Why do I treat myself so craptastic, when I am really a fantastic lady?
Why do I keep repeating the same patterns in relationships; dancing the same dances that aren’t very pretty to watch and side stepping the real issues? Why do I not believe in myself and deem myself worthy to have a healthy relationship free of toxicity and negativity; a relationship in which I feel valued and loved? The law of attraction states that “like attracts like.” This means that people with a low frequency — people who are insecure and self-abandoning — attract each other, while people with a high frequency — people who love and value themselves — also attract each other. Have I really been “vibrating” so low that I have attracted passive aggressive narcissists?
My first “real” relationship was with a preacher’s son, for real. His dad was a Baptist Minister and he was a hot mess. He’s doing just fine now and is super responsible and appears to have his shit together, but boy-howdy were things different back in the day!
Shortly after my parents split up, we moved from a very small Southern town, to a much larger Southern town where I met the Preacher’s son; the guy that won me over. We dated during high school and part of college. When I found out he and my very best friend had danced the hoochie-coo, I ended the relationship. I kept the best friend. I told her I still loved her, but didn’t trust her as far as I could throw her and that wasn’t very far. I was a tiny thing back then. We are still friends. There were red flags throughout the relationship with this fellow, but I wasn’t brave enough to end it. I answered the phone at his house once and a girl I knew asked to speak to him. I later found out there were many others. We were young, babies really. I didn’t have a skill set with relationships or a role model. I had barely dated anyone and my dad was not “present” to show me what to expect from men. He drank. He never entered a program or went to AA, but he is since sober; 24 years sober. This preacher’s son showed me attention and love that I so desperately yearned for, even if I was allowing him to treat me like a doormat.
I married at 24. We met in January, moved in together in June and I found myself “preggers”. My great-aunt whispered to me “we all did it, just some of us got caught”. It was comforting to hear that, yet I was still mortified and so were my parents. I knew my mother and aunts and grandmothers had all “waited”- or at least most, if not all of them did. I didn’t and the month we moved in together- there I was pregnant. At least I had finished college and had a job. I was even in graduate school and performing in theatrical productions at the local community theatre. That marriage lasted 7 years and produced two children and a lot of heartache (a story for another blog). Almost every man I have dated (not all, there were some good eggs in there, we just didn’t have a good fit) has had some sort of drinking or substance abuse issue.
Drinking alcohol is accepted and sometimes expected in our culture. I often feel guilty not ordering a drink when I am out at a restaurant. Why? I have done my fair share of experimentation and drinking. In fact, I’m lucky to be alive after some of the choices I made in college. So back to the real issue at hand, why do I repeat the same patterns in relationships? Is it my destiny? Is it a self-fulfilling prophecy? Is it cosmic karma? Did I sign a soul contract for this life in the pre-existence or am I simply a horrible judge of character? I’m not 100% sure, but I believe that it stems from being the adult child of an alcoholic and learning to survive and cope by being co-dependent. Those survival skills may have worked as a kiddo, but they do not work in the real world as an adult.
I know that I play a role in all relationships, whether at home with my children, at work with cohorts, or during free time with friends and surely I play a role in an intimate relationship, whether active or passive, I am present. I am an enabler. When my grandmother died many years ago a dear relative whom I adored (still do) and really looked up to called me a “victim.” I was crushed to hear it. I questioned this label with my inner voice; am I really a victim? Do I really have a victim mentality? It was surely something to ponder. How can someone who is so smart (yep, I may have played dumb in high school to cope, but I am MENSA material), along with being attractive, creative, talented, thoughtful, patient, and kind to others…. how can she (me) not believe in herself and treat herself so craptastic?
The relationships have all come and gone; one after the other, mostly the same patterns and behaviors. I want to be loved. I fall in love. I don’t stand up for what I believe in or I cave and allow myself to feel controlled because I don’t want to rock the boat. I isolate myself from my friends and then I am resentful. I try to change my behaviors to accommodate my partner because I am told; “you are too loud, too liberal, too sensitive, too emotional”. I’ve also second guessed myself and have felt badly about past relationships that didn’t work out. I hear comments such as, “How can you still be friends with so and so.. they are just out to get in your pants”. When you allow yourself to hear these words, they become the very fabric of your daily life.
I don’t believe that EVERY man is out for sex or a womanizer or misogynistic. I do believe that there are some genuinely nice guys out there. I may be a feminist, but I am not a man-hater. There are men out there who are self-actualized and evolved, who accept you for who you are and let your freak flag fly and your light burn bright. There are men that are able to stand beside a woman as an equal, but to also take up for her and protect her if need be; someone who doesn’t shame you into changing or shame you into being intimate when you don’t feel “up for it” (no pun intended). Relationships are supposed to be comforting and calm. Sure there will be some waves along the ride, but all in all, the journey is supposed to be one of soul-making, not a veil of tears.
JEEZZUS.. listening to myself and I what I have allowed to happen really makes me angry! I’d rather be alone and happy than with someone who doesn’t bring out the best in me. So, where does one start to shift the patterns that have become so engrained? Well, blogging helps. Writing helps. It is certainly cathartic and is incredibly distracting. It’s a part of the process of change. Believing in yourself is easier said than done. You definitely have to stop yourself each time you hear the tapes play in your head. Thinking must move from negative to positive, even when you’re in a dark place. Evaluating individuals and their behavior to discern whether or not they are indeed someone that you want to be around, share your thoughts and time with is a good start too and boundaries- oh those boundaries are SUPER important! That is probably the biggest challenge of them all for an adult child of an alcoholic. How do you set boundaries?
Well, faithfully attending Al Anon meetings is a start. There is help if you want it. The literature is amazing and there is hope- hope and courage and serenity at every meeting. Also, not engaging in negative conversations is a way to create boundaries. Sharing your thoughts, voicing your opinions, even when your voice shakes is also a way to set boundaries and to become brave and more independent. I love one of the slogans from Al Anon or AA meetings; Don’t let yourself get Hungry, Angry, Lonely or Tired (HALT!). Don’t be a victim- take care of yourself and do the next right thing, whatever that is! It really doesn’t matter as long as you are keeping the focus on yourself and your healing.
I have a friend who is a life-coach and I am blessed that we are close enough for her to feel comfortable to provide me with pearls of wisdom when I ask for them and even when I don’t. She is intuitive and knows when I can use some nudging in a more positive direction or constructive criticism. She gives me guidance to step outside of a situation and view it as an observer. This allows me to reflect on the situation from a neutral stand point, a more even-keeled perspective. I have always made sure that in situations that required compassion or understanding, that I step into the shoes of the other person. This has come very easy to me, as I believe that I too an intuitive and highly-sensitive. However, it’s so much easier to care for others than to care for ourselves. I her a tiny voice at times that says “you aren’t worthy” or “you don’t deserve” this or that. I am my worst critic.
I am single, but am not focusing on finding someone. I need to be in love with me for awhile. I recently hopped on some dating sites, talked to and “met” (on-line) a few men. But it just seemed weird to me. Why am searching when I just ended a relationship and one that was supremely toxic. I want to ensure that I surround myself with individuals that I have my best interest at heart. If I am a person who has someone else’s best interest at heart, then it seems logical that it would be reciprocated, but that is not always the case- even with friends or family- not just in relationships. I am trying to look at this from a more metaphysical stand point. There are patterns of behavior that are difficult to break- but can be broken with practice and patience. Perhaps a kinder and gentler way to put it is…. with patience and practice we can evolve to a higher level. In AL Anon the phrase is to let go and let God- let your higher power take the lead. I believe in God, but I also am finally starting to believe in myself. I can be my higher power, if I just take the time to be still and listen to the inner voice that can guide me away from the dance of fear and self-loathing and onto the dance floor to dance a dance of joy and love- love of self, first and foremost.