Characteristic 11

We feared relationships, but continually searched for them. In a relationship we feared abandonment and rejection, but out of one, we felt empty and incomplete.

Aaron L (NY)
My first relationship was based on need and not love. I felt that my partner would be the only person who would ever want me. My self-esteem was nonexistent since I hadn't gotten sober yet and I searched desperately for a relationship to cure that. But my desperation kept people away. The first person that expressed an interest in me, I immediately jumped into a relationship with him without stopping to think whether I even liked this person, let alone whether I wanted to move in with him, which I did several weeks after we met. Although I was aware of his destructive neurosis and constant need for control, I dealt with it not through communication, but through resentments, petty fights, and various other means of destroying the relationship. This included infidelity and lying, things that I feared most that he would do to me. Although I craved being with someone, most of the time we were together I would be thinking about ways to get away from him. Having an unfounded fear of being smothered has stayed with me through most of my adult relationships. 

After my first lover met someone that could give him more attention than I could, he asked me to move out. This prompted a steady flow of serial non-monogamy after I got sober from alcohol and my self-esteem was regained. I learned that he wasn't the only person would be interested in me. Then, it seemed like I had to find as many people as possible who were. My ego had an insatiable appetite for gratification and attention and I found myself constantly on the prowl. But what was I looking for; sex, friendship, a relationship, or just attention? To this day, I often can't differentiate between these things. I find that now, if I meet someone with whom I enter into either a serious or casual relationship, I can almost count the months before I'll want to end it and move on to someone else as soon as things start to get difficult. But during those first few months, I'm in constant fear of losing the person, thinking that they will either: 1) find out something about me that they won't like, 2) that I'll say and do something that will upset them, or 3) that they'll realize that I'm just not good enough, because I don't make enough money, have the right kind of job, etc. 

I used to feel completely alone if I wasn't dating someone. The hunt to meet someone often would turn into a frenzy where my life priorities would be out of wack. The instant gratification of a chance meeting with a stranger might be exciting, but that thrill would wear off quickly. When I substitute that for spending time with people who are important in my life, that's when I feel lonelier than ever.

Now, I realize that sometimes when I'm feeling isolated, what doesn't help me feel better is to prowl the streets in search of a romantic partner, long-term or otherwise. Those times are when I especially need to spend time with friends, work on career-oriented projects, or go to meetings. These are where the opportunities to meet quality people 
come into my life and are what keep me most fulfilled.