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!!
Tell her what you just told us.
You know your faults. You don't need soul searching, or navel-gazing, or psychoanalysis. You don't need to compare her to your mother. She's not your mother. She doesn't want to be your mother. If she's as good as you say ... she isn't going to burn you like your mother did, either.
Bottom line -- skip all the introspection. You don't need to know why ... you just need to treat her better. You need to recognize when you're going off the rails, and consciously pull the brakes. You need to recognize when you're overreacting, or getting "butt-hurt", or being clingy, or being hyper-senstive, or being a "general pussy" ... and stop it. When you feel those impulses coming, just stop talking. Get control of yourself, and then speak.
Get past your fears (of rejection or abandonment or whatever) the same way you'd get past an irrational fear of anything else. Confront it head on.
Pretend to be the man you think she deserves, and, before you know it, it'll become habit ... and you will be.
"just stop talking. Get control of yourself, and then speak."
This is where I feel I have the most trouble, restraining myself instead of going into hyper-drive on some clingy "omg what if she walks out" freakout. You're right about the mom aspect too. I need to seperate them in my mind because she isbetterthan I say and I know I project things on her that she hasn't and prbably would never do. Thank you for the encouragement and councel.
When your gut says "I don't think I should be talking now" for god's sake shut the hell up! Think about what you would like to say and sit on it for awhile an hour, a day, whatever. Then express your concerns when you are both calm and not otherwise distracted.
Dwelling on the past and worrying about the future are uniquely human shortcomings. Life can be a whole lot better when you realize that the past and the future aren't real. The past is done and over, no amount of thinking about it will change anything. The future does not exist. The only place you can live is in the present.
You guys know it's ok to yell at each other, right?
Yeah, and we do, but when things escalate to a certain level either I shut down and become afraid to say anything or I go to the other end of the spectrum and just start spouting out shit without thinking about what I'm saying. In either case the conversation goes from something that might have otherwise been small and easy to deal with to this blow out fight about non-communication. I just want to get my head out of my ass and to a place where I can communicate clearly, openly, and honestly without being afraid or dancing around the issues. She has graciously put up with me for this long and shouldn't have to. I know its ok for us to fight, I just wish it didn't lead me to withdrawl so much...
First thing you need to know is that if she leaves, you're going to be alright. It's going to suck for a while but you'll survive. That realization, if you actually wind up having it, is going to make you stop worrying about whether she'll leave or not. Remember, with her or without her, you are the man you are and you can be the man you want to be.
Next, you are more valuable than you can ever imagine! You are a man, you are the man in your life and you're acceptance is all you actually need. All other things follow from there.
You're experiences have created a lot of damage but remember that you aren't your damage, and you can't change the damage done. You are the result of two things; the way you handle and cope with the damage, and the way you let it effect you now. Keep in mind I'm not saying to deny it, but understand that you can now control it.
More to write, but I must go to work.
Man there is so much truth in that first paragraph that I need to grab ahold of. Its so hard because how do you begin to let go(or be okay with the idea) of someone you truly are in love with and had planned to spend your life with? I know realistically if she really is gone for good, its not going to kill me, physically, but its like losing the greatest treasure you could ever have imagined. one thing is sure though, and that is with or without her I want to become a better, healthier man, so thats where I need to focus I guess
Well it's a meta-mentality thing. When you realize you don't need her, you'll stop being needy. I mean, that's waaaaay oversimplified but you've certainly got the point.
Sorry this is happening to you. I had a similar issue, though personality differences and growing up with two borderline personalities to deal with resulted in different symptoms. I was the one always walking on eggshells; nobody was careful around me. But it left me a "doormat". Until someone else helped me out.
Because you went into this relationship before resolving this problem, it might not last long enough to see you through the other side. I'm sorry; nothing I can do about that except to ask you to accept that possibility. But if that happens, the next one could be much better, because you could go into it a new man, and trust me, you will be much happier regardless of what happens, once you burn through this problem. I hope one way or another it works out for the best.
I have had low self-esteem and abandonment issues
I know what you mean, but I need to warn you: "self-esteem" is a misnomer. I think that psychologists got the idea that it was "self-esteem" because some people really do have horribly negative, self-loathing self-images. I've counselled people through them. But I can tell you that people who have very inflated self-images also have a big problem. THE PROBLEM IS SELF-IMAGE ITSELF.
You are not your self-image. It's a mental model, and not a very accurate one. Those distortions cause trouble.
The solution is not to "feel good about yourself", the solution is to FEEL GOOD. Your mood needs to stop being a function of how other people act or react to you. You need to maintain a high baseline of happiness that other people can NOT easily disturb no matter what they say or do, intentionally or unintentionally (well, short of threatening your life...).
Imagine that you lived in a small village out in the middle of nowhere. Imagine that the village elders appointed you to look after the village mad-man--maybe because you're the only one they think is tough enough to keep him under control, and they don't want anyone to get hurt.
They warn you that he's a stark raving lunatic, prone to saying the most ghastly, horrid, mean, nasty things.
They deliver him to you. He curses you. He calls you names. He says nasty things about you. He makes rude gestures at you. He says he hates you.
You gonna get depressed? Hurt? Feel bad about yourself?
Hopefully not. You don't take it seriously. You don't care about his opinion; his status is too low to take seriously, and you've already been warned not to. And you feed him lunch on schedule. You simply don't react to anything he says.
Why do you allow your mood to be a function of anyone else's opinion of you? Well, because they're higher status, or you "care about them". But that's not what's really happening.
Nobody has a voodoo doll of you, that when they stick pins in it, it makes you feel bad. YOU DO THAT TO YOURSELF, and then "project" it onto others. From what you have written, it sounds like you realize that. But knowing, and integrating it into your personality, are two different things. You need to integrate this knowledge into your personality.
Now then, I said the key is to BE HAPPY.
You need to systematically re-frame your thoughts to be positive, not negative. You also need to reclaim responsibility for your own mood and frame of mind, and stop "projecting" onto others.
"You've upset me!" becomes "What you said concerns me, but I realize that it's a function of your perspectives and nothing that either of us is. I need to help both of us bridge that perceptual gap".
"They hate me!" becomes "Some people dislike the person they think I am. But I am not the person they think I am. I am none of the things they think about that person. And my happiness does not depend on their opinions."
"I feel bad because she's so mad at me!" becomes "She's angry. But I am not ultimately responsible for her emotions; she is. And my happiness does not depend on her mood."
It's late and I'm sleepy, but I am concerned that you have a problem that I am very, very familiar with, and can help you with. I feel responsible for taking a crack at it, but it will take a lot more than this. I suggest friending me and reminding me to write up some suggestions.
It might be worthwhile for me to write up something for everyone with the same problem (it's quite common), and give you a copy of it.
One more thing: there are specific types of meditations that will help. The reframing thing is a separate issue; not sure how to get you to do that, but that's what you need to do. Basically, your problem is one of unhelpful thought patterns. You learned these thought patterns when you were a child, from one or more other people in your life who had problematic thought patterns (not necessarily the same ones though--someone being mad could make you sad for example...). You need to change them, but they become habits, and habits are hard to break. But there are some ways to change habits. Meditation, oddly enough, helps, by strengthening the part of your brain that makes it possible to over-ride habits and impulses.
I'm groggy; gotta go, busy day tomorrow, hugs bro.
Damn this is good.
Thanks for posting; great, great advice. Wish I had this years, decades ago!
I would not be so gloomy about your relationship prospects; many women are willing to give you a second chance if you communicate strongly (and follow through, of course) that you will at least make an attempt to change.
Start by telling her what you just told us. Even show her this thread if it is too hard to just out with it. Next, don't just accept things the way they are. If you need outside help, such as therapy or whatever, then go get it. Include her in the process. Not only will it help your personal issues but it will bring you closer to each other.