The way I looked at relationships changed when I realized that I’d spent most of my life trying to manipulate people—mostly men—into loving me.
For the first time, I saw that I was the common denominator to my suffering. Sure, my lovers weren’t innocent, but my awareness only became present when I started taking responsibility for my life.
We try to find our worth through other people’s acceptance. We do this instead of learning to accept ourselves just as we are without having to prove anything. It’s a moment of nakedness. It’s the anxiety of exposing ourselves, wondering if we’re attractive enough. It’s hoping we don’t come off as too intense, and in trying to regulate our emotions, we blur the lines between who we are and who we pretend to be.
You learn to protect yourself from rejection and criticism by avoiding them. You learn to be whatever people need you to be. You become that girl that’s afraid to speak up. You overthink. You become a body of anxiety. You try to control everything around you because you have no control. You don’t know how to ask for what you want. You don’t know how to leave when people show you they don’t want you.
Tricking people into loving you by being agreeable feels safe. Buying affection feels safe. Going with the flow feels safe, but it leaves you empty because you’re not yourself. It’s frustrating because it’s a habit. You don’t know how to stop. It’s so ingrained in you that you feel like you won’t get better during this lifetime. You don’t know if you’ll genuinely find love.
I’m here to tell you it gets better. Not right away, but over time, a little bit at a time. Your healing isn’t linear. It’s a pendulum. Sometimes, you go back to old habits. There’s no such thing as complete recovery from any addiction, even love. You’re constantly learning. You start to get better at identifying the patterns that cause you to react, and that’s what brings hope.
I’m still learning that I can’t suffer enough to make someone love me. Just because someone has a traumatic childhood or difficult life doesn’t give them an excuse to treat me like I don’t matter.
One of the most challenging things is resisting the tendency to fix things and run to the rescue. I hope they see that I’m the most attentive, most detail-oriented person fitted to cater to their needs. This feeling is one of the most difficult ones to regulate because even if I care deeply, I have to question my motives. You see, I’ve lived my whole life bending so much to make other people feel comfortable that I don’t know how to stop.
It gives me a sense of achievement. I feel worthy. I’m still learning the balance between caring for someone and enabling the behavior.
I’m still learning that I can’t manipulate people into thinking they need me to be happy. It’s hard to accept that not everybody likes me, that they’ll use me if I let them. That not every man I love is trying to be my forever person.
These are hard truths, but they’re the only way to healing. Sometimes I feel embarrassed. Sometimes I’m appalled, other times shamed, but I realize these are temporary feelings. I refuse to let them steal my joy and healing.
Ways I manipulate to get love:
Good sex, bad relationship I think I can get love by exchanging my body for it. I’m still learning that I can’t sex goddess my way into getting love. I can’t Kama Sutra, magic trick, and bend over backwards into being loved, only a good time. I’m still learning that I’m never going to be good enough for someone who doesn’t see value in me.
If I suffer enough, will you love me? I’m still learning that putting up with someone’s terrible personality long enough isn’t enough to make them love me. Sticking with them through all their struggles doesn’t mean they’ll love me. Showing them how much I’m willing to suffer for them doesn’t make them respect me. The only thing that happens is I give more of myself until I’m a skeleton of the person I used to be.
Loving men who don’t love me back. I’m still learning that it’s no coincidence that I choose men who don’t love me back. The truth is, I’m scared of intimacy while at the same time desperately wanting it. It feels safer to love at a distance. If I’ve made the wrong decision, I’m not entirely trapped. I don’t 100% believe I’m worth more. My need for love is greater than my self-respect, so I love men who don’t love me back.
Managing and controlling. I guilt-trip men in hopes of getting love. I’m not the best at making boundaries; instead, I make demands and have outbursts. I’m still learning that people who respect me are open to discussion. They’re open to changing their behavior. I don’t have to spend a lifetime trying to convince them otherwise.
“If an individual is able to love productively, he loves himself, too; if he can love only others, he cannot love at all.” — Erich Fromm
Acknowledging how I try to get love isn’t easy, but it’s the only way to recovery. I felt odd for such a long time, but I know where to start for the first time. I better understand my wants and needs. I have a pathway for recovery.
The longer I live, the more I believe that we, the lovers, gentle souls, and feelers, belong. The world has become more closed off to love, and we have lost our way in the mix of it. A lack of self-worth has perverted our views on love, but it is the original way. Loving ourselves and God is where we can safely put our misplaced love. Only then can we truly love other people without feeling a complete loss of ourselves.
Robin Norwood, the author of Women Who Love Too Much, outlines that the road to recovery, to self-worth starts with
1. Going for help (learning boundaries, where you lost your self worth).
2. Making recovery your priority in life.
3. Finding support through people that are going through similar experiences.
4. Prayer and developing a spiritual practice.
5. Identifying when you’re managing and controlling others.
6. Learning not to get hooked on games. (Identifying when someone is trying to manipulate you and avoiding people-pleasing behavior and useless debates.)
7. Bravely face your problems and shortcomings.
8. Working on what needs to be developed in yourself. (What you need more of, what you’re afraid to admit.)
9. Choosing yourself.
10. Sharing your experiences and what you’ve learned with others.
I’m still learning that I can’t manipulate people into loving me. I’m still learning that the right person will fall in love with me. It will feel easy. I don’t have to do a bunch of magic tricks. I’m still learning that I can easily fall back into old patterns, but I can now identify them. I’m still learning to be compassionate with myself. I’m still learning that I’m worthy and that I’m not going through this alone.