Our therapist is right. For long stretches of my adult life, I have been “love avoidant” in many ways.
But she’s not entirely correct in the presumption that this comes from my parents. Maybe the seed was planted then, but the bulk of it comes from relationship experience.
— § —
I struggle to trust women. At some level, I struggle to believe that they are not simply untrustworthy. Not because they have ill will, but because they simply can’t control themselves. At some deep level, I struggle to believe that they are not simply helplessly impulsive, about love even more than about other things. This is not a belief that I want to have; it’s a deep fear that comes from decades of experience (with women that I chose to get involved with, which puts the blame at least partially on myself).
I struggle not to believe that their hearts change from moment to moment, and not to believe that they always, always follow their heart at every moment because they are simply not capable of anything else. The deep fear that goes with this unwanted belief is that I will never, ever be important enough to them to earn loyalty, or important enough to them for them to want to avoid hurting me if something in their heart-following leads them to hurt me, whether intentionally or unintentionally.
And so, by the time I reached my 30’s, I was avoidant. The strategy? Just don’t care about them that much. Be amused by them. Bond only slightly, but never fully. That way, when they ultimately run off (and they will, some afternoon, when some other guy catches their eye, because they simply can’t help themselves, it’s how they’re wired), you won’t be hurt.
So never get too close. That way, their caprice and inconsistency never matter in the end. You have ’em while you have ’em. You don’t once you inevitably don’t. No harm, no foul.
— § —
This is not, I should say, how I felt when I got married, or throughout much of my marriage. I outgrew it. I thought.
— § —
It all comes from my relationship history. As I’ve often suggested, I have tended over the years to be involved with intense, but highly impulsive women. That is definitely something to continue to address in therapy.
But the fact is, in almost every relationship I’ve had, including serious ones (i.e. lasting several years), several things have happened:
1) Intense worship of me, beyond all justification, for the first year or two
2) Followed by a period in which we transition to anger at me, beyond all justification
3) Followed by my discovery of secret sexual and emotional infidelity (serial and ongoing)
4) Followed by them expecting me to stay while they “see what they feel”
5) Followed by me breaking off the relationship
6) Followed by their begging me to “try again” a year later
7) Followed by my refusal
There is more to the story, but that’s the important part.
This pattern has played out over and over and over again, starting from when I was 14 years old and continuing until I went to NYC and… got married.
— § —
I want to trust my wife and I do trust my wife. I always have, since the day that I asked her, point blank (and much to her chagrin) as we were dating, whether she could actually be faithful to a man. Given the circumstances and the question, she answered with grace and integrity.
And at the same time, this thing continues to get into my head. It pushes me to sit and self-parent, to self-talk at times suddenly for long periods of time. To tell myself that I’m being unreasonable. That my wife is different and loves me and wouldn’t hurt me and that it matters to her that she not hurt me. My conscious self has to browbeat my unconscious self into submission.
For several years, I forgot all of this; I thought I was free of this, after getting married to my wife.
But then, in recent years, as I’ve hinted in other entries, things turned sort of sour for us. There was a lot of anger and yelling. And it suddenly felt like we had taken step #2 above. And, slightly at first, them more later on, it gradually came back. And now, now I fight it again, this difficulty with trust.
Now I fight the battle inside myself regularly. To be vulnerable. To not believe the worst at the drop of a hat. To not become avoidant. To not disconnect, become simply “amused,” “take it or leave it,” to not assume that this is all hopeless because, well, women. Yes, I realize that this is (a) sexist, and (b) hurtful to everyone, and (c) maladaptive. It sucks.
But I have moments when it is damned hard anyway.
And I have the desperate fear that it is a kind of self-sabotage at this point, all of this. Even at the same time as I experience the desperate fear that I am a fool and that it is too late and that I am already… well… abandoned.
— § —
In fact, I’m in way too deep now, anyway. I have been since before I got married. There is no “no harm, no foul,” no “I’m just amused by it all” any longer.
I love and need my wife. I have bonded. I am vulnerable, more vulnerable than I have ever been. This marriage matters to me. Matters to me more than anything else in the world. It’s too late for the avoidance, even if my subconscious self has relentlessly tried, over the last few years, to resurrect it.
I am fully committed, whether I want to be or not.
That tends to increase the fear and unsettled-ness exponentially. Catch-22.
— § —
There are women that can be trusted, right? It’s just a cognitive distortion to believe otherwise, based on my past bad choices… isn’t it?
God dammit. I need to stop, self-parent, and then go to bed.
Thank God for therapy.