Dear Neil: I push everyone around me away, and my worst problem is that I’m sabotaging a relationship with a caring, loving and intelligent man who I don’t want to lose. I don’t have good friends other than him, so I turn to him for everything I need, and I have been very needy and manipulative.
I have poor self-esteem, and when I get lonely and insecure, I need other people to convince me I’m worth something. So I have been in contact with several other men online. I have sent them my pictures and have flirted with them. I just need someone to tell me how attractive I am and that they want me. My boyfriend knows everything I have done and he has chosen to forgive me every single time. But sometimes I think I intentionally do things with other men to get his attention. Whenever I feel I don’t have his attention, I push him away and am mean to him, hoping he will chase me.
I don’t know how to stop this. I’ve never learned to love the right way. Can you advise me? I don’t want to throw this guy away.
How Do I Stop This?
Dear Stop: Your behaviors communicate that you don’t feel worthy of being loved. You are therefore pushing away a relationship with someone who is displaying that he may love you. Simply put, you’re making it increasingly hard for him to trust in you, respect you and feel good about being with you. And you’re putting enormous pressure on him to continuously give you all of his time and attention, which is destined to backfire on you.
For you to begin feeling worthy of love, make a list of what you like, love, admire and/or respect about yourself. Include your accomplishments; your creativity; your social skills; work or professional skills; with whom you have been compassionate or caring; when have you been brave or courageous; when have you been resilient; with whom and when are you kind; with whom are you generous; what you like about your appearance; how you have grown and matured, what you like about yourself and what you offer to a romantic relationship.
Spend time creating as thorough a list as you can, and refer to this list often. This is the beginning of looking at why you might be lovable to someone else, and how you can begin loving and believing in yourself. Feeling worthy of love is required for you to be in a healthy love relationship, as well as finding meaningful things you can do to occupy (or enrich) yourself so you are not demanding your boyfriend’s constant attention.