Alice and Lief Confronting Their Pasts

Alice, while looking for information on how to handle what felt like a downward slide in her relationship with Leif, stumbled across attachment theory and revisited love languages. She still loves Leif and believes that he probably loves her too, but after a weekend of moving/fighting/breakdowns/makups- Alice came to the conclusion that she would somehow need to make things work with Leif but she didn’t know how. So she turned to her usual way of coping with the unknown: intensive studying of the subject at hand.

Alice ran across attachment style theory again while searching something like “relationship dynamics” and took a quiz on attachment style. She had taken one already several months back and it had said she was “secure” but she wasn’t feeling so secure with Leif anymore.

She and Leif had spent some time over the weekend while Leif was helping Alice move discussing their childhoods and intermittently bickering. At one point- Alice came right out and ordered Leif to leave. Leif refused. He said he wasn’t going to let her sabotage the relationship. That struck a chord in Alice because she knew that she had done that in the past. She was/is fearful of depending on or caring for others to a fault.

For example, after having children- Alice realized that she cared so deeply for them that their hurts became her hurts and even came to a point where she said to a friend “I wish I had known that I invited these people into my life that have so much emotional power over me…what if something happens to them?? It will destroy me!” She doesn’t truly regret having children but Alice does try to minimize absolutely the number of people she truly cares about because she has learned that caring almost always results in pain. Alice did this semi consciously. Sometimes she recognized that she was scaring someone away but did nothing to stop herself. Sometimes she did it accidentally- scaring a person away by telling them too much or showing them her worst side immediately. It was only the beginning of this year that she realized that she would do that on dates sometimes.

Prior to this year, Alice had been mostly single for 5 years. She did date someone exclusively for several months the prior year but it was “safe” because she knew the relationship was going nowhere. The man she had dated, Tim, was literally schizophrenic and had been committed twice. He wasn’t mean to her, he didn’t abuse her, but she saw him as more of a friend than a partner. She felt safe. Despite his mental illness, he had always been empathetic with Alice when she had been depressed or ill. Because he was often depressed or sick- so it was more of a friendship than anything. Until Tim started needing more time and energy than Alice could give. Plus he lied to her to get her attention sometimes. And he lived four hours away. When his car stopped working and he couldn’t come to Alice anymore, Alice was relieved. Relieved to be alone again.

However, Alice was also truly busy. She was trying to take care of her two children and make a career in politics for herself and eventually realized that she couldn’t do it right now. She was devastated. Devastated by the lack of resources for a new candidate, angry with the party she was running for and angry that she had done so much volunteering and helped out the party in so many ways and when it came time to support her run for office, she felt alone.

Alice also realized that the last several months, years, as long as she can remember, she had been do things she felt she “had to” and not enjoying herself very much. She sought some relief from this mindset and decided to give dating a try. She wanted to get to know people, have fun, hopefully meet someone who she may have a future with. Alice was okay as a single mother- she didn’t technically need anyone, but she did want the same support that her married friends and political colleagues seemed to have.

She tried one app in which she met a few guys and it was exactly as she expected- a nightmare. And when she wasn’t meeting a lunatic whose idea of fun was attempting to pressure her into sex or talk gibberish, she felt like it was a waste of her time and energy.

She brought it up to friends. That after 3 weeks of this, she was done and going back to being single. Several friends pleaded with her not to give up yet. Try this other site, they said, give it a few more months, then give up. Alice reluctantly agreed.

So she joined a new site and met a couple men. One of them she really liked from the outset although she was concerned that he wouldn’t be able to accept that they came from different religious backgrounds. He insisted it wasn’t an issue and she chose to believe him.

This was how she met Leif. First, they were messaging back and forth for a few weeks. Then as Leif lived a bit farther than Alice from the city, Alice told Leif that she would be in his neck of the woods and if he wanted to meet up for an hour…well, she suggested that they do.

Alice was at a hotel with an extensive pool and water slide area with her son. She hadn’t brought anything particularly impressive to wear and didn’t see that as a big deal in meeting Leif. She mostly wanted to see if they got along at all and to make sure he wasn’t going to bite her (yes, one of her previous dates had bitten her). When he showed up, he was 10 minutes late and Alice was about to just walk away. She was literally about to leave the lobby area when he showed up with no explanation for his lateness- which she noted mentally.

She let that go and they chatted for a bit about their mutual interests and played some arcade games. Leif seemed unimpressed with her looks- which Alice also noted mentally. Alice knew she wasn’t wearing her cutest outfit or any makeup. She had been doing laps in the pool shortly before meeting up with him and hadn’t brought along anything too cute because she didn’t expect a date this weekend.

But she liked Leif immediately. He had also recently quit smoking and was vaping like her, they discussed books that they both wanted to read and had a very competitive game of air hockey. Lief seemed genuinely annoyed that Alice won, even though perhaps unbeknownst to Lief, Alice did a lot of sporty things with her son and regularly practiced because of this. In fact, her son who was only 13 was kicking her ass at airhockey. Not just beating her, wiping the floor with her.

Following this meeting, in which Alice also noted that Leif seemed at bit nervous, Alice gave him an impulsive surprise kiss (to both of them) goodbye. Alice knew she wanted to see him again. And she knew she would have to bring her best physical appearance next time because she could feel Lief not liking her her oversized cardigan and menswear pants that while comfortable, weren’t exactly the most flattering clothes she had.

They made a date for a few weeks into the future as they both had kids and complicated schedules around them. They spoke a lot over the phone at first. Alice reveled in telling him stories of her favorite historical periods, politics, activism and sometimes they would just laugh about things. She became to feel emotionally connected to Leif. So much so, in fact, that she worried that she would commit the ultimate dating “no-no” (according to some)- she was nervous that after speaking with Lief so much and growing to like him- she wouldn’t be able to restrain herself from sleeping with him.

Alice could tell that Leif prided himself on his looks. And Leif is a good looking man by anyones standards. However, that’s not what caught Alice’s attention. Good looking men are available- Alice sought someone with depth, insight, humor, intelligence, and someone who was maybe a little bit difficult. Alice fell for Leif while they spoke on the phone, she fell for his personality, not his looks.

Prior to the first “real date”, Alice expressed her concerns to a friend who frequently gave her sage advice about her fear that she wouldn’t be able to “hold back” on sleeping with Leif. Her friend said “hey, if it feels right, just do it” effectively giving Alice the permission she needed.

The date was perfect. Alice dressed up to make up for her previous menswear look. Alice liked to dress up anyways but it was a challenge to look cute bowling, but Alice is creative and pulled it off. During the date, Alice found herself hugging Leif, holding his hand, and even kissing him. He seemed as happy as she. She found his quirks adorable rather than anything else. He was insecure and she could tell. Alice doesn’t feel insecure about herself- she didn’t then and she doesn’t now.

Alice and Leif, against all common sense around dating, ended up spending the entire weekend together. They were hooked on each other. They laughed, talked, “watched movies”, ate gas station food because although they had originally planned to go out to dinner- they were more keen to get into bed. Leif claimed that he forgot about dinner but Alice had her doubts. She didn’t forget, she simply didn’t care. Her friend had given her permission to jump into bed with Lief and she was ready for it.

She found his stubbornness charming. She found his insecurity charming. She found his nervousness charming. And he made her laugh like nobody else had in recent memory. She was not blind to me what he likely perceived as his faults, rather she noticed them and found them endearing.

Things moved pretty fast from there. They spent all their free time together, which really only consisted of every other weekend. But Alice began to notice things about Leif that she wasn’t sure she could live with. He made promises that took months to fulfill. She put all of her effort into showing Leif that she cared about him- she cooked him a complicated meal, went out of her way to give him everything he ever wanted in bed, dressed to the nines whenever she was with him and let a lot of “little things” go.

But the little things built up to the point that Alice needed a break. She wasn’t sure Leif appreciated her or was able to give her what she needed. This resulted in some explosive anger on Alice’s part, which hurt Leif and surprised Alice and resentment that Alice was maybe wasting time and energy on someone who couldn’t be the partner she needed.

Alice requested a break from the relationship. She felt like she should date others and that he should also. She felt that he would appreciate her more when he dated other women who wouldn’t give him a fraction of what Alice had to offer. But that’s not what happened. Instead, Alice continued to feel strongly for Leif and Leif only. She experienced an episode of anemia which prevented her from going out with another guy she had met online and she also realized she cared too much about Leif to let him go. She wasn’t ready to let him go. Especially since he had a therapist and was working on being a better partner. So Alice changed course and recommitted to Leif.

The caveat this time for Alice was that she would be more careful in giving too much of herself and would be more vigilant about the relationship dynamics. Also Alice had a lot on her plate at the moment. Much more than the average person. Basically, Alice was still working on getting her shit together after having left an abusive relationship 6 years ago. But that relationship was complicated by the child she had with her abuser. Alice had alot going on. Alice also wasn’t as aware of her own ineffective relationship issues as she thought she was.

This is how Alice ended up searching for answers that were originally focused on what was wrong with Leif but turned into discoveries that they both had issues from their pasts that they grapple with and that come out during conflict. Alice even tried to figure out it Leif was a narcissist, although in her heart, she didn’t think so.

Alice ended up looking into attachment theory- which is the idea that adults behavior within intimate relationships are a reflection of how they learned to see the world as very young children.

Alice wasn’t the only one in the house suffering. She felt like a mother to her three younger brothers and remembers telling them when she was 11 years old that as soon as she could, she would get a job and take her brothers away and take care of them, too. Her brothers also remember this and looked to Alice as their mother. Alice would comfort them after they would get yelled at or put outside naked in the middle of winter. Alice swore up and down that she would save them all.

Alice was severely abused as a child. Her mother had beaten her regularly and severely while telling her that she was “nothing”, “a mistake”, “a waste of time and energy” and that her mother wished she had never been born. Alice began to look for other places to live when she was 12 years old. She regularly ran away; at the age of 14, she found herself a foster home and lived there for three months before her parents called the police to bring her back.

Alice’s mother Susan not only abused Alice in private, but also in front of Alice’s friends- which was probably the worst thing for Alice because word spread and her friends parents had forbidden them from being friends with Alice. So Alice did not have any friends anymore growing up. Her friends were her books and her journal. She wrote voraciously and drowned herself in book after book after book. Alice found it ironic that the same mother who had driven Alice to this abject loneliness then turned around and boasted to others that her 10 year old was reading Shakespeare. Alice also developed an eating disorder, which was another thing her mother boasted about. Her mother tried to get Alice into modeling because Alice truly was beautiful and had the body of a model, with the exception of not being tall enough. Another reason Alice was so skinny was that her family literally had no food in the house. Nobody cooked. When Alice was maybe 8 years old, she learned to make egg salad from a book and so that’s what she ate for several months until she first began to steal food and then as soon as she was able to get a job, she was able to afford to buy food and hygiene products at age 15.

At 15 years old, Alice begged her parents to be emancipated. They refused. Alice moved out again- this time to a place where her parents knew the family and let her live there for as long as she desired.

Alice was unable to save her brothers. She was at a breaking point mentally and her need to escape and escape successfully became her top priority. She could only tolerate being in the family home if she was drugged. She stopped thinking about saving her brothers completely. But they didn’t. Alice still feels shame for escaping and leaving them there, even though she took the brunt of the abuse by a long shot.

During her teenage years, Alice tried everything to escape the abuse. She spent more time living in other homes and shelters than she spent at her family home. Alice recognized eventually that it wasn’t her fault- that there was something wrong with her mother for abusing her. Once she had accepted this- she spent her last year at the family home preparing for college as her parents had offered to pay tuition. She lived at the family home for about a year and moved out as soon as she was accepted into the university at age 17.

Alice had thought that twenty plus years on, she had moved past her frightening childhood. But when she took the attachment style test- she found that she still harbored an intense fear of loving anyone. Alice still remembers trying to tell her mother how much it hurt her to be told she was worthless and how that didn’t change anything for her mother.

Alice found that her parents were impressed were her intelligence. Not impressed enough to attend her graduation ceremony from high school- which she graduated with honors. She immersed herself in academia, double majoring, being in the honors program and graduating magma cum laude.

Where was her father during all this? Alice didn’t know.

Alice became successful. She was a well paid, well respected nurse. She thought she had left the past behind her. Unfortunately, Alice faced tribulations as a single mother that left her ripe for abuse. She became involved in two extremely abusive romantic relationships in a row and following that, Alice had given up on love. She was again terrified of people.

Alice’s attachment style is “fearful avoidant” meaning that she wants to love and be loved but also she is so scared of it that she chooses unavailable partners and scares away ones that she may have a future with. And now, not only is Alice protecting herself, but also her two children. She is hellbent that her children not suffer the way she did. In fact, that’s why she wanted children- to give them the love she never got.

Leif grew up in a household where his father dominated. His father was always right, everything was about him and emotions were discouraged. Leif learned that if he expressed “negative emotions” there would be trouble. So Leif learned to bottle his emotions.

Like Alice, he has a hard time trusting but for different reasons. He feels like he may be taken advantage of and thus considers himself absolutely independent and does not want to lose control over his feelings or behavior. He avoids conflict and feelings and needs a lot of space to maintain his identity. Alice doesn’t need as much space, but she fears being hurt again. So she is afraid to let anyone in.

How these two managed to get together and stay together remains a mystery. Leif has refused to let Alice sabotage and Alice has refused to let Leif off the hook when he avoids her feelings. It seems that they love each other. They both know they have work to do but Alice’s pessimism has already threatened her faith in Leif’s willingness to address his past. She wants to believe him but she is afraid to get her hopes up.

Leif has expressed desire to help- both himself and their relationship. Alice has a lot to overcome but is starting to work on it.

To be continued…

Published by kristinatehrani

Born a first generation American, half Irish Catholic and half Persian Jew, I like to write about a childhood mired in the chaos of never knowing where I stood. The only constants in my life have been reading, writing and a passion for social justice. I am a nurse, a single mother, a domestic abuse survivor, radical feminist and outspoken advocate for logic, public health, gray areas, and purposeful dialogue. I know entirely too much about sociopaths, autism, and medieval British history. I write under a pen name to protect the privacy of my family.

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