Nobody owes you a relationship 

I am occasionally reading a family forum where once in a while there is a topic about new girlfriend of a man who has chosen to leave his family (of course with the question as to how they can potenially every be happy with this guy knowing he left his former family). Maybe I am not the best to give value judgements here, because no one has ever left me because of some new woman (men were so miserable with me that they did not need a new woman to help them :D). I can understand the feelings of betrayal and disappointment when you are being lied to or cheated on and I think both the new woman as well as man should be held accountable for that (in case there was a parrallel relationship). However what I do not understand is the kind of mentality which I often think follows such posts, which is thinking as if these men owe it to be with the wife.

I think this kind of mentality is very dangerous and I have seen it with my ex best friend as well as my mum in relation to me. Mostly in their case they imagined that because of what they had done for me and because of our history together, they could treat me however they wanted and I somehow owed them my company and loyalty. I am a very loyal person as well as very grateful to everyone that has ever done something for me or showed caring. However, there was a point where even I had enough.

In my best friend’s case there were examples such as me going to my home country for two days and she lamenting about me not allocating her the exact time she wanted. Whereby she just asked why the hell I bothered to come at all if I do not even have time to meet her. Mind me, the next time we met, she was mostly criticizing me and telling me what I do wrong with my life. So that was the point where I understood that she does not put any value to my loyalty. She takes me for granted and even more so, she thinks that I ought to be loyal and offer my company to her. What happened to my mum was pretty much the same.

So every time I hear someone accusing their ex for being an asshole for leaving them, I get suspicious. If someone is unable to point out a single mistake they did in the relationship which might have caused their former partner to leave, I can fully empathize with the leaver. Quite honestly, I would leave as well. It is difficult to be together with someone who thinks that they are never at fault and is so keen on blaming everyone else, besides themselves. I understand if this is a period, but if someone meets me one year after their breakup and they are still mainly convinced that their ex is an asshole and they were the greatest partner ever, then I will try to distance myself from this person.

In my mind people who have the entitlement complex are dangerous. They assume that just because this other person once chose to be with them, that somehow makes them entitled for their love. No, it does not. You actually need to keep treating this person nice; you have to actually listen to them when they are trying to communicate about potential relationship problems. They do not owe you a relationship or family. There is no reason why your problematic behavior should somehow be ignored. If they leave, it is probably because of you both, not only because they were unable to be a good partner.

 

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Manipulative people

Lately I feel stressed. I feel stressed because I honestly do not trust people anymore. No, I do not mistrust everyone, but just it has occurred to me how much people are using either subconscious or conscious manipulation with others.

So what is manipulation overall? I would say manipulation is a strategy used for gaining power which is covertly aggressive. This means, certain people attempt to gain either control or footage over you, but they usually do not do this in an obvious manner, rather their strategies are more polished.

So what counts as a manipulation? Well, I can give two examples from my recent past. I have an acquaintance with whom I regularly felt uncomfortable. Recently he pushed me for more information about myself than I was willing to give. Upon my refusal  he told me that if I want to keep our acquaintanship on a superficial level there is no point and I will be wasting both of our times. He furthermore told me that I was like everyone else, just giving snippets of information and that I should choose if I want to talk about something or not. If I choose not to, then I should not even mention this.

So what happened there? I stated a border and instead of accepting that I was not willing to disclose certain information about myself, he first tried to threaten me with abandonment – there is no point in our friendship if I am not honest and vulnerable. When this did not work, he tried to guilt trip me by telling me how I should have not even disclosed any information at all.

Then I have a colleague who I suspect is manipulating everyone as well. One of the more obvious examples I can tell was when she sensed I did not like her and then quickly asked me to help her with something, telling me how much she values my contribution. Why do I think it was a manipulation?

Well, because I do not possess any kind of power to help her and she knows that and therefore she has never really attempted to be in good terms with me. However, she potentially sensed that it is not good to make an enemy or exclude someone in an obvious manner, so she tried to smooth things over with me by trying to push on my vanity and my ego. Unfortunately for her, I do not have much of a vanity.

These are only two people, but to be honest, I really do not like what I am seeing. It makes me feel uncomfortable. At times I suspect that I am too suspicious, whereas other times I think others might not be perceptive enough to see through those people. As someone who has a lot of experience with manipulative people I possess both the weakness of being overly reactive on them and suspicious, but also a potential strength of recognizing their manipulation strategies.

Why are you looking for partner?

Before my therapy I thought that if I could only find this one person, my world would change. I, would change. I would suddenly start loving myself the way this other person loves me. This sadness inside of me would lift and we would live happily ever after.

I guess everyone can see how naïve and unhealthy that opinion was. However, the next phase is something which I think is more common to great many people and which is not questioned to an equal degree.

After my ideals of finding this one perfect person who would make me feel lovable fell, I nevertheless accepted another unhealthy opinion. Namely, I wanted my partner to take care of me. I wanted them to make my life easier. Their presence could defend me against my social anxiety, against my work trouble etc. Mind me, it did work to a degree with my ex, but only at the cost of giving away my independence.

I think a lot of people look for the other person in order to make their life easier. In order to compensate for something they struggle with. To a degree it can be healthy, but only to a small degree.

I have reached to the phase, where I feel that a relationship is a responsibility. I have a responsibility before someone else when I enter to the relationship. Instead of viewing relationship as a solution, I look at relationship as another challenge added to my daily life.

Perhaps this view is as unhealthy as the previous, who knows. What I do know however is that for the first time in my life I am not rushing to jump into another relationship. I feel responsibility before myself and before this other person. I can see my current struggles and I want to at least solve them to a degree so that I would not overload this other person with my issues.  I want to be OK first and then find a relationship, not the opposite.

Yet, from what I observe, great many people want the relationship first and then they might consider working on themselves to be OK. No wonder so many relationships fail. The problem is not the relationship, the problem is the people that entered this relationship with very unrealistic expectations as to what a relationship can do for them. Then, when these expectations are not being met, people are quick to blame their partners for misdeeds which were never misdeeds, but their own failures.

For the first time in my life, I feel I have a responsibility. When I enter to the relationship, I take upon myself a responsibility. I need to be a mature and accountable person who has minimized her own problems first. So this is what I am currently working on. I am working on becoming this accountable person.

What relationships teach us

Years ago my main issue with relationships was that the guys I was attracted to, were not even interested in me. We could explain this in many ways, through suggesting that my self esteem was so low that I could never like anyone back that liked me – you know I would never belong to a group that accepted me as a member. We could also suggest that my self esteem was so low that I scared away the guys I was interested in with my desperate people pleasing and my fear of ever being authentic. I think it was probably a combination of those and some more things.

Then there was a period when I was mostly falling for guys that were already in relationships. Those same guys, once being single and offering me a real possibility of a relationship, scared the hell out of me, because now I was faced with intimacy. Intimacy, at this point, however was so scary that I really could not handle it. So it was safe to fall for committed guys, because then I could actually indulge myself in dreams which greatly exaggerated my readiness for a relationship.

So, I seem to have entered to the third phase of my relationship experiences. Now I am falling for guys who are indeed interested in me and single, but still have glaring emotional issues and are either hesitant to get into a relationship with me or flat out tell me that they cannot offer me a relationship. So how could I explain away this occurrence? I am afraid, at this point I cannot, because I probably have not learned the lesson yet. See the two previous lessons seem obvious now, but only now from the distance. Once I was in this mess, getting those experiences, I never really realized what the problem was. The good sign that you have moved pass the issue is once you actually start realizing what was wrong in you that you were trying to fix with these experiences.

Unfortunately for me, right now I am just confused and still trying to understand the reasons for my current pattern in dating. I know that unless I learn the lesson and change, I will keep on repeating those experiences.

All the relationships without emotional intimacy…..

See I have had plenty of relationships and they have not been short. What surprises me today is however how little emotional intimacy almost all of relationships had. It is funny really, because just the fact that you have a relationship might make you think that you are doing quite well, however it is often a misjudgment. However, first things first, what do I mean by emotional intimacy?

Emotional intimacy is really the courage to open up about yourself. If you have a fight, it takes a lot to say, your behavior hurt me because I am afraid you will leave me or I am scared that I will never be enough. A lot of people would instead choose to say to their partner how their behavior is totally inadequate. This is usually how distancing in the relationship starts. Both sides throw accusations on one another and neither dares to open up. Sometimes they do not even know, because they have hidden their vulnerabilities so deep down. In their mind they are just angry or annoyed, they do not even recognize that deep down there is either fear or sadness.

So, in most of my relationships I kept these vulnerabilities neatly hidden behind a strong wall. I praised myself for the ability to read my partners much better than they could read me. I was proud over my ability to put on a mask and hide parts of myself. Letting these parts out would have meant that I was weak and that I could be hurt by my partners.

You know, usually there are two such people that get together and then play a relationship. If you have one person that dares to be vulnerable and the other that is completely closed, the relationship fizzles out quite quickly. Why? Because the daring person notices that they are not satisfied by the half-hearted investment of their partner. So given my own emotion unavailability I can only make guesses about my former partners.

If emotional intimacy was not something that was practiced at your home, you will probably have some quite abstract feeling as if something is missing in your relationship, but you cannot really put a finger on it. I did not feel particularly attached to my partners for a long time. I thought that it was because I did not love them and that love was some mythical thing that depended on my partner. I never understood that maybe I, myself, was unable to love at this point.

To be honest, my case is not singular. I look around and I see many people avoiding emotional intimacy and vulnerability in their lives. After all it took me years to understand what it is and how it functions. I still struggle with practicing it, because man, it feels scary. But I am trying, at least, now.

Friends who secretly like to see you sad

In connection to the last topic, here is something which I have spent a lot of time thinking about. This topic is rather personal for me, because I think several close people in my life have secretly taken enjoyment of my helplessness and victimization. But lets look at how I think this dynamic works a bit closer.

When I parted ways with my former best friend there was this icky feeling inside me. I could not exactly understand what it was and she was claiming that all she wanted to do was to help me with her critical remarks. Except, it did not feel like she was trying to help me…..it rather felt like she was trying to help…herself. But on the spot it is really difficult to understand and the conclusion does not make sense. How can someone offer you help, be there when you are sad and still feel soo damaging?

I felt like an ungrateful selfish person for distancing myself from my former best friend. It rang quite loud in my head that she had been so helpful towards me all these years, how could I suddenly not want her around anymore? What was wrong?

Some distance and time has made me realize that in fact there are people whose help comes nothing but from the selfish place. How can you understand this? Through these people still trying to find some problem in you even if you are in tack. Through them trying to somehow spoil your happiness by making some negative remarks. When you feel confident about this new dress you bought, you friend will point out that it makes you look pale and that maybe you should get your health checked. Such things……

What is going on is that such people don’t really trust you to like them for themselves. They trust that the only reason why you like them is because they can offer you some services. By definition then, when they feel like you are not needing their services anymore, they go to lengths in trying to make you realize how helpless or unconfident you are. All, for the purpose of you realizing that you could never make it without their help. Unfortunately such friendship or relationship is nothing more but a dependency. It only functions with one side keeping the other down, while secretly wishing that the other side would show similar concern and care towards them. Essentially it is the same old, care-taker and victim dynamic, but being served from a slightly different angle. Especially since in most portrayals victims, addicts however you call them, get treated like the absolute dirt and the codependents are described in much more flattering terms.

So all in all, if you start feeling like your friend likes you much more when you are sad, unhappy with yourself etc., do not ignore this feeling. At first it might seem so ridiculous, especially if your friend is this helpful individual who is always holding your hand when things go wrong, but often there is a reason why you might feel that way.

The balance between getting respect and being vulnerable

Recently it has started to occur to me that being vulnerable and respected, at least in my head, have become opposites. They probably should not be opposites, but for me, for many years they really have. So let me tell you a story….

I once was a total people pleaser. I would worry about having insulted some random people. I would spend a lot of my time thinking about how my communications with some people go. I would try my best to make sure everyone was happy. I did this because I wanted people to love and like me. I also consequently carried my heart on my sleeve, being hurt easily and looking for someone to support me. I guess I was overly vulnerable.

You know what happens to people that are people-pleasers. That’s right. People do not respect them. People get the idea that they can get away with everything in your surroundings. So while I had many friends and acquaintances, at some point came the moment of truth and it was that while I had this big circle, I was always really on the outskirts of this circle. You know like this person that everyone keeps around because they are non offensive and fun, but that people also do not have much to say about. Perhaps?? I am now guessing.

So with my therapy, I changed. I stopped with the constant people pleasing. I stopped with the constant worry and constant strive to look for others to like me. I got others to respect me and I think today, people around me generally treat me properly. If they do not, one can be sure I will do something about it. But……somewhere my ability to be vulnerable and to be open has gotten lost.

One could hypnotize that I was never really vulnerable, because people really try to please others when they think they are not enough. So people that please others never really show their real self either. To some degree I think it is true. However, I think there was also a great deal of child like vulnerability in me, together with this people pleasing.

So in a way now I am on the other extreme. I know how to command respect, but I do not trust people anymore to open up to them. I have seen on so many occasions how my weaknesses have been used against me. I have especially seen female competition and to my dismay discovered that some of my close friends secretly took enjoyment out of my failures. I have become awfully skeptical about goodness in people.

So this is where I struggle. I struggle opening up to people. I struggle letting them in. I struggle with being this trusting and naïve child again. Especially because I really do not want to go back to how I was, but my current self seems to be the highway to loneliness. So I guess I can see my next challenge.

Is commitment fear a real thing?

Commitment fear or intimacy issues or however you want to call this is something with which I have a long experience with. I have been in both the receiving end of it and the perpetrator myself. For someone who has never experienced it, it might seem weird that someone would actually escape from love and connection. Since I have the advantage of knowing how the inside of commitment avoidant works, I feel I can perhaps shed some light into it.

Commitment fear usually works like this – people cannot sustain a long period of intimacy with someone. They might be able to enjoy closeness for a short while, but the thought of being intimate with someone over a longer period of time makes them panic. This panic inside is very real, it is a mix of entrapment and abandonment.

The way it worked for me was that I assumed that in order for someone to stick around, I needed to behave exactly the way they wanted. The whole relationship hence became about their wishes and pleasing them. I hardly asked questions on if they are fulfilling my needs. Naturally such focusing on the other person was carried by my deep seated abandonment. I was so afraid that if I do not try to constantly please them, they will walk away.

However, let me tell you, such kind of pleasing and focusing on other people is exhausting. Especially since you are not only dealing with pleasing, you are also trying to control your fear of them walking away. So you need to escape at times, because you get too exhausted. The longer you are together with someone, the more exhausted you get. The more you feel entrapped and the more you need to escape. Your periods of escape become longer and longer. Eventually you zoom out of relationship almost entirely, because you cannot handle the pressure anymore.

This was pretty much how it worked with me. After every relationship I felt defeated and I knew something was wrong with me. There was no grand celebration of having seduced someone and then checked out of relationship, rather there was a strong feeling that there was something wrong with me. Naturally I never demonstrated this feeling to my former partners. I never explicitly apologized. So when it comes to them, they might go around with the idea of me somehow considering this my win.

So, I have this personal experience of being commitment phobic. This experience also makes me say – never get involved with a commitment phobic. Seriously. The more you try to help them, the more exposed they will feel and the more they will try to escape. The whole premise behind their people pleasing is the belief that the way they are is unacceptable. So instead they need to put up a false self which is usually tailored for you. It is easy to fall for this false self. I have never had problems getting guys interested in me, because of my ability to play the role of their perfect girlfriend. The problem is, this role is not sustainable.

Finally however, there is something to be said about people who fall for commitment phobes as well. I might be now slightly too harsh, but I would say that most of my exes actually did not care enough about who I was. They were happy with me playing the role of ideal girlfriend. It did not arise any suspicion in them that I was doing all the right things and that I was so good at pleasing them. I would suggest that a person that falls for such kind of behavior after their twenties, probably has some quite deep issues of their own. I know that I personally want to get to know people I am dating with. That includes me wanting to know their not so popular opinions, their wounds, their not so perfect character traits. Furthermore, I am not getting put off by someone exposing some unfavorable character trait. I should probably mention that none of my exes has a family at this point, which I find interesting………Or well, forget the family, most of them don’t even have a functioning relationship.

When people disappear

Something which I still have real difficult to get is disappearing people. Mind me, I have had three people literally disappear from my life this year. I just do not get it. I am not talking about some tinder dates that I never met in real life. I am talking about people with whom I communicated at least half a year.

This feeling of disappearing people is not new at all. People must not physically disappear, they can also disappear emotionally, at some point, from the relationship. I think my ex disappeared emotionally at some point. Nevertheless, in defense for my ex, he has actually been one of the most persistent people in my life and despite our breakup, I do trust him. So I would never count him on the list of disappearing people. However, plenty of friends, plenty of people in general, seem to have no problem just vanishing without saying goodbye.

I have a hard time dealing with it. I seem to develop bonds with people and care about them all too easily. I have mixed feelings about it. Part of me thinks it is a benefit that I care about people. Part of me thinks that it is stupid, especially when it is not reciprocated. I don’t really know how to hit the right balance, because obviously I tend to care more about people than they care about me.

So ultimately disappearing is just a sign that they did not care. What else would communicate not caring better than someone just stepping out of your life. Perhaps I am over interpreting, because I can never see what is happening from their side. Perhaps they are suffering as well, but find that the relationship (here I mean all kinds of relationships) is irredeemable. However, some part of me doubts it. I feel that I can have a lot of faults, but being unwilling to learn, compromise and negotiate upon conflict, is not one of those. So, I think my evaluation about someone that is stepping out my life not caring is quite right.

The question is – how do I find these people. How do I find people that obviously seem to have no problem treating my emotions as irrelevant and treating our communication as some treaty where one can just extract as much value as possible and then disappear? Am I being unfair to these people? I really do not know. All I know is that the pattern really needs to change. I am unwilling to engage in relationships where I care much more than the other side at this point. I think I deserve more.

What to do when you feel life is unfair?

So I have been harboring these feelings quite long in my life. I used to be jealous of girls who were popular and smart. It felt to me that they had it all. I never wanted them to do bad, I just found it so unfair that while I had struggle, everything came so easy to them. Furthermore, their beauty and popularity actually even motivated teachers to treat them better. So I felt like I was working for nothing and nobody cared about my hard work. Those who already had so much just continued to get more.

My opinion is that life is unfair and it is better for ourselves that we admit this. It was much easier for me to accept it in terms of social class. I found it extremely unfair that some people are born in really bad economic conditions and others can enjoy the riches. Furthermore, those that are born economically privileged do not want to admit that they have a privilege, but instead keep saying that the poor just did not try hard enough. This was easy for me to accept because it felt clear to me (unlike to so many other middle class people).

However, it has been a real challenge for me to accept that even though I was born to lower middle class parents, I had so many other challenges which I have had to overcome.  I had a pretty bad childhood, especially when compared to other middle class members. Furthermore I have had several health conditions which I have struggled with my whole life and I have had many other troubles just coming to me when grownup.

It is usual for me to get an unempathic attitude from other people. Similarly than with social class background, people who have been lucky in life, either by having good parents or just getting good opportunities without much effort, do not want to admit this. Instead, they go out of their way to say that you must have just not worked hard enough, be good enough or are making a fuss about a small thing.

However, I understood that it was not only other that treated my problems that way. I, myself, treated myself in this manner. I would often put myself down for not having come further in life. I would tell to myself when I was feeling bad about another unluck that I am just making too big of a deal. That my emotions are wrong. That somehow maybe I have not worked hard enough…

Lately I have come to understand that I have actually reason to feel under privileged. I have had much more trauma and drama in my life than most people I know. In fact I still have more unluck than most people next to me. I think allowing oneself to accept that yes, life is unfair and sometimes one really has bad luck, will set you free in many ways. You will stop blaming yourself for the things which might not be your fault to begin with. You will stop taking responsibility for many things which might have been outside of your control. Of course I do not advocate victimization here, but I think our society often times blames people all too easily of victimization. Sometimes people really are victims and then it is a real assholish move to tell to this person – well you should have done X differently or you just did not try hard enough.