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I need constant attention and validation from men - it's ruining my life

(72 Posts)
Unhappy123 Sun 30-Sep-12 14:11:32

I have been with DH 8 years married 2. I love him and we have a very comfortable life together. I sometimes feel like we are held up as some sort of pinnacle of a perfect couple by friends and family who are unmarried or divorced etc.

I've finally realised lately that I'm a complete attention whore. I've no idea why I've only just realised this I suppose I have been in denial or something until now.

Throughout my whole adult life (say 15+ I am now nearly 30) I have sought attention from men. I crave it and am unhappy unless there is someone flirting outrageously with me or paying me some sort of romantic or sexual attention. I find that I can have absolutely no interest in a man and then find out he 'thinks I'm pretty' or something and bam - I'm all coy smiles and late night drinks - its utterly pathetic.

The main problem in all of this mess is of course my DH. It is completely disrespectful to him. My behaviour has escalated over the years and I'm seriously concerned that unless I change my ways I am going to end up sleeping with someone. I seem to be able to compartmentalise my home life to the extent that when I'm with a bloke I have no respect for my lovely, kind DH. I am so lucky to have him but I'm going to end up ruining my life.

I seem to fall from one crush to the next and it exhausting and completely pathetic. I want to focus that romantic attention onto my DH but somehow I can't or won't.

Does anyone have any practical advice for me? Trust me I am trying to get a grip and stop being such a selfish cow sad I'm preoccupied with thoughts of leaving my DH so he can find someone better.

The wives and partners of these men has not escaped my attention either. I realise I am disrespectful to them as well and I have seen the hurt and anguish on these boards.

CogitoErgoSometimes Sun 30-Sep-12 16:02:41

The OP has been with her DH from age 22. She has, by her own admission, gone from an ugly duckling to a nice-looking woman. She will also have matured a lot in that time and her tastes will have changed. Maybe she didn't get attention from others in the early days, maybe she got more attention from her DH in the past... either way it sounds like she picked a life-partner for one set of perfectly admirable qualities before time and experience changed her criteria. Doesn't help, I wouldn't have thought, that DH has anxiety problems which presumably make him a fairly reserved, shy sort of character.

In short, I think you should not be so frightened to discover that your DH is not the man for you any more OP. You should not treat it as some terrible failing or pyschological problem on your part. Ask yourself... if you met your DH for the first time this evening, would you be drawn to him the way you are with these other people? Would he respond to your flirting? Sometimes relationships simply run out of steam for no real reason other than everyone's grown in different directions

lolaflores Sun 30-Sep-12 16:10:15

The word that jumped out at me was "attention whore"! It went off like a firewwork in that sentence. It made me wonder about inappropriate relationships perhaps when you were younger...just a stab in the dark.
inappropriate acting out is neurotic. leads to cycles as someone said either here or elsewhere
I read the other thread and it was amazing. I urge you to read it and then book a session with a therapist.
Love yourself a little. you are not a whore, nor a little girl. a woman. a nice one too as you are thoughtful enough to consider your husbands feelings. there are those who could give less of a shit

SirBoobAlot Sun 30-Sep-12 16:13:28

Stop thinking of yourself negatively - pathetic and attention whore are horrible terms. You have noticed a negative quality in yourself, and now you can work on it.

Some therapy might be helpful - cognitive analytical therapy is very good for finding thought patterns and altering them.

CailinDana Sun 30-Sep-12 16:16:21

How was your childhood/early adolescence OP? I ask because inappropriate flirting and a self-destructive need for attention is very very common among people who have been abused or who had negative early sexual experiences. I'm not saying that necessarily is the case with you, but your need for validation from men does come from somewhere. Counselling is a good idea.

Out of interest, why does your DH make you feel unattractive? Is it something he does, or something that comes from you?

Unhappy123 Sun 30-Sep-12 16:17:43

More great replies thank you.

Cogito I am utterly terrified in case DH is no longer the man for me. You have hit the nail on the head. I feel like ending our marriage would be a huge disappointment to everyone and I would feel like a complete failure.

I will find a (female!) therapist to help me work through everything and then decide how to move forward.

solidgoldbrass Sun 30-Sep-12 16:18:00

DO you have sex with your H, OP? If he's older than you, shy, anxious and 'doesn't make you feel attractive' I wonder if it's frustration that's driving your behaviour, at least in part.
Yet another vote for some counselling/therapy here, as well. If any repeated behaviour is making you unhappy yet you are finding it hard to stop, you need outside assistance. Best of luck.

CogitoErgoSometimes Sun 30-Sep-12 16:22:31

"I want to focus that romantic attention onto my DH but somehow I can't or won't. "

You don't fancy your DH is all that means. You don't see him as particularly sexual. I wonder if there's a big age-gap between you or if you were first drawn to your DH for something non-physicial like his intellect.

Viviennemary Sun 30-Sep-12 16:23:35

When I read these I felt I wasn't agreeing with the majority. Then I saw a post that said the OP had picked the wrong man. I think I agree with this. If you are always on the look out to flirt with somebody else, then you might be better off single and certainly not in a committed relationship. Why would counselling help this.

CogitoErgoSometimes Sun 30-Sep-12 16:29:53

It's not a failure to realise you've made a mistake. It's perfectly possible to love & respect someone and yet them not be the right person for you. And have you considered the body-clock aspect? You don't mention DCs and the urge to reproduce can make people do some weird shit. Happened to me age 34....

FloraFox Sun 30-Sep-12 16:34:46

OP, you sound like someone i know at your age but with more self-awareness. I agree with all the others who've suggested therapy. I strongly recommend getting to the bottom of this before you have kids or get much older. With the person i know, her behaviour escalated after she had kids and started to get a bit older. It seemed like she was desperate for the attention she once had. She has left a trail of destruction in her wake and now sees her (very sad and confused) DCs a few times a year. She is not a bad person and she loves her kids and probably still loves her XH but there is compulsive element to her behaviour. It's not as simple as getting a grip. Could you talk to your parent? That's to think about, not to answer as it might out you.

badtime Sun 30-Sep-12 16:35:05

I don't think it necessarily has anything to do with your feelings for your husband.

If you behave this way to get attention, you are always going to find new 'conquests' more interesting. Your husband is in the bag, so he is less interesting to the part of you that craves attention.

I used to be a bit like you describe, OP. I hated it and felt like a pathetic bitch. In the end, I tried to build a very female-focused social life, so I would develop different priorities. I think it worked for me.

It sounds a bit silly, but have you tried something like taking up a women's team sport, to give you a pastime other than flirting? Nobody to flirt with at netball or hockey or roller derby (unless you go over to the other team, so to speak).

Also, therapy.

Unhappy123 Sun 30-Sep-12 16:40:12

Our sex life is not great tbh and I have often thought about asking him to go to therapy about it. It has dwindled over time but I thought that was natural in a long term relationship.

We have always been keen to have kids and started to TTC but lately I realised it was the wrong time and asked that we put it on hold. I couldn't have children with him if there is any doubt over our future.

My childhood was practically idyllic - I've never wanted for anything and am close to my parents who are great. I can't think of a reason other than the 'ugly duckling' theory.

I have a lot of food for thought and appreciate every response!

TakingBackMonday Sun 30-Sep-12 16:48:30

Oh op I feel for you. I had a messed up childhood, lost a parent, perfect relationship with my father, but I'm just awful, I hate myself, I feel like I need kids and dogs but I need to be a better person first. Life is abhorrent.

Zorra Sun 30-Sep-12 16:48:52

Just wanted to agree with Cogito. I was with exDP from 17 years old; hit 24 and became a total obsessive flirt, leading to a few kisses and fumblings. After a year I started to think that I was trying to fill the lack of spark with DP through 'harmless' flirting, but it wasn't harmless for either of us sad We split up in the end, and I wish I had your self awareness to work through my feelings and issues properly at the time rather than heading off into more self destruct... You sound lovely, and I wish you well x

CogitoErgoSometimes Sun 30-Sep-12 16:49:36

" It has dwindled over time but I thought that was natural in a long term relationship. "

Reduced frequency isn't uncommon in long term relationships but you have to take that in conjunction with what you say about not feeling attractive to your DH and not being able 'focus romantic attention' i.e. not fancying him. When there's an absence of intimacy and affection in a marriage - especially one that doesn't have the excuse of small children taking up time and energy - that is not a good sign

blueshoes Sun 30-Sep-12 17:07:20

You are too young for a midlife crisis. So perhaps the driver for the escalation in flirtatious behaviour could be your subconsciously looking for the father of your children <very poor cod psychology on my part, sorry>?

Some women's sex drives go up in their thirties (not for me, but I read it somewhere).

If you want dcs or more sex, you have got to make a decision whether your DH is the forever one for you. Glad you have not had dcs yet, otherwise my advice would have been quite different.

You have got to refocus your attention back onto your DH to give the relationship a fair chance. Has he noticed your flirting? I assume it is not just at work?

solidgoldbrass Sun 30-Sep-12 17:51:00

I think it may be that a) you have outgrown your H and b) you are not cut out for monogamy. This is not a 'bad' thing at all, long term couplehood suits some people but doesn't suit others.

How much effort is he putting into the relationship BTW? A 'nice, decent' man can just mean 'One who isn't violent or constantly critical, doesn't drink or gamble' and can still describe a man who doesn't pay his partner much attention, positive or negative.

Unhappy123 Tue 09-Oct-12 17:59:43

Hi all

I just wanted to give an update on this if anyone is interested.

Firstly I have my first appointment with a therapist tonight. I'm not sure where to start with her but I'll see how it goes! DH is ok with it but obviously a bit worried as he has said a few times 'what if she tells you to leave me' and 'therapists always blame the husband.' it is part tongue in cheek but I think it is what he is worried about.

Secondly, I broke down last week and told DH that I didn't think we should be together and that I wanted to move out. I told him that I didn't think if we met now we would get married and that there is no spark between us. He was pretty unhappy about all of the above but said he would try to be more considerate etc. he was then absolutely lovely to me for 24 hours (it was my birthday). After that, he has been cool and distant. I'm not sure where things stand. It's the second time in 6 months I have told him that I feel that way (I said the same in April)

Thirdly, I have admitted to myself that my ongoing 'crush' at work is out of control (on both sides) and is utterly damaging. If I have any hope of rescuing my marriage I need to sort that out pronto. I have asked to change team (we currently sit next to each other) and that is happening in a fortnight. I crave the attention And flattery he gives me but it is false and damaging and I know that deep down.

I have bought something for myself to help with a hobby of mine I've been neglecting. I'm hoping that will give me something meaningful and relaxing to focus on.

My coping mechanism at the moment appears to be not eating, and running a lot, which is a bad combination. I can't stop the running but I am going to force myself to eat. I think it's a self punishment thing at the moment. Hoping the therapy will help.

Anyway thanks if you have read this far, and thanks to all who gave advice and support previously. I appreciate it greatly.

FML Tue 09-Oct-12 19:39:38

You aren't alone OP. Hope it goes well at your appointment. I am very interested to find out how it went.

blackcurrants Tue 09-Oct-12 19:53:22

good luck to you, OP - I hope that therapy can help you, and it sounds like you've taken some really productive measures to help yourself, too. Good for you. Do eat - you deserve feeding, you deserve looking after. Take care of yourself and let us know good ways we can help, too. Even if it's just a bit of hand-holding.

aurynne Tue 09-Oct-12 20:16:05

I think you should just leave your poor DH... The second time you tell him you don't love him and that you should separate... and then you just leave it at that? That is emotional abuse of the worst kind. Do you really care for your DH at all? You tell him you don't think you should be together, then you tell him you have an emotional affair... and leave him to suffer and question himself, probably hate himself and spend months wondering what he has done wrong. If you were a man, people here would tell you in no uncertain terms the kind of person that you are.

I believe that the best thing you could do it take your things, leave your DH immediately so he can find a better person he deserves and can be happy with, and then go and work on your self-esteem. You have a lot to mature and to grow as a person before you can commit to any other person.

Your DH deserves better.

sparklingsky Tue 09-Oct-12 20:21:15

I hope it went well this evening. I think you are rather brave. Recognising how we limit ourselves is really half the battle.
At about your age I realized that lots of opportunities and attention came way that may have been a result of things additional to my abilities. wink I decided that any physical attractiveness was a diminishing asset. And, that I should invest my energies into something with greater longevity. I basically stopped flirting and expecting attention.

I feel this helped to innoculate me to becoming older. I think I would've really become miserable otherwise. I don't think I wouldve understood why things didn't come as easily.

I guess I share this with you because you've made a wonderful discovery - that you can create a different you. And whatever motivated you last month doesn't have to drive your life from now on.

Chocoholiday Tue 09-Oct-12 20:23:07

I've had truckloads of therapy and can't recommend it highly enough. I wonder if it might make sense for you to see a man, to really get to grips with why it is so important to you that men find you attractive. Sounds like you may have some very deep anxieties and insecurities about self worth and attractiveness. I did psychoanalytical psychotherapy and thought it was amazing. A good organisation will interview you to find a good therapist match. If you're in London try Arbours.

Unhappy123 Tue 09-Oct-12 22:56:45

Hi all

Thanks for the replies. Tonight went well, for a first appointment. It is incredibly refreshing to talk to someone who is not judging you. For the first time in ages, I didn't feel like a really terrible person.

I'm hoping over the weeks we can dig down deep and I can figure some stuff out. I feel like I know certain things about myself, but I don't understand them - that is what I hope to be able to do. Only then can I change and develop.

Hopefully I'll be able to understand my marriage better at the end of this process as well. In the meantime, DH and I are muddling through and processing what has happened so far.

Thanks MNers. I genuinely feel like the rest of my life has the potential to be different now. I'm not sure where I'd be if I hadn't had some great advice on here. smile

Heleninahandcart Tue 09-Oct-12 23:51:25

Good on you OP for following through on the therapy. Even better you have found a therapist you think will be helpful to you.

However, it does sound as if your DH is on the back foot. You have told him you want to leave him for the second time in six months. You say he was unhappy with all that. It is hardly surprising he has gone a bit 'cool and distant', you say you do not know what is now going but it is you who has set the agenda here. Unbeknown to your DH you have taken steps to avoid your work crush but you have also switched the drama and attention back to you at home. Was it a co-incidence you told him around the time of your birthday when you had 24 hrs of DH having to be being lovely to you? I wish you good luck in finding out where you want to be, you have the therapist and MN so it's all in your favour smile

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