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When Sam was separated and going through a divorce, he met a gorgeous woman he fell madly in love with. He was fifty-four and she was thirty-six. She loved him back but they had a lot of problems from the beginning of the relationship. After one year, she left him. He was so depressed he sought counseling, anti-depressant medications, and guidance from a psychiatrist. Unfortunately, nothing worked.
When Sam called me, he was as forlorn and hopeless as one could be and still be functioning. Everything he said was negative. I asked, “What do you want?” He answered, “All I want is her. I know I screwed up but I don’t know what I did.”
Sam committed many of the errors that other people do when they are just coming out of a long term marriage. He didn’t mean to. He was a good guy and he was doing the best that he could. But not knowing how to date, he did a lot of damage.
Here is what Sam did to drive his girlfriend away:
Sam was needy.
Even though he was a great success in his work and was financially secure, Sam was NOT successful at dating. He never knew how to meet girls and choose who he wanted because he didn’t believe anyone he was attracted to would want him. He had a whining “poor me” attitude hidden by dry wit. Even though he looked like he had it together, he was riddled with doubt and hopelessness. On the inside he was suffering. He didn’t want to be alone. Sam was desperate and needy.
Sam needed an attitude adjustment. Being a successful financial banker in a large US city, he had a big salary and in spite of his self-doubt, a big ego. Even though he had no idea how to date or how to have a relationship that worked, it wasn’t easy to get him to shift his habits. His ego kept him attached to his behavior patterns that didn’t serve him. Sam needed something to look forward to. We did the following:
1. Looked for a hobby that would give him some new excitement in his life.
2. Found new reading materials that would inspire him, give him hope, and impact his thoughts.
3. Established new boundaries for old and new relationships, so he would not let people take advantage of his nice-guy personality.
Originally, when I talked about finding an activity that he loved to do, Sam said there was nothing that captured his attention for a hobby. He said he “had done everything.” I know he believed that but I also knew it wasn’t true. He had made up his mind there was nothing that would thrill him and he was stuck in the quick sand of his thoughts. We searched his memory bank and went back to when he was a young man in high school. He loved sculpting and he loved creating wrought-iron doors and fences. He had forgotten that those activities had made him happy. They fell by the wayside when he started college and business school. He enrolled in sculpting and decorative ironwork classes right away. Once he did, he couldn’t wait to come home from work everyday and get to the art studio. This gave noticeable energy to Sam’s life and personality. He couldn’t see himself, but Sam was starting to “sparkle.” He was no longer as needy for a girlfriend to supply enthusiasm.
Finding new relationships
Sam needed an attitude adjustment about what he wanted in a relationship. His old view was that he wanted to find someone to make him happy. The problem was, he didn’t understand that happiness is an inside job. Further, you can’t look to ONE person to meet all your human contact needs. I suggested that he:
* Reconnect with old friends and family members he had not had time for in the past.
* Reach out to new people and meet new friends in the art classes and at work.
* Tell people that he wanted to date and ask them to fix him up. Also, try some Internet dating sites.
Sam not only started to have friends and new connections, he started to go out with women. He was thrilled and scared when he began to be sought after and pursued. Because of the dazzle he was giving off from being excited about his new hobbies and the energy he was getting from the people around him, Sam was becoming a hottie.
When Sam first started coaching, I told him that if he did the work we planned for him, within a year, he would have women lined up outside his door. He scoffed at me and said, “Oh sure! That’s if you believe in miracles and winning the lottery!”
The miracle of women lining up outside his door came true for Sam, but in the end, all he wanted— was his Ex-girlfriend back.
Sam was devastated when his girlfriend broke up with him. He knew she was often unhappy with their relationship but he didn’t know how to fix it. When she left him, he sought help. He was miserable, depressed, and lonely.
Sam had no idea that his attitude and negativity drove his girlfriend away. Like many people who are alone, the reason he wanted a girlfriend was to make him feel better. She tried, but the barriers to his happiness were just too big. And ultimately, his problems were not hers to fix.
Once Sam was in coaching, he found his enthusiasm for life. He was feeling better than he ever had. He was excited about his sculpting and ironwork classes he was taking and he enjoyed his new friends. He worked out three times a week, walked to work to stay fit, and started dating. Life was good, but he often said—he was still in love with his ex-girlfriend.
Then… he met someone. From the beginning, he told me how bright and interesting she was. She was also emotionally needy and definitely wanted a relationship with him. I asked him, “Are you crazy in love with her?”
“Do you love her as much as the old girlfriend?”
“Definitely not. But we enjoy each other and I think I’d like to hang out with her for a while.”
“Do you think you’d like to marry her someday?”
“Oh no – I don’t feel that way about her. I’ve only felt that way about one person – my ex-girlfriend.”
“Then I want you to be cautious and wise here. You have had a lifetime of living with someone you didn’t love—like your ex-wife. You could fall into another convenience trap.”
Sam was in danger of getting intimately involved with a woman he didn’t love. He was lonely, tired of dating different people, and tired of looking for love. He had a history of “settling” and he was vulnerable to having a relationship of shared activities, but not shared love. Each time he brought up the subject of getting involved with her, I warned him against it. He was an honorable man, incapable of using a woman and then discarding her. He was about to step back into an old trap. Getting caught by someone he didn’t really want and then not being able to get out of it because of his conscience, guilt, and loneliness had caused him big problems in the past.
Last week in Part I, we talked about how Sam drove his ex-girlfriend away by looking to her to supply all the energy in the relationship. “Mr. Needy and Negative” began to solve his attitude problem by finding fun in the mud (sculpting.) He also started socializing. Once he had something to get excited about, his attractiveness level rose. He kept dating different people and decided not to get in a mini-marriage with the woman he didn’t love.
Once Sam felt stronger, he was able to look back and figure out what went wrong in the past. What else did Sam do that caused the love of his life to leave him? She could not handle his BAGGAGE and lack of BOUNDARIES.
Baggage is so powerful it can pulverize marble statues. Sam was laden with baggage, which is, unresolved relationships from the past. When Sam was with his girlfriend, he had not cut the emotional ties to his former marriage. He still lived in the house he had shared with his wife, with the same furniture and wedding and family pictures on the wall. The ex-wife would call everyday. Many times, Sam would break his date with his girlfriend to do something his ex-wife said he had to do. His girlfriend was not his first priority. Obviously, this was a source of hurt and anger for her. His children treated her like the outsider she was and resented her being in their childhood home. She left.
Sam had spent his life as a “pleaser.” He didn’t know how to say “No,” to people. He desperately needed to understand boundaries. He and his girlfriend should have been orchestrating their own lives. He was so used to the ex-wife’s demands, he didn’t notice that she called the shots for everyone.
Since Sam’s children were out of college, there was no need for this interference. They were capable of relating their plans to their father. Sam told his ex-wife she didn’t need to call him any longer. Very quickly, he began to clear up any other lingering connections, like shared holidays, vacations, and even bank accounts. In a very civil and kind manner, and sticking to his new boundary— Sam was finally free.
As Sam continued to understand what he had done to cause his girlfriend to leave, he often wondered about her. What was she doing? Was she seeing anyone? Would she even talk to him? He decided to give her one last call.