Mutual support in relationships

This is a topic which has caught my attention lately, partially because I had an interesting conversation with my ex lately. Namely my ex has always thought that I am needy. On this occasion he went on to explain to me how no grownup man wants to deal with a woman who needs to call him when she has problems around the house. We were discussing on the occasion where we had a floodage and I called him to ask for our landlord’s number. He was away and I considered it extremely weird that he showed no interest later as to if the problem got solved or not. My ex, however explained that it was needy from me to expect that he would show interest. Furthermore, he also finds me calling him to ask for help in solving the situation needy and a sign that I am not really an independent grownup woman.

This discussion got me thinking if I am indeed needy and if perhaps there are things I need to change about myself. I do know that I have higher need for emotional support than an average woman perhaps. However, even after all the thinking and self-analysis I could not get myself to support his comment. To me, it seems that there is no value in the relationship where every time I want to call my partner for help, I have to first carefully think if actually I should not do this. Maybe me calling and asking help with this particular problem presents me as needy. Furthermore, maybe I am actually needy and helpless for asking for his assistance and support?

I have come to value highly emotional support and being there for one another in relationships. I will probably never start to understand what is the value of having a relationship when there is not mutual support. I mean even with my friends I would ideally hope that there is support when needed. The interesting part is that it is not that my ex does not show any support towards me, it is more that he can support me when he feels like it (when we were in the relationship). However, his giving is related to his state of mind and not my needs. So one can never say that he is not helpful or giving, it is just that he needs the idea that no one depends on him.

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Feeling unimportant for people

Something that I have potentially struggled for years is feeling like I invest into relationships more than other people. I guess the investment would not even annoy me that much, but what I feel is that I take those relationships far more serious and care more about the people around me than they do about me. Now, I am not really sure if this is just a result of my twisted thinking or if this is anyhow reflection of the reality.

With my ex I would always get super confused about the fact that he could just disappear in his home country and not feel any need to communicate with me. Furthermore, he even told me how he is having such a great time with his friends that, conversations with me would only be a drag. With the ex before that, I ended up moving to another country whereas he could still make up his mind about his feelings for me. I guess it is safe to say that at least in these two relationships I got more attached to these guys than they to me.

This gets me thinking – have I just been investing into people who have not shown equal amount of care and love towards me and who take me more as an option? Have I somehow magically mirrored my feelings to them, assuming that they must feel the same and ignored all the signals which prove the opposite?

I remember how I once had this affection towards a guy, who I now can safely assume never felt anything towards me. Furthermore, he treated me on several occasions rather impolitely. However, I just kept holding on to my idea that he must have some secret feelings towards me.

I think I am slowly starting to understand that I have perhaps overinvested to several of my relationships. However the more important question is why. This is something I need to further explore.

One-sided expectations in relationships

I have always been a very flexible person and also rather accommodating. Being often hampered by fear of disappointing other people, I usually did my best trying to anticipate their wishes and confer with those. When someone got angry with me for not fulfilling their expectations, I was quick to feel bad and apologize.

Recently I have noticed myself getting angry at people who come in and demand something from me without any regard to fulfilling their end of the deal. I am starting to finally realize that expectations should be mutual, it should not only be me fulfilling their expectations, but I too, can have expectations on others.

Let me exemplify this with couple of cases. I have a boss who, as I now understand, often turns to me at the last minute when she needs something to get fixed quickly. This has led to me putting in weekends and extra hours just to get things ready. So yesterday she turned to me again with one of such issues telling me that I had made promises in finishing some task and now it was my job to figure out how to finish it together with other tasks. I got angry, because this task was meant to be finished by the end of this week, however, my boss herself could not complete her tasks earlier than today and assumed that I would somehow magically make my part happen within few days (counting weekend). Her accusations on me not fulfilling my promise were skillfully neglecting her not being able to fulfill her bargain of the deal.

Another example involves a friend who just couple of days ago was angry at me for brushing her off when she was trying to describe her problem via phone. It was an inconvenient time for me, but nevertheless I apologized. The same friend, when I tried to tell her about my medical issue, which is a tad more serious than her problem, was as unemphatic as ever. Moreover, she found that she has nothing to apologize for, because I called the wrong time. I am still angry at her.

These two examples illustrate something that has been going on for years. Namely, me quickly apologizing when people accuse me, not thinking if maybe their accusations do not comply with how they themselves would react in similar situation. Furthermore, it also illustrates the pattern of me trying to fulfill other people’s expectations without setting any demands on them from my side. It somewhat feels like a lightbulb has turned on in my head.

 

Embracing who you are

I am not a very average person. My weirdness or specialness goes to the extent which motivated my ex to tell me that he has never met anyone like me or even comparable to me. Part of my recent struggle has been to accept and embrace this individuality.

 
See my whole life I have heard everyone scolding me. No, it was not only my mother who clearly wanted me to be more practical and organized, but it was also teachers, friends and what nots. One of my friends for instance recently criticized me for prioritizing talking in a relationship, I think her exact words were something like – “Guys do not want to talk, you should just accept this, you are living in a dream”. My ex, whereas he noticed my being different from everybody else somehow also wanted me to be more like him – more logical and fact oriented namely.

 
When you are raised with such continuing criticisms, it is easy to feel that something is wrong with you. In fact this is how I have felt my whole life. I have spent years trying to deny and change who I am with varying degrees of success. I still struggle acknowledging that I, in fact, am dreamy, unpractical, a bit messy and unorganized and all the other things which our society seems to condemn.

 
It pains me to acknowledge that some of my closest people, while obviously finding something in my company which they liked, also spent considerable amount of time trying to change and retrain me. I am starting to realize that I have looked for understanding and support my whole life. I have been looking for someone that would see more in me than just this broken thing which needs to be somehow fixed.

 
Last year, whereas painfully difficult, has luckily sent me also some people who were able to see the gifts I have before I was actually becoming aware of those. Chase, in particular was someone who saw something in me, something more than I ever did. His belief in me started this process of changing. Jenny, one of my recent friends, has been another one to believe in me.

 
I cannot believe that it has taken me years to actually find people who do not need me to be different, but can see me for who I am and value this. Now I just need to learn to do this myself to a similar degree as well.

Imaginary relationships

I have a habit – getting stuck on dreaming of a guy who seems reluctant to have anything with me. Maybe it is not specific to me, maybe many women do this, but nevertheless I will first describe you the habit and then the underlying reasons for it.

See when I like a guy I have met, I start obsessing about him. I go into a dreamland where I imagine how and if we would fit together. Then a week goes by and the guy has not contacted me. Instead I will turn towards my friends and ask about their opinions on the guy. I will indulge in daydreaming. Anything but to let go of the poor guy who obviously has not been interested enough to contact me. Then I obsess around whether I should contact him myself. Low and behold, this can go on for months.

This is not really normal, but this was the pattern I got into when I was small. Back then, instead of daydreaming about guys, I daydreamt about having a perfect family, with father mother and a little house. Perhaps also a brother. This dream kept me alive during the darkest hours and I kept reading children’s books in order to keep that alive. At a certain point the dream of a perfect family got replaced by the dream of this one guy that will save me.

My dream was geared towards making me feel safe, supported and loved. Since the real environment around me was lacking in all of these aspects, I created an imaginary world. I guess the parallel is appropriate, my real world is currently lacking family and even a close knit friends circle, so I am keeping alive these dreams of guys I meet and have connection with.

I have yet to work on these feelings of absence on a more thorough manner. It is obvious that this kind of dreaming is a habit which I indulged in for years and it will take a bit to let it go. It has functioned so long as something that kept me alive, so I image there will be resistance about letting it go.

 

Acceptance towards your mistakes

I am going to describe the recent quite substantial experience I had. Namely, lately I have been walking around with this intense anxiety about being judged. I literally imagined every person at the street looking at me and coming up with all kinds of criticisms. I could not even attend social events because the anxiety got so bad. All I can say is that I guess the therapy really brought out these feelings which had been buried for years.

 
Luckily however, I finally figured out how to release this intense fear. It seems so obvious when I now think of it, but doing it was far from easy. Namely, I understood that there was almost no acceptance and forgiveness in my childhood. All the perceived and actual misgivings and doings were punished harshly. This was how I learned to treat myself as well, never giving any excuses nor understanding towards my issues. I kept mercilessly comparing myself with others and always falling short.

 
I understood that one of the central things I missed when growing up was someone coming and giving me a hug after I had for instance received a bad grade. Not someone telling me that if I do not start excelling at school I might find myself at the street at some point. It was not about denying that I had made mistakes, but rather accepting that I did those mistakes, but still being forgiven.

 
Similarly to my childhood, I myself struggled with forgiveness. I had hard time forgiving to myself for all the things I was not perfect in. I had hard time forgiving myself for the mistakes I did and instead tried to convince myself that those were in fact not mistakes. The point where I was actually able to admit that I have made mistakes, but not scrutinize myself for those, was the moment of release. I could literally feel the anxiety leaving my body and I understood, forgiveness and acceptance are the things I needed for all these years.

Being attracted to inconsistent and (unstable) partners

For years I have been attracted to guys I could never quite figure out. They either sent out conflicting signals or remained unobtainable. I would say that before starting a therapy I was mainly attracted to guys who were never into me, but ever since I started therapy, my attractions have more been towards guys who actually did have some level of interest in me, but they were not quite consistent for various reasons. I think I have finally figured out the reason for this pattern.

See when I was a child, my mother was highly unpredictable. She could be one day in a good mood and be all nice towards me and the other day she could be extremely angry and threaten to kick me out. Such variation is also in fact very characteristic to my ex – Marc. There were days when Marc was the best boyfriend ever, he could give me massages, he would listen to my childhood issues etc. Then there were moment when Marc threatened to leave me or was ranging to the point where I was actually afraid of him. Then there were also period when Marc disappeared as he was visiting his home country.

This all left me very confused. I could never make sense of Marc the same way I could not make sense of my mother. Both had their great moments, so it was unfair to call them evil or what not. In fact during their moments of greatness they were way better human beings than I was. However during their low moments they were also way worse human being than I was.

See the problem with such relationships is that you can never really fully relax. You are constantly alert and unaware of what is coming. When I started dating Marc, I developed a habit, which I never had before with my boyfriends. When he did not call, I would get extremely worried. I thought that maybe it was sign of my neediness and I had just suppressed it with my former boyfriends, but actually it has more to do with me not knowing what was going on. With my consistent partners I could relax even when they did not call, because my first thought was not – oh god maybe they are angry at me, maybe they are going to leave me. However, with Marc I was constantly anxious about having potentially done something that angered him or pushed him to distance himself. It was the exact copy of my childhood environment.

However, it has taken me till now to understand this pattern and fully emphasize with how I have been feeling my whole life. In fact, since this is quite a new discovery, I am sure I will write a bit more about it in the future.

 

 

Rejection fear and social anxiety

I am currently working on something in my therapy which I for a long time refused to admit I have – namely social anxiety. See, my ex Marc pointed this out on regular instances that I have issues with small talk, networking, being social. I did not want to believe this, because before I actually left for my new country of residence, I had plenty of friends and acquaintances. Hell, even today when I can actually force myself to go out, people like me. I am funny and charming. However, every time I need to go out on an event where I do not know people or where I have not met those people for a while, I first need to have huge fights with myself.

So what are these fights about? I am afraid that people will judge me. There is always something which I think is substandard, so I get myself worked out about this perceived misgiving of mine and there we go. When I actually enter the event, all I can think of is how everybody will now be able to see this misgiving and how soon enough they will laugh and I am forced to hide in the toilet. There are just way too many social events from my childhood that ended exactly like this…

On side of this fear is hence me imagining that other people will always find me weird, out of the place; they will find something wrong about me and will relentlessly bully me because of this. The other side is that I am afraid I will have no possibility to leave. I have tried to avoid the events which tie me to the place my whole life. I need to have the idea that I can actually leave.

Interestingly my social anxiety has really skyrocketed during last years. I am not quite sure why that is, there could be numerous reasons, starting with the fact that I have had very few social events during the last years and ending with the fact that my ex has done quite a bit to increase my social anxiety by pointing out all the ways I misbehave. The explanation that I secretly hope could be used is however that this fear is now finally swimming to the surface and I am able to deal with it. It was not like it was not there before, it was just that I was constantly pressing it down. What I am hoping is that with some work I can finally say in half a year or so, feel that I can enter to the random social occasion and just feel good and not have to worry about what other people think of me.

Hanging on in a relationship without the future

This blog has based on my radical honesty. So, I am going to continue posting about the issues which seem like washing my dirtiest laundry publicly. So today I am going to say that I knew already several years ago that my relationship is not going to work out. In fact, I was just too embarrassed to admit this both to myself and to other people.

What exactly was I so embarrassed to admit? Mainly how jealous I felt of other people who seemed to have functioning relationships and even have families. I thought, well this might be my last chance, so I better make it work. For long time I felt that way.

I am not going to say that my ex was a monster and I was an angel, because that was not the case. Rather, I was never completely in the relationship and neither was he. Yet, we dragged on this relationship for nearly six years. I cannot speak for his motivations, but I can only be honest about mine. I had a growing feeling of hopelessness three years ago. I had other guys hitting on me…I just never thought they would and could accept me. I assumed, they would all run away if they saw what I was like. I thought, I better be happy if anyone was willing to deal with all my issues and problems and bare it out. I thought, in fact, I should be grateful for him for sticking around.

I never dared to go for guys I was into and who were actually available, because hell, it would never work out. No way could I pretend to be normal and hide my emotional issues for so long that they would commit. I had tried in the past and it always ended with the disaster. Hence, I was tied to someone who was as messed up as I was, in a dysfunctional relationship with little hope for improvement.

Neither of us I think had any illusions when it came to the functionality and a future of this relationship. I think we both knew it lead us nowhere. Yet, fear is a powerful motivator.

Attachment types and the bumpy road towards secure attachment

If anyone is wondering what I am talking about here, then you can find a better description of these types here (https://jebkinnison.com/bad-boyfriends-the-book/type-anxious-preoccupied/). Anyways, I started my therapy by being fearful-avoidant type. These types often crave intimacy, but find it difficult to accept when offered. This is the most disturbed type out of all the attachment types and is developed as a result of childhood abuse (mostly). There is little written on how one can change their attachment type or how difficult it may be. So I am going to contribute to this obvious lack of literature here.

So throughout my therapy I have peeled off the protective layers in my psyche so that I could finally face my issue without the intense walls. These walls served a good purpose during my childhood and helped me to deal with my life, but nowadays prove to be problematic. At this point I have reached the ‘level’ where I could categorize myself as anxious preoccupied type. The difference is that now I have lost the protective layers, defending me against abuse and just have a high need for intimacy and love. I have somehow managed to resolve the part of my childhood which made me extremely distrusting of others and forced me to carry a mask and have begun to trust others more and more.

Where I however still struggle quite a bit is in trusting myself. Trusting my ability to manage alone. Trusting myself to be attractive enough for others so that they would stick around. I am still anticipating abandonment and I do not trust that others are there for me after I have not communicated with them for a while. I dare to be more of myself around them than ever before, but I still think that they could walk away any moment. Furthermore, I still think that a lot of their behavior is about me and not about them. Someone being a bad mood – surely it is because of something I did and not something to do with some outside hinder. Someone not responding to my facebook message – surely it is because they do not like me.

Theoretically it is interesting how transforming from fearful-avoidant towards secure for me includes first becoming anxious-preoccupied type. I still have some way to go, unlike I thought couple of months ago. In fact there are still some quite big challenges ahead of me, but I believe I am somehow moving to the right direction.