I'll try to keep this as simple and to the point as I can-I really I appreciate any input you guys can give me.
I have had low self-esteem and abandonment issues for most of my life. My dad left when I was 10, my mom was not one to be affectionate, multiple "father figures" told me I was a failure and dis-owned me...my childhood was 18 years of disapointment after disappointment. I got married young and for all the wrong reasons, which also ended sourly 5 years later. I felt unloved, unappreciated, and completely worthless. I have never been good at expressing my feelings or communicating as there were/are always 2 major fears lingering over my head: 1. Fear of being vulnerable with people and 2. Fear of losing the people I love.
Trying to cut to the chase, here's where I am at today. I have been in a relationship with an amazing girl for 2 1/2 years. I love her with all my heart and she is truly the one I want to spend the rest of my life with, but there is so much f'ing tension in our relationship because of my stupid behavioral/communication issues. I know she loves me and she has been nothing less than an angel and totally patient with me for our entire relationship, but the stress and wear that my insecurities and failure to communicate brings have pushed us to the breaking point. I know I'm too clingy, too hyper-sensitive, and a pussy in general, but I have a hard time giving her space when she needs it and I don't know how to put myself out there to have the communication that she needs and deserves from me. I know it is exhausting for her to have to constantly walk on eggshells so I don't get butt-hurt, pull teeth just to get me to talk openly about things and be vulnerable, and all along putting her own needs/feelings aside to deal with mine. THIS IS NOT WHAT I WANT FOR HER. THIS IS NOT WHAT I WANT FOR US!! I want to be a source of strength, of encouagement, and a rock that SHE can cling to in the midst of her own storms. I want her to be able to talk to me without having to sugarcoat everything and for me to be able to talk to her without fear of "saying the wrong thing" and upsetting her. I want to give her a solid, healthy relationship and be as supportive to her as she has been to me. I don't know what to do guys. We had this huge fight last night and I feel like I'm losing her and that it will be for good if I don't do something now. Any insight and advice is deeply appreciated. Thank you!!
Wow guys, I don't know if I should be blown away, ashamed, or both. I asked this question a little over a year ago and its been the same amount of time since there's been a response. We were going through some more of the same stuff tonight(hence the part of me being ashamed) and so I came on here for the first time in months to seek counsel and low and behold, you guys were already at work answering my newest questions!! It was a total God moment/fail-revelation that a year later I'm still dealing with the same crap. Anyway, thank you for your responses! I need to process them a little bit before I ask for some further clarification but I just wanted to say thank you and you guys rock:)
First, are you going to couseling for your abandonment issues and subsequent father-figure/asshole issues?
One of the key things about changing a behavior or habit is to determine what, exactly, it is that you want to change. Write it down and then write down the behavior you want to replace that habit/behavior with. For example if you 'freak-out' whenever she goes out with her friends then you need to replace that 'freak-out' behavior with a more appropriate behavior such a hug and a kiss and saying "Have a great time", then you need to keep yourself and your mind busy on something else other than her and what she is doing while she is out (a hobby comes in handy here)(no, masturbation is NOT a hobby lol). Then you need to consistently work on the change for about a month or so. Keep in mind that there will be back-sliding but you have to recognize that you can't change in a day and it is a process, acknowledge that you back-slid and resolve to keep working on the change. Another thing is that you CANNOT change two or more behaviors at one time. You have to work on them one at a time. You didn't grow up all at once, it was a process and this is a process as well.
Good morning. More.
Ironically, by maintaining a high baseline happiness level, and not being needy for other people's approval or positive feedback, you can have better relationships.
The reason is because moods propagate. If you've ever observed a pack of wild monkeys, you know that if one goes off (they're rather excitable, irritable creatures), they all do. The mood spreads. Humans do that too.
You've heard of Pavlov's dogs? Pavlov rang a bell whenever he fed them. After a while, he could ring the bell, and they'd start salivating even without the offer of food. They developed a "conditioned response".
Now, imagine that you had a friend that whenever he showed up, you got a horrible migraine headache and felt a little nauseous. Let's say that correlation does not prove causality--his presence did not cause you're symptoms. But it wouldn't matter: after a while you'd dread his visits. In fact, you'd dread him personally. Maybe start to dislike him, without knowing why. After a while, you'd invent reasons (it's called "post-rationalization", a well-documented psychological phenomenon).
It works positively too. Imagine that someone else just lights up the room whenever he walks in. He's got an "infectious" happy, positive, resourceful, fun mood. When he walks into the party, everybody knows they're going to have a good time.
You want to be that guy.
You do that by changing your thought patterns. Negative, "can't do", "learned helplessness" thoughts give way to positive, "can do", resourceful thoughts. "How can I do this?" "How can I turn this around?" "How can I make the best of this?" "How can I cut my losses?" "How can I find another way?" "If I can't handle this now...maybe I can later." "I can learn to do this." "I can grow and adapt." Etc.
I mentioned meditation can help. What it can do is:
Vipassana will work, though actually you have many choices. If you are a Christian, it's called "Centering Prayer" and is quite similar in effect. Here is a start:
Unfortunately these CDs tend to be a tad rudimentary. He might walk you through a 5-minute exercise or something like that. A real meditation session should be around 24 minutes, and it needs to be a daily commitment to see much benefit. However, after a few weeks, you might notice some surprises. Becoming less impulsive, and having better control of your own moods.
I dunno if he covers it on that CD, and even if he does, I don't know if I like his specific version, so I'll give you mine, of one specific exercise that I am confident will help your situation:
Sit down to meditate. Calm your mind. Now think of someone you know and love--not in an erotic way, at least not at first. Could be a sibling or a friend. Could be your current girlfriend but think of her as a person who suffers, and not as a lover, at least, not for the moment. We're trying to produce the hormone oxytocin, not testosterone. Testosterone is good too but for different purposes.
Think of that person's suffering in life. Disappointments, frustrations, unhappiness, stresses, etc. Imagine that person, and imagine breathing in that suffering, and breathing out release from suffering for that person.
Do that for several minutes for each person in your circle of influence that you are at least somewhat friendly with. It sounds bad and some neurotic personalities might find it traumatic ("breathe in suffering?!"), but as long as you remain calm, and maintain friendly, empathetic feelings, you'll be fine. The oxytocin hormone you will produce will actually heal a lot of your own suffering. Contrary to popular belief, love is a healing feeling, not a hurting feeling. The hurt comes from "attachments". Those are what you are going to let go of.
Would you be willing to give this a chance? Give it a shot and report back. Hugs, bro.
P.S.: what I just wrote is a start. But a good one. If you make progress just on that, it will be 80% of the battle. The journey of a 1000 miles begins with the first step, but stabilizing your own mood will help. Once you become "mindful", you need to start noticing habits of negative thought patterns and over-riding them with resourceful thought patterns.
You could not give your present girlfriend, or anyone else, including yourself, a better gift, than to be their emotional anchors in the storm.
As for abandonment issues; that's actually the same attachments I mentioned earlier. Some day you will not only forgive your dad, your mom, and your unhelpful "father figures", but you will realize why they behaved the way they did, accept their all-too-human natures, and wish them release from their own troubled thoughts and emotions. When that day happens, you'll realize you are truly free.
This advice, and the advice on the previous page was really valuable to me. I am still feeling like garbage after my breakup last week and a great deal of what you wrote down really hit home with me. I appreciate you taking the time to drop some knowledge down here.
No joke Neil! Thank you so much to all the guys that took the time to give your tidbits of wisdom and experience...I appreciate it immensely and you all gave awesome advice. Rob, you though sir...you are a God-send. I don't even have the words to thank you for all the advice and encouragement you just gave. I mean...WOW bro! God has blessed you with some incredible insight, wisdom, and a obviously HUGE heart. Everything you just said hit home and was exactly what I needed to hear, just as Neil said. I am absolutely up for trying your counsel!! I admit its still a little fuzzy exactly what I'm supposed to do, but I'm sure as I read over it a few more times(and take notes! Gah..its so good!:) I will figure it out. Rob, again bro...thank you so much. You are a total blessing and I thank God for you. For all of you guys. Thank you for taking the time to help a brother out.
I admit its still a little fuzzy exactly what I'm supposed to do
Not surprisingly, because it's buried under a lot of explanation--possibly a little too much. But I don't expect anyone to take advice without understanding the rationale.
1. Build up your ability to over-rule impulses and habits. Certain basic forms of meditation will help. Resource: Stress-Proof Your Brain... If you're in a situation where you're first reaction might be to say or do the wrong thing (generally: feeling hurt, defensive, angry), you need enough control to over-rule that impulse so that you can say or do the right thing to solve the problem.
2. I haven't gotten to what that "right thing" is yet. Here is a book that is the best reference I have ever seen to proper communication to relate well to others: Creating Harmonious Relationships: A Practical Guide to the Power o...
Naturally, it's out-of-print (and a lot of bad advice is still in print!). Buy it used. Read it. Read it again. I couldn't put it down. The author experienced some of the same problems that several of you gentlemen have mentioned. I think his experiences, and the solutions he learned, will really hit home. By the way, it's written fairly generically: you can use the patterns to avoid problems at work, with family, and with lovers. This is a valuable book, with many applications to improve your life.
3. You need to reframe your thought patterns from negative, helpless, can't-do, to positive, resourceful, can-do. I haven't explained precisely how to do that, and to be honest, you might have to wait for my report explaining it, because it's an obscure topic. It is, or was, covered in NLP (neuro-linguistic programming) seminars, but they never wrote up any comprehensive books with step-by-step instructions. Basically, the way that you think about life and love dramatically impacts your ability to cope with them. If you grew up around people with problem-prone thought patterns--and it sounds like that was the case the way this thread was originally started--then you are likely to have picked them up the same way that other psychological patterns are passed along.
One thing that might help is to surround yourself with people who relate well to others. You'll tend to pick up their successful patterns. By the same token, take a vacation from people who are whiny, complain a lot, problem-prone, negative, blame others, criticize, ungrateful, etc. I'm not saying dump them as friends, just "take a vacation", because you can't pull them up until your own resourceful patterns of thoughts and emotions are strong enough that they can't pull you down.
1. Build up your ability to over-ride unhelpful thought and emotion patterns through meditation. This alone will help a lot.
2. Learn patterns of conversation (from the Andrew LeCompte book) that are known to be helpful to relating well to others. Use your discipline from your meditation training to stay on-track. Instead of blurting out the wrong thing, you'll stay in control long enough to say the right thing.
3. Keep a positive outlook on life and love. This will raise your baseline happiness level to make you less needy for others to behave or talk to you in any special way that you have no control over.
What you will find is that all 3 are highly synergistic. For example, if you know how to respond to criticism, then you'll feel more in control of the situation and your emotions are less likely to take over. That's what I found. Or if you develop a happier, more positive outlook on life, then you become less needy of external approval. Or, if you build up your willpower through meditation, you'll bite your tongue when tempted to say something you'd regret later, so as to at least not make the situation worse.
OK, I'm writing after a long day, I'm groggy again, and too tired to review this thread for loose ends which undoubtedly there are. I just picked up a loose end that was screaming for attention. Later, when I regain some semblance of clarity. Until then, my encouragement and good wishes to all of you.
also Neil buddy, if you want to talk man, please dont hesitate to shoot me a message or something. We all understand how much it hurts to come to the end of a relationship and you dont have to go through it alone by any means.
Rob, that is amazingly beautiful! You've certainly written a lot that has helped alter a lot of my perspectives.
I've been dealing with nearly the opposite extreme of what Peter has dealt with. I was the baby of the family, nothing was ever expected from me, everything was done for me, and I was the center of the universe. Further, my parents were very conservative with their religion and at some point or another felt the need to control and dominate me. I was homeschooled for most of my life, sheltered as much as possible, and whether it was personality or enforced I felt the need to rebel but powerless to do so. The result seems pretty deductive. I've been fighting this for a very long time. I have been emotionally behind for a long time, which also made it difficult for me to fit into a peer group (when you're elementary school emotioned, high school kids don't seem to like dealing with you).
I have phases every two weeks or so that I get insanely clingy and needy, and I'm in a long term relationship with a patient, loving, understanding woman who I've been far more vulnerable with and trust more than I've ever trusted any living person. It wears her down sometimes, but I know the man I want to be, the man I deserve to be and the man she deserves to be with. It's just that when I have those phases, before I can get to the root cause, I need coping mechanisms. That's where what you wrote comes in.
Awesome awesome awesome ideas! I've got some organizing of thoughts to do but I am very glad I read what you've written. I'd like to know what you have to say... I like what you've said already.
OK, sounds like the cause is a little different but the results are similar. You probably don't have as much negative self-image, but self-image itself can cause trouble. You can't be anything; you can only do. If your patterns of thoughts and emotions are causing problems instead of solving them, then you can change them to better suite your needs. I suggest trying the same prescription.
I was homeschooled for most of my life
That's a blessing, Bud. Thank your parents for it.
whether it was personality or enforced I felt the need to rebel but powerless to do so.
Was rebelling the problem or the solution? My guess is that it was the wrong solution to a problem. Was the problem not feeling a sense of taking charge of your own destiny?
If so, and if you want to talk about that, I suggest opening up another thread specifically about that. I
Was the problem not feeling a sense of taking charge of your own destiny?
That's what I was trying to write! I just couldn't figure out how to fit it into context. I think I may start a new thread soon, once I've organized my thoughts a bit better.