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Discussion around Personal Growth

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Hello LS community! Some of you may remember me as I’ve posted here many times in the Breaking Up forum over the years but thought I would open a discussion here. I want to discuss some personal growth I have been working on and see what others can relate to or might otherwise have thoughts on.

I am now in my early 50’s and have never been married but have been in many relationships varying in duration. The longest of which was 10 years ago and lasted about 3 years ending with a failed engagement. The most current one lasted about 18 months which ended about 10 months ago. I am currently seeing someone casually but with very low emotional investment from both of us. A mostly physical relationship of convenience, really (low-stakes)

My growth started after the failed engagement a decade ago as I was in a very painful and confused place and I wanted to heal, understand what went wrong and learn more about myself.

My journey began with the book “No More Mr. Nice Guy” by Dr Robert Glover. I quickly found a local men’s support group based on the work presented in this book and worked on and off with this group for multiple years. Most of the following observations came from my work around this book and its ideas, but I have also gained great insight from others such as Tara Brach, Susan Jeffers and others.

The following are behaviors I have identified in regards to myself and especially my high-stakes romantic relationships. These are relationships where I perceive great value and desire in my partner and very much want them to last, yet they never do.

1. Like many of us, I grew up in a toxic and dysfunctional family unit and had one parent who was very, very critical and also emotionally unavailable. This has cultivated both an abnormal fear of abonnement and a large void in my own personality (approval, validation and acceptance) that has stuck with me for many, many years. I try to get this need met to varying degrees, and with varying strategies, by romantic relationships I perceive as high-stakes (not like the relationship I am in now – perhaps this is a defense mechanism I use to avoid being hurt?).

2. I often fall into a pattern of viewing these high-stakes relationships from a place of Reflected Sense of Self where I feel a certain way about myself based mostly on how my partner is acting or things she is telling me. I am currently working on using a more Solid Sense of Self which sets me up in a place where what she says and does really does not have the ability to affect how I feel about myself. I know it sounds simple but this way of doing relationships has been a very challenging and I have had a hard time recognizing and overcoming these behaviors.

3. I also tend to create a lot of Covert Contracts in an effort to manipulate and manicure the way my partner views me. I believe this is in an effort to avoid being seen for who I really am, which I can perceive as bad, weak or simply not good enough. For example, in more than one relationship, I would often do things for her mostly unsolicited, like her taxes, change the oil in her car or fix the leaky faucet. The list goes on and on. I would do things for her that demonstrated value in hopes of getting my needs met. Yet she was unware of this ‘contract’ I had created for us and would naturally often fall short of her end of the contract – meeting my needs. The idea is that I was trying to get my needs met by pleasing her.

4. In conjunction with these behaviors, I often give away my personal power to my partner. I leave it up to her to provide me things like approval, acceptance and validation. I often won’t give myself what I need like self-love, self-esteem, self-worth, self-confidence, etc., but rather I tend to force this onto her, which of course is a lot for anyone to take on for another person. And it is very risky as it can be taken away at any moment by someone else. Again I am now working on owning these things rather than requiring they be gifted to me by anyone else.

5. I am fearful of getting into another high-stakes relationship because although I know what not to do, I have realized I’m really not sure I know how to be in a successful relationship. Other than the things I mentioned above, I have, however, realized that being 100% honest and as open as possible from the very beginning of the relationship is critical. Yet, I know many of us, including myself (and her), get caught up in the rose-colored, “honeymoon” stage at the beginning where we tend to fantasize about our new partner and the emerging relationship. From here it is an easy jump for me into the unhealthy behaviors I know all too well. It is also imperative to have the strength to walk away from a partner who is simply incompatible. Looking back on my last high-stakes RS, we should really not have dated as long as we did as it was doomed from the beginning, but I (and she) didn’t have the strength to look past the fanaticizing and rose-coloring of a new and fun RS.

To summarize, here are some of my observations and realizations:

  1.  I clearly have unresolved abandonment issues and roadblocks to healthy personality that still needs to be addressed.
  2.  I’m learning to use a Solid Sense of Self over a Reflected Sense of Self.
  3.  I need to stop creating Covert Contracts and make pleasing my partner a top priority in an effort to get my own needs met.
  4.  I need to provide and own my personal power rather than allow it to be gifted to me.
  5.  I need to be 100% honest and open about who I am from the beginning and also look for this same information from my new partner. And have the strength to leave an incompatible RS early on.
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It seems you have a lot of insight. It’s really tough to break these habits. You have to acknowledge how hard it is, then force yourself to do it even when your fear is triggered. It will be painful in the short term. You may and probably will be rejected until you meet someone really compatible. But there’s no alternative. 

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