I once saved nearly all the love letters/emails from past boyfriends/love interests/high school crushes. I had a fantasy of writing a book about the love letters compiled during my life. It would be an interesting window into my relationships – a cool chronicle of how many relationships one woman can screw up.
However, in a cleaning hissy fit at my condo – spurred by my parents moving out of my childhood home last fall – nearly all of my adolescent love letters went in the trash.
Not sure why I pitched those and not the more recent ones.
So you know that old expression, “when you fall off, get right back on that horse”? Well, that’s what I’ve been trying to do for the past two months since Frank f*cked me over by standing me up for his ex-wife at his National Guard unit’s homecoming.
But this “single-time-around” has been a lot harder for me to get back in the dating scene.
I’m not sure if I’m unmotivated or if I have shut down because I was burned so badly. Maybe it’s a combination of both.
The post, “When your therapist breaks up with you,” surprisingly elicited more comments than any other I’ve written so far. I knew that the title was suggestive, but I thought it was a humorous …
By “modeling behavior,” I am not referring to “striking a pose” or “looking fierce” (although I have been accused of posing like at model). In behavioral psychology terminology, modeling, sometimes referred to as social learning theory, is when “people learn new information and behaviors by watching other people,” according to Albert Bandura’s Social Learning Theory. Usually, we think of this as something children do – they learn to eat with a fork by observing their parents at the dinner table. My niece was classic case of modeling when she picked up a watering can for the first time at age one and knew exactly what to do with it from watching her mother water flowers.
At a previous job, I trained people to give tours by “modeling” good tour practices. This is all well and good when you have someone who is modeling good behavior and the person on the receiving end is aware enough to ask questions when he or she is unsure or something seems off. Unfortunately, some of the trainees didn’t care about what they were doing and would just repeat anything they heard or saw modeled for them. A co-worker called it “mocking” behavior. We used to laugh at how lazy and ignorant these trainees seemed. Reflecting back on my poor attitude in this situation, it seems very hypocritical now because for years I’ve demonstrated the behaviors modeled for me by my parents without asking any questions or thinking anything was wrong.
When I began this blog experiment, I hoped for comments and responses to my posts, but I didn’t think that I would actually get any. The responses that I received to my post titled When Your Conscience Gets in the Way of No-Strings Sex really made me think and continue to work through my emotional baggage.
Now I want to be upfront with the fact that I don’t have a degree in psychology, social work or any related discipline that qualifies me to give advice. My comments are purely based on my life experiences and what I’ve learned through my own therapy. So here comes the disclaimer …
Sometimes it takes a long time to get over someone.
I first noticed Christian at my gym two years before I actually met him. He was tall, fit, and had a quiet bearing. Apparently, he had noticed me too, but neither of us did anything about it for two years. In the spring of 2004, I walked into the back room of the gym to stretch and there he was sitting on the floor doing ab work. We were alone … and then he spoke, “You do yoga, right?” A conversation ensued. We goaded each other to take the weight-lifting class beginning in the studio – unbeknownst to me, that would make it his third hour in the gym for the day. He asked me out to dinner after the class. I was hooked.
So what’s wrong with that, you may ask? Well, that evening I found out that he was a lieutenant in the National Guard. No problem, I had dated a “weekend warrior” before. On our third date, as we walked to our table at a local restaurant, a woman who knew him said, “So will you be shipping out too?” I had heard rumors that the local guard troop may be deploying to Iraq, but I was in denial that this may mean that Christian would ship out, too. The same week that he learned of his deployment, I was offered a job on the East Coast (I was living in the West at the time). Christian encouraged me to take the job, even though we were both so deeply in love with each other, he said that we could make the relationship work no matter where I was.
I’m addicted to flirting! I’ll admit it, I’m guilty of it. I’m fixated by the attention I get from men when I flirt with them. I’ll pretty much flirt with any man of any age, if I know I can get something out of them. When I was a young adult, I became aware of my womanly charms and how I could use them to get attention from men — attention that I didn’t get from my father. I never, ever thought that I would be the type of woman who would use her “charms” to get attention from men. In college I was referred to as a “tease.” I would say that’s a fair description of my behavior because I like to flirt but never follow through with any physical interaction.
For this installment of “The Y Factor” I’d like to take the opportunity to respond to feedback provided by a couple of readers. My intentions in responding to the feedback aren’t to rebut or “correct” anyone, but to internalize the comments and incorporate them into my own healing process.
In the blog titled “I’ll Hurt You Before You Hurt Me,” I wrote about my family’s unhealthy behavior of deflecting our internal pain into nasty verbal barbs towards each other. A reader named “Weiss” reflected on this saying, “It seems like you naturally mellowed. The fighting may have helped you along.” I think it’s entirely possible that I may have started to “mellow” with age (although I’m only 35!), but I don’t think that I would have begun the mellowing process if I hadn’t been jolted into it by circumstances that I brought on myself (offending a boss one too many times with my nasty attitude and getting fired). I suppose that the mellowing began when I started putting all of the pieces together in therapy. The concept that the “fighting may have helped (me) along” is hard for me to wrap my mind around. The fighting actually worked to drive us more apart before I became conscious of why I was doing it.
After a year and a half of therapy to deal with my subconscious man-issues, I came to the conclusion that the healthiest relationship I’ve ever had with a man is with my therapist, Roger. If you’ve been following the “Y” Factor you know that I have had some pretty touch-and-go relationships with men. So it would seem ironic that I would have a male therapist. A coworker recommended Roger to me. I was having problems at work, so I proposed to my boss that as part of my reparations strategy I would start seeing a therapist. (Recall my theory that we don’t start going to therapy for the reason we think we do).
Unfortunately, as a new client, I had to wait three months to see him. In the meantime I lost that job, but I still persevered with the plan to seek help getting along with others. (I must have missed that day of kindergarten).
At first I was uncomfortable. It wasn’t my first time in therapy, but it was the first time with a male therapist. I knew that he wouldn’t take any crap and that I couldn’t rely on my old tricks of flirting or being nasty to get my way. The first few times we talked through the reasons that I thought I was there, but then, as the good therapist he is, Roger began to pull out the threads of my subconscious behavior and offer them to me for reflection. I’m still integrating all of the pieces, but have made significant progress.
As we started to get to the nitty-gritty of my relationships with my boyfriends, it was a bit embarrassing to have to share details of my “bedroom behavior.” Roger was nonjudgmental, supportive and helped me see the patterns of my behavior. Early on he asked me if I was okay with working with him. The question caught me offguard, but based on my man-issues I understand why he asked. I’m less put off by the fact that Roger is male than by the horrible pregnant pauses he gives during our sessions while he’s waiting for me to make some great revelation.
In my family the concept of “I’ll hurt you before you hurt me” was our modus operandi. It manifested itself most acutely at the dinner table. For years it went undetected, until my sister-in-law, Meg, came into our lives. As my father, brother (Mike), and I went about this destructive behavior, Meg became quieter and quieter until she said nearly nothing at family gatherings. I began to take offense, thinking that she didn’t like us. It turns out that she was so embarrassed and offended by our behavior toward each other that she dreaded dining with us.
So what is the “I’ll hurt you before you hurt me” behavior? Our preferred method of interaction was insult, verbally dismember, and set off the other person before they could do it to you. In our dysfunctional world, this is how we got attention, and how we deflected our internal pain and personal inadequacies. I can’t speak for my brother, although to my knowledge he hasn’t dealt with this in therapy. I only came to terms with this by dissecting my relationship with my father in therapy.
I repeated this behavior outside of my family on a regular basis – with boyfriends, coworkers, pretty much anyone who I wanted to feel superior to. I was so insecure about my own emotions that all I knew how to do was attack. The primary emotion inside was vitriol – toward myself – and the only way I knew to feel better about myself was to make others feel bad. Of course, this was all subconscious at the time. I lost many a boyfriend, and even a job, plus alienated many childhood friends along the way.
With my boyfriend Justin, I would nag, criticize, and insult, just so that I wouldn’t have to deal with the emotions that I was feeling. Subconsciously I felt that he was probably going to hurt me or leave me or alienate me, so I did it to him first in an attempt to avoid getting hurt. How ridiculous is that?!
As I matured, but before entering therapy, I began to realize that my bitter tongue could get me …