How I called my boyfriends friends

Most of the posts, books etc are written from a standpoint of someone who has been hurt by a commitment phobe. There are probably several reasons for that, not the least the fact that sometimes we like to hide our own commitment phobia behind someone else’s much more obvious non-commitmental behavior. No, I am not saying that everyone that dates a commitment phobe, is a commitment phobe themselves, I am just suggesting a possibility that it could very well be the case.

In my case, there have been several boyfriends that I tried to hide from the world. Lets take my first boyfriend, who I kept a secret for quite some time. I was ashamed. I thought that others could never respect me after seeing me that weak. Weak in this case meant having feelings. I was trained in a fashion that every sign of feelings of affection was something that could be used against you. People knew where to push. If you however never confessed to any of your feelings, you were still strong. You were strong in the eyes of your partner and in the eyes of those around you. You were safe, god knows for how long. After all, I only got punished for having feelings, especially those if tender nature.

My first thought when my first boyfriend expressed interest in me was- what is wrong with this guy? Seriously, there had to be something wrong with him. Noone can be seriously interested in me. When he still would continue treating me quite nicely, I lost all the respect for him. See, in my mind, I did not deserve to be treated nicely. I was faulty. The nicer he treated me, the weaker he was in my eyes. Also, he was expressing his feelings, making himself vulnerable- how demeaning, how weak! I lost all the respect.

Fortunately after some years of dating I met another ex, who treated me “better”. He was critical and judgemental, in my mind exactly someone I needed. I needed him to tell me what I should change in myself. When he told me that he does not think I am beautiful, my response was- “What can I change?”. In my mind this ex was way above all the other exes I have had, having a relationship was a huge achievement for me. I really did not deserve him, but luckily on some level he also seemed to think I did not. This was a perfect combination… He was the ex I could respect, he was not weak.

See the thing is, at least the way I functioned in the past and to a degree still do function now, I cannot take a guy who is nice to me, who does not criticize and who loves me. I perceive him as inferior. In my mind being honest about your feelings and vulnerable is so deeply related to abuse, that my automatic program starts to work, telling me- this guy must be abused, he must be put down, because he deserves it. The same way as I was put down by my mother, especially when I confessed to some weakness of mine. I often wonder if this is the case with others that had an abusive childhood- that you either abuse or are abused. There is no other way. You are either an underdog or alpha. Controlling or being controlled.

Feelings of love make me uncomfortable, because they are interwoven with abuse. I know no love outside abuse. I know no context where feelings are tolerated and where I can be weak.

Trust or not to trust?- Cannot make up my mind

I am afraid of abandonment, which is weird, because I am also afraid of trusting someone, relying on them. Perhaps these are just two sides of the same coin- you are afraid of letting someone in, because you never know when you have to let go again. It is difficult to get out of my mind my mother’s regular rages and threats to kick me out. Every time this happens, you trust a little bit less and less. Until there is nothing really left. Narcissist always tries to creep in again, after they have disowned you. For a small child this can seem heavenly- suddenly you have a parent again, someone who will take care for you. Well at least as long as you obey and fulfill their needs.

In my past relationships that was exactly the strategy I used- tried to obey, tried to follow the rules and still I struggled to commit. The pain and the fear of abandonment were too real to let go and trust. I developed a funny combination with my boyfriends, something between dependency and keeping my distance. On one hand I was extremely dependent on them for providing me love and security, on the other hand, something in me kept screaming- “Do not let them too close”. Every small and not so small sign of rejection made me back off, eroded my trust just a little bit. Until there was nothing left. Again.

I did this for a while, never really understanding what was going on. Hell, I still do this, but now I am also actively fighting it. I am putting myself to situations where I have to be alone, just to test my ability to stand it. Well, it is still terrifying and I lose a lot in my functionality. Life seems hopeless. I am testing the waters of trusting, but I am still regularly disappointed and hurt. People seem distant, they never seem to have time for you. Lets not forget, that my needs are not these of a normal adult, but those of a small child. I want to finally find this one person that can protect me and will never let me go.

Where are you? Have I missed you in my search, have I pushed you away? Have I scared you with my neediness? Surely, I am at fault, who else. Because the alternative would be to believe that you have no control over what is happening. If I were to think that my caretaker really was unreliable and instable, I would be pushed to absolute powerlessness. Instead, I kept looking for fault in myself, at least I felt a little bit of hope and power that way.

Dependency and living in fear

I have been fearful my whole life. When I was a child I often tried to fight this fear by being a daredevil. It gave me some sort of power to pretend that I was not fearful at all. Well, as my therapy has progressed I have had to become more and more aware of my fear.

One of my great fears has been being left completely alone in this cruel world. Coming from a narcissistic parental background, this fear is however quite complicated. See the message that I got in my childhood was that I was not protected at home- my mother had serious rages and was throwing me out on a rather regular basis. However, narcissists also in a way separate you from the outside world, by holding an image of a perfect family. Noone outside must know what they really are. So eventually you have no one to turn to. You have your home which is abusive and frightening and you have other people that are also perceived as frightening, not the least because they buy into the myth of nice family. Besides, since your experience with your primary caretakers is so negative, you learn to mistrust people- you never know when someone really is abusive or not. You are completely isolated in your fear.

Back to the present. I am afraid and I cannot trust. How could I? I am used to people threatening to abandon me and taking advantage of my dependency. I project my past to my present relationships. I do not dare to relax in the relationships, because I never know when my partner will turn into a monster. Truth be told, we naturally also get together with partners that have some tendencies from our parents. Several of my partners have been extremely sensitive to criticism and reverted to extreme anger. Like my mother. I was kept on my toes.

On the other hand, you also do not want to leave them. After all you are still this frightened child who is so used to fact that she will never manage alone. Nothing good will wait for you in the outside world either, so you better hold on to what you have. Everybody is dangerous, are they not?

So am I prone to dependency- yes. Am I afraid of being alone- again yes. Am I not able to trust my partners- again yes.

This has been the most difficult part of my therapy and is probably still going to take some time.

 

 

 

My experience living together with my narcissistic mother

I found this article https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-intelligent-divorce/201311/the-narcissistic-mother and I almost jumped. Seriously, I have yet to find an article that would summarize my mother’s behavior in a better way.

What I have found throughout my life confusing about my mother is that I cannot wholeheartedly claim that she does not care. In fact there was a lot of “caring” in our house. She cared about how I looked, how I studied etc etc. However, for some reason you really do not feel like they care. Yes, they study together with you, yes they choose clothes with you, but you are still left with the feeling, that something is not “quite right”.

Well, the thing that is not quite right is that- actually they care about how they look to the world. All my elementary school teachers knew what my mother was doing for a living. She made sure that I would not embarrass her with my study results, even though I was not particularly bright. The fact that I might not be as smart as she was, was something my mother simply could not accept. She made me learn some things for hours, until I had mastered it perfectly. Every time I got a bad grade I was afraid to go home. It was not that she made a huge deal about my bad grades every time, just when “she felt like it”. But, well in reality, you just never know what to expect, so you start to over-perform in all areas, just to avoid your mother’s rages.

Yes, her rages. I really could not predict those. Sometimes she would come home being totally calm and sometimes she would start yelling at me at the instant she walked in. Sometimes we could actually sit at the kitchen table and talk and sometimes I would have to prepare myself for listening to hours and hours of accusations as to “what a horrible child and human being I am”. There was no way out of the fight with my mother, she was in it for the kill. Some of our fights escalated to the point where my mother kicked me out of our apartment, telling me to go and enjoy life on the streets. She has disowned me for more times I can remember. It took me years to finally go along with it and say- fine, you disown me, I will not bother you anymore.

My childhood was spent in constant fear and wish to keep mommy happy. Unfortunately she never quite was. Unsurprisingly she still is not. However, I am working hard for my own happiness now.

 

Chasing unavailable guys

You have probably heard many people that have been abused talk about food addiction, alcohol addiction or shopping sprees. Well, I have my own addiction. Unfortunately I still struggle with it after all these years. I like to chase unavailable partners.

I do not have to be single at this time- I can fully well be in a relationship. It is just that so far in every relationship I have had, I have simultaneously chased someone else outside the relationship. And yes, these people were either committed or just plain not interested in me. It has been extremely difficult for me to just enjoy my relationships, since I always notice this other guy, that seems to be oh so much better.

In my mind I have created imaginary relationships with these guys and I have chased them. I have spent loads of hours trying to figure out what strategy to use to chase them. I have been struggling with every rejection and suffered a lot of heartbreak.

I am still struggling with my addiction and I am doing my best to get it under control. Steps in this road seem to be painfully slow. I am now very conscious of my longing and especially during last months have been able to tame this behavior a bit. All this time I have also kept wondering what is behind this pattern.

I cannot give an exact answer yet, I can only suggest that I have spent most of my life unwanted. I propose that chasing these unavailable guys allowed me to indulge in fantasy that once this guy gives me attention and wants to be with me, I will not feel so unwanted anymore. Suddenly this awful longing for love and nurturing in my heart will disappear. Well unfortunately the feeling is still there and it is coming to surface more than usually. I am sincerely hoping that this means, I am making progress in my therapy and can soon declare that I have healed from this longing.

People that are too “perfect”

There are people that always make you feel bad. I am talking about people that “have it all together”. Their life is a series of successes and they never fail to let you know about these. You keep comparing yourself with those people and you cannot help but to feel defeated- “less than something”, whatever it would be.

There is a chance, of course, that my reaction is due to my own inferiority complex. I am used to feeling like a failure. Still, I have a sense that some people are after making others feel inferior. They also keep comparing themselves with others and their success is complete only if they feel they have won over someone.

I used to look up to these people- I admired their achievements and wanted to be like them. I tried so hard to become and be one of those people, but at some moment realized, I will never be. I have always been slightly odd or unconventional. My life has been a struggle as I tried to fit in and fulfill all the societal norms. I still struggle, but my attitude to aforementioned people is also slowly changing.

I now think of them as, well, not someone you would want to keep around. If you feel constantly that your communication with someone is an endless struggle as to who has achieved more, to me there is no value to it. I like to have a possibility to open up and to say- well today I really screw up. No, not to say- my boss is a total asshole, but to say, sometimes I am a total asshole. Own my failures and mistakes without being made to feel so horrible about not being perfect.

So, I am trying my best to keep away from people who cannot admit that they are sad, ashamed or have failed. The chances are that everybody feels these things from time to time, so if they are not honest about it and furthermore respond to my openness with the statement that they have never had any problems, I feel they cannot accept the full spectrum of human experience. Furthermore, they cannot even be honest with themselves and are so mortified to show any vulnerability. If I want to see these kinds of people I will watch a Hollywood chick-flick, but from those around me I expect more acceptance and openness.

Positive changes- my attitude to men

Soon will be my fourth anniversary from starting therapy and hence I will publish some comments as to how I have developed. Today I will talk about something rather vain- my attitude to opposite sex and the attention of the opposite sex.

So on some level I have always gotten along better with guys- the only problem was that at some point I made my self-esteem so dependent on their attention that every meeting with a guy became a rehersal. I needed to give a dazzling performance because my self-worth was dependent on what this particular guy thought of me. Surely I was nervous and it probably showed. The first meeting was usually OK, because then we were complete strangers, but the second meeting totally freaked me out. I sensed that there were expectations, I had left a good impression and all I could think about was- do not screw this up! I was so sure of the coming rejection that I usually did screw this up with my obvious neediness.

A funny thing happened, a lot of guys wanted to me my friends, but few my partners. Yes, I did get along with them very well, but nothing really happened. Yes, I most of the time had partners, but it still frustrated me that most males did not see me as a woman (lets not forget that my self-esteem depended upon it).

Well, now I have the opposite problem. Lots of guys who I imagine being quite fun as friends seem to want something more with me. I am not complaining, actually, because it is a nice change. The funny thing however is, that right now I am mostly interested in finding new friends and not potential suitors. I guess there is something immensely attractive about the “I do not care, but I am still friendly enough” attitude.

I am however, not celebrating so much the presence of all these guys who are potentially interested, I am celebrating the shift in my own attitude. The changing reaction from guys is just an outside proof that my behavior has changed. Lets not forget that it is very difficult to see anything changing in others unless we change ourselves. Well, every meeting with a guy does not become a nerve wracking theater play anymore, rather it is an act of communication. I am happy that my self-esteem does not get so bummed when some random guy does not like me. It seems like I have taken my power back.

Being OK with myself

I grew up with a mother who, well at least to some degree, resembles narcissist. She is demanding, critical and unpredictable. It took me years to realize how afraid I was most of my childhood. I was afraid of criticism, I was afraid of her putdowns and shaming. During our fights she would continue putting me down until I begged her to stop (she usually did not).

Before I started my therapy if I said my self-esteem was low, that would be an understatment. I was so ashamed of myself that I was sure that who ever will find out my true nature will be instantly repulsed. So I created a mask- I presented myself as high-achiever who had it all together (even though on the inside, nothing really was together). Even though I have spent four years in therapy, some of these judgmental comments were still in my head. I had created a critical voice that kept comparing my achievements with everybody else and telling me that I was a failure.

Self-development has been my constant companion. Even though on some level I was aware that it was both a symptom and solution to my problems, never did I realize it quite as acutely as during my last therapy session. Suddenly, in my memories I was again this little child who was constantly worried about my mothers reaction. Will she start screaming when she comes home? Have I anticipated her wishes correctly? Maybe I have done something wrong?

All my little decisions needed to be checked with my mother who then either approved or disapproved (usually the latter). I was mortified by the possibility of having done anything wrong. Needless to say that decisions scared the hell out of me. So did perceived failures. There is a lot of literature on low self-esteem and depression, but at least in my experience not so much about its connection to anxiety. In my case, my anxiety has been greatly related to my fear of disappointing my mother, being punished again for not being perfect.

For the first time I am starting to feel some inner calm. Starting to realize that only I decide if I have failed, noone else. The standards that I have failed to meet are foremost instituted by me as well. I am liking where things are going and if I continue to work with the issue, I will be able to feel much better than I have felt most of my life.