I have been dating a man and no one understands why. Weekly, a friend rolls their eyes in concern and frustration with me, and a huge scoff. I am so tempted to join them and go straight into a headspace, to list his issues, to denigrate his fear and gaslighting and lack of commitment and public displays of treating me like shit. It does piss me off at times. I’m pissed at myself!
But the truth is, I haven’t put in completely, either. I have kept myself open for someone emotionally available, when they come, I think. Other times I have hope for this relationship. Most of the time I defend my right to be with this man, despite the fact that he is so peckish about being used that he offers me nothing. It is very difficult to feel wanted, seen, or loved in this relationship. It feels like his neglect of me is a deliberate attempt to prove how little he cares about me.
I have these epiphanies that he is like my dad. You see, peeling the onion of healing from an abusive childhood reveals layers of surprise. Repetition compulsion is real. Re-enactments of trauma are real. The outer layers, the most obvious abuses, are easy to grieve and acknowledge. But the messages of abandonment, all the ways I was taught to self-abandon, to over and over disregard myself and my most basic of rights and needs- are nearly all-powerful. They are the hardest to overcome and grieve. My inner critic constantly obstructs- says I’m taking too long, says that I’m not ever going to be healed, says that it’s true that I’m not good enough, says I will never be freed from my dad or my childhood. Right along with the critic is my fear. It is not love I avoid being engulfed by, it is fear. Once I dared to feel my fear and it was like looking into an impossibly huge abyss. I could not even speak to the fear- the abandonment wound runs deep and looks so much complex and different than I thought.
So, when my birthday came and went without so much as a word from this man (a week now without communication) I focused on that. I was upset about it. All these beautiful people in my life celebrated me with gifts, words, their time. Even my ex husband wished me a happy birthday. I was distraught and upset, and could not understand why. I mean, I’ve known this man for two years and again, it’s like he has to find opportunities to prove that I don’t really exist in his mind. He loves looking in the rearview mirror and cannot love in the present. I know he doesn’t love me unless and until I am not available to him.
But going to that empty well is exactly what needed to happen. I was having an emotional flashback. The memory that is unhealed and ungrieved is my fifth birthday. On my fifth birthday, my parents were fighting and at the last minute they got me a toy harmonica for my birthday. There was not really a “making it up to me” moment. It was an instance that was unusual, for my mom always made me a beautiful cake for my birthday. But it represented something. It represented the feeling that I was not really wanted, that I didn’t belong, that I was somehow always “wrong”, that I could never be good enough to earn their love and attention. I thought it was always me. So the birthday neglect incident represents a lifetime spent as an unloved child. Now, I leave this poor child unloved by picking a man who has his own unexamined trauma issues.
Change is hard. Changing this situation requires me to truly grieve and believe in my own worth- to believe I am forgiven for being less-than for so many people, to acknowledge I deserve time and attention and love, that it is ok to need those things from someone I am involved with. It’s ok to say his lack of communication is not fair, that it’s not fair to feel so taken for granted, to be so unwanted.
The whole basis of that is shame. My dad formed the bedrock of shame. I shame, too, and I need to come to a place of compassion for all of us so I can speak with clarity. Shame is an insidious and vile virus, and its aggressive worming into my heart is exhausting to track and eject. Shame is also the basis of neglect.
To the naysayers who question my sanity about my involvement with this man, I refuse to withhold compassion, since I have so many of my own wounds to attend to. Dissociated men are a dime a dozen, and I have my own dissociation to work through. He is a hiding place from my self, a true abandoning of who I am. Why? Because I keep repeating this cycle. I need time to slowly grieve and heal. I need to feel it all before I completely move on. If I’ve never been taught how to receive love, teaching myself is going to be hard. So, compassion all the way around as I learn to speak and hear and heal. I know what I am doing. I know I need the sadness of him right now and it won’t make a lick of sense to anyone but me.
Yet again, into the grieving I go- the white-hot angering wildlands of who am I and who loves me and how I will stand by myself.