How much effort should you invest to the relationship before you give up?

In the past, I seem to have had fundamental differences with several of my partner’s on how much effort is enough in the relationship – as in when are the problems too big to solve. I always thought that these guys never worked hard enough, never wanted to look at their problems and instead hoped that the next relationship will be less problematic.

It is probably not that all men are like this, but it is more that the men that I have been attracted to have been like this. There is probably a reason for that.

I think some of my efforts have been motivated by my deeper level of dissatisfaction with myself and my thoughts around there never being anyone who finds me acceptable as I am. So there has been a dysfunctional part in my patterns with these guys.

Being aware of this dysfunction has made me question my ideas on how much work or effort one should invest before giving up. It has also made me understand things on a new level.

I think there can be basic incompatibility between people. This is definitely not something where I would encourage effort. I have been together with guys who obviously wanted to be together with another person with a different personality. The fact that I somehow wanted to mold myself into a different person shows quite well my deeper issues.

But then there are certain dysfunctions that people have. For instance my ex was deeply insecure about his attractiveness. In my opinion it was his personal issue which he should have worked with. I was willing to help him with that, but I always thought that he somehow secretly hoped that this would not be an issue in another relationship. He sure blamed me for not being more sexually active and all the other things. Well, guess what? – my ex is feeling even more insecure now that he is single and can spend hours complaining to me about his insecurity.

The latter case, if you have such issues and dysfunctions in relationships I think it is quite obvious that you should work on them. Not even for the sake of relationship – but for yourself. You walk away hoping it will be all different with a different person, but it probably will not be. Surely, I also made some critical comments to my ex after he put on some weight and did other things that probably contributed to his insecurity, but I was never the reason why he felt insecure. For him it was just easier to ignore the work that he needed to put in to address this issue of his and blame me.

So for me when you have some bigger dysfunctional patterns you definitely should work on them. I think it is also reasonable to be willing as a partner to support and encourage this work. Naturally there are certain boundaries as in if your partner is a drug addict and spends all your salary on drugs you might want to question your choice to be together with this person. However, otherwise I think it is reasonable put in efforts from both side to work with such issues.

Emotional obstacles

The biggest obstacles towards the way to your happiness are the ones that lie inside you. Sure you can have some real outside hinders such as lack of money, resources, support, but I have never seen anything as powerful as our belief system – even class binds are not as strong.

That is not to say that your happiness lies in the hands of yourself nor to shame people for not achieving great success. Quite the contrary, I think emotional obstacles are even more difficult to overcome than our material and social limitations. Furthermore, lets face it, overcoming them is usually not a cheap hobby either as it will quite often require outside help. The kind of outside help which is among other things also frequently stigmatized.

I have had many emotional obstacles in my life. For instance, I spent years with my ex being mortified of break-up and being alone in a foreign country. I still have emotional obstacles – I am still really scared of not finding a new job…scared to the degree that I almost forget that maybe with my CV and talents I could instead try to choose a job that I enjoy and where I feel appreciated.

It is surprising how much these emotional obstacles colour the way you see the world. Take the two personal examples I gave. I was completely sure that I would spend my life in loneliness after breaking up with my ex. I was also completely sure that everyone in my acquaintance circle will want to disown me or will just say – this is what we really expected from her….she can never really keep her relationships…must be something wrong with her.

Whereas I think my example is extreme, I do believe that most people have such emotional limitations which keep them from fulfilling their potential. We have fears, we have negative beliefs…and sometimes we don’t even know we have them. For the most part of my life I was completely convinced that everyone would celebrate upon my failures, simply because this was something I had experienced when young. This belief naturally also influenced the kind of people I hanged around with….you know the kind to whom you never dare to say you failed because they will just tell you that they told you so and that you should not have tried anyways.

Overcoming these emotional obstacles is a damn difficult job. In my experience it takes years. And lets face it, no one in the current world wants to be in repair for years. It is an immediate gratification society. All I can say is that if you do find it within yourself to work through some of these emotional obstacles, your life can change in unexpected and mostly positive ways.

Unfinished business

There are relationships that drag on for years with both people being somewhat if not really unhappy. What is wrong with these people? Are they masochists? Just deeply flawed and messed up? Well, surely there are also such people, but I think mostly it is about some unfinished business you have and your subconscious knows that you need to work it through before you can let this person go.

The alternative to unfinished business are people who get out of relationships just to find yet another guy or girl who has exactly the same issues as the previous one. That indicates strongly that these people have not actually learned their lesson and somehow magically life brings them back to the point where they keep repeating the class so to say…

Couple of posts back I said that I don’t really have exes that come and go from my life. However, I am notoriously bad at breaking up. I am also rather bad at letting go of relationships that have ended abruptly. I would like to think that it is because these lessons which I have not yet learned keep haunting me.

It took me years of being unhappy with my ex to break up with him. Throughout this time my ex was exceedingly critical of me and I kept working on things he pointed out in therapy. At some point it became a funny combination, because I almost treated my ex and his criticism as a prime resource for my self-growth. However, the real lesson, of course, which I kept postponing, was that I deserve someone who would accept me here and now; not someone who constantly finds fault in me and not in themselves.

These major lessons in relationships take time, because they are difficult to learn. I was so used to seeing myself as a faulty individual. My self-development was part of me dealing with this deep feeling of unworthiness. My ex and his belief systems fit just fine with this situation. Someone who had actually accepted me would have seemed weak and boring for me at this point.

I feel like I am in the middle of another lesson with the guy that keeps submarining me. I have not let him back to my life, but for some reason I keep responding to him and we even had a long discussion one night. To be honest, I am not quite sure yet what the lesson is which is probably why I still give in to that connection. I do know however that when I learn this lesson, this dalliance will probably be over as well for good reasons. He is not really nearly stable enough for a relationship…but it seems that he is also struggling with his lesson at the moment.

 

Emotional confidence

So I was today spending some time thinking about my last experience with a guy that disappeared. The problem with disappearing guys is always that you need to fill in the blanks yourself…That in my case leads to months and months of analyzing the situation. I need to add that the guy keeps contacting me in monthly intervals and I have ever since also found out that he has an ongoing relationship with his ex that is on and off from his life…

As I was pondering on the situation I somehow stumbled upon a new term – emotional confidence. I my mind that translates into the confidence on your feelings, courage to follow them and the ability to understand them…

I never realized this is a thing. However seeing so many people struggle between two lovers, unfinished relationship and what not, I would suggest that a lot of people lack emotional confidence. I these days can quite well assess what I feel and for whom. I can make emotional decisions without needing to leave the backdoor open in case I made a wrong decision, but it dawns on me that a lot of people don’t have this.

As I see it, emotional confidence comes with the willingness to observe your emotions and analyze them. Most people would rather not go there. If they go there, usually something really messy is uncovered. This is one of the things where I truly appreciate my seven years of therapy. I don’t keep loose end relationships where I need other people to solve the situation. I also don’t let other people to emotionally manipulate me. I usually have a rather good overview of my emotions and I can at this point handle them myself. But I am starting to realize that this is not a common skill. Especially when it comes to men, because they are taught to ignore their feelings from an early age in most cultures. What this initially does is making a lot of men open for emotional manipulation and really confused about what they are feeling at a given moment. It is my experience that a lot of men would rather escape their feelings. Surely it is not only men, my mum is another great example of someone who has a really troubled relationship with her emotions…

Long thing short, it has dawned on me that there is a thing that society is not talking about….I mean we have all heard about work place confidence, confidence in your appearance and whatnot…but nobody talks about the confidence in your feelings…Probably because our society has been undermining feelings for years….However in personal relationships I find emotional confidence to be increasingly important…..Also I can see that this is an aspect that is underdeveloped in so many people…

The pain of Freeing ourselves from social constraints

So, I had a friend who once said that cycling never gets easier. It is just that you start riding faster and then the old speed seems ridiculous. At this point I was a little bit disappointed because I mean who wants do some physical activity if it is still a constant challenge. I mean many other sports sure become easier….

Now I feel that self-development is a little bit the same. The bastard (pardon my language) never really gets easier, it is just that the lessons become more difficult. It is weird that at my work I don’t really expect one day to experience everything as easy, but for some reason, with therapy, I think we all imagine this miraculous day where we will be fixed.

Let me ruin it for all of you right now. We will never be fixed. We will never arrive to our destination. If anything then the questions become more difficult and life changing. Couple of years ago I thought if I only could find ‘true love’ I would be forever happy. This whole idea of personal purpose has stroke me. Let me tell you, if you have based most of your life on the idea that once you have this special someone, finding out that you actually need to put in extra work and find your own purpose….well it does not feel exactly like a picnic in the park.

I find that where once the purpose was to be liked by people – and I have been awfully socially conscious my whole life; a whole new universe is opening up. I have built a lot of my life in socially acceptable manner so far and for the first time I am playing with the ideas of ‘going to the dark side’….doing things which my birth environment would not really approve. And no these things do not include drugs and rock’n’roll.

I find that the idea of self-development is not only to free yourself from the past sufferings but also liberate you from social constraints. I think in this respect most of us are the prisoners of the past. There is a reason why social class is reproduced so strongly. It is not only the opportunities, for instance working class students at the university often need to say good bye to their home environment that now thinks they are uptight, think they are better than them etc….The same happens reverse as well…try become a hairdresser if you family is engineers. This is class, but there are so many other limiting thought patterns we bring with us from our environment. Breaking free from those is painful. It is not only like loosing your support system, it is partially morning the loss of the future that never happened. It is also confusion about who you are if you are not the person you were raised to be.

This is kind of where I am right now. I know I am about to slowly go through some major life changing developments. Currently it does not make me happy, instead it makes me mourn everything I thought I was for all these years. Everything I thought I would be in the future. It is kind of like a death of its own.

How to make your suffering count

So, there has been one experience which I think has tremendously colored most of my life. Actually, it is not even an experience but more a theme. This theme has partially been the result of actual events in my life, but also the result of how I have chosen to interpret some of them. This theme has been the feeling of being unloved or not good enough.

I have somehow dealt with this topic again recently as I have gone through some article on what love should feel like and how people express love. This has made me realize that none of my ex partners actually loved me really deeply. Somehow it was however good enough for me because at the time it felt even much better than my mum. I distinctly remember thinking that even though my ex was critical and at times even cruel to me, during his good times he was actually warm and supportive. My mum was not warm and supportive during any times.

However, I am starting to inspect my previous experiences and I am starting to understand how unfairly I was being treated on some occasions by people who should have been closest to me. Now it would be easy to fall into depression and think that my life sucks, but today I am starting to look at it differently.

One of the things I really like about myself is my persistence and my dedication to constant growth. It shows itself in most areas of my life. I might not be the most talented one, but I am often the one that is willing to go through adversity. It is weird because going through adversity does not really feel like much of a challenge for me. Compared to a lot of my life going through being unappreciated, disregarded or just struggling emotionally and physically really does not feel like much a hassle. I have developed an amazing ability to pull myself through some of the real difficulties with grace. I make struggles seem easy for the people around me.

You might maybe already realize where I am getting to. The point is, the struggles, the hurts we have gotten through are unchangeable. We cannot rewrite our childhoods, but what we can do is take a hard look at the potential wonderful capabilities we developed through these challenges. In my case my mother’s constant criticism and disapproval made me very resilient. I learned to continue with very little recognition and support. For instance, I was always good at long distance running because most of my classmates would just not want to continue when it became inconvenient. I pushed myself through.

I have a suspicion that some of our greatest talents often lie in areas which are the most sensitive. There is a point in inspecting our suffering and it is not only in order to empathize and heal ourselves. The point is also in order to discover our strengths.

Making other people acknowledge and see your feelings

I have gotten hurt in relationship situations quite a bit. An interesting part though has been that I always took this hurt with embarrassment. As if I should have not gotten hurt and as if me getting hurt was the testament of my low value. The embarrassment grew when other person did not seem to either care about my hurt or not be touched by the situation at all. I was embarrassed of being in pain and therefore rarely held anyone responsible for hurting me.

Now let me make an important distinction. There are situations where your hurt is obviously the result of some personal sensitivities. In this case, if the other person is empathic, they might still relate and understand you, but expecting them to bend backwards in order to makeup for this hurt is obviously uncalled for. I see a lot of people wondering around, expecting their partners to fix issues which they had before them and blaming them for not succeeding. A trivial example is for instance when someone is very insecure about themselves in comparison to say other women. Now if this person goes to the extent of making scenes at home because their partner dared to talk to some other woman, who obviously is just a random acquaintance – this is such situation where their hurt could be understandable, but in my opinion does not call for an apology. But now to the other kind of situation, where I feel apologies are actually in order.

I had this boyfriend whom I was together with for two years and for whom I moved to another country. The idea was that he will follow me. What happened instead was that he kept postponing his move and in the end when I confronted him about it, he told me he was not sure he loved me and actually the whole relationship started because I was overly eager. According to his words, he was never in love with me. At this point I felt like a stupid and a weak person. I had moved for someone who obviously did not value nor love me as much. How could I have missed it? Was I really so unlovable. I never actually had a serious conversation with him where I held him accountable for his actions.

Now from certain distance it is obvious to me that first telling someone that you were together with them only because they chased you, is pretty cruel. If this is true, I can understand that you would play along as long as it does not involve any life changing decisions. At the point where it actually involves something life changing, your rational and ethical thinking should really kick in. You should definitely not let someone move a country if you are unsure of your feelings. I mean there is so much that is simply wrong in his behavior that I could probably continue for quite long.

I left him silently (he did not even have a decency to breakup with me, I had to do this). Looking back, I think that the way he treated me was immensely disrespectful and holding him accountable would have been a necessary thing to do. The issue is that if I did not hold him accountable for something so big, I probably did not hold him accountable for smaller things either. I let his disrespect grow by not making him acknowledge my feelings. In the end it had grown to the extent where telling me that I practically chased him (which interestingly as I checked his messages afterwards was not really true) was not a problem.

The ideal solution in my opinion is taking some time to see whether you are reacting because of some previous hurt. If you are reacting because of some previous hurt, is it still perhaps a situation which is hurtful? If you are not reacting because of previous hurt, a conversation with whomever hurt you is necessary. If they try to avoid the issue, you have two options. You either decide that this is not really a person worth your time, because of the length they are willing to go to avoid accountability; or you can try to make them see the situation by twisting the roles and asking how they would feel if you behaved similarly with them.

 

Why are you bullied?

I once took an online course on psychology of popularity. The most memorable part of the course was the lecturer’s claim that kids can mostly be divided into five categories: popular, controversial, average, rejected and neglected. The groups were formed through two axis – how many other kids liked these kids versus how many kids disliked them. The popular kids were mostly liked and rarely disliked whereas the controversial kids got high scores on both. Rejected kids got high number of dislikes and low number of likes. The neglected kids got low scores on both likes and dislikes and mostly people just did not really know or care about them.

The lecturer also made the claim that usually these categories stick as you go through life or early on, change schools. The most usual transitions are from being neglected to being rejected or vise versa or from being popular to being controversial and vise versa. However, it is highly unlikely that someone goes from being rejected to becoming popular.

The lecturer did not go deep into how these types are developed so here I share my own suspicions based on my own childhood experience. Now I have traveled between being neglected, rejected and average. I have also stood on the verge of being popular, but that was always through the help of someone close to me that was popular, never because of my own strength. What I suspect is that our childhood experiences in our family help to shape how we behave in larger groups later (ok, that has been well proven by psychological studies). So logically the way our parents treat us or each other shapes what kind of treatment we expect from others.

I was not naturally a shy kid, but because of many moves and my mums anger outbursts and constant comparison between how decent she was as a kid and how much of a pain in the ass I was, I became rather reserved and timid. What more – my mum would also constantly criticize me and compare me with other kids, always finding me wanting. In addition, I basically lived in the fear of her next anger outburst which I could never predict. The lessons I learned were basically that I was helpless to the much greater power of others; that I was not worth much and that world was incredibly unsafe place. One can imagine how these beliefs did not make my school years particularly easy. In addition, I also had an appearance abnormality which got picked on for many years.

It is easy to imagine how a kid that does not think she is worthless would react differently when someone calls her names or tries to bully her. She might find it odd or uncalled for or just shrug it off. I took it into heart and cried at home. I believed everything my bullies told me because basically they were kinder than my mum with their words. People pick up on such things. They subconsciously know who they can mess around with and whom not to bother. Even if you try to hide such beliefs of yours, sooner or later it will shine through. Kids are very good in this respect. They will smell fear, self loathing, insecurity and react on it. Kids do not have as many filters developed as grownups, so they might just react on their impulses. I am not in any way trying to justify bullying here, but rather trying to put things to context.

Taking this into account it is easy to understand why rejected kids do not suddenly become popular. Try being popular when you believe you are worthless. How would you get other people to like you if you do not like yourself? It is incredibly cruel and unfair situation but perhaps by analyzing how it is reproduced there is a certain hope in there. I would not go as far as to say that I have somehow magically become popular these days, but through hard work, I can at least defend myself and less and less people pick on me. So the silver lining is that it is possible to change your ‘status’ but it requires a lot of deep work.

Now there should be cautionary note here because I do tend overgeneralize. I think my mum really did a lot to destroy my self esteem from early on and not all the cases are as drastic. It could be just that the kid is slightly different than a family and they do not know how to relate to her, it could be that she feels neglected because the attention is on other kids etc. So this post is not about shaming the parents of bullied kids, it is more about the need to investigate the underlying belief system in order to understand why these patterns keep reproducing itself.

Beauty is in the eyes of……yourself!

So, this post is about something I have always felt really inconvenient talking about – my appearance. There are multiple reasons for this inconvenience. One is my notion that somehow love should be earned and being praised for appearance is really unearned. I mean practically that is not true because a lot of people put a lot of work on maintaining their appearance. The other reason is because I was always taught that I was both unattractive and that It was incredibly vain to focus on appearance. Something tells me that my mums overweight had a lot to do with both of these teachings…..

However, the message of this post is really beyond appearance. Namely I am shocked as to how much your attitude can influence the way you look. I mean there are more superficial aspects such as what clothes you choose. For instance I used to always wear baggy clothes. I think it was a habit because my mum always bought me couple of number bigger clothes. She also taught me that I was fat and I had a big belly, so better to cover it up. For the record I was never really fat. I was probably normal weight throughout my childhood and I also worked out regularly, so probably had pretty good muscles. To get the scale of the clothes I was wearing I have to mention that I can still 20 year later fit to the jacket I wore when I was twelve. And it looks big on me today.

But the other part is the attitude that we broadcast. I look at my old photos and I don’t see myself as attractive. Surely, objectively I can understand that I was probably most of the time more attractive than average, but my pose, my smile, my eyes – everything shows that I am actually ashamed of myself. Those are subtle ques, but they shine through pretty well. Most people would not be able to really explain the effect of these things, but since I have gone through the attitude change, I can spot those things.

Funny thing….I look more attractive today than few years ago. Not much has changed in my appearance, if anything I have put on a few pounds and developed some wrinkles and scars. But the way I wear it does make a difference. Years ago I would have been mortified about the scars. Today I can walk with my bikinis and somehow not care. Let me tell you, it really changes how people react to you. Interestingly it is so visible that you can even see it in photos.

The topic of attitude is usually not discussed that much because few people actually go from feeling ugly to feeling good about themselves. You should not completely believe the stories of people that have lost humongous amount of weight, a lot of them still look insecure with their new appearance, as if they are asking – am I Ok now? Do you approve of me now? Mostly because a lot of them have taken years of bullying and it takes much more than loosing extra weight to feel and act beautiful. I know because the same happened to me. I adopted for a better clothing, more suitable hair color and whatnot years ago, but I still kept looking at everyone else, feeling I was just so much less than they. It did not help if the guy I was dating thought I was beautiful; I still found a way to cancel his opinion.

Today I looked at myself in the mirror and honestly, I am starting to feel beautiful. I can feel how it changes the choices I make in terms of my beauty regimes and clothes, but more importantly how it changes the way I walk, the way I react to someone looking at me, the way I stand Infront of the camera….And it really shows…So in the end the attitude matters so much.

With everything being said of couse I acknowledge that attitude has its limits. However, most of our so called appearance ‘defects’ have much more meaning to us than to most outsiders. What the outsider see is our discomfort…Like for instance I used to always try to hide my belly because my mum had made it clear to me that I should never wear body exenuating clothes because then everyone can see how fat I am. In reality what everyone could see was that I would often hold my hands on my belly and that I was not able to walk freely in my bikinis….I doubt that they actually exectued as detailed review of my rather small belly…

 

 

 

Why don’t I get lucky in life?

I recently read a forum post which made me think about how we cope with life’s challenges. I used to think that somehow, I was particularly cursed in the happiness department and the fate was throwing all these difficult challenges to me. Now I know that most difficult part of these challenges was handling my emotions.

I am not saying I had objectively no reason to complain.  However, this is not really the point. The issue is something in my childhood made me engage in magical thinking where I thought if I only could sort out the outside world….everything would be fine. You know if only I would be popular….if only I had friends etc…Lets not go to the extreme and claim that these things do not matter, especially when you are 13, but….they matter all the more if you lack resources to handle life’s challenges.

Crappy childhood usually does not make you tough, but rather vulnerable. But working through years and years of emotional issues makes you tough eventually. It also makes you look at life’s issues differently. I know for a fact that loosing my job or the end of a relationship would probably be less of an issue for me than for a lot of other people. Simply because I know that these things are replaceable. It is how you deal with losses that is important.

I find that basing your happiness on getting this one job or this dream house is a risky road. I have the experience of loosing several things that mattered to me throughout my life and I know that this is survivable. Unfortunately I don’t think I have a good recipe for achieving the mentality where life’s challenges would not be such an issue anymore. For me it has taken years and years of therapy. So I am sympathetic to other people who experience the same as I did, but at the same time I am also aware that the major issue is not the challenge itself but in fact the attitude. Life is going to be tough for some more than others. It would be naïve to hope that everything you encounter in life is going to make you happy and satisfied. People who have it good usually don’t have it good because they have no challenges. They have it good because they know how to handle these challenges.