Mr. Unavailable and the Fallback Girl

If you’ve struggled with an attraction to unavailable men as I have, you MUST subscribe to Natalie Lue’s blog Baggage Reclaim. The recently married recovered love addict offers frequent sage advice on how not to abandon yourself while dating and relating with men. I can only imagine the legions of women she has helped with her no-nonsense take no prisoners approach which reminds us that the only person we control in this life is ourselves. Perhaps most importantly she professes that you must judge people by their actions  rather than their words.

Natalie’s book Mr. Unavailable and the Fallback Girl talks about the very real affliction called love addiction and what you need to do to get out from under it. Love addiction is nothing to laugh about and the stress it brings on can actually cause illness and even death, especially by suicide.

Most often, the sufferer spent a childhood experiencing “love” as conditional, something to be worked for and never gained from a father or mother or other caregiver. It only makes sense that unattainable love would feel ‘right’ to these folks even though it’s so wrong.

Women suffering from love addiction cannot tolerate nice guys and continue to pursue men who will only hurt them. In this way, says Natalie, the woman must be willing to admit she is the common denominator in every failed relationship and the men are not the only ones to blame.

What many Fallback Girls (so called because they allow themselves to be treated as an option) don’t realize is that they, too, are unavailable, as fearful of intimacy and commitment as the men they can’t help attracting. We choose people who reflect our beliefs, says Natalie, and if we believe we are unlovable, guess what we will attract?

Fallback girls also fear being vulnerable with a man which prevents them from being themselves and taking care of their own needs. They are always anticipating what he wants and abandoning themselves. Ironically, this drives the man further away.

WITH CASUAL SEX WOMEN, NOT MEN, GET PENALIZED. I have been saying this publicly and being criticized for it for a very long time so I am grateful to be able to write it and credit the words to another woman who agrees with me! Casual sex is not liberating, ladies. Quite the opposite. The longer you make a man wait for sex, the more he will value you. (Those words are mine.)

Natalie offers solutions by suggesting you get wise about what healthy relationships look like. (I read Harville Hendrix’ Getting the Love You Want to help me.) She warns that because you believe relationships mean drama you find it impossible to be attracted to a nice guy who lacks the negativity that feels like home to you. In the end, however, “Drama isn’t love. Pain isn’t love. Drama is drama. Pain is pain.” Well said.

Overcoming love addiction requires building up your shattered self-esteem. In short, it requires getting a life. You MUST get the focus off of him and onto yourself. As Natalie proclaims: “Self-esteem is giving yourself the very love you’re seeking from another.” I can attest to how much harder this is done than said. We’re talking about a true addiction here, you can’t kick it over night. But with dedication and lots of reading and listening and even therapy you can find a way to love yourself in a way that will make you feel you have been let out of prison. If you’re like me, you will have slips but you get back up and carry on knowing that it is progress rather than perfection you’re after. You have to be kind to yourself and celebrate small victories.

Once you’ve decided to cut an unavailable man loose you must not call/text/otherwise try to reach him. Natalie calls this No Contact or NC. Take it one day at a time if you have to. Have a girlfriendyou can call when you really want to call him. Sit on your hands. Read Natalie’s book. Do not call him. Do not. It will be excruciating. It might be the hardest thing you’ve ever done. But one day you will wake up and realize you’re over him.

Now is a good time to set boundaries which Natalie says are essential for a healthy relationship. What are those you ask? They are something healthy people possess which tell others what they will and will not tolerate. I discovered them about a year and a half ago I’m sad to confess. Now I have a one-strike rule (as opposed to three) with new men in my life. I figure if they aren’t trying at the very beginning it can only get worse as time goes on. As a recovered love addict I now embrace the fact that there are millions of men out there for me and as Natalie says, “dating is a discovery phase”. You’ve got to know your values and be willing to stand by them and weed out the guys who try to compromise them.

Now if a guy texts me after three months of going AWOL, rather than get excited I confidently text back. “Lose my number. This is intrusive.” When another fellow texts me while he’s “in town” I text back “No thanks, I’m looking for something more. Take care.” With every loser I flick off my shirt, I am making room for a good man who is worthy of my time and attention.

I now spend a good part of my day determining whether what I’m doing feels good and if it doesn’t, I change either my attitude or my circumstances so it does. Feeling good has become my first priority and it is an essential part of being a woman. I have written here previously the words of Dr. Pat Allen and I repeat: “Women need to feel good to do good. Men need to do good to feel good.” Natalie concurs with Dr. Allen when she states simply:

GET A LIFE AND FEEL GOOD!

Amen to that. If you saw yourself in this post, you will benefit from Natalie’s book. It offers great wisdom and insight along with practical solutions for breaking free from the lure of Mr. Unavailable and learning to love and value yourself.

Published in: on July 6, 2012 at 9:20 pm  Leave a Comment  

The Definition of Love

relationship, marriage, man, woman, single, God, Bible

I heard the best definition of love: “sacrifice for the spiritual growth of one’s self and another.” So, love is all about growth. Love is also about acceptance: accepting your partner exactly as he is and not hoping to change him. Love is also unconditional. Love and abuse cannot co-exist. I haven’t been in love (even though I’ve said the words) because I never accepted any of my partners as they were, I never cared about their growth, spiritual or otherwise, and I didn’t know the meaning of unconditional. Even though I’ve been hurt alot, I realize I’ve been pretty selfish in what I wanted out of a relationship and that may have had something to do with my results.

They say whatever you want, do that. If you want to receive, give first. If you want certain qualities in a partner, embody those qualities. Love yourself first, and the world will love you back. Until very recently I wasn’t sure about the meaning of self-love and now I am beginning to understand. Do nice things for yourself and be easy on yourself. Remind yourself that you are doing the best you can. Don’t berate yourself. Speak to yourself the way you would want a loving parent to speak to you. Especially if your parents were neglectful or abusive, it’s important to learn to nurture yourself. I am just now learning to love myself and it feels nice!

Women with an aversion to nice men

wife, husband, marriage, relationship, single womanThe words of Rumi above spoke to me because I’ve learned on my journey that the best way to improve the world is to improve yourself. It’s also the best way to get ready for a relationship. I’ve been working on myself incessantly and I now realize the importance of self-love and self-care. I’ve replaced feelings of loneliness with a desire to nurture myself and be easy on myself, to take time for myself and treat myself they way I’d want someone else to treat me.

I saw a therapist today to discuss my penchant for unavailable men and while she was asking me questions about my relationship history, I realized with astounding clarity that I have left every man (or boy) who tried to be nice to me. I have been patently incapable of being sexually attracted to a man who treated me decently. It didn’t matter how handsome or amazing he was, if he was nice I walked. And that’s something they say about women like us – we have an aversion to nice men. The therapist also said we tend to pick the same partners over and over again unless we are extremely conscious about doing the work to change that imprinting. So, let’s begin!

Everyone has relationship baggage

Love addiction stems from childhood trauma

The gifted speaker in this Youtube video confirms that love addiction often occurs in people who grew up in alcoholic/drug addicted homes or with emotionally and/or physically abusive parents. My mother was alcoholic with borderline personality disorder. Love addiction often occurs in people who lived in homes where their emotional needs weren’t met. Love is the drug that attempts to fill a hole which is actually a childhood wound that needs to be examined and healed.

Friends with kids normalizes casual sex

I saw the film Friends With Kids about two pals who decide to have a baby together without a romantic relationship. They are inspired to the arrangement by their married friends who went from being cool Manhattanhites to hate-filled suburbanites upon becoming parents. The story was interesting and unique and the cast rendered the film highly enjoyable, especially Maya Rudolph who is a personal favourite. The intense dinner scene at the chalet was a huge turning point in the film and I’ll stop there with the synopsis as I want you to see it unspoiled.

My problem with the film is not so much in its ridiculous premise, but with a scene in the film in which the lead actress (who also happens to be the writer and director) meets a wonderful man after striking out countless times on the dating scene….AND SLEEPS WITH HIM ON THE FIRST DATE. The act of sudden intimacy was portrayed as normal and desirable and the couple went on to enjoy a mature and loving relationship. What? Films are usually terrible about glamorizing casual sex and treating sex with a virtual stranger as the norm but the characters at least know each other a little bit before diving into bed! I was astounded to see sex on the first date touted as a cause for celebration. In reality, this woman would probably never hear from this man again if she gave it away on the first date. What a terrible message and what a LIE to tell women. Casual sex is not liberating unless you are a man. For women, it is punishing. If you want a relationship with a man …MAKE HIM WAIT! He will love you for it.

Shame, a film about sex addiction

Shame came out on DVD today. The film by director Steve McQueen stars Michael Fassbender as Brandon, a sex addict living in New York. I used to laugh at the idea of being addicted to sex – how ridiculous! Now I realize sex can be just like any other addiction – when you use something outside of yourself to fill a hole that only God can fill. The fellow in the movie was obsessed with sex, having daily encounters with strangers and prostitutes, consuming constant pornography both at home and at work, and masturbating several times a day at home and work. Ironically, even though he was swapping fluids with strangers, he was compulsively clean: a germophope. And fittingly for a sex addict he had no real intimacy in his life. When the opportunity came to have sex with someone he cared for he couldn’t get it up! Immediately he went and had sex with a stranger in a high-risk encounter. He was hooked on illicit sex but sex with any tenderness was impossible.

Brandon’s sister who has her own issues (perhaps alcoholism) comes to stay with him and turns his perfectly ordered life upside down. she speaks my favourite line in the film when she says to him: “We’re not bad people; we just come from a bad place.” To me, that ties into childhood traumas and how they can cause pain so deep that addictions seem the only way out.

The Wounded Woman

relationship, daddy issues, unavailable man

After I learned about my “addiction to love” I was led to a book called the Wounded Woman about the fractured father-daughter relationship and how it wreaks havoc on our future relationships. I had already heard about the “longing for Daddy” that comes up when we pine away for an unavailable man. If your father was absent either emotionally or physically you will gravitate toward unavailable men because that’s your experience. The author, Linda Leonard, also asserts that a girl’s relationship with her father can result in her being either a “guarded amazon” at one end of the scale or an “eternal little girl” at the other end.

The former is the over-achiever who has taken on masculine qualities to get ahead in business or some other competitive field. Often, her father wanted a boy or made his daughter know that his love was conditional on her achievement. The eternal little girl (that’s me!) is a woman who feels herself inadequate and mistrusts her own ability to take care of herself because her father was weak and/or unavailable. This could be an absent father, an emotionally unavailable father (that’s mine!) or a father dominated by an overbearing and critical mother (mine, too).

The Wounded Woman is not an easy book to read as it’s written in psychology speak and I prefer plain language. It does give much insight, however, into the importance of the father/daughter relationship and the devastating effects that can have on future relationships with men. I’ve never had a satisfying relationship with a man because I was carrying around so much baggage from my childhood. And my father won’t change. This is another false belief of the daughter of the emotionally available man: that if she just tries harder, does better, is better, her father will show her love. I can tell you it doesn’t work that way. My father is completely closed off to emotions or warmth and that has nothing to do with me. He’s now exhibiting the same behaviour towards my two daughters and I feel as though I’ve had enough. I’m reducing our visits because I can no longer abide the lack of attention and affection toward his granddaughters. They deserve better and so did I.

Why do people lie?

My friend called me the other night in tears because she had discovered someone she was seeing was seeing other people. She wasn’t even #1 – more like #3. A few hints revealed the betrayal: the Victoria’s Secret bag she found in his room and her excitedly awaiting her lingerie gift which never came. His refusing to let her take off his t-shirt during sex even though it was 90 degrees hot – when she put her hands under his shirt she felt the scratch marks on his back. If he wanted to be with other women, why had he told my friend the two of them were in an exclusive relationship? Why had he lied?

I had told this friend about my addiction to unavailable men and she said she thinks she is addicted to men who treat her like shit. Because in spite of his lies and disrespect, she still wants this man and it is taking everything she has not to text him. She admitted to knowing she should be feeling angry and betrayed but she still finds it tremendously difficult to stay away from him. Now, let’s take a look at the definition of addiction: the state of being enslaved to a habit or practice or to something that is psychologically or physically habit-forming (I’d add detrimental – ed.) to such an extent that its cessation causes severe trauma. Clearly, my friend is under the thumb of an addiction.

Over the past week or so since I discovered how serious my relationship troubles are, I’ve felt traumatized and even a little depressed. I’ve had to let go of the lie that a romance is going to rescue me from my life. It’s a subconscious lie I’ve been telling myself for a very long time and it’s caused me to live my life “in the meantime”. Yes, I’ve done a tremendous amount of work on myself since I took a vow of celibacy in August 2010 but I’ve still clung to the belief that finding the right partner was what I needed to make me feel right, that I wasn’t enough on my own. It’s a lie that is sold to us by all forms of media including movies, romance novels, love songs and the like.

That type of romance – love at first sight, can’t eat, can’t sleep – is better described as obsession rather than love.  Look at any popular media image of love: love involves great struggle and obstacles to be overcome. Love hurts. Love takes you away from your real life. Love is an escape. Real life love is actually the opposite of movie love: love is easy; love is kind; love is not a struggle; and love does not hurt. One of the few films that shows the “ever after” part of the Cinderella story (which ends at the wedding, by the way) is Blue Valentine with Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams as a couple who fall in love and then fall apart. The film captures the realism of a couple who never took the time to get to know themselves and could therefore never be any good for a partner.

I’m a person prone to extremes and it’s difficult for me to comprehend that love might feel good in an even-keel kind of way. As the daughter of an emotionally abusive mother and a distant father, feeling good does not feel like home to me. For me, the familiar is uncertain, unpredictable, unavailable, and unsupportive. Accepting that about my parents was too painful so I went into a pattern of denial which has continued to present day. It is only today, LITERALLY, that I am accepting the fact that some people lie. And sometimes they do it to me. I keep repeating the same phrase when someone lies to me: “But they said… But they said…” Guess what? They LIED. There’s no excuse for it and it’s not the end of the world. Lying happens. And sometimes it happens to me.

Addicted to Love: Love Addiction

I chatted in my last post about an addiction to unavailable men. I had no idea in turning a phrase that is normally used to describe substance abuse, that I was referring to a true affliction around which many people (mostly women) have to work a 12-step program to be free. I learned that love addiction is not about true “love” but romance and attraction, that it is often characterized by an aversion to “nice” people, falling “in love” with someone you’ve met online and not in person, longing for someone who has no idea about your feelings or who will never reciprocate them (unrequited love), and other fantasy-type relationships. Basically it’s an escape from reality. I confess I have suffered in all these categories and had no idea it was a disease!

I’ve always longed for the man who will take me away from it all rather than one who will become part of my life. When people say you have to get to know someone on their home turf, meet their families, find out about their hobbies and work, that just sounded so boring. I realize that’s the fantasy aspect of the affliction. I was relieved to discover there is a name for these horrible feelings around my failed love life and a reason why I keep going back to the same types of men. It’s the insanity that Einstein talked about in doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result. Before I had the awareness of what I was doing, I was powerless to stop it. Now I see the reality of the situation and can learn how to change it.

I’ve already picked up new habits, like do not give more than I get hoping he will reciprocate. Actions speak louder than words (pay attention to what he does, not what he says). Stand by your boundaries (I started giving out my landline so he doesn’t have the option to text). I always laughed at the title of the book by Robin Norwood, “Women Who Love Too Much” but now it turns out I am one of them. I have to read this book to discover what is going on with me!

It also turns out that fearfully abstaining from sex as I have is a form of anorexia – withholding from yourself the thing you want out of fear that you will binge if you have even a little bit. It’s an unhealthy form of self-control. That doesn’t change my desire to remain celibate but it does give me something to consider. If you avoid something out of fear, that is markedly different than staying away while you engage in self-reflection and personal growth. I plan to get going on the latter!