The girl I love left me. She says I’m angry and I need counseling. I haven’t acknowledged or dealt with the abuse in my past because it wasn’t as bad as other people’s abuse. Still, it makes me flighty and apt to get angry over small things. I was very mean to her. I look in the mirror, and I can’t look at my own face because of some of the things that I did. I don’t want her to be with someone else. I don’t understand why she won’t try again. I can’t make her. I feel like she was my last chance. I don’t understand why every time I find a great girl, I wreck it.
Oh, honey! How can you possibly expect to have a romantic relationship that is healthy when your history contains unmitigated abuse? It’s like choosing to live with an infected wound and then being shocked to discover that it has permanently damaged your body. I hope that this time, your heartbreak is strong enough to catapult you into the realization that you need a qualified therapist to guide you out of the darkness.
The practice of comparing yourself to others and then issuing a decree (“They need therapy because their experience was much worse than mine”) allows you to continue living from your infection. Anyone who was abused as a child has experienced transgression by someone they should have been able to trust. The abused child becomes an adult who is tentative in relationships because he or she has learned that relationships are not safe. Yet an enormous part of being fully human is establishing and maintaining healthy emotional intimacy.
So, you may find yourself driven toward intimacy with a woman and then pulling back awkwardly and unexpectedly because of your history of abuse. At times, you will use drama—like getting angry over minor things—as an excuse to exit the date, day or relationship. The majority of this anger is emotion that was not expressed when the abuse occurred. (How could it be? You were a child.) The remaining anger arises to hide the fear of immersion in intimacy. A part of you believes, incorrectly, that you must protect yourself because you have been so hurt. That belief is an obstacle. Genuine love is born when we are open and vulnerable. The good news is there is always another chance. However, it may not be with the person we expect.
One way to begin loving, now, is to go to therapy. Another is to support your former girlfriend in her choice not to continue the relationship. As a man who has been abused, you must be able to understand why someone would want to exit an abusive relationship. If you truly love her, you want the best for her, even if that means she is with someone else.
How do you know if someone is “the one”? I’ve had one major relationship, but it didn’t work out. Since then, I’ve dated quite a bit. There are ways that I fit with each of these men and ways that I don’t. I’m really having trouble figuring this out.
How do you know if you are “the one”? Generate a list of the qualities that your ideal other would possess. Then, slowly and honestly evaluate whether you contain those qualities. If not, develop them within yourself. Once your needs are fulfilled (or, rather, your neediness is), you will be free. You no longer will be searching for a savior, a sugar daddy, a soul mate, a mirror, a clone, a man-child or any other popular, contemporary relationship archetype. Without expectations, you will be free to meet the one. And won’t that be fun?