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Do men love? Or not? Or is it really just me?

(18 Posts)
ItIsUnnervinglyQuietInHere Sun 10-Jun-18 22:53:31

This time last week, I had a thread about the heartbreak I feel about not having been loved by my parents and the impact it has had on me and my ability to form relationships.

I was always told growing up that I would never be loved and was given all the reasons for this. I could write pages on the flaws I was told make me unloveable. I tried to find love to prove to them and myself that I was loveable and I could be loved. But I got it so wrong. Very quickly, I ignored/avoided/rejected decent men as being 'too good' for me and only ever dated men who were very obviously damaged. I used to say I was only attracted to 'inept' men but it was more than that. I gravitated towards men who were no more capable of loving or being loved than I was due to their own sadness, issues and traumas. It was their pain and their damage that drew me to them. In part, I wanted to show them the compassion I hadn't experienced and 'love them better' but I also felt I was only good enough for men other women would reject. After all, no one would 'choose' me so I had to ensure there'd be no 'competition'. I guess they were drawn to me for the same reasons sad

I understand now how this was all a recipe for disaster but I was only a teenager/young adult at the time and it both felt real and made sense to me. The 'relationships' were sometimes little more than FWB/drinking buddy and other times were characterised with anger, sadness and cruelty born of insecurity and self loathing. There was little emotional attachment - not healthy, positive ones anyway and certainly no love. The first time I was hit I told my mother and her response was to ask what I'd done wrong and warn me that next time - he might dump me.

My husband was one of these men. We got together when I was 26 and I was the single parent of a toddler. We weren't in love. He was equally damaged and felt that if he could right the wrongs in my life then his would have been worth something.

We've both grown up a lot. Both had counselling and therapy and have brought up two, largely, well adjusted and happy children. But our relationship ultimately broke down when he met someone else. I've been largely single for 6 years. I have had 3 short term relationships, the last ending quite recently and I'm still struggling with the lack of love.

I had some lovely comments on the other thread but today I'm really struggling with thoughts of being 'unloveable' and easily replaceable.

I'm also really struggling with the number of married men who have actively pursued me over the past few years. Only one single man has approached me but the number of married men is well into double figures. And I'm not including drunk chancers on a night out, I'm talking colleagues; friends; the husbands of friends, etc.. Who've made several attempts at 'woo-ing' me over weeks/months. I'm struggling with the knowledge that none of these men are genuinely attracted to me and don't love or respect me. But I'm also struggling with what this means for men and love generally. How can they love their wives? It doesn't help when I read on here that "my husband would never do that..." because I know some of the wives of these men and they genuinely believe the same. And so did I, until they did it.

My female friends haven't experienced similar so I think there must be something about me that makes me a target for these men. On the surface you wouldn't know this is how I feel. I told a couple of friends recently about my background and its impact and they were shocked and had no idea. So I'm not 'obviously' a target. But there is something that men see in me that makes me suitable for an affair and sex but not for a relationship and love. If I knew what it was, I could change it. There must be something I'm doing. And I don't know what it is.

Or is it them?

pissedonatrain Mon 11-Jun-18 08:22:41

Have you addressed any of this in counseling?

tbh most friends won't tell you if they've been treated badly.

Most men are hunting for sex so you're attractive, you're going to get hit on.

Of course you're worthy and lovable. I believe dating is harder these days with social media and people looking for the bigger better deal.

If you have clear boundaries when you are dating, you can screen out the players, so called "separated", and married sneaks.

fantasmasgoria1 Mon 11-Jun-18 09:23:23

I thought I was a target for awful, abusive men. I married two of them! But.... my fiancé is the most amazing, caring and respectful man I have ever met. I have no doubt he loves me. I will be having intensive therapy soon and I’m sure my issues around this will be addressed.

Mountainsoutofmolehills Mon 11-Jun-18 09:31:59

theres a group on fb called Restoring Love with Zariya Lufu. She talks a lot about inner child work. Levels we are left with .... My dad always said 'no one will love you like I do' , and then be incredibly cold. I always thought men were just after sex really, and would say anything to get it.. I think at 37 I think that you never really know anyone, the closest people shock us the most.... But I am also softening my idea towards a few men. I have a couple of male friends who are nice men, and supportive.

Men love single women bait. I get it often. Friends divorce and the husband gets in contact lightly, but I still think, ah, you fancy me, you're bored and think I will be keen.

I love zariya's group, she has made me do some great inner work, it's a work in progress. You are welcome.

AttilaTheMeerkat Mon 11-Jun-18 09:41:41

I hope that this counsellor you will be seeing will be helpful to you.

I would also suggest you have a look at and post on the "well we took you to Stately Homes" thread on these pages. There are good resources on there at the start of that thread too pertaining also to the inner child.

This is all on your parents, not you. It is not your fault you are like this, they certainly taught you an awful lot of damaging lessons. You were basically their vessel for them to pour their inherent ills into. You are worthy and loveable, the processes of you believing that for your own self were snuffed out by your unloving abusive parents.

Your parents set you up well and proper into accepting and believing these untrue things and it will take a lot of specialised therapy to unpick (the likes of CBT is not going to cut it here).

ItIsUnnervinglyQuietInHere Mon 11-Jun-18 13:43:03

Have you addressed any of this in counseling?

I've been out of counselling for a couple of years. I tried to but the counsellor I last had all but admitted she was out of her depth. She said I had enormous insight into how I felt and why I felt this way (which was essentially what she thought she'd be doing with me). What she couldn't do was help me break it down and work through it. This morning, I've made a fresh self referral through our local NHS mental health services and I'm going to ask for something more intense. I know they can offer it but don't straightaway.

tbh most friends won't tell you if they've been treated badly.

It's more just the being 'hit on' by married men bit. And some of them are seriously focused. I know it's not that they are irresistably drawn to me. I know it's 'what they do'. But they're not doing it to my friends. Ever. Even the single ones. So I think they must see something in me that makes them think I'd be receptive to it. (I'm not).

Of course you're worthy and lovable. I believe dating is harder these days with social media and people looking for the bigger better deal.

If you have clear boundaries when you are dating, you can screen out the players, so called "separated", and married sneaks.

The thing is, I agree it's harder these days, but it's never been any different - even when I was younger. I don't do any kind of 'dating'. I'm not really interested in online dating and I don't get asked out so it's not an issue! I've actually got really good, strong boundaries - I had to work at it but I don't tolerate any kind of nonsense from anyone now.

fantasmagoria I know that, in the past, I was vulnerable to these men. As much as anything, I think I was filtering out the 'good guys' because I didn't feel worthy of them and used to feel a bit embarrassed for them that they were interested. But I'm not now. My red flag radar is finely tuned!

It's good to read that you've met someone and feel certain that he loves you smile

Thank you, Mountains

Thanks, Atilla. It's the "lot of specialised therapy" that I'm worried about tbh. I will have a look at the Stately Homes thread, thanks.

Intellectually, I know it was them and not me but emotionally, I really struggle.

I likened it the other day to the fear of walking down a dark path on your own. It doesn't matter how safe the area is, how well you know it, how many times you've done it without event, your heart will still pound and your stomach will still knot. Intellectually, you know that the chances are you'll be ok but you can't stop the emotional response to it. That's how I feel.

misscph1973 Mon 11-Jun-18 13:57:17

I am so so sorry for you, ItIsUnnervinglyQuietInHere, you have a lot to work with! It's horrible how much our childhood and parents can affect us. But you do absolutely have the power to break free from this.

I think the married men thing is very connected to how your were told you were not loveable. These men are predatory, they have a radar!

I'm a great believer in controlling your thoughts and beliefs and "fake it till you make it". I'm recently separated, and I have surprised myself of how well I have handled it. I I have been in counselling and I have really worked on my thoughts and beliefs about myself - this was not something I did in counselling, the counselling was a support to get me through the separation with dignity and it was great to have confirmation that I wasn't totally crazy. But working on my thoughts and beliefs wa something I did myself. The mind is incredibly strong, and it's easy to let your thoughts spiral out of control. I think perhaps in your case your beliefs are so strong that other people (married men) can sense it?

What I did to begin with was that I wrote down every night 3 things that I was grateful for. I also challenged my own beliefs and when my thoughts were negative, I questioned them and reframed them. I also signed up to daily self-help newsletters, they are great, they help me start my day on a positive note. I feel so different now, I have a much better relationship with my STBXH now, and I have a great relationship with my teenage DC. But more importantly for your case, I am slowly beginning to feel ready to date again, and I can tell that I am attracted to very different men than I used to. I am no longer attracted to "bad boys", and I think the vibes that i send out are very different to what they used to be.

I hope my experiences can inspire you to make the changes you need.

ItIsUnnervinglyQuietInHere Mon 11-Jun-18 14:05:03

To illustrate:

There is a group of people I see out socially. I've been introduced to all but one and am happy to chat with them. There is one man in the group I haven't been introduced to. I have never seen him out with a partner so I've assumed he's single. I cannot bring myself to speak to him. Even if I am talking to the person next to him. I actively avoid him. I ignore him, I suppose. I know I must look incredibly rude.

He seems like a decent bloke which is the first strike.
He appears to be single which is the second strike.
There are aspects of him that mean I have identified him as 'better than/too good for me' and that's the third strike.

If he spoke to me, I'd be fine but I guess he won't given how pointed I am in ignoring him sad

Intellectually, I know it would be as simple as smiling and saying "Hi, I'm ItIs I don't believe we've been introduced smile". But emotionally... there's no way I could bring myself to do it.

It's always been the same.

anametouse Mon 11-Jun-18 14:13:34

You'll get there OP, you're doing amazingly. So much pain to unpack and you're doing it. You so wonderful by the way.

You may struggle to get the kind of therapy you need on the NHS. I'd ask for a psychologist and if you don't get it, consider whether you can pay privately? They can help you unpack this and start to live in a different way

misscph1973 Mon 11-Jun-18 14:17:11

You really need to overcome yourself ;) Make it your goal to talk to him. What if he hasn't spoken to you because he feels that he doesn't deserve you? You need to assume the best, not the worst. Make yourself believe this, open yourself up to this. Stop being a victim to your own beliefs.

It's always been the same. - If you always do what you have always done, there will be no change! It's really very simple.

I think you would find Natalie Lue's Baggage Reclaim very interesting:

ItIsUnnervinglyQuietInHere Mon 11-Jun-18 14:58:05


The saddest thing for me is that, if you met me, you'd see/think that I do all of these things. I don't come across as vulnerable. I don't entertain any of the married men who do come on to me; I come across as pretty confident and self assured.

I did similar to you when my marriage broke down. A lot of other things happened at around the same time so I ended up almost reinventing myself and starting from scratch. It was brilliant and I was sure that it was the start of a new beginning for me. And, in a way, it was.

I push myself outside of my comfort zone; I have hobbies; I 'appear' to have friends (I know a lot of people); I'm prepared to make a fool of myself and don't take myself too seriously. I have a "Go on, why not. What harm could it do..?" attitutde rather than a "No, I'm not the sort of person who..." attitude towards most things.

It doesn't matter who I meet or in what context, the feedback is that I am 'lovely'. Even if they do sense my negative self beliefs, I don't respond positively to them.

I wouldn't say I was ever attracted to 'bad boys'. It was more that I was attracted to tortured souls. I shut down to 'bad boys' too. But I do reject/avoid 'decent men' for their own good essentially.

I think this is what I find so sad and frustrating - I feel like I'm doing all the things I can and I'm supposed to do but without much effect. Your post has just reassured me that I do do a lot of it already. And clearly it's working for you and that is really good!

ItIsUnnervinglyQuietInHere Mon 11-Jun-18 15:14:52

You may struggle to get the kind of therapy you need on the NHS

I know sad. I do need to unpack it but I'm not sure I could afford to go privately at the moment.

And thanks. There is a lot. I'm worried about the bit when it gets worse before it gets better if I'm honest sad

What if he hasn't spoken to you because he feels that he doesn't deserve you?

Hmm... I take your point but I doubt it very much! grin I suspect it's more likely to be that he has no interest in doing so... but yes, you are quite correct about the doing what you've always done and getting what you've always got.

You're right really. I will make it my goal to speak to him. Just so that I've done it as much as anything. I've never initiated a conversation with a man I 'liked the look of' but considered to be 'above' me before. So it'll be an experience. I've only got to say, "hello".

I think the thing is that I worry that even if I just say "hi" and chat generally, he might perceive that as me being interested. I just hate the thought of him thinking "Ugh, even if I were straight/single - no chance!"

But then I don't think that about men who speak to me...

You make a lot of sense, miss.

misscph1973 Tue 12-Jun-18 10:43:20

You sound like a very clever person! You have a lot of insigt. But I also think you have built a wall to protect yourself. The person you show is not really you. You need to work on narrowing the gap between your facade and who you are on the inside. I think perhaps you are afraid of showing your true self? You are worried about rejection? It's okay to be vulnerable!

ItIsUnnervinglyQuietInHere Tue 12-Jun-18 18:53:08

miss That's spot on, I think.

One of my friends said a couple of years ago that I was surrounded by a big "Fuck Off Wall". I don't see it myself. I think I am open and approachable!

I worry that if people see too far beyond the 'facade' they will see all the flaws my mother saw. Some of them are obvious because they are related to physical appearance. But some of it is stuff that you'd only know if you got close or knew me well.

Realistically, I know that everyone is flawed and it is our flaws that make people individuals, quirky and attractive. But I've spent so long thinking that mine were bad things and negative that I can't see beyond it.

More than that, I feel an internal rage if someone compliments me on something that my mother saw as an unloveable flaw. Given that she criticised me on most things, it makes accepting any compliments really difficult.

Some of them are so bad that I've ended fledgling relationships because of it. I'm not stupid, I know that people have seen my flaws but I can't cope if they comment on them. Even positively.

So let's imagine I have a big nose that I am self conscious about. I don't, but I have other physical features i feel similarly about. I know that people can see my nose but I can pretend they haven't noticed just how big it is as long as they don't comment on it. I might have a man say "I love your nose. I fucking love a strong nose on a woman. You look beautiful." I can't cope with them drawing attention to it, even positively, and I've ended new relationships because of it.

But at the same time, I don't get complimented very often and I take that as a sign that I'm not 'good enough' too.

I am aware that's a big confusing dichotomy.

I am worried about rejection and about not being good enough. I'm angry with myself that I'm not good enough. I feel shame that I'm not good enough.

54321go Tue 12-Jun-18 19:36:12

Go talk to this guy, especially if you are in a public place with friends around for 'safety'. It may be hard but having done it you will have chipped away at the 'wall' even if following a few minutes chat he turns out to be obsessed with milk bottle collections and stamps, you don't have to speak to him again. Assuming he compliments you for something, accept gracefully in an understated way and move the conversation on. If after a while it is not happening move on.

ItIsUnnervinglyQuietInHere Tue 12-Jun-18 19:51:22

I will speak to him but only to say hello and so that it isn't an odd elephant in the room!

But I won't do it with a view to it going anywhere. I'm clearly nowhere near ready for that regardless of him! But I do also just find it difficult to talk to people in general if I perceive them as being 'better than' me.

So actually just being able to string half a dozen words together in the right order would be progress...

misscph1973 Wed 13-Jun-18 10:00:17

ItIsUnnervinglyQuietInHere, I do understand the conflict you are feeling - you know what the problem is, but you can't escape it. You are too aware of it, I imagine you almost have two personalities, one that is your facade, and another running parallel that you keep hidden? And it's a habit of a lifetime?

We all build walls to protect ourselves - but yours is obviously more impenetrable than is healthy. You have a front that functions too well!

I think baby steps. Talk to this guy, if only for the elephant ;) Think of him as a project, a test. Try to not hide your flaws more than you have to. If your flaws become visible, breath deeply and compliment yourself for not reacting as much as you could have.

ItIsUnnervinglyQuietInHere Wed 13-Jun-18 12:44:11


Wiw, you're spot on again. Yes, I definitely have the 2 personalities.

I am going to be brave...

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