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Archive for the ‘relationships’ Category

I find myself in an interesting situation where some close friends are going through a divorce or are considering a divorce.  Since both of these friends are men, it provides a different perspective on my divorce.

I should first say that I consider my divorce the most painful gift I have ever received.  Though I never thought we would get divorced, it was a blessing in disguise.  I don’t regret the marriage – we had a ton of great times and good memories.  In hindsight, we should have remained friends, but …

The way my marriage dissolved was a shock, and to be honest, there were a ton of questions I had that remained unanswered.  I’ve moved on with my life and those questions are no longer important, but seeing my two male friends consider divorce provides some answers.

I don’t believe a mid-life crisis is responsible for all divorces and I think “mid-life crisis” is misleading.  I think it’s more of an identity crisis and isn’t limited to any set age.  I think most people can relate to being in a position where they wonder who they are and what they are doing with life.  We think back on choices we could have made and how our lives might be different.  Too often we think back and create a different future where our life is better than it currently is, but there’s always the possibility it could be darker.

Both of my friends are in an identity crisis where they are wondering if this is the life they want and if they could be happier.  (It’s not like they are mildly unhappy, both have expressed a lot of unhappiness and frustration with their lives.)  Listening to their thoughts and complaints, I can empathize with the situation their wives are in, but I can also project some of what they are saying back on my ex.  (I’m not saying this excuses bad behavior because it doesn’t – it just allows me to see a new perspective.)

One think I know for sure is that the end of a relationship or marriage will not kill you.  It might break your heart and hurt like hell, but you survive through it – and often you find yourself happier afterward.

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I’ve had interesting dating experiences – some fun and some scary!  I haven’t experienced that special “spark” people speak about.  (To be honest, I don’t know that it exists.)

Sometimes I wonder if my psyche is screwed up and I’m not able to become deeply involved at an emotional level.  Even now when I think about it, I tense up or cringe because I just don’t believe people stick around – at least not in my experience.

I was hanging out this weekend with someone who is becoming a good friend and he even called me out on this.  He said I don’t open up and tell him when things are bothering me or what I am thinking about – he’s right to a large degree.  I keep a lot of my deep emotions locked away.

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Ever felt strong emotions or a strong attachment to someone you probably shouldn’t?  I’m there.

I’m inexplicably drawn to a man who stirs up emotions I have never felt before.  It sounds wonderful until I say that he is not emotionally available.  I think sometimes he wants to be, but then other times I think it’s a game of cat and mouse that he likes to plays.

It’s the worst game of back and forth with poor communication mixed in.  Riding this ride is a natural wreck for me.  It triggers
feelings of not being good enough and wondering what I did wrong – only I know I didn’t do anything wrong.

I’m not sure how to get this guy out of my head, out of my heart and out of my system.  There’s always this small nagging pull.  It’s even worse when he randomly reaches out.  I can logically tell myself that his random texts asking how I am doing have no substance, but they are enough to cloudy my mind.

So it’s even more important for me to remind myself of my basic must-haves and that a loving relationship should be just that … loving.

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I’ve been emotionally unavailable. I thought I was in a position where I could open up and love a potential life partner, but I wasn’t. I was able to develop deep feelings and perhaps love that person, but I wasn’t able to open up and let go of my defenses. I think I just might be ready now.

I can’t blame the guys I was dating for the relationships not working out – many shouldn’t have worked out! Some were amazing experiences I think I was supposed to have in life. Others were a testament to what I have learned since my divorce about myself … how early experiences shaped my thinking and behaviors; how family dynamics created learned dysfunction; how I created barriers that led to repeated experiences and how I have to take chances in order to live a fulfilling life.

I have the power in my life to create a healthy life with a healthy relationship. The first step is knowing I deserve it! The second step is allowing myself to take chances – emotional chances where I open up and don’t create an invisible safety net. I won’t lose myself in the people I date and I know I can survive if the relationship doesn’t work.

Now I need to make a decision; do I stay in the city I live in now or do I move elsewhere. I can’t open myself up to a relationship before I answer this question. I have a small network of incredible people I call friends and that will be difficult, not impossible, to recreate elsewhere.

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I’m not very good with developing healthy relationships with men. Although I think I finally understand the root cause of why my relationships with men are so dysfunctional, it doesn’t make it easy to break patterns and learn new behaviors. Bear with me for this rollercoaster ride – I’m going to divulge more than I ever have before for the sake of being authentic with myself and even perhaps prodding myself to the next level.

On a subconscious level, I never registered that I have power over sexual relationships – at least just as much power as anyone else. Instead, I always felt sex was an obligation. Don’t get me wrong, I do like sex, but there are many emotional land mines for me when it comes to sex. I tend to disconnect, freeze and run away.
I’ve only had one healthy sexual adult relationship and perhaps one healthy sexual relationship when I was 21. Other than that, most of my relationships with men have been unhealthy and dysfunctional. I think this is because of a long history of exposure to negative sexual behaviors and trauma.

I was almost abducted twice when I was young; once in the first grade and another when I was in the third grade. Both attempted abductions were very similar. The first time I was playing with a class friend in the school playground after school and the second time I was walking to the library with my cousin – two young girls alone in both situations. Both men approached in a car, stopped and asked for directions and acted as though they couldn’t hear us so we would move closer to the car.

With the first guy, there was a fence around the playground he wanted us to climb over. We climbed up it so that he could hear us, but we didn’t climb over. That’s when we saw he was naked from the waist down and masturbating. I don’t remember what he said at that point, but I remember him unbuckling his seat belt and moving to the passenger seat and opening the door. We ran to the principal’s office who called the police. The police were great up until I overheard one cop telling my mom the guy I identified had threatened to kill anyone and their family if we testified against him.

The second attempted abduction was similar, only this time I memorized part of the license plate as my cousin and I ran home. (Memorizing the license plate was something I had learned to do after talking with the cops from the first instance.)

I don’t know the odds of one child encountering two possible abduction scenarios, but I do know I am lucky. Unfortunately, those experiences created a further fear of men. I say a further fear because my biological father was mentally unstable after he returned from the Vietnam War. As a baby, I became scared of men because my biological father was always yelling. My mom has told me I would start to cry or even go to hide when I would hear a man’s voice or see a man enter the room.

The exposure to dysfunctional sexual behavior continued through elementary school. A neighbor’s adult son was mentally handicapped and would expose himself through open windows and doors. He never approached us, but if he saw us playing outside, he would stand in the window or door naked and masturbate. I remember thinking it was creepy, but not really understanding why. I do remember everyone telling us to be careful of him and to stay away.

I think these experiences by themselves are enough to make one misunderstand sexuality and sexual relationships, but unfortunately, my story doesn’t end there.

My first and second sexual encounters with men were not consensual. My first experience involved a much older guy who didn’t want to stop when I asked him to. He put his hand around my throat and told me not to make him hurt me, so I was quiet and disconnected. I was scared, ashamed and believed it was my fault so I never told my family. My second encounter was a partial result of the first. I was still hanging around a crowd that was much older than I was and I drank until I passed out. I came conscious to a guy on top of me having sex.

It’s no wonder I learned to disconnect and become an object. I became an object with several boyfriends and even my ex-husband. What’s sad is that I never told any of them this wasn’t okay. I even married my ex and loved him deeply for many, many years – that’s how warped my sense of self and sense of sexual relationships was.

I’ve progressed a lot in my thinking of what a healthy sexual relationship is, but I haven’t progressed as far as I would like when thinking I deserve to be treated with respect, compassion, dignity and affection. I still freak out, get super scared, disconnect and want to disappear. I don’t ever wear turtlenecks and only started wearing scarfs about six years ago because I can’t stand to have anything tight around my neck. I still have a hard time saying no and think it’s easier to disconnect than to endure whatever might happen if I say no.

It’s been a lifetime since those early experiences and they created a foundation I have to break. Outside of a small circle of very close friends, I’ve never discussed these stories or experiences. Perhaps this is my first step in making a healthy change.

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This is a brief post where I rant about flakey behavior. I’m not a needy person and I’m not demanding either, but I do think you should treat people with respect and consideration. I get that things happen and “life” can get in the way sometimes. Sometimes plans have to be changed because you just can’t make them. It isn’t a big deal until there’s a strong recurring pattern of not showing up and making excuses.

I used to accept a string of excuses and explain away flakey behavior. (Notice the past tense there?) No more. We all deserve equal consideration. There is no one out there that is so great that their needs always trump everyone else’s.

So, to the self-absorbed, self-important, self-centered or those who are simply unaware, we’re not a match. I don’t want to waste my time waiting when I could be spending it laughing and making great memories with people I care about and who care about me.

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I’m trying to take stock of the dating lessons I have learned over the last year. I can honestly say I am not the same person I was 12 months ago. I have had a lot of positive personal growth and still have more to do. (Personal growth should never stop in my opinion.)

Consistency is a big lesson I have learned. For me consistency builds trust. When behavior and availability is consistent, I trust more and can open up more. Inconsistent behavior and availability makes me think a person is flakey and can’t be depended upon. I don’t go into jealous girlfriend mode and wonder about cheating or who the guy I am dating with is spending his time, but I do wonder about his interest and sincerity.

Not all consistency is good either. There were two guys who would always text late at night. With one it made sense because he worked evenings, but with the other it didn’t make much sense. Instead, I began to wonder about his actual motives and finally decided it was more physical than emotional. (I don’t think I am ready to get married tomorrow, but I know I am not interested in a purely sexual relationship.)

Making excuses is something I don’t always realize I am doing when I am doing it. My awareness is improving, but it remains a challenge. I tend to make excuses for the person I am dating. This ranges from instances when my feelings get hurt to when they are not responsive. My self-appreciation is increasing and I am starting to realize I deserve to be treated with consideration, respect and eventually love.

Passion isn’t an indicator of love or genuine interest. Again, there’s a difference between physical attraction and compatibility and an emotional connection. Just think of how many hook-ups are alcohol induced! These are mostly physical connections with no real depth to them.

I don’t think strong passion is something that is always present in a relationship. Attraction and passion ebbs with high and low periods. That’s where other elements kick-in that make you want to invest the effort to keep the relationship going. This is when it takes both people investing effort to keep the relationship going and alive.

A big lesson learned is that actions should match words. I’m included in this bucket too. If I review my past, there are definite times when I just went with the flow of a relationship because it was easier than breaking up or because I felt guilty. Wrong move! You can’t force emotions.

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