I am 28 and never married. I've had several short-term relationships and one 5-year relationship that ended badly. I have never seen a counselor. I work full time in a job that is unrelated to my university degrees. My parents are divorced and I have no siblings.
I discovered your site the other day and have done some of the questionnaires. I know that I have abandonment and self esteem issues to deal with and just learnt that I am highly dependent in relationships. I am perfectly fine without a boyfriend (although I do get down on myself for not being good enough in general, e.g., looks, career, popularity, success etc), but when I get a man I seem to chase them away by caring too much.
I have been seeing a guy who is 10 years my elder for 1 1/2 years. He is twice married (both ended badly) with a child. I am of course never married (although I was in a 5 year relationship that actually ended similarly) - I thought I had learnt things. At the start I didn't want the relationship to be physical, but eventually gave it a shot since he was more stable and 'grown-up' than my other boyfriends in the past, so thought it would be different. We saw each other regularly for 6 months and then I moved in with him. There were a lot of arguments usually about stupid things (i.e., I complain about work which I hate or about not seeing him often enough etc). This would always get blown out of proportion and I would get very upset and cry hysterically as I hate being dismissed emotionally. He would then shut off totally and pretty much ignore me no matter how hard I cried. This made me worse as I can't let it go - it needs to be sorted now! 6 weeks later he asked me to move out and said that he had no feelings for me at all and needed his own space and that we'd never get married ever etc. After many tears, I did - feeling totally lost and rejected and thinking that I would never get a man again. He continued to see me and have sex with me whenever it suited him. He said he needed his space and that we were just friends (I know this is crap!). Although I complained and got pissed about it for several months, I pretty much put up with it hoping he would change his mind for the better. I got fed up about 5 months later and ended it.
It is now 18 months into the relationship and we are back on again and have been for about 3 months. NOTHING HAS CHANGED! My self-esteem is shocking. I feel like I don't measure up to anyone and am not good enough (and yes my job still sucks, poor money, unchallenging and no prospects). The problem is that while he claims I need to just relax and go with it and everything I want (ie, commitment and love) will come eventually, if I even mention us, I am totally misunderstood and an argument happens. The most recent was me asking why he goes out with me. I wanted to know because he tells me what he doesn't like about me (ie, putting myself down) but never tells me what he does like about me. He would not oblige as he thought I was seeking affirmations that I should give myself. This lead to a HUGE argument and now he has asked for time to consider whether he wants to see me at all. I hate not knowing and find it really hard not to call all the time and ask.
What am I doing? Is this my problem because I opened my mouth or is it him for never understanding what I am talking about. I claim to be a realist, he claims I am a pessimist, and in fact seems to have some reply to refute anything I say about the relationship or my general emotions. My good points (e.g., caring, compassionate, honest and loyal) appear to be the downfall of everything as they are misunderstood and interpreted as being annoying rather than constructive for us.
Do I need to get co-dependency help? I am terrified of being alone and want to have a family of my own, and while I care a lot about him and we have good times, why does he not try to help my emotional state? Or should I do that? I want to be with him all the time, he doesn't and no I don't have a great deal of interests outside of work. He travels for work and spends time with his kid. Any free time that exists for him, I would like to use so that we can grow together (we are not presently living together). Am I wrong again? As you may guess I am pretty confused and honestly don't think I can make it with anyone if this relationship doesn't work. He thinks now that we just clash personality wise. I don't want to spit up, but something needs to be done, so please give me some constructive advice.
loopy (28 year-old woman) from New Zealand
I am sure that it must feel like you are in the midst of a cloudy mess of emotions and fears. It sounds like you are pretty confused about the signals you are receiving from your significant other. You are hearing "I don't have any feelings for you - we have no future" and yet you are seeing a sort of desire for you on his part due to his willingness to continue the sexual aspect of relating. There are some areas in which, generally speaking, men and women are so fundamentally different from each other that not only do we not understand each other - we confuse the living daylights out of each other. As we age together, we begin to be more understanding of these differences, but not usually in our 20's. So, for starters, I'll tell you that I believe that a portion of what is tripping you up is the sex. Sex is frequently very different for men than it is for women. This is very often the case until the 40's and 50's when the differences and similarities between the sexes begin to blend. In your situation, it is entirely possible that having sex with you is a matter of straightforward physical gratification. In other words, yes, he may be "using" you for sex. I am sorry if this sounds callous and I don't wish to be hurtful. If you have to get angry at him to break out of this relationship which is for you non-rewarding at best and at worst self-destructive, then proceed. However if I were your therapist I would keep open the idea of eventually working towards forgiveness of his actions. You have willingly participated in this dynamic thus far.
There are incongruences in your telling of your story when it comes to how you describe yourself and the things you say and do. Some examples are that you say you are "perfectly fine without a boyfriend" and then state that when he asked you to move out you felt "totally lost and rejected" and that you would "never get a man again". Toward the end of your description you state: "I am terrified of being alone". You say you didn't want a physical relationship but your actions indicate the opposite. You say you chase men away by caring too much. If you care, then you will not chase them away. You state that you get very upset and "cry hysterically" because you hate being dismissed emotionally yet you say this in reference to arguments about "stupid things" getting "blown out of proportion". In those last quotes I hear you dismissing your own emotions. You state that following arguments he "pretty much ignore(s) me no matter how hard I cried". This sounds like an attempt at manipulation. We do this when we feel an overpowering need to control other people and it is unhealthy and an indication of relationship addiction.
I am interested in knowing what you see as your reward or gain in getting this man's attention. It is particularly self-negating in your case because you know based upon prior experience that his form of attention is not what you want or need. The way that your "relationship" appears to me, an objective outsider, based upon your presentation of it, is that of a tacit agreement that you'll give him sex for a fantasy of a relationship. Some would question why a person would participate in this dream. I see your predicament as comparable to a chemical addiction. Your descriptions contain numerous addictive "red flags". First of all I can see that you rely almost exclusively on an external frame of reference. You seem to take your cues from him. You attribute all of your feelings, your actions, your responses, your self as being created by or in reaction to him. This is unhealthy because it offers you no choices based upon your own perspective. You make yourself the victim in this way. Also, there is an impulse-driven quality to your need for gratification and I get a sense of there never being "enough" for you to be fulfilled. ("I can't let it go - it needs to be sorted out now!" and "find it really hard not to call all the time".) I believe you are addicted to the fleeting high derived from the feeling of being fused with him. Your areas in need of healing, i.e. fear of abandonment, and fear of not being good enough, are the driving force and the impulsive and externally focused aspects of your personality are fueling the addiction. So, the problem is not actually the relationship. While it is certainly not wrong for you to want a relationship, it is also not wrong for him to not want one. People are entitled to change their minds about their participation in non-parental relationships. It is not fair and also non-productive to demand that a person feel a certain way about you.
You mentioned that in taking some of the tests on the Queendom website you discovered that you are "highly dependent", and you stated an awareness of having abandonment issues. You are caught up - like a skip on a scratched record. You are getting mixed up because you are misinterpreting this man's desire to have sex with you as a desire to be in a relationship with you. He has told you he does not want a relationship. You are perpetuating your pain and confusion every time you have sex with him. Unfortunately, you are also wasting time that could be spent getting to know someone new and much more importantly getting to know you and dealing with your core issues.
In conclusion, here is what I see as 3 identifiable focal areas -
- Relationship addiction (which may require an exploration of family of origin issues)
- A disorder of the self (essential work needs to be started with regard to the formation of an interior "you")
- A need for action in the area of vocational development that can contribute significantly to a sense of mastery, self-worth and increased self-esteem.
I want to strongly encourage you to seek therapy. I believe you are an excellent candidate for a positive therapeutic experience. You are obviously an intelligent, caring and sensitive person who has a lot to look forward to in life.
This question was answered by Melanie Fisher, L.S.W, A.C.S.W, she is a licensed social worker and professional psychotherapist in private practice in Pennsylvania. Trained and experienced in clinical social work, she uses the theoretical framework of attachment theory, object relations and ego-psychology. Her specialty areas include mood disorders, family dynamics, relationships and addictions.
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