I spent most of my younger life falling in and out of “love.”
I would chase someone for months, charm them, date them, start a relationship, and then…right when everything should have been perfect, I would start to distance myself emotionally from them.
Basically, the exact moment they started to search for the “real me” I would start to run.
No problem I would tell myself, she was just not “the right person” for me. I would convince myself that the fault was hers (or the fault was with the chemistry) and that surely the next one would be “the one.”
Within months, it would be over and I would start the cycle again.
Was I telling myself the truth?
Was this just a problem of chemistry and a search for “the one” true love of my life?
Of course not, they were all wonderful people whose only deficit was me.
Looking For “Love” Inside Of A Fantasy
I was always sure that once I settled down with whomever I was dating that she would be the one that solved all of my problems (that my “issues” would be overwhelmed and healed by the sheer happiness of being in a relationship with “her” the “right” beautiful and perfect woman).
I was sure that once I settled down with whomever I was dating that she would always pick me up when I was down, understand when I was sad and most importantly…never ask me to truly change myself (or find out about or ask me to change my secret acting out behaviors).
I was falling in love with the fantasy of physical beauty and with what they could do for me instead of falling in love with a real-life human being sitting or lying next to me.
Sadly, the more the person became “real” to me in ways that I couldn’t ignore, the more the relationship threatened me to the core. The closer we really got, the more I felt it was time to cut and run.
I was “in love” with a cut-out picture of the real live person sitting right in front of me.
Instead of experiencing the deepening of intimacy that is supposed to happen when you find out that the actual person is better than the fantasy, the more people became real, the more I ran.
Of course, once this repetitive fantasy of the perfect relationship dissolved, my problems were always still there and the growing natural relationship expectations always grew to threaten my true lover, my secret-addicted self.
And since it was always really all about me, resolving the dissonance always took priority over thinking about the other person or even being reflexive about myself.
Lost In Protective Narcissism
The simplest way to explain what was happening to me (over and over again) was that I was lost in protective narcissism.
Fear of other people was at the root of my addictive cycle and protecting myself and keeping an emotional distance from others was my “best” protection against being hurt (or against getting sober).
A part of me authentically and deeply wanted a connection with someone else that the rest of me was incapable of providing.
You can’t connect until you can actually “see” the real person in front of you, and when you can only relate to people through the projections and fantasies that you create to protect yourself from truly being vulnerable to them (open and honest), true connection is impossible without honesty.
With myself, and many other addicts I have talked to, it is not until we became able to be radically open that we were able to have true intimacy (not sex) with another person.
Take Off Your Gloves
Think of it like this, you can’t feel the world the same way wearing gloves as you do when your fingers are exposed.
Sometimes, when you take your gloves off, the experience is painful (extreme cold) but most of the truly amazing tactile experiences you have are through contact with your finger-tips.
Secrets are our means of protecting ourselves from emotional intimacy and vulnerability. Secrets are the gloves covering our ability to truly see and feel other people or to truly share ourselves.
Believe me, I get it, I have suffered some pretty severe trauma and I come to my intimacy deficits the hard way. But, living inside fantasies – even when living with real people – is and was no path to happiness.
It is impossible to ever really and truly “feel” someone else, to truly fall in love with them, while you are wearing emotional boxing gloves.
Openness and honesty are the keys to the door of true connection.
Addictive release and living inside your own head can never truly replace the yearning and need for true connection with other people. The fantasy will never make you more than temporarily happy.
At the end of the day, engaging in fantasy is nothing but narcissism, it will never result in anything but the release of dopamine followed by sadness, guilt, and longing for the real thing.
My Fantasies cannot care about me.
If you want to feel the joy of life you have to take off the gloves…You have to start living an open and honest life.
A Program Of Intimacy Training
I think that my “program of recovery” could just as easily be called my “program of intimacy training.”
I spent most of my life protecting myself from intimacy instead of experiencing it.
Sure, I had many long relationships and many flings and even many co-habitations, but none of them ever really involved myself being radically open and vulnerable.
I was always experiencing my partners only through the “gloves” of secrets and fantasies that I wore.
When we share our feelings, talk about our problems, and open ourselves to other people, we are engaging in intimacy training. Through We learning to accept vulnerability as a necessary part of life and we are learning to feel the world again.
Through honesty, we learn to accept vulnerability as a necessary part of life and we learn to feel the world again (and we learn to see and truly feel the people we grow to care about).
We are learning to feel and see the real world (instead of our fantasies).
We are learning that there are huge benefits to taking off the gloves when it matters the most.
5 Stars “Clearly written, practical, and unflinchingly honest. Author’s been through hell and back and remembers everything he learned on the way. Approachable writing with good lessons.”