either they “ghosted” me, or I didn’t pursue things due to a lack of interest. However, I did finally relent two weekends before last and agree to grab dinner with someone. I kept pushing her off for months, but she was persistent, and so I agreed to dinner. (She does know that I am leaving, as I was upfront about that.) Regrettably, I felt even less of a connection when we met. Dinner was pleasant enough, but I really don’t have much in common with her, and I was not physically attracted to her. I tried to be charming and witty and enjoy the night, but there just wasn’t much there for me.

    After dinner and drinks, I stopped back at her place to drop her off and she invited me in. I said okay and went inside. She has four cats…and cat tsatskes everywhere. I did my best to ignore it as she poured some shots. I knew what she wanted as she led me to the bedroom, but I didn’t initiate anything. However, she did and we did the deed. I focused on her and she was quite happy—and told her friends about it the next day. I stayed around for a bit but ended up driving home much later than I had intended, which I know saddened her, but I knew that I wasn’t ready for that type of intimacy. (I also felt strangely guilty like somehow I was sneaking around on my former coworker, but I brushed that aside.)

    We texted a bit during the week, and she was very flirty and asked to see me again. I begrudgingly accepted and had a pleasant enough dinner. Again, she invited me to her home, and I did my best to relax and not initiate anything. However, she did and I did my best to “rise to the occasion;” however, it simply would not last. I simply could not maintain, so I rolled over and tried to blame the alcohol. She tried to “assist” but there was nothing there for me. I stayed for a few but I soon donned my clothes and drove home.

    I just feel so…I don’t know…off. Part of me regrets simply dropping her off after our first date and heading home. At the same time, I too am lonely, and she certainly made her intentions clear, and I was able to muster my prowess to be a great lover that first time. There should not have been a second time, but I was too concerning with hurting her feelings by being honest. I did explain that I’m dealing with depression and am on antidepressants, so that could certainly play a factor—though it never has before. Part of me is frustrated because I felt such an intense connection the first time I went out with my former coworker, and I wanted that feeling again with someone. It’s so rare and so fleeting. However, there just was nothing there for me. She’s asked to see me again, but I continue to push her off. She is understanding but I know she also wants sex, as she isn’t exactly shy about her intentions. And for many guys, perhaps finding a woman with a high libido is a dream, but I also need that connection, which does not exist.

    As much as it would be wonderful to have a companion, I know that I need to continue to work on myself. I continue to battle depression, but there is also the lack of a sense of purpose or a longing to explore more of myself. I continue to go to the gym three times a week, but I find it difficult to do anything more than watch tv. I have spent quite a bit of these past few months exploring the state on a Saturday, but I often find myself lonely on my travels—especially when returning to an empty home. I know that, if I were staying here, and with COVID likely subsiding, I could perhaps find a hiking or biking club to join. Yet, I’ll have to wait until I get where I’m going to hopefully find a group.

    My apologies for the long post, and I don’t truly expect a reply. I simply wanted to post an update and to vent via the board.

    Thank you.

    Ryan

    #375843
    Ry
    Participant

    Dear Anita,

    Thank you yet again for your reply…

    Yes, I too fear the loneliness that comes from living in a large city. The isolation and compartmentalization that comes with a life there is scary. I lived near DC for a bit before taking a job in Appalachia, so at least I had the benefit of culture and whatnot there–even though I was a full-time grad student at the time. That was a part of the appeal of taking this job here; however, I believe the poor socioeconomics of this area and the pandemic meant that I never saw this as “home.” (Even though my counselor encouraged me to put down roots and perhaps make this my home.) I will locate a counselor when I get settled there and work to find activities that boost my social skills.

    And, no, I won’t stay here for her. The love interest, friendship, or whatever this was and is, it’s unattainable and unsustainable and detrimental in the long run. I did FaceTime her briefly this afternoon, and while she was excited for me, I could sense the friendship I desired had passed. While she knows that she can count on me, there is nothing there for anything more foundational. And that’s okay. The time we shared helped with the loneliness and isolation, and the relationship–whatever it was–provided me an outlet to be open and vulnerable–even if it was not reciprocated.

    Thank you for the two mindfulness points. Yes, I will work on holding onto them and practicing them. I did well with not overreacting to perceived rejection(s) with the coworker. Not so much in my own head and heart but I never verbalized them to her (other to say that I had hoped for more but understood why it could not be.) She mentioned a few times that she appreciated that I gave her space when many of her friends did not. However, I need to do better with accepting these perceived rejections and not hyper analyzing or fixating on them. The same with the inferiority/superiority mindset. As you said, these are likely due to my “very lonely childhood and life of social isolation at home.” I simply have to get a handle on this or at least learn to accept it and cope.

    I came across this quote by Jake Woodard on Instagram tonight: “Some of our deepest core beliefs were created because of the childhood trauma we experienced. The relationships that we manifest are often a reflection of our unresolved pain. By leaning into our wounds, with the other broken template that we carry.”

    Ryan

    • This reply was modified 3 months, 2 weeks ago by Ry.
    #375824
    Ry
    Participant

    Dear Anita and TeaK,

    Thank you again for both replying. It brings me some comfort to have a place to speak for freely.

    Yes, I did accept the tentative offer and do plan to move away from here someone soon once I receive a formal offer. There is some apprehension about taking another job that is now—and has the potential to always be—100% telework, as I feel that I’d miss the direct human interaction. However, this is something I have not had in the past year, and a larger city (a real city!) could permit that if I can work from anywhere.

    That makes sense of what you’ve written about hypnotherapy, Anita. This would explain the other counselor’s aversion to it. My primary counselor utilizes CBT therapy, while the other—the one who offered hypnotherapy— who I saw infrequently, used a type of DBT, which I preferred. Nearly all my experience in therapy has been CBT-based, which was comforting in a sense, but I felt that it did not (or no longer) drill down deep enough as may be necessary for me.

    I’ve done a lot of thinking about what you’ve written, Anita and TeaK, and I would say that you’re right: I do have a strong fear of rejection. Barring a few kisses and some G-rated holding and touching, my coworker’s words and actions always indicated that we were to be casual friends. Even when I would pay her a compliment about something as benign as her cooking or her hair, it was typically rebuffed or ignored. As I’ve written and you both have identified, she rarely, if ever, “let her walls down” so I could see her “whole self.” She was always careful to never allow me to know more than she was comfortable with.

    I approached this relationship by envisioning her as someone she is not. When I saw her briefly a year ago, I painted an incomplete picture of her. I saw an attractive, professional woman with a confident stride. It was until November when we met that I discovered she was intelligent and driven as well. I allowed my isolation and loneliness of 2020 to override logic I suppose. Logic being not to get too emotionally involved with a coworker. I did try to convince myself that her flaws/vices would make a tangible involvement more difficult, but I cherished the feeling of dressing up and. enjoying dinners with someone fun and intelligent.

    I suppose part of my irritation is because of the rejection that it wasn’t…more blatant. Maybe it felt good for her to touch someone again for a time until it became too much and she needed to shut it down? Maybe she was trying to not hurt me by being more direct? Obviously, I got the hint after the crude message about her “cute maintenance man” a week and a half ago. With that cavalier message, I knew for certain then that she would never see me as anything greater than a casual friend.

    I’ve worked to make peace with the inconsequential nature of our relationship. Oddly, she has not acknowledged that I no longer really text or contact her, but perhaps her ambivalence was something I hadn’t noticed. I’ve written how it occurred to me that she hasn’t asked me out for dinner, or offered to have me over, since we returned from the cabin. I was too caught up in trying to hold onto something that was never there to realize these deeds were not reciprocated. She may be lonely and looking for a companion—or at least company—but that simply was never going to be me (or is no longer me).

    I only have myself to fault. She was upfront from the beginning about this relationship, and while the lines may have blurred for a moment, there would be nothing substantial that would come of it. While early on I had hoped for a romantic relationship, it did morph into the desire to be a special person in her life, who could be a stable rock for her. Perhaps it was my personality, something she saw (or did not see) in me, or even her past traumas that didn’t allow me in. I do not know and may never know.

    I will continue to practice vulnerability and try to bring people into my life where I don’t feel the need to be a savior. I also need to work on my self-worth after working much of the past 10-years on my self-esteem. While I feel that I have accomplished much in my life—serving in the military, an MBA, having a good relationship with my daughter, and having what one could a “comfortable life”—there remain the issues that have led me to be twice-divorced, where I have yet to have an intimate, long-term relationship, in my 45-years of life.

    I certainly have a lot of work to continue to do.

    Thank you,

    Ryan

    #375807
    Ry
    Participant

    Dear Anita,

    After your torment in losing your post to me that you spent so many hours on, I decided to draft this in Word and copy it into the Tiny Buddha post window. Again, I am sorry that you lost so much time in what I am sure was a substantial post to me.

    First, I did meet with my counselor—albeit virtually—with my counselor last Tuesday afternoon. We talked a bit about how my depression (dysthymia) has been and the usual Q&A about if I’m getting out, eating enough, sleeping enough, etc. She was ecstatic that I allowed myself to be open and vulnerable with my coworker. Vulnerability has been something I’ve long been unable or unwilling to do with another person, and it was one of the things my counselor worked hard on with me last year. I will continue to work on my unresolved childhood issues with my mother. Last year, I actually saw a counselor who does hypnotherapy, in the hopes that he could help draw out some repressed memories, but he felt hypnosis was unnecessary.

    Second, it was a year ago this past January that I moved to this town of 30,000 and it will be a year ago next week that we began mandatory 100% telework. Last week, I received a tentative offer for a job with a federal agency in a city with a population of nearly 6 million. If I do take the job, it is 100% telework for the remainder of the year, so I will not have to move straight away. This also means that I’ll be largely working alone; however, as the pandemic slows and life begins to normalize for most, there will be opportunities to travel and explore and hopefully meet new people. Also, the job could potentially be a permanent telework-type career, so I could feasibly work from anywhere.

    Finally, I realize that it read like I was judging my coworker—and perhaps I was only because I saw her potential—but I merely tried to paint an accurate picture of her. Not that any of us is without our shortcomings but I did not want it to seem that I was smitten with someone seemingly so unflawed. She is a self-described “hot mess” and yet I saw something there that I hoped she did as well. While she had maturing yet to do, I do hope that she can overcome her vices/shortcomings/etc. and find a happy, balanced life. She seems like such a dichotomy—a walking contradiction—as she battles addictions and her past with her drive to be better.

    In spite of that, I have decided to continue to pull away. Something changed between us after the cabin trip. Gone was any warmth. Communication became less frequent. She hasn’t invited me over or out for dinner since that weekend. If I want to see her or hang out, I am the one to suggest it. The only time she asked to see me was last Monday night when she texted: ”…on a scale of 1 to fuck you, how much would you hate me if I said my mom and I might need a ride? She has us drinking long islands. Lol” She ended up driving her mother back to her car and driving home inebriated, so I was not needed.

    As you said Anita, she may have sensed my judgement and distanced herself from me because of them. I don’t know if I completely agree, as I have always tried to support and encourage things that feed her soul. I feel that we may have gotten closer for a brief period—something she did not foresee or embrace—and decided to squash it. I have tried to be a positive influence in her life, and will continue to do so, but I do not want to put in any more effort if it is not reciprocated. I do not want the warmth I feel toward her to grow cold.

    #375444
    Ry
    Participant

    Dear Anita,

    I am so sorry to hear that you spent so much time on my post only for it to be lost. I had a similar issue in college and I know it is infuriating. I appreciate you dedicating so much time to make such a comprehensive reply, and greatly appreciate you summarizing it from memory. I have a counseling appointment tomorrow (Tuesday) afternoon and I will address some your points with my counselor then—specifically my experience with my mother.

    I’ll write a more thorough reply after my session tomorrow.

    Thank you again, Anita.

    Ryan

    #375409
    Ry
    Participant

    Oh, thank you, Anita. Take your time. I always appreciate your counsel.

    Ryan

    #375393
    Ry
    Participant

    Dear Teak,

    Thank you so much for taking the time to both read my ramblings and making a comprehensive reply.

    Yes, she has kept her “protective shield” up with me since day one, and we have only briefly found intimacy. Regrettably, alcohol was involved in both instances; however, she was sober the next morning at the cabin when we kissed again, held one another, and my hand on her leg and her hand on my arm as we drove home. Yet, I think she decided against it—likely to protect her heart, as she saw nothing long-term with us.

    Her week away with no contact and the inappropriate comments about the maintenance man solidified that our relationship would remain casual and likely inconsequential. I have thought often about why I feel such an attraction to her. Not so much a physical attraction—though that obviously exists—but more of that connection I’ve written about. There was just something there for me at our first “date” that I cannot explain. And ease or comfort that I have rarely found with another. Anita astutely explained that this connection may always have been heavily aided by my counseling last year, and my willingness to open up and be vulnerable with another person. Regrettably, this other person may have not been as willing to be vulnerable with me. I have learned in our brief relationship these past few months how fiercely independent she is, and while I think she desires a companion, she has acknowledged that she is strong enough to walk this world alone. For example, I wrote here before how I told her that I was glad she did not have to be alone the night I had her over for dinner after her invasive screening/test for cervical cancer last month. She sharply replied something to the effect that, “I was alone the last time,” referring to a previous surgery to remove some (pre)cancerous growth.

    I asked her at dinner on Wednesday why her parents and her husband at the time both allowed her to nearly die when she was battling the eating disorder a few years ago. She said her father would often “pinch her sides” as a teenager, which clearly added to her body image issues. She said that she has always been “bottom heavy”—she has a thicker butt and thighs but probably A-cup breasts, which she has admitted she does not like, so body image contributes too. Her mother had either checked out or simply did not want to get involved in her life. (She tries to maintain a strong relationship with her parents, which both surprises me and fascinates me, as they both were not great parents until recently.) She said her husband loved her no matter what she looked like but explained that he found her “sexier” after she gained weight again. This angered her as she nearly died but he did not engage her on any meaningful level about her eating disorder until she was in recovery.

    Finally, I agree with you regarding my savior complex. I believe it was Anita who too identified that before. I will bring that up with my counselor at my next appointment, as I have often felt this in relationships. I have dated a few damaged women, and I ultimately try to save them, which ultimately causes me stress and pain. (I mentioned previously trying to help someone years ago, and ultimately walking away, only to have her commit suicide.) With my coworker, there was the initial attraction/connection on my part, which evolved to a need to show her that I was different and that I could be a base of support as time went on. Granted we have only been friends since mid-November 2020.

    I suppose my torment comes from a sense of rejection by her. Not in the romantic sense but it of the almost consistent rebuff by her. I immensely enjoy her and her company, but she seems quite ambivalent about me. I don’t know. Maybe “ambivalent” is too strong a word, but she seems incapable of revealing that I possibly mean something to her. Perhaps I do but she is not willing to be vulnerable. And that snub stings but that has to do with her, as you wrote, TeaK.

    You are right and I need to figure out this need to be a “savior.” And I do need to accept her feelings towards our relationship and refocus on myself. While I will remain her friend, I cannot invest any more of myself in this relationship. It’s only going to end badly for me.

    #375386
    Ry
    Participant

    This is likely the last time I will write in this thread about my coworker. I do truly appreciate your understanding and advice with this piece of my life, Anita (and Brandy). Truly! This has been a welcome outlet to spill out my thoughts, but, honestly, I barely had the will or energy to write this post…

    I never heard from her while she was away for a week on her vacation last week. This was not unexpected, and the distance allowed me to further emotionally break away. We did go out for dinner and drinks this past Wednesday, and while it was another fun night, gone was anything beyond the existing friendship. Any touching of my arm or back had stopped weeks ago—after the post-cabin “date” when she revealed that she saw nothing long-term with us. Even our goodbye was a quick hug and a few pats on my back from her. It stung as I knew that we would be platonic and any hopes for a deeper friendship had passed. But the physical contact—even simply the glancing touch on my arm or her hand on my arm as we watched a movie was missed.

    She mentioned something surprising over drinks. I said that I purposely did not message her because I felt that she needed to get away and take a break from her life here when she traveled south to visit her best friend. She replied that she appreciated that and she indeed did, and that is the reason we were out together and she was not out with her friends this past week. That many of them had “blown up her phone” by Facebook messaging her and texting her, with some complaining that she didn’t reply. She appreciated that I did not contact her and that was one of the main reasons that we hung out. Interesting if a little selfish perhaps in my opinion.

    What led to this was that I mentioned her having an avoidant personality style. She did not understand what that was, so I tried to explain that she tends to retreat from people when she feels that she needs to. (I didn’t expound to say that she seems to retreat when people get close, as I didn’t want to tie myself into the explanation.) She said that was accurate and it’s to be expected when one was raised by an alcoholic father and a bipolar mother. That she had to learn to be self-sufficient at a young age and worked hard to get out of that situation as soon as she was able. She ended up moving out of her parents’ home and into her own apartment at 16-years of age. She also mentioned that she wasn’t one of the “pretty or cool girls” in high school and couldn’t wait to finish. All factors that led to her being so driven in academia.

    Yesterday (Saturday morning), she had sent out a Snapchat picture of her kitchen ceiling with a large hole in it. I messaged to ask her about it, which had turned out to be a water leak from her shower that was, unfortunately, entirely her fault.

    We went back and forth for a few before she replied, “Good news is I get to see the cute maintenance man again on Monday. He has an 11 year old and an 10 yr old and an 8 year old… 🤢 I’m like dude it put away….but also whip it out. Let me see what all them kids is about lol 😂 I am trash lol 😂

    Taken aback, I replied, “Wow. Just don’t let him use your bathroom and sneak around the corner on him if he’s naked. ;-)”

    To which she replied, “Stop with the wink! It was an accident lol. I’m not a predator, sir! I’ll get back to the old sex shop this weekend and tame the beast. Then I won’t be such a perv lol. I’ve already got the remedy. Just need to refill the prescription lol.”

    This is a woman who speaks two languages and taught the second language at the university level. Crude and jarring? Yes, but also telling. Clearly, she sees me as nothing more than a friend if she is willing to share that. While it stung to read, I did not show it in my reply by maintaining a light and playful tone. Yet, somehow, she interpreted my teasing that she purposefully walked in on me changing at the cabin was somehow “predatory”?

    This exchange yesterday was the final nail in the coffin for me. I have no more energy to give the relationship and cannot continue to hope for something that simply is not going to manifest, and I must come to terms with what it is. I desired to be, or thought I could be, a more significant piece of her life than I am or was. To her credit, she never offered me any false hopes (other than the few kisses), and to my knowledge, she was never dishonest with me. She never used me or manipulated me I felt. Our “dates” were strangely calm and enjoyable, and she never played games. What I mean is she never would cancel at the last minute and was always present and engaging when we were together. Yet, when we were apart, I felt like an afterthought. Yes, she would text on occasion but it could be days in between.

    Further, things with us were always planned. Perhaps only twice has she texted me to spontaneously ask if I wanted to hang out. Yes, she teleworks her full-time office job with me, and her second, the part-time food service job, most Friday and Saturday nights, which leaves her only Sunday as her single day off. However, only once has she asked me to hang out, and that was simply because I was making a run to Starbucks and asked if she wanted me to drop off a coffee. It’s been over a month since she invited me over for dinner. Whenever I gave her a gift—rarely anything personal, but rather practical—she would always ask if it was extra something I had, and nothing purchased simply for her. She mentioned at dinner on Wednesday that she “hates gifts” but would always welcome a card or letter.

    While I have told her in person, via text message, and the lengthy letter/email I wrote, about what she means to me and how much I appreciate her, never have any platitudes it been initiated by her. Any platitudes have always been in response to my own. At times, compliments I made to her were deflected or ignored. Hell, even the letter I wrote her was not acknowledged until a week later at dinner—and then only briefly discussed. Did it mean anything to her?

    I wanted to be someone different for her here in the small town in the middle of nowhere. Someone other than the country boys that abound. Someone who does more than drink, hunt, and fish. Wanted her to know that it’s okay to lean on others. That those she lets close aren’t going to let her down. That men see more in her than just a sexual being. (Not that she isn’t sexy, and I would not refuse if presented the opportunity.)

    She may be looking for someone but that someone just isn’t me, or she may be just focusing on herself and trying to figure out her life now that she has a secure and well-paying job. She has been actively looking to purchase a home about 45 mins away where she both attended and taught college. Over drinks the other night, she fretted about being able to compare to the “young and hot” college girls if/when she moves away. (She is only in her mid-20s, so I don’t think she has much to worry about—other than the overabundance of tanning salon visits and her vaping and drinking.)

    I’ll continue to support her as a friend but cannot invest any more of myself with little to no reciprocity. No matter how much I say or write, she never seemed to want to show me any more of herself. I’d get bits and pieces of the stressors and traumas that were her life when she was younger, but she always keeps those walls up or uses alcohol to lean on. I would oftentimes foolishly wait for a call/text asking if I wanted to hang out with her but it never came.

    I know that I’m jumped in too quickly after we met. Meeting someone attractive and intelligent here after nearly a year alone in isolation was thrilling and electrifying. Still, she stifled things before our second “date” by texting that she did not feel that dating a coworker was the best idea. I don’t believe she has ever flirted with me. And while there was the brief period before the cabin when it felt like we may have been moving toward a deeper friendship, but she has chosen to not take that path. She was/in under no obligation to give me her time, affections, and pieces of herself to me.

    I began this post this morning but spent the day trying to figure out why I’m so sad/distraught/letdown. I think part of it is a regret that I am so much older than her. While she remained unruffled when I revealed that I had a daughter only a few years younger than her, she did reveal at the dinner after the cabin that “it freaked her out.” I can’t help but shake that she was initially interested, then decided that it was more or less a dealbreaker, then in the weeks before the cabin—and then the cabin—began to develop feelings, only to ultimately decided that a friends is all we would be. This is understandable.

    I think what bothers me the most is she has always seemed so ambivalent. Thinking back, she rarely asks about me, my family, friends, shows I may be watching, books I may be reading, etc. It feels almost selfish to an extent. While I have tried to support her to be the best person she can be—to build her up rather than tear her down—it often feels unbalanced. And while she occasionally call/FaceTime during work once a week, we usually talk about mundane things. I’ll often chat more about my life with my other coworkers than I do with her. And I certainly do not have the same relationship I have with them as I do with her.

    This relationship may have run its course. I know she’ll meet someone or move further away, so I should continue to let any amorous ideas go. I hope that I’m eventually able to see her from a platonic level and not care as much as I do. I see something in her—her potential—but I don’t know what she has hidden that may hold her back. While I had wished that we could have talked of hopes and dreams, or build a deeper friendship, she seems unwilling or unable to do so with me. I will continue to support her but will refrain from asking her out for dinner or inviting her over to my place for dinner. I think that she is still working to figure out her life—through both counseling and alcohol—and she cannot allow anyone to be an impediment. Or, as the saying goes, she just isn’t that into me.

    #375361
    Ry
    Participant

    Thank you, Anita. I did not ever connect my childhood experiences to social cognitive deficits, or rather that they would lead to a “deficit.” Hopefully, the therapy and my work help to fill this void inside me.

    Ryan

    #375022
    Ry
    Participant

    Dear Anita,

    Before I wrote here this morning, I serendipitously, stumbled upon this clip from the Matthias Barker podcast via TikTok, and heard this quote by John Mark Comer:

    As long as you live in the prison of where you have to get what you want to be happy, no person, no marriage, no job, no life, no identity, no sexual experience, no income bracket, no travel experience, no passport. Fill in the blank. Nothing will ever be able to always give what you want, and you will run over people. Sabotage people. People will become objects by which you try to self-gratify and feed your narcissism. Even if it masquerades as ‘I’m falling in love. Or this is great. I love these people!’

    His words hit me hard due to their accuracy. This was often how I spent my life: Trying to find people or experiences to fill the void inside me. While I didn’t want to believe that I was narcissistic, I realized in the last few years that narcissism was a core trait. This may have partially originated from the distance my mother kept with me, which may have fed into my feelings of low self-esteem as I grew. (Low self-esteem was something I worked hard to overcome, and it wasn’t until my late 30s that I finally felt that I had a handle on it.)

    I feel this quest for happiness—and my work in therapy last year to work on connecting and being vulnerable around people—made for the relationship with my coworker friend to be more stressful than it should have been. As I’ve written, perhaps I jumped in too far too soon without understanding the nature of the relationship? Perhaps I forced things (e.g., the kiss on the first date, the cabin, the little gifts, etc.) without appreciating that she was solely focused on her growth and evolution since her divorce and recovery from her eating disorder? Perhaps I imagined something there—that “connection”—when there truly was not one?

    I haven’t heard from my coworker friend since the days before she left for her trip. She returns today and I imagine I won’t hear from her until we return to work in the morning. While I don’t embrace social media as many others do, we are “Facebook friends,” and she has not posted there since before she left. I believe she needed a break from life here and just wanted to focus on her time there with her best friend.

    Her time away was good for me too. The physical distance between us allowed me to divest a bit from the relationship. Something had changed in her since we returned from the cabin. Yes, there her explicit declaration that there would be no “long term relationship,” and that anything physical would extend only as far as hugging. However, there was an emotional retraction as well. She would not text unless it was something work-related or something that concerned her, and the week before she left was the really first week we had not hung out since we began hanging out in mid-November.

    I may be wrong, but I feel like she may have felt the beginnings of something for me but cast those feelings aside to be practical or to protect herself. She may enjoy my company and like me as a person but does not see a chance at a long-term relationship and doesn’t want to put her heart through the pain of another relationship that will not go the distance. The long embrace as she was leaving after dinner here (the night of her Pap screen) may have been her way of saying both thank you and goodbye, as we have not hung out since. I don’t know. I enjoyed our time together, as I think she did too, but perhaps she needed to take a step back.

    I guess the point of writing today is to say that her week away has given me a chance to reflect and reframe things. While a part of me does hope that we can remain friends, and possibly grow closer as friends, I need to continue to focus on moving somewhere else and finally putting down roots.

    I am happy to have met her when I did, as someone else may have been seeking a companion, which I don’t know if I’m ready for that. Yes, companionship would be fantastic, but can I be a good partner while I’m still seeking my place in the world? This person, as I believe my coworker did, would feel my narcissism and I could sabotage the relationship as I often did in the past. My coworker friend is beautiful, intelligent, driven, and many other positive qualities that fed me. And while I overlooked her negative qualities, I may have sacrificed too much of myself at the chance of a relationship with her. Especially if/when sex may have become involved and muddied the waters.

    She mentioned in our FaceTime chat the Friday before she left that she had plans to quit her second job now that she has received a pay raise and paid off her debts. That her second job exhausts her and leaves her with little free time—especially now with Spring right around the corner. That working in a brewery causes her to drink too much, and as I wrote here before, the nature of the foodservice industry gives her access to marijuana. The text from her I shared here before:

    I haven’t been really partaking much – I don’t like the people I have to get it from. They creep me out. Oh, the joys of being female 🥲 and the joys of suppressing something that doesn’t need to be suppressed so it gets pumped in with unsavory characters.

    At least for me, there was an unusual connection to her, and I’d like to see her live a cleaner life and live up to the potential I see in her. I wish that we could have gotten to know each other better and grown closer and maybe we will. Or maybe we won’t and that is okay too. I need to continue to work on myself before I jump in with someone.

    #374699
    Ry
    Participant

    Dear Anita,

    Yes, your observations are sound, rational, and logical! I do tend to overthink (hyper analyze) in life, rather than let things just continue down their obvious path. And, yes, a part of me is miffed that she did not return a text. She mentioned early in the relationship that she is bad about returning texts, and I suppose that I got a bit spoiled because she would often return mine in a timely manner. Her recent reluctance to return my texts certainly feeds into my insecurities. And I wasn’t bothered by her 8-word response to my “thoughtful text.” I appreciated that she felt the same.

    I agree with your reply regarding the commenting about my “trouble connecting and staying connected with a person.” Yes, if I feel that illusive connection with someone, I have (in the past) often pushed them away. Then, I feel guilt and loneliness and the lost connection. Guilt from the self-imposed idea that I was stringing them along, and loneliness from the feeling of them “seeing me” but not really seeing me. (Obviously, they could not “see me” because I never allowed them to.)

    I read something after I made this last post was about loneliness. That one of the strongest yearnings people have is to be known and to be seen. The comfort and the affirmation that comes when someone really knows you, or sees you, and gets you. It’s me feeling “different” and never feeling validated. With my coworker, it felt like she both saw me and accepted me immediately. This was due to me not being afraid to be vulnerable and her empathic nature. (Her, as an empath, may explain her emotional distance as closeness and intimacy can be overwhelming.) And allowing her to see me was exciting and I chased those feelings—even as she chose to keep me at a distance (or control the nature and level of emotional intimacy).

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