“There are two things you should never waste your time on: things that don’t matter and people who think that you don’t matter.” ~Ziad K. Abdelnour
“What is wrong with me?” I asked myself. Crying in the dark of the night. “Why doesn’t he love me?”
I’d tried to fold myself in all the ways I could to be loved and accepted, but it was never enough. I found myself repeating patterns of chasing men who just didn’t want me. Same cry in the night, different men.
The more I chased them, the more they ran away, and the deeper I lost my self-worth.
I was addicted to them. They were my drug. These men who were wounded and just needed a loving, caring woman to come save them. I wanted to be the answer to their pain so then finally, a man would choose me. Finally, I would get the love I had longed for and chased my whole life.
I always chased men that were unavailable in some way. They may have been addicts, in other relationships, or just not ready for a relationship. The more they didn’t want the relationship, the harder I would chase.
I would be up late in the night, full of anxiety, obsessing about them. So preoccupied with trying to make them love me that I forgot to take care of myself.
I had no boundaries and would accept any kind of awful behavior. It would break my heart and I may pull back for a moment, but then they would notice and come toward me, so the pull-push cycle would begin again.
I lacked self-love and self-worth, and this pattern was destroying what little I had. I felt like nothing and like there was something fundamentally wrong with me.
My happiness, my everything, was tied up in receiving validation from these unavailable men. The older I got, the worse it got, and the more obvious it was that something was not right. My friends were getting married, having children, and moving forward. But I was stuck ruminating about my latest obsession.
I even drove my friends mad! No matter what they said to me, it wouldn’t stop me chasing a fantasy. When they stopped listening, I rang a psychic line multiple times a day for validation that the man I wanted was ‘the one.’ So not only did my self-worth disappear but my bank balance with it.
It was exhausting and brought me to my knees in my mid-thirties.
Then I noticed something. If someone was interested in me, available, and wanted to move forward, I would feel suffocated and tell myself there was no chemistry. But if someone showed some interest but was not available, I would want them more than anything.
I felt like there was something really wrong with me because of this pattern, but I was determined to change, so I could have healthy, loving romantic relationships.
I read You Can Heal Your Life, by Louise Hay, and decided to change my beliefs.
Here are the five things I did to heal so I could open up to a healthier relationship:
1. I adopted a daily self-care practice.
It became painfully obvious to me that I knew how to love others but not myself. So I began with adding some practices to my day to help me build self-love.
I listened to affirmations on Spotify and read them to myself looking in the mirror. I tried meditation and hot baths to begin my journey. I was always researching new ways to show myself love. In addition to developing a self-care practice, I invested in support to help me get better, including therapy.
2. I began doing inner child work.
I went back to my earlier story through meditation and discovered that younger-me was always chasing after my dad’s unavailable love. Trying to help him, to be seen. Trying to fix him so he would tell me I was enough. Seeking his validation, his connection, because he was unavailable due to his own childhood trauma. My inner child had internalized this to means I was unlovable.
I began to say affirmations to a photo of my younger self. “You are loveable,” “You are enough,” “You are worthy.” I would literally talk to her and ask her how she felt and what she needed. I would imagine playing with her and showing her love.
I explored my inner child’s story and learned lots about attachment theory. I realized that I had disorganized attachment from my father’s inconsistency, and that this was not my fault but just part of my old programming. The great news was I could change this! A book that helped me was Healing Your Attachment Wounds, by Diane Poole Heller.
When I recognized why I sought love from men who couldn’t give it to me, that ache for unavailable love lessened.
3. I set clear intentions.
I grew up on my dad’s little crumbs of love. It made me feel starved for love and attention, so later in life, I would accept them from any man who showed me interest. Even if they weren’t the right fit for me. I had no idea what that was!
When I realized this, I compiled a list of what I didn’t want. I tuned into what brought me pain and unhappiness growing up. Things that made me feel unsafe. These became my red flags. For example, emotional unavailability, anger, shouting, gaslighting, denying my reality, and addiction were a few items from my list.
I became conscious about what I didn’t want so I wouldn’t blindly go into a relationship that made me feel unsafe again.
I also compiled a list of things I did want—must-haves like kindness and safety.
4. I ended contact with unavailable men.
This was a hard one and felt very uncomfortable. I took a step back from my ‘drug.’ I even unfollowed people on social media to allow myself space to heal. Sometimes I would have a bad day and make contact, but slowly my addiction lessened.
To support myself through this process, I read books, listened to podcasts, and even trained for a marathon to give me another focus. Books like Father Therapy, by Doreen Virtue, and Facing Love Addiction, by Pia Mellody, helped me to understand my pattern. I also found communities where I could share my story and not be judged.
I learned how to stop numbing the pain from my past with these unhealthy relationships by learning how to soothe myself and let my wounds heal.
5. I dated myself.
I stepped back from dating and focused solely on learning to love and date myself. To start, I took myself on a trip for three days in Italy. I took my books, went on tours on my own, and journaled about my story. I regularly spent time with myself and even found new hobbies. Before, I had been so obsessed with these men that pleasing them was my hobby.
I found ways to enjoy my own time and have fun! To feel whole and enough on my own. I took myself to restaurants and treated myself to gifts. I became the person I always wanted. Validating, attentive, kind, and fun!
Sure enough, in time, I found an emotionally available man who chose me and was everything I wrote on my intention list. He had no red flags, unlike any of my previous partners. He makes me feel safe every day, and most importantly, he gives me space to continue the most important relationship in my life. The one with me.
If you can relate to this pattern of choosing emotionally unavailable partners, just notice the behavior. It is not you. It is just a behavior you are doing to keep safe. Thank this part and know that it is possible to change and find your healthy love.