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.

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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.

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.

Social anxiety and female competition

So social anxiety is something I have suffered from my whole life. Mind me, most of the time I was unaware that I was suffering from it, because I thought it was normal to every time when one is going to the party try to suppress the overwhelming anxiety. Try to tell to yourself that everything will be OK. I also thought  it was normal to always want to have some friend or boyfriend with me, as emotional support.

Let me tell you, this is not normal. This is not how most people feel. This is ultimately also not how I want to feel. However, I still feel that way.

Do not make a mistake of assuming that I am a bad communicator. I think I am actually quite good, socially. It is just that every time I go to social event, I remember my early and teenage years of relentless bullying and it my mind, it will all just repeat itself.

I really do not have good ten minute advice on how to combat the situation. Believe me, I, myself, am surprised that I still struggle with it, even after all these years of therapy. However, being aware of it, I will try to work on this next.

My anxiety is mostly about girls. I know, how to handle guys. Not a single guy has ever bullied me. I usually get along perfectly with guys (unless they are my boyfriends…..Ok that was a joke). But girls….

Take the last event that I participated. I was joking around with some guys and they made it more sexual than it needed to be. However, I caught all these judgemental looks from other girls. Well, mind me, the first girl was already judging me because of my profession, telling me that what I do is pointless. I mean, why? I still cannot understand what makes someone tell to the other person that their day job is not worth anything….

But the problem is, I feel threatened by the looks and by the words from these girls. It reminds me of my school years. I know that if one girl takes a disliking towards you, they will be able to collect a lot of their friends and convince them to hate you too. It is that simple. It never works like that with guys, but with girls the pack-mentality is just so much stronger. Plus, I seem to somehow be good at making girls my enemies and even after 30 years, I have no idea why and how. There is always this one girl at the party that takes an instant disliking towards me.

So, parties for me are stressful because of girls. If it was a party filled with guys, I would go there without a care in the world. I really struggle to see how come, my ’enemies’ are always girls. I don’t think it is because I am super charming or hot, there is something else at play here. I am not even sure if the solution to my problem would be to work on the reason girls tend to dislike me or to work on me caring so much and being intimitated by it.

Don’t get me wrong, I have good female friends. I am not one of those people, who hangs out only with guys, thinking that girls are stupid. In the latter case I would understand why other girls might dislike me, but currently it really is a mystery.

The gifts of child abuse

I think one of the signs that you are getting to the final phase of your healing is when you actually start noticing that your early life difficulties have brought you some innate gifts. I am not sure I am completely ready to write about the gifts I have gained through my experiences yet, but let that be my first attempt.

I feel that I can actually see the two worlds. It is difficult to explain this to a person that has not experienced it all. I can see the world of depression, self-hate, anxiety attacks and dysfunctionality. I can relate to all kinds of dysfunctional coping mechanisms starting from alcohol abuse and ending with suicidal thoughts. I can also now after years of therapy experience and see the world on the other side. The lighter being (I am still not finished with my therapy), the feeling of self-love etc.

I think there have been two radical changes of experience during the last year. The first one is moving from feeling incomplete and unlovable into actually feeling whole. This deep feeling of emptiness and sadness and wanting someone to love me so that this sadness would go away (only it never did), it is actually gone. The second change of perspective is moving from being terrified of being alone and being certain that I will never cope alone into being OK with spending time alone. Being OK with living alone and enjoying my evenings in solitude.

Most people that have two aforementioned gifts take it for granted and fail to ever understand other people that suffer from abandonment fear and unlovability. That is how you get stupid advices such as – you should just be yourself or have you thought of exercising more or drinking warm tea. The experience itself is soo alien to the ones that have never gone through it. Not often they also judge and look down on people that lead dysfunctional lives. The compassion is missing and even if it is there, there is a lack of understanding as to what one is compassionate about.

So, I feel I have been given a gift of seeing both worlds. This means that maybe once I have gone through my struggles, I can actually help someone else. I can definitely function as a non judgmental guide already now, but I think I still have a way to go. Not only can I understand and help others that struggle, but I also value the feeling of being complete, the feeling of being able to be alone. I have had to fight so hard for it that it feels nothing but sort of amazing. I doubt that average person gives much meaning to it at all.

Finally, I think that with child abuse and therapy comes a different kind of way of viewing your life. I see my life as a lesson. I am not looking for happiness, I am looking for growth. I am not sure if that is better or worse, it is just different. It is the way I have managed to handle therapy all these years, even when it was very difficult. I just kept comparing myself with myself one year ago and felt proud of my development. I still hold this approach. I think if nothing else, it helps me to make sense of other life difficulties as well. I see a lesson everywhere. I analyze a lot. I think ultimately this is going to make me me. This is who I am going to be and this is maybe how I can be useful for others as well, by helping them to make sense of difficulties as well!

Dating ‘normal and healthy people’ after childhood abuse

I dare to say that an average person, by my age, has still not endured a lot of trauma and drama in their lives. I feel that some people are slowly getting there, having their marriages falling apart, dear ones dying etc., but…. Why do I care about the extent of trauma someone has gone through? Why would it even matter?

See there is this guy that is interested in me. He is pure and innocent. I can see that he has had a good childhood. One can see this from how a person behaves. There is certain optimism and idealism to him. Decency. All really nice qualities….but…..

I feel dark compared to him. No, I am not a bitter person, but I feel that my childhood and other traumatic experiences have left me with this darkness. This corner of knowing what bad people are capable of. Knowing what bad I am capable of. I have gone through personal hell and back. I have been extremely dysfunctional and fought my way through it all.

It is not that much that I believe he cannot understand. I believe that as an empathic person, even if one has not gone through it all, one could potentially understand. It is more like I am afraid I will make him corrupt. I will somehow spread the disease of darkness and trauma and rob him of his chance for someone who is as light as he is.

I don’t think he will reject me because of what I have gone through, it is not that. It is more that I am afraid that this darkness in me is looking for a way out and I will end up hurting him. Getting bored of him. Looking for some dysfunctionality. Wanting some strong emotions and wanting some messedupness. Wanting someone who can reflect me my messedupness and my past hurt.

So I really do not know. I think dating after dark experiences in life is tricky. Especially when you have spent so much time trying to overcome those and feel you have succeeded. You consider most of your previous pals to be annoyingly dysfunctional, but the new people are just too untainted.

People who do not care

I have an acquaintance who takes pride in his independence or perhaps I should rather say non-dependence. I have known him for four years, met him on a weekly basis and I have no doubts that he would not care much if we did not meet anymore. I am pretty sure he would have this attitude towards almost all people in his life, so it is not only reserved for me. Why am I talking about this right now?

Because this is my mum. This is the image she conveys. I suspect she would not care much if I just left her life one day. or well, deep down she would probably hurt, but she would do her damnest to show how indifferent she is. She has blocked all the feelings which are related to caring about people so deep down that I really get little impression of her caring whether she has her daughter in her life or not. One might assume that if she has this attitude with me, she has even worse attitude with her acquaintances and friends.

It never really hit me as strong as when I started comparing people in my life and seriously there are some people with whom it is obvious that they do not care. For whatever reason that would be. I think a lot of my past has been dedicated to trying to make people who never really cared much to care about me. By caring I mean here truly people who can see you, the real you, do not try to change you into someone else and genuinely care about this person underneath. I do not mean people who need to put on an image of themselves as caring and generous, I mean sincere caring even if no one is there to witness their kindness.

The interesting thing is that I bet my mum and my friend are even proud for being so independent. For caring so little, because it makes them feel strong and in control. From where I am standing, this is not a virtue. Rather it speaks of the shallowness of your character and it speaks of total alienation from your feelings.

I am slowly reaching towards an understanding that I have kept many people close to me that did not really care all that much. I guess I was conditioned to consider this normality. Maybe it even felt safer. Maybe I felt more independent. These days however I look at my relationship with my mum and I can honestly say I do not care much about her. When she complains about some illness of hers, I do not care. It is sad, but her attitude of needing not to have any emotional entanglements has put our relationship that far. Furthermore, I felt she was using my emotional entanglement against me when she threatened to leave me on a regular basis. So these days when she does it, I can honestly say – well go ahead. But I think it is a rotten relationship where you can just say – fine you want to leave me, go ahead I do not care. Or should we call it a relationship at all?

Childhood abuse and social class

So, sometimes I wonder how come, despite having had really really bad childhood, I have somehow managed to stay borderline functional throughout my life. My theory is that class background influences both how people deal with the dysfunctions as well as how deep we will fall as a result of our traumas.

So, I am from middle class background, but because I grew up relatively poor, saw a lot of other kids around me that came from working class. The way I dealt with my loneliness, anxiety and all the other issues was through escaping to schoolwork. I was seeking love and approval through becoming hardworking. I sought to escape bullying by working myself up to go to an elite school where most people were somewhat socially awkward. Achievements, childhood fiction books and imaginary world were my way to handle the big problems around me. On the grand scale of things, these are all societally less destructive ways than for instance drugs and alcohol. So while I was dying in the inside, I still managed to give an impression of a functional person and I managed not to fall down down….

How is this related to social class? Well, my coping mechanisms are partially copied from my mum who used food and workoholism and shopping to relieve her pain. Her workoholism granted her career success and later also allowed us a decent standard of living. The presence of money also made shopping available as a managing mechanism. None of the adults around me had any problems with alcohol nor drugs. I in fact got to try alcohol when I was I think six or seven at the party with my mum. Alcohol never played much of the role in my life until later days of college. And I mean, I have still to witness anyone using any hard drugs in my presence.

The fact that my mother was educated also made books readily available. I could use books to escape my dire reality and dream myself to sleep. Furthermore, education was not only encouraged but practically forced upon me. I was punished for bad grades on a regular basis. However, that made me use achievements and schoolwork as a gratification mechanism.

Overall my claim here is that your class origin influences what kind of coping strategies you use upon abuse. Mine, whereas still dysfunctional, were less dangerous for me as an individual than many others which I could have chosen. I do not only mean drugs and alcohol, I mean also for instance seeking closeness through sex and promiscuity, falling into abusive relationships whatnot. We copy the behaviors of adults around us and since all these things were relatively uncommon in my

Why was it so easy for my exes to walk away?

I am currently dealing with my abandonment issues in my therapy and I am starting to cultivate quite a different view on my past relationships.

So previously I thought that the fact that my exes could walk away easily was a testament of my low value. That somehow I should have performed better, convinced them to care what not. I do not necessarily disagree with this, as I am sure I made many mistakes…However someone being able to walk away easily, I mean, this does not happen because you make small mistakes here and there. This happens if the person does not care much to begin with. My ex made some really questionable stuff during our relationship and never did I think that I could walk away easily. But most of my exes did….

This however means that their engagement in this relationship and their emotional investment where lofty to begin with. I spent much time thinking if only had I been better they would have not wanted to leave me. To be honest, if someone does not either dare to or want to get their feet wet in the relationship, it really does not matter how good you are. They woun’t. Of course you can also with your own behavior make other people invest less which I have done as well, no doubt. The art is to distinguish between your role and your partner’s role.

I am pretty sure I have subconsciously chosen guys who do not want to get their feet wet. My parents’ behavior and the fact that it was so easy for both to just walk away from me left its mark. I started to consider this normality and thought that it was common that you had to work hard for your own parents (or partners) wanting to stick around. Now that I am writing these lines it sounds outrageous that someone would have to go out of their way to convince their parents to be present in their life. I am not even talking about my parents loving me, I am talking about pure presence.

So obviously the bar for the relationships was pretty low to begin with. You just had to show up and seem to be interested. I could never distinguish between real investment and just tagging along. For me just tagging along was all I could ever ask from someone. Anything above that was already way more than my parents did and would raise serious questions about my worthiness for that.

From dependent to independent

For most of my life I have been looking for someone that would take care of me. I never trusted myself to take care of my needs nor wellbeing. In my mind I was helpless and in need of some grownup who would take responsibility for my life. I did not really feel I could myself.

If someone was to ask me today if I feel like I can take full responsibility for my life, I would still say no. I avoid taking responsibility at work where I am just too damn scared of messing things up. It is a constant struggle for me to act like a financially responsible adult. In fact this feeling of helplessness and the search for someone who would be able to act as a supervisor shows in all areas of my life. It still does.

This is my big struggle. As I have not yet fully delved into this issue in my therapy, I can only guess why I struggle so much in this area. I think it is because of my mother’s unwillingness to provide me any guidance. Her attempts to curtail my independence just to make me dependent enough so that I would not start complaining over the inappropriate amount of care I received. You know similar to my relationships with commitment phobic men….But I still need to do my work in regards to healing my wounds in this area.

It pains me to look at people around me who obviously never had this struggle. Their lives at this point seem like the lives which are appropriate for their age whereas mine seems to be a standing evidence of my inability to take responsibility. What more, they are living testament of who I would want to become. I want to at some day wake up and say, yes, I trust myself, yes, I have my life in order. Unfortunately this day does not seem to be approaching in at least one years’ time, maybe even longer.

But in the meanwhile I am making baby steps. Like breaking up and living alone for the first time in my life. or making independent decisions. Or starting to calculate my finances. I just often find myself wishing that there was a coach next to me to give me feedback on my development. To give me credit for my successes…. Because lets face it, if I compare my small successes with other people around me and my level of development with them, it seems there is nothing to celebrate.

I guess I just wish that I had a parent that would support and encourage my independence.