I knew from our first phone call that Jim was a self-centered, self-absorbed, man-sized boy. We met via the Internet. I was newly out of a long-term relationship and 12 years older than he was. He had never had a relationship for longer than a year. Before that first phone call, we had exchanged several e-mails over a two-month period, and I had made the mistake of letting myself get attached to him before we even met, so I ignored the red flags that later surfaced.
Our first date was just so-so, and afterwards I backed off from seeing him again. My pulling away after that first encounter was probably a big incentive for him to pursue me, and then when I showed renewed interest it probably became a stimulus to him to move off and disappoint me.
He repeatedly pulled me close and then pushed me away. I felt off balance much of the time, and I was often confused. We had many long phone conversations in which he shared many details of his childhood. My sensitive and nurturing self felt sorry for his wounded inner child. I listened way too much. He was needy -- for understanding, for attention, for acceptance -- and my need to feel important was being fed by his neediness.
It was a neurotic lock. I see that now. Eventually we had about 12 more dates. I was flattered that he found me attractive and sexy. I kept thinking that if I could just love him enough, he'll get healthier, emotionally. He was smart, articulate, and funny. He was well read. We were both teachers. I enjoyed his insights on politics and movies. We both loved dogs, books, children, traveling. He made me laugh. There was chemistry, and there were some magic moments. I felt needed.
All the while, the part of me that wasn't obsessed with Jim was urging caution. It was pointing out things that I preferred to ignore. He's a big gas bag. He always has to be the center of attention. He's always "on." He hardly ever asks a thing about me. He was rude to that poor waiter at the restaurant the first time we met. Gratuitous sarcasm about others. And he constantly dumps on his siblings and his parents!
Every past relationship that hadn't worked out for him was always someone else's fault. He told me stories of how he used people. He liked to mock people and put them down. My doubts began to smolder. "He's sweet to you now," I'd say to myself, "but if he's like that with others, you know your day will come. If you weren't ass over teakettle in love, you really might not like him all that much."
One day I read a series of articles about love. Love, one said, was a form of insanity. The victim attributes impossible qualities to the beloved object. The victim becomes sleepless, loses appetite, and fails to think clearly. These, the article went on, are the symptoms of clinical psychosis! I'd heard all this before, but now it was sinking in. I reread every word. "There you are," murmured a little voice that was growing louder. "That's you."
He and I started bickering. Then, after a big argument, I ended it. And he wormed his way back into my good graces. We tried again. There were two more disconnects... and reconnects. The deathblow to our relationship came when I developed a concern about my health. I needed him to listen, and his response was, "I don't want any heavy emotional discussions."
What? After I had spent countless hours listening to him, being encouraging, being supportive? It was then that I realized that this man was unfixable, and I had to get out and stay out. One of my female friends said, "Try this: Say to yourself, 'I have more respect for myself than to do this anymore.'" She was right.
That was two years ago, and although I was devastated at first, my life eventually went back to normal. Women, you need to sit quietly with yourself and simply pay attention to your body. To your gut. To your feelings. Sit with them. Process them. What are you feeling? Can you find that place inside yourself where you just "know"?
If you are kind and sensitive and if you have a good heart, look for a man with a good heart who is kind and sensitive. I have one now, and I guess Jim helped me because I do appreciate this new and wonderful man who is now my fiancé.
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