Dear John takes on authenticity, bad exes, and emotional intimacy.
Earlier this year I faced one of those horror story ex boyfriends. One of those psychos that stalk, harass relentlessly, and do whatever it takes to sway the truth and break a person’s will. By the grace of God, I got out of that, and the authorities have taken on the case. I have since sought therapy, taken into account my own part in this event, and have done my own housecleaning in that regard.
I have recently started dating again, and my hopes are rather high, but it’s still new. I’ve had to re-evaluate my old patterns and dating habits. I used to be the type that fell in love very easily, leaping before I looked. Now, I realize it’s as calculated a decision as much as it is a natural event.
I’ve been more open and honest about everything with this new gentleman than with anyone I’ve dated – in regards to my past, where I’m at, what I want, what I’m capable of giving, and what I will not accept. And quite frankly, being able to offer that level of honesty at the front end of a relationship is quite refreshing. If someone can’t handle me as I am, they don’t deserve who I am to become, right?
The new guy doesn’t think I’m authentic when I say I have moved past the wounds my ex left, and I feel that the same honesty that I value so much in others is now hindering my ability to move forward into this new relationship. I don’t know if I should work past this difference of opinion and gain his confidence – because I do understand why he questions – or simply hit the “next” button.
Isn’t intimacy all about sharing the truth of ourselves with another person? Into me see…that includes the good, the bad and the ugly – my past, where I’m at, and what I want for the future. If I don’t know and love myself as I am, I can’t expect someone else to. Am I wrong?
Does the new guy say you’re not being “authentic”? Or does he say, “You may think you’ve moved past the wounds your ex left, but they were pretty deep, so don’t be surprised to find them re-opening from time to time”? There’s a big difference: the former statement (the one you say he’s making) seems cold and even hurtful, while the latter one seems pretty reasonable to me. So which is it?
It sounds like you’re over-thinking things here – an understandable inclination, given your desire to avoid repeating old patterns. If the new guy gives you a clear reason to dump him, then by all means do so, and the sooner the better. But if he’s just making you aware of the fact that mental doors we think are bolted shut have a way of unexpectedly swinging open from time to time, consider what he’s saying without making it an all-or-nothing test of your relationship. Do you like him? Is he kind and trustworthy? Does he make you laugh? If the answer is “yes,” just enjoy being with him and see where things go.
I need advice. I grew up in a very dysfunctional family. I never sat and ate with a family til I was 18 and had dinner with my now-ex’s family. We never had conversations, discussed goals, dreams, appropriate behavior, etc. So at 16 and 19 and 27 years old, I had my sons with the man I was with for 16 years (from when I was 15 to 31 years old). We both grew up in very unhealthy families.
Well, he slept with my cousin and got her pregnant and I took my boys and left him. He was very angry I left and has had no contact or provided support in any form since I left three years ago. I struggled real bad for 18 months after I left because I had a man who had complete control over my life (or half of my life). So I met another man who needed a woman to support him and the trade I was hoping for is he would control my life like my ex did. Well, that didn’t happen and he would be so upset that I was trying to get him to control my life that he would get drunk and hit me or drink and drive and leave. The final straw was this New Year’s Day. He went to prison and the day prior I found out I was pregnant with our daughter. Now I’m left (once again) with four kids to support with no skills, no way to model a healthy relationship for them, and no father to support his children.
I’m now working a graveyard shift, so I’m free to get my kids to and from school and sports with no issues. It’s very tough and limits my ability to explore the world since I’m free from the control of others. I tried reaching out to his mom during the pregnancy in the hope that I can connect with a seasoned woman and learn how to be a little more healthy in relationships. She denied me. And now the baby is here. She says she loves the baby yet doesn’t make any attempt to connect with either of us, and when I do see her, all she talks about is my daughter’s father’s ex-wife. So finally I ended everything with my daughter’s father because of things he is currently doing and I ended it with his mom because of her behavior.
How do I change? Who do I change into? This has to stop. I desire a healthy, loving relationship with a man, and a great plus would be a healthy relationship with his mom. With my history and with four kids and all the negative experiences I’ve had, is it a realistic dream to work for, especially hearing how bad relationships are nowadays?
Yes, it is definitely a realistic dream to work for, but with the challenges you’ve faced from the time you were born, that’s exactly what it’s going to be: work, and a lot of it. But you can definitely do it. In fact, you already started when you looked at your life and your patterns and decided that, “This has to stop.” Good for you.
Of course you need help – anyone raised the way you were would. None of us is born with a knack for fostering healthy, loving, long-term relationships. Some of us are fortunate enough to be born into families where you learn these things by watching Mom and Dad; the rest of us are left to figure it out somehow, and many never do. For someone in your position, the very first place I would turn for help would be a social service agency where you live. They will be able to offer you the counseling you need to change the patterns you fall into because they’re all you know. They can also help you with things like legal services (the fathers of your children should be helping with support if at all possible) as well as the exhausting practical details you’re dealing with every day as the single mother of four kids.
I think your desire to connect with and learn from an older woman is such a fantastic idea! It’s too bad your last boyfriend’s mother was unwilling to fill that role, but from what you’ve said about her, it doesn’t sound like she has much to teach you anyway. Is there a church you attend? The pastor there might know another church member who might be a good fit for you. If not, that’s another thing the social service agency I mentioned earlier might be able to help with. Pursue this avenue and try not to get discouraged if it takes some time to meet the right person. Your heart is telling you something by pointing you in this direction. Follow it.
I also wanted to mention that there was one part of your letter that I simply didn’t understand – the part about wanting someone to control you like your ex did. I can’t see how that would be desirable, but it wouldn’t change my advice to you anyway. You know you need help for your own happiness and also to set the right example for your kids. Please seek it out until you get it. And if you could take a moment at some point in the future to let me know how you’re doing, I would sincerely appreciate it. Best of luck to you.
Three years ago I met a really nice guy through some mutual friends. And although he wanted to date me and pursued me almost every time we saw each other at social events, I was just coming out of a very toxic relationship and was not interested in dating anyone. Over the years, we would run into each other occasionally, and it was always obvious that he was still into me, but I still wasn’t ready. We eventually lost touch but recently reconnected on Facebook. He was working out of state, so we did a lot of talking on the phone and texting. The texting became very flirtatious and even sexual. The anticipation of him coming home was very exciting!
Once he came home, we were virtually inseparable, and after only a month, we moved in together. Things have been amazing! He is sweet, loving, considerate, affectionate, and makes me laugh constantly. But of course, there is one issue that I cannot get to the bottom of: he is not usually interested in making love unless he has been drinking. There have only been a few occasions where I initiated it and we have had sober sex. The flirtatious and sexy texting is a thing of the past (he won’t even acknowledge a sexy text), and he seems to get uncomfortable if it even seems like I want to be intimate.
I have tried talking to him about it a few times, and he just seems to offer up excuses (i.e., tired, stuff going on, not feeling well), or he turns it into him not being good enough. But then he has also said that it seems like I am just not happy unless he is attacking me every moment of the day (which is definitely not true).
I’ve asked him if he has an issue with pornography, a self-esteem issue (he is overweight and talks negatively about himself often), or even some type of trauma. But he says no or that he doesn’t think so. I’ve tried sexy outfits, barely any clothing on at bedtime, bought his favorite perfume, a playful and sexy Valentine’s Day gift, flirting and playfully wrestling with him, telling him how sexy, handsome and amazing he is, telling him how much I appreciate him, and even pheromone perfume. But nothing seems to help, so I’ve basically given up, thinking that me trying so hard could just be adding pressure. And still, we only have sex maybe once a week, after a night out with friends. Even on Valentine’s Day, we went out to dinner, just the two of us, after exchanging gifts, and he was complaining about being tired before we even got home at 10 pm. This told me that he wasn’t going to be in the mood, and I was right. Yet I’ve witnessed him party until 3 am and not once mention being tired.
How else can I approach this with kindness, compassion, and understanding? I am so in love with him, but I really feel like there is something he just isn’t telling me. I know that if this continues, I will become resentful, and I don’t want that. We connect on every other level, and I want to work this out, but he isn’t giving me any real explanation, and I am not feeling sexually satisfied.
I think it is important to mention that he is 32, and I am 41. He owns pornography, tells me that I am sexy, constantly likes FB profiles of half-naked hot chicks, and talks about strip clubs with his friends (which just makes me feel worse). We go out with friends almost every weekend, which seems to also involve him drinking. I am the sober one and have recently decided that I will not have sex with him anymore if he is intoxicated. I just don’t want to.
I am sad because I feel like I am constantly having to keep my passion for him under wraps. I keep wondering what is going on, what I might be doing wrong, and now I am having trust issues. He has a trip planned later this year that is “men only,” and all I can think of is that he will be at the strip club every night (which I have a big problem with if you are in a committed relationship).
Any advice you have is very much appreciated.
Dear Stifled Passion,
It sounds like your guy likes sex fine; it’s intimacy – emotional intimacy – he’s afraid of. That might explain why he needs to be a little drunk to overcome his reluctance. It’s not sex he’s avoiding; it’s an emotional connection with you.
I’m not sure there’s anything he’s not telling you. He may not be able to put his fear (and the reason for it) into words. And your (wise) refusal to just let this ride and settle for things the way they are is making him withdraw ever further into his shell.
This isn’t going to go away and it isn’t going to change without couples counseling. Is he open to that? Are you? If so, that’s the only avenue I see that offers the possibility of being happy with this guy. If that’s not an option for whatever reason, only you can decide if what you’re getting now (emotionally, I mean) is enough. Because I think it’s all you can expect to get.