After more issues with what I perceive to be the fickle behavior of men, I opened a discussion on my personal Facebook page, asking for the male perspective (although anyone who could see it was welcome to respond).
I explained about my choice to be sometimes brutally honest with men (really everyone) about who and what I am, about getting past the ones who don't interest me or can't keep up with me, and how I then tend to attract guys who are generally as intense and colorful as I am. They'll tell me how much they appreciate my energy and my honesty and my crazy, how I'm amazing and exactly what they've been looking for their whole damn lives, and then flake the fuck out approximately 4-6 weeks later. They will puff their chests initially and tell me how they'll be the best man I've ever known and then just quit trying.
So I asked if they were panicking suddenly or if men are generally liars by nature. I also explained that I wasn't looking to bash men, that I really was trying to understand it.
Several friends, both male and female, chimed in. The consensus was that these men likely believe what they're telling me but that maybe something just changes. Maybe they find they weren't really as interested as they initially thought. Maybe it's just not a good match. Whatever the reason, they generally aren't lying about their intentions or their feelings.
As the discussion evolved, La Bruja shared this:
I dated a bunch of emotionally unavailable men; they pushed all my hot buttons and presented me with a problem that resonated with me and that I wanted to fix! A lot of things helped me quit doing that, and one particular book finally made it click:
It's about adult attachment styles. The hot and cold that an avoidant can (and does) create used to be exactly what sucked me in. And now I don't even notice these guys. I have no idea if this is something that you're experiencing-- the men you describe sound avoidant, in that they come on strong, read you well, say the right things, and then bail-- potentially to pop back up from time to time. At any rate, it was an eye-opening read.
I looked at the book and dug a little deeper into attachment styles in adult relationships. I found a quiz online, for whatever that was worth, but it pointed to my being in the "preoccupied/anxious attachment" camp.
People who are anxious or preoccupied with attachment tend to agree with the following statements: "I want to be completely emotionally intimate with others, but I often find that others are reluctant to get as close as I would like. I am uncomfortable being without close relationships, but I sometimes worry that others don't value me as much as I value them." People with this style of attachment seek high levels of intimacy, approval, and responsiveness from their partners. They sometimes value intimacy to such an extent that they become overly dependent on their partners. Compared to securely attached people, people who are anxious or preoccupied with attachment tend to have less positive views about themselves. They often doubt their worth as a partner and blame themselves for their partners' lack of responsiveness. People who are anxious or preoccupied with attachment may exhibit high levels of emotional expressiveness, worry, and impulsiveness in their relationships.
Every guy I've ever been involved with will totally confirm that this describes me all too well.
As I dug even deeper, several articles point to my childhood as the root of the problem. Inconsistent parental attachment. Maladaptive. Drawn to fearful- and dismissive-avoidant partners.
Note to my exes: I can classify each of you, too.
After two years of therapy, I know the what, when, and why of my issues. I know the ins and outs of the series of events that led to these perceptions and behaviors in me. Truthfully, that's probably better than most people ever get. But what I don't know is how to change it.
Changing it at all is a really scary thought. While I am not defined by the events of my past, I am certainly shaped by them. Sexual, physical, and emotional abuse and neglect left their impact, undoubtedly. I have worked really, really hard to deal with all of those things and put them into healthy perspective. That work is, in part, what led to my writing again, to my open exploration of my life, and to the deep self-awareness I possess as a part of the entire process. That is what has given me the bravery to live my life and to even try to trust and love again when I have every logical reason to withdraw.
If I change the behaviors that are so inherently a part of me, do I change me to the point that I am less than who I am now? Do I somehow lose the muchness I worked so damn hard to find again?
My biggest fear is that I won't be able to love as deeply and passionately and intensely as I do now. I am afraid that I will temper that to the point that I become numb again—which is how I lived my life for far too long. I am fearful that I will lose my dream of the all-encompassing, breathtaking, soul-shattering-and-purifying love that I have wanted most for my entire life.
And now, I'm afraid that that dream is fallacious. I'm questioning whether everything I've worked so hard to attain, what is of tantamount importance to me as a soul, is as illusory as it is elusive.
To relinquish that belief could mean watching a dream die.
But what I also know is that my perceptions are inherently skewed. Right now, I don't know that I can trust them, and that means I can't trust myself. Historically I have placed my trust in the people who least deserve or respect it, and that has shredded my heart time and again. While I may know in my head that these patterns are unhealthy, I don't have the skill set to be able to approach it or think about it in any other way.
Part of me feels like I'm starting all over again, going back to the beginning of this crazy journey I've been on for more than three years. But the truth is that I am light years from where I was then; this is a new milestone on my path that just happens to look a lot like ones I've seen before. There's a weird sense of emotional déjà vu.
So I'll work with my therapist to gain the tools I need to form more secure attachments and to stop attracting fragile cats. As much as I love them and want to care for them, they'll never be able to love me back or care for me in the ways that I need. They're just as maladaptive as I am.
La Bruja went on to say this:
Stephanie, take it from me-- you CAN deal with all of that, past damage does NOT have to define you forever, and once you have addresses these issues in your own life, you simply will not see these men anymore (nor will they see you), and you will start noticing an entirely different type of person, one who wants to have a good relationship with a nice, beautiful, intelligent woman.
And he'll amuse the living daylights out of you by marveling from time to time about how it is that you're still available.
I'll take your word for it, my wonderful friend. God knows I can't trust my own.