I have Father issues. After my Dad and Mom split up, my Dad went to work in another city for over a year. I was 7 years old, and it felt like forever. I took a plane to visit him once or twice and he wrote me letters.
But despite the relatively short time and connectivity he felt as a grown-up, it was very different for me as a child.
I never really internalized my Father’s love for me until much later in my life. He was the kind of parent who praised me for my good work along with a reminder I could always do better. As a driven professional adult, I appreciate this, but as a child, it doesn’t feel good. It felt like I was never good enough and my Father didn’t love me for who I was.
He had a second child with my stepmother and he became much more overt about his love.
But the damage was done.
My Mom used to say that my need for male attention was driven by this. I’m sure she was right. It’s been the biggest thing I’ve worked to overcome in the last few years. When I was younger, I gave myself to men – both mentally and physically – when they weren’t good for me. Sometimes when I didn’t even like them, because the “goodies” I got from their attention overrode the negative feelings of a bad choice.
The ultimate impact of this?
I had sex with, and dated men, who I didn’t particularly desire. But I desired their desire.
I stayed in relationships when I shouldn’t have. This included my marriage.
It took the breakdown of my marriage and all the analysis I’ve done of how I managed to get myself into that situation to really understand the connection between my issues and my behavior. I feel like I’ve made tremendous progress in this area. Tangled up in my need for male attention is a genuine love of sex and very strong sex drive. Generally speaking, the long list of lovers I’ve compiled since becoming single isn’t because I’m seeking male attention to fill a daddy-love void. I really like to fuck.
I’ve exited relationships that aren’t right for me – and this is HUGE progress. I’ve said goodbye to several men who adored me and would have done anything for me. As much as I may have been right for them, they weren’t right for ME, and I was able to see it and walk away, knowing I was facing being single yet again.
I feel good about the situations where I’m given the chance to get to know someone. When they are interested in me, and I them, and we date and I can make a call about whether we’re compatible.
I have yet to master the situations where I am denied that opportunity. It still drives me absolutely batty when I meet someone where there could be potential and they aren’t as dedicated to finding out as I am. It makes me want to figuratively jump up and down and yell “pay attention to me!”
Which in practice, isn’t the most confidence bad-ass woman thing to do.
I suppose I do find it a form of rejection when someone isn’t interested in finding out more.
Logic won’t prevail in this case. I know all the right things intellectually. I can’t make someone pay more attention to me – well, not positive attention, anyway. I certainly could do all kinds of batty things to get myself deleted and blocked. I don’t do that shit. I know that timing and communication styles and priorities all come into play.
I’d love to think I’m the kind of woman who someone meets and then can’t think of anyone or anything else. But I’ve had that obsessiveness recently and it didn’t end well.
I also know the kind of man I’m interested in should have enough going on in his life that I’m not the priority after one or two dates. I’ve also had that experience and it didn’t end well. As a friend says “you aren’t special until you’re special”.
Again, I know all this.
Which is how I know, when my intellect can’t overcome my emotions, there’s more going on. This is one place where that little girl is still triggered. I find myself saying “why won’t you pay attention to me?!” and I don’t like it one bit.
As with everything else, I know I have to train my brain and practice new behaviors to overcome it. I don’t think the emotional response will ever go away – I am still a product of my entire life – but I want to feel better about the depth of that response, and what I do about it. I’m confident if I make it to any kind of relationship I’m good at getting out if needed – I suppose that should have been my biggest priority, so I’m pleased I started there.
I’m getting some practice right now – while I haven’t written about it, it did get me thinking about my emotional and behavioral response – and I’m working on doing things differently going forward. I’m sure it will work – eventually.