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Trying to let go of relationship / understand how I got here

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  • #379313
    lily
    Participant

    I had been out of the dating game for a while because it is so rare that I am attracted to anyone, and being over 35, I had pretty much lost hope of finding a lifelong partner / having kids.  I just moved to a move city and was excited to meet people, and my first week living here I attended a social event and met someone I felt an instant connection with (also never married and single, in his 4os).  We went out on several dates, but only once a week, things moved really slowly but I kind of appreciated that and filled my time with meeting other people since I had just moved here.  Long story short, while he told me he wanted marriage and children he didn’t want to date exclusively because he wasn’t ready but really liked me and wanted to “see where things go,” and so I ended things after 3 months of dating.  He had to go out of the country for 3 months for work, and when he returned it was the pandemic.  We started talking again, and eventually started dating again, and for months this continued on and was honestly really fun and playful and intense but also causing me a lot of anxiety, until I finally insisted on talking about being exclusive.  It was there that he brought up some “reservations” — about my political views (which are more progressive than his, but I didn’t see it as a problem — he is a registered Democrat and when we spoke about things it seemed that our values had been aligned).  I am very passionate about my political views (plus they pertain to my work) and told him that they likely will not change but that he doesn’t have to agree with me.  He was insistent upon us not ending things and kept dragging things on but he seemed conflicted at the same time and I felt sick wondering if he was also dating other women (I have only ever been in monogamous exclusive dating situations or relationships).  Meanwhile he was getting in endless political debates with me which I didn’t really care to do with him and which we had never done before. One ended with him screaming “f***you” in a hotel room at me and I nearly ended things, but he did instantly apologize.

    For months, this continued on and although I made romantic gestures like sending him cards and really putting a lot of thought into his birthday, he did not return these things.  But he did introduce me to his friends and talk about our future and spent almost all of his time with me.  Finally, after about 16 months of this (including our 3 month break), he asked me to be his girlfriend casually while we were putting furniture together in a house I had just purchased on my own (a lifelong dream of mine).  It didn’t feel romantic or special at all and I guess I just felt hurt.  Nonetheless, I said yes, and finally felt comfortable introducing him to more of my friends since we were official.  However, he told me in private all his judgments of them (one talked about her weight management issues too much, a few talked about sex too much, etc.)  and that there are a few of them who identify as communists (it’s true, they do), and that if we got a house together because of his career I couldn’t have people who identified as communist in my house. He is in the military and has been for a very long time, and obsessed with the topic of communism, drilling me to see if I am a communist, even becoming enraged at me when I watched a south korean drama that featured a north korean military officer for 20 minutes in his presence.  I wondered if this had to do with PTSD but he refuses to get help.  I refused to submit to this and said my friends will always be welcome in my house regardless of their political ideologies.  He also started picking more and more political fights.  For example, we both agreed that we hated fast food and he said the solution was to tax it so people would eat more healthy food.  I said I understood where he was coming from and once agreed, but ultimately I think this policy just harms poor people, and gave the example of my mom who is poor whose main source of happiness at the moment is fast food and dr. pepper and it doesn’t seem very empathetic to tax the things she loves so she can’t access them.  He said I was “too empathetic” and accused me of “babbling on about my mom,” and said my opinion was “stupid.”  He also accused me of saying his opinion was “bull****” the day before as his defense for calling mine stupid, which I never did (and we were laughing and holding hands in the park the day before, not arguing at all — I can only imagine having said something was bullshit in a playful way but we discussed nothing serious).  I immediately broke up with him, and told him that in addition to that behavior being unacceptable on a more basic level I was really hurt that he had taken over a year to commit to me and just didn’t know if I could get over it (he had been refusing to tell me if he was dating other people, saying it was none of my business until we were committed).

    It felt like I had no other choice.  Instead of apologizing, he started texting me demanding that I admit that he is right, apologizing for calling his opinion bull**** and that I always “talk over” him and “can’t be told anything.”  I was in complete shock, but he continued texting similar things for weeks until finally I told him that if he kept doing this I would have to block him.  Then things got really crazy, he said the most insulting things to me, including that he had once watched a speech I gave and that it was “painful” to watch, that I was bad at my job (which involves politics), that I am “arrogantly incompetent” and “babble on,” and that I had pushed him further away from all my political beliefs, and that everything that was happening was my fault, if I had just changed a few minor things, we would be fine. Really hurtful things, intentionally hitting on my worst fears / things I care about most / deepest insecurities.  But also while saying all of these things, telling me he wanted to work things out and still wanted to date. Finally, I had no choice but to block his phone number, which I have never done, to anyone.  It is now 30 days later after blocking him and I just unblocked him because it made me feel like such a cruel person to keep him blocked (but I have no intention of contacting him, and don’t guess that he will contact me).

    Just typing this whole things out makes me feel….like I can’t believe I put up with so much of that for so long.  It makes me feel disappointed in myself.  It makes me think of how I spent years wanting my mom to accept me for who I am (but she never has — we have vastly different political and religious views) and how I maybe replayed that dynamic in this relationship.   And despite all of this, I miss him and am still crying about it, and just can’t believe that he can sleep at night having said such horrible things and not even attempt to apologize.   I feel like this was possibly my last chance at a lifelong relationship (and specifically, to have kids) and now I have lost that.  I also feel overwhelmed with empathy for him, knowing what he has been through in his military career, but sad that he won’t get help, and somehow wondering if I shouldn’t have given up on him.  I feel like everything I said in this last paragraph is contradictory, yet they are all thoughts going through my head.

    I also, in some ways, feel like a complete failure.  I like to think that I am really good with people, from all walks of life and political views, and feel that I am able to connect with people from all walks of life given the many paths I have taken, just see people as people.  But here I failed and I can’t figure out why.

    How do I get back to a place of not doubting myself, and also how can I stop missing this person, or caring about whether he apologizes?

    #379391
    anita
    Participant

    Dear lily:

    He is an angry man and has been angry for a long time. Before his anger found residence in politics, it resided elsewhere, perhaps in his relationship with his mother:

    Following you talking about your mother, “He said I was ‘too empathetic’ and accused me of ‘babbling on about my mom”- this may be evidence of his anger in regard to his mother.

    For many months he refused to commit to a monogamous relationship with you and he refused to tell you “if he was dating other people, saying it was none of my business until we were committed”- maybe because his mother was possessive and he felt trapped and angry with her.

    “Then things got really crazy, he said the most insulting things to me.. that I am ‘arrogantly incompetent’ and ‘babble on,’.. and that everything that was happening was my fault”, etc.- he may have been talking to his mother, inaccurately projecting her into you.

    “intentionally hitting on my worst fears… But also while saying all of these things, telling me he wanted to work things out”- he wanted to be close with you but he was too angry to get close and remain close.

    “It makes me think of how I spent years wanting my mom to accept me for who I am.. she never has.. and how I maybe replayed that dynamic in this relationship”- mothers are powerful and many adults replay the dynamics of their childhood relationships with the mother in their romantic relationships.

    “I like to think that I am really good with people.. But here I failed and I can’t figure out why. How do I get back to a place of not doubting myself, and also how can I stop missing this person, or caring about whether he apologizes?”- it does not seem to me that his anger is result of you not being good with him, but a result of his conflicted and troubled relationship with his mother/ first strong attachment figure in life. Before I proceed, if you would like to, let me know what you think about what I wrote so far.

    anita

    #379412
    lily
    Participant

    Thanks so much for your reply anita.  I think what you say about him having issues with his mom, of some sort, make a lot of sense.   He is very sensitive about me saying anything about his mom (I mean basic neutral statements), always thought I was trying to attack her which couldn’t be further from the truth.  He also would tell her intimate details of our arguments and relationship,  and told me that she said I was manipulative and controlling, which is honestly another reason why I broke things off.  Because I felt strange about meeting her or trying to form a relationship after that, when it seemed that he had already pitted his mom and I against each other.  His father also died a few months after we started dating.

    Maybe his mother is possessive, and he is projecting his anger about that on to me.

    #379449
    anita
    Participant

    Dear lily:

    You are very welcome. Reads to me that when his mother told him that you were “manipulative and controlling”, she was imagining that you were doing what she has been doing to him since he was a boy: manipulating and controlling him.

    When he thought that you were attacking his mother, (and then rushed to defend her to you?), it was likely what he does in his own head: shifting from attacking her (for manipulating and controlling him) to defending her (excusing her misbehaviors, bringing up all she did for him, etc.), and back to attacking her. All this is probably responsible for being still single in this 40s.

    anita

    #379477
    lily
    Participant

    Thanks. I guess at this point what is more important is why I am still single in my late 30s. Ha. Even after years of therapy, I somehow end up in situations where I feel I am not accepted / valued / loved.  I know they say that you need to love and accept yourself first, but I do feel that I do this, and feel that I offer so much but receive very little in return.  Now that I am older I walk away from these situations although it is hard, but I can’t help but wonder if I am just living in a fantasy world for simply wanting someone to accept me.

    #379478
    anita
    Participant

    Dear lily:

    “why I am still single in my late 30s”?- I’d like to look into this question when I am back to your thread, in about 12 hours from now. If you would like to elaborate on what you wrote earlier: “It makes me think of how I spent years wanting my mom to accept me for who I am.. she never has.. and how I maybe replayed that dynamic in this relationship”- please do.

    anita

    #379480
    lily
    Participant

    Thanks again, anita.  I grew up in a very conservative, fundamentalist christian family with a single mom (my parents divorced when i was 3, never saw my dad).  My mom was extremely overbearing and I never really learned healthy boundaries (she would do things like read my journal without permission,  not let me hang out with friends I chose who she didnt like, etc.).  When I went to college she would call campus security if she didn’t hear from me after 2 days and felt like I could not establish independence.  I was honest with her post college that I date both men and women, but am usually more attracted to men.  We were at a joint therapy session when I told her this and she said she honestly didnt know if she wanted to have anything to do with me, has told me I am going to hell, etc.  She made racist comments about an ex boyfriend of mine who was not white, accused him (inaccurately) of stealing things from her house, etc., to the point where I greatly distanced myself from her and don’t discuss my personal life at all with her, even rarely talk to her on the phone. But she is financially dependent on me, she recently had a stroke, and I am the only person she has (though I live far away), so it is complicated.    It took years of therapy to get comfortable in my own skin (all through my 20s).

    This therapy helped me recognize that my relationship with her / upbringing was not healthy, and also helped me recognize some patterns in my dating life.  I seem to be attracted to emotionally unavailable people who aren’t able / willing to give much.  And honestly, it tends to get worse as I get older… meaning the type of person I date tends to fall more into that category than ever.  Every person I date is worse.  The only thing that has gotten better is that these relationships are shorter because at some point (typically no longer than a year, this was a bit of an exception) I have learned to walk away. I say to myself, “oh, this pattern is repeating itself again.”  So it’s not that I don’t recognize the pattern (although maybe I do recognize it too late).  I go out on dates with people who seem kind, honest, loving, and willing to give more, and yet I feel ZERO attraction or chemistry with them.

    Part of me wonders if I should just give up on the whole idea of love / passion / etc. and just be with the person who treats me the best, period….. but I don’t think I could ever be happy with not feeling that love / passion / chemistry.  I read about attachment styles and am pretty sure I have an anxious attachment style but have done a lot of work and been successful in becoming more secure over the years (at least compared to when I was in my 20s).  But I seem to only be attracted to people who are avoidant… and for the life of me, I don’t know how to change it.

     

    #379487
    TeaK
    Participant

    Dear lily,

    I go out on dates with people who seem kind, honest, loving, and willing to give more, and yet I feel ZERO attraction or chemistry with them.

    It’s because you (the inner child in you) is still attracted to people who remind you of your mother. The inner child hopes that our partner – who is similar to our parent – would finally give us the love we craved but never received from our parent, and that this way we would have a happy ending. That’s the inner child’s unconscious reasoning. That’s why you’re attracted to people who give you very little, who criticize you, who have strong political/religious beliefs, etc.

    With people who are kind and loving there’s no chemistry because the inner child doesn’t recognize similarity with your mother.

    In order to heal, you’d need to be a loving, compassionate parent to your inner child. This would counteract the harsh, inner critic, which I assume you have and which is the internalized voice of your mother. You’d need to give your inner child love, care, positive attention, freedom to express herself, and a sense that she’s worthy and special (i.e. validation). This will “demagnetize” your craving to get love from someone like your mother…

     

    #379501
    anita
    Participant

    Dear lily:

    You shared about your childhood inserting terms (“conservative, fundamentalist Christian… overbeating.. boundaries”) and understandings that you gained as an older teenager and adult, into your recollection of your childhood. It is a sort of retractive understanding. I will start my post with an exercise, translating what you shared to the language of the child that you were 30+ years ago, best I can, using the first-person and present tense, adding in parentheses some quotes:

    My mom doesn’t let me do what I want to do. She doesn’t like my friends, and she doesn’t let me hang  out with them. I wrote in my journal about what I am thinking and feeling, and she read it. She doesn’t like what I am thinking and feeling and doing. She does not like me (“I somehow end up in situations where I feel I am not accepted/ valued/ loved”).

    I tried so much to make her like me, I tried hard (“I offer so much but receive very little in return… I spent years wanting my mom to accept me for who I am but she never has”). I am afraid that she will leave me, because she doesn’t like me. What if she leaves me and I will be all alone??? (“I have an anxious attachment style”).

    She doesn’t trust me, she doesn’t think I am a good person (“she would call campus security if she didn’t hear from me.. like I could not establish independence”). I want her to like me so much! I want her to have good thoughts about me, and good feelings too! When I imagine her liking me, when I fantasize about her looking at me with a warm, loving smile that says that she is happy that I am her daughter– it is the best feeling ever, it is like  the biggest dream coming true! (“I can’t help but wonder if I am just living in a fantasy world for simply wanting someone to accept me”).

    My mom doesn’t like me. She is not  okay with me. I don’t like me. I am not okay with me (“It took years of therapy to get comfortable in my own skin”). I want my mom to like me! I need her to like me!  will do anything to make it happen! (End of exercise).

    As a teenager and an adult you took on the opposite positions to your mother’s: she was narrow minded=> you are broad minded; she was intolerant of people of different races, religions, etc. => you are very tolerant of people’s race (had a non-white boyfriend), sexuality (had partners of both sexes), political ideologies (have friends who identify as communists and a boyfriend who strong anti communism feelings); she did not welcome certain people in her house=> for you,  “friends will always be welcome in my house regardless of their political ideologies”.

    “I miss him and am still crying about it, and just can’t believe that he can sleep at night having said such horrible things and not even attempt to apologize… I also feel overwhelmed with empathy for him.. and somehow wondering if I shouldn’t have given up on him”-

    – in practical ways, you are no longer chasing your mother (or this man)  for approval and love,  but your heart is still chasing her. You still want her to apologize to you, your empathy is still with her, you are still longing for her love, your heart did not yet give up on her loving you.

    When you felt that the relationship with this man may work out, it felt euphoric, didn’t it?  Not as greatly euphoric as the child that you were felt when imagining your mother loving you, but close enough to fuel your longing for him, to fill you with sadness over The Dream not coming true.

    “I also, in some ways, feel like a complete failure. I like to think that I am really good with people, from all walks of life and political views… But here I failed and can’t figure out why”- when you were a child, living in a single parent household, you needed to be “really good with” just that one person: your mother. You desperately needed to be good with her. You tried and all your efforts failed. Not because you were not a good girl, an intelligent, loving girl willing to do anything and everything for her mother’s love- but because there was no love there to have.

    This man, his love is not there either, he is too troubled. Like TeaK said: “the inner child in you.. is still attracted to people who remind you of your mother”, hoping that someone like her will finally love you.

    “I go out on dates with people who seem kind, honest, loving, and willing to give more, and yet I feel ZERO attraction or chemistry with them”- the attraction and chemistry you feel with men whose love is not there to have is because of the Dream I mentioned above, a dream fueled by an intensely euphoric feeling of finally being loved by your mother.

    “How do I.. stop missing this person, or caring about whether he apologizes… I seem to only be attracted to people who are avoidant.. and for the life of me, I don’t know how to change it”-

    – you will need to give up on your mother loving you, not only rationally, but emotionally. Your heart needs to give up on that hope/ Dream… thoroughly give up. Once you give up on the Dream, you will lose the euphoric feeling that has been fueling it. Life will feel boring for a while. But after some time of emotional/ chemical adjustment, while you date a man (or a woman) whose love is there to have, you will feel something good, not as great as the euphoria of the Dream, but good enough to start with. That good feeling will gradually grow, your relationship will be healthy and loving, and your life much better for it.

    anita

    #379522
    anita
    Participant

    * correction, third line: retroactive understanding (not retractive understanding)

     

    #379667
    lily
    Participant

    Wanted to come back to say thank you so much for these thoughtful responses.  And thank you anita for taking the time to write all that out, I read it once and it really resonated, but my basement flooded this weekend so I have been distracted. I am going to read it again carefully this coming weekend and spend more time with it.   Thank you!

    #379686
    anita
    Participant

    Dear lily:

    A flooded basement is no fun, I hope the situation resolves soon! You are welcome and thank you for your note. I am looking forward to reading from you again.

    anita

    #379696
    TeaK
    Participant

    Dear lily,

    sorry for your flooded basement – hopefully no big damage occurred, and you can bring it back to original condition. Take care!

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