“Throughout life we are reliving our first relationships; trying to get them right.” As I hung up the phone, I smiled; as a fan of Quantum Leap, the idea of “striving to put right what once went wrong” is a nice idea.
But what do romantic relationships have to do with our first relationships (those with our primary caregivers)? I didn’t see how settling the issues I have with my mother would help in my romantic relationships. And quite honestly, I thought my therapist was barking up the wrong tree.
The epiphany came after I chatted with a friend online; one far removed from the emotional turmoil that has become my life.
“I didn’t tell you this before but I always thought Guy seems a lot like your ex-ltr, though without the mean streak your ex had,” she commented innocently enough. “Some men are givers and some are takers. Somehow you always seem to date those that take.”
I wondered how she could see him that way. Hubby’s girlfriend has always made a point to tell me how much better Guy was than those that came before. I have seen him give. In fact, one of the things I have enjoyed most in knowing him is watching him give women pleasure without looking for anything in return.
It was late that night when the realization stuck me; my gods, the therapist was right! I have a pattern of interacting with the men I date as I did my mother, in the hopes that they will give me what I need: the reciprocity of unconditional love.
When I love someone, I love them unconditionally. I enjoy spending time with them; learning about their interests; helping them to grow. They are my family. I will do whatever it is that is in my power for those that I love; even give my life for them if necessary. And I never ever stop loving them.
My mother is a narcissist. It is the job of everyone around her to keep her happy. She expects everyone to cater to her needs without a thought to reciprocity. Everything must be done on her schedule and to her specifications. And she is incapable of seeing any viewpoint other than her own. She is not evil; she is simply oblivious to how she affects those around her.
Growing up in a household ruled by her was, at times, a nightmare. For a long time, I was very good at hiding my own feelings and simply getting along; trying hard to anticipate what would upset her and avoid such behavior; for it was only in this way that I would be accepted and loved.
But unfortunately, being something that one is not takes its toll in stress and depression. When I could no longer deny who I was, life became hard; my mother became cruel. Rejection by one who is supposed to love unconditionally is devastating.
My ex-ltr (the one before Guy) and I were together for two years. We were the best of friends. I fell in love – something that doesn’t happen very often. Letting someone into my heart and life is not the easiest thing for me, but I did it. And things were good for a while. But he was selfish and manipulative and didn’t really care about who he hurt so long as he would get what he wanted. Somewhere during the relationship, I fell back into the familiar habit of trying to be what someone else wanted me to be. And as it had with my mother, rejection came when I failed.
I began to date again. Jonathan also had a large personality and an air of confidence that I found attractive. He and his wife were newly poly and exploring what that meant. I liked his “family first” attitude and the way he would throw himself into activities with such abandon. But his “carpe diem” approach to dating, soon led him to be in more romantic entanglements than any one person could realistically handle. He was not cultivating meaningful relationships; he was simply collecting a harem. He seemed as self-centered as my mother; or perhaps, more like a kid in let loose in a candy store. But I kept seeing him. I, once again, fell into the pattern of appeasement; of not wanting the relationship to end; of simply wanting to be loved.
Soon our relationship began to suffer; for there are not enough hours in a week to work 40-50 hours, date four women and be able to spend time with one’s primary family including small children. I could no longer hide my displeasure, especially when he began to see a fifth girl. I asserted myself by telling him that I couldn’t deal with so many significant others; I couldn’t be what he wanted me to be and it was over. I was rejected.
This familiar pattern of appeasement was even triggered inadvertently by Guy. He was coping with a lot of emotional pain from another relationship which colored all his other dealings. I tried to avoid doing or saying anything that might upset him; but I was much worse at it than ever before; perhaps because he did not expect me to satisfy his needs. He is not the narcissist that the others were; for I have seen his true self; as he once commented, I “have seen behind his mask.” But he needed to take care of himself first in order to survive.
I had done what I had told him in the months prior to actually meeting him face to face that I refused to do again: change into what I believe someone else wanted. It seemed the further he pulled away, the harder I tried or maybe the harder I tried, the further he pulled away.
And we broke up. This time the rejection is harder to deal with, because it is not so cut and dry. And because I honestly believe that he still loves me.
“This is a huge realization,” my therapist says after I explain that I am, in essence, ending up in relationships with people who seem to take, in the hope that I can finally get what I need. But instead I find myself falling into a familiar pattern to deal with what I perceive as conditions to be met in order for the relationship to continue – in order to be loved.
And I leap…
(or I wish I would, but I am still dealing with my own life).