Given that I know my defence mechanisms are still operating on high after leaving an emotionally abusive relationship, and I keep getting cold feet with anyone who tries to get close to me, and yet still crave small doses of intimacy, how can I ethically conduct myself with people who are/could be interested in me?
posted by Chrysalis to Human Relations (6 answers total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
After getting out of a really, really unhealthy, emotionally abusive relationship almost 2 years ago, I am now simultaneously terrified of, and craving intimacy. I've been getting it in ways that felt safe to me, like one night stands, infatuations with people who I knew were unavailable/inappropriate to date, etc. A few times I have tried to have a relationship, and the feelings it brought up in me were a combination of terror at being "trapped", lots of old, bad memories, massive uncertainty and fear of hurting the other person, panic attacks and completely emotionally pulling away from the person to the point that I found them completely unattractive and wondered what I was thinking. For example, someone trying to hold my hand or say something sweet to me just read as manipulation and made me resent them for not just being straight up about wanting nothing but sex, and angry if they tried to tell me that they didn't just want sex. It's hard to know what's my gut telling me a person is untrustworthy, and what is me being on the defence. I started dating one guy who was supposed to just be a one night stand and he was definitely a good hearted, trustworthy guy, but I just could never relax. I was also really frustrated that he'd want to spend time together and not have sex straight away. I found myself just wanting to get the hell out of there so I could be free to just pick up strangers and have fun, so I broke up with him.
I'm becoming more and more aware that this is all just a defence against getting hurt and losing myself to someone again. Being aware of this kind of sucks cos even though, yay, picking up! still sounds fun, I'm realising more and more that besides the physical aspect and the ego boost I enjoy these things because it's like a tiny, safe relationship. Which explains why I don't want to sleep with someone I have already slept with, and why I'm really picky about who I pick up, and why I always love to chat with them about what their life is like while we're together.
A month ago I was drinking with friends when I met a boy who I had crazy chemistry, good conversation and lots of common interests with, but who had a girlfriend. Obviously nothing could happen, but for a while he held my hand. Because it was safe in that nothing was ever going to happen between us, it felt nice instead of ridiculous, and I actually started to feel emotions. I started to remember why it was nice to have a boyfriend, after being puzzled for so long as to why anyone would want to do anything other than sleep with strangers.
Right now there is a guy I play sport with, who I had a big infatuation with right up until the point that he must have realised, and put his arm around me while we were hanging out, at which point I totally froze up, mentally and physically. Since then we've got to know eachother a bit better, and he keeps suggesting we catch up, and I keep avoiding it. But I really like talking to him and it's nice to have someone to exchange text messages with etc. He's really cute and nice and we have heaps in common but I know I can't really go through with anything so as usual I start to focus on anything that isn't ideal when it seems like something might happen. What is the right thing to do here, and in other similar situations? I am terrified of hurting people or making them turn out the way I have turned out because of how my ex treated me so I try to warn people in advance but at the same time, I don't want to push people away before they even have a chance to make it clear they're interested, cos that's presumptive and arrogant, and I feel like my heart's going to break if I can't have any closeness with anyone. How can I ethically conduct myself? It makes me happy that he seems interested and thinks of me in his spare time, but he deserves better than what I can give him in my present state and I don't feel like I'm ready to stop just going out to pick up. I care for him a lot and want to do the right thing, but I don't know what to do. If I knew that I would never have to see him again, I'd love to spend a day with him, but I see him a few times a week at our club and don't want to have to leave.
In this and other situations, is there a way I can be considerate of other people's feelings, and still get my needs met in some way? Or is the only fair thing to do to have only one night stands with strangers until I am pretty confident I'm not just going to keep getting cold feet and messing people around? Is it ok to flirt with boys you're friends with knowing that even though you might fantasize about it, you're not actually going to kiss them etc. At the moment I feel a bit like that girl out of Strongbad who says "I have a crush on every boy" but I don't want to be someone who makes other people feel bad or used. Even with internet dating, am I just wasting peoples time if I just want to go on lots of dates because I'm still emotionally unavailable?
(FWIW tomorrow I am going to book in to restart therapy next year)