Why I am uncomfortable with dating – inability to say no

So, for the past days, I have been mulling over my potential issues related to online dating and the guys going into chasing mode. I think I am starting to finally understand what my problem is.

I do not know how to say no. In my childhood saying no was not really something that was acceptable. Me defending my interests or borders was interpreted as aggressive and rebellious and this was to be pushed down the minute it was seen. By the age of seven I had become so docile that when visiting someone I was afraid to ask where the toilet was. I was afraid to say when I had some pain or when I did not want to eat what was offered. Basically, I was afraid of creating any kinds of waves or attracting any kind of attention to myself.

This inability to say no lead me becoming a victim of child molesters. These guys know their game, they know whom to choose as a victim. Even though I was never sexually abused as a child (at least I think I was not), I became a head target for 50 year old guys, simply because they sensed my inability to say no. So all kinds of things happened from these guys touching my knees to dry humping. Luckily since I was never alone with these guys and never agreed to go anywhere with them, the worst never happened. However, I need to thank god that I was not particularly popular among teenage guys, because I swear to god, I would have just plainly done everything they told me to do.

So when I talk to guys in the internet, I suddenly become this little child again. I cannot tell them when they have crossed the borders. I am too scared to make any waves. I am too scared to make myself heard. So I am afraid that as I go on a date with someone, this pattern will just be exaggerated and I will just plainly agree doing whatever these guys want me to do. This has happened plenty in my relationships, why would that be any different on dates?

So I need to somehow take care of my vulnerabilities before I can go any further with my dating.

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Is workoholism really a problem?

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.

In a relationship with narcissist?

All  – my mother and my two exes show some signs of narcissism. I find that the definition of narcissist as someone who is hiding their true self behind some grandiose false self is quite fitting. It has taken me some time to actually start perceiving these behaviors and narcissistic traits, because I never questioned those.

Lately, with a little bit of distance I am starting to see such behaviors more clearly in my ex. I notice certain manipulative behaviors. For instance, my ex finds it necessary to fill me in, in terms of how many women flirt with him. Hell, he wrote a separate message to tell me. Actually, he was telling me also in the middle of our relationship about some women that flirted with him. This to me seems like a behavior which is catered towards showing ‘how wanted guy he is’.

Another behavior that I have recently noticed is his lack of regard to my feelings. When I actually tried to communicate my feelings in the relationship, my ex repeatedly said that I was overly dramatic and everything circled around my feelings in the relationship and his were never taken into account. Now, I cannot comment on how much I took into account his feelings or not, because obviously I am not an objective judge for that, but what I can say is, if he was really constantly taking into account my feelings over his, then his reactions would not have so often entailed telling me how insignificant those very feelings were. Namely there is a certain discord between him telling me how he never dared to go against my feelings and openly telling me that I was a drama queen. If he really had been so afraid to confront me, he would ha never be able to tell me something like this.

Now another thing, which I have pointed out repeatedly in this blog already was that my ex really did not like when I brought out his negative behaviors or traits. Mostly I thought it was just because he could not accept blame, but now I am coming to see that me pointing to these very weaknesses was actually threatening his false image. I was pointing too much to this vulnerable self that he was trying to cover up. My ex is still pointing out to me that he does not like to analyze himself and he does not like to deal with his feelings. In fact, he hates me doing this as well. I used to think this was some fault of mine – being overly obsessed with these things (ex also openly blamed me for that). Now I see this in a different manner, in fact if you have an open and loving relationship you do open up about these feelings and vulnerabilities. You do not see someone who tries to help you open up as an enemy.

There are multiple other behaviors which I am starting to see, but I will leave these for the next post.

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.

 

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..