I have lately witnessed some common patterns in my relationships. Overall, these patterns are rather complex, so today, I am going to focus on one aspect in these relationships- criticism.
As I have already mentioned, I recently had a huge fight with my best friend, which started from me criticizing her behavior towards me. Now, this is a friend who has been quite critical of me for years and has told me many constructive and not so constructive things that she thinks I should change. When confronted about her own behavior, however, my friend pulled the- if you do not like me we should not be my friends anymore card.
Something incredibly weird happened, when I confronted my boyfriend about the very same thing yesterday- his extensive criticism towards me and my behavior. My boyfriend went to the mode of- ‘but you knew how I was when you met me’. Note, that he was defending his right to criticize me, by noting that he was already critical when he met me and that I should respect him the way he is.
Now, both parties have also on and off accused me of being oversensitive and unable to take criticism. Therefore, I find it extremely weird, that when faced with criticism themselves, their reactions are far from reasonable (either take me for who I am or leave). Even funnier is the fact that both have on separate occasions criticized each other for being defensive and unable to take criticism.
Now obviously me choosing such people in my life is pointing to the problem of my own. Namely, my deep-seated belief that I am not enough and that I have to change in order to be accepted. I am not going to explain how this pattern started, but rather go further with explaining how such a pattern between individuals works.
You have two actors- one is the advisor/controller and the other one is victim/people-pleaser. Now, both sides have a low self-esteem, but they handle it in a different manner. On one hand, the victim hopes that once they have gained the approval of other people, they will feel better about themselves. The controller, on the other hand, hopes that once they feel in control, they will stop feeling so helpless and weak all the time. These relationships work, because the victim is trying to get the approval of the controller and the controller feels secure enough about its superior position.
The problem is, that I am not willing to take such hierarchical relationships anymore. I have noticed that my self-esteem has increased sufficiently so that now I can actually choose which criticism I take. This is the first thing that will annoy the hell out of people with controlling instincts, as I have observed. They will think it is arrogant and dismissive. Now the second thing is that I am not willing to hear constant criticism anymore. I have been around people who do not criticize me on a daily basis and it feels really good. I felt accepted and I also felt better about myself. Finally, the last thing is that, I am becoming more critical myself and will also confront them about their behaviors, which usually sets off an aggressive reaction whereby they are trying to direct the conversation back to my issues. If that does not work, the ultimatum (you either accept me or we will not be together) is given.
Hence the once working pattern in my relationships is obviously challenged. While I am emancipating myself, the controllers in my life are desperately trying to get back their control.This was more obvious with my friend, but I am also seeing clear signs of such a behavior in my boyfriend. Now, I am not saying that either one is a bad person, rather that they have just established a pattern with people, that seemed to serve them well and are now upset, because it is not working anymore. These patterns are as much my doing as they are theirs. The situation where I do not agree with these patterns anymore, obviously puts a strain on the relationships. In fact, for me, there are only two possibilities in these situations- either the person next to you accepts that you are not willing to fulfill the old role anymore or you end up parting your ways.