Can't trust men
I've been married and divorced six times. I am extremely jealous, possessive, and untrusting. I am also very loving and giving. I had abusive relationships in childhood and in my adult life. Plenty of men seem to like me. Relationships seem to be one of four patterns:
- They like me and I don't like them.
- I like them and they don't like me.
- I like them but get to know them better and decide I don't like them.
- Things are totally wonderful and I think I finally will be happy but they lie and run around on me and I finally get rid of them with so much pain in my heart because I love them so much that it almost kills me (suicidal in the past).
I have been in many relationships but none that would have ever made it. I feel as if I will be alone the rest of my life because I feel like I am a big-hearted, kind person that cares so deeply and that the rest of the world is so cold-hearted and selfish that no man could ever really love me the way that anyone should love another person (with total devotion and kindness). For this reason, I can't trust anyone, especially men. The moment that I hear one lie come out of their mouth the relationship is doomed because I can't trust them to love me or be faithful to me. I feel like finding happiness and joy in a relationship is an impossibility for me and I am so miserable. I feel so helpless and hopeless relationship-wise and the thought of being alone until my dying day hurts to the point that the pain is unbearable. This situation is affecting the rest of my life. I can't seem to have any lasting joy during anything. I don't know how to deal with this and would gladly accept any advice you might have to offer. Lonely For Life.
In describing yourself and your problem, you have so clearly illustrated one of the "faces" of an adult survivor of abuse. Had you not divulged it, I would still have felt certain you would answer "yes" if I asked you about it. You are "living the life", Debra, even at the age of 40. That's the tragedy, you know. Of course the abuse was horrible, but the worse tragedy is not taking control, recovering and, finally, rising above it, so that you can genuinely live your life. Debra, at the heart of every abuse survivor, before they begin to recover, is a fundamental core belief structure. The beliefs that are housed inside of this structure are that they don't deserve love, they aren't "good enough", and that happiness can only be found outside of the self. You didn't have to tell me about the abuse for me to know it because you gave so many examples of your belief in these very things.
The good news is that negative, self-destructive core belief systems can be torn down and re-built using a positive, healthy framework that you custom design with the assistance of a good therapist. I'd like to get you started thinking about your core belief system by pointing out what I see in your letter that indicates it's existence. As you read, I want you to remain aware of the fact that this belief system was not consciously created by you and that when you were a little girl, growing up in the midst of trauma, this served you well. You did the very best you could and you obviously survived horrible acts against you and for that there is only praise. It is now time to see these beliefs as the self-preserving constructs of a scared child and trade them in for ones that give a better fit. You are a strong, self-sufficient woman and you have outgrown them.
Let's start with your description of yourself as extremely jealous, possessive and un-trusting, and also very loving and giving. Ask yourself this - how can you be loving and giving and jealous, possessive and un-trusting? You can't. Jealousy and possessiveness are abusive and extremely un-loving and withholding. Being unwilling to trust is un-giving. So how are you being giving? Is there a price tag on it for your partner? Are you essentially "giving to get"? You see, that's not loving. But that's what you were taught. If you believe that you are deserving of love, you don't have to give to get. In fact, when you believe you aren't good enough, you're not likely to expect anyone to think you are, and if they do you won't believe them and you'll be likely to perceive them negatively. Does this sound familiar? In your four categories of how relationships seem to go, I can see evidence of your belief structure, as well. It is not logical, nor is it healthy, to like a person who does not like you and to dislike a person who does like you. When "things are totally wonderful" in a relationship, your partner will not "lie and run around", and you will never have to "get rid of them with so much pain" in your heart because you "love them so much" that it almost "kills me (suicidal in the past)". At this point, your reference to suicide highlights a cognitive distortion that I feel I must point out to you. Suicide is self-inflicted. Giving up is your choice. You make that choice. Suicide is an act done by you; it is not an outside force against you.
Survivors of abuse tend to possess extreme polarities in their thought patterns. Simply put, they have black or white thinking. I can see this in your letter and I'll show you momentarily. The unhealthy thing about black or white thinking is that it eliminates at least 50% of a person's available choices. That is the primary reason for the tendency on the part of abuse survivors to box themselves in and to view themselves as being without choice. The belief that there are no or limited choices is so unhealthy that it is akin to being imprisoned. It is like living in your own personal hell on earth. I'd like to point out some examples of black or white thinking as demonstrated in your letter. Again, the reason for my doing this is not to shame or blame you, but rather to help you to see that there are alternatives to your thinking that would increase the likelihood of finding true happiness in your life. You state that you can't trust men. There are very few things that we simply cannot do but many things that we won't do because we have convinced ourselves that we can't. You state, "The moment I hear one lie come out of their mouth the relationship is doomed". Who has doomed the relationship? You can choose otherwise, Debra. You see, no one is perfect and we all make mistakes and tell white lies and commit all kinds of human errors. If you are waiting for the person who will never lie you'll be waiting forever. No one can reach that level of perfection. Recovery is being able to tolerate a level of imperfection (shades of gray, if you will). You state that you "feel like finding happiness and joy in a relationship is an impossibility" for you. This is another example of black or white thinking. Very few things are completely impossible. Furthermore, in life, good relationships do not equal happiness and joy. Good relationships take a lot of work and don't always feel particularly happy or particularly terrible. Good relationships take up the entire spectrum of colors, including the shades of gray. Happiness and joy are not found; they are created. Their source is found inside of you, in your outlook and in your way of interpreting the events of your life. They will not necessarily be found in a relationship, no matter how joyous the relationship may be.
Having said the above, I want to state that the possibilities for self-discovery and the creation of true joy for oneself are immense! Do you have hobbies and interests? How do you make a living? Do you have family and/or children? Do you have close friends? I encourage you to open yourself to some new activities and networks of people. I'd like to suggest that you consider taking a "sabbatical" from relationships and that during that time you develop a relationship with yourself. Of course, I believe that therapy is the best way to start those wheels in motion, as any therapist would. Especially for you, there is a high probability of some real healing taking place which will open the way for a new, more fulfilling type of life than you may have ever thought possible.
Wishing you all the best, Debra.
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.For more information visit: http://www.geocities.com/mfisherlsw/MelanieFisherLSW.html