Many moons ago, I went out with a guy who was nine years older than me. He chased me hard; I wasn’t interested. But after being burnt by another Mr Unavailable who had the looks, charm, flash car, and excitement (I was only 21…), suddenly, even though he didn’t ‘look’ like my ‘type’, it seemed silly not to be interested. Especially as he was so different, surely, I couldn’t go wrong?

After chasing me, wooing me, and making me out to be the centre of his universe, he slowly revealed his true self. He was distinctly emotionally unavailable, quite manipulative, and a total mummy’s boy. In a lot of ways, he was ‘responsible’. I quickly got the sense, though, that he was always going to be running back to mummy’s apron strings because, well, he did. He totally obliterated my self-esteem between blowing hot and cold and sometimes ganging up and being disloyal with family and friends. One day I realised that I didn’t give a monkeys about trying to please him. And I hot-footed it to the US on an adventure for several months.

I vowed that the next time I was involved with someone that they’d be ‘expressive’. They’d tell me how they felt about me, wouldn’t just switch from hot to cold, and wouldn’t have ‘mother issues’.

The next guy I went out with was around ten years older. He told me how he felt about me all.the.time. So much so, it became apparent that he had serious jealousy issues and was possessive. He was also completely irresponsible. Borrowing money, telling lies, very manipulative, anger and alcohol issues, on it went.

He was so irrational, he’d lie, get caught out, get angry with me, eventually admit it, and then tell me it was my fault and how he lied for my own good. Yes, that’s gaslighting.

He was also really intense and played games like trying to make me jealous and then getting angry when I wasn’t. One time, he drove like a maniac swerving the car all over Fort Lauderdale whilst he raged at me. That was for talking to our mutual male friend. It occurred to me that I clearly had issues being involved with him, but not so many issues that I’d stay.

So of course when that ended (thankfully it didn’t last past 6 months), I decided I’d had enough of ‘older guys’.

I’d gone home to Dublin and both of the exes were driving me crazy. The first one turned up every day, pestering me to get back together and telling me he’d changed. The crazy driver one was calling at all sorts of crazy hours.

My mum told me I should be thinking about my security. To be clear, she didn’t mean my safety. No, she meant the security of having a man. I barely slept for five weeks with the stress. In the end, she took me to the doctor and I took sleep medication for a few days. Then I got myself together, applied to transfer to a university in London, and moved at the end of January 2001.

In search of my ‘man destiny’, I was surrounded by younger guys. So, of course, I thought that this was the answer to my problems. Privately I was thinking ‘I want someone the total opposite to [my ex(es)] who isn’t going to cause me problems and try to change me and question my every move’.

The new guy was a few years younger, seemingly passive, and totally wrong for me. For a start, he drove me insane with his inability to express himself, only it really was like dealing with a child. To top it off, I still had jealousy and possessiveness issues to deal with, and I didn’t like feeling like I was in charge. Oh, and he was passive-aggressive.

You can see where this is going…

The next guy I dated and subsequently became engaged to in a whirlwind romance was 11 years older. He had mother issues, only he couldn’t stand her (or mine for that matter…). Sure, he was very responsible, but it was to the point where I felt like I was treated like a child. He chased hard. Of course, once he felt like he was in control, he gradually revealed how emotionally unavailable he was, to the point where I felt like an outsider in our home. Serious control issues, very jealous and possessive (he once got angry when I said how ‘hot’ a celebrity was…). His antics played havoc with my mind so that I became a shadow of my former self. Yep, more gaslighting.

No more of these older guys was the motto when I walked away.

Two months later and I became The Other Woman with a guy the same age as me and who I felt looked like my Ideal Man.

Yep, you guessed it! He was jealous and possessive, responsible but, of course, emotionally unavailable, plus picked argument after argument when he’d been drinking. I felt like we were on the same level, that we understood each other, and convinced myself we were ‘best friends’. He certainly didn’t have my best interests at heart.

To be fair, the whole thing was based on lies, but it’s only in hindsight that I recognise the extent of the lies and manipulation. He was also really controlling. I was tempted to leave London and head home to Dublin, but I decided to stick it out. It was becoming apparent that my man troubles followed me from place to place and it might be myself I needed to deal with.

The next two guys were nice enough guys but both actually still lived with their exes. Neither like confrontation and that involved even basic discussions about what was going on.

I could go on… but I’ll spare you…

I believed that all of these guys were different and that I was involved with such different personalities.

But even when I sought out opposite traits, normally by homing in on one specific thing, the same problems kept rearing their ugly heads. Where there wasn’t direct aggression, there was passive aggression. So actually, I was getting aggression whichever way you look at it.

The flip flapping confused my sense of self and I totally got lost en route. I couldn’t figure out what the hell I wanted and instead of dealing with the issue, I knee-jerked from guy to guy, trying to home in on ‘opposite’ traits. And still ended up with the same results. I kept saying I’d “learned my lesson” and how I’d be avoiding guys who did such and such, only to find myself with same guy different package, still feeling the same way. Like crap.

Playing the opposites game is a dangerous one, especially because in focusing on one particular thing, you miss the big picture and neglect to see other things that pose a danger to you.

Back in part two.

Your thoughts?

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