I have a problem.
I take personally things that aren’t meant to be personal.
The most obvious example comes in my dating life. Recently I have been meeting a lot of this strange brand of guy identifiable by his lack of desire to commit and strong desire to hook up. Why I attract these guys, I do not fully comprehend; it’s on my personal therapy “To Do” list. Why I continue to pursue these guys after they have revealed themselves as such, I am starting to understand.
I consider myself a logical and intelligent person. Rationally I can understand that it is okay for these people with different wants than me to exist. They aren’t evil or villainous; they just are different. Different is fine and good and there’s a whole Miranda Lambert song about how its all necessary in the grand scheme of things. I get that. I can see that. The problem comes when a guy and I have the conversation about how we want different things and my irrational core belief of “you are not enough” pops up in to the back of my mind, obstructing my rational view.
I’m pretty sure that this belief was instilled upon an impressionable 17 year-old Cait after the love of her life admitted to being addicted to drugs and then chose those drugs over their relationship. At age 17 you aren’t mature enough to know that the druggie will almost always choose the drugs because their physiology has become wired to do that automatically. I didn’t take psychopharmacology. I didn’t know. My impressionable and emotional young self saw this as her “love” not being enough to sway him away from the evil illicit substances. There was something about me, the fact that I wasn’t meth, which made it so that I was insufficient on my own to sustain his interest. And that tore through me like naked Miley Cyrus on her wrecking ball. In many ways I haven’t been the same since. This core belief of “you are not enough” is the most noticeable remaining damage.
So back to the “Define The Relationship” talk. He’s saying “I just have too much going on right now; I can’t have a relationship,” right after he has made plans to go bike riding with me around the city with his family; that is 500 Days of Summer-like confusion on it’s own. The irrational core belief starts to activate my hippocampus which floods my mind with memories of what it felt like to not be enough (devastation, total annihilation of everything lovely, etc). “But I’m different from my 17 year-old self,” my 24 year-old mind reasons with the insanity. “I am way more desirable and I know things now that will make me enough. I need to prove that I am enough now and I need to do that by getting this guy to want to date me.”
It is all sociopathically calculated. I understand that I sound completely undateable at this point, but if you’re reading my blog then you already know this. I tell the guy that I actually want what he wants. I lower my standards momentarily, thinking that after he gets to know me he will fall in love with me and change his mind about wanting commitment. I’ve seen enough RomComs to know that this is gospel truth! It just takes the right girl and why shouldn’t I be that right girl? Regardless of my initial interest in the guy, he becomes essential to my life as I morph him from some regular dude to the symbol of the original rupture, my last hope for saving myself from the deep seeded knowledge of my utter inferiority. I’m sorry, random guy. You couldn’t have known.
Of course the relationship doesn’t go anywhere. I hold on for a long time and put up with living my life according to their current life goals, all the while feeling lacking because my needs aren’t getting met. They don’t think I’m crazy because I’m presenting as the cool, non-committal girl who is okay with getting one text a week and who is super understanding of them bailing last minute on date night for tickets to a Dodgers game that they don’t invite me to. They don’t know that I’m incredibly unhappy except for when they get a handful of mini existential crises texts around 11:11 PM on a weeknight. They’re all like, “Whoa! Where is this coming from? You know I adore you.” And I’m like, “Honey, if you ONLY knew.” I become placated for the moment until I go to therapy and have my therapist inform me that I am doing it again, that they aren’t Maddie, that they aren’t evil, and that I’m the only one making myself miserable by initially taking personally what isn’t personal. Fortunately, and after a ton of active cognitive restructuring (which is exhausting when you’re fighting 6 years of autopilot), I am getting better at recognizing the early signs of the cycle. This last time it only took me 5 days after the first date to let the guy know that I wasn’t interested in what he was willing to offer. Baby steps.
What is clearly a mountain for me is probably a non-event to so many of the population. I encourage you to take the time to explore where you might experience irrational core beliefs and take those beginning steps towards living your life more congruent to your goals for yourself.