Our dear friend, Bri, has, like so many of us, been through plenty of relationships with the wrong kinds of men who wouldn't commit or cheated on her, leaving her with a bit of all-too-familiar (and very understandable) emotional baggage. She's now in a healthy relationship with a great guy, but finds that she's putting her walls up because she's afraid of getting hurt again. Please help her out with any words of encouragement or suggestions you may have.
I should start out by saying I am That Girl. The one who always jumps head first into relationships with men who don't want a commitment. As a result, I have abandonment issues and insecurities. I've been cheated on in every relationship I've had since I was 18 and have been in a number of emotionally abusive relationships though never a physically abusive one.
Back in August, I met a great man at a friend’s house and we started dating. We hit it off and all my friends say it’s the healthiest relationship they've seen me in. He’s very open, honest and just as affectionate with me as I am with him. We became exclusive in early October and we expressed our love for the first time in mid-December.
The whole relationship has been easy and I have not struggled with ANY of my insecurities with him. We just seem to fit so perfectly, we have the same interests, we are both incredibly social, we are both affectionate and have been on equal ground for how often we want to see each other… this is the first time I've been with someone who feels the same way about me as I do about them.
Then the holidays arrived and he went back home to his home state for two weeks. My abandonment issues crept up on me while he was gone at no fault of his.
He was still the same person I met and we talked every day, but it became apparent to me that the reason I have been so secure and comfortable with him is because I've been receiving confirmation that he was in this for real through his physical presence and our mutual affection and enjoyment of spending time WITH each other.
He got back on the 5th and nothing has changed on his end. He’s still the same person I’ve fallen in love with over the past five months, but I found that during the 2 weeks he was gone, I had started to put a wall up to protect myself and I’m having trouble knocking it back down again. I've somewhat pulled away and have been trying to spend time away from him in an attempt to make it so I won’t miss him like that again, but all that really accomplishes is making me miss him more because I love being around him.
I’m so angry with myself because he has done nothing wrong and has not changed in any way to deserve my reservations… they are purely self-preservation based off fear of past experiences. I don’t want to punish him for my baggage and I do not want to lose him because of what others have done to me and my inability to compartmentalize. I've mentioned a few things here and there as conversation has led to it about previous relationships, but I have not told him anything in depth because I don’t want to dump on him or make him feel like he has to atone for the wrongs of other men... especially since we've only been dating since August.
I’m not used to someone who is good at communication and I find myself bottling things up inside and trying to deal with them on my own because I’m not sure what I can/can’t say at this stage. I've never been in a healthy relationship before and I really don’t want to end up making this one unhealthy because I may have been ill-equipped to deal with him being gone for 15 days.
What should I do? Do I tell him what exactly I’m going through or continue to try to deal with it on my own…? Any help you could give would be much appreciated.
I want to start out by saying that you aren't That Girl.
That may have been your story in the past when you were treated in ways that didn't honor and respect and value the special little girl you were and the beautiful woman you became, but your past doesn't define you.
You are not damaged, and there is nothing wrong with you. The fears you have around abandonment and the feelings of insecurity that are so familiar to you are realities that you've experienced as a result of what has happened so far, but the fact that you can see your triggers, the fact that you understand why you have these feelings and how this has affected who you've found yourself attracted to in the past is huge. Be so proud of yourself for being open (and willing!) to see the reasons behind what you're feeling, but now see the reality that is true right now.
See how far you've come! You've attracted someone into your life who is different than all the others and you're now in the healthiest relationship you been in. The two of you found each other because you were looking for each other. You were ready for each other, and so you did.
But of course, it makes sense, that we also bring ourselves with us to each and every new relationship, which includes all of our past baggage and the resulting emotions and insecurities. You're so not alone here.
And so it makes sense that everything was going smoothly with how you were feeling until this trigger set your old familiar pattern of dealing with this in motion. Suddenly he's not physically there, so even though the reason is different from the past reasons, and even though he's different, you feel it as though it's happening exactly as it happened before.
Those old all-too familiar alarm bells go off as you find yourself falling back on those old familiar feelings that accompanies this trigger; he's going to repeat the pattern of the past and leave you just like the rest. Your worst fears come out, and the very worst fear of all that underlies those fears: The fear that you're not good enough, you're not worth someone like this, you don't deserve someone like this.
But none of these are true, and they only come from that dark place within that hasn't had a chance to come out and see the light yet.
When you acknowledge these feelings behind your fears, Bri, you can see them for what they really are: lies that we've bought into that we're still believing about ourselves on some level. You can bring them into the light so you can call them into question, you can let them go once and for all.
They are not you. They are not about you. They don't define you.
They're simply about a story about a girl, about a woman that used to believe they were true. The reality is they're not true. These fears aren't you. They don't define you. They don't define your worth. They're simply not true. It's a perception issue, not a worthiness issue. You're so much more than these thoughts that have been allowed to create this fear, this insecurity, this feeling in you.
This new man that you're with knows you well enough to know that he wants to be with you. He likes being with you. In fact, he loves being with you. He's even told you this - not just by saying the words, but also by showing you by how he is with you and how he treats you.
Don't be angry with yourself; don't beat yourself up here for how you're feeling. It's natural to feel triggered like this, but what's different this time is that you can choose to refuse to do anything about it. You can refuse to go down that path of retreating into your self-protection mode because of what's happened in the past.
This isn't your past. This is your new reality right now.
Whether or not you choose to share with him what you're experiencing or go into more detail about your past is really up to you and what benefit you feel will come from this. He knows enough about where you've been that you certainly don't need to share with him anymore of this, but it's ultimately up to you. Not because you can't or because you shouldn't, but because it's about a different time, in a different place, in a different pattern that isn't about him. It's actually not about you either, not the you that you are now. Because if you've read my post on exactly this, You're Already Her, you just need to remember this for yourself when you're tempted to fall back on the old familiar triggers and patterns.
Know that you're not alone here, Bri. When I first met the man who would become my husband, after he told me he loved me, I felt some of those same old familiar insecurities crop up from my own abandonment issues and I found myself calling my mom on more than one occasion so she could help reassure me by asking me the questions that I already knew the answers to, that would help to restore my confidence in me, in this new person who wasn't anything like the past ones.
It was in that balance of calling into question what I knew to be true of the new reality of this new relationship with this new person, that I was able to see on my own the reality of what is now, not what was in the past.
That's the difference that matters!
I hope this helps with a little outside perspective, Bri. Know that you are so not alone in going through this, and there is so much love and support for you as you create the new story of your beautiful life. This love you've found is exactly what you deserve and nothing less!
What do you think Bri should do in this situation? Share your thoughts with us in the comments!