One-sided expectations in relationships

I have always been a very flexible person and also rather accommodating. Being often hampered by fear of disappointing other people, I usually did my best trying to anticipate their wishes and confer with those. When someone got angry with me for not fulfilling their expectations, I was quick to feel bad and apologize.

Recently I have noticed myself getting angry at people who come in and demand something from me without any regard to fulfilling their end of the deal. I am starting to finally realize that expectations should be mutual, it should not only be me fulfilling their expectations, but I too, can have expectations on others.

Let me exemplify this with couple of cases. I have a boss who, as I now understand, often turns to me at the last minute when she needs something to get fixed quickly. This has led to me putting in weekends and extra hours just to get things ready. So yesterday she turned to me again with one of such issues telling me that I had made promises in finishing some task and now it was my job to figure out how to finish it together with other tasks. I got angry, because this task was meant to be finished by the end of this week, however, my boss herself could not complete her tasks earlier than today and assumed that I would somehow magically make my part happen within few days (counting weekend). Her accusations on me not fulfilling my promise were skillfully neglecting her not being able to fulfill her bargain of the deal.

Another example involves a friend who just couple of days ago was angry at me for brushing her off when she was trying to describe her problem via phone. It was an inconvenient time for me, but nevertheless I apologized. The same friend, when I tried to tell her about my medical issue, which is a tad more serious than her problem, was as unemphatic as ever. Moreover, she found that she has nothing to apologize for, because I called the wrong time. I am still angry at her.

These two examples illustrate something that has been going on for years. Namely, me quickly apologizing when people accuse me, not thinking if maybe their accusations do not comply with how they themselves would react in similar situation. Furthermore, it also illustrates the pattern of me trying to fulfill other people’s expectations without setting any demands on them from my side. It somewhat feels like a lightbulb has turned on in my head.

 

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Embracing who you are

I am not a very average person. My weirdness or specialness goes to the extent which motivated my ex to tell me that he has never met anyone like me or even comparable to me. Part of my recent struggle has been to accept and embrace this individuality.

 
See my whole life I have heard everyone scolding me. No, it was not only my mother who clearly wanted me to be more practical and organized, but it was also teachers, friends and what nots. One of my friends for instance recently criticized me for prioritizing talking in a relationship, I think her exact words were something like – “Guys do not want to talk, you should just accept this, you are living in a dream”. My ex, whereas he noticed my being different from everybody else somehow also wanted me to be more like him – more logical and fact oriented namely.

 
When you are raised with such continuing criticisms, it is easy to feel that something is wrong with you. In fact this is how I have felt my whole life. I have spent years trying to deny and change who I am with varying degrees of success. I still struggle acknowledging that I, in fact, am dreamy, unpractical, a bit messy and unorganized and all the other things which our society seems to condemn.

 
It pains me to acknowledge that some of my closest people, while obviously finding something in my company which they liked, also spent considerable amount of time trying to change and retrain me. I am starting to realize that I have looked for understanding and support my whole life. I have been looking for someone that would see more in me than just this broken thing which needs to be somehow fixed.

 
Last year, whereas painfully difficult, has luckily sent me also some people who were able to see the gifts I have before I was actually becoming aware of those. Chase, in particular was someone who saw something in me, something more than I ever did. His belief in me started this process of changing. Jenny, one of my recent friends, has been another one to believe in me.

 
I cannot believe that it has taken me years to actually find people who do not need me to be different, but can see me for who I am and value this. Now I just need to learn to do this myself to a similar degree as well.

Acceptance towards your mistakes

I am going to describe the recent quite substantial experience I had. Namely, lately I have been walking around with this intense anxiety about being judged. I literally imagined every person at the street looking at me and coming up with all kinds of criticisms. I could not even attend social events because the anxiety got so bad. All I can say is that I guess the therapy really brought out these feelings which had been buried for years.

 
Luckily however, I finally figured out how to release this intense fear. It seems so obvious when I now think of it, but doing it was far from easy. Namely, I understood that there was almost no acceptance and forgiveness in my childhood. All the perceived and actual misgivings and doings were punished harshly. This was how I learned to treat myself as well, never giving any excuses nor understanding towards my issues. I kept mercilessly comparing myself with others and always falling short.

 
I understood that one of the central things I missed when growing up was someone coming and giving me a hug after I had for instance received a bad grade. Not someone telling me that if I do not start excelling at school I might find myself at the street at some point. It was not about denying that I had made mistakes, but rather accepting that I did those mistakes, but still being forgiven.

 
Similarly to my childhood, I myself struggled with forgiveness. I had hard time forgiving to myself for all the things I was not perfect in. I had hard time forgiving myself for the mistakes I did and instead tried to convince myself that those were in fact not mistakes. The point where I was actually able to admit that I have made mistakes, but not scrutinize myself for those, was the moment of release. I could literally feel the anxiety leaving my body and I understood, forgiveness and acceptance are the things I needed for all these years.

I am wrong

I grew up with the feeling that I was doing everything wrong. After all, when something happened at home, I was the first one to point a finger at. If my mother was in a bad mood, I was the first one to be blamed for it. Inside of me, there grew a feeling that I could never get it right.

So this is how I become people pleaser. I wanted to get it right. I really tried hard. When I got negative feedback, I tried harder. I worked longer. I went out of my way to achieve whatever I thought would bring me my mother approval.

It was not only that I grew sad because of constant blaming. No, I also felt afraid. Afraid that again, I might have done something wrong and this would entirely ruin my safety. After all, my mother angry was a horrible view. She did not control her actions at all. For a small child it felt life threatening.

So, in order to avoid dealing with this anger, I internalized her messages. I developed a strong critic that was always able to see potentially pitfalls in my actions. I started to see myself as always wrong. Soon she did not even have to say anything, I already blamed myself to the degree that what she said was completely irrelevant.

So when my inner critic got stronger, I started feeling more and more wrong. Inside of me there has always been this sadness. Feeling of being devalued and unregonized. I, in fact, have devalued myself the most. I have no idea how to solve this yet, but I am trying to move slowly towards banishing this inner critic so that I could stop blaming myself for all the things in my life that I have not achieved.

Feeling like you are not good enough in the relationship

I have spent last years feeling that I am not good enough for my boyfriend. Oddly enough this feeling is so ingrained in me that it usually takes a third person to point out fallacies in my thinking. Before I get into why and how exactly I have felt like I am not good enough, let me explain the background of this feeling.

The conflicts in my family were usually solved in one way – me apologizing for being wrong. Actually, come to think of it, I do not remember a single instance where my mother has ever admitted to being wrong. So it got ingrained in me – I was fallible. So fallible that in fact, I should first and foremost always look for mistakes in myself. Furthermore, I should not have any expectations on how other people should behave with me, but rather I should take care of fulfilling their expectations. This is the pattern I have continued in my relationships. I have been mighty concerned about satisfying my boyfriend’s expectations.

Few days ago a friend asked me introduced me to a mind blowing perspective – in all situations your partner should take into account who you are. It is not fair for him to expect that you become a social butterfly when you are not. This somehow challenged something deep in me. I have spent so much time thinking how I am behaving in imperfect ways that I have totally neglected that my partner in fact has very little consideration and respect towards who I am. If I do not behave according to his expectations in certain situations, I am made to take a blame for my ‘inappropriate behavior’. These situations hardly ever take into account who I am and his interpretation of these is always that I am in fact wrong.

I have yet no idea what to do with this information, but I shall continue my reframing process.

Personalizing other people’s feelings

I am slowly coming to the realization that, I have assumed responsibility for other people’s behavior and feelings my whole life. For instance, I assumed that my ex boyfriend’s inability to express his love to me was connected to me not being good enough. Surely, with someone else he would have been open to expressing his love.

It is a very difficult way of living- you constantly assume responsibility and blame for how others treat you. When someone oversteps your borders, you do not think- well I must just inform this other person about my borders. No, you rather think- what is wrong with me that, they feel they can treat me this way? Why do they assume that I am so bad?

Other people become just extensions of you- they do not have their own will. Hence, their behaviors say something about you and not them.

I have always thought that way and I am only now moving away from this way of thinking. This bias is usually a result of an abusive childhood where you do not develop clear borders between you and your caregiver. It is very common with narcissistic parents, who by definition see you as an extension of themselves. So you do learn that, everything you do, is going to impact the wellbeing of your parents. So when mommy is angry, it must be because you messed up. The world centers around you and other beings reflect your value back to you- when they treat you badly, this means you have low value, not that they are assholes.

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..

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.

Falling-out with a friend

Faithallen in (faithallen.wordpress.com) is writing that together with therapy, some relationships might end or at least change its face. I have never experienced it to such a degree as currently with my best friend.

Our friendship has always functioned in a way that she was the one put-together, giving me advice on various matters and getting to have the upper hand in the relationship. I was the needy one, in need of advice and support. What is happening is, that together with not being so needy, I have started gaining my own voice. So couple of weeks ago I confronted her about her behavior where she was forcing on me her advice and opinion (on a regular basis) by saying that I would appreciate if she in the future would refrain from such a behavior. Naturally she did not take it well, moreover, she pulled the martyr card by saying how she is not allowed to tell me anything, because I am so sensitive, and how I am not taking her good advice.

So I concluded that our relationship has functioned in a manner where I always looked up to her- she was the one whose life was together. This form of relationship meant that I hardly ever criticized her or gave her advice, whereas she had always felt even invited by me, to give me advice and criticism. So I understood something I had missed throughout these years- she cannot accept criticism. She cannot accept someone saying that some of her comments or her behavior is not OK.

The whole drama escalated at some point when she started wondering why I have not contacted her. So I had to tell her, that I found her behavior problematic. This only started the long series of accusations towards me and ended with her declaration that I should have just told her if I do not want to be her friend.

This is something I find extremely difficult to take- people that cannot take any negative comments on their behavior. You drawing your borders and saying- I have heard you advice and criticism, but I choose not to take it, is not acceptable. This is due to the fact that this criticism is not given on your behalf. This advice is given to make them feel better about themselves, as if they would help the bystanders, then these bystanders would start loving them more. Somehow, they would earn the love of these people.

As I choose not to be the helpless victim anymore, the advisors in my life also need to take a new role. They need to face the fact that I am having my voice and also might confront them about their behavior. This might be extremely difficult to some, as I have witnessed with my best friend.

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.