Letting go of people

I suck at letting people go. I cling to them no matter what. Even if I can clearly see that the relationship is doomed, I still hang on.

Dealing with loss is an important lesson in life which everybody should acquire. Unfortunately for me, this lesson has so far remained in a theoretical level. When it comes to accepting the real life loss or furthermore welcoming it as part of a development, I am honestly a natural disaster.

Many people talk about how fear of abandonment stops people from moving on from their obviously dysfunctional relationships. Well, my opinion is that, sometimes fear of loss and  an anticipation of an inevitable pain is much stronger factor.

I have experienced so much loss in my life that I have tried to avoid it my whole grownup life. Not really successfully though. I have, unfortunately, created situations where I had to endure a lot of loss due to never fully engaging in my relationships. Part of me was always afraid of reliving my original pain and kept my space in my partnerships. Unfortunately such an attitude is bound to create more loss.

The problem is- it is a self-fulfilling prophecy. You do not trust people to stay with you and react strongly to all the signs which indicate to even slight possibility that this might be the case. People sense your distance, your insecurities in them etc and they in fact do lose their confidence in the relationship. Sometimes you, yourself, lose the confidence before and start avoiding showing up in the relationships as a defense method.

When I broke up with my ex, it took me ages to come to terms with the pain and the knowledge that this person is dead for me. Years after our breakup I would see my ex in my dreams, I would refuse to let go. Letting go of my ex seemed equal to having let go of all the close people in my childhood- my mother, my father, my grandfather, my grandmother, my nanny, my best friend……everyone.

I have no idea if it is possible to ever become good in letting go. Furthermore, I am not sure if because of my fear of loss, I am not choosing instable people who I cannot fully commit to, to begin with.


An example of how abadonment fear works in the relationship

Me and Marc had a long-distance relationship. During our last meeting we were supposed to spend together four weeks. After having spent one week together with Marc, I started to become increasingly anxious. I was constantly trying to preform, proving to him that I was a good girlfriend. I was dreading that he would understand that I was no good and would leave me as a result (exactly understand, because I was convinced he was much better than I was). However, constant pressure to preform was starting to get the best of me. I was getting increasingly tired.

Marc, on the other hand, was getting more and more annoyed. He found fault in every behavior of mine. I was constantly scared of the other shoe to drop. Finally he is discovering that I am no good…….Becoming increasingly anxious, I tried to seek reaffirmation from Marc, asking questions such as- Am I beautiful. Unfortunately Marc did not take the bait and only told me that he did not find me beautiful, but that I was OK looking. My anxiety was increasing…..

I was all alone in foreign country having to take Marc’s constant negative feedback. I felt so alone. I felt like everything that me and Marc had shared was disappearing. I made more mistakes…. Marc did not yell, but it seemed to me that he was just preparing to leave me (typical sign of abandonment fear). I became increasingly withdrawn, escaping to my own imaginary world. There, at least, I could feel safe…

In the end of my stay I felt very lonely and anxious. I was sure Marc is going to leave me anyways or even if he is not going to leave me, he has already rejected me. I had no trust left in him. The nice things he did for me during my stay somehow vanished, because they were nothing compared to the ambivalence of our relationship. I felt immensely insecure- I had no idea what his plans with me were. In the end, I just wanted out…I did not want to be so scared anymore. I just wanted to escape being controlled by his decisions on the relationship. I wanted to become my own person again, I did not want to depend on his judgement of me.

The relationship with Marc is just one example of my abandonment fear in action. The pattern seems to be quite consistent- you start becoming close to someone and then they do something which will trigger your abandonment fear. You start to look for signs everywhere. Surely, you have no trouble finding them. You are convinced that the relationship is doomed and the other party is going to leave you anyways. So you withdraw. You prepare yourself for the exit, because it is safer. You feel that this is the only way to control crappy situation….

Children of narcissists and the obsession to do the right thing

I am at the final stages of my therapy- I can feel it. One of the things still to be adressed is my fear for the world. I am afraid of independent living and I am afraid of the world. For someone who has no experience with narcissistic childhood that, might sound weird. For me it is not weird, it is what the world has always felt.

My boyfriend finds it extremely confusing that I am always obsessed about doing the right thing. I am unable to make decisions because I imagine that somehow my life will be the direct consequence of my decisions. If I only make the right decisions, everything will be fine. This also means that all the bad that happens in my life could be pinned down to my inadequate decisions or more generally inappropriate actions.

I got so used to being held responsible for every angry outburst of my mother. She convinced me that if I had only behaved properly, those outbursts would have never happened. I got scared of doing anything. Usually I could not predict her reactions on my actions, so in fact, inaction was safer…..or running everything through my mother to be sure that there were not horrible consequences for my actions.

I became extremely dependent on her evaluations. I was scared to make anything without having her approval. I was constantly scared of her reactions and convinced that her negative reactions meant that I had messed up once again. I treasured the moments everything was fine between us and I had her approval. Those were rare moments of safety. The rest of the time I was constantly anxious about having done something wrong.

Guess what, in my mind, I am still expecting someone to punish me for some perceived mistakes. I assume that if something goes wrong, it is god sent punishment for being a bad person….for making mistakes.

This is something which is yet to be solved in my therapy..

Commitment issues and expectations

I had couple of days ago a serious conversation with my boyfriend about our future. The conversation helped me to realize many things, partially also one of the things which joined us together. Namely, we are both afraid of people having any expectations on us.

The fear of disappointing others is one of the most common signs of commitment phobia. Namely commitment phobic people are so afraid of disappointing their partner, that they avoid letting them close.

With my boyfriend, I felt for the very first time that I could escape those expectations. I felt that I do not have to worry about those, because he did not have any on me. I could avoid having to face my fear of disappointing people because my partner seemed to expect very little of me and be OK with the loose arrangement.

Unfortunately I started expecting things from him at some point. My expectations got more serious about half a year ago when I discovered that I am not OK with our loose arrangement anymore. I like the fact that I have a person to share my ideas with, but I also want to be able to talk about us and not only me and you.

My boyfriend in the meanwhile really struggles with managing my expectations. He uses different strategies to avoid those such as finding reasons why we cannot plan the future.

It is a weird feeling. I can now see from aside what I looked like for all my previous boyfriends. It is also an ambivalent feeling since I feel that I am not completely ready to deal with people’s expectations, but having a life without those also seems rather empty. It seems to equal with the life without friends and a partner.

Once people get to know me they abandon me

One of the main reasons for my commitment phobia is the fear of abandonment. I am terrified of doing something wrong and I am certain that I will make a mistake which will then push people to leave me.

One anecdotal story- I am organizing a sports event every second week. Every time I see someone is not coming, I assume that it is because they personally do not like me. It feels like my childhood abandonment once again.

On the level of my actions, one way to deal with this fear is by rejecting others first or not even letting them close enough. If they are not close enough, abandonment hurts less. I will still be less dependent on them. However, once I get dependent on them and they still abandon me- it is going to be horrible.

One should note that I always assume that abandonment (people not calling me etc) is my fault. It is the evaluation of me by these people. They have all the control- I am supposed to just be likable and maybe then they will not abandon me.

Once I start anticipating abandonment or rejection, I also become either angry or closed off. I either make sarcastic jokes or find in my mind several reasons why this person was no good in any case. Reject other before they reject you.

I have been in the dark about this fear and the ways it impacts my behaviors for too long. Now it is time to address it both in conscious and unconscious level.

Looking for a knight in shining armor- think again

I think one of the main problems for me and lets face it for some other women who have been through some form of abuse is the fact they hope that one person in their life will solve most of their problems. I will from thereon speak about myself as to not offend someone else.

Even though I have always been a high-achiever, I needed a man to make me feel safe and emotionally stable. I have struggled with depression throughout my life and I was hoping that finding this one and special guy would finally help me to overcome this issue. Additionally anxiety has been my constant companion and part of me wished that there would be a man- stable enough to also make this issue a history.

I did find remedy for my issues in the form of different boyfriends, but never to all my issues simultaneously. I would have a guy who was stable, but emotionally closed or a guy who was loving, but financially instable etc. Apart from the fact that finding such a guy who would help to turn your otherwise lonely and instable life around is highly unlikely, there is another problem which I have faced in my life.

I was dependent on these guys. This means, I could not leave. I could not have my own personal voice when discussing relationship issues, because I was too afraid to create the waves. What if they would leave me and then I would be all alone, helpless and hopeless again?

This is actually where I am trying to get to. Yes, you can meet your personal knight in shining armor who would save you, but be vary that, then you are exactly that- someone who is saved and hence also helpless and powerless. Do you want to put yourself to this position?

I really struggled with breaking up with my ex even after my ex had told me that he is not sure if he has ever loved me. For the name of security I could have also stayed with him….Maybe love is not the most important thing as long as he makes me feel secure…..The point if he loved me or not is unimportant. The fact is, he spelled it out and I reacted to a degree needy. What I communicated to him was- you can treat me however you want, I will stay, because I am too scared to leave.

When your partner ’does not hear you’

Throughout my relationship with my partner I have had a nagging sense that something is wrong. I could never put my finger on it, because my family of origin is not exactly known for sanity. In fact, coming from this background makes it extremely difficult to make any relationship related decisions, because you have no idea what constitutes a healthy and supportive behavior.

I have a sense that I am finally cracking out what is wrong with our relationship from his side (note that this is not say that there is nothing wrong with my behavior). For more than four years I have tried to resolve our issues, find solutions for our frequent problems. As normal for someone who has been scapegoated, I assumed the main responsibility for our conflicts. My boyfriend was used to putting our arguments off as my problems. The usual pattern that was established was me going and changing myself after the arguments to eliminate my problem which caused the argument.

Something started to shift in this spring when I dared to tell him that maybe he should consider changing his behavior instead- the argument started with him complaining about my behavior. At this point it seemed outrageous to me and I felt immensely guilty for my remark. However, the next month saw me becoming more and more convinced that the problem was not anymore in me and he was using me as a convenient excuse for hiding away from his problems.

After yet another argument, I am left confused once again. It is not even important what the issue is, it seems to me that my partner just does not hear me. He is so busy telling me how I am to be blamed for the existence of the problem and how everything can be solved by me changing my behavior once again that whatever reservations I have about his behavior become unimportant. It is a little bit like you are going crazy- you are wondering why do I feel so bad after these arguments? Why do I feel ran over? Why do I feel they do not get solved? I think they do not get solved because my concerns are never addressed. Instead I hear often how it is my job to go and fix myself in therapy.

Alone in the world

There have been many times in my life when I have felt completely alone. I felt alone when I was sent to live with my grandparents to the totally different town and had to face bullying in my kindergarten. I felt alone when I had to manage all by myself in a foreign country with a sick mother (I was four and we did take a nanny). I felt alone when I was left to take care of home for weeks at the age of twelve while my mother was away (no- nobody game to check in on me while she was away). These are just some of the few cases when I felt that the world was unsafe and I had no one to depend on.

I have recently tried to tap on my anxiety and my feeling that the world is an unsafe place. I have to say that given my experiences, I totally get it. In fact, I was helpless in many of these and other situations. I was helpless because the grownups in my life did not bother to think about me. My mother seems to for all intense and purposes have very little idea on what kind of environment a child needs and what is an age appropriate behavior.

In my case I was taking the bus to the town when I was five years old. I was left at home for long days when I was six. I had to fend my own food most of the time. I guess the combination of everyday instances as well as the more interruptive experiences made me feel that no one was ever going to be there for me. And I behaved accordingly. Throughout my childhood  I did not share much with my mother. She found out about my school bullying years later at the point that it had gone so bad that I could not keep a straight face at home anymore. She found out about my first boyfriend after I had broken up with him (two years later). There are numerous traumatic and less traumatic experiences my mother has no idea about. Moreover, there are numerous traumatic experiences that my mother has directly caused me.

It will probably take still some years for me until I learn to trust someone enough. Until I can finally relax into the relationship and not feel that in the end I am still all alone. That whoever I am together with is probably not safe enough.