General Dating Questions/Moving on
Thanks for reading this Dennis.
About 6 weeks ago my boyfriend broke up with me for the 4th time in 4 years. I can see now from having some time and space that I think I was stuck in an emotionally abusive relationship.
He mentioned from the beginning that he had been hurt by his past relationships and he didn't want to get hurt again. That his past girlfriends all ended up hating him and calling him useless/idiot etc. I felt so bad for him that they would be so hurtful. I told him I have never been like that towards anyone. I'm so peaceful and gentle and loving. I thought he needed someone to be there for him and love him and I promised I would never be so hurtful.
Throughout the last 4 years though I think I now understand what happened. It's like he had these two sides to him. This exceptionally loving and gentlemen side - in these moments he was absolutely perfect as a boyfriend. He would call everyday, want to hang out with me all the time, buy me flowers, cook for me, take me out on really romantic and memorable dates. I was so happy in those moments.
But then he had this other side... he was a jerk. For eg. He would blow me off 10 minutes before I was supposed to leave for our date for any number of reasons. One time he even disappeared for 3 hours to go hang over at his mates - while i waited in his room for him to come back. He would walk miles ahead of me and not check I was still behind him. He even joined the army and didn't tell me until he was supposed to leave the following week for 4 months. I couldn't even get a romantic 'couple' holiday out of him, not 1 in 4 years because he always wanted us to go on his family holidays instead.
I was always supportive of him and patient. I never yelled at him, but I would tell him that it hurt when he treated me like that.
Every time during his 'jerk' moments he would yell at me and tell me if I didn't like it, to get out. Followed by breaking up with me. But he would always come back and apologise and want to work everything out. He said he was aware of this 'other side' to him and promised he would get better. He would try for the first few months but he relapsed soon after that.
Now that I am out the other side and have gotten past the shock of it all ending... I feel really embarrassed and humiliated. I can see now that this wasn't right all along. I kept making excuses for him and thinking he would change.
Everyone around me has been so supportive which has helped. But I now have such low self esteem that I am struggling to believe in myself. I feel like this was my fault and I keep beating myself up over it. But I want to be emotionally happy and healthy again in myself. I don't want to be sad anymore.
What are some techniques I can use to move past this relationship? How can I rebuild my self esteem after being dumped so many times? How do I deal with him if he contacts me and tries to get me back? I don't want to go back Dennis, I just want to be happy again!
First, let's clear up this point about what's abuse and what's not. I get this comment a lot - especially today. Everybody thinks they've been "abused" or that they're in an abusive relationship because someone wasn't "nice" to them. Of course, I never want to see people hurt, but taking such a low-road and calling most things "abuse" obscures REAL abuse many people (women AND men) actually suffer.
To that point, this isn't "abuse" or an "abusive relationship". But, that doesn't mean he's not a self-absorbed jackass.
Likewise, it's never your job in a relationship to make up for anyone else's little boo-boo's. Everyone (and I mean EVERYONE) has been hurt before. Everyone's been called names. Everyone's been bullied. Everyone's been unhappy. That's a little thing I like to call "life".
When you get into a relationship you don't take on the responsibility to fix that for anyone else. It's THEIR job to get it fixed BEFORE they find someone to start a relationship with. This (by the way) is the same reason why you can't change someone else either. You find a guy who's a jerk and that attracts you to him. Then, you go about trying to "fix" his jerkiness and fail. Miserably.
Michelle, I think you see the problems here.
So, let's get to your question...
Specifically, no. It's not your fault that he's an asshole. What *IS* your fault is that you let yourself spend 4 years of your precious life thinking you could make him something he's not.
Believe it or not, the very first step in "recovery" here is to accept what IS and what IS NOT your responsibility! Everyone has made mistakes in their lives. That's part of becoming the person we're all going to become. We are all in a state of "becoming" in that way.
Thus, no ending of any relationship is a failure. They are all part of the process of becoming. You're on this (healthier) side of this relationship and are rebuilding yourself to become an even better partner for an even better guy. That's growth, pure and simple.
Once you've accepted responsibility for what's yours and shunned what isn't, the next step is to regroup. This is the time to start reviewing your assets. It's interesting that I just found an old article I wrote for another website that talks about a very important question:
"What do I bring to the table?"
I *love* this question because it is so clear and specific (just like it's even more beautiful twin, "What do YOU bring to the table?").
Consider this question very carefully: why should someone date you? Why should they invest themselves emotionally, intellectually and physically in you? I'll bet if you really think about it, the list is almost endless!
I don't even know you but I can give you at least a few things to start with: you're obviously compassionate. You care deeply about someone you're with - their hurts, their experiences and their futures. It's that very quality that got you into this problem in the first place simply because you didn't know where to draw the boundaries. Now, you do - another asset!
You are able to commit to something long-term (at least 4 years) and make it go. You are obviously a good communicator and write well. You have a good, solid support network around you.
See how much I could extract in just a few paragraphs? There is a TON more there if only you'll stop to consider it - and not just in passing, but by really taking stock of yourself. After all, if you don't know what you bring to the table, then how are you ever going to communicate it to someone who wants to know?
Hopefully that exercise will also cause you to seek out others who have made the same effort. It's a fantastic thing to sit across from someone else who can answer that question! If they can't, maybe part of your assets will be to help them discover it?
These two simple steps are going to do a great deal to rebuilding your self-esteem so don't discount them. Get to work on them NOW so you can start the new year with that little tool tucked away waiting for someone else.
As to what to do if he contacts you again? Simple: realize you've grown passed him. You have your list in your back pocket to prove it. He may have dumped you but that doesn't mean you have to suffer any harm because of it. In fact, it was your catalyst to "become" the woman you're on your way to becoming!
There's no need to look back when you're so urgently focused on what's ahead.
Dr. Dennis W. Neder
Producers: "BAM! TV" and “Love and Sex”
Publishers: "Being a Man in a Woman's World I, II & III”