Photo Courtesy of Tara Blue
Red, Yellow, Red, Yellow, Red, Yellow, Red …..Circle, Square, Triangle, Circle, Square, Triangle, Circle, Square….
Oh don’t mind me I am just stuck in a couple of patterns.
It has been a year since I started this blog.
I have written about my journey and have become more aware of who I truly am.
Publicly sharing my path to things like self-love, self-respect, self-worth and self-awareness has made me vulnerable while simultaneously allowing me to grow by leaps and bounds.
Today, I am ready to make a new leap.
I want to delve more deeply into what is going on inside me that caused me to allow myself to be treated so poorly in my romantic relationships.
Saying that I had low self-esteem is not enough.
I have reached a point where I want to gain a better understanding of why, so that I can take active steps to change it.
I often have flashbacks of things that happened in my past and I find myself cringing as I think to myself ‘why didn’t I love myself enough to say this is not okay’ or ‘why did I allow myself to be treated like that’.
I want you to know that when I say cringe I mean I literally bawl my hands into fists, draw my shoulders in towards my chest like one does when going into the fetal position and I close my eyes as if I am bracing myself for impact.
Sometimes it will be a thought that I stored away so deeply that when it rises up I will think ‘oh my that really happened to me, I lived through that ‘.
Over the years I suppressed a lot of things.
I guess I did it as a coping mechanism to deal with what my younger mind wasn’t ready to process.
However, when the thoughts come up I sometimes get mad at my former self and am often embarrassed by my past behavior.
Then I have to remind myself that I was doing the best that I knew how to do at the time.
The one thing about working through the process of why you think the way you think is that you uncover some ugly childhood demons.
I have been aware that I have some unhealthy limiting beliefs.
But when did they start?
And more importantly why did I accept them as true?
The reason I want to explore these questions is because I want to pluck the lies out by the root and eliminate them from my life.
My limiting beliefs of unworthiness have led me to live a life that is less than what I have been called to live and to settle for poor treatment from people (especially my romantic relationship partners).
I don’t want to continue a path of settling for relationship partners who I know don’t value me. And the only way I know how to make that change is to understand my pattern so that I can break it.
I recognize that many of my issues with my romantic partners are rooted in my relationship with my father and other behaviors I learned from my childhood.
I so don’t want to be that person who has daddy issues, but right now if I am completely honest that is exactly who I am. And the only way forward is to accept where I am at.
This post is not easy for me. It involves publicly admitting my issues in a way that makes me feel ashamed of my past and furthermore, the notion of speaking unfavorably about my father is unsettling. I love both of my parents very deeply and it is uncomfortable for me to publicly cast them in what may be perceived as a negative light. My parents like everyone else have always done the best they can and they shouldn’t be frowned upon for that.
But I know that I am not the only person who grew up learning poor relationship skills and if I can help one person by sharing my story then it is worth me becoming vulnerable.
With that said, let’s start breaking some unhealthy patterns.
I haven’t had many romantic relationships but the few that I have had, have all been dysfunctional.
In my teenage years I accepted lies as truth when it comes to men.
A major start in my dysfunctional pattern started when I was 14 and my parents separated.
I was glad they separated because my home life was very stressful.
I love my dad very dearly but after he returned from the Gulf War his behavior simply became unbearable for me.
When my father moved out he made the decision that he no longer wanted to be a part of my life.
He didn’t attend any of my graduations, he wasn’t there when I got married or for the births of any of my children. There were no birthday cards and no holiday wishes.
To be honest I went from 1996 to 2014 without spending any special occasions with my father.
I probably saw him three times in that time frame and maybe spoke to him less than five. But when I did speak to him he told me he loved me very much.
When my father briefly came back in my life in 2014 it caused me to start dealing with my childhood demons in a way I hadn’t before.
But I am glad he came back because it helped me to realize just how much my interaction with the men I fell in love with mirrored the behavior of my father.
While I love my dad, I have grown to accept that the way my father shows love is not the way I want to be loved.
And yet I have engaged in a pattern where I go years without a romantic relationship only to find myself dating someone who I know from the beginning of the relationship doesn’t really care about me.
I will consciously ignore red flags.
That’s right I said consciously.
For example I will literally sit there and think ‘wow this guy is lying to me I should get away from him’ and yet I will remain sitting there hypnotized like Boo Boo the Fool and let him lie to me some more.
Everything in me will be screaming he is not treating you right and then later I will be bawling my eyeballs out acting all butt hurt because he keeps mistreating me.
To make matters worse I will tell the person that I don’t like being mistreated, but then stay there and allow them to continue.
I will say it nicely, I will go off on them, I will hint, then I pretend not to notice until finally they do something that wakes me up enough for me to realize their behavior is unacceptable.
Sadly, it took me until very recently to accept that the old adage is true – actions speak louder than words.
The guys in my life only mistreated me because I let them.
If I wanted the mistreatment to stop it was my responsibility to walk away.
Yes, they are responsible for their behavior but I am responsible for staying.
It isn’t their fault that I told myself that if I just kept showing them how much I loved them then they would realize that I deserved to be treated better.
No, that was a lie I was telling myself.
Just because they asked for another chance didn’t mean I had to give it to them.
Yet amazingly, even though it was me that was inviting myself to be mistreated by acting like a doormat, I would find myself resenting the men who walked all over me.
I would find myself angry at them for wiping their feet on me when all the time I was laying there saying please do it again.
Well, how on earth did I get to the point where I thought doormat was my name instead of Renata?
I didn’t want them to leave me like my dad did. I interpreted my dad’s decision to not want to be a part of my life to mean something was inherently wrong with me.
I believe I subconsciously thought that if I could just behave in a way that these men who behaved like my father would find acceptable then it would mean that whatever was wrong about me was made right.
I hadn’t accepted that my dad has his own issues that have nothing to do with me.
But to further explore my unhealthy thought pattern I want to look at a few lies that I believed which ultimately set me up for major relationship failure.
I believed all men cheated, that men don’t have any emotions and that all men mistreat women.
That false belief system allowed me to call dysfunctional behavior normal.
Additionally, the fact that my father said he loved me but didn’t want to be around me caused me to believe that love meant a relationship where someone’s actions didn’t match their words and where someone who loved me wouldn’t care to spend time with me, and would constantly disappoint me.
Thus, the perfect guy to fulfill the pattern of emotional unavailability that felt familiar to me was as follows:
- One who is not only a liar but an obvious one.
- A man who says one thing and does another. He never follows through and constantly lets me down. He is consistently inconsistent.
- A man who is unfaithful.
- A man who treats me poorly.
- A man who doesn’t show his true emotions to me.
- Someone who is verbally, mentally and/or emotionally abusive.
- One who is a poor communicator
- One who makes it clear that they don’t want to hear me/understand me and who laughs at or ignores my pain.
- Someone who takes advantage of me.
- One who made me a low priority and didn’t have time for me.
As pitiful as that list is, it was my truth.
I had convinced myself that all men were abusive unfaithful liars who didn’t value women or have emotions. And even once I started to realize thatthere are good men I had accepted the false belief that they wouldn’t want a relationship with someone like me.
I hear stories where people say women have nice men who they turn down for men who mistreat them, that isn’t my story.
I have never friend zoned a nice guy. The only men who approach me are the men who fit my belief system about men. I think that is a testament to how strongly my belief system is. I attract men who prove me right.
So when people say simply pick a guy who doesn’t do those things, for me it means being alone, because guys who behave otherwise do not show interest in me.
Why would they?
I don’t mean that as a put down of myself.
I mean I have been subconsciously clinging to a self-fulfilling prophecy that doesn’t allow me to attract men who run counter to my belief system.
For I have done a wonderful job of convincing myself that if the only guys that are interested in me act poorly then that is what I have to accept if I want a relationship, because better may be out there but it isn’t out there for me. Therefore, if I want a man in my life I have to accept being mistreated.
In my soul I know that isn’t true but my subconscious says it is.
That’s why my pattern has to break.
My belief system is so outrageous that I was in my early twenties before I realized men could feel. I know that sounds shocking but it’s what I thought.
That belief was so heavily ingrained that when I would see a man cry instead of recognizing it as proof that men feel I would doubt the authenticity of it.
It simply ran contrary to my belief that they couldn’t feel. When I finally accepted that men do have feelings it was such a shock to my system that I remember I called my mom on the phone to ask her if she knew that men could feel.
She laughed and said yes.
I am not sure if she even knows how big of an epiphany that was for me.
To the men reading this post, I don’t mean to offend you, I was very naive and didn’t know any better.
And to make matters worse I also thought yelling and screaming was normal. So my relationships consisted of me being mistreated, yelling and throwing a fit about it, saying I was going to leave and then staying for more mistreatment.
Yeah that was crazy I know.
Believe me my ex husband wasn’t crazy all by himself I brought my own dose of crazy to the table. (I never want to give the impression that my ex husband is some horrible person. I wasn’t the worst wife but I was far from perfect and I played a role in that marriage failing as much as he did).
And to make matters worse a few months after my divorce I repeated the pattern of allowing someone to behave badly then complaining only to stay in the relationship that caused my heartbreak.
I knew from the beginning of the relationship that the person meant me no good but somehow I felt drawn.
Every time he lied, I knew it and tolerated it.
Because I had convinced myself that all men lie.
He would tell me he was going to do something then he wouldn’t do it and that felt painfully normal.
It was all too familiar to how my father would tell me he was going to do something and not do it, so this guy’s failure to follow through was uncomfortably comfortable.
I had a false sense of normalcy because my idea of normal wasn’t healthy.
To be honest I am not confident that my problem is so much that I didn’t think good men existed as much I thought that they did’t exist for me.
I felt too unattractive to attract a man that could love me in a healthy way.
As I explained earlier the mind has a wonderful way of making itself right.
Perception truly becomes reality.
That is why I started telling myself a new story. And why it is imperative I break this pattern. I want to create a new reality because my old one no longer serves me.
I am taking a break to work on me so that if I enter another romantic relationship it won’t be about me trying to subconsciously seek my father’s love and approval from a poor relationship partner or for any other unhealthy reason.
No, when I finish my dating hiatus I want to come to the table with a healthy self-esteem, sense of self-worth and with healthy relationship skills. That way I can add to someone’s life and have room for them to add to mine.
I had previously said I was taking a year off of dating. I recently decided a year is my minimum. I will take as long as it takes for me to go from an unhealthy belief system to a healthy one.
I have to stop believing the thought that no one will want to be with someone like me or that I have to settle.
Because it isn’t true and I have to know mind, body and soul that it isn’t true.
When my gut tells me to exit or to not enter a relationship I need to listen and stop thinking that being mistreated is the best treatment I will ever receive. And when I am approached I cannot allow myself to think that he is my last chance at love.
Dating is a screening process.
From my standpoint it shouldn’t be about proving that I am good enough for him, but rather if he is someone who would be a positive compliment to my life.
No one is going to come along to save me from my childhood hurt or emotional issues. I have to take active steps to work through my pain.
And I have to be patient. Waiting for someone who values me as opposed to settling for someone who mistreats me simply has to become my new pattern.
It’s either being in a relationship and emotionally healthy or alone and emotionally healthy there is no longer room for any alternatives.
When people feel comfortable letting me down I don’t need to see that as normal but as a sign that they don’t value me and that it is time to value myself enough to leave.
I need to stop trying to teach grown men how to love me.
If they don’t know how to love that is their issue and not mine.
So today I remind myself that my dad is my dad. The men I date cannot erase my childhood hurt. I have to make peace with it and stop breaking my own heart.
I am currently reading self-help books and articles as well as listening to teaching tapes so that I can find avenues to heal my pain and stop subconsciously seeking engagement in unhealthy relationships.
I want to thank you for allowing me to share my truth with you on yet another occasion. As I previously stated this isn’t exactly easy, but it is helpful. In the meantime I hope you are able to break any unhealthy patterns in your life.
As for me my new pattern is:
red, yellow, red, yellow, red, yellow, LOVE!
© Renata Pittman Smith, Renata Nicole and RenataNicole, 2016. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Renata Pittman Smith and RenataNicole with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.