What is the best advice you would give re: rediscovering yourself/life
October 21, 2013 6:43 PM   Subscribe

Or, more suitably... your best advice to someone trying to learn more about themselves (become stronger, learn what I want/need/wont settle for) to prepare for dating in the distant future.

My past questions have been riddled with uncertainty, lack of boundaries and hurt in relationship. I see a clear sense of a loss of self with my questions, and in my past relationships and I realize I am the one that has been okay being treated poorly, and that needs to change. In order for me to live a fulfilled life I need to know my worth and have a strong self of self before even considering sharing my life with someone else. I am 30 and do want to have a family in the future and it scares me that I have "wasted" so much time on people that never really gave me what I need, so I need to get to the root of the problem.

What advice have you received or would you give to someone trying to pick themselves back up and dust off, start new, what have been important aha moments or realizations in your dating experiences, or self realizations.

I settled in the past for things probably most people wouldn't, I doubt myself and don't listen to my instincts as much as I should. I dated someone recently who devalued me by telling me I lacked "substance", or questioning if I would be a good mother, stone walling me and always ran away when an argument ensued. I am a good person and live a substantial life, there is no real reason for him to feel this way other than it was his attempt to mirror his own insecurities. Every week or two weeks he pops back in to my life proclaiming he just needed time to realize the woman I am (this has happened 4 times), that he is sorry for hurting me, that he wants to give me his 100%, couples therapy etc etc., and when I don't give him the answer he wants or take him back in the time frame he thinks is appropriate he says " Im sorry for taking you on this rollercoaster ride, I decided I needed time for myself to figure out what the hell I really want...I need to let us go." I requested he stop contacting me so I'm not even so much as tempted to entertain his antics and have blocked him as of now but am afraid of his recontacting me by other means. I just want to become that strong woman I was before I let someone cut me down- I don't know why I ever let someone treat me like that and I guess what I am looking for here is for people to tell me how they rebuilt themselves after maybe feeling like they lost a part of them in a relationship, or how they overcame their self esteem issues, how they finally realized nobody should determine your worth. Why was I okay with a man treating me like this, and why was I so manipulated into thinking I was being overly sensitive? I don't believe anybody should be in a relationship where one person puts the other person down/devalues them for no good reason, agree/disagree?
posted by BrandNewMe to Human Relations (13 answers total) 24 users marked this as a favorite
When I was in this position, I did therapy for a while to talk things out and figure out what was going on in my head, and get myself into a better place. I also love Sarah Jenks - she has some super expensive programs (which I have not personally done, though have heard good reviews if you have some cash to burn), but also lots of free and useful advice on this sort of thing on her website that you can take advantage of if you do more of the legwork yourself. (The website talks some about weight loss, but the focus is really on figuring out your happiness and passion NOW, regardless of weight loss.)
posted by rainbowbrite at 7:00 PM on October 21, 2013 [1 favorite]

(1) Empathy is very useful
(2) Avoid drama
(3) approach others from a 'what can I give' vantage, not 'here's what I need'

Sounds like your ex has some issues, but you managed to enjoy the same conversation with him four times and there was still a possibility of 'temptation' to further 'entertain his antics.' He 'always ran away when an argument ensued' so presumably would've taken off on request and yet, four times.

'I am a strong/good person and deserve to be treated well' can go very wrong if it is not grounded in good stuff, like: empathy and avoidance of drama. Your question is full of how lousy this guy was and how innocent you are, but outside of extreme contexts (abuse, history of ~ , etc) it normally takes two people to get into these messes. You have agency; you don't need to be an audience for somebody else's drama, and if you are, well, accept that that's how you wanted to roll at that time. Likely neither of you is a horrible person, or even short on 'substance.'

Thinking in terms of: people, wastes of time! rather than people, that contributed to your life (even if their contribution was to teach a difficult lesson) isn't likely to be useful -- bitterness sucks -- and feeling that people in general need to be 'better at giving me what I need' is harsh and likely to lead to disappointment. Think about a time you behaved poorly. Think about the excuses that come to mind. What 'excuses' could the people you now dislike have? Polish up your basic humanity, so to speak, and once you figure out how to fix your own inner wounded child (angry adolescent, whatever), it's easier to empathise with, and respond appropriately to, other people's troubles.
posted by kmennie at 7:16 PM on October 21, 2013 [7 favorites]

I don't know what your commitments are (job, family, etc.) or your finances, but you might consider traveling somewhere on your own for a substantial amount of time. There's nothing like being alone in a strange place to help you come to grips with just what you're made of. You'll meet people who don't have any conception of the old you. You can be just who you want to be, in the present moment. You'll learn how strong you really are, because you'll only have yourself to figure things out. You'll learn how to be your own person, and of course, you won't be around when that guys tries to get in touch.
posted by Joleta at 9:02 PM on October 21, 2013 [1 favorite]

I don't have any earth-shattering answers, but I'm rooting for you and I'll pass on a few things that help me.

Don't come from a mindset of scarcity. There is plenty of time, there are plenty of chances, there is more than enough of everything you need. A person who thinks, "but they're all I have," is much more likely to put up with crap than a person who thinks, "this isn't the only relationship out there for me."

Be willing to be surprised or caught off guard by your own feelings. To do this, focus on what you feel, not what you think you're supposed to feel. Next try talking about these feelings, the good, the bad, and the weird. If you can talk to a person about the real feelings it's a good sign. If you're with someone who only wants to hear about the feelings you're supposed to be having, the "right" feelings, then it's probably time to move on.

Why was I okay with a man treating me like this...?
I don't think you were okay with it, you just mistakenly thought it was the best you could do at the time. But you're second question shows that now you know better. You know you have value, and I agree!
posted by balacat at 9:06 PM on October 21, 2013 [2 favorites]

Keep a journal. Our memories of who we were are notoriously bad.
posted by dws at 9:36 PM on October 21, 2013 [4 favorites]


- I went ZERO TOLERANCE on drama.

At the same time....

- I started listening to guided meditations.
- I did therapy.
- I started hiking while listening to positive minded podcasts to maximize positive input.


- Towards the end when I felt better, I made a promise and kept it. I decided to spend One Year always saying "yes" or jumping in and offering assistance, whenever that was possible for me. I spent a year doing favors fof others with ZERO, nada, NO EXPECTATION.

It worked out really really well for me.
posted by jbenben at 11:45 PM on October 21, 2013 [5 favorites]

it scares me that I have "wasted" so much time

I have always found it necessary to make some kind of peace with the past before I could move on. Call this period of your life "experience". There is no sense fretting over lost time.

Our memories of who we were are notoriously bad.

Which is fortunate for the present.
posted by three blind mice at 3:06 AM on October 22, 2013

Response by poster: @ Kmennie... I can see where you would assume it was me who lacked empathy, and this isn't me pointing the fingers because I don't want to accept blame, but he actually admitted that he believes he lacks empathy and I think that is where this all came to blows. I'm not perfect, no, but I have built a life for myself that I am proud of and I care a lot about myself and the people around me. I am a "people pleaser" (and I to a fault, see the best in everyone) and that can be the biggest issue with me in relationships, I will give my all, which I did, and for whatever reason when I am not feeling that my needs are being met and I voice them- it's not taken well and that is when I need to realize we just aren't meant to be and move along. Instead, I give 4th chances to men that continually walk away from me claiming they need to figure some things out, just to come back and tell me how "amazing" I am or that they made a mistake, or they realize now that I am perfect for them. I understand people need to walk away sometimes to see what they haad right in front of them, but once someone leaves once okay maybe I can move on from it, twice - then its my fault for accepting them back. This man was great in the surface things which is why I am having a hard time when he pops back into my life proclaiming his undying love for me. He supported me, "adored" me, would give me the most affection/attention anyone has ever given me, he cleaned, cooked, helped me around the house, was my best friend....the biggest problem is he seriously lacked empathy and introspection. Nothing was ever his fault, he had a bad temper and would shut down and become this stone cold creature. He had strings of short term relatinships, two children from diff women (one of which he did not tell me about just recently after I found some information did he divulge), still communicated with exes in a way that seemed a bit too much, and sort of had a way to cut down my accomplishments (having a BA and MA by 25- he would say well school isn't that hard; or owning a home on my own- he would say well your ex helped you, he didnt; or telling me I lacked "substance" because I didnt have to go through the things he went through (children, military, learning to be a "man" on his own, etc). It's seperating all those good things, the affection/adoration, attention, time, wining and dining me- with the things that I was uncomfortable with his temper, lack of empathy, poor communication, inability to take responsiblity. I know I have things to learn too, trust me, I do. I'm working through these things. The problem is I'm not sure why I can't let go of something that seems so toxic just because of all the attention and love I got from him, he would make me feel like a queen at times, but at others when he lied about stupid things or had a way of putting me down- I don't think anyone deserves that but then at 30 I think.....maybe I can take the good with the bad because when it was good it was great. I just want to regain my sense of self, be strong and be able to tell him no when he does come back, if that is the route I decide to take. A 5th chance is out of the question- but I need to find me again and be strong in my convictions about the things I deserve to be given... or maybe I am asking too much.
posted by BrandNewMe at 5:02 AM on October 22, 2013

Is there a women's shelter in your area? A support group for women who are healing from toxic or abusive relationships might be very helpful.
posted by sockermom at 6:12 AM on October 22, 2013

1. As soon as I started to ask (the world, life, other people) for what I really wanted instead of what I thought I could get, my life improved a great deal. Discovering what you really want can take some work, though!

2. Lately I've been making some needed changes in my life using reality therapist Robert Wubbolding's book, A Set of Directions for Putting and Keeping Yourself Together. I like it a lot. Quick read, not so quick to work through the exercises, but totally worth it.

3. It doesn't particularly matter how much time you've "wasted" with men who aren't worth your time. You're only 30! Let the guilt go as best you can and move forward. Therapy could be a good way for you to do this.

Good luck!

P.S. That guy sounds like a sociopath. Don't be ashamed of being manipulated by him--they're experts at stringing others along. Be glad you're free of him and keep your resolution to steer clear.
posted by sister nunchaku of love and mercy at 6:23 AM on October 22, 2013

Best answer: I'd swear off men for awhile and just date myself. I KNOW I'm going to treat myself well and I'm going to get really, really used to it.

I'd figure out the kinds of things I like to do, then do them. I'd take classes in things that interested me, learn to knit, join the church choir, see the movies I enjoy. Things like that.

I make really nice dinners for myself, or I'm perfectly happy with a bowl of cereal, I don't HAVE to do anything I don't want to.

I say NO more. If I don't want to do anything, I don't. I'm okay with spending Sunday in bed with the kitties, watching old movies. Because THAT'S what I want.

I read more books. Not hokey self-help books, but Victorian novels. Because that's what I prefer.

I write. A journal, a blog, lists. I also recommend writing down what your relationships have taught you. Unless you can 'verbalize' it, you may not process it and the lesson may be lost. I'll get you started, "I learned that I don't like it when my boyfriend can't decide if he wants to be with me, so in the future, I will prevent someone from boomeranging in and out of my heart."

I organize. Nothing makes you feel better than cleaning out your life. Get rid of stuff you no longer need. Digitize your music and books. Donate the hard media to the library. Donate old clothes, bedding and decor to charity. Get new things as appropriate. Clean the fuck out of your environment!

I always recommend getting new bedding after a break up. Who wants to look at the comforter you shared with him? Ditto a new scent. Do you want to wear perfume that reminds you of that date you went on with him?

Travel. Go someplace you always wanted to go. Explore, do! Go with friends, go with a tour or go alone, whichever is the most appealing. I saw Paris and Seoul with my Mom! We had a blast!

Live your life for today. 30 is too young to start fretting about wasting days. Each of those days, each of those experiences, good or bad, contributed to where you are right now. Today you are the happiest you have ever been. Embrace that. Own it!
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 7:31 AM on October 22, 2013 [3 favorites]

Therapy helped me SO MUCH with this. It's so easy for us people-pleasers to just do what other people want to do, to just say yes to the jerk because that's what he wants, to not even know what we Want, other than to do whatever it is someone else wants to do.

It leads to feeling crappy when it turns out we wanted something entirely different. It leads to other people not enjoying us, because we Never initiate a new activity. It's bad for us, and bad for our partners.

It took me awhile in therapy to learn to identify what I wanted, why I'd let my self-esteem melt into a puddle of goo in the sub-basement, and what I was feeling. But now that I have a much better sense of what I want, feel, and love? My life is So Much Better.

If you're unwilling to go to therapy, try journaling, and ask yourself specific questions about what you want, what you'd do differently in your next relationship, what you're feeling, and why. Keep digging - you're worth knowing better!
posted by ldthomps at 10:08 AM on October 22, 2013

The abusive men I've known have lured women with their flattery, generous gifts, and 'helpful' demeanor. As I learned (to my regret), these actions are meant to create a sense of obligation in the women they target.

Instead of allowing yourself to be lured in by an excess of anything in a man, look for someone balanced. Helpful, but allowing you your own opinion and respecting your decisions. Complimentary, but not excessively so. Thoughtful, but in a moderate way that doesn't make you feel obligated to him. Someone with a life of their own who doesn't need you to make his life complete, but who wants to share it with you. For me, this has been the secret to a healthy and happy life with my spouse.

As you learn to spot and make friends with these more balanced men, the drama guys won't seem as appealing.
posted by summerstorm at 5:37 PM on October 26, 2013 [1 favorite]

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