I get defensive with girlfriends and it’s hard to be kind when you’re being defensive and not acknowledging it.
I’m many things with women, some really terrific. However, I want to focus this post on the dynamics of being defensive and not try to make myself feel better by always affirming that I know I have good parts as well.
My defensiveness probably starts with a larger sense of being a failure in life, which has two related dynamics. I’m a misfit, and the few things I can do, I don’t do adequately:
- A lot of what interests me and the ways I like to spend my time are different than what I see as other people’s priorities and that alienates and makes me feel I’m not adequately human, and
- I feel responsible for things going well. If they don’t, I’m afraid the fault finders will point to me and observe that I could have done better.
I’m in perpetual fear that I’m going to be found out and run out of the town of humanity. I’m always on some kind of lookout. Even when I’m by myself, I’m afraid life is seeing through me.
I’m looking for a woman to
- Soothe the pain of the inadequacy and alienation by making me feel like I’m human enough for her in both interests and execution, and
- Help me learn to be (more) human.
Of course, my general sense of inadequacy winds up informing my relationships with women.
- I’m worried that I really don’t know how to love someone. I’m different from the way she’s used to men being, and
- I need to be perfect: My default position seems to be that I don’t meet her standards just like my default position in life is that I’m not very good at things.
As a result, I aspire to a lack of negative: I’m afraid of being criticized, compared or named inadequate. My strategy is to deftly keep my different part out of sight and use the ways I’m good to keep the focus elsewhere through perfection of execution.
During my life, I’ve done an amazing job developing my ability to sense disappointment and put receiving love in perspective. I see the glass as 5% empty instead of 95% full.
I may even have been looking for women who know how to play to my strength, which is feeling like I’ve let them down. I have a very long list in my head of the ways women can be disappointed in a man. I’ve listened to women talk and then I have my own shortcomings to add. It’s a minefield I step gingerly through, always wondering:
- If I’m doing the wrong thing. What would I do in this situation if I was more normal, more like the men she’s used to being with?
- Did I do it well enough – did I leave the kitchen clean enough? Are these flowers OK?
Trying to live up to my expectations of her expectations is exhausting.
And sometimes I get caught. The grand narrative gets a kink and there I am, being different. She sees that I’m really not what we were both hoping I’d be either in sentiment or execution.
Instead of meeting this gap head on in an accepting way, I try to stuff it back under the rug by going into my defensive mode to convince her with logic instead of deeds that this should not really be an issue.
To summarize, I’m on the psychological and emotional edge. I can feel confident in the moment, but the approval that I’m seeking is so tenuous that I think everything is at risk at all times. I’m a house of cards:
- Guilty until proven innocent,
- More aware of my shortcomings than of my strengths, and
- Unable to accept that, even with all the biological and other scientific evidence, I am human.
As a result, here’s how I’m behaving in the relationship. I’m:
- Pretending to be something I’m not by keeping secrets about the differences between us,
- Attempting to prove myself both perfect and normal,
- Always trying to amuse and please, and
Here are some things I’m left wondering about:
- If a relationship is a mirror, then how much of the disappointment I see in her is really my own disappointment in myself?
- Is the issue less about a need to be accepted for who I am than about a need for someone to think I’m everything?
- Do I see more disappointment in her than is really there?
- Who is it who really has less tolerance of my imperfections?
- Do differences and imperfections lead always and only to disappointment or can they be a cause for rejoicing as well?
I need a new approach. Maybe it would be healthier to go in expecting her to see me as less than perfect. Because she inevitably will. And when that comes up, it would be much better to catch that feeling and say something like “I can feel myself starting to feel defensive” and then explore that instead of trying to prove that I really am everything she wants
I sound like a mess. No wonder nobody likes me
Before I wrote this post, I thought I was pretty hopeful about relationships. Now I see a real streak of cynicism in my insecurities. I used to see a lot of cynicism in women. More reflecting?