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A date with a coworker felt like a bright spot in 2020 (and maybe it was)?

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  • #375362
    anita
    Participant

    Dear Ryan:

    You are welcome. The term “social cognitive deficit” is new to me, but it is something I suffered from and most people do to one extent or another, particularly at times of high stress and anxiety. Did anyone suggest to you, or did you ever suspect that you may be, as it is termed, “on the spectrum”, that is, suffering from an autism spectrum disorder?

    anita

    #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.

    #375387
    anita
    Participant

    Dear Ryan:

    I will read and reply to you in about 10 hours from now.

    anita

    #375390
    TeaK
    Participant

    Dear Ryan,

    I am sorry that things with your coworker didn’t work out. You did give your best and was very supportive for her, you cooked meals for her and held her in her arms without pushing for anything more. She could feel safe and cared for with you. However, she wasn’t ready for that, and it is, at least partially, because she’s battling her own demons and trying to numb her pain with drugs and alcohol. You saw this very well:

    “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.”

    Although your meetings with her were often light and carefree, as you say, she’s carrying a lot of pain inside, which she’s trying to numb with those addictions. She is working with a counselor, so she might be free some day, but not just yet. Perhaps that’s one of the reasons why she doesn’t want to get more deeply involved with you – because she knows she isn’t able to give you the love you deserve. Or, she is afraid of another intimate relationship. Or both.

    Whatever it is, at least she was honest about her unwillingness to get romantically involved with you. She never gave you false hopes, although it appears she did enjoy your company. But for her, it wasn’t going to happen. It doesn’t make you a less worthy or desirable person, it’s just that this concrete girl refused you. It has nothing to do with you, but with her.

    What I am noticing is that you are (at least until this last post where you’re a little bit disillusioned) still showing some of the savior complex, which you talked about before. You said:

    “I thought that I could be a good influence in her life, and maybe I was/am?”

    “It is my hope that she will continue to distance herself from the “unsavory characters” and the drugs.”

    “I feel that I am a positive and calming influence in her life and I would like to continue to be.”

    “I’d like to see her live a cleaner life and live up to the potential I see in her”.

     

    You also said she’s an old soul, intrigues you as a person and would like to know her better:

    “I would like to know her better than just a work friend that I hang out with. Not in a romantic sense, but I’d hope she’d drop her walls a bit so I can know her better.”

    “I’m just not comfortable doing without knowing her better.”

     

    These are all signs that you’re trying to save her. You’d like to know her better, understand her traumas, and be the person who helps her climb out of it. Even if she’s refused a romantic relationship, you still hoped to have an intimate relationship with her, to be a friend who she can confide in and talk about her problems.

    But unfortunately, saving others never works. She is the only one who can save herself. She’s probably already working on it, but since she’s still suffering with addiction, it means the wound is deep and she doesn’t know how to cope otherwise.

    It’s not your task to help her, moreover she isn’t asking for your help either. She wants to keep things light and playful with you, and now she’s even made inappropriate comments about the repair man, which to me signals she’s putting up a protective shield and wants to distance herself from any intimacy with you. It appears to me that she wants to be left alone with her pain (and her addictions), she doesn’t want you to interfere. It’s not the healthiest choice but it’s her choice, and you can’t do much about it but to respect it and to spare yourself from further pain.

    The question I would ask myself if I were you is why you have the need to save her. Usually when we want to save someone, we’re avoiding to look at something in our own psychology that needs to be solved. We’re working hard on changing them instead of looking at what needs to be changed in us.

    #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.

    #375397
    anita
    Participant

    Dear Ryan:

    I want to let you know that I am working on a post for you, re-reading your posts since the beginning of this thread and will send you a post in a couple of hours or so.

    anita

    #375409
    Ry
    Participant

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

    Ryan

    #375411
    anita
    Participant

    Dear Ryan:

    I closed a window on my computer, by accident, and lost a post I was almost ready to send you, a post on which I worked for over four hours.

    I will not repeat that work, which included retyping of what you shared on this thread, including in your most recent posts. What I will do is repeat from memory my conclusions and suggestions at the end of the lost post, paraphrased:

    1. About Communication: that almost 20,000 words, stream of consciousness email that you sent her, the one you ended with letting her know that a reply is not needed- that was a communication blunder. In the context of psychotherapy this could be a useful exercise,  but it is not appropriate in the context of a personal relationship. To effectively communicate with a person in a personal relationship, keep a message short and focused, so that it is not so difficult to read and process, and do not suggest that the person receiving the message needs not reply- the whole point of effective communication is to receive a reply.

    Plus, you waited for her to reply even though you wrote that she needs not reply, so there was a dishonest factor there.

    2. About Judgment: you judged her for a lot of things, examples: abusing alcohol, having used cocaine, having dated a man who was a meth addict, having had a failed marriage, having an alcoholic father, having a bi-polar mother, having been crude in her language, most recently. She may have sensed your judgments of her and distanced herself from you because of your judgments.

    The fact that you also told her a lot of positive things about herself does not undo/neutralize the negative judgments.

    These judgments also have kept you distanced from her, and/ or ready to distant yourself from her at any time.

    3. About being Damaged, , being a Savior,  and the ability to carry on an Intimate Relationship: I don’t think that she is more damaged than you are (except for damage caused by some of her practices that you do not practice, such as vaping). I don’t think that you are capable of being her savior any more than she is capable of being your savior, and I don’t think that there is any evidence that you are more capable than her to engage in an intimate, long-term relationship. After all, you haven’t had an intimate, long-term relationship yet, in your45 years of life.

    4. Her age and age-gap: Before your most recent posts, I was under the impression that she is in her early 30s. I was surprised to read recently that she  is in her mid-twenties, only about six years removed from being a teenager. The gap between a 25 year old woman and a 45 year old man is much greater than, let’s say a 35 year old woman and a 55 year old man. It has to do with the number of years one is removed from one’s childhood. You referred to her as an “old soul”, but a 25 year old woman has not started to physically age yet.

    5. Childhood experience Projected in Adulthood: as I retyped your words earlier, I was strongly impressed by how, in the context of your interactions/ relationship with this young woman, you were re-experiencing your childhood experience with your mother: your feelings that this young woman had her walls up and did not let you see her real/ whole self, who did not let you in.. that’s the same experience you had with your mother. This early life experience needs to be explored in therapy, so that you no longer project it as an adult into relationships with women.

    anita

    #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

    #375449
    anita
    Participant

    Dear Ryan:

    You are welcome and thank you for your empathy and appreciation. Will read from you when you post next.

    anita

    #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.

    #375809
    anita
    Participant

    Dear Ryan:

    Thank you for your empathy about me losing my post the other day and I am glad you took the precaution of using Word and coping the draft here.

    Good to read that you will be working in therapy on unresolved issues regarding your mother. About using hypnotherapy to access memories from childhood, I learned that our memories of childhood events: what happened, who said and did what,  when, and where, these memories are unreliable. Some events are lost to us for good, other events that we remember happening in one evening, in reality happened on a few occasions over the period of a few years, and so forth. What I also learned is that it is not necessary to access memories of events,  emotional memory is way more reliable. A lot of the time your current emotional experience is the same as your childhood emotional experience, the ways you react to people and situations in your current life is often the same as the ways you reacted to similar people and situations as a child.

    Congratulations for receiving a tentative offer for a job with a federal agency. If it is a better job than the one you have, I hope you take it. I am guessing the plan is that you move away from the small town where you currently live to a bigger city.

    Regarding my suggestion that you judge your coworker a lot, I still believe that indeed you judge her a lot. I believe that you do so as a way to protect yourself from perceived rejection, and you have done so from the very beginning: in your original post Dec 5, 2020, right after the first date and her text where she rejected you as a romantic prospect, you wrote: “She isn’t without her flaws”.

    From there on, you elaborated plenty on her flaws every time you felt that she rejected you, making the point (without stating it in this way) that she is indeed too flawed for you, and therefore her rejection is not a great loss for you. You are very, very sensitive to rejection and I believe, you see it where it is and where it is not, and you tend to over-react to perceived rejection.

    This is what I believe, following communicating with you at length over time,  reading and re-reading your posts, incorporating new information into the old.

    anita

    #375812
    TeaK
    Participant

    Dear Ryan,

    good to read from you again. Also, I am glad about your job prospects – are you planning to accept the offer?

    Did you have the chance to talk about the savior complex during your therapy session? Because I believe this is an issue. In a previous post, you wrote:

    “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.”

    It seems to me you wanted to be special for her, but also better than the average “country boys” in “the small town in the middle of nowhere.” There’s a sense of superiority there, like you’re better than the men there, you’re sensitive, you talk about your feelings, you’re not seeing women just as sexual objects. You come from a big city to this God forsaken place in the middle of nowhere, and you feel so much better than the local guys. Does that ring true?

    You also said:

    “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.”

    It appears that the greatest pain is that she rejected you, not necessarily as a romantic partner, but as this special person in her life, who could be a stable rock for her, who could give her what other men cannot, and eventually, who could save her from her demons. It’s almost as if she refused your uniqueness, she didn’t recognize how special you are, and this seems to hurt you the most.

    If this is true, you’ve got issues with self-worth, which often goes hand in hand with the savior complex. Because you’ve grown a lot as a person and are much more self-aware than before, much more able to show vulnerability etc. So you made a definite progress, and this makes you feel better about yourself (and it should). But if there’s a deeper issue of lack of self-worth, we’ll start taking pride in being more “mature” than some other people whom we’ll then try to “save”, all in an attempt to prove how special and valuable we are.

    This all happens subconsciously, but the result is that we’re attracted to “damaged” people, whom we then try to save, unsuccessfully…

     

    • This reply was modified 7 months, 2 weeks ago by TeaK.
    #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

    #375825
    anita
    Participant

    Dear Ryan:

    You are welcome. I suppose a bigger city will afford you more socializing opportunities. It so happens that I lived in a huge city for most of my adult life and yet I was lonely there much of the time. On the other hand, living in a small town, I experienced a more pleasurable and active social life than in that big city. I think that it has to do with that self-esteem you mentioned: feeling of equal value to others makes a huge difference when it comes to socializing.

    I can see that staying in the small town where you live because she, your coworker and previous love-interest, lives there- that would be silly, as there is no reasonable hope for a love relationship. Plus, she is too young for you. I can see you, in my mind’s eye,  with a woman in her mid to later thirties, maybe in her early forties.

    Regarding the “lot of work to continue to do” so to form and maintain an intimate, long-term relationship: my experience communicating with you over time, is that you experienced a very lonely childhood, a life of social isolation at home. Alone, you closed in, shut down much of your motivation to connect with others and didn’t therefore develop the social skills required to form and maintain an intimate relationship. You made significant progress in this regard in your psychotherapy and in your interactions with your co-worker.

    In the future, when you meet your next love-interest, be mindful of the following: (1) your over-reaction to any perceived rejection: some of what you perceive as rejection may be the person having a bad day, or being preoccupied with some worry, and not a rejection of you. Plus, in an intimate relationship two people are not close all the time. Sometimes a person needs alone-time. In the quest for alone-time there is a temporary rejection, but it is only temporary, and is not a rejection of you or the relationship, (2) you will need to feel neither inferior nor superior to the woman. A healthy self-esteem is about feeling of equal value to another and acting accordingly. When you notice faults in the woman, remember that you have faults too, and see if the two  of you can base a win-win relationship on your respective strengths and common values and goals.

    anita

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