My partner has a high need for alone time. Most of our evenings are spent with him staying at his computer and us barely saying a word to eachother. This has not always been the case, but went worse when he started telling me how emotionally needy I was and how conversations in our relationship were his favor to me. So for a while I just swallowed my needs and felt bad about being emotionally needy. Not only this, but he also pathologized my needs, by telling me how everything was caused by my childhood traumas and how no person in this world could potentially fulfill my emotional needs.
I took and victimized myself. I felt rejected and left alone. I also felt ashamed and took it as my mission to become super independent in therapy so that no one could ever tell me again how they are doing me favors in the relationship. This until……
I realized that the relationship cannot function based on one person’s needs only. Even though he has high need to withdraw, he cannot run this relationship based solely on his need. His need for emotional detachment is no healthier or more natural than my need for emotional closeness. When I finally realized this and stopped judging myself for what he called my emotional neediness, it was easier for me to negotiate the terms of the relationship. I suddenly realized that my needs are important and are not pathological, just different.
To be honest, being able to negotiate my needs was freeing for me. I have spent so much time feeling victimized and feeling as if the relationship runs solely on his terms that the whole idea that I can ask for what I need and it is also important feels like a totally new level of empowerment. It feels as if I do not need to spend my whole life trying to conform to someone else’s standards and go an extra mile to be liked by them, but that I can also have my own demands and needs.
I know that for many people that might seem simple and logical, but for me that is a real game changer.
They say that one of the reasons behind commitment phobia is a fear of expectations. I can honestly admit that I have kept my partners away from my life in order to avoid facing their judgement. I did not want them to witness what a mess I was. Eventually I had to still let someone see this mess – my current boyfriend and even he agrees that I was a hot mess when we started living together.
The funny thing about this fear of disappointing others is hence that it is completely justified. You do not want to go into a relationship warning your partner about you not having your life together. So when is the good point to tell them that well, actually……you have a depression or you are bad at housework etc etc.
In my case I am slowly facing the fact that I will never become a good family person. I believe that ship has sailed. I can try to compensate as much as I want, I can go to psychologist and I can heal my wounds, but there are some things I cannot change anymore. At least that is how I feel.
I grew up on my own. Or as my boyfriend likes to say – among cats. He has on multiple occasions compared me with a girl from a jungle – the one that has no idea how a family life should function. I have no idea how to conform to common meals. I still struggle cooking regularly. I have a tendency to hide myself behind my work. I struggle spending intimate time with my boyfriend. There is just too much to compensate for.
Family matters. Not only for psychological health, but also for our lifestyle. I have spent 30 years living like an hermit. The fact that my boyfriend is not the greatest fan of family life does not help. I feel that for any random guy I would be a complete disappointment in terms of my household skills or the lack of those. I terms of what I cannot do.
I can feel quite confident today in my skills as a social being. As a seductress. Even as partially independent woman. But I am not sure if I will ever feel confident as a housewife. And the fact that I am so painfully aware of all my misgivings in this area does not help.
My whole life I have felt unwanted. This feeling has been following me in life for so long that it has completely clouded my judgements about what is going around me. For instance I never entered to the relationship fully believing that these guys actually wanted to date me. I rather thought, well I could somehow trick them there, but wait until they find out who they are actually dating. Similarly, I felt major insecurity in social situations, where I would always assume that any moment now someone will ‘find out’ who I really am. That I am just pretending to be confident and having my life together.
This feeling of unwanted has also naturally motivated me to engage in series of relationships which were non-commitmental and long for guys who never had equal interest in me. The trouble is, I have real difficulty distinguishing when a guy is unavailable and when I am just based on my deep feeling of unwantedness over interpreting things. For instance I cannot to a date say if my ex boyfriend actually was serious about me and if he was only pushed away by my neediness and my beliefs that he does not love me or if he actually indeed did not love me. The same applies to a degree to my current relationship. I cannot understand if he is serious about me or not.
I have spent so long time believing that people do not care about me nor would choose me if they have a choice that well, all my life has basically been molded around this belief. The trouble is, this belief did not come from thin air. Naturally I spent years of hearing my mother telling me in various forms how I was unlovable and I spent years being bullied and casted out by my peers. These are painful memories which still seem so recent. Every time I feel somewhat left out of some social circle it feels way worse for me than for other people, because it just awakens all these old feelings again. Every time I suspect that my boyfriend never has had an intention to commit to me, it feels like I am not going to get out of this hole ever.
I am not sure how much of the healing has to come inside of me and how much of it has to actually come from changing the outside environment. I am starting to acknowledge that in fact several of the unavailable guys that I chased actually in fact did not want me. I am starting to acknowledge that my last visit to my boyfriend’s home was colored by his friends ‘testing me’ and being in general less than welcoming. I am also starting to acknowledge that many friends have forgotten me and many who I thought were friends cared very little for me to begin with. So everything feels somewhat a mix right now. I am trying to push through, but sometimes the pain is quite overwhelming.
My parents planted an idea in me that once you love somebody, this person will have the power to treat you like shit. Loving means being weak and letting yourself take advantage of you. This is why I never liked dogs. Part of me found it disgusting how these animals would run after their master and stay faithful even if the master was the worst asshole ever.
The message in my childhood was clear – if you love someone, they are going to hurt you. SO better not to love someone so fully. You do not want them to have all this power over you, because people…they cannot be trusted.
This message became even clearer in my therapy when I started enforcing borders. In the middle of the process I cut myself loose from my mother. Suddenly this woman who had treated me like a loyal dog my whole life showed me that she has the capacity to take me into account. The magical shift in my mother furthermore strengthened my idea that love is for weak people. I never made the connection that my mother perhaps was not fully capable of loving anyone and perhaps what made a shift in her behavior was not love but fear.
So I learned to keep my distance. Use push and pull to keep men hooked. Flirt and tease. Anything to not to let someone too close. My boyfriend saw me without borders in the beginning of our relationship. The loyal and the dedicated, doormat kind of love. The only one I knew. Long and behold, he also treated me like shit at this point. Once I finally started distancing myself from him, he began working on the relationship. So once again I took the wrong message home – there is no need to love anyone, they are just going to abuse you.
I am working deeper with my abandonment fear and it has brought up quite a contradiction – namely you can think that someone is not particularly good and still be scared to death of losing them. I still harbor all the negative feelings towards my mother for putting me through emotional abuse and neglect, but I also have to acknowledge that I was constantly scared of losing her.
I was not only scared when she threatened to leave me, but also when she went for her work trips. I was scared when she came home really late. I had lost three other people – my dad, my grandfather and my grandmother. I spent my childhood worrying that I would also lose my mother.
This fear of loss is something which is extremely difficult for me to acknowledge. For the reasons I brought out earlier. How can you potentially miss and yearn for someone who is not treating you nicely? Does this make you a doormat? Are you still a valuable person or should you be ashamed of this feeling?
Surely, it is easy to answer to these questions when we are talking about a child. For a child loosing their parent is always scary. No matter how abusive this parent is. But what if you carry those feelings to adulthood? What if you are constantly scared of losing people who are not treating you particularly nicely?
Being an adult who is afraid of letting go is somewhat shameful. We have all these concepts like codependent or pushover etc. In my case, feeling like I was a pushover for my whole childhood and finally getting angry at my mother for what she had done, made it impossible for me to explore all the fear that was still related to losing her. Somehow I thought that acknowledging this part would make me weak. It would be the most shameful aspect of my growing-up. The part that I still missed and also loved my mother.
Fearful avoidant attachment pattern was the latest addition to the attachment theory and apparently describes only about 4% of people. I can quite confidently say that I have fearful avoidant attachment pattern. As I go deeper into my psyche, I am discovering more and more distortions from my childhood. My boyfriend often functions as a sounding board for that.
So the latest discovery for me was that I never believe that people can be consistently there for me. According to my boyfriend, my mother shows very little motherly instinct. Growing up with her, I got used to the fact that she can totally forget about my existence for weeks. When other parents go away for trips and miss their small children (we are talking about 4-5 year olds), then my mother does not. No, I am not exaggerating, she really does not or well, she has buried these feelings so deep that it does not even occur to her that she might. She avoided building emotional closeness with me so that she could have this freedom of not being tied to anyone else.
Avoiding this emotional closeness also meant that my mother could throw me out to the street and wait for my apology. She could go away from home and sleep somewhere else just to frighten me. So I got used to the fact that she could disappear any moment now. There was no warrantee. She did not have any strong ties with me which could not have been replaced by someone else. I was replacable as a child.
So, my habit of running after emotionally unavailable guys is completely understandable. They do avoid building this bond. These guys can disappear for months and for me this is all part of normality. This is how I imagine love. I never questioned that these unavailable guys must really love me, because questioning that would have also meant that perhaps my mother did not love me.
SO there it is, my idea of love is completely twisted.
I have noticed that when it comes to others expectations, my mother and my boyfriend are scary similar. Both hate being subject to any kind of demands and react rather aggressively on dependency and other people’s expectations. This is extremely problematic when you are raising a kid as witnessed from my childhood.
Understanding my mother’s problematic relationship with expectations has made me reframe the relationship and cut down any kind of reliance. It is not that she would not do things for me, it is just that this is in no way any kind of reliable source. Furthermore, I never know how and when she will react to me asking favors from her. So I generally do not.
After all the fight me and my boyfriend have had on the topic of expectations, I have taken similar kind of attitude with him. He keeps repeating that his problem is not in my expectations on him, but rather in the fact that I am unwilling to return any kind of favors, but this is just a mere circular logic. My boyfriend likes to keep himself independent and does not easily trust other people with anything. The more autonomous he is, the better. Hence, he does not even ask for anything from me and my attempts to do something for him usually end with me hearing how badly this was done. However, the unbalanced ratio of expectations in the relationship is working as a shield for him.
Avoiding expectations is one of the signs of commitment issues. Commitment phobic people do not want create any dependency in others, because that would make them feel overwhelmed rather easily. They are so afraid of being swallowed by other people and their needs that, they fight rather vigorously for their independence. It is usually subconscious procedure which is rationalized with different explanations such as – your demands are not reasonable; it is about how you express them etc etc.
Long story short, after I noticed the similarity and furthermore my adaptation of non expectations to my boyfriend, I also realized the tragic around the issue. Me adapting non- expectation attitude with my boyfriend has improved the relationship significantly, but I am not sure I want to live without ever discussing the future, without calling him when I need emotional support or without discussing finances or being taken care of when I am sick. However, as usual, we do indeed repeat earlier patterns in our life, because they feel so convenient. I have my own role in it – I am used to chasing people, longing for more commitment and attention. However, when I am not together with someone I can chase, my engulfment fear might kick in.
I think one of the main problems for me and lets face it for some other women who have been through some form of abuse is the fact they hope that one person in their life will solve most of their problems. I will from thereon speak about myself as to not offend someone else.
Even though I have always been a high-achiever, I needed a man to make me feel safe and emotionally stable. I have struggled with depression throughout my life and I was hoping that finding this one and special guy would finally help me to overcome this issue. Additionally anxiety has been my constant companion and part of me wished that there would be a man- stable enough to also make this issue a history.
I did find remedy for my issues in the form of different boyfriends, but never to all my issues simultaneously. I would have a guy who was stable, but emotionally closed or a guy who was loving, but financially instable etc. Apart from the fact that finding such a guy who would help to turn your otherwise lonely and instable life around is highly unlikely, there is another problem which I have faced in my life.
I was dependent on these guys. This means, I could not leave. I could not have my own personal voice when discussing relationship issues, because I was too afraid to create the waves. What if they would leave me and then I would be all alone, helpless and hopeless again?
This is actually where I am trying to get to. Yes, you can meet your personal knight in shining armor who would save you, but be vary that, then you are exactly that- someone who is saved and hence also helpless and powerless. Do you want to put yourself to this position?
I really struggled with breaking up with my ex even after my ex had told me that he is not sure if he has ever loved me. For the name of security I could have also stayed with him….Maybe love is not the most important thing as long as he makes me feel secure…..The point if he loved me or not is unimportant. The fact is, he spelled it out and I reacted to a degree needy. What I communicated to him was- you can treat me however you want, I will stay, because I am too scared to leave.
There have been many times in my life when I have felt completely alone. I felt alone when I was sent to live with my grandparents to the totally different town and had to face bullying in my kindergarten. I felt alone when I had to manage all by myself in a foreign country with a sick mother (I was four and we did take a nanny). I felt alone when I was left to take care of home for weeks at the age of twelve while my mother was away (no- nobody game to check in on me while she was away). These are just some of the few cases when I felt that the world was unsafe and I had no one to depend on.
I have recently tried to tap on my anxiety and my feeling that the world is an unsafe place. I have to say that given my experiences, I totally get it. In fact, I was helpless in many of these and other situations. I was helpless because the grownups in my life did not bother to think about me. My mother seems to for all intense and purposes have very little idea on what kind of environment a child needs and what is an age appropriate behavior.
In my case I was taking the bus to the town when I was five years old. I was left at home for long days when I was six. I had to fend my own food most of the time. I guess the combination of everyday instances as well as the more interruptive experiences made me feel that no one was ever going to be there for me. And I behaved accordingly. Throughout my childhood I did not share much with my mother. She found out about my school bullying years later at the point that it had gone so bad that I could not keep a straight face at home anymore. She found out about my first boyfriend after I had broken up with him (two years later). There are numerous traumatic and less traumatic experiences my mother has no idea about. Moreover, there are numerous traumatic experiences that my mother has directly caused me.
It will probably take still some years for me until I learn to trust someone enough. Until I can finally relax into the relationship and not feel that in the end I am still all alone. That whoever I am together with is probably not safe enough.
I looking for someone to make me feel loved. There it is. I know I should not do this and I also know that all love begins from yourself, but nevertheless, I am like a hungry hound trying to get the most out of a bone. Using this anthology is especially meaningful, since I seem to look for love from the wrong places- as is common for someone who has had a troublesome childhood.
It makes me very sad to see how I have been treated in the past by my partners and my friends (I am not going to comment on how I have treated them, because there is nothing exemplary there either). Nevertheless, letting go these people hurts, because as a hungry hound, you really do not want to let go of the bone, even if maybe there is somewhere delicious sausage. You are instead hoping to get more out of the bone.
I have no idea why my relationships seem to end in similar place where I feel judged and not loved by my partners. I can assume that partially it has to do with my own bias and partially with the kind of partners and friends I choose. I have recently noticed similarities in between my ex best friend and my boyfriend. Both seem to have very little trouble in criticizing me nor making me responsible for our relationship. That being said, of course both have series of positive traits as well. However, taking also into account my ex partners, I seem to attract critical people who are not sure of the relationship. Even though I over react to their criticism, that does not make their behavior OK.
So as I am uncovering the layers, I am understanding how hurt I have been about all this. How desperately I have sought after someone who would provide me acceptance and love that I never had. The unavailable guys, that I am longing after are there to symbolize this yearning for absolute acceptance and love- a myth that would be quickly destroyed, would I ever get to the relationship with them. Obviously no one can compensate for the kind of unconditional love that I missed and no one will ever love me the way one would love his/her child. Therefore, my expectations for relationships are misguided as well.
What I am currently still struggling with, is to find out how misguided my expectations exactly are. Am I exaggerating by condoning the behavior of my boyfriend? Have I pushed him to non-commitment? These are all the answers that I am still looking for.