I have a history of dating men I’m not attracted to physically or emotionally. I always found it weirdly comforting to know my boyfriend was obsessed with me while I had minimal feelings for him. I have explored this in therapy and chalk it up to lack of self-confidence. But a month ago I started hanging out with this guy and it’s the first relationship I’ve been that isn’t one sided. It’s also the first relationship I’ve been in where the guy wasn’t pushing me to “define the relationship” after a month. This has led to me feeling quite vulnerable and afraid. For the first time in a long time, I’m dating a guy that I not only like but find very attractive and now I’m terrified it will end. This fear has led me to keep my feelings to myself. In previous relationships where I was the one with the upper hand, I found it easier to speak up because I felt in control and didn’t really care if it ended. I am now in a place where I’m afraid to speak for fear of saying the wrong thing. I want to know what his intentions are, but I don’t want to place undue pressure him either. I’m craving more validation than I’m getting from him because I got used to being smothered with validation in all my previous relationships, but I don’t know how to bring this up without making it seem like I am trying to DTR. Any advice?

Naked And Afraid

I wouldn’t chalk up the choices you’ve made in the past — only dating men you weren’t attracted to, only dating men you could take or leave, only dating men you held in what sure sounds like contempt — to a lack of self-confidence. Frankly, I’m a little mystified your therapist endorsed that interpretation. Maybe you had one of those therapists who thinks it’s their job to help clients construct self-serving rationalizations for shitty behavior — explanations that never fail to center the client as the victim — or maybe you came up with that rationalization on your own and your therapist was just about to challenge you on it when you stopped scheduling new sessions.

So, I’m going to challenge you.

I don’t think you have self-confidence issues, NAA, I think you have control issues. You only dated men you didn’t care about — you only dated men you weren’t attracted to physically or emotionally — because you wanted to have the upper hand. You wanted all the power, all the leverage, and all the control. So, you not only dated men you could take or leave exclusively, NAA, you seemed to go out of your way to find men who had to have you. That’s not the weak-ass move of a person who lacks self-confidence, NAA, that’s the cold-hearted power play of a control freak. I’m glad you got into therapy and it seems to have done you some good — you’re currently dating someone you’re attracted to and for the first time experiencing human feelings — and if that shallow pseudo-epiphany you had in therapy (“I lack self-confidence!”) helped you make different and better choices, NAA, then it did you some good.

But I think you have more to unpack, NAA, perhaps with a different therapist.

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