Emotional Substitutes

At counselling today we talked about Phil and a little about Tom. On the way to counselling, Tom, who had given me a lift as my car has broken down, threw a huge spanner in the works. He asked my opinion on the time we had sex back in March. I told him that it left me feeling empty and sad and that is why I hadn’t pursued anything with him again. He didn’t seem to understand why it left me feeling that way and I couldn’t really find the words to explain myself how I needed to. He then asked me if I loved him. I told him I did and that I felt that I would always love him in some way but I also said I wasn’t in love with him anymore. He said he still loved me and he still wishes we could have worked it out. I asked him if he was saying he would like us to be together, he hesitated and repeated that he wishes we could have worked it out. So I’m not really sure what he was saying. I am with Tom, as Phil was with me. Longing but not knowing.

With Pam, we talked about Phil. I told her how initially I wasn’t at all attracted to him but I was trusting in life to be giving me whatever I needed and so I began a relationship with him regardless of how I was feeling. While my feelings about my physical attraction towards him never really changed, I did grow to love the part of him that was kind, gentle, understanding, patient and unconditionally loving. Unfortunately, I never grew to love or accept the rest; the immaturity, the childishness, the lack of care and responsibility for himself, the neediness, the impulsiveness.

Pam said that she feels that my attraction to Phil, at least the elements of Phil that I grew to love were actually a substitute for what I lacked as a child from my Mum. Phil gave me exactly what I craved my entire life and that is why, despite knowing he, as a whole, wasn’t right for me, I kept going back. I kept being drawn back to the unconditional love that I should have had as a child but didn’t. She feels also that I’ve actually grown up, so to speak, and accepted that it is time to move away from him for good but that it’s my fear of losing that love and never finding it again, which keeps me stuck where I am now which is not with him but emotionally not able to fully leave him behind. (We’re still in touch via email on a regular basis.) Even Phil’s body, being fat and therefore soft and gentle is as I imagine Mum would feel and I did love being wrapped in his arms, nestling into the softness and just feeling safe and loved. Pam said had I had this as a child, I maybe wouldn’t be craving it so much now. I can see now, after talking it through with Pam, that the unconditional love aside, Phil really wasn’t right for me. His negative qualities are in fact not dissimilar to my Mum’s negative qualities. Mum is very emotionally immature and childlike but then again maybe Phil’s childishness is reflecting back to me my inner child’s needs as much as it’s reflecting back my Mum’s immaturity.

Before our session ended we touched slightly on my relationship with Tom and made a comparison between Tom and my Dad. The two are very alike and my relationship with Tom is very similar to my relationship with Dad. Next week we’re going to explore that a little more in-depth.

Finally, Pam questioned why I hold on to relationships that aren’t right for me, she used Phil and Tom as the example but I admitted that I did the same with Greg too. I kind of knew that he wasn’t right for me after a couple of weeks yet I stayed with him for ten and a half years. Would that be about my fear of making the wrong decision because I don’t trust myself to make the right one or was it something else? I don’t know.

As I’m sat here now writing all this up I’ve been thinking about my relationship with Tom and the one thing I’ve learned from all my painful relationships is people don’t really change. Unless they’re the type of person to be committed to personal growth and self-improvement, they stay as they are and I think on some level Tom was saying that to me in the car on the way back when he said, I wish people could just get on with it. Well, they can’t. Relationships require work, they take effort every day and you have to be prepared to evolve with the relationship and not just expect it to work. I still think there’s too much of my Dad and too much of my inner child wrapped up in the whole relationship with Tom. I’m still desperately trying to fix my past in my present and maybe I just need to accept that I can’t. There’s no part of me that wants Tom back anymore but I still allow him to be in my life more than he needs to and that’s something I need to look at.

My relationship with Phil has taught me another person can offer the circumstances and the elements of the relationship you desire and it can be very healing but it doesn’t necessarily make the relationship as a whole right, nor does it make it work. Phil had a lot of issues that he failed to identify or work through, as did Tom. Once again I think I need to grieve for what I lost when I walked away from Tom and Phil but I also know this time I need to start grieving for what I never had as a child – parents who loved and adored me and treated me with respect.

I had a crap Mum. I had a crap Dad. I’ve had crap love partners. Now I need to let Mum go, I need to let Dad go and I need to let go of unhealthy relationships. I need to fully let go of Phil and Tom and really, for the first time in my life, learn to just be on my own because as Pam pointed out today, I’ve never ever been out of a relationship fully because I’m always trying to ease the emptiness that I’ve felt my entire life, except now I’m starting to cling on to the kids as a replacement for a man, mum or dad. I can’t do that to them, I need to learn how to be alone. Happily.


    1. It’s very powerful when you realise why you might be with the person you’re with especially if, on some level, it doesn’t feel quite right and yet you stay anyway.


        1. Can I ask how long it’s been since you ended the relationship? It took me such a long time for get over the severe pain and anguish that Tom caused me. Unfortunately, healing doesn’t happen overnight but as it does, we become stronger and wiser because of it.


            1. I remember those feelings well. I switched between elation and despair regularly. You’ve suffered terrible trauma, it can take a while to heal from that but I totally believe you’re on the right path by journalling and exploring everything that happened and what you feel. I hope, like me, you find this to be the birthing of a whole new and improved version of you. Sometimes, it takes events such as this to make us realise our inner strength and personal power.


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