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.
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.
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…
My mother has lived her life working. She spends her weekends plotting a new project, she spends her evenings thinking about some work tasks and occasionally she likes to complain how everyone is so dependent on her and expects her to work so much. I always want to say – of course they do and you actually like this feeling of importance. It compensates for your inner feelings of unlovability. But instead I listen and try to be emapthic as I was throughout my childhood.
Our society glorifies workoholism. It attaches all kinds of negative connotations to other kinds of addictions such as food addiction, alchoholism etc., but workoholism is glorified. I took over my mother’s habit to use work as an escape mechanism. Only lately have I started to counteract this habit and pay attention on other things in my life. At first this came with an immense guilt. I felt like I should be working instead of taking some time to rest or talk to friends or whatnot. Then it came with great feelings of insecurity, because lets face it, areas where you do not invest, do not develop. At the age of 25 I started to first cook for myself. At the age of 28 I started to first take some better care of my body – not going to work when sick. About the same age I started to put more attention to what I was wearing. All these things….
It is still a process I struggle with. Work feels safe and just about the only area where I can feel competent and in control. Most other areas in my life I feel completely incomptenet, mostly because they were never developed. As a 31 year old, my social skills are still somewhat lacking. My way of coping with emotions is problematic. My handling of finances is wanting. I am still learning about basic tips on how totake care of my appearance. All these things that a lot of people learn from home, I never did. Furthermore, I needed to break some heavy barriers to even get to the point where I could spend some time doing these things.
When someone comes from a family of alchoholics, they get societal sympathy. It is uniformly agreed that what happened at their home was dysfunctional. When someone comes from a family of workoholics, not only is the dysfunctionality aspect never talked about, furthermore they might even get the idea that their family values are something worth celebrating. Noone says to a child of alchoholics – you should really be proud of your parents or you should learn from them. On the other hand workholic is set as an example and noone questions whether this is a good and healthy example to set.
My mother did not teach me basic stuff like brushing my teeth. She did not take care of me when I was ill. She did not bother to be emotionally there for me or hold any kind of significant conversations with me about me (most conversations we had were about her work). She did however teach me that it is OK to let your work frustrations out on a child. It is OK to neglect your needs and just work. It is OK to take extra work even if you do not need it. It is OK to work during vacation, well, actually vacations are overrated anyways. It is OK to not do any sports at all. It is OK to eat random junk food, because you do not bother to pay any attention to this. It is OK not to have any social relations. It is OK to not clean the house. Finally, it is also OK to let people down because of your work.
I therefore think that workholism should be taken much more serious than it currently is.
My default mode is to give responsibility for my life to someone else….Anyone else that agrees to take it. I mean, anyone else would be better qualified to take this responsibility than me, myself. I wonder why?
Of course, add to the equation also the fact that I do not really trust other people to stick around and you get a funny combination. I want someone to prove to me that they can take this responsibility and that I can count on them, but I am never convinced that I actually can.
So I can see two issues here. One is that I keep hoping that someone else will help me with things which any responsible adult should be able to handle themselves. The other problem is though my trust issues. And guess what, as much as I wanted to meet this person who would take responsibility for my life, I ran into two interlinked problems.
The first issue was that no one really wants to be responsible for another adult. I mean this is too much responsibility. I mean, whoever wants to be responsible, you should be suspicious off, because likely there is a significant tradeoff somewhere. The other issue was of course that I also tended to choose guys that were either instable or too immature to stick around once I had serious problems.
I am trying to take the responsibility for my life nowadays, but it is long and difficult process. It has its relapses.
I am doing a lot of rethinking about my life these days, hence so many posts.
I have been anxious lately. Perhaps it is about my ex moving out soon. Perhaps it is my work stress. Perhaps it is my financial struggles. Perhaps it is some of my addictions. Perhaps it is my love interest blocking me. However, as I zoomed in to the anxiety, something really different started to uncover.
Namely, I am used to living my life, being controlled by someone unstable. Being dependent on someone who was not really dependable. I am used to feeling at least some level of anxiety all the time. I mean I had to constantly watch my steps. I developed a certain self-regulation mechanism where even when my mother was not a round, I was mortally afraid of her judgement. I still am. Only these days I rationalize it as me objectively screwing up.
So what do I do? I recreate this early childhood feeling of being dependent on someone non reliable. I choose either guys who constantly judge me. Or guys who are unreliable and unpredictable. Or maybe both in one person. Anything to recreate this early feeling of not being safe in the world. Hell, I even chose an unstable career which is based on me constantly getting scrutinized. Little did I know about how many of my choice in this life were defined by this constant feeling of insecurity and constant feeling of being unsafe.
Obviously it is not really something you fix with one day, but I think me understanding this already takes me closer to perhaps solving it. Perhaps being able to create a more secure life for myself. I feel that so far I have sabotaged all the kind of security there potentially was in my life. I feel that me realizing that I have been sabotaging it is a breakthrough. I am looking forward to being able to create a more secure future for myself.
When I was fifteen my father reappeared and wanted to establish some kind of contact with me. Mind me he had earlier occasionally shown up and met with me for one evening and then disappeared again. My very skeptical reading as to why he wanted to connect with me at the age of fifteen would be that, he assumed that most of the work of child-raising would be done by this point and he could reap some rewards of having a child.
However connecting with me did not exactly go as planned. Namely I was distant and mistrustful. I had trouble opening up and talking to him which was obviously not something he expected. In his mind he was hoping for a daughter who would embrace him warmly and give him some of the love he was missing in his life. The idea of having to rebuild the trust at this point was not part of his plan.
So it did not take long for him to disappear again. Even if it seems obvious that it was my fault, subconsciously, I think I have always held myself accountable for his disappearances. I mean how else would I explain that when my ex disappeared, somehow I believed him when he explained to me how I had made him disappear. How relationship with me was so draining that he had no choice but to vanish for months. I looked at other happy couples and felt myself like a total failure, because I somehow made my boyfriend want to run away from me and not even keep in contact with me.
Interestingly enough when my ex reappeared, it was not him who had to work with regaining my trust. No, instead it was me who somehow had to fight for not having him abandon me completely. This sounds perverse as I write this here but I think even today there is a part of me that keeps asking – why don’t they want me? Why does no one want me enough for them to invest and fight for their relationship with me? Why do I have to fight for the right to have them in my life instead?
It is apparently these types of men I keep looking for. The kind of men for whose presence I have to fight for. The kind who disappear and reappear or make me work for their attention and love never giving me enough security about the relationship.
It has taken me for years to understand that on some level I have taken responsibility for my father’s assholish behavior. That on some level I thought his disappearances spoke more about me than about him. I also understand that just because I now understand rationally that these disappearances should not speak of me, emotional understanding might take a while, still.
Today I am going to tell you about this perverse habit of mine to get security from imaginary relationships. So lets put it like this – I am anxious person. Future insecurities scare me. We are talking about me thinking at least two three years in advance and worrying about things that might happen. I am a neurotic person. So what do I do?
I escape into imaginary relationships. I just imagine my new love interest to be this pillar of security. Mind me this new love interest might be a person I have only talked once or twice, but somehow imagined that there was some connection. Thinking that there might be something between us, oddly makes me feel secure. Like there is some kind of support – even though lets face it, there really is not.
That is how I get attached to guys who might have long ago forgotten about my existence. I get attached to them and I hardly evaluate whether they are into me, whether they are secure enough etc., because to a degree what they are like does not matter. It matters what role I ascribe to them in my head. Often times when the reality does not conform to my imagination, I really desperately keep hanging on to my imagination.
But lets take a concrete example. I had this internet acquaintanship lately which got really close. We had not met each other in real life, but I really thought that there was a strong connection. Granted he was giving off mixed messages, but well I ignored those. Then suddenly he disappeared. Like literally disappeared. Instead of reevaluating this guy and saying to myself – well this guy is really instable, I kept hanging on to the idea that we might some day have a relationship. I mean does anyone normal really want to have a relationship with someone who has disappeared on them?
So yeah, I am not really sure what to do with this pattern. I hate people who say that being conscious about your patterns is somehow already half way to the finish line. It is not! These patterns are subconscious and it takes a lot more than mere knowledge about your patterns. Furthermore, it feels a bit frustrating that I still struggle so much with building healthy relationships even after all these years.
I have frequently wondered why I am so quick to feel like an outsider and why I take the role of a scapegoat in the big group setting. I suspect that my role is not solely in my head, but I am more likely to be rejected by groups as well. So far I thought that it has been my experience with bullying which has impacted my social behavior. However, today I discovered another layer to this feeling of non-belonging.
When it went back to my happiest memories, memories where I really felt the warmth of home and love, I discovered moments which I had spent at my childhood friend’s home. She has a full family with mother father and a sister. Her mother was this warm and welcoming creature, being able to really create a sense of home. My mum as opposed to that was a workaholic who used work to run away from her emotional problems and came home to unload work stress (well at least mostly). So there was a stark contrast between those two homes.
However, I never really really belonged to my friend’s home. I mean I did belong but in the end of the day I was not at home in this space. I was not at the liberty of deciding when to play or what to wear etc. I was a guest. Interestingly in my coziest memories related to home I am a guest. Hence home was meant for someone else. Someone else got to enjoy the welcoming atmosphere and the only way I could join in was by stealing some rare moments and invading someone else’s home space.
I think this really has been the defining experience of my life. Other people had homes and families. Other people felt welcomed and supported. I did not have a family. I did not have support. Hence when going to visit someone’s family, I feel inconvenient. I have no idea what it feels. I feel like a stranger, like I have no business there.
Recent events have pushed to analyze my abandonment issues further. Namely, I recently had a bit of a disagreement with my friend and I noticed how upset I became when he distanced himself. This has also pushed me to describe various ways through which I handle abandonment issues in my life. I believe these ways are perhaps also familiar to other people who struggle with the same problem.
My first way to deal with my abandonment fear is to surround myself with people. I make friends, I try to keep in contact, I try to avoid loneliness. Naturally this has become a lot more difficult with my move to foreign country, but also with people simply starting to have families. At the point where I still had ample choice of friends around, I put much less stress on my relationship. With fewer friends, I make increasing demands to my partner on having to be available to me. Furthermore, now that I am single, I get attached awfully easily. I meet a guy and my mind goes around already planning a future with him.
My second strategy to deal with my abandonment issues is through avoidance. When I get triggered I try to numb myself with alcohol, food or shopping (it could previously also be through contacting friends). I can also work obsessively or watch Netflix. All the replacement activities that there are.
My third strategy is self-improvement. I used to read tons of self-development books with the sole purpose of being more attractive as a friend or lover. I thought, that when I could make myself perfect enough, people would like me, come to communicate with me and definitely not abandon me.
My fourth strategy is distancing and try to control this fear. I have become aware of my abandonment issues and the toll they have on my relationships. So I try hard not to overwhelm people. When I get too obsessed or close, I consciously distance myself. It makes having sincere relationships from my side difficult, because I am constantly keeping in mind – do not overwhelm the other person, do not overwhelm them. Remember! Furthermore, the relationship obviously circles more around the other persons needs than mine.
Finally, something which I do very little these days, I blame the people for abandoning me. I mostly do this with my significant others. I tell them how they should have been there for me and they chose not to be and how unfair it is.