Tag Archives: culture

Relationship Addiction

Hi.

My name is Amy and I am a relationship addict.

Yes, it is a thing. A very real and very debilitating thing.

From Ann Smith via Psychology Today:

The relationship addict experiences intense “abandonment anxiety”. This anxiety triggers panic, low self worth, feelings of emptiness, isolation, and possibly depression. The addict may believe they are worthless without their partner. They almost always feel unbearable emptiness. Love addiction is a compulsive, chronic craving and/or pursuit of romantic love in an effort to get our sense of security and worth from another person. The causes of love addiction are fairly easy to identify: inadequate or inconsistent nurturing, low self esteem, absence of positive role models for committed relationships, and indoctrination with cultural images of perfect romantic love and happily ever after endings.

It dawned on me as I said goodbye to the last relationship I was in, just a week or so ago, that something wasn’t right with the way I was reacting to the loss. Something felt off, so I did what I do best, I did some investigative work on myself and my behavior. I took a look back at my actions with this person, within the relationship, and found myself kind of disgusted. I wasn’t necessarily shocked to discover that nothing about my behavior had been healthy or ‘normal’, just kind of disappointed. It was a realization that I didn’t want to make or admit.

But deep down, I knew that it was time to deal with it.

Finally.

I am addicted to love.

I was a rollercoaster of emotion and anxiety during my last relationship (something I thought was just me, in addition to my current grief over the divorce). I thought my explosive (head-over-heels love) and intense emotion was fueled by love and my big, huge heart. But, my anxiety would be more pronounced when I wouldn’t hear from him for longer than a few hours or, god forbid, an entire day. I would feel nothing short of despondent; panicky. And when his feelings didn’t seem to match my own in intensity or explosiveness, I got even more anxious and more emotional. It was exhausting. I have no idea why he put up with me.

Since we have said our respective goodbyes, I have been an anxious wreck. Mornings seem to be the hardest. I wake up, and without that good morning check-in fix, I feel anxious, undone, and completely alone.

To be perfectly honest, I feel terrified. But of what, I have no idea (a fact that is really pissing me off). I am home alone right now and literally just screamed to no one: “What the fuck are you so afraid of?!” And promptly burst into tears. Sigh.

I have a feeling that this is going to be a long, hard, uphill battle.

I have been this way for as long as I can remember. Ever since boys noticed me in the 8th grade (and I noticed them back). I suspect that the behavior took root because I grew up in a home without a father and had an emotionally distant mother who I didn’t easily connect with. I watched my father die and never had a male role model. After his death, my mother relied on me to be the other parent in the household. I was 9. Perhaps, as a result, I was left with a void, a hole, severely low self-esteem, and a debilitating fear of abandonment.

From http://www.loveaddictiontreatment.com:

Love (and relationship) addicts are terrified of abandonment. They rely on others to fulfill them, and to make them feel happy and whole. Without their love object, they feel worthless and incomplete. This is often due to a lack of love and nurturing from their primary caregivers while growing up. The abandonment they experienced may have been emotional (i.e. – their parents were physically present but emotionally detached), or physical – one or both of their parents left, died, was ill, or absent much of the time.

Perhaps my childhood ended at age 9? I am almost 43. That is 34 years of emptiness. Holy crap.

*shudder*

From what I have read, true love addiction is less about the search for love and more about finding a way to control tough emotions. Going from one relationship to another without any room for grieving, mourning, or processing through a previous loss means getting to avoid feeling those tough emotions. I thought I had a failsafe way to avoid dealing with my father’s death and subsequent abandonment shit when I married my first husband.

But that relationship didn’t satisfy me, so I found another more exciting guy and married him. We lasted 16 years. I thought I would be safe forever; we had 2 kids! That meant commitment – a guarantee, a promise, right?

Holy shit. NO.

When my second marriage failed, I had no choice but to deal with the grief from my father’s death (finally) which came back in one giant terrifying matzoh ball of horror. When that train wreck came, in addition to grieving my marriage and my family, it is no surprise that I ended up in the hospital.

But wait, I didn’t I really have to deal with any of it, did I? After I got out of the hospital, my subconscious knew just what to do. I did what I had always done when a relationship ended or seemed unsatisfying. I jumped right back into online dating and I hopped right into a new romance. Surely this new and exciting person would save me and help me feel better and I would be happy?!

Again, holy shit. NO.

Since the split a year ago, I have had 3 relatively serious, sexually intimate relationships. When each one ended, I broke all over again. They were unhealthy relationships (though I didn’t think so or realize it at the time) as they were a means of getting that love ‘fix’ and avoiding the big, huge, debilitating emotions that accompany being alone (for me). I was still hiding from my demons; my inability to feel whole, complete, or satisfied with who I am as a person without that constant need for external validation. Seeking internal validation from external sources for most of my life has done so much damage I really don’t know where to begin picking up the pieces.

For me, being alone feels like I am dying. And right now, in this moment, I feel like I am dying. The longest I have ever been single was a mere few weeks when I was 19 years old. It was during that time period that I had a suicide attempt. That is how scary it felt then. It feels just as scary now but thankfully, I am 42 and have 2 beautiful children that anchor me to this world.

I know that this realization/admission is huge. I know I am on the right path and acknowledging my underlying behaviors and motivations has felt very scary but also very empowering.

Life and love feel like this big ball of tangled up shit that I have to finally sit down with, examine, and sort through. On my own. My goal is to be single for 6 months.

That is not until April. Gulp.

Am I scared? Hell yes. I am completely terrified.

I have been leaking out my power and my essence and my very self all over the damn place. It stops now.

It is time for me to go and find all of my missing pieces. And put myself back together.

I am Rebuilding Amy.

 

 

Resources on love and relationship addiction for you:

http://www.loveaddictiontreatment.com/the-roots-of-love-addiction/

http://loveaddicts.org/40questions.html

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Fuck. Yes.

Some of you might have already read, or heard about, Marc Manson’s blog post entitled, Fuck Yes or No. In it, he talks about radical and enthusiastic consent (albeit in a frustratingly heteronormative way). His take home message is a good one though:

Don’t choose someone or something in your life if the answer isn’t a resounding, “FUCK YES!”.

I want to surround myself with “FUCK YES!” from this point forward. Somewhat ironically, I think the key to this lies in the ability to say “FUCK NO!” and mean it.

This concept makes so much sense to me after this last year of saying ‘yes’ when I most definitely should have said ‘no’. I allowed people into my heart and into my life who really did not deserve to be there. I continually put my needs in the proverbial backseat just to fill a deep void within myself. I was so paralyzed by my fear of abandonment and my complete lack of identity outside of my role as a wife and a mother, I chose to be invisible. It wasn’t an intentional choice. At the time it was the safest choice, and because of that, it became my only choice.

My heart breaks for the person I was last year. It hurts to think about all of the ways in which I leaked myself out to everyone else. Leaving nothing of any substance behind. I want to scoop that person up into my arms and snuggle the shit out of her. I was so lost and so confused and trying so hard to please everyone else that I lost myself completely.

I am not the same person I was last year. And this is a REALLY GOOD THING.

Let’s talk about Boundaries!

We all need boundaries. Saying ‘no’ is so vitally important. ‘No’ to relationships that do not meet our needs, saying ‘no’ to overextending ourselves at work, or at home, or with complicated matters of the heart. Setting boundaries as a means of separating your emotions from others, and recognizing that your feelings belong to you and no one else, and vice versa, is huge. This is big work, people!

When we set clear boundaries with ourselves and with others, we are further developing our sense of self. If I say ‘no’ to someone, to a relationship that doesn’t serve me, I am exercising that part of myself that leads to empowerment and a clearer sense of who I am and what I want. I am flexing those mental and psychological muscles that perpetuate a confidence within me that reinforce this fact: even when boundaries feel scary and difficult, they make me stronger in the long run. I am holding onto core truths within myself and acknowledging that my needs, my desires, and my path matter more than literally anyone else. It is not selfish, narcissistic, or cruel.

It is vital.

I am setting boundaries with people; with relationships. I am setting boundaries with my children! Society sends this really fucked up message that once you have children, your needs take a backseat to theirs (this is especially true of mothers). I call BULLSHIT! Separating yourself from your role as a mother or a father is paramount and deserves a blog post all to itself (next time).

I am not settling for anything less than what I want. I am doing my utmost to stay in integrity with myself. This is REALLY HARD WORK; to say goodbye to people and connections that feel so good. Admitting the hard truth, that ultimately, these relationships will not serve me. It hurts! Saying no, letting go, drawing lines in the imaginary sand, feeling like I am letting people down if I don’t say ‘yes’, all the time, to everyone and everything.

I am an empath, a mother, a nurturer, an INFJ, and it goes against every fiber of my being to say ‘no’ to anyone. My tendency to leak myself out into the ether is so strong I am constantly checking in with myself. I want to help people be their best selves and discover who they have the potential to become. And this is so incredibly dangerous for me, my heart, and my relationships with people.

At some point, someone will say a resounding FUCK YES! to me. Until then,

I am only responsible for myself.

And I cannot save the damn world.

 

Age. Apparently, It’s a Thing.

I am finally acknowledging something that hurts to admit.

My age is starting to bug me. It is becoming a ‘thing’ my mind keeps coming back to. And per usual, I need to pay some attention to these thoughts; to process through them and make sense of the acute physical distress they are currently causing me.

I didn’t mind growing older until now. Age made no difference! I had a husband and a family. I had my partner in life and in love; we were growing old together! That was the plan, god damnit! Now that I seem to be growing old alone, I feel sick to my stomach about what this means. I constantly feel the pressure of time; and I feel as though it is running out.

I can’t explain why, but I feel terrified and alone and scared. This is causing me distress and the fact that it is causing me distress is pissing me off. Royally.

Get it together Amy!

I don’t want to feel old. I don’t want age to be a ‘thing’ but fuck, it is and I cannot ignore it any longer.

I have no idea why it is that I seem to keep connecting with people who are 10-15 years younger than I am. I am one of the older people in many of these new social circles I seem to gravitate toward. I am starting to feel self-conscious, a new feeling for me. Is it because I am in this new ‘adolescent’ stage in my life? I am literally rediscovering who I am and where I fit into the world, and this has me out and about, meeting new people all the damn time. But why should it matter what age these new friends are?

I suppose that most people my age have families and marriages and lives that involve family stuff. I don’t have that any more (that fact still hurts like a mother fucker). But at the same time, I don’t want that. I don’t want that life of complacency or stagnation. I don’t ever want to stop learning, growing, or playing. That doesn’t seem like really living to me.

At all.

I want adventure and laughter and new experiences. I want a partner in life and love. Explosive love! Unhinged, unabashed, unfiltered LOVE. Bring it.

(And yet, don’t. Because I am scared shitless of getting hurt again).

I seem to like younger men and society dictates that I am a ‘cougar’ because of this. I do not like that label. Actually, I fucking hate it. It is disgusting and rampantly sexist. Being called a so-called ‘cougar’ takes away from who I am as a fucking HUMAN BEING. I am a woman, and my age or my status in life should not be what define me. Sure, those things make up an integral part of who I am, but I am much more than that ridiculous label would imply.

I don’t like being called a MILF either. Aside from the gazillion reasons this label is offensive, I know exactly why it irks me. Being referred to as a so-called ‘mother-I’d-like-to-fuck’ defines me in terms of my physical self and also in regard to my kids. I am literally in the process of clawing my way back to myself outside of that role. It has taken a momentous amount of energy to untangle those cords that bind me to my children.

Labels such as these make me feel ashamed and embarrassed – like there is something wrong with me. Age doesn’t matter! (That is what I tell myself, constantly). A connection is a connection regardless of how old I am or how old someone else is. But I can feel myself silently snickering – laughing behind my back so to speak. This older woman hanging out with much younger people. It turns my stomach and makes me feel like some hopeless loser chasing something that doesn’t exist. A life that isn’t for me. I feel separate; like an outside observer.

I am also endlessly running in circles trying to figure out my path as far as all of this romantic/love shit goes. I am drawn to real, genuine, honest people who are doing the hard work of knowing themselves and working on themselves. It doesn’t matter if they are 27 or 37. At this point in my life, I can recognize a meaningful connection within the first 5 minutes of being near someone. I have come to understand that I am a highly intuitive person with a gift for connecting with people. My heart is huge and I am still trying to be ok with this – to celebrate it instead of curse it as I get hurt again and again.

This post isn’t going to end with something uplifting or happy.

I can’t bring that to you today and for that, I am sorry.

When I sit, and give all of these nagging thoughts about age and time a voice, I feel like an old lady. I feel used up, beat up, like a weirdo with kids and a life of responsibility. I feel like I’ve lost an entire decade of my life. My marriage feels like it was a joke. Resentment toward my children rears its ugly head and I feel a loss so deep I feel scared I will never be able to move past it.

Big, deep sigh.

Have you evolved?

A few days ago, I read a blog post that discussed non-monogamy vs. monogamy and the fact that these two lifestyle choices are often pitted against one another. And, more specifically, that mono people are often perceived as being ‘close-minded’ for their choices.

The author touched on something that got me thinking – something I experienced first-hand all last year (on both sides of this debate). When my ex was experiencing NRE (new relationship energy) in spades, and I was literally losing my mind, he would look at me with disgust. I felt ashamed; like I couldn’t catch up to the ‘cool kids’. I felt like a monogamously minded idiot and was even told, “you fuck up poly at every turn’. I hated feeling lost and left behind by my own husband. I hated feeling like a failure because this new lifestyle was so much harder for me than it was for him. And yes, our attempt at non-monogamy was an EPIC FAIL. No question about that. But just because I was not emotionally wired for that lifestyle did not make me a fuck-up. And it certainly didn’t make me close-minded or wrong. I didn’t choose to have PTSD for fuck’s sake.

Though I do not think it is in any way intentional, non-monogamous individuals can sometimes promote an elitist attitude – that they are more ‘enlightened’, more ‘evolved’, and more ‘open-minded’ than those people who choose to be monogamous. These are all terms that I have heard non-monogamous people use; from close friends, to my ex, to various people in chat groups. There seems to be this underlying belief that monogamous folks are somehow mistaken for their belief that one person can satisfy them for the rest of their life. That this viewpoint is utterly ridiculous. One person for the rest of your life? Madness!! All of your ‘eggs in one basket’? Just too risky.

To be fair, this point of view, this ‘non-monogamy is better than monogamy’ attitude, is in no way indicative of the general non-monogamous population. It would be preposterous to assume that this blog post is pointing a finger at all non-mongamous people out there – nope – not even close. It is just me puzzling through more of my own beliefs and expericences per usual.

Not everyone believes that monogamy is flat-out wrong and stupid, there are people out there that just know that it isn’t for them and hell, that is okay. Of course that is okay! I think that the bipolarization becomes dangerous when mono people are inadvertently shamed for their belief systems around relationships. The belief that many non-mono folks have is that monogamy is a societal construct of lies of epic proportion; that you need one person, a true love, a soul mate to sustain you and fulfill you is utter bullshit. And, if you buy into this lie, you have drunk the proverbial Koolaid, you are not a free-thinker; you are behaving in a way that society has trained you to behave after years of social conditioning.

Have you seen those old Disney movies? Enough said.

What about the ‘evolved’ piece; emotionally evolved, to be more specific? The word jealously comes to mind – people can experience this emotion in spades in both non-mono and mono relationships. This is a NORMAL feeling; and I have seen firsthand, in multiple non-monogamous chat groups, people being shamed for experiencing jealousy. That somehow this emotion is an indicator that someone is not cut out for non-monogamy; that they are not dealing with their deep insecurities – and perhaps both of these things are true – but it doesn’t make them wrong to feel jealous. I would propose that in ANY relationship, jealousy is an indicator that something is off – whether it be in the relationship itself or something that a particular individual needs to work on for themselves. And this is okay. We work through our shit – we do not feel ashamed about it or run from it.

And the emotional work – the ‘sitting with your shit’ that I blog about so often – is where I believe the answer lies. It is not a question of one lifestyle being superior to another, but something more fundamental to each individual out there puzzling through their own life.

If you have not squared off with who you are – if you have not done some serious soul-searching, no relationship will work. Period. And this is the lie that society feeds us, whether you are monogamous or not, that you need another person, or persons, in your life to feel fulfilled. Nope, I don’t believe that this is true.

Because here is the truth: if you are completely comfortable with who you are ALONE, without a relationship of any kind, it doesn’t really matter how you identify or who you are with. Once that piece of the puzzle fits, then relationships become an added bonus to your life. You can maintain your individuality while simultaneously maintaining a relationship (or many relationships if that is your choice).

People run from vulnerability, they run from being single, from being alone. People run from their true authenticity, from being their most raw and open selves. They seek out relationships to lose themselves in another person or persons.

This is the unevolved piece. This is the part so many people get wrong. And it has nothing to do with being monogamous or not.

Sex In Your Forties…Own it.

I am officially a paid writer!! Here is my article for a great sex-positive site called Kinkly.

https://www.kinkly.com/sex-in-your-forties-own-it/2/14537

Let me know what you think.

Amy

 

It’s Thanksgiving and I want to talk about sex.

Yes, it is Thanksgiving, and yes, I want to talk about sex. I love sex! I am thankful for sex. And hormones, libido, and all of the crazy and not so crazy physical stuff that makes us beautifully and vulnerably human.

I was raised Roman Catholic; I grew up in a household that did not discuss sex. It wasn’t that sex was considered shameful in my home, it just didn’t exist. Perhaps it had to do with the fact that my mother never remarried after my father died. I didn’t grow up in a household that had two parents; a couple who could model what love and affection (verbal or physical) looked like. I had to figure all of that out on my own.

The only sex talk I can recall having with my mom was at age 16. It happened at 7 in the morning, while I was driving our Dodge Caravan to school. My mom sat shotgun, and out of nowhere, she blurted out, “So, are you having sex?” and that was it. I remember gripping that wheel until my knuckles turned white and shouting, “Jesus! NO!” (I was such a liar!!) There were also the times I would bring boyfriends home and my mom would awkwardly tell them to “wrap it”. Jesus, was that embarrassing.

When my husband and I were exploring polyamory and began online dating, I came to realize that, at age 42, I have a kickin’ libido. The unfortunate part was, I felt weird and insecure about this discovery. I felt ashamed, confused, and honestly, ‘slutty‘ (slut shaming is the act of criticizing a woman for her real or presumed sexual activity, or for behaving in ways that someone thinks are associated with her real or presumed sexual activity).

As I began my exploration of men and relationships outside of my marriage, I found that I was uncomfortable with my sexual self. It did not help that my husband was also shaming of my sexuality as we opened. Sometimes the hurtful statements were direct, sometimes indirect. He struggled from the beginning with the physical aspects of having an open marriage (I believe he felt a possessive ownership of me), whereas I struggled with the emotional aspects of his relationships. Sex felt like no big deal to me. As long as I was safe and protected and the sex was open and consensual, I felt fine about it. But there was always this nagging voice inside my head whispering that I was disgusting and should feel ashamed. And, in many ways, I did feel ashamed. Was it my own shit? Or maybe the religious shit? Or my husband’s shit? I can’t say for sure – likely a combination of all of these things. And society, our culture – of course these things were to blame as well.

Women are not allowed to be sexual creatures who (gasp!) enjoy sex.

Women and young girls are sent so many mixed signals in our sexually repressed society. Be sexy! But not too sexy (slut). Be hot! But don’t look too hot (bitch). Be flirtatious! But don’t be too flirtatious (husband/boyfriend stealer).

Be skinny, be flawless, be amazing-looking, make sure your ass and abs are toned, have perfect-sized breasts, the right hair, makeup, body, shoe size. Don’t get me started on fashion…And don’t forget that all of this needs to be accomplished and executed well into your 70’s. But let’s remember that we cannot get old! No grey hair! Wrinkles?

No fucking way.

There is enough confusing shit out in the world as it is; add to it the bullshit messages the media sends little girls (my daughter), teenagers, women, and middle-aged women (me), it’s no wonder we feel confused about who we are as human beings and especially as sexual beings.

I think the most hurtful one of these messages (and God knows that there are many) is the one that says: in order to be loved or even liked, we need to look and act the part (see ridiculous list above). No one talks about self-love. Which is so completely fucked up! Love of one’s self should come first and above all else. Without it, you are susceptible to using others to define your self-worth – a truly scary place to be (see my posts on codependency). And even if you believe that you need to do all of those things up there to be worthy, and you pull all of that shit off, there is still this underlying message that you are not allowed to be a sexual being.

Sex is taboo in this uptight American culture and that is utter bullshit. Why sensor one of the most fun and amazing things we can do? Research shows us that not only is sex paramount in connection with our partners (and with ourselves), it is good for us! It is healthy and good for your heart and your mind.

There is no shame in loving sex if you are a woman. I challenge you to talk about sex, think about sex, and, if you’re a writer, write about sex. This self shaming – culture shaming – bullshit needs to stop and it needs to stop now.