Controlling through depriving

For the past weeks I have been working with my trust issues regarding other people. Namely, I had the type of controlling mother that used ‘the take away’ tactic a lot, meaning she just threatened to take away her support, my home whatever that there was to take away when I did not do as she pleased.

I can use a good recent example of this as I am currently visiting. So my mum wanted me to clean the attic which for her is a bit more uncomfortable for various reasons. However she asked me five days before me leaving. Since she still needs to be next to me and supervise, I did my best to find a common time. I then quickly realized that my mum had four days of my staying already reserved and in fact there was only one particular day she could have done the cleaning. When I told her that no can do, I have plans for this day already, she threw a hissy fit and then promised to cancel one trip which we have planned together for the summer.

Each time she does these things I am thinking whether I should stop the contact altogether. I have mixed feelings in relation to that, partially because stopping all contact seems quite extreme and I think I would miss the occasional keeping in touch, on the other hand also because she being in my home country and offering me a place to stay comes in handy. But I understand that she has always been manipulating me with taking away these very benefits like the accommodation, but also her presence and connection. It somehow feels a bit like keeping in touch with her makes me weak and vulnerable and still susceptible to such threats.

It is exactly the same pattern which existed with my ex as well. My ex would give me his support until he thought I had done something that displeased him and then resorted to threats – threats of leaving me, verbal assaults, silent treatment etc. I was constantly being punished for disobeying.

There is a lot to discuss on this matter still and I am in the process of ruminating over the matter.

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Finding the happiness within is a hard job

For most of my life I have hoped to find happiness through other people. You know I hoped that the perfect partner will make me happy, that I would actually not have to work hard for my happiness after this man of dreams will knock at my door. It felt easier. My life felt just like waiting for this perfect love, waiting to start living my life.

For those reasons, I did not dwell so much on how I could create the life of my dreams. Yes, I had hobbies, yes I even studied hard, etc., but I think most of it I did in order to somehow perfect myself for this man who was going to show up.

Letting go of this idea of love healing everything is….well disillusioning. Furthermore, realizing that the idea of your partner making you happy is shared by so many people is even more frightening. Not only am I learning how to make myself happy, there is even a likelihood that I have others around me who expect me to make them happy.

The discovery that kind of struck me today was – most people around me are in fact less happy than I am. They are less happy with themselves. Many of them still expect others to make them happy and spend time complaining about that not happening. Their focus is not on how to make themselves happy, but they shift the responsibility to – how others are making me unhappy. Because it is easier. It is easier to focus on the mistakes of other people rather than to admit that you are responsible for your own happiness.

Once you reach to that realization it is not exactly freeing. Rather you feel the weight of responsibility. Suddenly if you are unhappy it is your job to figure out what makes you unhappy and fix it. It feels exhausting. The first reward comes from observing other people going around circles blaming others for their inner lack. This is when you start to feel slight empowerment and get a sense of achievement.

Unfortunately I have not yet reached further than this point, so I cannot really say what happens after…..

Coming out of co-dependency

Next month my ex will finally move out of our common apartment. Luckily I have spent a lot of time this spring visiting my home country so I have not had to be with him all the time, but enough.  It is weird because for a long time I refused to let go. I was really scared of living alone and now, well I want him to go. I am still scared, but I want him to go.

Why? Because I think two people who have been in a co-dependent relationship are bound to fall into old patterns. It is all too easy for me to become overly dependent and ask my ex about things. Innocent things such as, asking for advice on how to handle people, asking him to bring me something from the store, just asking him for all kinds of help. To feel that someone cares. It is all too easy for him to use me as a distraction from his own issues. To focus on what is wrong with me. Things being wrong with me, does not make him right.

I can see the aftermath of codependency in both of us. My ex has been sending me some messages on how he hates himself. How he feels lonely and depressed. To be honest, I sympathize and I do not. I do not sympathize because I am thinking of all these years when he claimed that all the problems in the relationship were mine. How he told me how much more psychologically healthy he is and how he does not need me a bit. There is a bit of a victory for me in him realizing how nice of a distraction my problems were for him. But more than the taste of victory there is gratitude for my problems taking such an important place in the relationship. Yes, it was tough to always hear what was wrong with me, but at least my problems were all brought to a daylight. I had a chance to work on those. Ex, on the other hand is now painfully hit by his issues which he thought he did not have.

The aftermath of codependency in me is illustrated by me still living together with him. By me still occasionally messaging him when I have a problem. It happens fewer and fewer times. During the last month perhaps two times. But the aftermath of codependency in me is also that I am now noticing how controlling my ex was. How he guilt-tripped me about all his care and love. How most of the time I felt like I did not deserve him caring for me. How helpless I felt both before the relationship with him, but also in the relationship with him. The helplessness was and is mine. I let this helplessness guide my life and my life choices. My ex did not make me helpless, but he took advantage of this helplessness on occasions. Just as I took advantage of his caring, not giving nearly enough back.

All and all, I am happy that I am leaving this experience behind. I am happy that I have finally the chance to learn how to take care of myself. Take individual responsibility for my life, my choices – everything. Through relying on others, through constantly delegating responsibility, we are making ourselves feel even more dependent. My ex was like a facilitator of my dysfunction and I was the facilitator of his. I do not want to spend my whole life feeling helpless.

Different shades of (unhealthy?) friendships over the years

I am visiting my home country and as I talk to my old friends, I also understand that I have vastly different needs and expectations on communication today compared to seven years ago. I think it stroke me when I was trying to converse with an old friend and the conversation just did not go anywhere. It was like pulling the teeth, for me. Quick look into how my friend relates to other people and I understood – his common way of relating is non-personal. For him to talk about either his feelings or someone else’s feelings makes him vastly uncomfortable. I think it is sad. Why? Because he is currently ill and there is no one visiting him and taking care of him. He has plenty of acquaintances with whom he regularly relates to, but apparently no one who would be close enough to really go out of their way to care. I think it is exactly because he is not really relating to people on a deeper level.

My friend, of course is no exception. I have another friend with whom there is to some degree the same kind of wall. We talk about our life philosophies, different interesting topics, but it is always non personal. I know very little about his personal life. In fact I know nothing about his current romantic involvements. However, he is an interesting person to talk to and I would still call him a friend.

Then I have another friend with whom I can talk about personal matters. I also know quite a bit about his personal history. We have a similar way of reflecting on our experiences, searching some meaning and reason behind our actions. However, the problem with him is that I feel I cannot really trust him one hundred percent. I feel sometimes that he is engaging in some kind of power play with me. Like our communication was some kind of hidden battle where he needs to prove that he comes out on top. How does it show? – well it shows when he is occasionally telling me how my observations about his behavior were obvious, when he is desperately trying to tell me how he is smarter than I am etc. I am particularly in tune with such power plays because that was my exes Buena forte.

Then I have another friend with whom I can again talk about intimate things, feelings etc. He is going through difficult time now and to be honest is wearing me off with his neediness. He wants to constantly talk about psychological issues, either his or mine and I am of the opinion that not all communication needs to be about deep issues. He reminds me of myself when I discovered therapy and was deep into my issues, in a way that this was all I could talk about. To be honest, being at the receiving end of this is tiresome.

I am guessing that I am developing an idea of how I would want a friendship to be. I think similarly to relationships and needs, we have certain needs for our friendships. Probably no friend can fulfill all our needs, but I am getting a feeling that I am really missing a friend who would be in line with my current needs. Rather, several of my friendships are a testament about who I once was. Some of them speak about intimacy avoidance, some of neediness etc. I am understanding that people you let into your life become to define you. It is my time now to decide how I want to be defined and what are my needs in regards to friendships.

How I tried to convince people to be with me….

I am currently among other things working with feelings of shame which are related to my abandonment issues. Why am I ashamed? I am ashamed for many times where I convinced several of my exes to stay with me when they either threatened to leave or just did not want to be with me. I am ashamed that I lowered myself to the point where I begged them to stay.

To give you a short reasoning why I did this would be – because this is what I have been doing my whole life with my mum. The usual situation in our family life was when my mum did not get what she wanted and then threatened to either kick me out of leave herself. What followed was always me begging her to either take me back or not to leave. It was not like she would always react to my begging either, often times she would tell me how disgusting it looked like and how I was disgusting. And you know what – I felt disgusting. I felt low and humiliated and there was no self-respect left, because I needed to beg for her to actually keep me.

Soon enough this became the center of my life, because it is not like she is only communicating to you what a low creature you are during these times of ‘eviction’. No, since she has the power and control, she walks out when you are talking, she looks at you with disgust when you need something or are ill etc etc. You know you depend on her, so you make the point of your life to not cause much trouble and to somehow continue convincing her to keep you. Every day is a win.

Sadly this is how I have behaved with my boyfriends often enough. I have had my moments of protest, but I have always given in. My ex learned this soon enough that threatening to leave was the perfect way to manipulate me. Whatever concerns or reservations I had about his behavior disappeared when he threatened to leave. Because, I did not want him to leave, in fact in my mind I was as dependent on him as of my mum. I could not get to my head that he actually does not have the same control over me and at this point I could actually afford letting him go. No, I made myself as dependent on him and again, days became about me somehow convincing him to stay with me. I tolerated him flirting with other women, I tolerated his occasional disappearances, I even tolerated him telling me that he would not get anything from marrying me and that would be entirely a favor to me. The last thing probably described the best how I felt in this relationship – like he was doing me a favor for being with me.

This is also accidentally how I have felt during my whole life – like it was my job to make other people want to be with me. The thought of other people needing to gain my approval never entered to my mind. The thought of me being able to choose who I want to relate to and setting borders on people’s behavior also never entered to my mind.

This is something which I need to put a heavy emphasis on, because all this laid out like this makes me incredibly sad…

Trying to keep the dependent person dependent – how to come out of relationship dependency

I recently had an interaction with my ex. I wanted to discuss a work matter with him and wrote him a message asking if he has some time. He responded by saying – the third woman asking for my attention during the last hour. I got pissed and the rest of the conversation focused on me trying to explain to him why this was not very nice thing to say.

Couple of months ago my ex made it a point to tell me about three women who were chasing him. I ignored his messages, but he managed to sneak this information to our regular conversations. It might seem like someone just trying to make you jealous, not particularly harmful, but in the case of my ex, I know there is more behind this than what is perhaps evident on the first sight.

My ex likes to date women who are helpless and need to be saved. The same pattern has continued over his two relationships. His attempts to tell me about other women contacting him and ‘chasing’ him, is his way to tell me – look you are losing me, look, everybody needs me. It is an attempt to still have some leverage over me even when there apparently should not be something between us.

My ex has recently also attempted to contact women over different dating sites and has not been overly successful. What surprises me is how he felt really dashed about it, assuming that he could easily find someone new, himself, being close to forty and having ‘multiple’ special needs. This was the opinion he held throughout our relationship, threatening to leave me for someone else multiple times during the last years. I can only assume that when the truth of it not being so easy to find someone hit him, he felt that there was no source that would feed him feeling powerful anymore. Instead he was subject to rejection and indifference – all radically different from what he felt when he was in a relationship with me. So, what he is attempting to do now, is to exploit this feeling of being someone, mattering, being powerful from the only source he knew that would fulfill this need. The only problem being that I am not that source anymore. I am not dependent on him anymore.

I still react emotionally to some of his messages. His message on how I was the third woman to ask for his attention got to me. I could not keep myself impartial. However, I can also see more and more the manipulation behind this. The frequent attempts he makes to keep me dependent. To show me how he still has some control over me. This leaves me on one hand afraid of my own reactions, afraid that I might become dependent again, that I might believe his negative messages about me and how I am not a relationship material, but on the other hand, it also makes me want to distance myself from him more and more. If the consequence of most conversations with him is me feeling myself bad, it is time to perhaps consider limiting my conversations with him to the absolute necessity. It is sad though, because my ex is one of the smartest people I know and his insights have helped me so much.

The selfishness of a ‘nice guy’

Because of my ex, I am quite familiar of how some guys have a habit of presenting themselves as ‘martyrs’ when they get rejected by the girls they like. In the case of my ex it was some girl 15 years ago who he still keeps talking about and blaming her for using him as an emotional cushion for dealing with the heartbreak from all the assholes that she was dating with. In his mind, the girl was ‘evil’ and playing with him. I was not in the situation, I cannot detest to the motives of the girl, but I have made some recent experiences with similar guys and can give you my own version of ‘these nice guys’.

I have to say that I find such ‘nice guys’ who complain about girls friend zoning them and always choosing some assholes over them extremely upsetting. Why?  – Because they have so big rejection issues that they are not really honest about their motives. Instead they hope that if they pretend to be the friend of the particular girl, they can somehow win her over by not risking much. When this strategy does not work, they attempt to find the scapegoat – ‘the evil’ girl.

All the while as a girl I have had to deal with guys who were sending me some mixed messages with occasional crossing of the friendship and I found those situations extremely difficult to deal with. You like the guy, you love debating and discussing with the guy, but you are sure you not interested in them romantically. So what do you do when they have not really made their interest clear and instead keep communicating with you as friend. Well, you take them for a friend. What upsets me more than having to deal with some occasional problematic signals is the reaction of these guys when you openly confront them about their potential interest and say that you do not share this. In my experience this reaction usually can be divided to two.

The first reaction is to take few steps back and claim that they were not romantically interested at all and you just misread them. Meaning, they make fool of you. That is fine, I can deal with that. However some then continue communicating with you as a friend and then somehow after a reasonable amount of time make another move. This behavior confuses me even more, because I assume that I have made my disinterest rather clear the first time around and you have claimed that you do not have any romantic interest as well, so what???

The second reaction is to frame the girl as evil for wasting their time (the strategy that my ex chose as well).  This I find even more ridiculous because if you as a guy have some romantic interests but you have not had the courage to come forward, it is not the girl who misled you, it is you who misled the girl. So I as a girl would actually have more right in blaming you for breaching my trust, making me invest to our friendship under false premises and using friendship as a means to an end. Mind me, to me friendship is sacred and it is not just some code to – the guy I have not managed to sleep with yet.

I am not saying that the situations are all equal, indeed there can be women that ‘use’ some guys as well as the opposite. However since I had made similar experiences myself and I usually try to be rather clear with my intentions by mentioning either my ex or some other romantic interest to guys with whom I have some doubt that they might be interested, I feel that there is still some truth to my assessment of these guys. So all I can say is that it is better to be clear about your motivations or if you do not dare to do this, at least do not blame the other side for not playing the mind reader and figuring  out your real intentions.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The vicious circle of depression

Lately I have had episodes of feeling sad. Well, lately is probably a nice way to put it, because the truth is I have been struggling with sadness all my life. Lets rephrase, lately I have started to observe and analyze how the mechanism functions. So I will try to verbalize my observations.

What usually happens to me is that I feel lonely and isolated. Not so much even thinking that everybody has great lives, but rather feeling that I cannot burden other people with my problems. Furthermore, I feel like perhaps if I share this feeling of sadness which keeps accompanying me through life with others, they might not like me anymore. So this again exaggerates this loneliness, because I feel I cannot really talk about feeling lonely with anyone without being stigmatized.

The stigmatization is partially in my head, but partially also true. Lately that I checked, people do not like other people that are downers. The problem is, you isolate yourself further because you cannot be true to yourself. You hide your true feelings, instead choosing to talk about something which is not so relevant, not so sensitive. This pretty much sums up my whole life and my reaction to this sadness.

As a result of never talking about your true and deep feelings of sadness, you feel disconnected. You feel like social interactions are not really giving you what you need and as a result you feel even lonely at the presence of others. You have perhaps to a degree tried to share this deep feeling of loneliness, but then met either some basic suggestion such as – use positive affirmations or people just do not understand what you are talking about.

So the loneliness is reproducing itself. After your failed attempts of connection to others about your issues you feel that your internal feeling of being the odd one out, the freak – never being understood, will only gather strength. You feel as if, in order to connection to others, you need to first change yourself. To somehow make this loneliness disappear. But in the process you isolate yourself more….

The bittersweet taste of coming out of therapy

So lately I am starting to feel as if I am reentering to my life. No, do not get me wrong, plenty of more challenges to grapple, but I at least have a feeling like I can participate in my life again.

It is difficult to explain to someone who has never been in psychotherapy how therapy feels. Lets put it like this, you know the feeling that you get when you are really ill and in bed – well therapy creates such a feeling, but psychologically. So coming out of therapy is like going out after a long illness, you feel weird walking, but you also enjoy the freshness of the air on your skin. I now have this sense of freshness and some relief. This relief is still mixed with weakness and occasional signs from the illness, but at least I can go out.

However, I am thinking back to my twenties. Twenties for many people are the carefree time of enjoyment, partying – you now feeling less responsibilities on your shoulders than any time else. My twenties were mostly spent either on being really dysfunctional and unhealthy before therapy or being completely disengaged and barely ‘alive’ during the therapy. So now I feel like I somehow missed this little rest that most people have, before they get to the life with mortgages, kids, taking care of your ageing parents etc. And you know, as I am facing these future responsibilities, I still feel tired of my intense psychotherapy and I still feel I am learning how to be functional.

So, I guess I am scared. I am scared that there will never be too much enjoyment in my life. That I will always struggle, it is just different kinds of struggles. I am even afraid that maybe I will burnout at some moment. There have been so many struggles during the past ten years that I am not sure how long I can keep up with this kind of life. The only hope that I have is that, maybe therapy has prepared me to cope with many of these challenges in an effortless way.

The difficult route from dependency to independence

So recently I have been reading the book called “Don’t call it love: Breaking the cycle of relationship dependency”. As the title indicates, the book has gotten me thinking about my own dependency.

To be honest, I am not sure where I stand in my recovery. I know that before therapy I was a hardcore relationship dependent, going from one relationship to another, delegating responsibility for my life to other people etc. Now for the first time in my life I seem to be OK with the idea of being single. Well, part of me seems to be OK with it. So I assume progress has been made. However….

The truth be told, I have my other addictions which I use in order to cope with my sense of helplessness. I still do not feel quite in control of my life and the idea of having to accept full responsibility for it overwhelms and exhausts me. It seems altogether too much. Going from believing that the only way you can exist is through someone else taking care of you to well, I need to take care of myself. Suddenly you discover all these areas of your life which you hope some future partner will take care of.

In my case I hoped my future partner will take care of my financial situation, my accommodation, my lacking friends circle, my past time activities, my emotional stability….I guess these are the main things. Having to accept responsibility for all this myself seems too much too soon.

I have been ill already twice during this spring. I assume that my illnesses have something to do with this feeling of overwhelm which is accompanied by my acknowledgement that I will need to take care of all these areas myself. My body is reacting to the stress. I wish there was an easy way to get used to accepting this responsibility. Others usually get to mature and take these responsibilities step by step. I feel with me it is all hitting me at once. It is extremely tiring and my body just wants to shut down, I guess…