I had a loving, caring family life as a child. Not perfect, mind you, but a good one. I was very close to my Dad. He was a very loving, caring, firm-ruling parent. At the age of five, my Dad suffered from an illness that changed him. He was away from us for 9 months. When he came back, he was like a different person. As I got to know him again, I realized that his love for me had not changed. You may change things in people, but true feelings, I believe, will triumph. I went out into the world feeling good about myself, having a strong background in my family, pride in myself, and love and trust for people. I found, however, that the world is not like my home. People say they love you but they don't mean it. It is superficial.
I met a man and married him because I loved him. I realized he wasn't perfect just as I wasn't perfect. I wanted to make a good home for him, to make him happy, and to establish a family together. After our marriage, he immediately started to find things wrong with me. He criticized me in front of people, his family, and my family. He wanted me to change to meet his expectations. But he wasn't willing to change anything to meet my expectations of him. He used our money and told me we had no money. Eventually, I opened my own bank account due to his unwillingness to change this. He worked all of the time and pulled away from me and eventually our children as well. He was angry the few times I was sick and unable to take care of everything. He would not support me through a miscarriage or back surgery. He controlled everything or tried to. He was very abusive to me verbally and on occasion was physically abusive. He controlled our sex life. I had no desire - it was only his and what he wanted. I eventually lost so much of myself trying to please him that I finally left due to being so lost and confused. I had a friend who helped me to get myself back on track. Although my friend and I were headed toward a relationship that could never work out, we continued to be very good friends and soul mates. He listened and was there for me emotionally, but not physically.
I met another man and married him. He seemed to be just what I wanted in a partner. However, there have been definite changes in our relationship. He has lied to me, stolen from me and his parents, stolen from his job and lost 2 jobs. He has used my checks and a credit card without my permission and ran up several hundred dollars on both. He has had a dependency on medication and alcohol. He started to be very controlling in our sex life. It was when he wanted it and how he wanted it, but now he says he has no sex drive. I feel very ugly, fat…you name it, I feel it. Does he have someone else? What is the deal? He works very hard at the job he has now and he says he is tired. He says he loves me. He promises to change and I want to believe him. I love him. I believe there is good in him. I want to be with him. I want to make this marriage work. But, what is the deal?
What is wrong with me? Why can't I seem to find a person who needs me and wants to have a good strong marriage and family? I love my husband but I am beginning to feel as if I am losing myself again. I could use help. I am looking for some answers even if they are about me and not the men I choose. Help!
Thank you for writing.
You are very wise. You know that the answers any therapist offers to your questions will involve you changing - that you can never, ever change another person. You also know your relationship with your father has something to do with this pattern you've observed that you have with men, or else you would not have mentioned your father in your letter.
These insights indicate that you'd probably respond well to ongoing therapy and in fact, that you might find psychoanalytic psychotherapy particularly helpful. This kind of therapy examines the underlying causes and conditions for a person's behavior, and works to address those causes through insight and awareness. The idea is that - if you understand the psychological purposes of your behavior patterns - you'll be able to choose ways to get these needs met in more constructive ways.
For instance, in your letter, you say, "What is wrong with me?" since you assume that your behavior with men is problematic. It may be. But a psychoanalytic approach would examine this question, to unearth the unconscious purpose which is being met by your self-blame.
In choosing a therapist, the unconscious reasons for your self-blame would probably be best explored with a male therapist who is older than you are. This situation would allow you both to explore the transference relationship with the therapist, in order to uncover the hidden self-blame feelings you may have had as a child in your relationship with your dad through parallels in the transference. In other words, you'd have the opportunity to work through and resolve these "Dad" conflicts which may be at the root of your low self-worth.
My recommendation to you is pretty darned specific! Find an older male therapist who works from a psychoanalytic psychodynamic modality. Commit to at least six months of weekly psychotherapy sessions and get ready to really find, love, and accept yourself.
Margaret "Peg" Burr, MA, MFT