Waiting for commitment
I started to date Jon about six months ago. He had just left a two-year relationship in which he was engaged. We hit it off immediately and I really felt that we were a perfect match. A few months later he decided that he was not ready for a relationship yet. I understood because I know how difficult it is to get over past relationships. Since then, we have become the best of friends. I love him deeply and am willing to wait until he is ready for a relationship. A few nights ago, he called me when he was really drunk and asked me to come over and sleep with him. I agreed to come over and talk to him, but I told him I don't think it is right to start off a relationship again that way. All night he kept trying to be intimate, but I pushed away because he was drunk. The next day I talked to him about it and he claimed he did not remember anything and hasn't spoken to me since. He normally isn't this way and I still love him deeply, but now I fear even our friendship is lost.
How do I get him to open up and speak freely to me to work things out? Or should I just forget about him completely?
Anyone can - and will - give you advice. I don't believe that's the best way I can help you. I do, however, think you'll be able to figure out what you need to do about this relationship when you understand yourself better. As a psychodynamic psychotherapist, I encourage my clients to explore their lives as if their problems represent conflicts within themselves. What's going on, on the outside, always mirrors some internalized feeling, thought, or belief. Every problem in life offers an opportunity for growth, self-knowledge and self-acceptance.
With self-understanding as the goal, let's explore some of your feelings in this relationship throughout its short history. (Hint: It usually takes at least 18 months to get to know a person really well.)
- How did you feel when Jon decided to halt the relationship a few months after you met?
- What was it like to "wait" for him, knowing that you wanted a committed relationship?
- How did you feel when he called you, drunk?
- What was it like for you that night when he asked you to sleep with him?
- How did it feel when he pressured you to have sex?
- How have you felt since that night?
- You say he hasn't spoken to you since - what's that been like?
Your responses to these questions will tell you a lot about yourself, what your relationships are generally like, and also, what this person means to you. Anyone in your situation might feel any or all of these emotions: anger, rage, abandonment, betrayal, loss, embarrassment, rejection, disappointment, sadness, hurt, shame, guilt, and/or a multitude of other feelings.
Ask yourself these questions:
- What do I feel? Do your best to identify and name the primary feeling. (This may be retrospective, so you may be asking yourself, "What did I feel? What was that like?")
- What purpose does that feeling serve? Considering the range of emotions (listed above) that this situation might stir in different persons, why is THAT PARTICULAR FEELING so pronounced in you? (For instance, if you primarily feel, say, sad and hurt, what is your experience with those emotions? Are sadness and hurt feelings you have felt intensely before?) Perhaps this feeling is familiar to you. Maybe it's something you've experienced before. Perhaps it's something you have known consistently throughout your life.
My guess, from your story, is that disappointment and hurt are not new feelings for you and that you have suffered repeatedly in your interactions with others. My guess is that the needs of others have come first in your life and that a pattern of negating your own needs in relationships developed early on in your life.
Sometimes, when people do this kind of analytical work of uncovering self-defeating patterns which have been reestablished through relationship after relationship, they get critical of themselves for not seeing this pattern earlier. My hope is that you won't do that.
It's my belief that real change can only happen when we lovingly accept ourselves. Old, destructive ways are based on old internalized experiences, feelings and thoughts. Maybe your new sense of self can begin with the fact that you cared enough about yourself to reach out for some guidance. Unconsciously, perhaps, you must've known that you wanted to see some significant changes occur in your life and that you realized you were responsible for those changes. In that way, writing for advice was a brave and empowering thing to do.
Love and accept yourself. Treat yourself kindly, with dignity and grace. Ultimately, your world will come to reflect this new vision of yourself. Good luck.
Change takes time. Be patient with you.
This question was answered by Margaret "Peg" Burr. She is a California Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist (MFC34374) with a private practice in Santa Clarita (near Los Angeles). She performs psychodynamic psychotherapy with individual adult clients as well as couples, teens, and families. She also runs groups for adults and adolescents. Her specialty area is Object Relations Systems Theory. This branch of psychodynamic psychotherapy uses a client's interpersonal relationships as windows into his or her intrapsychic structure.For more information visit: http://www.pegburr.com/