After my post on Dating Red Flags, many of my readers asked that I give more details on Match #4.
Match #4 was a woman that I was set up with through a matchmaking service. For more details on the matchmaking service, please see the original post linked above.
When I first called match #4, she was away on business. She had recently started a new job and was at training for her new job about 1500 km away from the metropolitan area where we both live. We talked for about an hour during that first conversation. She had been divorced about 4 years after being married for 15. During the time she was married she had not worked for 12 years and was a stay at home mom. She recently had quit her first job after her divorce and started a new one. I learned that she had 3 minor children and had them on opposite weekends of the weekends I had my daughter. I knew from day one that it would be very difficult for us to have much of a relationship due to the logistics alone. That being said, it may have been possible for one of us to change our placement weekends so we might have more time together, but we would need to have a sufficient connection in order for me to want to consider pursuing a change in placement of that nature.
With further discussion, I learned that she lived about a 35 min drive away from my house, but she worked very close to where I lived. I thought it might work out that we could get together after work on occasion. This ultimately proved to not be the case, since she had to leave her job and pick up her 7 yr old before daycare closed. Seeing each other with any regularity proved to be extremely challenging.
We briefly discussed her ex during this conversation. She told me he was a real challenge. He had been married within 6 months of their divorce to a woman who was hated by her two older children. He had divorced this woman after 2 years and was currently dating a woman he had met in his divorce support group. I didn’t pry any further into her ex, but at this point I had my suspicions of his nature.
During our second phone conversation a few days later, I asked some more questions about her children. Her children were ages 15, 12 and 7. The 15 yr old was a boy and the younger two were girls. I also learned that she had moved 30 min away from the town where she was divorced about 3 years ago after making every attempt to stay in the family home. When she moved, the 15 yr old son, who was 12 at the time, ended up staying with dad so he could be by his friends. From her description, dad had ruined his relationship with his 15 yr old son. There was never any food in the house because dad was always going out with his girlfriend or friends, leaving his son at home by himself. His son wanted nothing to do with him. His son stayed in his room most of the time playing video games or spent time with his friends. Evidently it had become bad enough that dad’s parents had contacted match #4 about the situation, hoping she could help.
I also learned during the second phone conversation that the 12 yr old daughter refused to see dad. This had been going on for about 6 months. Evidently she had had a significant disagreement with her dad, about what I am not exactly sure, but the net result was that she refused to go to his house. From what it sounded like, there was a long history there, with dad’s new (now ex) wife trying to take over the ‘mother’ role in the family from match #4 and the 12 yr old resisting her attempts.
The entire family scenario with Match #4 sent chills down my spine. It was so eerily similar to the scenario I was in with my cheating NxGF that I couldn’t possibly ignore it. When I met my NxGF, she had almost an identical situation; an older boy, with two younger girls and a difficult ex. Her children were all about the same age as Match #4’s children. My ex’s older daughter (again, the middle child) also had huge problems with her dad and refused to see him. I knew match #4 is a different person, but the parallels were so similar I would have been a fool not to notice them. The big difference was match #4. What was she like? How did she handle this situation?
Our first meeting was at one of my band’s shows. The show was in the afternoon and was close to where she was working. She came for about the last 30 min of the show and then we managed to chat for about 30 min after I was packed up before she had to leave to pick up her daughter. The conversation consisted mostly of light talk.
Since she worked very close to where I lived, we tried to set up some lunch dates. Our next two dates were lunch dates, which lasted the typical hour. After these first two dates, the lunch dates disappeared as she became more busy with her job and was not able to leave work for lunch any longer. After our second lunch date I sent her a text that said I appreciated her efforts to enable us to get together. It had been about 3 weeks since our first phone conversation, and I was truthfully surprised that we were able to see each other as much as we had been given our combined schedules.
During the lunch dates I learned that she had left her last job because she was “sick and tired of doing everything”. She said at her last job she did ‘all the work’ while her bosses and others would do nothing. In my opinion, this is a codependent behavioral pattern. One of the traits of codependency is saying ‘yes’ when you really want to say ‘no’. Often this leads to taking on responsibilities that a person doesn’t want and then that person resents having to take on those responsibilities.
From the second lunch date, I learned that her birthday was fast approaching. For her birthday, I offered her the choice of either going out or having me cook her dinner at my house. She chose to have me cook her dinner at my house. The dinner at my house went very well and we both enjoyed ourselves. I learned that her exH was an investment adviser and made very good money. I also learned during the dinner that her ex had called her about 6 months ago crying and admitting that ‘everything was his fault’ with the failure of their relationship.
“Was he single during this time?”
“So he can’t stand being alone, can he?”
To me, this episode with her exH sounded like a classic hoover maneuver. He was between relationships and was trying to hoover anyone who would listen. I later learned that she met him alone several times during the time where he was without a significant other and apologetic towards her. I asked her ‘why’ and she said because she was hoping to ‘help’ him. When he started to attempt to hold her hand, etc, she refused to meet him privately anymore. Evidently she was still hoping he might change after 15+ years of evidence that he wouldn’t.
Our next date was a social event where I met several of her friends; she was going out to meet some friends and invited me along. Her friends seemed very loyal to her, with many of them telling me to ‘take care of her’, etc. We didn’t really have any serious discussions during this date.
The next date was again a social event, where we went to a local gallery night with one of her friends. This was on a weekend night where she had her children but I didn’t have my daughter. We left her friend at about 9PM and went to get a late dinner. She expressed concern about how much we were able to see each other. I asked her how it had worked for her in the past. She told me her first boyfriend after her divorce had no children. I said “obviously that would be much easier”. The second boyfriend she had after her divorce had 3 kids and lived about 10 miles away. They introduced the children very early on into the relationship. I later learned that that relationship was on again / off again for a period of about 18 months. How confusing for the kids!
After these first few dates, she indicated that she was ready to introduce children and when I resisted, she showed frustration that I wasn’t ready. She later apologized and said she ‘wasn’t used to this’ and that usually she was the one that was ‘holding back’. This gave me a bit more insight into the type of men she had been dating in the past. I firmly believe in not introducing children until it seems that a relationship has long term potential. I didn’t feel we were at that point yet, which led to our next encounter…
I asked if we could meet privately, either at her home or at mine. I wanted to learn as much as I could about her and her situation to determine if I might feel comfortable introducing kids. We agreed to meet at her house after her children were in bed, which made it about 9:30PM.
I started out asking questions about her ex:
“Does he need to be the center of attention?”
“Does he lie to himself and others to make himself look good?”
“Does he portray a fake persona to others that people that truly know him know is false?”
“Does it seem like he has anger always just below the surface?”
“Does he get terribly upset about things that don’t even make sense?”
“Does he ever admit that something might be his fault?”
“Can he admit to failure?”
“Have you ever researched narcissistic personality disorder?”
“I think it would really be beneficial for you to spend some time researching NPD, because I think your exH has every trait of NPD”
I then asked some questions about her 12 year old daughter:
“Why won’t she go to see her dad?”
“Her and her dad don’t get along. I’m not sure exactly what happened, but I know she had a very difficult time with his new wife (now divorced).”
“How do you feel about her not seeing her dad?”
“I understand it, I don’t want to see him either”
“How’s your relationship with her?”
“It’s great! We are so much alike! We are like best friends!”
At this point, I had a pretty good picture of the entire situation: Her ex was most likely NPD and it sounded like she was enmeshed with her daughter if they were ‘best friends’. After about a 90 min conversation I returned home.
For our next date, we went to a baseball game at her suggestion. With her situation with her children, I felt as though I was at the mercy of her schedule, and if she could free up some time we could do something. The baseball game was a lot of fun, and the home team won, so that made it even better. We definitely seemed to get along well and enjoy each other’s company.
Match #4 was very proud of her house and having a house was very important to her. She had purchased a foreclosed home and had spent a great deal of time and money on fixing it up after she was forced to leave the family home because she couldn’t afford it any longer after the divorce. She often complained to me about the amount of work it took to maintain her house. There was an exorbitant amount of yard work for the size of the property, and she would spend nearly 6 hours every weekend working on mowing, weeding, planting, etc, to try and get it to her liking.
She once asked me: “Do you like yard work?”
I told her: “No, I really don’t like it at all”.
Her reply: “That’s unfortunate”.
I asked her: “Why is it unfortunate?”
She never answered. I think she was hoping that I would start helping her with her yard work. I live in a condominium. One of the reasons I live in a condominium is so I DON’T have to do yard work. I’d much rather be out riding my Harley or doing other summer activities I enjoy than doing yard work. Why on earth would I do her yard work when I make significant efforts to not do my own? I’d much rather rent a large loft in an urban community than own a house in the suburbs. I really don’t care for home ownership, with all it’s maintenance and other obligations. To me, a house is a place to store my stuff and to sleep. The world is my castle. My castle isn’t behind a white picket fence.
This brings up another point: Match #4 and I do not have many similar interests.
- She was very much into her house and home ownership. Home ownership isn’t important to me at all.
- I am very much into my motorcycle and traveling. She had not been on a motorcycle in decades.
- I am very much into live music and performing with my band. She was not a big fan of music, although she did seem to enjoy seeing me play.
- She is a huge baseball fan. Baseball isn’t really important to me.
- We did both enjoy art, although I think our tastes are quite different.
For our next date, we met at as restaurant downtown. After dinner we went across the street for a few more drinks. We spent quite a bit of time discussing her new job and how it was going. I learned that she felt the management was very demanding and had unreasonable expectations. From what she said, I would have to agree with her. I asked her what her plan was and told her it sounded like she might want to start looking for other work. She had no plan to leave for the time being. She then told me about a coworker who would often try to take credit for her work and how much it would frustrate her when he would do that. He also would try to tell her what to do, even though he wasn’t her boss. I asked her “Do you see any parallels between him and your exH?” Her answer “No”.
The following week she had to go away on business for a few days. On her return flight, she was seriously delayed and never made it home until well after midnight. She told me that her boss called her at 7AM after she made it home at 3AM and demanded that she come in that day. She went. There was no reason she had to go in, other than her boss demanding that she had to. Again, an example of her saying ‘yes’ when she should have said ‘no’ and then later acting resentful.
The last dinner date was essentially our last date. We did manage to see each other briefly about a week later, but we never really went on another date.
A few days after our last real date, we had a text exchange about her 12 yr old daughter. Her daughter had started to exhibit many teenage behaviors, and she was somewhat dumbfounded by it all.
“I see a lot my exH in my 12 yr old daughter”
“I believe it”
“Why do you say that?”
“Most children go through a very narcissistic phase when they hit the early teen years. Sounds like your 12 yr old has hit this phase. Your exH essentially never left this phase of emotional development”
“So she’s going to be like my exH?”
“Most children grow out of this phase. Whether they grow out of this phase has a lot to do with how the narcissistic episodes are handled by the parents and others. What do you typically do when she acts up?”
“I just let the episodes blow over”
I wondered to myself if she took this same approach with her exH. Ignoring the behavior is exactly the wrong thing to do, because that means they get away with their bad behavior. This I know from experience. I didn’t tell her this. It’s not my job.
A few days later we had another exchange about her exH. She was telling me about how his apologies were meaningless to her:
“I can’t stand when a man apologizes”
“I’m not sure I understand…”
“I don’t even want to hear a man apologize again. It’s like fingernails on a chalkboard when a man apologizes to me. The apologies are meaningless and the behavior never changes”
“That’s unfortunate. I don’t think it’s possible to never need to apologize in a relationship”
“I feel that if you live honestly, you should never do anything for which you would need to apologize”
I saw this conversation as a huge red flag that showed significant unresolved issues from her NPD exH.
Shortly after our last date, Match #4’s placement schedule changed to accommodate a different schedule with her children, now that they were out of school for the summer. This meant that we now had only 2 days every two weeks where neither of us had ALL of our children. Even during those two days, she still had her 12 year old daughter, since her daughter refused to go to her dad’s house. Seeing each other was initially very difficult, now it was almost impossible. I only have placement of my daughter slightly less than 50% of the time. I refuse to hire a babysitter to sit with my daughter while I am out pursuing my personal interests. I have plenty of available time to pursue my interests. Yes, if there is a special event during a time that I have my daughter, I’m happy to make the necessary arrangements so I can attend, but I refuse to leave her behind just so I can go on a date.
Shortly after this change in schedule we had another text exchange about her ex. This is the exchange where she told me “It’s like you already met him”. During another part of that exchange she told me that she “couldn’t understand how her ex couldn’t see how much he had damaged his relationship with his children”. My reply: “He blames them. And you. None of it is his fault”. She didn’t respond. To me, this showed that she was still expecting her exH to change and to be someone he wasn’t capable of being. Yes, it is his loss that he has no relationship with his kids. It’s also not her job to convince him that he needs to work on his relationship with his kids. Besides, in his mind, it’s not his fault, and the kids should be apologizing to him for how they ruined their relationship with him.
We were unable to see each other for a significant period of time after her children’s placement schedule change. Our historical pattern had been that she would offer a time where she would be available and I would try to accommodate. It had worked for a bit, but now it seemed it was falling apart. In the past, I had several times cancelled plans I had already made when she told me she was available so that we could see each other. Now I was somewhat less inclined to continue to cancel my plans so we could see each other, since I didn’t really feel that our relationship had long term potential at this point.
After about 10 days of not being able to see each other, she sent me a text asking to have a discussion. I told her I would be happy to talk anytime and to just let me know what might work for her. When we finally had that discussion, she was very upset, and felt that our relationship was ‘fizzling’. I told her I could understand why she might feel that way and that I had felt that, too.
I then asked some more questions:
“How often would you want to see each other”
“At least twice a week”
“Well, we only have 2 days every two weeks where one of us wouldn’t be giving up significant time with children”
– no answer –
“We have historically just kinda winged it when it came to getting together and it seemed to work, but since your placement schedule change, it doesn’t seem to be working that way anymore. I think we need to start planning our dates with more regularity. I really feel the ball is in your court, since you have kids all the time. If you are willing to set aside a certain day or days of the week where we can get together, I’ll be happy to try and accommodate and make plans for us”
– no answer –
I think she understood that the ball was really in her court, but she wanted me to somehow fix it for her. I refuse to plan dates during the time she had her children. My NxGF would do that to me, essentially demanding I give time up with my daughter to spend time with her. I know how my NxGF’s antics would make me feel, and I refuse to do something similar to someone else.
After this conversation, I was expecting that she would offer some sort of counter proposal or at least come back with some dates that might work for her that we could do something together. I received nothing.
Then after about another week of not being able to see each other, I received a text:
“Well, this is obviously it then!”
“I have no idea what you are talking about, and I have no idea what your expectations are”.
Truthfully, I had no idea what she wanted at this point, and I was growing weary of being the bad guy.
We talked on the phone the next evening. It was our last contact. Again we rehashed the same discussion we had the previous week. Again I told her my position. Again, she was silent and didn’t offer any counter proposal on how we might be able to see each other more often. Instead, she told me how she had ‘never had this problem before’ and ‘didn’t understand’. She then started to list all the red flags she had seen with me. I sensed the conversation deteriorating rapidly and told her: “There is nothing positive coming from this conversation. I wish you the best of luck in finding someone that is a better fit for you” and said good bye. She had become very resentful of me for not fulfilling her uncommunicated expectations.
Her entire pattern was codependent:
In her last job, she kept taking on added responsibility and later resenting that added responsibility. With her new job, management kept making unreasonable demands of her and yet she would never stand up to them and would rather complain about it. When we ended our relationship she still had not begun to look for new work. I definitely feel she needed to be the martyr and needed to feel she ‘worked harder than everyone else’.
Her relationship expectations
She had many uncommunicated relationship expectations. I am not a mind reader! If you have needs, they need to be communicated. It is completely unfair to me for her to have uncommunicated expectations of me and then be resentful of me when I don’t meet those uncommunicated expectations. I absolutely know I have been guilty of exactly the same pattern that she was exhibiting during my codependent past. It was very eye opening to be on the other side of that pattern.
She also felt I was ‘too independent’, which is a bit of a red flag. From what she told me, all of her prior relationships involved men who aggressively pursued her (love bombing?). I didn’t. I tried to let things grow organically. They didn’t. When things didn’t grow organically, I knew it was done. She still wanted to force it to work, even though we had so many things going against us. In my opinion there is a difference between making it work and forcing it to work. Forcing it to work is not a recipe for long term relationship success.
Her relationship with 12 yr old daughter
Letting her daughter’s behavior ‘blow over’ with hopes that it wouldn’t happen again is exactly what a codependent does in order to stay stuck in an abusive relationship. It’s living in the land of hope and not in the land of reality. I also feel that letting her daughter stay with her full time and not seeing her father is somewhat codependent. Her daughter made the decision to not see her dad, and mom didn’t say ‘no’. From what I can tell, there was no specific horrific incident that led to her not seeing her father, it was an accumulation of minor events. That being said, I do understand how difficult it can be for her daughter with her narcissist father.
Her relationship with her exH
She still thought her NPD exH might change, even though she had nearly 20 years of evidence that he wouldn’t. She even went as far as to go on dates with him when he was between relationships with hopes that he would ‘get it’. She never was willing to admit to herself that he will never ‘get it’.
Her ‘do it all’ mentality
She would regularly get by on very little sleep so she could accomplish all she felt obligated to accomplish. She felt she needed to ‘do it all’ and had little to no ability to say ‘no’, even though she was literally burning the candle at both ends. In my opinion, she had very little time available to pursue a relationship.
One of the things that I have definitely learned through my recent dating experiences is that codependency can be nearly as frustrating to deal with as someone who is narcissistic. The ‘need to be needed’ of the codependent and their uncommunicated expectations can be very frustrating.
This entire experience was very revealing to me about how I may have treated people in relationships in the past. I am truly thankful that I have left my codependent aspects behind.