Whether to cut someone out of your life or just disengage emotionally?

There are people in my life that I have emotionally distanced myself from and then there are people that I have cut out entirely. There are so many questions related to this topic such as: why would you disengage from certain people but keep them in your life or when do I know it is the correct time to cut someone out entirely or do I do the right thing by emotionally disengaging? So I will try to discuss at least some of these questions here.

During the last years I have cut several people out of my life. I am here not talking about some random acquaintances, but really, close people. I have also emotionally disengaged from a number of people. One of the people I have emotionally disengaged from is my mum so I am going to use her example for the first group.

First, why have I emotionally disengaged from her? My mum is unpredictable in a sense that you never know what kind of reaction you will get. One moment she goes out of her way to show you how little you matter to her (not even maliciously, it is subconscious) and the other moment she feels that she should somehow be a good mum and be nice. What happens when you invest emotionally? Well, you get hurt, sooner or later. See, when I invest to someone emotionally, I like to be consistent. I am willing to accept expectations made on me and I expect that I can have certain expectations on them. But what do you do with a person that is completely inconsistent? Well, I have not yet found a way to be close and accept such inconsistency. Hence emotional distancing.

Now, in the second group is my former best friend. Why did I cut her out? She was a good and close friend and a support person. She was reliable and had many good qualities. However, I understood that she was all that as long as the relationship functioned on her terms. She could not accept criticism on her actions and she could not accept my borders. Instead she kept pushing and our friendship ended with a big fight. I felt there was no way of keeping the friendship and keeping myself. Either I kept the friendship and played based on her rules only or I kept myself and my identity. In that situation, I chose myself.

So I guess for me it boils down to – are the actions of the other person harmful for me or are they just acting somewhat aloof and disengaged. If they are aloof and disengaged, but bring significant benefits with themselves, I can maintain the relationship. I only make a pact with myself not to overinvest (this is a struggle on its own). If, I however sense somehow that what the other person does is violating my borders and it cannot be negotiated then cutting them out if the way to go.

On paper it seems simple and logical, however in real life, with emotions everything gets messy and you are probably only able to make certain conclusions about the situation in hindsight.

 

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How to deal with guys that disappear and reappear

So, because I had an experience with a guy that disappeared and also partially because my ex had this habit, I have thought about this topic lately quite a bit. I think the most difficult for me to accept is the fact that ultimately I was not as important to those guys as they were to me. This is a tough pill to swallow and I have been trying to avoid accepting it. Somehow we always try to deceive ourselves thinking as if he – just is denying his feelings, he loves me, but does not know it ….fill in the blanks. On one hand deception serves to avoid feeling bad about ourselves in this moment, but on the other hand it is also what keeps us in denial.

I lived in denial with my ex for years. Something in me refused to admit that he just was not committed to our relationship. It was easier to think that I am over-reacting or I am needy or whatnot. Well, I was all these things as well, no doubt about that, but still it does not erase the fact that my ex was never as invested as I was.

I have one male friend who keeps appearing in my life once in a while with occasional short messages. To me his behavior has always been somewhat confusing because I am thinking – well what kind of a friendship is that? I mean what is the point?  Until today I realized. I bite every time. His messages make me feel important and I invest emotionally and write a really nice and loving response. That is why he keeps messaging to me occasionally…I mean who would not want to have some dosages of love for so little effort?

The same applies to my ex and the disappearing guy. I mean if you had a chance to get your dosage of love and even your sexual needs met without fully investing, would you say no? I mean everything would be right and nice, if I did not emotionally invest. If I managed my emotional investment the same way these guys do. I mean lets face it, a guy who writes to you a short message in every four months does not invest anything. It would be stupid of you to them treat him as dear and close friend.

So, I have been emotionally investing into people that have not done the same with me. Not at least to same extent. This is a difficult topic however, because I do not want to be a cold person. I want to be a warm person, but I need to learn how to make my investments to other people correspond to their investments to me. Furthermore, I need to understand why I am so gullible that one facebook message can somehow turn me over and I can instantly become loving and caring. I can now clearly see that I am in a habit of overinvesting and letting both my partners and friends take advantage of me in that way. But I have no idea how to correct this nor how many friends I have left at the point where I have critically evaluated my investments.

So to go back to the original topic – the way you deal with the guy that disappears and reappears, you do not get invested emotionally. He has proven you with his actions that he is not that invested. I mean if he can disappear, his investment is not that high. So, you hold yourself and do not get invested either. You do not behave like me with my friends by giving him love whenever he makes appearance again. Instead you treat him based on his actions and he has just acted like a casual distant acquaintance so this is the kind of spot he should have in your life and in your heart.

Intellectual friendships and avoiding intimacy

Today I understood something. I have quite a few intellectual friends. You know, people with whom you can discuss the matters of the world. You can analyze. It is exciting and interesting….. Sometimes I feel I am mentally exhausted however. I feel I would just want to be with someone who does not ask me to intellectualize things. Someone for whom I would not have to constantly be interesting and exciting….

So I was thinking about it and about myself and reached to the conclusion that I have used this same intellectualization in order to protect myself. It is much safer to talk about some random intellectual topics where you do not really have to give much of yourself. I mean, you can even talk about relationships in an intellectual manner. The topic is absolutely irrelevant, the point is that you are scared of revealing too much of the real you, because then people might either reject you, or in my case even worse, hurt you.

I never really understood before how these friendships were there to protect me from really opening myself up and becoming vulnerable. I still have a lot of fear around exposing myself to any kind of harm, because of familial relationships and years and years of bullying. Because of this very intellectual quality of my relationships I have a lot of male friends. I guess males feel safe around me, because I am not trying to invade to their safe zone and force intimacy on them. I allow them to be intellectual if they want and do not necessarily push them to something else.

I think intellectual friendships are fine and necessary. This is not the question. The question is, can you also do something else than intellectual friendships. When people ask you personal questions, do you freeze or become uncomfortable? I know I do. I know I also become uncomfortable when people seem too excited or interested in me. All of this is just pushing on my walls which are there as a result of so many negative experiences from the past.

So I guess I will continue to work on myself and try to overcome the intellectualization and actually be open to other types of friendships as well.

People who do not care

I have an acquaintance who takes pride in his independence or perhaps I should rather say non-dependence. I have known him for four years, met him on a weekly basis and I have no doubts that he would not care much if we did not meet anymore. I am pretty sure he would have this attitude towards almost all people in his life, so it is not only reserved for me. Why am I talking about this right now?

Because this is my mum. This is the image she conveys. I suspect she would not care much if I just left her life one day. or well, deep down she would probably hurt, but she would do her damnest to show how indifferent she is. She has blocked all the feelings which are related to caring about people so deep down that I really get little impression of her caring whether she has her daughter in her life or not. One might assume that if she has this attitude with me, she has even worse attitude with her acquaintances and friends.

It never really hit me as strong as when I started comparing people in my life and seriously there are some people with whom it is obvious that they do not care. For whatever reason that would be. I think a lot of my past has been dedicated to trying to make people who never really cared much to care about me. By caring I mean here truly people who can see you, the real you, do not try to change you into someone else and genuinely care about this person underneath. I do not mean people who need to put on an image of themselves as caring and generous, I mean sincere caring even if no one is there to witness their kindness.

The interesting thing is that I bet my mum and my friend are even proud for being so independent. For caring so little, because it makes them feel strong and in control. From where I am standing, this is not a virtue. Rather it speaks of the shallowness of your character and it speaks of total alienation from your feelings.

I am slowly reaching towards an understanding that I have kept many people close to me that did not really care all that much. I guess I was conditioned to consider this normality. Maybe it even felt safer. Maybe I felt more independent. These days however I look at my relationship with my mum and I can honestly say I do not care much about her. When she complains about some illness of hers, I do not care. It is sad, but her attitude of needing not to have any emotional entanglements has put our relationship that far. Furthermore, I felt she was using my emotional entanglement against me when she threatened to leave me on a regular basis. So these days when she does it, I can honestly say – well go ahead. But I think it is a rotten relationship where you can just say – fine you want to leave me, go ahead I do not care. Or should we call it a relationship at all?

Childhood abuse and social class

So, sometimes I wonder how come, despite having had really really bad childhood, I have somehow managed to stay borderline functional throughout my life. My theory is that class background influences both how people deal with the dysfunctions as well as how deep we will fall as a result of our traumas.

So, I am from middle class background, but because I grew up relatively poor, saw a lot of other kids around me that came from working class. The way I dealt with my loneliness, anxiety and all the other issues was through escaping to schoolwork. I was seeking love and approval through becoming hardworking. I sought to escape bullying by working myself up to go to an elite school where most people were somewhat socially awkward. Achievements, childhood fiction books and imaginary world were my way to handle the big problems around me. On the grand scale of things, these are all societally less destructive ways than for instance drugs and alcohol. So while I was dying in the inside, I still managed to give an impression of a functional person and I managed not to fall down down….

How is this related to social class? Well, my coping mechanisms are partially copied from my mum who used food and workoholism and shopping to relieve her pain. Her workoholism granted her career success and later also allowed us a decent standard of living. The presence of money also made shopping available as a managing mechanism. None of the adults around me had any problems with alcohol nor drugs. I in fact got to try alcohol when I was I think six or seven at the party with my mum. Alcohol never played much of the role in my life until later days of college. And I mean, I have still to witness anyone using any hard drugs in my presence.

The fact that my mother was educated also made books readily available. I could use books to escape my dire reality and dream myself to sleep. Furthermore, education was not only encouraged but practically forced upon me. I was punished for bad grades on a regular basis. However, that made me use achievements and schoolwork as a gratification mechanism.

Overall my claim here is that your class origin influences what kind of coping strategies you use upon abuse. Mine, whereas still dysfunctional, were less dangerous for me as an individual than many others which I could have chosen. I do not only mean drugs and alcohol, I mean also for instance seeking closeness through sex and promiscuity, falling into abusive relationships whatnot. We copy the behaviors of adults around us and since all these things were relatively uncommon in my

Why was it so easy for my exes to walk away?

I am currently dealing with my abandonment issues in my therapy and I am starting to cultivate quite a different view on my past relationships.

So previously I thought that the fact that my exes could walk away easily was a testament of my low value. That somehow I should have performed better, convinced them to care what not. I do not necessarily disagree with this, as I am sure I made many mistakes…However someone being able to walk away easily, I mean, this does not happen because you make small mistakes here and there. This happens if the person does not care much to begin with. My ex made some really questionable stuff during our relationship and never did I think that I could walk away easily. But most of my exes did….

This however means that their engagement in this relationship and their emotional investment where lofty to begin with. I spent much time thinking if only had I been better they would have not wanted to leave me. To be honest, if someone does not either dare to or want to get their feet wet in the relationship, it really does not matter how good you are. They woun’t. Of course you can also with your own behavior make other people invest less which I have done as well, no doubt. The art is to distinguish between your role and your partner’s role.

I am pretty sure I have subconsciously chosen guys who do not want to get their feet wet. My parents’ behavior and the fact that it was so easy for both to just walk away from me left its mark. I started to consider this normality and thought that it was common that you had to work hard for your own parents (or partners) wanting to stick around. Now that I am writing these lines it sounds outrageous that someone would have to go out of their way to convince their parents to be present in their life. I am not even talking about my parents loving me, I am talking about pure presence.

So obviously the bar for the relationships was pretty low to begin with. You just had to show up and seem to be interested. I could never distinguish between real investment and just tagging along. For me just tagging along was all I could ever ask from someone. Anything above that was already way more than my parents did and would raise serious questions about my worthiness for that.

“We do not meet often but when we do it is like good old days”

I have always been puzzled by how some people define friendships. I have one such ‘friend’ who uses the sentence in the title to describe most of his friendships and to be honest, to me they do not sound like friendships. It sounds more like something for consumption. Like when I have an itch that needs scratching, when I need some entertainment, I will turn to my god old friends and then I can feel good on my way home.

To not get me wrong, I do not advocate having to talk to your friends every day. But to me people who just randomly jump into my life perhaps once a year are not really friends. They might have once been my friends, but they are not friends anymore. How so?

Well simply because I consider the groundwork of friendship to be caring. There I measure others by what I am willing to contribute myself. When I care about someone, I want to know how they are doing. Asking my friends once in a while about their lives requires really minimal effort. People who are not even able to do this, well, I cannot really force myself to define them as friends.

I mean there needs to be certain emotional closeness between you and your friends. Maybe indeed our history together means that we can effortlessly talk about more serious issues in my life. Maybe there is a certain intimacy that one would not establish with strangers. However, I can also have certain intimacy with my exes when I randomly meet them once in a while. That does not make my exes my friends.

I am still struggling finding out if my expectations are just too high. Perhaps I am just overly needy person. Perhaps there are degrees of caring. Perhaps people do not always express their care. But to be honest if this is how modern relationships work, I am not sure I want to be part of it. Also, if a random colleague knows more about my life at any given moment than a friend (because lets face it, how much can you really share in one meeting in a year) then I really do not see the reason to call this person my friend.

I truly think that with people we care about, we do not want to have the contact only once a year or once in two years. It would be painful to stay away from them for this long. So the question really is – do you need to care about your friends and vice versa.

From dependent to independent

For most of my life I have been looking for someone that would take care of me. I never trusted myself to take care of my needs nor wellbeing. In my mind I was helpless and in need of some grownup who would take responsibility for my life. I did not really feel I could myself.

If someone was to ask me today if I feel like I can take full responsibility for my life, I would still say no. I avoid taking responsibility at work where I am just too damn scared of messing things up. It is a constant struggle for me to act like a financially responsible adult. In fact this feeling of helplessness and the search for someone who would be able to act as a supervisor shows in all areas of my life. It still does.

This is my big struggle. As I have not yet fully delved into this issue in my therapy, I can only guess why I struggle so much in this area. I think it is because of my mother’s unwillingness to provide me any guidance. Her attempts to curtail my independence just to make me dependent enough so that I would not start complaining over the inappropriate amount of care I received. You know similar to my relationships with commitment phobic men….But I still need to do my work in regards to healing my wounds in this area.

It pains me to look at people around me who obviously never had this struggle. Their lives at this point seem like the lives which are appropriate for their age whereas mine seems to be a standing evidence of my inability to take responsibility. What more, they are living testament of who I would want to become. I want to at some day wake up and say, yes, I trust myself, yes, I have my life in order. Unfortunately this day does not seem to be approaching in at least one years’ time, maybe even longer.

But in the meanwhile I am making baby steps. Like breaking up and living alone for the first time in my life. or making independent decisions. Or starting to calculate my finances. I just often find myself wishing that there was a coach next to me to give me feedback on my development. To give me credit for my successes…. Because lets face it, if I compare my small successes with other people around me and my level of development with them, it seems there is nothing to celebrate.

I guess I just wish that I had a parent that would support and encourage my independence.

Why some people act entitled?

I am currently visiting my mother and that has given me so much food for thought. Today, inspired by a recent event with my mum, I wanted to talk about entitlement.

The event in itself was following. My mother asked me to help her with something. However it quickly appeared that she had most her days booked and she in fact had only very few times she could do the chore. Instead of telling me, OK fine, I must have made a miscalculation here, she started blaming me for never helping her and resorted to her room where she sat pouting the whole evening. This behavior just puzzled me so much, because there were so many things wrong here. I mean…..

If you ask someone a favor, in my mind you are going to be accommodating towards this person and you do your damnest to agree on a time that fits them. What you definitely do not do is to demand that they cancel their plans. Finally if they refuse, you do not go into pouting mode, which only lets the helper know that you are unable to take into account their needs.

So I concluded that there are some people that just feel entitled. Mind me, my mum does not feel such entitlement about other people, but she feels it about me. She feels that she is entitled for accommodating and nice behavior from me, irregardless of how she behaves herself.

And now comes the moment of honesty. My ex told me numerous times that I acted entitled during our relationship. I never understood what he was talking about. In my mind he had issues with people’s expectations (and he did). However, I am now starting to see his point of view. So why did I act entitled?

I acted entitled, because I thought asking people for things made me inferior. It set me to the position of one man down, so I did not do that with strangers, but in relationships, I thought I should not have to do that. This imaginary position of inferiority made me feel so bad that I would rather go around and tell him what he owed me than actually ask for things. Of course, my ex would also go around telling me constantly what he had done for me, so this did not help with my feelings of inferiority.

Anyways, based on my own behavior, I assume that people who act entitled feel extremely vulnerable when asking something from someone. In order to avoid feeling vulnerable, they would rather go and aggressively demand it, because then the other people do not see that they are actually in need of help. Instead they show as fighting for their rights or whatnot. Anything but not weak and vulnerable. I think, at least for me, understanding where this entitlement comes from, makes it easier to deal with it.

Parents that ignore their kids problems

My whole childhood went by with my mum ignoring my problems or telling me to take care of them and somehow not bother her with those. Perhaps the clearest examples were my illnesses. I had a stomach flu a lot when I was a kid and I do not have a single memory of my mum actually getting up at night and doing anything for me. Mind me, the earliest memories I have are from the age of five. At this age I was already completely independently getting up and sleeping in the bathroom because I did not want to ruin the bed. My mum still talks about the one and the only time when I actually vomited in the bed and how troublesome it was for her. Other times when I actually was shaking and sleeping in the bathroom, well she treats as normality. This is how it should work.

The situation is completely different when she is ill. She once asked me to come to the countryside and take care of her when she was ill in the middle of the night before I was supposed to move to another country the next day. Yes. She was not even supposed to be there sending me away to another country, because she had her vacation.

This habit of hers to show remarkable indifference towards my problems still shows. We do not talk about my problems. The most personal I can get with my mum is talking about my work. Overall we usually talk about her life and her work. Just like we did throughout my childhood.

If my problems became so big that they were impossible to ignore, like me considering suicide because of the bullying and finally confessing to my mum, she sent me away. She sent me to the psychologist (which was quite a good move). Mind me not the paid one, but a school psychologist which was for free. We never ever talked about the issue again. She had successfully delegated the responsibility for my problems to someone else.

I learned that no one cares about your problems. I learned that you should not even bother other people with your issues. Furthermore, I learned to take care of other people’s needs and problems and not even expect any kind of mutuality there. I also did not have any successful skills in resolving my problems, because no grownup ever bothered to give me any advice on solving them. So for most of my life my problem solving skills remained to the level of five year old.

I hate that there is a part of me that still longs and wishes that mum would care. That she would show for once interest in how I have managed with all the issues in my life. But no, she is usually there to take the credit for my achievements but never there through my hardships. I just had to write this post about my current feelings. More analysis will follow.