How to change my I'm not lovable belief system?!? Help me!!
April 7, 2011 8:55 AM   Subscribe

How can I fix myself so I can attract and believe in a healthy relationship is out there for me? I have great friends, I'm well-liked, I have a great career and have made tons of progress working on myself over the last ten years to make sure I don't adopt the patterns of my family of origin. I want a relationship but I still keep falling into the pattern of "I'll never meet anyone for me" or thinking that I'm meant to be alone AND I WANT TO STOP THIS BS ALREADY! Help/ideas please!

I'm a female in my late 20s. My family was extremely dysfunctional and physically violent and emotionally abusive and from a very young age although I could not describe what was wrong... I knew I wanted out and this was not what I wanted in a family... and I left the house as soon as possible. I learned how to draw boundaries with the family members (some I had to just plain cut out) and have a healthy distance between them and myself. Luckily, I also had some awesome friends and had (still have) a propensity for picking out good friends and I have a great "family of choice" ...I consider myself very fortunate. Due to family dysfunction and the resultant sexual abuse recollections/flashbacks in my early 20s (I was sexually abused by my father, whom I also believe assaulted my mother.... so I'm sure that affects my belief system), I went through several years of therapy and really worked hard on making sure I made myself healthy and not adopt the patterns from my family of origination. I'm now in my late 20s. I am considered pretty healthy and my former therapist thinks that I'm pretty healthy and doing well for myself. I haven't seen her for about 3 or 4 years now. She is no longer available for me to see anymore as she is out of the area.

I was always afraid of romantic relationships, and I am still but not as much as when I was younger. I hate to admit it, but yes, my extremely abusive father has scared me into thinking that all men on some level are like him. I have been fortunate to have several good guy friends who in no way are like him, and I have a several relationships, including a long-term one years ago that ended due to irreconcilible differences. So I think I'm getting better, but I still have these beliefs and I want to just stop it already:

1) I am meant to be alone
2) I will never have a family of my own
3) I'm not going to meet someone I will feel connected with and have a happy, healthy relationship
4) I think I believe deep down I'm unlovable
5) Since I don't find myself strongly attracted to a man very often... when I do and it doesn't work out, I think it hurts me a lot more than if I was more healthy and didn't have the beliefs #1-4 above.... and it makes me sad.
6) Sometimes I believe that guys don't really like me.... they just think they like me..... maybe I think they only care about sex. I know it's not true because I see the men close to me NOT acting like that so why do I still believe it?!?!

Although I tell myself logically these above are not true... I mean I have a great family of choice, friends who love me, and overall I think I like myself pretty well...... I still can't shake this relationships-aren't-going-to-happen-for-me monkey off my back.

I have read "How to be an Adult in Relationships" and found it useful but I can't seem to figure out how to get rid of my belief system above.

I hope that makes some sense. So my question is.... how do I get over this? Because I'm not getting any younger and I'd like to meet someone great and have a healthy, fun, loving and long relationship and settle down and feeling this way is pretty crummy.
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posted by anonymous to Human Relations (8 answers total) 22 users marked this as a favorite
As someone who also had a pretty dysfunctional family upbringing, I identify strongly with a lot of the internal issues you describe. (also, being 37 and still single, I also identify with your sense of "relationships aren't gonna happen")

> "I still can't shake this relationships-aren't-going-to-happen-for-me monkey off my back."

First, realize that this type of frustration is not unique to you. Even people who are healthy, well-adjusted and have a "normal" family history have difficulty with relationships. The factors you list are important, but relationship success also depends on things like timing, geography, demographics and a variety of other dynamic/unpredictable things. (and you didn't really tell us any of that information in your description)

> "how do I get over this?"

Since you've already covered the oft suggested therapy-angle,.. the only other advice that seems suitable is better dating-strategy, but it's difficult to give accurate suggestions on that since we don't know where you live, what you've tried (in person dating? online dating? speed dating?), etc,etc. It could be you're making some fundamental mistake, but we have no way of knowing since your description is so generic. (IE = you've told us alot about your history and mental/emotional condition, but very little about your dating attempts)
posted by jmnugent at 9:21 AM on April 7, 2011

Although you already Did therapy, you might find it helpful to try therapy for Specifically this problem (and your old therapist might be able to recommend someone). I focused on a lot of similar thought patterns in therapy and found the therapist very helpful for adding a person who would help me pick apart those patterns and work on next steps to change the situation. Having an advocate who wouldn't let me get away with too much self-defeatism really helped.

If you'd really like not to go that deep again, you might try a life coach or dating coach - that professional help can make a huge difference!
posted by ldthomps at 10:21 AM on April 7, 2011

Try Cognitive Behavioural Therapy. It's not just for depression. It will teach you how to alter the way you view yourself and the world at large by pinpointing the logical inaccuracies in your thinking. They often aren't obvious until you actually to get rid of them.

The book, Feeling Good, can be gotten from Amazon for a few dollars.
posted by Solomon at 10:34 AM on April 7, 2011

I liked Legacy of the Heart for general thinking/working through stuff, not specifically for relationships. I have gotten to a place where I am okay with my future either single or with a partner, and it's nice. I don't feel destined for one or the other. I just want whatever is healthiest for me.

The book is good for finding the deep trigger areas that are still sensitive. That might help you focus in on the aspects that need more TLC.
posted by griselda at 11:25 AM on April 7, 2011

As Wordwoman says, there is nothing wrong with you. The awareness practice techniques in this book (and in Cheri Huber's other books) can be immensely helpful for becoming aware of the kind of self-talk you describe, and for learning to disregard it.

Cheri's book Be the Person You Want to Find: Relationship and Self-Discovery is another good one coming from the same awareness practice orientation.
posted by Lexica at 1:41 PM on April 7, 2011

Spending time in silence each day, and just allowing feelings to surface might really help you dig deeper (meditation). It is good, to a point, to consciously try to fix a problem, fix yourself. But in my experience, in the end, it is cultivating awareness and peace that bring the magic. I have hit these kinds of walls, too--I KNOW what's true, I KNOW that these thoughts of unworthiness aren't really true...yet I can't make my mind get past them! I have spent years trying to make myself believe I deserve happiness and love and a wonderful life, and it mostly wasted my energy and left me exhausted. I believe it's because the beliefs are deep down, below the mind, a thing not of the mind. Silence and meditation can move you into your heart, and bring things to light and transform them.

I think it's great, GREAT that you have done so much work on parent issues and developing yourself--I think this inquiry can continue to go deeper. Of course, you are ready to get it resolved so you can move forward. That's amazing that you've found your own family--you've got such a great new experience that you can build from, something to show you an alternative to how you grew up. It sounds like you've come a long way!

You said you feel that you are unloveable. This is wonderful that you recognize this! I would go into those feelings and explore them, explore the pain and frustration. When you bring awareness to emotions like this, and for the moment let go of trying to fix them, it can open up the process. "Fixing" can be a way of avoiding emotions you are scared of, trying too hard to cut off the past and turn away; the desire is understandable, even admirable, but the method is counterproductive. Instead, you can think of these emotions/frustrations as the doors. Somewhere inside yourself, you are in a dark room. Lighter than it used to be, but still dark. Perhaps you are scared of the doors because every time you open them, or they creak open by themselves, something hurts and stings your eyes. You have been in this dark room a long time. But it's the light that's needed.

I think we get stuck in these emotions/beliefs often because we are afraid of them, afraid of the we do what we are told to do in our culture, we try to fix them. They are still there, though, so we are always feeling them in some sense, and every so often we have a cry or angry outburst of frustration, but perhaps never, in a sustained and deep way, allowing the wound to be felt, nurtured, and thus truly healed. The pain/frustration is a message, just like physical pain. Something is wrong. The place where the frustration is is the same place where resides that part of you that believes in yourself, that loves totally, that is free. Awareness is reclaiming that part of you--it just happens to be dis-eased right now, dysfunctional.

You weren't allowed to be a child, you were not loved as a child, as you were, when you should have been. One way to reclaim that child, that soul, is to feel everything you feel absolutely completely, letting it pass through without resistance.

Are there ways in which you are not allowing yourself to love yourself? Not following a passion, for instance. Things you are putting your energy into that are actually not what you really want, but perhaps feel that you must or have to. I believe that relationships with others always reflect the inner relationship with yourself. If you learn to love yourself as you are, then naturally there will be an openness to love from another, and the ability to love fully someone else. Listening to your words: " I'm not going to meet someone I will feel connected with and have a happy, healthy relationship". You might try applying this to yourself--Are you connecting with your self? Are you happy? These things do not depend on being in a relationship or being married.

You could also spend time with daily affirmations---daydream about what you desire in a partner, how they look and how they are to be with, make it real in your mind, keeping it positive and fun without getting too attached to particulars or attached to the idea that "this needs to happen now or soon". Feel how being with this person would make you feel, how good and wonderful it would be, and what you might do together, and how you would treat each other and love each other, the life you could have. This will irritate those parts of you that don't believe in this, and when those negative feelings come up experience them fully; just completely allow them. This exercise might bring up a lot of emotions.
posted by Thinkmontgolfier at 4:58 PM on April 7, 2011 [8 favorites]

If you do find that next person you are interested in, I would consider delaying sex and exploring the relationship in other ways; this might help you not feel the guy is only interested in sex, and so often sex can be a substitute for feeling loved, anyway, especially considering your past sexual abuse. Lexica's reading recommendation Be The Person You Want To Find sounds like a great book.

I just read something myself a day or two ago and your post reminded me of it. It may not completely apply to where you are at, but I think the principle is true.

I hope you find your next step soon, anonymous, whatever that is for you. You have come so far and you really do seem on the road to success!

"Start trusting yourself -- that is the fundamental lesson, the first lesson. Start loving yourself. If you don't love yourself, who else is going to love you? But remember, if you only love yourself, your love will be very poor.

A great Jewish mystic, Hillel, has said, "If you are not for yourself, who is going to be for you?" And also, "If you are only for yourself, then what meaning can your life ever have?" -- a tremendously significant statement. Remember it: love yourself, because if you don't love yourself nobody else will ever be able to love you. You cannot love a person who hates himself.

And on this unfortunate earth, almost everybody hates himself, everybody condemns himself. How can you love a person who is condemnatory towards himself? He will not believe you. He cannot love himself -- how can you dare? He cannot love himself -- how can you love him? He will suspect some game, some trick, some trip. He will suspect that you are trying to deceive him in the name of love. He will be very cautious, alert, and his suspicion will poison your being.

If you love a person who hates himself, you are trying to destroy his concept about himself. And nobody easily drops his concept about himself; that is his identity. He will fight with you, he will prove to you that he is right and you are wrong.

That's what is happening in every love relationship -- let me call it every so-called love relationship. It is happening between every husband and wife, every lover and beloved, every man and every woman. How can you destroy the other's concept about himself? That is his identity, that is his ego, that's how he knows himself. If you take it away he will not know who he is. It is too risky; he cannot drop his concept so easily. He will prove to you that he is not worth loving, he is only worth hating.

And the same is the case with you. You also hate yourself; you cannot allow anybody else to love you. Whenever somebody comes with loving energy around you, you shrink, you want to escape, you are afraid. You know perfectly well that you are unworthy of love, you know that only on the surface do you look so good, so beautiful; deep down you are ugly. And if you allow this person to love you, sooner or later -- and it is going to be sooner than later -- he will come to know who you are in reality...

One is afraid to become intimate. To be intimate means you will have to put aside the role. And you know who you are: worthless, just dirt. That's what you have been told from the very beginning. Your parents, your teachers, your priests, your politicians, all have been telling you that you are dirt, worthless. Nobody has ever accepted you. Nobody has given you the feeling that you are loved and respected, that you are needed -- that this existence will miss you, that without you this existence will not be the same, that without you there will be a hole. Without you this universe is going to lose some poetry, some beauty: a song will be missed, a note will be missed, there will be a gap -- nobody has told you that."

posted by Thinkmontgolfier at 5:05 PM on April 7, 2011 [10 favorites]

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