I contacted you back in September of last year when I had just discovered my ex-boyfriend from a year ago had found a new partner (or as you wonderfully described — his new hypotenuse). Your reply and this community really were instrumental in my handling of that acute relapse into ex-land. I printed out your reply and every time I thought about re-inserting myself into his life I read aloud all the truth you had listed. I managed to stay strong but I have a slightly different issue now.
In the now two years it’s been since I broke up, I have dated a couple of guys, nothing serious really and nothing where things developed particularly far. There was however one a few months back who pursued me strongly for a week or two, slept with me, then backed out faster than a cheater being chased by a cheetah. For some reason, after not having overly strong feelings for this guy, I immediately wanted him more when he disappeared. He intimated that he wanted to stay friends (I never texted him again because I know better) but I felt quietly and suddenly devastated.
This idea of a sulking kid having a tantrum when he doesn’t get what he wants hasn’t left my head since. Why did I feel so low when he left? Why did I want him when a week earlier I was uncomfortable with how much he wanted me?
Now I’m currently dating someone who seems really nice (as in considerate, generous, never leaves me wondering nice), but I don’t feel a spark with him. Things are going well but I don’t have that lust for him that I had with the others. I did get it briefly when his phone died and he didn’t text back for quite a long time, which was a rather telling afternoon (yes, it only took an afternoon). It has made me acutely aware that I’m the guy who wants a) what he can’t have and b) to be mistreated. I think I want commitment and consideration, but when I’m offered it I’m telling myself there’s no spark. I’m confusing love for passion, I’m looking in all the wrong places.
And really this is leading me back to the ex cheater. I’m wondering if this is some damage mark he’s left on me. Or whether it was something pre-existing in me to begin with, something that drew me to him and the pain. I stayed in that relationship for awhile after I had enough reason to leave, and actually wanted to stay more when I found something I thought I needed to fix (but obviously couldn’t). How do I get rational with myself? Is it right for me to be seeing this guy I’m not sure about, just because I think he’s nice? Because he won’t cheat on me? Is that enough? Am I trying to settle with someone nice because I’m scared of not finding a better fit? Am I ready for a relationship or will I yearn for drama because it’s all I know?
Life gives you enough drama. You don’t have to manufacture it, by which I mean date it. (Or worse, marry it and have children with it.) A preference for drama and poor treatment is something to work out with a shrink.
I’m not a shrink, but I’ll give you a few educated guesses about what I think is happening.
1) This crap is familiar to you. Explore your FOO issues (family of origin). When you don’t run from abuse, chances are you grew up around it.
I had enough reason to leave, and actually wanted to stay more when I found something I thought I needed to fix (but obviously couldn’t).
HelloOo codependency. Other people’s problems are NOT your responsibility. You cannot mold and shape adults (and I’m not even sure about children, ask me after I’m done raising a teenager…) You should come to a relationship as someone’s equal — not their general contractor. People are not projects. If a person is shitty, but “full of potential”? Next!
For some reason, James, the drama and chaos and lack of consideration feel acceptable to you. You’re probably used to making your needs small in service of the Great One. You’re not running away from that “deal” like a healthy person would. Go explore that.
2) It’s a power dynamic. Essentially, this whole chase and recapture and now I’m interested in you is just another variation of the Pick Me dance. The least invested person has more “power” in the relationship. You put value on the powerful prize guy who is withdrawing from you. When he makes a power play like that, you then ascribe him more power, more centrality, than when he’s just your average boyfriend. I thought you were just okay, but you abandoned me? You must REALLY be powerful! Okay, now you have my attention!
Take a big step back, James. Anyone who can walk away from you so casually is not someone who was connected to you that deeply in the first place. This person is not a prize. He’s not All That. Sure, we’re sad when any relationship ends, but please don’t chase, don’t compete.
When you pick me dance, you give your power away. You’re just a bidder, you’re not an equal. You’ve accepted a lopsided relationship and not one based on mutuality — of interest, values, and respect. You deserve a full partner.
3.) Narkles feel great. When narcissists sparkle (aka “narkles”), you feel like you’re in a great shining beam of light. The Great One picked me! This fabulous confident person, who only sparkles for a Very Privileged Few! has deigned to choose ME! I’m so special! I’m WORTHY!
Hey, when the disordered people want something, it’s a total charm offensive. Such flattery, such sex, such a feeling of being the Chosen Special Consort. The highs are high, James, and the lows are low.
Because once they’ve got you on the hook for kibbles, you’re then devalued as a source. But the chump is hooked on the narkles. Where’d they go? I need my fix! Tell me again how you love me!
Nope, then they withdraw, and it’s the pick me dance. After that comes the cycle of abuse, where you have the honeymoon, and the tension build up, and then the explosion, then the hoovering you back, and then the honeymoon… rinse, repeat.
There’s actual brain science that this shit is addictive. Intermittent love scrambles the reward centers in your brain. OMG! A kibble in the dispenser! Anyway, check out that study in the link.
4.) You’ve got your own intimacy problems. As Groucho Marx said, “I wouldn’t want to be part of a club that would want me as a member.” James, perhaps you’re looking for a fake, junior high kind of cool kid exclusivity, because you lack a core authenticity in yourself. Instead, you’ll take the reflected glory of a narcissist, being of service to the Powerful One.
I don’t think you actually want to be treated like shit, you may just be attracted to the “power” that these assholes convey. The power to detach, to not care, to be above it, when you struggle with the opposite problem in relationships — being so far in that you lose yourself.
But look, neither of those roles lead to intimacy — being the narcissist who doesn’t love or the chump who serves and sublimates their needs. To be intimate you have to be authentic, to know who you are and what you will and will not tolerate. Go figure out who that guy James is. Go have a love affair with him for awhile, get to know him better.
You need to get your head straight before you date. Because it’s not fair to the Nice Guys out there — the people who would be decent and kind to you. Don’t waste their time and break their hearts.
I don’t know if the nice guy you’re currently dating is The One, but don’t put that kind of pressure on a relationship anyway. Not every nice person will be a perfect fit just because they’re nice. Good relationships build organically over time, no narkles. This is not a version of “eat your vegetables” — that healthy relationships are like eating kale. No, you still get lust, and love, and excitement — it’s just reciprocated. And you appreciate it.
Nice guy qualities are the baseline, James. Don’t accept anyone into your dating pool who is NOT a nice guy. Try it out for awhile with the kind fellow. I promise in time, you won’t miss the rollercoaster chaos of the disordered.