ASKNICO: Am I too picky or just unconsciously scared of being hurt again
“Hi Nico! I read your previous post and I was wondering if I could share something with you and hear your opinion? or are you exclusively sharing/coaching/answering questions for men?
My issue is not about a single man, it is about many. As you know, I used to date X. through my last high-school years and the beginning of my university years until I was finally able to break up with him. The relationship we had was horrible. I couldn’t find a way out of it, specially since it was my very first one and I did not have experience at all.
But well, we finally broke up about 8 years ago, but I kept the mentality that all men are jealous, clingy and controlling. So I became extremely picky.
Ever since that time there have been men interested in me, and I kind of give them a chance but as soon as I notice the smallest thing that I dislike I stop everything immediately.
I believe that if I will spend my time with someone, it should be 100% worth it. Otherwise it is a clear NO.
But you see.. I’ve been in this situation for what? 7-8 years? I meet people. We kind of get along. I end things soon after because only at the thought that they might end up being just like X. I get annoyed.
I don’t know if it’s worth it being so picky with the new men I meet? I honestly believe that we all deserve the best for ourselves, but I do not know if that’s the reason behind that, or maybe I’m just trying to find any excuse to avoid having to deal with the same situation and suffer again as I suffered with X.
Whether it is a conscious or unconscious decision, I feel like I’m scaring away any man who even attempts to try anything with me.”
Hey H! I’m open to sharing my advice, opinion and experiences with anyone. Both men and women. I’m very thankful that you decided to share this, as it is also a theme that most of us can relate to: baggage.
I will reply to your question by sharing a personal experience I had several years ago, also during my early university years.
(This is a long blog post btw, but you’ll find some gold nuggets at the end!)
I met a girl who I loved deeply and loved me back just the same. Our relationship was full of fire and passion. Strong chemistry and desire. The only problem was that we were both too young, too inexperienced and overall just not ready to handle it. At the highest highs the feeling of love and togetherness was incredible, at the lowest lows it was hell. We were eager to explore our sexuality yet we both wanted to fit in the exclusive boyfriend and girlfriend roles we had created, which led to cheating on each other, finding out, forgiving, and doing it again.
3 years on and off, love and indifference, up and down, we finally came to an end.
The day that she broke up with me was the day I decided to turn my life around, I decided that I did not want any woman to feel the pain of being betrayed, I wanted to become the man who deserves the love of a great woman. Not one that knew deep in his heart that he deserved to be left.
In this new quest for authentic connection, I started exploring open relationships. I started being very clear and upfront with women about my intentions, desires and boundaries. I would make sure they knew that I was not offering a relationship whatsoever. I’d still be extremely caring, mindful and attentive, yet I’d pursue my own interests and ensure my own happiness. And it worked.
I stopped lying, I met women who were open and accepting of my nature and appreciative of my honesty. Fast forward several months and I was seeing around 5 women at the same time. No hidden agendas, no lying. They all knew it. Some were not too happy with it, some did not really care, but they were all glad that I was transparent about it.
One Friday night, as I sat on my bachelor apartment’s couch, I started noticing my phone vibrate on the desk. In a matter of couple of hours I received a text from each of them. It was a variation of “I want to see you”, “let’s hang out tonight”, “what are you up to?” and so on. A direct or indirect invitation to spend the evening with them.
I smiled and grabbed a bucket of ice cream I had just bought and laid back as I watched a bunch of harry potter movies.
This is funny, I thought.
As I smirked I started noticing an underlying nostalgia about the whole situation. The more present I got to the feeling the more ‘funny’ turned into ‘sad’. It was very sad. There I was, choosing to be by myself instead of sharing the evening with one of these great women.
My first thought was “I just don’t really feel strong emotions towards any of them. It has to do with them. If I found the one that meets all my requirements I wouldn’t hesitate to be with her in a heartbeat.” And it seemed reasonable and right. A fair excuse behind my unwillingness to connect further.
Upon closer inspection I realized that I had spent the previous two years feeling the same way. Barely ‘satisfied’ with the women I was seeing and always dismissing them and looking for something more. An endless hamster-wheel where I ran day and night looking for love.
What’s missing? I wondered as I pulled out my folder where I keep my new year’s goals and resolutions. At the beginning of every year I would write in detail what the year would look like financially, career wise and in relationships. I would describe ‘my perfect woman’ to the smallest detail. I had about 5 pages completely filled with the traits and qualities and looks and feeling that my ideal woman would have.
Imagine my shock after comparing all the girls I was seeing to my “ideal woman” list and realizing that they all fit at least 95% of what I had written there. I was completely in shock! I thought I wanted a caring, open, loving, physically attractive, sexually exciting, fit, friendly and fun woman (among other things). And all the women that I was seeing casually were exactly that.
I discovered for the first time that the reason why I felt so disconnected from them, the only common denominator in all those relationships and the only thing they all had in common was ME.
It was a tough pill to swallow 🙁
I had been having short-lived love affairs moving on quickly in search of my “ideal woman” without realizing that she had been there, multiple times, in different expressions. I realized that the deeper connection and love I was longing for was not going to be available to me unless I figured out what had me so disconnected from it.
Love and connection were not gonna come in the shape of a newer, better, sexier, nicer woman.
Love was gonna come through my ability to open up. It was gonna come after I was able to release whatever was holding my emotions hostage. And as you can already guess, it was my fear to be hurt again.
When my previous girlfriend broke up with me, I unconsciously made the decision to never be in that situation again. And this decision was positive in some aspects, given that it made me a very honest, transparent man of integrity. Yet it also made me decide that I was not going to get hurt like that again. This last part showed up as my constant need to have the ‘upper-emotional-hand’ in my relationships. Not only with women but also with friends and family, I noticed.
I was always the distant one.
I was always the one that would be least affected if things did not work out.
I was always the one calling things off at my convenience.
I was always the one ready to leave, no matter what. One foot out the door.
I had control and power and emotional stability. Yes. But at the expense of my capacity to love.
I want to make a pause here and link my story back to your question.
In your situation, you have the feeling that you might be projecting your negative experience with X. upon other men, yet at the same time you feel that you want to be picky and be with the right man and therefore end up not being with any. Since “they’re all the same”.
In my situation, I was projecting the pain I felt with my previous girlfriend, and I was also under the impression that I was being picky to who I opened my heart up to. And in the meantime didn’t mind exploring sexually and casually with other women.
So I want to highlight that the answer to your question is not to go out and lower your standards and date and go out with any man who throws himself at you just for the sake of it, as you can clearly see from my story that even while I chose to be with several great partners, my ability to love and connect deeply remained shallow at best.
What worked for me was to become present to how my capacity for love and capacity for pain were intertwined.
C.S. Lewis said it best:
“To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable.”
It was only through complete understanding, acceptance and forgiving of the past that I was able to shake hands with it.
I invite you to think about X. What feelings come up when you think about him? is it a peaceful gratitude or a heavy resentment and frustration? do you feel your heart closing down or do you feel light at the thought?
I invite you to dive deeper into what you feel. To cry the tears you may have left. To acknowledge that YES, what he did caused you pain, and YES, it felt horrible. And also, to acknowledge the lessons that you were able to take from that experience. Was it a more profound self love? was it a strong character and integrity when it comes to relationships? was it clarity around what you love in men and what you don’t?. And as you become present to how all these lessons are a deep intrinsic part of the woman you are today, you will start to feel lighter and lighter. You are now able to fully forgive him. You are able to fully forgive yourself. You both did the best you could, given your level of knowledge and awareness in that moment.
And thanks to all of this, you are here today.
This is a constant commitment to what you want. While I believe that having healthy standards is necessary for fulfilling relationships, being perfectionistic is not. Cutting everyone off at the smallest hint of something small you dislike seems very rough to me. After all, we are all imperfect and expanding human beings. None of us stays the same and none of us is perfect. To celebrate this allows us to look at people with curiosity instead of judgement. Empathy instead of resentment.
Be strong in the non-negotiable traits that you want from a man. (that you learned you are not willing to tolerate through your experience with X.)
But at the same time, give new men a chance.
Give yourself a chance.
If you find yourself disconnecting from a guy over something small, pause! breath in and figure if you are seeing him with clear eyes or if you are projecting your past on him. Take another breath and choose love and possibility instead of fear and closeness.
And let me tell you something, the more you open up the more you may suffer too. There’s no way around this.
Your capacity to connect to a man, to feel love that fuels your soul and fills every pore of your being means that you are now also prone to the other end of the pendulum. You will feel more. The good will now be great and the bad can now feel terrible.
But it is raw. It is true. It is alive!
The alternative to this is numbness and emotional walls.
And you know what they feel like.
“Find what you love and let it kill you.” – C. Bukowski
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