You helped me back in January (Dismaying story #105: Not Her Knight in Shining Armor). I still go back and re-read your answer sometimes.
I still need help on something - it's connected to the same guy, but it drives me crazy with guilt and shame. I cannot seem to forgive myself, and it haunts me.
This guy has been having some very serious financial problems. He broke up with his long-term girlfriend after she refused to stop drinking, and he is now paying the mortgage all on his own. It is crushing him.
He put the house up for sale immediately, but in this market, it has gone nowhere for the last 8 months. He is working 60 hours plus per week for overtime but cannot afford all of his bills now that his ex-girlfriend isn’t paying half. He also owes hefty child support for his 2 kids from his ex-wife, owes back property taxes, and is facing possible foreclosure or bankruptcy.
He is incredibly depressed and isolating himself. Says he has no friends and hasn’t spoken to anyone in his family in 4 years. In the past he mentioned feeling borderline suicidal. That scared me to death. He went to see a counselor, but I still have that fear lurking in the back of my head.
Owning a home (he is in his mid-40’s) meant everything to him as a man. His whole image of himself as successful and a provider and capable has been threatened, and his self-esteem is in the dirt.
I thought I could help without asking anything in return. I went online and paid his property taxes with my credit card.
When he found out, he was very upset and came to my house to talk to me. I cried and said I hadn't meant it to be a bad thing, that if it was a problem I could reverse the charges and take the money back.
He said no, he appreciated it, but that he would pay me back within the next two years ... but that I had no right to try to control his life. Then he got really nasty and said I was obsessive, and had read into everything he had ever done. That it was stalking to have invaded his personal privacy like that.
I couldn't fathom his response, when I truly thought there had been a friendship between us. He used to say that there "was a connection between us from the very beginning." I apologized profusely and asked him to give me another chance. He said the door was closed between us, and that his defenses were really up.
He said that he was "so not ready to begin dating again," but then he said that yes, he used to fantasize about me a lot because I was beautiful with an amazing body; and that he had wanted to make love to me every night, and that was different than having sex.
He hasn’t spoken to me now for 3 months and I am still grieving. I was the only person to step up to the plate for him when the chips were down. I thought I had done something kind. I meant well and it seems to have backfired horribly.
I didn’t ask him for anything in return.
He hasn’t paid me the money back, and I know he won’t be able to. It’s not the money I care about, it’s him.
Why would he keep the money if he was so angry about it? Why has he responded like this? How do I come to terms with the fact that I have alienated someone I valued so much?
I'm beating myself up mercilessly for this. I know not to ever give someone money again, so I will change my actions, but that doesn't undo a past that haunts me.
My biggest fear is that I am a bad person because he is angry with me about what I did. Surely if I was a good person, he would have responded differently.
Signed, Ashamed and Confused
Dear Ashamed and Confused,
I went back and reviewed Dismaying Story #105 to get some background on your relationship with this man. This is the guy who flirted with you for years while he was going out with another woman, then treated you like dirt when you were friendly after she broke up with him. I advised you to forget him and not look back.
Shan commented: "What a jerk."
Lori said: "Run like hell."
Nothing has changed. He is still acting like a complete jerk and you should still run like hell.
Okay, some people would consider it somewhat intrusive for you to inject yourself into their financial affairs without asking first, but it was obviously an act of friendship and supportiveness. It was incredibly giving of you. Any reasonable friend would see it in that light and would at least offer thanks for the help. For him to criticize the help and still accept it is hypocritical, rude, mean-spirited, ... I could go on. He is not your friend. He is an acquaintance who treats you badly. You should have dropped him like a hot potato long ago.
But you didn't. The obvious question is: why? Why do you cling to a dysfunctional friendship? Why do you value someone who has treated you badly in the past and continues to do so?
Why don't you feel you are worth more than that?
And therein lies your answer. He is not your primary problem. Somehow you have convinced yourself that you are unworthy, that you are a "bad person." He said some nice words to you in the past and that made you feel good. Now you are unwilling to let go of your quest to regain that good feeling. You fear that no one else would ever make you feel that way again. So you are willing to put up with any amount of boorish behavior on his part to keep open the possibility of hearing more words of praise and attraction.
And here is where your behavior pattern feeds on itself -- if he acts nicely, you see him as a nice guy and are flattered that he wants to be with you. If he acts poorly, you blame yourself instead of him. He can't lose! This is because you have such low feelings of self-worth.
Look at your letter. You say that you have alienated him. Baloney! You tried to help. He was the one who reacted poorly and created the chasm between the two of you (which you should be thankful for, by the way). You beat yourself up. You imply that the solution is to change your actions. You worry this happened because you are not a good person.
Let me say this publicly -- you are most definitely a good person. You do, however, have a huge issue with your self image. The committee in your head just loves to remind you how no one will want you, how you aren't good enough, that you aren't a good person, that you shouldn't let anyone see the real you because that won't be good enough for them.
This is a big part of the reason why you are attracted to a man who is so distant and unattainable. (Remember, you waited years for this guy while he had another girlfriend. That is a seriously unattainable man.)
My advice is to find yourself a coach who can help you with your self image. You need someone to help you root out the causes for your negative self talk and to jettison this self-defeating behavior from your life. And it can be done. I've seen many people get this kind of help and make amazing turnarounds in their lives.
Once you do that, this guy will no longer be a mystery to you. You will have the self-confidence to recognize the destructive role he plays in your life and to seek out friends who treat you with the respect and kindness you deserve.
All the best,
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