I have noticed a trend with, or similarities among, the men I chose—or perhaps who chose me.
I clearly became a different person, at least to the outside world, after my first marriage.
I was seen by others at that time as independent—financially and emotionally—a business woman who didn’t need anything. Someone who perhaps just wanted a man for physical pleasure, but not as a source of security for her emotional needs.
I lived in elite neighborhoods, owned my homes, drove a new and fancy car. I had all the symbols of having it together. Yet, at the age of 33 I found myself divorced and alone in the world, not able to find the man who could match my perceived success and independence.
What the world didn’t know is that I struggled to find enough money for a down payment for a home, had a loan to pay for my car, and a large overdraft for my business. I was always stressed-out about money, isolated, and grieving old and new losses. I feared the feeling of being alone and yearned for a companion who would love me and want to journey with me through it.
So, there was a lot going on underneath the exterior facade, which may have pushed away some men and attracted the wrong type.
I remember meeting a guy I knew in the food court in the mall, sometime after I remarried. His greeting to me was, “Hi, I didn’t know you wanted to get married, had I known that, I would have married you. I thought you were just happy going about your life.” I was not interested in this man, nor would I have accepted a marriage proposal from him, but this was the way men saw me.
My second marriage also failed. In hindsight, I can see the wounds were doing the choosing for me.
Here I am at the age of 64, trying to dive deeper into myself to find the reason for the discomfort in being alone. The answer is still fear. Old fear, of the darkness.
When I was a kid, I lived in the countryside with no electricity and lots of folktales about the supernatural. It was scary for me. I remember having nightmares about hands climbing the wall and evil spirits floating about the room. The noise outside from the breeze moving the tree branches was terrifying. There were stories about witches and pacts with the devil in exchange for riches. Stories about monies being buried in claypots where lights shone at night.
My sister put me to sleep every night praying the Lord’s Prayer. She was older and knew the prayers, so I just repeated after her and allowed myself to be led and comforted till I fell asleep.
Up until now, I never saw the relationship between my fear of the darkness and my attachment patterns in romantic relationships.
I never knew what I feared, but felt unloved and abandoned if my partner wanted too much space. I clung to others and I was afraid to be left alone.
For the last 20 years while married, I grappled in the darkness for a hand to hold and steady me while I blindly closed my eyes, gave directions to the way out, but was too scared to look. I held on to that hand and prayed as I used to at nights with my sister, while we were both terrified of the darkness.
As I became an adult, the way to meet my need for comfort and companionship was through a romantic relationship, but it got entangled with other messages about what a man is. “Men are strong, capable, natural leaders. A man will take care of me. Men are resourceful and have it all together. Men are intelligent,” and so on and so forth.
I desperately searched for the hand of a man to hold mine while I shook and trembled through everyday tasks. I confused that desperation and longing to be safe with love.
I was scared to set boundaries and lose the person, as I needed the presence of another—real close—to function in life. I was scared to rock the boat, so I gave and gave some more to avoid having to cross that dark tunnel alone.
A different type of discomfort showed up. I began to notice the absence of love, of genuine caring for me—even when I had nothing to give. I began to notice coldness of heart, detachment—even when you’re physically present—disdain, subtle anger, and passive aggression. A quiet form of disrespect I didn’t recognize in the beginning, because it wasn’t noisy.
I settled for holding a hand that didn’t show a physical threat to my life, but it wasn’t love, it was convenience. I knew it deep in my soul, but I was too scared to let go of that hand.
Today, I know at times I’ll still be scared, but I’m healthy enough to dare let go of the hand, open my eyes, and allow myself to feel the old terror and heal.
I am now aware that success in a relationship and marriage can greatly benefit from working on ourselves and identifying the driver in our selection of a life-partner.
I am writing to help myself, and hopefully others, become more emotionally independent.