Anchors, Aweigh! [Part 3 of my story of making the best decision of my adult life]

PREVIOUSLY…

Shortly after I started therapy, I met a woman who absolutely knocked me off my feet. It was a lady in the Young Singles Sunday school class I had recently started attending, and I was just absolutely floored that someone of such physical and apparent inner beauty would strike up a conversation with me. Later I’d find out it was primarily to run interference for her roommate, fearing I was some kind of Sunday School creeper.

2008 - enamored. Oy...
2008 – enamored. Oy…

Nevertheless, we soon became friends and I was enamored from the start. Clarification: enamored with the IDEA of her. It would be another few years before I’d learn what it’d really take to be in a healthy relationship and what that actually looked like.

The people-pleasing part of my baggage is rooted in the earliest years of my home life that I can remember, trying to make our family appear as though nothing was wrong to outsiders while at home things were less than right. Somewhere along the line I just got it wired into my brain that if you make everything appear and seem right, ultimately it will be.

And the whole thing about following your heart…ugh. It’s not wrong, but in retrospect I think one needs some training in how to read the heart; and/or one needs to train the heart to be able to ascertain between that which glitters and that which is actually gold.

Well, that fateful meeting that Sunday morning did indeed turn into a friendship which I tried to fan into a romance – through cajoling, through fervent prayer, through just plain old persistence. All along my therapist was encouraging me to just be a friend, just be there. Ultimately, that’s what won out.

After a couple years of trying, giving up, trying again, etc., things finally took a turn and I wound up moving to Columbus, Ohio where she had moved, and we’d actually give this relationship thing a shot.

TO BE CONTINUED…

Anchors, Aweigh! [Part 2 of the story of my making the best decision of my adult life]

PREVIOUS POST

Therapist-B had a more effective way of getting to the heart of the matter. I don’t know if it was because she’s a woman, or if I was better able to communicate my concerns or what, but instead of getting caught up in the guilt of porn or anything else, she saw and treated it as a sign, a symptom of something deeper.

So we just dove right in, deep down to the heart of the matter.

Now, I don’t want to get too far into the weeds of therapy here, because that’s not the point of this post (or series of posts as it may turn out), suffice to say I went into it a melancholy chronic self-loathing, manipulative people-pleaser and three years later emerged a melancholy less than chronic self-loathing, not as manipulative, people-pleaser.

The thing about therapy is, it doesn’t just make everything all better. It’s not the kind of thing where you go in all busted up with issues and come out all put together without issues. In my experience, what one comes out with is the emotional and spiritual tools and weapons to deal with the issues. I am significantly better off than I was 10 years ago, but I’m not 100% by certain standards. There are times I still find myself plagued with self-doubt, a lack of confidence, and wanting to make people happy.

OH MY GOD
2007 me – uh…searching for myself…?

What therapy helped me learn is that I am enough as-is and that I am worthy of love; love of myself, no less. After all, how can one love anyone else if one is incapable of loving one’s self? And I’m not talking arrogant assholery – again, trying not to get too deep into the weeds – but being able to care for and appreciate one’s self. For some it comes naturally. It could be genetics, a good home life, whatever. For others it’s a little more difficult for any number of reasons.
Anyway, previously I mentioned that the catalyst for all this was my 20th or so failed attempt at a significant romantic relationship. Therapy helped me be more confident, and therefore more choosy, in the romantic partners I would pursue, and to do so in a more or less healthy way.

TO BE CONTINUED…

Anchors, Aweigh! [Part 1 of my story of making the best decision of my adult life]

In the Spring of 2006, nearing the end of my 25th year, I had experienced my 20th or so failed relationship – this one being a long-distance one with a lady I met through Christianmingle.com. I had been to visit her in Indiana, she visited me in North Carolina, and then she called it off.

2006 me - first time I tried the Amish beard, I think.
2006 me – first time I tried the Amish beard, I think.

I have a tendency to get attached really quickly and really deeply. It was this proclivity that was the primary cause of ending most of my relationships theretofore; not the only cause – I’ve broken a couple hearts and upset my fair share of women, too, but mostly I’ve been on the rejected side of relationships (mmmmaybe about a 70/30 split).

My time with Indiana lady was unlike anything I had experienced up to that point. I don’t know that it was the best experience I had with a woman up to that point, but it really got my attention. Not to devalue or discount previous relationships, but this was the first time I was involved with a bona fide female nerd. When we were together we played video games, watched Battlestar Galactica (2004), talked about Star Trek and music and I just knew (as I had known in previous relationships) that she had to be the one.

When she proved not to be the one, I decided that it was time to do something different.

For years my dad and surrogate mom had encouraged me to go to therapy. Finally, I was ready.

The first try didn’t work out so well. The therapist was a guy who told me porn wasn’t such a big deal, as I was engaged in a rousing bit of self-loathing and self-condemnation at the time for looking at pictures of naked women on the Internet. So, I decided he wasn’t a good fit. My dad, thank God, suggested another he knew of through his network of professionals and I met with her.

Deciding to give therapy another chance changed everything.

You see, in addition to my proclivity for attaching quickly and deeply, I also sometimes tend to give up on something if it doesn’t come easy or natural to me. Part of me wanted to do that in this case, but a stronger part insisted on giving it another chance. At that point I had tried the same haphazard strategy with relationships for years and only had that many years of disappointment and heartbreak to show for it. I had given therapy a chance only for about an hour. Yeah, whatever that part of me was saying, let’s give it at least one more shot.

TO BE CONTINUED…