Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Dismaying Story #120: The Property Tax Debacle

Dear Andrew,

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,


  1. Anonymous5:12 PM

    Just to clarify, this incident with the taxes took place ten days AFTER the first story I e-mailed to you (#105 back in January.

    There has been no contact between us since then. The clinging was in my heart and head, not in 'real life'.

  2. ah yes doc -- i remember her...we all told her to run and not look back

    i wonder also, why she continues to want someone who 1. is bad for her and 2. doesn't want her

    i would say to her - get thee into talk therapy -- ASAP...

    and put a sticky note on your bathroom that says: 'i love you' and read it outloud everytime you are in there...

    BIG HUGS!!! the most important love you can have in the world -- is self-love!!

  3. Anonymous8:47 PM

    She didn't do anything wrong. She was trying to help. If he TRULY appreciated her as a friend and what she did, he would have either told her to reverse the charges or would be paying her back right now. He used her even though he didn't know she had done it. He is not an honorable man and this lady is clearly too nice to be with a mean spirited person like him. I would not only run, but I would put a rocket pack on her to get away even faster. He's not worthy...but she is.

  4. She did one thing wrong - she continued a poisonous relationship with someone who has expressly told her, verbally and nonverbally, that he's not interested.

    Anonymous, you say the clinging is in your heart and your head, not in real life. I beg to differ. If you are still clinging to the notion that this is a friendship worth keeping, if you're still wanting things to be different, then it's affecting your real life.

    Andrew, as always, is right. You have to start valuing yourself more. I know you were taught it was "selfish" to put your needs before others. Honey, it's not so. It's the kind of "selfish" you need to be right now. If the people around you are able to assert themselves and get what they want/need, why can't you exactly?

    It's called self-esteem and drawing boundaries. Put it this way - if this were one of your friends going through this and she was hung up on a man who just wasn't going to care, what would you say to her?

    Apply that response to your own life. You deserve better. Put on your Pumas, girl. It's time to beat feet.

  5. I think part of the problem is that she is caught by the allure of the "complicated" and "misunderstood" guy. Truth is, he is not complicated or misunderstood, it is simply selfishness.

    Just let go and move on.

  6. Anonymous1:01 PM

    AZ Goddess : Ouch. You are right. I cared so much about him. I loved the idea of he and I as a couple. I love what he said to me when he was flirting.
    I didn't love myself enough to say I deserve better or deserve more. I think Andrew's suggestion for a self-esteem coach is one I will take very seriously.

    Pookie Sixx : Thank you for being so sweet !!! I really appreciate that. Thank you for the support, ad seeing him more clearly than I was able to.

    Lori : Gentle, gentle, please... What is so clear to you -- and is now to me with hindsight -- was not at all obvious when it was going on...
    Puma time it is, I know. It is because I was so stuck on this that I reached out for help...
    Having a stronger self-image and drawing boundaries is something I will concentrate on learning and having, so that I never have illusions or heartbreak like this again.

  7. I'm not suggesting for a single second that his behavior was acceptable. He should have accepted your offer to reverse the charges right there on the spot. Period. He is a cad who uses women to his own ends.

    However, I'm a little confused about something in the timeline here. You said as "anonymous" that this took place ten days after you sent your letter to Andrew. Had something changed in that ten days? Were you back in touch again as friends?

    If you weren't, it would make some of his reaction understandable. I would have been uncomfortable someone I had no current relationship with decided to pay my bills for me without conferring with me first. I would have felt like someone was prying into my life and I would have felt invaded, like someone was trying to force their affection on me.

    I suggest you cut your losses, accept that this man plays games designed to make women feel crappy about themselves so that he can feel powerful, strong and important (think of the little boy with the magnifying glass and the ant--you were supposed to be the ant), that he has issues that have nothing to do with me and I would move on with my life.

    If this the kind of person you are in general, I promise you there is someone out there who will be grateful to have you in his life.

  8. Anonymous11:34 PM

    Shan and Mary Paddock : Thank you. You both spoke wisely and well.

  9. Let go, let go, let go, no strings, no payments, no returns. Let go -- though hard it is. That's my take.

  10. Cmommy7:16 PM

    Wise can be applied in all types of relationships that play out in a similar fashion.

    Good luck, Anonymous! Also, get involved with something that you enjoy--paint, dance, run, read, sing, knit, take a class, etc. You'll find joy in those moments; they help us to remember who we are.