So, the Universe brings me a single male who is also a member of ACA and CoDA and whom I met at a Non-Violent Communication workshop; but the kicker is, he has four kids, is currently losing his house and in the throws of divorce.
After we have known each other for a few weeks, engaged in a fairly intense dialogue with each other over FB, attended several meetings, and spent a couple of evenings together over dinner, camp fire, beach and the like, he communicates that he feels attracted to me, doesn’t want a relationship any time soon, like for a few years at least, does not want to lead me on, but does want to experience physical intimacy that is not romantic or sexual (“nothing that would be considered by either of us to be exclusive”).
As he communicates this to me, I feel the beginnings of a very specific and very familiar pain — the pain of a man abandoning me, the pain that throbs through my chest, out my limbs and through my fingers and toes. The pain of abandonment by a male is the only pain that feels this way. The only thing that seems to comfort it in the height of its intensity is things like lying in an empty bathtub for an hour. This is the only situation that expresses the hard, impoverished, isolation I feel.
The next day, the Universe brought me two members of Sex and Love Addicts Anonymous, who are also members of CoDA with me. I asked for their support and sharings regarding SLA, and the three of us went out for coffee together. We identified that there was definitely an aspect of “taboo” that had been engaged here, by his statement that he feels an attraction but does not want a relationship, but does want to continue spending time together. We identified that it feels like a bottle of liquor to an alcoholic. I want a hit. I’m not just talking about sex here; actually it has little to do with sex at all. What it has to do with is the situation of intimacy that is not allowed, or has to be kept secret. The drama. I want a hit of the drama of secret intimacy. (I deem the kind of intimacy he is wanting as secret because this would not look good at all from the outside from the perspective of most people. Most would see any close relationship between us as unhealthy and inappropriate.)
I wondered allowed how to not have to cut him out of my life all together, but keep myself emotionally safe at the same time. I wondered allowed if it actually is possible for a man and a woman to experience intimacy without sex or romance, and spoke a desire to believe that it really is. The response was that yes, it is possible; but not by a Love Addict at the beginning of her recovery, who has already been triggered by this person. Damn.
There’s already a sense of shame that I am feeling all this, while he is feeling lighter and carefree and relieved to have spoken what he is wanting and not wanting. There is a feeling that something is wrong with me, and that it if I spoke about how I am feeling with him, I would be rejected and abandoned. A perception that my feelings here prove how defective I am.
Yesterday, I was too tired to go on a recovery hike with him and a group of recovery people in the morning, as we had done last weekend, and as I would love to continue, with or without him. By the afternoon, I felt left out and desperately bored and lonely. I decided to see how it felt to go on a hike with him, seeing as how he was willing and open to this.
So, the hike was boring. We were tame with each other. I felt a little shut down, keeping my 12 year old at bay, in line, appropriate, safe. So I was not fully present. I was holding back. He also seemed frustrated and bored. So that’s how it would be. Wow. Sucks pretty good.
I got home feeling glad to have gotten out, gotten some exercise, had some human interaction; but I also felt still very empty. I was relieved the day was almost over, extremely tired, and for the first time in several years, I went to bed before nine pm. Before I went to sleep though, my 12-year old needed to be heard. I needed to acknowledge that I was sad and grieving. I am so bummed that I can’t have this person. I can’t have romance in my life right now. I can’t enjoy feeling attracted to someone and flirting with them. All this is true in addition to the fact that my addict is wanting to escape into an intense emotional experience that is chaotic, just to get a hit of sex instead of intimacy, ’cause that’s all I deserve (addict says).
Before I slept, I felt some peace by typing to this person:
“Thanks for the outing today — I’m very grateful for the element of fun and nature it brought me. I really needed it. And, whether I am in the throws of resisting addiction, or just another human heart seeking love; I would also like to acknowledge that I find myself feeling a little sad. Even though I knew it wasn’t realistic, and almost without the rest-of-me’s knowing or permission, my little girl had started to get excited about the experience of romance in my life. I’m a little embarrassed, a little ashamed, a little glad that I responded positively to the prospect; but there is grieving going on in me. Maybe it is mostly old grief, but however old it is, it is present in me; and I want to be honest about it. I don’t need much except acknowledgement here. I just need to share this with you. I am sad, and figuring out how to be open and vulnerable with you without feeling romantic. thanks for witnessing. Hope it’s okay to share this way. I didn’t ask first. It’s hard for me to share this.”
This morning, he writes (writing and reading are not very easy for him):
“Thank you too, for the outing and this message. That I imagine took courage I receive it happily as a gift. Writing is not so easy for me so going to keep it short.
Thanks. Much caring, (name)”
And, this morning, I have written:
“I may have to disengage a little bit. I don’t think I”m able to offer the physical intimacy you are looking for at this point and certainly not one on one. I became triggered when I interpreted the word ‘unavailable’ from you last week on the phone, at which point I began regressing to being 12 again. The sadness, rejection, abandonment, shame, as well as intensified and immature desire, all started flowing.
i have no resentments or anger towards you. I don’t think you could have done anything differently, nor would it have altered what is happening for me now. … have a wonderful Sunday. … I will still be glad to see you in our various recovery group capacities and will continue to take it one day at a time. (Name)”
What leads me to sharing all this with you this morning is the sadness I feel. The long-standing, most enduring sadness and longing. I wish I could stop feeling it. I wish I could turn it off. It is an excessive reaction to the present that is the result of a suppressed reaction to the past. Damn that.
- Facing Love Addiction Part 4: Love Addiction in Pop Culture (mapletreedruidry.wordpress.com)
- Emotional Intimacy (bumpyswings.wordpress.com)
- Intimacy vs. Sex (buckwheatsrisk.com)
- More Resources on Sex Addiction (counselorcarmella.wordpress.com)
- The Basics of Non Violent Communication 101 / 9 min video (talesfromthelou.wordpress.com)