Coming out of co-dependency

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.

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Different shades of (unhealthy?) friendships over the years

I am visiting my home country and as I talk to my old friends, I also understand that I have vastly different needs and expectations on communication today compared to seven years ago. I think it stroke me when I was trying to converse with an old friend and the conversation just did not go anywhere. It was like pulling the teeth, for me. Quick look into how my friend relates to other people and I understood – his common way of relating is non-personal. For him to talk about either his feelings or someone else’s feelings makes him vastly uncomfortable. I think it is sad. Why? Because he is currently ill and there is no one visiting him and taking care of him. He has plenty of acquaintances with whom he regularly relates to, but apparently no one who would be close enough to really go out of their way to care. I think it is exactly because he is not really relating to people on a deeper level.

My friend, of course is no exception. I have another friend with whom there is to some degree the same kind of wall. We talk about our life philosophies, different interesting topics, but it is always non personal. I know very little about his personal life. In fact I know nothing about his current romantic involvements. However, he is an interesting person to talk to and I would still call him a friend.

Then I have another friend with whom I can talk about personal matters. I also know quite a bit about his personal history. We have a similar way of reflecting on our experiences, searching some meaning and reason behind our actions. However, the problem with him is that I feel I cannot really trust him one hundred percent. I feel sometimes that he is engaging in some kind of power play with me. Like our communication was some kind of hidden battle where he needs to prove that he comes out on top. How does it show? – well it shows when he is occasionally telling me how my observations about his behavior were obvious, when he is desperately trying to tell me how he is smarter than I am etc. I am particularly in tune with such power plays because that was my exes Buena forte.

Then I have another friend with whom I can again talk about intimate things, feelings etc. He is going through difficult time now and to be honest is wearing me off with his neediness. He wants to constantly talk about psychological issues, either his or mine and I am of the opinion that not all communication needs to be about deep issues. He reminds me of myself when I discovered therapy and was deep into my issues, in a way that this was all I could talk about. To be honest, being at the receiving end of this is tiresome.

I am guessing that I am developing an idea of how I would want a friendship to be. I think similarly to relationships and needs, we have certain needs for our friendships. Probably no friend can fulfill all our needs, but I am getting a feeling that I am really missing a friend who would be in line with my current needs. Rather, several of my friendships are a testament about who I once was. Some of them speak about intimacy avoidance, some of neediness etc. I am understanding that people you let into your life become to define you. It is my time now to decide how I want to be defined and what are my needs in regards to friendships.

Trying to keep the dependent person dependent – how to come out of relationship dependency

I recently had an interaction with my ex. I wanted to discuss a work matter with him and wrote him a message asking if he has some time. He responded by saying – the third woman asking for my attention during the last hour. I got pissed and the rest of the conversation focused on me trying to explain to him why this was not very nice thing to say.

Couple of months ago my ex made it a point to tell me about three women who were chasing him. I ignored his messages, but he managed to sneak this information to our regular conversations. It might seem like someone just trying to make you jealous, not particularly harmful, but in the case of my ex, I know there is more behind this than what is perhaps evident on the first sight.

My ex likes to date women who are helpless and need to be saved. The same pattern has continued over his two relationships. His attempts to tell me about other women contacting him and ‘chasing’ him, is his way to tell me – look you are losing me, look, everybody needs me. It is an attempt to still have some leverage over me even when there apparently should not be something between us.

My ex has recently also attempted to contact women over different dating sites and has not been overly successful. What surprises me is how he felt really dashed about it, assuming that he could easily find someone new, himself, being close to forty and having ‘multiple’ special needs. This was the opinion he held throughout our relationship, threatening to leave me for someone else multiple times during the last years. I can only assume that when the truth of it not being so easy to find someone hit him, he felt that there was no source that would feed him feeling powerful anymore. Instead he was subject to rejection and indifference – all radically different from what he felt when he was in a relationship with me. So, what he is attempting to do now, is to exploit this feeling of being someone, mattering, being powerful from the only source he knew that would fulfill this need. The only problem being that I am not that source anymore. I am not dependent on him anymore.

I still react emotionally to some of his messages. His message on how I was the third woman to ask for his attention got to me. I could not keep myself impartial. However, I can also see more and more the manipulation behind this. The frequent attempts he makes to keep me dependent. To show me how he still has some control over me. This leaves me on one hand afraid of my own reactions, afraid that I might become dependent again, that I might believe his negative messages about me and how I am not a relationship material, but on the other hand, it also makes me want to distance myself from him more and more. If the consequence of most conversations with him is me feeling myself bad, it is time to perhaps consider limiting my conversations with him to the absolute necessity. It is sad though, because my ex is one of the smartest people I know and his insights have helped me so much.

The selfishness of a ‘nice guy’

Because of my ex, I am quite familiar of how some guys have a habit of presenting themselves as ‘martyrs’ when they get rejected by the girls they like. In the case of my ex it was some girl 15 years ago who he still keeps talking about and blaming her for using him as an emotional cushion for dealing with the heartbreak from all the assholes that she was dating with. In his mind, the girl was ‘evil’ and playing with him. I was not in the situation, I cannot detest to the motives of the girl, but I have made some recent experiences with similar guys and can give you my own version of ‘these nice guys’.

I have to say that I find such ‘nice guys’ who complain about girls friend zoning them and always choosing some assholes over them extremely upsetting. Why?  – Because they have so big rejection issues that they are not really honest about their motives. Instead they hope that if they pretend to be the friend of the particular girl, they can somehow win her over by not risking much. When this strategy does not work, they attempt to find the scapegoat – ‘the evil’ girl.

All the while as a girl I have had to deal with guys who were sending me some mixed messages with occasional crossing of the friendship and I found those situations extremely difficult to deal with. You like the guy, you love debating and discussing with the guy, but you are sure you not interested in them romantically. So what do you do when they have not really made their interest clear and instead keep communicating with you as friend. Well, you take them for a friend. What upsets me more than having to deal with some occasional problematic signals is the reaction of these guys when you openly confront them about their potential interest and say that you do not share this. In my experience this reaction usually can be divided to two.

The first reaction is to take few steps back and claim that they were not romantically interested at all and you just misread them. Meaning, they make fool of you. That is fine, I can deal with that. However some then continue communicating with you as a friend and then somehow after a reasonable amount of time make another move. This behavior confuses me even more, because I assume that I have made my disinterest rather clear the first time around and you have claimed that you do not have any romantic interest as well, so what???

The second reaction is to frame the girl as evil for wasting their time (the strategy that my ex chose as well).  This I find even more ridiculous because if you as a guy have some romantic interests but you have not had the courage to come forward, it is not the girl who misled you, it is you who misled the girl. So I as a girl would actually have more right in blaming you for breaching my trust, making me invest to our friendship under false premises and using friendship as a means to an end. Mind me, to me friendship is sacred and it is not just some code to – the guy I have not managed to sleep with yet.

I am not saying that the situations are all equal, indeed there can be women that ‘use’ some guys as well as the opposite. However since I had made similar experiences myself and I usually try to be rather clear with my intentions by mentioning either my ex or some other romantic interest to guys with whom I have some doubt that they might be interested, I feel that there is still some truth to my assessment of these guys. So all I can say is that it is better to be clear about your motivations or if you do not dare to do this, at least do not blame the other side for not playing the mind reader and figuring  out your real intentions.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The vicious circle of depression

Lately I have had episodes of feeling sad. Well, lately is probably a nice way to put it, because the truth is I have been struggling with sadness all my life. Lets rephrase, lately I have started to observe and analyze how the mechanism functions. So I will try to verbalize my observations.

What usually happens to me is that I feel lonely and isolated. Not so much even thinking that everybody has great lives, but rather feeling that I cannot burden other people with my problems. Furthermore, I feel like perhaps if I share this feeling of sadness which keeps accompanying me through life with others, they might not like me anymore. So this again exaggerates this loneliness, because I feel I cannot really talk about feeling lonely with anyone without being stigmatized.

The stigmatization is partially in my head, but partially also true. Lately that I checked, people do not like other people that are downers. The problem is, you isolate yourself further because you cannot be true to yourself. You hide your true feelings, instead choosing to talk about something which is not so relevant, not so sensitive. This pretty much sums up my whole life and my reaction to this sadness.

As a result of never talking about your true and deep feelings of sadness, you feel disconnected. You feel like social interactions are not really giving you what you need and as a result you feel even lonely at the presence of others. You have perhaps to a degree tried to share this deep feeling of loneliness, but then met either some basic suggestion such as – use positive affirmations or people just do not understand what you are talking about.

So the loneliness is reproducing itself. After your failed attempts of connection to others about your issues you feel that your internal feeling of being the odd one out, the freak – never being understood, will only gather strength. You feel as if, in order to connection to others, you need to first change yourself. To somehow make this loneliness disappear. But in the process you isolate yourself more….

The difficult route from dependency to independence

So recently I have been reading the book called “Don’t call it love: Breaking the cycle of relationship dependency”. As the title indicates, the book has gotten me thinking about my own dependency.

To be honest, I am not sure where I stand in my recovery. I know that before therapy I was a hardcore relationship dependent, going from one relationship to another, delegating responsibility for my life to other people etc. Now for the first time in my life I seem to be OK with the idea of being single. Well, part of me seems to be OK with it. So I assume progress has been made. However….

The truth be told, I have my other addictions which I use in order to cope with my sense of helplessness. I still do not feel quite in control of my life and the idea of having to accept full responsibility for it overwhelms and exhausts me. It seems altogether too much. Going from believing that the only way you can exist is through someone else taking care of you to well, I need to take care of myself. Suddenly you discover all these areas of your life which you hope some future partner will take care of.

In my case I hoped my future partner will take care of my financial situation, my accommodation, my lacking friends circle, my past time activities, my emotional stability….I guess these are the main things. Having to accept responsibility for all this myself seems too much too soon.

I have been ill already twice during this spring. I assume that my illnesses have something to do with this feeling of overwhelm which is accompanied by my acknowledgement that I will need to take care of all these areas myself. My body is reacting to the stress. I wish there was an easy way to get used to accepting this responsibility. Others usually get to mature and take these responsibilities step by step. I feel with me it is all hitting me at once. It is extremely tiring and my body just wants to shut down, I guess…

Unhealthy ways of dealing with negative emotions

As I am brooding over my deal with dating, I am coming to understand that I have adapted completely wrong practices in dealing with negative emotions from my childhood. My practices vary from instant gratification to ignoring, but very little of my energy has been directed to actually dealing with these negative emotions. But lets delve on the topic a bit closer.

My habits are quite likely copied from my mother. My mother has versatile ways of dealing with negative emotions, one worse than another- firstly of course diving into work, but then also food and alcohol. Lets not forget shopping – my mother’s apartment is filled with stuff she will never need. She is also good in taking her emotions out on other people, mostly me. Finally, she is also good in denial, you know if I do not acknowledge these emotions exist, maybe they do not exist at all.

I would continue with my unhealthy habits, but the sad truth is that you can pretty much copy paste the last paragraph. In addition, however, I have also taken the approach of seeking emotional nurturing. It is not necessarily bad thing, I think it might even be one step closer to healthy ways of dealing with my emotions. However, the way I do this, is problematic. Namely, I tend to think that if I just replace old love with some new love interest, I do not have to deal with the sad and painful emotions related to the old one – Quite common, actually, and the prime reason why people hop from one relationship to another.

But…I do not want to do this anymore. As I was going through guys who have sent me messages, I realized that I am too emotionally exhausted to date. In fact, what I am looking for is emotional support and not some new date. It is unfair to expect that a new date is somehow going to resolve my issues from a guy who ghosted me. So, instead I am going to do something which I have not done before. I am going to wait with dating and I am going to take care of my emotions, my pain……MYSELF.

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.

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.

Modern dating and fake intimacy

I have never dated….Here you have it. Dating has never attracted me and with the kind of trust issues which I have, web platforms were the last place where I would look for someone…Seriously.

Lately, I have pushed myself. What surprises me about online men (mind the term) is the quickness people want to do their business. No, I do not mean some random guys wanting to hook up with me (although even there I am amazed by their lack of flirting skills) but guys who allegedly look for serious partner. After one conversation, somehow guys start sending me good morning messages. They start writing to me after they have returned from a party on Friday night. To me it seems weird.

However, where I am seriously lost is, do only I think it is weird? Is it my distance and trust issues lashing up again? I am sure that part of it is true. However, I think this is not only it. There seems to be some desperation for creating some false intimacy. People seem to long for closeness, but they do not really want to do things that would lead to that closeness. It is like you want to go to the store and say – I would take this package of intimacy, please.

I feel uncomfortable with that. My relationships have always taken some time to develop. I think relationships need time to develop. You cannot just strike a conversation online with someone one evening and then the next day act like this was your partner. I mean where does this come from? Are people not really themselves aware of the problems with that behavior?

It is kind of like one night stand, but for intimacy. One night love, perhaps? You have clear needs that need to be satisfied, but you do not really have the patience to take time to ensure the long-term satisfaction. Instead, you go for something that seems to be more like an instant gratification. But, unlike with one night stand, where people understand that this is temporary and that this is not an OK behavior for relationship, one night lovers seem to be of the idea that this is it. This is how love is supposed to function. You can actually skip perhaps even meeting the other one face to face and just go to the phase of the relationship where you have someone who would emotionally support you and be interested in you and everything you do.

This is just the beginning of my musing on that topic. I will reflect longer about my own emotional issues behind these occurrences.