“The greatest happiness of life is the conviction that we are loved; loved for ourselves, or rather, loved in spite of ourselves."
~ Victor Hugo
If your boyfriend has suffered a bad breakup or has a history of loss it can impact his ability to be intimate with you or to sustain the intimacy.
That might exhibit itself in him pulling away intermittently, having mood swings and seeming depressed at times. It may also result in him pushing you away or trying to sabotage the relationship in any number of ways.
Fear of loss or abandonment can cause your fellow to behave in a way which prevents connection so there is nothing to lose, or to sabotage the connection so he can control the loss and is not dependent upon you.
Open communication is the key to success in all relationships, empathy, insight and reflection are critical if you are going to survive and succeed with a traumatized guy.
Too many losses, particularly early ones such as being the child of a divorce, abandonment by one or both parents, neglect or abuse by a parent or narcissism in a one or both parents is a very painful experience for a man. Research shows that boys are even more sensitive to stress, loss, neglect and trauma than girls.
This means that they can become even more depressed, anxious and disconnected from attachment disorders early on. This carries over into adolescence and adulthood and is more difficult to deal with when it has existed for so many years untreated. Neurotic repetition means that we seek similar situations to the ones that caused us pain early on in life. We literally repeat the pain to try to find a different ending and because the pain is familiar. Your guy who has suffered many losses may try to recreate that loss with you.
The key is to not let him reenact his painful past with you.
That doesn’t mean you will necessarily stay with him if it is untenable, but to give it a fair shot at negotiating his challenges.
Acknowledge the fears your guy faces and show empathy for his feelings even if it is difficult because you are also scared.
Take one day at a time rather than project too far into the future and try to get him to do the same.
Fears of loss are often fears of a far off time in your relationship which hasn’t happened. So as much as possible stay in the present together while acknowledging both of your fears of the future.
Reassure him of your intentions and your feelings for him often. If you want a committed relationship don’t be afraid to say it but as I said earlier don’t linger there.
Be preventative by talking to him about what you see with him before he gets too deeply into a depression. Don’t be afraid of being in conflict. You have nothing to lose by confronting him about his fears because if you don’t you will surely lose him.
If his fears take the form of needing more space, give him the space and find that emotionally secure place in yourself which allows you to do so. But if he disappears for too long a period of time or it is too chronic then confront him or follow him to reassure him and hear how he is feeling.
Most importantly take it slow.
When a human or animal has been hurt they will be shy of attachment and commitment and even slow to attach. But when they do attach it is usually for the long haul.
Erica Komisar, LCSW - www.komisar.com
If you’ve had any kind of relationships, you’ll have hurts from the past.
Relationships are never perfect, so there will inevitably be some hurts and disappointments. And, of course, if a person is coming out of an emotionally or physically abusive relationship, there is bound to be quite a lot of unresolved pain.
It’s how deep the hurt goes and what the person does about that hurt that makes a difference in how they move forward into future relationships.
If you’re involved with someone who still has unresolved pain from parental abuse or a past relationship, you are likely to end up feeling the impact of that pain in your current relationship. How intensely and how often that pain affects you and your interactions will have a big effect on the quality of your relationship with him. You’ll have to decide how much and in what way you want to deal with these old issues when they come up.
How aware is he?
It really helps if he knows he has these old hurts and is aware of when they affect him. Can he talk about his feelings—not just act them out? Does he tend to act toward you like he did with the person who hurt him? Can he see when he’s acting from his old pain, and is he willing to apologize for hurting you because of his behavior?
What’s he doing to heal?
Does he just SAY he’s working on it, or do you see him actively doing things that are helping him heal? Is he using alcohol or drugs to deaden the pain instead? Not a good direction. Notice if he’s just “trying to forget” all about it. This never works because in the long run, the pain will fester and eventually do harm to your relationship.
Does he blame you or does he take responsibility?
Does he get angry at you for things someone in a past relationship did? Does he expect you to treat him, the way he was hurt in the past? Does he avoid getting close because he could be hurt again? These are all signs that he’s not healing and taking it out on you.
What is your reaction?
How much do you join in and also feel his old hurts with him? Are you blaming yourself for his feelings? Do you jump in and try to FIX his feelings? If you are taking on a caretaking or “therapist” role in the relationship, that will make the relationship unbalanced and turn it into a “rehab” relationship, rather than a love relationship. Also, if you feel responsible for his feelings, you can end up feeling really resentful or getting into fights, which can taint your future together.
How much time is he spending on dealing with these old hurts?
If it takes up more than 10% of your relationship time, it’s likely he needs to do more healing before your relationship can prosper. Are the same dysfunctional behaviors happening over and over, or can he see what he’s doing and take charge of changing his demeanor?
How will this affect your future together if he doesn’t change?
If his past hurts are taking a toll on your relationship now, it is likely they will continue to do so unless he takes some serious steps to heal. If these old feelings have been around for a long time already, don’t expect that they will ever go away. Instead, assess whether the rest of the relationship is good enough to put up with his difficult feelings on occasion.
You have a right to decide.
How much of your time and energy are being used in dealing with his old issues? Healing an old relationship while in a new one can take a lot of time and energy from the new one. Just because you love him, doesn’t mean that this relationship is the right one to pin the rest of your life on. Only you can decide if his problems are too much for you. Your love doesn’t heal all things in someone else, so decide if his old baggage is acceptable, or a deal breaker.
Margalis Fjelstad, Ph.D., LMFT – www.margalistherapy.com
All relationships have many components, which make them wonderful and fulfilling. But things don't always go smoothly. What can you do to deal with a guy who’s been hurt before so that he doesn’t sabotage your present relationship and mess up what could potentially be a lasting partnership?
The answer is simply this: You need to have awareness, flexibility, great communication skills and the ability to understand your partner’s perspective to make a relationship successful.
How do you do this? How do you know if your guy is harboring resentments that need to be cleared and cleaned up from his past? You will be experiencing his strong negative feelings that are expressed subtly or even aggressively towards you. Unless he faces what his feelings are, you will be living with the insecurity and anxiety of an unstable relationship.
He can’t fix what he doesn’t first acknowledge.
So, suggest he seek help from a therapist, relationship coach, therapy-group, clergy, workshops, CDs, books and the myriad of other resources available on the internet to give him some guidance and direction on the steps he can take to improve things.
With awareness he can face his fears and enhance your relationship. With your support, encouragement, understanding and acceptance, your relationship can move in a positive, more rewarding direction, but it may take time and patience. If he’s worth it, you’ll be glad you waited!
Also remember that you may be harboring relationship baggage from your past, too.
By doing your inner work, you also become aware of any unfinished business and resentments. These are the things you want to take care of so you can pave the way for a healthier, more fulfilling relationship ahead.
If you both don’t handle the issues that affect you, your choices, behaviors, thoughts and actions will likely be inappropriate, creating animosity, toxicity, maybe even an abusive environment in the home.
Amy Sherman, M.A., LMHC – www.yourbabyboomersnetwork.com
Unless this is his first relationship, he has probably experienced some hurt in the past. Probably you have too.
Relationships are not safe in the sense that you can’t always protect yourself from pain. Relationships are messy. Two unrelated people are trying to figure out how to be together. By definition, there will be differences between people. Figuring out how to come together as a couple takes maturity and compromise and sometimes involves pain.
Sometimes people behave badly in relationships.
Some people lie and cheat and do any number of things that are really very hurtful. The best defense against this type of behavior is to be honest with yourself about what you are seeing in another person. Don’t pretend something is ok when it isn’t, and don’t make excuses for bad behavior. Learning to be on your own also makes it more likely that you won’t allow the wrong somebody into your life just because you are unable to be alone.
No matter how careful you are, you are likely to make some errors in judgment and end up hurt.
Even with people who are honest with you, its hurtful if they don’t return your affections. I don’t think there is a lot you can do about somebody else’s hurt. You can promise that you won’t hurt them but that may not be possible. About the best you can promise is that you won’t lie to them, that you’ll be honest so they’ll always know where things stand between you. Honesty allows people to take better care of themselves because they are aware of what’s going on.
At the end of the day, people need to know for themselves when they are ready to jump into the dating/relationship arena again.
They have to have healed sufficiently from past hurts to be able to hold up to the uncertainty that all relationships present. They have to be able to be open and non-defensive to be able to get anything out of a new relationship. You can’t make it better for them. If you are seeing someone who seems to be holding back, ask him if he is ready to move forward. He owes it to you (and to himself) to be honest about his ability to fully participate in a relationship. If the timing is off, let him go and move on.
Sally LeBoy, MFT – www.sallyleboymft.com
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