Powering through when it feels hopeless
December 29, 2014 3:15 PM   Subscribe

I am having the worst holiday season of my life. Help me cope.

The holidays are really hard on me because I have no love in my life. My boyfriend of two years says I'm "wonderful" but he does not love me. My younger brother is a hateful mysogonist with conservative values who thinks I'm stupid. My mother and father do not love me unless I perform a certain way at work and they made that exceedingly clear when I was home for the holiday. I spent most of Christmas week crying in the bathroom at their house. Needless to say, I'm downright miserable.

I left an abusive man over two years ago and after being treated in a similar way by my parents over the holidays - constantly judged, being told "jokes" like "if you keep acting so lazy I am going to make you walk around the street naked" and then an intervention on my poor work ethic after being invited to go shopping with my mom (I think it was a trap? I was working, she asked to go to the mall, I said "let me get my shoes on!" and then they both just laid into me about how I am not working hard enough) - I feel like I now finally understand why that happened to me. I have been taught that love is earned and not a given, it can be taken away at any time if I show that I'm not good enough for it. Unfortunately, although I brought work home over the holidays I chose instead to spend more time with my mom and dad than they thought was appropriate. The holidays are meaningful to me because I love my family. My parents are getting older and I know we don't have that many of these times left where we are all together and healthy so I only worked half days when I was home so that I could make cookies, watch movies, and do other traditions with them.

They did not tell me they loved me when I left to come back home. I attempted to leave early and I was told that they would never forget my actions if I punished them that way. To me it was not a punishment but a desire to take care of myself - they were right, I was not working full days and if I went home I would be able to work full days. Instead of leaving early I toughed it out. No matter what I did I was going to come home and feel miserable and I knew it.

Basically I'm now back in my small, cold apartment alone with my cat. It's raining outside and I can't get out of bed. I work from home and I can't bring myself to sit down and work. I just feel too sad. I keep crying. I'm disappointed that my parents feel this way about me. I am really alone.

I don't know how to function in a world where the people that have been closest to me are so withholding of their love. I know logically that nothing is wrong with me and that I'm no more unlovable than anyone else but then I look at the facts. I am 32. My first serious boyfriend wouldn't marry me because it was "too soon" even though we dated for 7 years (now he's engaged to someone he has known for about a year). My next boyfriend abused me. Now my new boyfriend won't tell me he loves me because to him "love is a forever promise" and he isn't ready to commit. My mom and dad don't love me because I am not good enough for them. Every one of my friends is married with kids aside from me. I log on to Facebook and it's full of people who are not as smart as I am, not as attractive as I am, not as kind as I am (and I realize that this sentence makes me sound very unkind) and they have so much love. Why? I don't understand what I am doing wrong.

Are some people just destined to be unloved? What do you do if you are one of those people? How do I pull my big girl pants on, wipe my tears away, and buck up and get to work? I have a huge deadline looming and I basically have sacrificed everything for my career. It is a make or break moment at work and I have no support.

I have a therapist. She's great. I have friends but I don't involve them in my inner emotional life very much because I am not that close with them. I am pretty much alone here. I feel so incredibly sad and I don't feel like working at all. Who cares? It doesn't matter. Work is second to love and family. It is a means to an end. It is just a job. But it's all I have. And I don't care about it at all anymore - I hate it. If I hadn't been career driven my whole life I would be a fat stay at home mom with a big family in a house full of love. Now all I've got is my job and a bunch of people who have no problem telling me that they don't love me. How do I move forward in this mess?
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (38 answers total) 27 users marked this as a favorite
First of all you don't deserve to be treated like this by either boyfriend or parents. Secondly you need therapy to learn that you don't deserve to be treated this way and don't need to put up with it and to trust that ditching the boyfriend and looking for someone who actually loves you, and setting boundaries with the parents are the right thing to do. The kind of therapy that helped me learn how to set boundaries with parents was cognitive behavioural therapy - it really worked and after the difficult phase of setting boundaries and making sure they were respected, has made things so much better.
posted by Flitcraft at 3:24 PM on December 29, 2014 [6 favorites]

I don't have much to offer in the way of concrete advice, but I would just like to say that I'm sorry things are so hard right now, and that I've been where you are, and there is a way out--but it's more like a determined muddling than any real "path."

Oh and also this is an incorrect thought pattern that you might wish to revise:
My mom and dad don't love me because I am not good enough for them.

Your mom and dad don't love you because they're abusive fuckwits, and such fuckwits can't love ANYone, that's why they're fuckwits. It has absolutely zero to do with you.
posted by We put our faith in Blast Hardcheese at 3:29 PM on December 29, 2014 [46 favorites]

I hear you. I totally hear everything you are saying.

I'm a woman also and I feel lied to. I feel like I was told if I just work hard enough everything will be fine, and it's NOT. That was a lie.

I got to the point where I quit my stupid "good" job, enraging my parent who believes I should miserably work for someone else forever. I work for myself now. My dad hates me.

Love your cat. Love your friends. Figure out what matters to you and screw everything else. It will be hard and take years. But here you are, teetering on the brink of really figuring out what has meaning for you and you're so young. Good for you. You are having these terrible feelings because you aren't being true to yourself. That sounds like I'm accusing you but it's very passive and normal and accidental, not being true to yourself. And it is very hard to figure out what "true to yourself" is. But you are feeling the warning signs of not being true to yourself right now.
posted by Punctual at 3:29 PM on December 29, 2014 [36 favorites]

Some of the following may help:

My first serious boyfriend wouldn't marry me because it was "too soon" even though we dated for 7 years (now he's engaged to someone he has known for about a year).

So, he's an asshole. Repeat to yourself: "I am better without that asshole in my life."

My next boyfriend abused me.

Not your fault. Repeat to yourself: "I am better without that asshole in my life."

Now my new boyfriend won't tell me he loves me because to him "love is a forever promise" and he isn't ready to commit.

Two years is more than enough time for someone to say they love you. It might be worth ending it so you can say "I am better without that asshole in my life" and find someone who isn't an asshole.

My mom and dad don't love me because I am not good enough for them.

One of the things we discuss in therapy a lot is effectiveness (I am the client, and am not a therapist). In terms of your goals and priorities, how effective is it for you to spend time around people who make it clear you're not good enough? Or to follow the theme: do you really need asshole behaviour in your life? (I am not saying your parents are assholes; I'm sure they have lots of redeeming qualities. But "We don't love you because you're not good enough" is assholish behaviour. As is inviting you out and then castigating you for saying yes.)

Have you discussed these specific issues with your therapist? You might want to consider printing out this question and taking it with you to your next session, because it seems like there is a really specific goal to be achieved here for which long-term support and coaching would be incredibly valuable. Discussing medication (you don't mention it in your question, so I am assuming you're not on any) might also be a path to explore at this stage.

How are your friendships? I totally and completely understand that friendships can't fill the holes left by the desire for familial or romantic love, but they can be love of a kind too, and can help soften the edges somewhat.

For what it's worth, "Are some people just destined to be unloved? What do you do if you are one of those people?" is a pair of questions I ask myself frequently and have not yet found a complete answer to (my therapist and I are working on it though; there's hope), which is why I focused more on the other stuff above.

One thing that helps, somewhat, is creative pursuits. I write music, I'm teaching myself to paint. These things are really only for me, but some validation has come my way because of them, and it helps.

Email in my profile if you need it.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 3:33 PM on December 29, 2014 [16 favorites]

Now my new boyfriend won't tell me he loves me because to him "love is a forever promise" and he isn't ready to commit.

This guy may not be a horrible person but he is not what you need right now. You'd be better off dating someone where you both know it isn't serious, or someone who is crazy about you, or no one at all.

Otherwise I agree with Punctual, you are in a place with a lot of potential right now. You can clearly see how mean your parents have been to you. I also think you know that mean voice telling you that you are unlovable is their voice, which has taken up residence in your head. You need to evict that voice! Stop discounting all the things you are doing right-- work and your friends and what a good daughter you try to be, even though your parents act like jerks.
posted by BibiRose at 3:37 PM on December 29, 2014 [9 favorites]

It's not you. You're just not picking great guys, and you aren't alone in that struggle. It's not easy to find a man of integrity that you're also attracted to.

You aren't alone, and I hope that helps a little bit. You deserve your own respect and care.
posted by discopolo at 3:45 PM on December 29, 2014 [3 favorites]

I think it was a trap? I was working, she asked to go to the mall, I said "let me get my shoes on!" and then they both just laid into me about how I am not working hard enough)

Oh, the whipsaw. I love that tactic. Classic abuse/manipulation.

I have problems in the loneliness/sadness department too. Other than spending a bit of time with my mom in her rest home - she has dementia and aphasia, so most of what I can do involves just sitting there with her - I was alone this Christmas too. I've never had love from a man other than my dad (and THAT relationship was fraught), and my mom is really the only living family member who ever loved me (my dad died years ago).

So what do I do to keep my spirits up? I joined my local Zen center and am going to a knit night tonight at the home of one of the other Zen students. I have begun to cultivate friendships with other women who don't judge me and who are fun to be around. I did manage to make a new friend while I was down in PA, and I'll probably spend some time with her on upcoming visits. I baked like a fiend this season, getting involved in the MeFi cookie swap (which was great). I plan to do some phone support on a hotline this coming year.

Do I love myself? Well, not sure about that, but I try to act as though I do most of the time. Toxic people in my life? Not for long, not any more. And sometimes that's meant long periods of near-solitude other than work.

A Buddhist practice has helped me challenge beliefs such as the one where I think I need love from someone else to keep from being miserable. Therapy can help with that too.

I'm here via MeMail if you want.
posted by Sheydem-tants at 3:48 PM on December 29, 2014 [15 favorites]

Your cat probably loves you.

That's a start. Not to be glib, but you mustn't discount any source of real love in your life right now.
posted by tel3path at 3:54 PM on December 29, 2014 [31 favorites]

I just came out of this year and some change. I also don't know anything other than an abusive and unloving family life. Memail me.
posted by Young Kullervo at 3:55 PM on December 29, 2014 [2 favorites]

Snuggle your cat.
posted by Jacqueline at 3:59 PM on December 29, 2014 [5 favorites]

These people all sound like Grade A Assholes. Even the shiniest happiest most self-confident person would be totally beaten down in this situation. It's not you, it's them.
posted by radioamy at 4:04 PM on December 29, 2014 [19 favorites]

Another reframing effort, to add to fffm's:

- Boyfriend #1 - first LTR, early twenties. Exceedingly common for people to stick to each other for longer than they should, because it's the first time they've experienced those feelings and had a go at something serious, and then inertia. Often, one or both is too immature (because brains aren't fully cooked before 25ish) to either make it work or call it off, or to even recognize incompatibility. It might be that you were incompatible, and you aren't seeing that right now, in which case, it worked out for the best. It might be that your ex wasn't ready for marriage, as a person, even if he might have been the person for you in ten years' time. This is how it is for really a lot of people, you're not alone.

Also: A lot of these are not great relationships. Some of your married friends probably stayed in these not-great, just ok relationships because inertia. They made compromises. Not all of them are great romances.

- Boyfriend #2 - covered.

- Boyfriend #3 - Ditch him, he's either not ready or isn't for you. If you stay open to people, you may find someone who is for you, at an opportune time. But you have to be prepared to end relationships with those who aren't.

It sounds like in these relationships, the other person has been the one calling the shots. From now on, you call the shots. If you have a deal-breaker and the deal is broken, end it. Clarifying what's important to you will also make it easier to recognize potential partners who are better for you.

- Parents - they are acting abusively. My personal view is that when people behave this way, it is usually out of ignorance, out of a lack of knowledge about how to live and love better. That isn't to excuse them, or to say you shouldn't protect yourself from hurtful behaviour, because you should. But this interpretation, if you can agree with it, might at least free you from bitterness. Because if it's true, it's not that they had the power to love you the way you wish to be loved, and chose not to, it's that they didn't know better.

You, unlike your parents, have a strong instinct for love, and the ability to see things more clearly. So I have great hope for your ability to create love, and room for it, in your life.
posted by cotton dress sock at 4:11 PM on December 29, 2014 [15 favorites]

I feel this 1000%. Note the outpouring of sympathy here and know you're not alone. And tell yourself when people tell you how little they love you that they are displacing their own anger and frustration on you and focus on your own emotional well-being whether it is through therapy or finding friends who feel like you and like things you like. I don't know where you are living but there are places where you can meet the like-minded in any given city. If your're in DC me mail me. I like new friends and I can lend a sympathetic ear. Good luck.
posted by skippingcharades at 4:13 PM on December 29, 2014 [3 favorites]

You're an amazing person for being so decent and aware as to realize that 1) you don't deserve this treatment 2) nobody else does 3) You know what you need, and you currently aren't getting it. You are currently hitting a low point that will be a source of transformation as you are going to create a life that you deserve and want. I know it sounds impossible, but you do have roots of support and we are rooting for you.

Also, your current boyfriend sounds like someone who has avoidant-attachment issues, is emotionally unavaliable and is not what you need in the moment. If he isn't gonna say that he loves you, I doubt he will until he realizes that it's too late and you are just about to leave.

You need someone who is emotionally avaliable for you. There is also a recurring pattern of unavaliable men in your life who are not giving you the love they need, which is mimicking how your family is treating you. I would really recommend re-evaluating your own personal attachment style, and working on trying to demand, cultivate, and attract the love you do want in your life with your friends. I'm sure your friends would be supportive if you allowed yourself to open up to them about what is going on their lives, and they could help you build new support networks.

I also provided some pertinent links, that could be helpful and encouraging. For me in my lowest points, I constantly kept googling specific keywords in order to help myself articulate my needs. It helped me in both therapy and talking to friends about what I wanted, and to be authentic about showing up for myself and my needs. These abusive folx are not going to give you what you need, but you can find it elsewhere, in yourself and others. Sending so much love <3

Attachment Styles Quiz
posted by yueliang at 4:14 PM on December 29, 2014 [4 favorites]

Sweetie, my heart aches for you. You sound like a perfectly wonderful person who was born into a miserable family. Say this to yourself. Over and over. "I deserve better than my parents. I deserve to be loved unconditionally."

For now, cut your parents out of your life. They are horrible to you and abusive, and how can you love yourself, if you let these horrible people tell you lies about who you are. You may want to reconnect with them in the future, but for now, don't go there. You will never get what you need from them. I'm truly sorry for your sake, because you seem to want it so badly, but these people did not deserve to have a wonderful daughter like you.

As for being a fat, happy mom, probably not, it's a fantasy. And your boyfriend. Don't even bother breaking up with him. Just bag up his stuff and leave it with his doorman. You're too wonderful to be with someone who's not willing to commit to you.

If you're in Atlanta, memail me and I'll take you out for a cocktail, maybe we'll go to the Clairmont Lounge, that'll cheer you up.

Call the friend you're closest to and tell him/her that you need a shoulder to cry on, and then go visit that person and tell them how sad you are, and how bereft you feel. Sharing your feelings will help you so much.

Plan to spend a glorious New Year's Eve alone:

1. Treat yourself to a yummy dinner. Get it to go, or cook it yourself. Something special. Get the kitty some chicken livers.

2. Pick out a lovely book. Something light, with a happy ending, but something that can keep you occupied for the entire evening. I like Pride and Prejudice, but you know what your special book is.

3. After dinner, have a soak in the tub, with a facial mask, and sugar scrubs and a hair treatment. Luxuriate and feel yourself cleansing all the toxic feelings and bad juju. Check out this Psychic Detox stuff. I have on in a roller ball like cologne and it really does help. I got mine at the witchy store. If you have one, they'll have something similar.

4. Burn a scented candle or incense.

5. Make an offering to your ancestors. Thank them for all that they've done so that you can be here, right now, an educated, beautiful, kind and wonderful woman. Spill out some wine onto the ground, or burn some Joss Paper (get it in Asian stores.) Or just buy the fake money in the toy aisle at the grocery store.

6. Write a letter to yourself to be opened on NYE next year. Talk about what a shitty year you've had and how you're through with it and are putting it behind you. Then put all your hopes and dreams for the new year into the letter. Talk about the cool people you'll meet, the things you'll accomplish, the places you'll travel.

7. Once you're done, tuck yourself into bed and open your bookie. Read until you're sleepy.

On New Years Day, make an altar. Pick up the makings at the witchy store. Put it in a place where the kitty can't get at it, a bookshelf is good. Get a crystal/mineral, perhaps a little statue of a god or goddess who speaks to you, a tangerine, some incense, flowers, a shot of rum, here are some ideas.

Pet the kitty for a bit, then take a walk outside and go for a yummy breakfast. It's a new year and a new day and 2015 is going to be fan-freaking-tasitc!

Take good care of yourself! Love!
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 4:32 PM on December 29, 2014 [28 favorites]

I log on to Facebook and it's full of people who are not as smart as I am, not as attractive as I am, not as kind as I am (and I realize that this sentence makes me sound very unkind) and they have so much love. Why?

Possibly because you are not actually better than those people.

The boyfriend sounds like a bit of a write-off and I'd recommend putting a bunch of distance between yourself and your parents, but, the answer to "Why am I so alone when I am smart, attractive, and kind?" is often that one is not as much of some of those things as one thinks. Speaking from some regrettable personal experiences on that one. Also, smart -- past a certain extent -- and pretty don't actually help with that much once everybody gets a bit older. (It seems like a small tell that the hypothetical happy at-home mother in your post is described as "fat." Really...?)

32 is about the right time to be hitting the wall when stuff that mattered in your 20s starts losing some of its appeal and you need to re-assess who you keep in your life and who you invest time in. Your life doesn't sound destined to be horrible, it just seems like the 'who you are investing time in' part needs re-tooling. You mention having friends you're not close to -- either stop stringing them along as "friends," or be a real friend, or find some new people you do want to invest in. Right now your support system is entirely unsupportive people, which probably means you are investing in the wrong relationships to be investing in.
posted by kmennie at 4:44 PM on December 29, 2014 [2 favorites]

Every year it strikes me how the supposedly magical holiday season is secretly so difficult for what seems like the majority of people. Facebook only makes it worse - even many of my friends I know are having intense family drama portray these times as filled with love and fun. It's the absolute worst thing about social media, making you feel like you're less than people who really are just accomplished at talking a good game. You really, really are not alone.

I think the people close to you would be horrified at their own behavior if they read this post. Because I think they do love you, in their own ways, and they are mostly just shitty at showing it. Your parents in particular - they may be acting like assholes, but I'm willing to bet they would be pretty upset if they knew you felt like they didn't love you. Your boyfriend's weird semantic aversion to saying those words is annoying and disappointing, but 2 years is a long time, and he clearly cares about you in some deep way even if he's afraid to commit. So that's not to excuse any of these people's behavior, but maybe just to reassure you that you aren't unloved; I think you might just be in the unfortunate position of loving people with their own issues that make it difficult for them to express how they feel appropriately. It really is about them, and not about you. I promise. Unfortunately you probably can't change how they interact with you (and the broader world); you can only decide what role they're going to play in your emotional life going forward.

If you can spare it, I'd take a day off from work and have lunch with a friend or do some shopping or go to a movie, relax on your couch with your cat and some crappy TV, read a book or go for a walk - just something to get outside of your routine and be nice to yourself. I know that may be difficult with a deadline looming above your head, but it sounds like you might be more productive overall if you can step away from it for a while.

The main thing, though: you aren't unlovable. You aren't broken. You've just been unlucky in this one area, and there isn't any reason to believe you're doomed to a lonely life. The way you feel today, and the way your life looks right this moment, is not the way it's always going to be.
posted by something something at 5:05 PM on December 29, 2014 [2 favorites]

The beauty of being a self-sufficent adult is that you get to pick your own family if the one you were born into can't give you what you need.

I agree with those above - ditch the boyfriend and begin the search for a better one. Call your friends and make plans. Cultivate those friendships into deeper ones. Make some new friends if the ones you have aren't with people you can see having deeper friendships with. Get out of your house and go do something for others who need your help (volunteering). I know all of this sounds like effort when all you want to do is cry in your kitty's fur while wearing jammies, but to get this new family started, you need to put in some time.

Think of growing your new loving "chosen family" like starting a garden: it's a lot of work to prep the soil, plant the seedlings, water, tend, etc., but once it's established and flourishing, you get to reap the benefits and the work you need to put into it is more manageable.
posted by cecic at 5:11 PM on December 29, 2014 [4 favorites]

Everyone has given you excellent advice. I only want to add that I cherish my close friendships in part because they love me. It's a platonic love and understanding that I don't get from my family. So don't be afraid to invest in your platonic friendships; it will pay dividends and, unlike romantic relationships, deep friendships are much more likely to last.
posted by serelliya at 5:11 PM on December 29, 2014 [2 favorites]

I agree with everyone above...especially ruthless bunny (of course). So let's start with baby steps : take a shower and wash your hair. Dress warm and go for a long walk. Stop and get a fancy coffee and read a newspaper. You are still young. There is time to find friends, find love. First, do what it takes to become happy in your own life. So cliché, but volunteer and join a club. Get online now and find one. Best wishes for 2015. Hugs
posted by leslievictoria at 5:24 PM on December 29, 2014

I'm sorry you're suffering. You're going to be ok, though! You have a lot in your life: a job, an apartment, a cat, access to therapy. These in and of themselves comprise a life, and it can be a worthwhile one.

Your self worth doesn't have to be defined by people external to you, whether they are your parents, bf or on facebook.

If you haven't considered it already, antidepressants can help when you are in crisis. There is a lot of anxiety in your post, in addition to sadness. The right med plus therapy can help you calm down so you can build up your core sense of self and not be buffeted by the opinions and wishes of your parents and bf.
posted by charlielxxv at 5:45 PM on December 29, 2014 [1 favorite]

I log on to Facebook and it's full of people who are not as smart as I am, not as attractive as I am, not as kind as I am (and I realize that this sentence makes me sound very unkind) and they have so much love.

Stay off Facebook until at least the holidays are all over. Facebook is the WORST for "everyone has this thing but not me."

BTW, I don't think that thought process is necessarily unkind, that thinking that you're attractive, kind and smart means you deserve love. You do, and with romantic love those qualities are part of what draws people to love each other, so of course you're looking at other people and comparing. Also considering what you've clearly been taught by your family, that having those positive qualities "earns" their love, which should be more unconditional than romantic love. Don't beat yourself up over that.
posted by zutalors! at 5:45 PM on December 29, 2014 [6 favorites]

“…I'm no more unlovable than anyone else.”
…I would like for you to try to frame this thought in a different way,
“I am AS LOVEABLE as everyone else.”
Take a moment and remind yourself of this universal truth.
“I know that I am AS LOVEABLE as everyone else.”
What I see as your immediate goal is to take a moment to recalibrate and eventually you’ll be able to power through some of the work you brought home.
My next goal for you is that you love yourself, just a little bit, just enough so that you can go outside and be “of service” to others.
I don’t mean of service to your family, to your boyfriend or to anyone else who doesn’t deserve your time and energy.
But to be of further service to your neighbors, to strangers, to the person you pass in the street.
Finally, I do thank you for the service to others you have achieved here, with this question, with your act of opening up yourself to us, with your act of asking for help.
This will be of service to those of us who are unable to articulate these feelings and to ask these frightening questions.
Thank you.
posted by calgirl at 6:11 PM on December 29, 2014 [2 favorites]

To add to the above...the pain you are feeling right now is a really long-term healthy thing because that is your spirit rising up and saying you don't deserve this...and you really, really don't. It sucks that you have had these experiences but now you are feeling what you could have and it is so much better.

For the short term, please treat yourself the way you would want others to treat you. Be kind, caring, make sure you eat and drink on a relatively healthy schedule, and do some things you enjoy. Push through work if you can; if not, it happens.

For the medium term, this boyfriend who doesn't love you needs to be gone unless he does love you joyfully and willingly.

For the long term, now that you can really feel what you do not have, you can find it. It will be okay.
posted by warriorqueen at 6:40 PM on December 29, 2014 [5 favorites]

You've got some great advice here already, but I just wanted to step in and stay: delete your Facebook.

As a chronically depressed and anxious woman, the best thing I ever did for my mental health and personal advancement was to delete my Facebook account. It's tough the first two or three weeks. You've been locked into that "What's going on with everyone else?" state of mind for too long. But you'll quickly realize, without Facebook, how much more you're now focusing on yourself. How much you're not thinking about what others are doing (remember, Facebook is often about 'performing' one's identity and showing mostly just the positive aspects of one's life - it doesn't mean everything's rosy for these married-with-kids couples). How much more time you're spending on things you enjoy. It's a gradual change, but it is worth the commitment.

Since I quit Facebook, I've taken up painting, meditation, gardening, kombucha brewing; and I spend a lot more time at the library learning about anything I want. When you're eliminate the cruel distractions of Facebook, over time it becomes easier to engage only with the things that you love and that interest you. Which is how your life should be.

And that, alone, can do a great deal for finding true friendship and love in your life. It just takes time. Love yourself and care for yourself first.

Also: Your description of your family makes me think you may benefit from reading "Emotional Blackmail: When The People In Your Life Use Fear, Obligation and Guilt to Manipulate You."
posted by nightrecordings at 7:02 PM on December 29, 2014 [7 favorites]

I have a friend who was in your place two years ago. I won't go into details, but it was pretty bad. But she kept in touch with friends, made a huge effort to keep up connections even when the rest of us were so involved with our busy lives. We took walks, had lunches, drank a bottle of wine every once in a while. She went into therapy. She just kept slogging through the shit. She worked hard at getting through it, and she did get through it.

If I had to pinpoint her successful formula, I would say that she identified and prioritized her issues, and started chipping away a little at a time, starting with the biggest ones. She's not what you would call a "go-getter", but she kept putting one foot in front of another. Eventually things got better.

It will get better. If you are in Memphis or anywhere close, please memail me. Would love to have lunch.
posted by raisingsand at 8:27 PM on December 29, 2014 [3 favorites]

Some of us do NOT have parents who come into our lives with love. Rather they come from a place of Ego where they're the only important ones alive. If your parents have subsumed your sibling view all of them from a place where You, You!, are the one whose safety and happiness have truth and meaning.
It can take years to get their messages out of your head. Accept that, counter it when you can and set up a boundary system where none of them get through the perimeter without consent.
Don't listen to commercial American life's take on The Family. That's not your truth. Support the people who support you.

As far as love maybe the guys you were around found something great. Maybe not.
Never look at the outside assuming you know the inside.

I rowed and ran 1000 miles the 1st year, getting to Me. or away from what was never for me. Then my parents forbade my marriage to the guy I love. I laced up my shoes and was gone.
Don't let anyone else live your life.
posted by Twist at 8:28 PM on December 29, 2014 [1 favorite]

You've got some great advice here already, but I just wanted to step in and stay: delete your Facebook.

Oh god, yes. I didn't notice the facebook reference in your original post at first, but absolutely nuke your facebook from orbit. or like, just deactivate it, but nuking it from orbit is the only way to be sure!

Facebook is basically an envy machine. Just as fashion magazines can create body dissatisfaction where there was none before, Facebook can create envy not only for things you don't have, but also for things you have already, and even things you would never actually want. I promise you, while you are sitting there feeling less-than, all of your married friends on Facebook are stewing in white-hot, irrational envy of you, of each other, and of some asshole from high school.
posted by We put our faith in Blast Hardcheese at 8:33 PM on December 29, 2014 [6 favorites]

I can very much relate to your position right now. I'll be home soon with my dog after a holiday visit with my mom that has left me, as usual, utterly bewildered at the emotional poverty in which I was raised. Here are the thoughts that bring me the most joy:

1) I may be terrified but I am also free. Totally, perfectly, free.
2) I feel love by loving others, not by being loved. And when I can be fully present to the reality of another person, I automatically start loving them. Very much so. I don't even have to know their name.

I do art in the space between and it grounds and motivates me, and removes me from the longing for another.

Oh, also, do you feel hopeless or do you think it is hopeless? I find it easier to cope by acknowledging that my thoughts cause my feelings, not the other way around. Meditation helps me understand the difference.

My heart goes out to you and your cat. Hugs and best wishes.
posted by macinchik at 8:49 PM on December 29, 2014 [6 favorites]

I think you're a victim of the happiness fallacy which is very common in the West. Advertising and social media build expectations so high that anyone who does not live up to them or doesn't keep up with the Joneses feels miserable.

I will sound harsh but I think you should reframe your thinking and stop wallowing in self pity. Nobody "deserves" love or happiness. It's a construct and you need to work for it.

Think of how lucky to have a job and a flat and see if you can divert the money you're currently wasting on a therapist to give to a worthy cause, and help others who are less fortunate than you are.
posted by Kwadeng at 9:30 PM on December 29, 2014 [1 favorite]

" I log on to Facebook and it's full of people who are not as smart as I am, not as attractive as I am, not as kind as I am (and I realize that this sentence makes me sound very unkind) and they have so much love. Why?.....Are some people just destined to be unloved?"

In my opinion destiny does have some say over our lives (as well as free will) No you are not destined to be unloved, but perhaps destiny has required that you in particular must learn the hard way to nourish yourself first before anyone else. Once destiny's lesson is satisfied you might find that everything else suddenly falls into place.

Why is it that some people can outright abuse and even kidnap children for their sexual pleasure and get the FULL support of such activities by their Significant Other?- Meanwhile, across the street is a decent and generous person who cannot get any support whatsoever from their significant other. Happens all the time.

Why is it that one person who helps their friends when they are in need can't get anything from them when he is in need? Meanwhile across the street is a person who gladly throws his friends under the bus whenever it suits him and they all come running with flowers when he's in the hospital. Happens all the time.

There is a misconception that being a kind and good person gets you love and support and being a bad person gets you rejection, but I'm here to tell you that this is simply not true. It is NOT that simple. Charles Manson had loyal folks by his side supporting him- willing to even kill for him and go to jail for him. My kind neighbor during my teen years who would volunteer to help others for nothing in return had no one.

So don't ever fall into the trap of thinking you suck or that you're somehow not enough. The universe/destiny or whatever you want to call it- has it's ways and we're not always meant to understand them fully. You can't control other people's behavior, only your reaction to their behavior. So instead of putting the blame on yourself just try to save yourself from being subjected to people who harm you. This includes your parents. You say you love them, but you need to ask yourself if the pain of being around them is worse than the pain of not being around them or speaking to them. Because if it is, you should consider going for the lesser pain. Yeah- It's pain either way. But less is better.
posted by rancher at 9:51 PM on December 29, 2014 [5 favorites]

I'm so so sorry you're going through this.

I was going through a lot of the same stuff earlier this year - I also had a boyfriend of almost 2 years who wouldn't say I love you because to him that meant "forever." Guess what - that is bullshit. Total and utter bullshit, and he needs to know that.

I eventually had a series of long talks with him about how not being loved made me feel and what love means to me and how I was on the verge of finding someone who actually did love me. Somehow that clicked with him and he said "I love you" soon after (and meant it). I didn't realise until after the situation was resolved how completely demoralising and sad it was not to be loved by my boyfriend.

So talk to the boyfriend. Tell him what you've written here. Ask him for his support and tell him why love is so important to you. If he doesn't sort his shit out, find someone who does love you. Or not. But don't waste too much more time on this guy. It hurts too much.
posted by peanut butter milkshake at 9:52 PM on December 29, 2014 [3 favorites]

I don't think anyone has mentioned this, but you are right that this is not your fault. However, there are some things you can do to make things better.

Some people have a 6th sense that tells them who is vulnerable and who will take their abuse. Understand that as a result of your parents' horrible behavior, you have grown up with insecurities and also have grown used to being unloved and shamed by the people around you.

Abusive and mean people very subtly try their meanness on everyone (a little comment, a tiny expression of condescension, etc.). People who are in a healthy place and who had a loving family and are emotionally healthy will detect these red flags and will not tolerate the mistreatment. But people like you and me, who were raised under the believe that obviously they deserve hate or contempt do not see these red flags, because we are used to them. So once the mean people have differentiated between those who will and those who won't tolerate their shittiness they repeat the same process, only this time they get a little meaner than before. This is how abusive men always end up finding women who will take their abuse.

What you need is to adjust your standards. You need to train yourself to recognize red flags and to recognize that when someone is being mean to you, they are gauging how far they can go, and that it's your duty to yourself to shut them down and say "you can go exactly zero inches in this direction".

I am not saying your boyfriend is abusive, but I do think he is mean. This is not to say your boyfriend should love you, but a non-cruel person would not pursue a relationship with someone who is looking for commitment when they know they are not ready to commit, and they would tell you so in a much kinder way.

Contrary to what you might think, there are people who are kind and respectful, and who are kind to those closest to them. I have found one of them. I have been married to him for 6 years and have never seen him be unkind or disrespectful.

If I were you, I would reconsider the relationship with your boyfriend (not because he is a bad guy, but because he is not ready to give you what you want - and he is a little mean), and start observing those in your life who have healthy relationships. What do they allow? What do they not tolerate? Re-adjust your standards and work on recognizing and purging the relationships with people who don't appreciate you or who think they get a free pass on being dicks to you (even if sometimes they are nice. Red flags are usually hidden in niceness).

Learn to confront people (respectfully) and to clearly articulate what you want (respect, kindness, love, empathy). Then learn to let go of people who do not respect what you clearly articulated. The only way to have positive relationships is to pursue positive relationships. If there is nobody around and even when there is, make sure that you have time to develop a positive relationship with yourself. When you find yourself repeating the nasty things your parents told you when you were younger, reply to yourself with a reasoned argument.

Your parents are total dicks. They had a choice and they chose to deprive you of affection and brainwash you with irrational thoughts about your worth as a human being. But that is the past. Don't let them ruin your present and your future!
posted by Tarumba at 7:19 AM on December 30, 2014 [9 favorites]

One unspoken thread I heard in your question was, "Am I asking for too much?" When I am going through issues with my family or my husband, I'll think about it from the perspective of my best friend, or someone I really like and respect. I would then ask it from their perspective, and see what my answer would be. I then apply it to myself. For instance:

If my best friend wanted her boyfriend of 2 years to say, "I love you", would that be asking for too much, or unreasonable? No, it is not unreasonable. Therefore it is not unreasonable for me to want it.

If that smart, funny, likeable coworker of mine said, "It would be really nice if my parents didn't play mind games with me" - would that be her asking for too much? No, it would not. She should have parents who don't play mind games with her. Therefore, it is not unreasonable for me to want it.

Sometimes it helps to look at things from an outside perspective, if you've been trained that you need to earn things like love.
posted by RogueTech at 7:20 AM on December 30, 2014 [2 favorites]

Your parents treat you terribly, and it doesn't really matter whether they do it out of conscious malice or because they don't know and/or aren't capable of better. Parenting is one arena where "doing your best" isn't good enough. Your parents weren't abusive because you were a bad kid; they abused you because of their own demons. It's not your fault.

Please don't buy into the idea that you need to stick by your family because faaaaamily is so important. You deserve to have people in your life who love you and treat you with respect. Are there other family members who do treat you well and you could get closer to - siblings, grandparents, aunts, cousins? How about close friends? Church family? (Unitarian Universalism is great for people who aren't religious but still want the good parts of going to church.) It's perfectly okay to distance yourself from toxic blood family and surround yourself with chosen family instead. That doesn't mean you have to disown your parents forever - distancing yourself and putting up boundaries might be a wake-up call for them to treat you better so they can have you in their lives (don't count on it, but it does happen).

With your boyfriend - you don't have to settle for someone who is avoidantly attached, wishy-washy about being with you, or just isn't right. It's true that online dating can be a shark tank, but it also offers many, many options. You're no longer constrained by the dating market in your immediate area, or who you meet at work or your friends introduce you to. I think it's important for you to feel that you have options, and online dating can help you feel like you have more options than this particular boyfriend.

Cats, and pets in general, are the best companions in the world, and a prop and comfort for the lonely. Cherish your kitty, and consider bringing home another cat or kitten so you have two (and your current cat has some company).

Finally, I agree with those who say "nuke your Facebook." People present carefully curated versions of their lives on social media, erasing any hints of trouble and sadness. Those happy marriages you see on your friends' pages might be miserable in reality, but your friends are keeping up a happy facade. You don't need Facebook. Delete it. You can always come back later.

We're pulling for you!
posted by Rosie M. Banks at 8:49 AM on December 30, 2014 [1 favorite]

Oh buddy. You are in a crappy place. The holiday season makes things even worse. And how can you focus on your job when you're feeling so awful about your personal life??

One thing I kept thinking about while reading your question: if no one loves you, does that include yourself? Do you love you? You're putting all this pressure on yourself over something you can't control (other people's affection for you), and that's just not something that every works out well. The one thing you can control is your own affections for yourself, and those seem to be nonexistent.

When you look on Facebook, and see all your friends with spouses and kids, remember that even if they're not all as smart, or kind, or funny, or interesting, or pretty as you, most of them knew that they were worthy of a great relationship. (And some of them are probably just as miserable as you, right now, today! Facebook is so deceiving!!!) Rather than thinking of the right way to get love and affection from your parents, or your boyfriend, what would happen if you thought more highly of yourself? If you thought you were worthy of awesome amazing things, including great family/romantic relationships but also including everything else - good job, fun times, great friendships, etc etc?

As for what you can do right now to buckle down and get your work done: please be kind to yourself. When you're feeling like this, it's easy to start getting upset or disappointed with yourself. Forgive yourself for experiencing some sadness and show yourself the kindness and love that others aren't showing you.
posted by violetish at 10:46 AM on December 30, 2014

For the longest time I thought and felt that I was one of those people you describe as 'destined to be unloved.' I still feel that way sometimes, despite having accumulated a few good friends who get me and make me feel less alone, despite the semblance of peace and contentment I've nurtured in myself. I've done my best to work around this, to live a meaningful life despite how futile it feels, but at the core I think I've just come to gradually accept this particular type of loneliness as part of *my* human condition. It's not the worst thing, and can even be used as a catalyst for a different kind of transformation.

Wanting to be loved is so valid, but seeking love can be quite a tricky endeavor. I learned the most I can do is teach people in my life how to treat me by setting healthy boundaries and walking away when the relationship takes a toll on my well-being. The painful reality of feeling unloved led me on the path to discovering that, if nothing else, there's so much more beyond myself, my unmet desires, my pain. That perhaps I can just refocus my hopelessness into humility and really think about how I can use my experiences to comfort, help, inspire others who might need it more.

As for this: If I hadn't been career driven my whole life I would be a fat stay at home mom with a big family in a house full of love -- no one really knows for sure. We all have regrets, but at one point the choices we made were what we thought in good faith would bring us happiness. What has gotten me through these thought patterns is a certain kind of trust: trust in my struggles, trust in the whole mysterious journey.

Take care and I wish you all the best.
posted by tackypink at 10:52 AM on December 30, 2014 [1 favorite]

I have known an awful lot of women who repeatedly choose abusive partners, and I don't understand it at all. Some of the NICEST and prettiest and kindest girls I know do this! It has nothing to do with what they deserve or how "unlovable" they are--it has everything to do with their own preexisting psychological problems.

Please find a support group or some other means of building your self-esteem.
posted by Guinevere at 8:06 AM on January 30, 2015 [1 favorite]

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