The other night we were lying in bed, it was late and we were still basking in our post-coital bliss when in the course of our conversation he said, “I don’t think I really broke your heart. If I did, I wouldn’t be here.”
Now generally his statement would be built on sound logic. If someone breaks your heart you tell them to fuck off and die; you mourn and you move on. However, I’ve been stuck in this cycle for almost three years with the Ex-Boyfriend (a very similar cycle I found myself in with the Actor). We replay the same “relationship”, which inevitably ends up with me heartbroken, crying and wondering why he won’t love me back the way I love him. Anyone with half a brain can see that this relationship pattern is unhealthy. I know this relationship pattern is unhealthy and yet I’m almost always the one who initiates contact, who reopens the lines of communication and who pushes us together again.
I read, The Secrets of Psychotherapy : Repetitive Relationship Patterns, on Psychology Today just before Christmas. I was lucky as it helped to fuel my annual holiday depression as I struggled to come to terms with things that have been bubbling below the surface for a while now. It also gave me quite a bit of insight into this never-ending relationship cycle.
The simple reason is that I have daddy issues. My father and I have had a tenuous relationship since I was a little kid that was exacerbated by my parents’ separation, divorce and epic custody battle, which my father won. I grew up being cared for by my father and his family and eventually his second wife. While I never once wanted for the necessities of life – food, clothing, shelter – love, affection, security and comfort were nowhere to be found. In their place was self-doubt, ridicule, emotional abuse, and at times, fear. Regardless of that, I’ve spent most of my life trying to get my father’s love, protection and affection. Sadly, I never have and in recent years he has chosen his wife and his adopted son over me time and time again. While I was far from perfect growing up I longed only to her two things from my dad – “I love you” and “I’m proud of you”. In 33 years I’ve heard the former less than 5 times and the latter once. Because of this, I grew up constantly trying to gain his affection and his approval. In the end I would be crushed, heartbroken and sometimes just broken but I always went back for more, tried hard and hoped that this time would be different that this time I would change him and make him love me the way a father should.
I have a B.A. (Hons) and a M.A. in French and at both of my convocations he managed to ruin the experience by making me feel guilty for asking my mother to attend. My accomplishments paled next to his own wounded pride in those moments. Not until I told him of my acceptance into a PhD program did he tell me he was proud of me – I was 26 – and by then it was too late. Even so, it took me three years to get myself out of that program because I didn’t want to be seen by him as a quitter.
My father and I have been estranged for five years now and that relationship pattern continues to play itself out. The more distant the guy is the more I vie for his affection and love. In my head I think that if I do “x” he will fall in love with me or he will realize that I wonderful and we’re meant to be, etc…
Which brings me back to the Ex-Boyfriend. I keep trying to fix our relationship in an attempt to validate the frustrations I’ve experienced in my relationship with my father.
The inner child thinks: “This time will be different. I will get this person to love me. I can change him or her, if I only try hard enough. I won’t fail again. Then I will feel loveable.” But tragically, this futile effort is doomed to failure. For if, as part of the repetition compulsion, we specifically choose individuals who cannot love us because of their own limitations and problems, what are the odds of making them do so? Can we “fix” them? Force them? Transform them? Cure them? Not very likely. The rational adult part of ourselves knows that. But the wounded little boy or girl within is still trying, just as he or she did with the parents, each inevitable failure reinforcing feelings of inadequacy, inferiority, and unlovability. And so it goes. – Stephen A. Diamond, Ph.D.
I’m still trying…I tried with The Gay Boyfriend (post-break-up/pre-coming out), with The Actor and now with The Ex-Boyfriend. Each rejection reinforces every negative feeling instilled in me, about me by my relationship with my father.
I wish I weren’t so cliché. More importantly, I wish I knew how to get past this and break this cycle.