QUESTION FROM A GREEK TRAGEDY READER:
I am a guy who regularly reads your blog, and I always think ‘Why can’t I find someone as cool as her?’ I love the way you see and think, and for the many ways you make the day brighter.
I am in a pretty f’d relationship- if you can call it that, with a woman who I can’t seem to let go of. We met about two and a half years ago and sort of clicked, but even then I knew it was probably best to keep walking. In my town this person is well known as a basic train-wreck and has a long and colorful history, from being thrown out of restaurants and bars, from being 86′d from casinos- that’s the term we use in Nevada when a casino tosses you out and doesn’t invite you back. She is a huge type A aggressive, very volatile, loves drama and it’s like being strapped to a bomb. Add to that she is abusive – verbally criticizing me and basically making me feel worthless. She’s been with many guys and keeps many ex’s still in close contact. This is a person who is pretty toxic, both inside and out.
That last paragraph is what I’ve lived through and had all my friends live through for awhile. Obviously they all say ‘run, don’t walk!’ and I know that this is what I should be doing.
My question is why do you think a person keeps putting their hand over the flame? Why does someone who knows better keep going back, getting hurt, feeling bad about themselves and vow to not go there again, and after a day or so, think that the next time will be better, she’ll change, she’ll realize I am worth it. I am wondering what makes a person willingly stay with someone who is clearly not the one- or not even close to the one.
I am an ardent fan and appreciate any advice. Thanks.
A IS FOR ADDICTION & ASSHOLE, WHICH IS WHAT YOU ARE TO ME
Why do we keep putting a hand over the flame? Because we do a lot of stupid shit. Then, hopefully, we get to a point where we’ve been there, left that, and we face new stupid shit. Only we hopefully get better at “failing.” People stay in unhealthy relationships for lots of reasons. You can name them yourself: money, sex, fear of what others will think, fear… a lot of fear. Fear of being alone, fear we won’t do any better, fear of regretting our choices, fear of mistakes, fear of screwing up your kids even more. What’s worse, then we go around judging people for their choices instead of really examining our own lives and choices. Or we judge ourselves too harshly, thinking we’re failures instead of embracing our mistakes as lessons, as tools to better ourselves. Sometimes we tread water for years.
We’ve all been here, if not with love, than with something equally as addictive. This is a struggle within you, and the dynamic with this woman is your addiction. Look at the situation you’re in and hold it up to any addiction to see it for what it is.
Example: None of your clothes fit, you’re miserable, your friends are sick of hearing it. You swear to yourself it’s enough. You rid your home of processed foods, restock your vegetable drawer, walk into Weight Watchers, sign up for a personal trainer. You write in a journal, this time it will be different. This time, you’re done being unhealthy. You formulate a plan, set up your meals for the next few days. You wake up the next morning, and it all somehow goes out the kitchen window when you find yourself devouring a bowl of cold ziti with your fingers, as you lean against the refrigerator door. “What am I doing?!” I’m here to tell you that it comes down to two things: respect and habit, with willpower as the meat of the sandwich.
CHANGE OF HABIT, CHANGE OF HEART
This goes for many addictions, though not all because some addictions, we know, are chemically based, that it’s your body that must detox. With love, you need to create new pathos–you literally need to change the way your brain functions. Through science and brain mapping, we now know that this is possible to do simply by changing our thoughts. But doing so, working on this new thinking strategy, needs to become a habit, so real PHYSICAL changes in your brain structure can be made. I will address the details of this in a followup post.
GO ARETHA FRANKLIN ON YOUR ASS
As for respect, I’m not talking about her respect, or lack thereof, for you. I’m speaking about respecting yourself. What does that mean? It means, when you’ve set out a plan for yourself (“I’m simply not going to do that tomorrow”), and you follow through with that plan (I didn’t do it!), you’ve shown respect for yourself, and that simple act BUILDS self-esteem. We feel good when we follow through on promises we make to ourselves. And we feel like shit when we don’t respect ourselves enough to follow through. Repeat that line to yourself. Because when you wrote, “Add to that she is abusive – verbally criticizing me and basically making me feel worthless,” you got it wrong. She’s not making you feel worthless. You are. You’re allowing it because you’re not following through with what you know is right for you. You’re not respecting yourself.
As a sidebar, I’ll also add that no one really makes us feel. People say what they will, and it’s up to you, as an adult, to examine it, turn it upside down, and to determine if what they’re saying has any merit. You get to decide what to do with it.
MAKE A LIST
Day one, you admit, “even then I knew it was probably best to keep walking.” But you didn’t. Ask yourself why? Specifically, which of your needs were being met? Did your involvement with her make you feel important (Wow, she wants me!), did you feel needed, feel entertained or even more alive? Was it the excitement of a new relationship, fearing there wouldn’t be another one as passionate? If you wanted to believe that you were special, that if she changed it was because of just how amazing you are, ask yourself why you need to prove to anyone how amazing you are? Make a list.
MAKE ANOTHER LIST
Then, in another column make another list. Which of your needs are being met now? Have the needs being met changed, or are they still the primal needs you’ll always want met? Next ask yourself How can I fulfill these needs without her?
OH BABY YOU, YOU’VE GOT WHAT I NEED?
We complain that someone else isn’t meeting our needs, but we never ask if we’re meeting our own needs. “I need to feel…” Fill in the blank. I’ll be happy when… Now dissect it. I need respect. I need validation. I need to be loved more. I need to be accepted for who I am. Then ask yourself if you’re doing it. How can you, each day, alone, give yourself that need? I know what this sounds like. Self-help vomit. I know. But it works.
Another sidebar: provoking change in anyone isn’t what makes you amazing. You’re amazing because there’s no one else just like you, no one. That’s what makes you amazing, not what you do or how much you earn, or how hot the girl on your arm is.
WORK ON YOUR FOLLOW-THROUGH
My advice to you is to go cold turkey. The first four days are the hardest. After that, it’s much easier. It isn’t easy, I know. My God, I know. But you will come to a point where you realize “I don’t want to live like this anymore.” Once you’re there, it’s all about follow-through. Get through it in four day increments, setting up little rewards for yourself along the way. Go ahead, bribe yourself. Whatever works. The most important part in all of this is to build your esteem by setting attainable goals for yourself and following through with them.
GOT QUESTIONS? NEED ADVICE?
If you have questions or need advice on anything from where to eat to how to get over the bastard, just email your question to my advice email address.