My blog has been a lifesaver for me for years. Although I am only consistent during tough times, it is when I need to journal the most. I have been so lucky to have readers engage with me thoughtfully and honestly, even when the truth hurts. This particular comment from Jana really addresses so many of my own questions I figured it would be great to copy and past both Jana’s comments and my answers as I work through it.
I had one post written and scheduled for this morning before I read Jana’s comments and its sort of eerie how many of her own thoughts were starting to surface in my head. It often takes me a while to sort through the emotional murkiness I create for myself.
Thanks for all the thought starters Jana – you have always been such a great support and eye-opener for me and I always appreciate you.
Jana’s comments are in italics and my thoughts/replies/comments are in regulars font.
You have every right to have boundaries and dealbreakers. Don’t let anyone make you feel guilty for that. However, an area where you can do better is to to not let anyone cross those boundaries. Of course, they may do it – but you shouldn’t redraw the boundary to keep the relationship going. If smoking was a dealbreaker, then the first time you learned he was smoking (especially since he knew this was not something you would tolerate and after he lied to you about it), then that would have been the time to end the relationship.
Quite frankly, in my view the lying should have been the biggest issue. I don’t smoke and I don’t want to be with a smoker – but at least if they came out and told me, ‘Look, I do smoke. I’m trying not to smoke so much, but I’m probably always going to want to smoke from time to time.” Then you could have a real and reasonable conversation about the smoking, possible compromises (not just bullshit promises to quit) and then make a decision on whether you can tolerate that or not. With Scott, he lied up front (I’m sure because you had mentioned you would not be with a smoker and he wanted to bang you) — but then once he had gotten what he wanted, he let you “find out” that he was smoking. You bitched about it and he told you he wouldn’t – but then he did. Then you bitched about it some more and he said he would only smoke cigars – but he smoked more than that (after all, you had stayed after that first time). You bitched some more and he became progressively more angry and resentful until he told you straight up he would do what he wanted, especially in his own home. In my humble opinion, the first time you determined that he was smoking (which meant he was lying), I would have thanked him for the memories and ended the relationship. He certainly can do what he wants and set his own boundaries, especially in his home, but you don’t have to debase yourself by staying.
*This is all 100% accurate. Had he been honest, at any time, a conversation would have been possible.
I would suggest that you really examine 1) Why you were willing to keep adjusting your boundaries in order to stay in the relationship. *I adjusted (for smoking) because I wanted to believe what he was saying rather than what I felt to be true in my gut. Also, because he never smoked around me (except the very first fight in Dec, then he never did again) and he would do his best to be sure I didn’t smell it or taste it before we were together. When he said he wanted to quit (and he had quit once in his life) I believed he would want to quit again.
Do you feel you must be in a relationship to be happy? Is your sense of self-worth based on whether someone finds you attractive and desirable? *A half answer is mostly yes to both questions. I am not entirely unhappy outside of relationship, I am happier within. I have such severe body dysmorphia that, yes, much of my self-worth is centered around being comfortable in my body, not necessarily in being attractive. Desirable, yes (but not in a sexual way, just overall).
Do you not have enough activities or close friends to help you with any loneliness you feel? *Sure, I have plenty. They do not fulfill me the way a partner does.
and 2) Why do you have the mistaken belief that you can change someone – or that they SHOULD change in order to be with you? In a real, healthy relationship, neither party expects the other to change. Both parties realize that there are going to be things about the other person that drives them crazy – but they figure out a way to deal with that and/or compromise with love and respect. If one of the party is not willing to do that – the relationship will not work. *I submit that people do not change, but they do grow, and growing together, and even better, healing together, can be a beautiful thing. In the beginning with Scott I was entirely judgmental about all the normal things I usually am in dating, I let go of all of it, and saw other behaviors that I didn’t even have any idea I needed to be wary of because I hadn’t been exposed to them (in a sense).
You are not the bad guy here — but I would submit that Scott is not really the bad guy either. He lied, which is something I would not have tolerated, and he treated you with disrespect, which is equally bad. But you also lied – to yourself when you kept convincing yourself that he would change or that the relationship was healthy. And you treated him with disrespect when you started to nag him about his behaviors (smoking, drinking, hanging out with younger people, staying in his job). *Nag seems a strong word here. We had one discussion about his drinking where he admitted he drank too much and was pulling back, that was not at my request – it was because he blacked out twice when I wasn’t with him. He was also with the kids when this happened. So the conversation with the kids and drinking happened once. I was on his about his job early on but stopped long before the Thanksgiving holiday, acknowledging it wasn’t my place and in an effort to understand I had to accept his decisions. The smoking caused one big argument in December then did not appear again until March. It is easy to pull out the big ones as they are so obvious, but they are also the ones I tended to focus on the least as I knew they created the most tension.
You can’t change Scott (or anyone), but you can change yourself. But first you have to be willing to really examine your roll in your history of failed relationships. That’s a pretty hard thing to do and not fun at all. But then you need to figure out a game plan for future dating and relationships. A plan where you are not so desperate to be with someone. Where you expect respect and truth and will not tolerate disrespect. Where you get to the point where you really understand that, while you will never be perfect (and that is OK – none of us are), that you are always trying to grow and that you are willing to accept that the other party will not be perfect, but that’s OK as long as they are trying to be the best human they can be. *I believed that is what I was trying to do with Scott, I really do. I was striving at every turn with Scott, to be a better person.
The line about “expecting truth and not tolerate disrespect” should be my mantra. I have found this impossible to abide by, which does make it appear as if I am desperate to remain in relationship at all costs.
I would suggest that you also work on why it is so important to your sense of worth or your view of a “good” relationship that a man needs to follow the scripting you have in your head of how they should act – how often they should be texting and calling, how many and what types of gifts and perks they should be buying for you, how they should anticipate all of your needs on a first date. All of that is mostly superficial bullshit and doesn’t allow either party to really get to know the other to find out who they really are and what is important to them in life or in a relationship. *With Scott, this all fell to the side. I thought about these things during dating, then evaluated the importance of them over how I felt when I was having fun with Scott. I can’t say I don’t think about it, I’m not sure when (or if ever) I won’t think about some of it, but I do realize what I feel is important on a date now, and what isn’t.
Hopping into bed as quickly as you do may also be contributing to your pattern – women especially equate sex with feelings, love, or some sort of bond. Take sex out of the equation until you really have a handle on who someone is and if he’s worthy of that next step. *we can agree to disagree to a point. I had no emotional feelings for Scott post sex for many, many months. Same with other men I had sex with after Tony. HOWEVER, I also know there is a risk that when I get a little crush on someone, that’s when I should stay out of bed – that’s when the trouble starts with the imaginary bonds. Sex with Scott was very good, but I never felt the emotional connection, that real passion, I have had in the past – it was ALWAYS missing from sex.
You’ve got a continued difficult road ahead if you’re serious about becoming more emotionally healthy and learning to love yourself instead of just medicating your pain and doubt with quick fixes like weight loss surgery and drama-filled relationships. As you have found out, time and time again, these types of things cause more pain and heartache, more doubt, more guilt, and in the case of your surgery, it almost cost you your life. You deserve better, Madeline – but only you can do the hard work to make things different and better. *I love this comment Jana and it really helped me clear out some cobwebs. Strangely enough I had some of these thoughts the other nights and had written a post on lying…..I should have identified that trigger as the smoking gun long before the actual smoking (there must be a great play on words in there for a more clever person!).
I am confident, despite what has happened with Scott, that I have changed and grown. I don’t understand myself and why I want to accept an unhealthy relationship, or why that feels more comfortable to me than having no relationship. I don’t have those answers yet. I am searching for them though and I appreciate having you as a trail guide along my path. Thank you, Jana.