Anyway, writing is good. Already I feel a bit better because I'm not lost to the emotions... I'm moving forwards by writing it down.
It's a lovely sunny day and I have a day off today before about 10 hours of driving tomorrow in total plus a performance, which I am slightly dreading (in my everyday life I am in the arts industry, an arena rife with addiction that is almost glorified rather than ever addressed. My partner and I are almost abnormal in that world in our quest for a healthy emotional life!).
I was feeling pretty good, feeling like it's all on track and we're doing well. Big pat on the back for both of us... then I was walking home from doing some errands at the shops and passed a girl who looked a bit like me, except that she was taller, skinnier, had better makeup on (I have NO makeup on because I am having one of those 'day off' type days), and had hair the kind of length I'd like to get and shade of red that is that tempting shade darker than mine, was younger than me which is something I never thought I'd say because I'm not exactly old, and the fact that I am now even noticing adult girls that are younger than me freaks me out... and even though even writing down that description sounds laughable in its superficiality and ridiculousness, I instantly was on the verge of tears as she passed me. Suddenly all that had happened in my day and how great we are doing vanished and I felt like crying, because suddenly all that my brain was doing was thinking, "what if I had hair like hers, what if I was skinnier... WHY did I just buy that chocolate muffin, shouldn't I be on a diet if I want to keep my man from checking out skinnier girls?? I know if we had been walking together he would have checked her out and I would have felt like crap because I'll never be able to look like that. I'll never be able to compete with girls walking around like that."
so here follows my own personal strict Talking To to myself, because I mean COME ON!!!
- of course I don't look like that. I don't like that because I am me... and being me means that I have other things that are great and it's useless trying to compete with everyone on the street who looks like a model because I am not a model. AND I am attractive. I know I am. There are things about my looks that are attractive, but more importantly there are things about my personality that are attractive. Would I seriously be happy if I was that weight? Not necessarily. I'm a size 10 (USA 6) for crying out loud, I am fit and my boyfriend tells me every day now how much he fancies me, but even if he didn't... I like me. Why would I want to change me?
- the answer to that is obvious... because I want to stop being hurt by my boyfriend's middle circle behaviour of checking out women when we are out together and in my girly head I somehow think that if I looked skinnier (because they are always skinny), or dressed sexier (a low cut top will always do it), or had longer hair like I used to (long hair generally does it), that somehow I would stop him doing that. The answer is NOOOOO nothing I do will stop him doing that. He doesn't see me as less attractive than them. It isn't about that. It is about his insecurity. It is about viewing the world like a porn movie. It is about his lack of self-esteem. It is about his addiction.
- before I go on I should add that I am not one of those typically jealous, keep your man on a tight rein kind of girlfriends. I never have been. I believe in trusting each other enough to keep a healthy balance of your individual lives and your life together. He doesn't flip out when I hug my male friends or joke about a hot movie star, because he knows he has nothing to worry about. I have never given him any reason to distrust my motivation behind my interaction with the opposite sex. He knows I'm not using their sexuality as some kind of drug to soothe myself, and that in my eyes he is the most attractive man I know. If Johnny Depp came up to me right now and offered me a night of unbridled passion I would say no in a nanosecond, because there is only one of my boyfriend and loving him is about so much more than the way he looks that I would never do anything to jeopardise that. For those reasons he trusts me. And when we first started going out, for a long time I trusted him. I felt completely secure with him. I never got jealous... to the extent that at one point he was slightly offended that I never got jealous (something I now look back on as a warning sign that I missed), but when we moved back to near his mother and when I first started getting a horrible feeling that something was wrong but couldn't put my finger on what... suddenly every goodlooking girl was making me panic. My self-confidence was suddenly in a state of total and utter confusion: he obviously loves me, he says he is happier than he has ever been... so why am I feeling bad? It took me a while to connect the dots that I didn't want to see... that I was feeling bad because I was picking up on the change in sexual energy with him. That his middle circle behaviours were coming back and leading him back into porn & masturbation addiction. It was no longer checking out girls in the distant objective way of appreciating beauty but feeling smug about what you've got... it was changed, and my brain knew it. Even when it wasn't the blatant checking out of a girl to the extent that I would stop what I was saying and turn around to see what he was looking at (which always made me feel great), it was even in the small glances, the clocking and 'banking' of hot girls as they pass. It's hard to describe, but he has admitted it, that at some point he started objectifying women again and it totally freaked him out because he didn't understand why he was doing it, so told himself that all guys do it and it didn't mean anything. Somewhere in himself he knew that wasn't true though, and that's where the confusion really sets in, because suddenly he didn't understand what was the truth any more. He knew he loved me, and yet he was doing this... and his mother's fucked up (sorry, still not over my anger here. Working on compassion, not quite there yet) words from the past and dislike of his stable relationship 'taking him away from her' causing more pain and confusion... ah, it's a vicious circle of destructive emotions and thoughts that all add up to going back to old coping mechanism of acting out, feeling bad, acting out to stop feeling bad, feeling worse, repeat repeat repeat... Getting back on topic again.... it was the change in his direction of sexual energy that I picked up on, and I didn't understand why it was happening and it terrified me. It still scares me now even when I know why it is happening, because it is a break in the connection between us. I check out hot people all the time. I check out girls when they are beautiful too, but not in a sexual way, in a wow you're beautiful kind of way. That isn't the way he was looking. It was not healthy and he didn't realise how blatant and objectifying it was/is. Even now I feel kind of bad because he is trying to really address that behaviour and when we are out now what I see is him consciously not checking out the hot girls, which is really sweet, but still means that the root cause and reason for it still exists. Until he feels truly good enough about himself that his subconscious isn't looking for a sexual buzz to make him feel like a worthy man, that battle is always going to be going on.
- My theory is that it is a lot a lot a LOT to do with self-esteem. He measured his self-esteem for a long time by the amount of sex he had and the number of girls he pulled. He always believed that the answer to his pain lay in porn, masturbation and having sex. Now he knows how much more powerful an intimate relationship, truly intimate connected sex with the person he is in love with, and a life he is in control of and believes in can be.
- His mum makes him doubt that though, and she is in his head a lot, and that way the source of the problem lies. She encouraged him to be promiscuous when he was younger, had control over every step of all his relationships and has fallen out with every single one of his girlfriends. I always thought that it was only because those girls were manipulative bully types who made him unhappy; that she would see that I was different and would be able to feel secure in the knowledge that her son was going to be ok, that I was not going to hurt him. I didn't understand the extent of her issues and need to control him. The crazy thing is that I think she actually still likes me... she just doesn't like not having control over him, can't quite believe that he could possibly be making decisions about his own life (so thinks I must be pulling the strings) and it's sending her temporarily a bit cuckoo to say the least!
- We got together overseas and have led the majority of our relationship away from her. She doesn't like it, and every times he mentions how in love he is, she makes a cynical noise or makes it known that she doesn't believe love exists. I feel like his objectification of women has a lot to do with his mother not believing that he can make his own choices in life. If he can't be trusted to make his own choices in life then how can he be totally sure that I am the right girl, the hottest girl, the one that is really going to float his boat... this is what I see every time this happens: what about that girl... no, mine is better... what about that one... great boobs... could I pull someone with boobs like that... wait, my girlfriend is great... what about that girl, is she hotter?... ooh I like her hair I can imagine that writhing around on top of me... what the hell are you doing thinking about that, you bastard, focus! I feel really sorry for him, I understand where it comes from in his quest to feel good about himself, but it makes me feel like shit. It undermines my self confidence and makes me feel like I'm going out with someone who is sleazy... it is very different to a healthy recognition of other people's attractiveness. I can't explain it properly except to say that I am very far from a prude, I have never felt this insecure about other girls within a relationship and I know instinctively the difference between an idle appreciative look and redirecting sexual energy to use the image of women as a drug to soothe the part of yourself that says you aren't good enough. THAT is called objectifying women. Find that self-esteem somewhere else. Checking out girls will never fix it.
- It doesn't happen all the time. I think I'd have a hard time feeling as settled in my relationship as I do if it had. It happens when he is sliding towards acting out. When he feels a loss of control over his life. It happens almost consistently after any interaction with his mum. I was so profoundly disturbed by that. But I have a divorced mum who leaned heavily on me too. We just had our establishing independence dramas when I was 15. I understand how fundamentally terrifying it is to take the risk of losing your mum's love by living your own life... but I am here to bear witness to the fact that a mother's love is unconditional... he would never lose her love. He is only just realising that now, and I totally understand how scary it is to feel like anything you do could hurt your mum. I just wish all of this wouldn't hurt me too. I went through all this when I was a teenager. It has been hard to make peace with being drawn into this sort of drama again, but have decided that the only way to go is to NOT get drawn into the drama. This is their thing. They will sort it out. He is my best friend, my lover, the person I love most in this world alongside myself and my family. I will be here recovering with him. I just wish it wasn't to do with sex. I wish it wasn't something that made me feel bad about myself. But it is. And he is dealing with it. He really truly is. And we are building the relationship we want. I have to be grateful for that. She scares me though. She loves her son and yet when confronted with a son that has a great career, loving girlfriend, stable finances, moving forward in life, taking control of the issues in his life... she starts destroying it through this weird passive aggressive behaviour because she can't bear not having him by her side. It's sad, and I am sorry that she is lonely, but she is hurting her son. That is so selfish. I feel sorry for her. I hope one day we can sit around the kitchen table and laugh and drink wine and feel as relaxed as we all did that first Christmas... not sit there being actively ignored all day, watched like a hawk when her son leaves his seat at the other end of the table to come and sit with me after dinner and then repeatedly called a 'random stray' guest like the next year every time I thanked her for her hospitality.
- It started and got worse after his mum started being weird towards our relationship once we moved in together and suddenly mysteriously stopped liking me and started making it very clear to him that she didn't trust his choice of relationship. I feel sorry for her, because she is definitely not the first mother in the world to morph into the nightmare mother-in-law when they get scared that their son has finally found his life partner and therefore has another woman in his life... but she has gone seriously crazy with this one. I will write about it in another post, but I cannot possibly describe the stress she has put us through. Rephrase... that we ALLOWED her to put us through. We have changed our attitudes now and hopefully she will work through it without hurting us quite so much, but the force of her character is such that after us feeling that we couldn't possibly be more in love after our first year together, she had me actually questioning whether she was right and that he would be better off with someone else. But then when my boyfriend finally asked her what the matter was, she said that her problem with me was that I am too optimistic and too much of a dreamer. He came home saying that she and his sister thought that maybe I shouldn't try so hard to be nice. What??? I wasn't 'trying' to be nice... apart from after I started feeling that his Mum was suddenly disliking everything I said or did, then I was trying not to rock the boat (I have since found out this happens with pretty much everyone in her life. Lodgers, friends, family. That made me feel better). I was just being his girlfriend. That made me both furious beyond belief and incredibly relieved. If anyone is at the point in their head where they actually think that someone being optimistic about life could be a character trait that was bad enough to seriously damage their son then it is definitely time for help, and I am better off staying away from it until they sort out their relationship. It was never about me, it was about him taking control of his life and her not making all his decisions for him any more. She still can't trust him enough to believe that he could be a strong wonderful man working on having a happy healthy life... she thinks it's my fault. I infected him with my optimism and have caused him to be nicer to his Dad and taken him away from her. I haven't done any of that. I am very much trying to stay out of it. But oi oi oi oi vey, is all I can say to that!!!
- What also is making me sad is that I have always got on really well with his sister. She is totally awesome. I love her to bits. But at the moment with all the drama going on with his mum, now we aren't getting to see her as much. She is living at home with their mum right now (she is 25, but is living at home whilst doing a postgrad degree at the recommendation of their mum) and is getting this bombardment of talk from his mum, consequently being put in the middle of this. She got angry at my boyfriend on the phone saying that he had changed and (unbeknownst to her) made him cry for the first time in 15 years. She was in pain, feeling like she is being left alone to deal with their mum. She blames the pain on their Dad. The mess that is divorce... I feel like my presence in their lives is hurting both my boyfriend and his sister. That is certainly the view that his mum is perpetuating. It's really hard to remember that it isn't about me. It is about that family and their relationships to each other growing into adulthood. Our relationship is our relationship. It is love and everyone in our lives is happy for us except her. She will get there. It will just take time.
- My trust is being built up again slowly. Slowly I am trusting that he is not going to act out when I go have a shower, or go to work (that one is still shaky due to a slip recently, but I understand that they will happen and do now completely trust that he is committed to recovery which is the fundamental thing)... but whilst he is still coming to terms with these middle circle behaviours I still am finding it really hard working on regaining my self-confidence when I see these girls everywhere I turn. They scare me. I know they hurt me when he looks at them, so I get angry within myself at him, at them, at his mother, at the world, at the media that created this porn addiction phenomenon in the first place... then I want to cry and go hide inside so that I don't have to be confronted with dealing with this. But that won't work. I have no control over his addiction. I do have control over my reactions. And I know that I'm as much the object of other guys objectification as other girls are of his, so the only really to do is ignore the guys stares or non-stares and focus on feeling good within myself... he loves me and is more serious about shaping his life around a total recovery than anything else in his life, so I just have to find a way of dealing with it in my head. It's hard. It's really hard. When I was being bullied at school (I was classic glasses, braces, into music & drama, strange eccentric girl who suddenly got contact lenses and years of gymnastic training gave a good figure to and realised what a change it made to the guys. Dangerous times requiring some serious self-reflection later on at college!), the blonde leggy tanned socialite girls once made a list of all the things I would have to change about myself to become attractive to guys. I thought they were all total nutjobs and had enough of a good stable background of good friends & stable homelife prior to that to think that what they were saying was bitchy and unfair, but it still hurt and obviously went in... so when I see him checking those girls out, it's doubly hard to stay objective about it because it feels like he is behaving like those girls... shouldn't I be enough? I know I am enough, and so do you, so why give them that energy?
- the other point to make here is... addiction sucks. It does. For all concerned. It isn't simple, and building up the trust needed is going to be a long process. I feel like a turtle at the moment... slowly feeling safe enough to peek out of the protective shell, then there is that nick of the addiction knife that hurts me and I don't trust outside the shell again. Because we both love each other so much, have had such a huge percentage of our lives together feeling happy (they far outweigh the addiction times) and so much else in our relationship feels so healthy, it is confusing to us both that trust could be so damaged and take so long to recover from it's fragility after stress caused (and was subsequently compounded by), a porn & compulsive masturbation addiction shattered it. I have never seen masturbation as a bad thing, but then again I was never an addict, and now that I have seen what compulsive masturbation has done to him & us I completely understand the difference between masturbation and compulsive masturbation... the difference between it as just one part of a healthy sexuality and as self-harming self-medication for childhood pain. I am just sooo looking forward to the day when I can walk down the street or sit in a bar without feeling like I'm ducking bullets the whole way.
- And now I feel fine again because I wrote it all down. God this thing is such a rollercoaster.