Ok ladies. This issue has been coming up a lot lately in my life, friends’ lives, clients’ lives, and it was begging me to write about it: how we cling to a man as if he is a life raft in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. If you are a lesbian, this is an equal opportunity issue but for this blog, I am going to refer to the masculine. When something is going wrong in the romantic arena, we are so dramatic about it and feel like we are incapable of anything until we have that man with his arms wrapped around us, assuring us that all is well and that he will make sure we are blissful ‘til kingdom com.
We become Aurora the princess from Sleeping Beauty, unable to get out of bed until our prince rides up on the white stallion, leans over us with steel blue eyes, taking in our angelic faces and tenderly kissing us into a reality of happily ever after. Or maybe the stallion is a Ford pickup, but whatever, same story. By the way, did you notice they never made a sequel to any of these films? Seems the fairytale wedding is frozen in time as how it all ends.
I would love to see someone do an animated reality show featuring the life of a Disney princess 5 years later, surrounded by whining kids, the prince off slaying dragons all day every day. She feels ignored and not appreciated wondering what in the world she wants to do with her own life. To make it more interesting and dramatic, we could throw BPD into the scenario. I mean, look at Cinderella. That could easily have happened. Given the trauma she endured, she must have had major abandonment issues, shame, and low self-esteem. Being asked to do the dishes would probably trigger huge anxiety.
It’s been a couple of years since my divorce, and since then I have had one romantic entanglement which I knew was not going to go anywhere due to age difference and geographical locations. Oh yes, there was this little thing about him being self- centered. But oh, I was so moved when he kissed me. Oh the sweet drama of it all! I was speaking with a colleague and friend about it. She said “Teresa, this is taking your focus from what is most important in your life right now, your independence and self-reliance.” I knew that she was right and yet when the phone rang and he wanted to see me, I would find myself jumping in my car, ignoring that I had plenty of studying to do for my latest coaching course or that I could enjoy dinner with one of my daughters. I was sacrificing my long term wellness to feel good in the moment which was starting to not feel good in the moment. Yet, here I was going back for more.
I have a client who is sweet, very attractive, has a good job she likes and is self-sufficient. Like a lot of us, she has had pretty destructive relationships in the past, but right now she has had a nice boyfriend for a few months. All is well, right? Except the incessant worry about how he feels and why he doesn’t want to see her as much as she wants to see him and what if she ruins the relationship with her sensitivity. The fact that he is taking his time and not swearing undying love after the first 3 dates is in her mind, an indication of his lack of feeling, instead of what it more likely is. Him taking his time. So when she dwells on her worries, how is she going to treat him?
I have a fellow coaching student in my transformational coaching class who has everything you would think anyone would want in life to be happy. Young and attractive, wealthy family, involvement in meaningful projects, lots of friends, and travel. She’s a sweetheart so I like her anyway, haha. So what do you think she is consumed with? The misery of this on again off again- relationship with a man she just can’t seem to do without. She’s getting nothing she needs from him, unless he needs something from her and yet she hangs on, beating herself up for it and feeling helpless to change it. Here, she has everything you and I might dream of and she’s sad and feels bad about herself.
My point is no matter whether you have some diagnosis, many of us tend to have this feeling that we cannot survive or at the least be happy without a man. We rob ourselves of all the other possible joys in life while we are at it. If you do have abandonment issues, it is magnified greatly. When my husband walked out the door with his suitcase right in front of my eyes, I thought that I literally would not survive it. Even though it was a terrible and abusive relationship, all I could think of was begging him to come back and how I would just accept how he treated me and quit wanting validation, appreciation, and respect.
Depending on where you are in your recovery, the man in your life can be the support you need to get through the first couple stages especially if you are unable work and take care of everyday responsibilities, provided of course that he is a compassionate participant. If he is blaming you for all the problems and telling you that he is fine and it’s your BPD that is causing you to think he should be nice to you, then he is a hindrance that needs to be skillfully dealt with. If you are with a compassionate, supportive man, which is what you deserve, then let the gratitude fill you with the motivation to keep working and never give up. You will get there. Together.
For the rest of us, the key is to completely accept that this is where we are in the moment. If we beat ourselves up for being needy and dependent, then we will feel hopeless. When does anything change from the place of hopelessness? We must start to observe our thoughts of helplessness and recrimination without judgment. We must stay in wise mind as often as possible. Then and only then can we start to see the habits we have created in the name of self-preservation that are no longer serving us. We can begin to think of our long terms goals of self-fulfillment and self-reliance and ask, is this current thinking and behavior going to serve that goal or take us farther from it? It takes time to get to this place. Carl Rogers said “The curious paradox is when I accept myself just as I am, then I can change. If I want to be the woman brave enough to chart my own course with or without a man, then I have to accept today that I have a habit of believing that I need a man to want me and take care of me to feel like I matter. Once we really get this, like all the skills, we go back again and again, noticing and accepting, then an unsticking will take place. A sense of curiosity will replace helplessness and the possibility of a you that was once only a distant dream will start to take form. If you can spot it you got it sister. Believe!
Need support in this process? For a perspective that values you, sees you as more than a diagnosis, validates and addresses the stress and struggles that you deal with, and believes in your potential for healing, contact me today for a complimentary consultation at: 770.974.9010. You can also find me on Facebook and Twitter or email me at Teresa [at] essencehappens.com.