My last relationship took me for a loop that I could have never expected.  My boyfriend was an overall good guy, not the type I was typically used to dating in the past.  He was not physically or verbally abusive and everyone who knew him seemed to adored him.  I only heard people speak highly of him and I mistakenly assumed that he would make a wonderful partner.  I was very wrong.  Our relationship ended in a lot of drama and pain that left me confused and hurt for some time.  I have learned a lot from this relationship and I am now thankful for the experience.

The most important lesson that I learned from this failed relationship is that love is simply not enough to make a relationship work.  I loved my boyfriend very much and I assume that he also loved me.  I dreamed of spending the rest of my life with him as I had never been with such a “good guy”.  I wrongly assumed that he was the love of my life because he was loving at times and not abusive like the past men that I had been with.  Our relationship in general seemed better off than any other that I had engaged in in the past.  But there was always something not quite right and in the whole two years we spent together and I couldn’t quite put my finger on it until the very end.  Once I realized what was wrong our relationship was far too damaged to salvage.

What was so horribly wrong with this man that everyone seemed to put on a pedestal?  I began to realize that his friends and family’s needs were a priority over mine and even his own.  I thought he was just being a good guy by taking care of everyone but I began to realize that by doing so he completely ignored and avoided my emotional needs at the same time.  Not only did he ignore my needs, but he would also put his on hold to please others regardless if the outcome would damage his self-worth and our relationship.  After a lot of therapy and reflection I now know that this man is a “Dismissive-Avoidant”.

A dismissive-avoidant is someone who subconsciously fears intimacy because they have learned that caregivers are not dependable.  Because of this deep-seated fear, a dismissive-avoidant type may feel that they are better off alone and will usually resort to avoiding the closeness of emotional intimacy.  This type of person is often unable to take attachment issues seriously and when pushed to do so becomes agitated and unwilling to discuss the issues at hand.  They often use work or other activities to busy themselves so that they may have an excuse to avoid emotional attachment.  They do not understand that emotional distance has an impact on them.  These types will often subconsciously resort to having their own emotional needs met by a less demanding partner who does not require reciprocation of real intimacy and closeness.  On the outside, dismissives may pin their relationship issues on their partner while deep inside they have such low self-esteem that they do not feel worthy of love and affection.  This is something that they learned from their caregivers who failed to meet their emotional needs at a very young age.

When you are in a relationship with a dismissive-avoidant they repeatedly remind you in many ways that you are quite low on their list of priorities.  They often feel that any relationship problems are their partner’s problem as they cannot identify their own feelings deep within.  A dismissive-avoidant will use distancing to limit the intimacy within their relationships that they can’t seem to tolerate. There are many different ways a dismissive can distance themselves from their partners but in my case my boyfriend would frequently “mentally check out” on me when I was trying to discuss something that was very important to me.  This treatment lead me to realize that my emotional needs were the least of my boyfriend’s worries.  And that made me feel very alone, although he was physically by my side nearly every day for our entire relationship.

Our relationship started on the rocks and I should have taken the red flags to heart and ran the other way.  The biggest wedge in our relationship was his friends and family who treated me with complete disregard and were frequently downright disrespectful to both him and me.  The first time I met his brother, he drunkenly flipped out on me and caused a huge and embarrassing scene at a party.  I felt completely unwelcome amongst his friends and family after this occurred.  His friends were the most disrespectful group of people I have ever encountered, bullying and belittling me even in front of my boyfriend who could never muster the courage to stand up to them.  My boyfriend’s family gradually became more and more abusive towards me and when I would bring these issues up to my boyfriend he would simply dismiss and avoid them.  He was used to this treatment and to him it was no big deal.  Towards the end of our relationship I felt so completely alone and worthless because that was what my boyfriend subconsciously engrained into me.  But everything else seemed great and I chose to ignore these blaring red flags because I loved him and thought that was enough for our relationship to endure.  I am not saying that the failure of our relationship was one-sided but that simply both sides must be equally engaged for a relationship to thrive.

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What have I learned from all of this heart ache?  Love is not the only factor needed to maintain a healthy relationship.  Respect and communication are also key.  Attentiveness to your partner’s needs are of the ut-most importance regardless of how you unimportant they may feel to you.  Communication cannot be one-sided and both parties must be willing to dive deep into their emotional issues if a healthy level of intimacy is to occur.  I wish that I had fully understood how important each of these aspects of a relationship are two years ago when I began my relationship with this boyfriend, but I am also thankful that I am now able to take the pain that I felt from this relationship and turn it into an important learning lesson that I hope to never forget.

And with that being said… if things just don’t feel completely right in a relationship, I suggest that you take a hard look at the red flags you are encountering and be honest with yourself.  If something feels wrong, discuss your feelings with your partner and work together to resolve them.  If the issues are being pushed back to you as your own personal problem, then your partner is dismissing your needs and may not be capable or willing to fully engage in an intimate relationship.

I hope that by sharing my experiences and reflections that my readers will be able to take my journey as a lesson and apply it to their personal lives.  Red flags in any relationship are something that should not be ignored and are there for a reason!  If you can work through them, your relationship will be that much stronger.  If you can’t, then perhaps it is time to take the high road regardless of feelings of love.

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