Love not returned
I am a 23-year-old woman with a traumatic childhood. I do not divulge this as an excuse, just as background. However, I know that this has affected my ability to trust people or open up to others. I am also severely concerned with my looks. I am 30 pounds overweight, and I constantly wish to look like the "ideal" that our current society has deemed beautiful. I know that I am an attractive person, but I am very lonely. I do not have any confidence when it comes to finding a mate. I always seem to attract men who use me and lose me. Whenever I am attracted to another, I always think I am not pretty or skinny enough to win or keep them. My mom (only family) and friends insist that I am wrong and are very supportive. However, I can't seem to shake this sadness or this longing for the love of one man in particular.
I have had an obsessive crush on a co-worker for over a year. Until now I have kept it a secret because he was married. However, when I learned he was getting divorced, I worked up the courage to ask him out. We have been kind of seeing each other for two months. We seem to really connect, but it does not seem like enough to win his heart, which his wife has a firm grip on. One night, things got really heavy, and when I initiated sex, he rejected me. He said it felt like he was cheating on his wife, who was his first love, mother of his children, and a Barbie doll look-a-like. I have never felt like such a whore. If he did not like me it would never of gotten so far, right? I really like him, more than he knows. I play the cool chick, no commitment until he says, just have fun and don't worry. But I am crazy about him. I don't want to scare him off, I want to help heal his broken heart, but he really made me feel like a loser. Should I keep trying for his love or give up and declare the ex the winner and stop kidding myself?
Amber, as you may know, low self-esteem is often a consequence of experiencing traumatic events in childhood. When our self-esteem is low, we make choices that confirm our worst expectations of ourselves. One example is to seek a loving partnership - or even just a friendship -- with someone who is not ready for or not available for the kind of healthy, feel-good relationship we have in mind. Because we don't believe that we deserve a good relationship, we think something is wrong with us instead of with the choice of partner we've made.
There is nothing wrong with longing for the love of one man in particular - intimate one-on-one relationships are one of the (potential) joys of life. But you may be picking the wrong partners, people who do not treat you with the respect that you deserve at work or in a friendship, and certainly in a romantic relationship.
Your co-worker friend does not sound ready for a relationship with you that would have the depth of intimacy and trust you are looking for, as you describe the situation. He may still be grieving the loss of his marriage (2 months is not a long time in that regard) and despite his connection with you, may feel he's not ready to open his heart again to a new partner. The adjustments he's making in his life right now may leave little of him left for anything more than a friendship.
If you really feel that this person is someone you want to keep in your life, you have nothing to lose by respecting his needs and enjoying the relationship that's available right now. But if you need more for yourself than he can provide, you shouldn't hang around waiting for him to change, since he may not ever be the person you want him to be.
A good relationship, Amber, will need your trust in and love for yourself. Healing the wounds of your childhood, recovering from whatever made you doubt yourself so deeply, will make even more of you available for love and give you the strength to move on from unsatisfying friendships to more fulfilling ones.
I wish you a successful journey in discovering more of your beauty and your strength.
Michael Mesmer, MFT
This question was answered by Michael Mesmer, MFT. Michael is familiar with several therapeutic approaches, including brief, holistic, transpersonal, narrative, and body-oriented therapies. He works with issues of domestic violence, grief and loss, relationship and phase-of-life challenges, teenage concerns and parenting skills. For more information visit his site or his compact information page on QueenDom. For more information visit: http://www.therapyalternatives.org/