Mutual support in relationships

This is a topic which has caught my attention lately, partially because I had an interesting conversation with my ex lately. Namely my ex has always thought that I am needy. On this occasion he went on to explain to me how no grownup man wants to deal with a woman who needs to call him when she has problems around the house. We were discussing on the occasion where we had a floodage and I called him to ask for our landlord’s number. He was away and I considered it extremely weird that he showed no interest later as to if the problem got solved or not. My ex, however explained that it was needy from me to expect that he would show interest. Furthermore, he also finds me calling him to ask for help in solving the situation needy and a sign that I am not really an independent grownup woman.

This discussion got me thinking if I am indeed needy and if perhaps there are things I need to change about myself. I do know that I have higher need for emotional support than an average woman perhaps. However, even after all the thinking and self-analysis I could not get myself to support his comment. To me, it seems that there is no value in the relationship where every time I want to call my partner for help, I have to first carefully think if actually I should not do this. Maybe me calling and asking help with this particular problem presents me as needy. Furthermore, maybe I am actually needy and helpless for asking for his assistance and support?

I have come to value highly emotional support and being there for one another in relationships. I will probably never start to understand what is the value of having a relationship when there is not mutual support. I mean even with my friends I would ideally hope that there is support when needed. The interesting part is that it is not that my ex does not show any support towards me, it is more that he can support me when he feels like it (when we were in the relationship). However, his giving is related to his state of mind and not my needs. So one can never say that he is not helpful or giving, it is just that he needs the idea that no one depends on him.

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Being attracted to inconsistent and (unstable) partners

For years I have been attracted to guys I could never quite figure out. They either sent out conflicting signals or remained unobtainable. I would say that before starting a therapy I was mainly attracted to guys who were never into me, but ever since I started therapy, my attractions have more been towards guys who actually did have some level of interest in me, but they were not quite consistent for various reasons. I think I have finally figured out the reason for this pattern.

See when I was a child, my mother was highly unpredictable. She could be one day in a good mood and be all nice towards me and the other day she could be extremely angry and threaten to kick me out. Such variation is also in fact very characteristic to my ex – Marc. There were days when Marc was the best boyfriend ever, he could give me massages, he would listen to my childhood issues etc. Then there were moment when Marc threatened to leave me or was ranging to the point where I was actually afraid of him. Then there were also period when Marc disappeared as he was visiting his home country.

This all left me very confused. I could never make sense of Marc the same way I could not make sense of my mother. Both had their great moments, so it was unfair to call them evil or what not. In fact during their moments of greatness they were way better human beings than I was. However during their low moments they were also way worse human being than I was.

See the problem with such relationships is that you can never really fully relax. You are constantly alert and unaware of what is coming. When I started dating Marc, I developed a habit, which I never had before with my boyfriends. When he did not call, I would get extremely worried. I thought that maybe it was sign of my neediness and I had just suppressed it with my former boyfriends, but actually it has more to do with me not knowing what was going on. With my consistent partners I could relax even when they did not call, because my first thought was not – oh god maybe they are angry at me, maybe they are going to leave me. However, with Marc I was constantly anxious about having potentially done something that angered him or pushed him to distance himself. It was the exact copy of my childhood environment.

However, it has taken me till now to understand this pattern and fully emphasize with how I have been feeling my whole life. In fact, since this is quite a new discovery, I am sure I will write a bit more about it in the future.

 

 

Attachment types and the bumpy road towards secure attachment

If anyone is wondering what I am talking about here, then you can find a better description of these types here (https://jebkinnison.com/bad-boyfriends-the-book/type-anxious-preoccupied/). Anyways, I started my therapy by being fearful-avoidant type. These types often crave intimacy, but find it difficult to accept when offered. This is the most disturbed type out of all the attachment types and is developed as a result of childhood abuse (mostly). There is little written on how one can change their attachment type or how difficult it may be. So I am going to contribute to this obvious lack of literature here.

So throughout my therapy I have peeled off the protective layers in my psyche so that I could finally face my issue without the intense walls. These walls served a good purpose during my childhood and helped me to deal with my life, but nowadays prove to be problematic. At this point I have reached the ‘level’ where I could categorize myself as anxious preoccupied type. The difference is that now I have lost the protective layers, defending me against abuse and just have a high need for intimacy and love. I have somehow managed to resolve the part of my childhood which made me extremely distrusting of others and forced me to carry a mask and have begun to trust others more and more.

Where I however still struggle quite a bit is in trusting myself. Trusting my ability to manage alone. Trusting myself to be attractive enough for others so that they would stick around. I am still anticipating abandonment and I do not trust that others are there for me after I have not communicated with them for a while. I dare to be more of myself around them than ever before, but I still think that they could walk away any moment. Furthermore, I still think that a lot of their behavior is about me and not about them. Someone being a bad mood – surely it is because of something I did and not something to do with some outside hinder. Someone not responding to my facebook message – surely it is because they do not like me.

Theoretically it is interesting how transforming from fearful-avoidant towards secure for me includes first becoming anxious-preoccupied type. I still have some way to go, unlike I thought couple of months ago. In fact there are still some quite big challenges ahead of me, but I believe I am somehow moving to the right direction.

Coming out of therapy and starting to plan your life

One problem with psychotherapy is that it totally takes away your attention from life planning. For a while you will be happy if you can get daily things done, but you will have no strength nor wish to focus on wider goals.

Well, now I am slowly entering to the phase where I am looking at my wider goals in life again and it freaks me out. You know, I have always considered myself quite helpless to do things like this and thought that life happened to me rather than me leading my life. So all this sudden responsibility and the idea that I now have to take a look at my life again and the things I want from it scares the hell out of me. I feel alone and unsupported and lost. I feel like there have been many areas of my life that have been seriously neglected through all my time in therapy. Needing to tend these areas now just freaks me out, because it looks messy.

As I am becoming more aware of my needs and things I want from my life, I am also made acutely aware of the problems in acquiring those things. Furthermore, it seems like I am some ten years late with thinking about all these things. So suddenly all these life goals overwhelm and confuse me. I am expecting some really big changes in my life and I am scared as hell. Taking responsibility for my life and my decisions has never been my strong suit. Sustaining the momentum and then complaining about it is something which I have developed above average skills in. So obviously this new idea that I need to go, alone and take responsibility and there is no one to guide me terrifies me.

So this is it. I am still on the scared phase, but I am hoping that the fact itself that I now start to recognize my agency is a development.

Fixing your partner

I have only recently come to realize that I have a habit of fixing my partners. You know, I choose someone who is not quite it or more often not quite there and then I start passionately guiding them. How does it work out, well, hmmm, mostly it does not.

I have to give my current boyfriend some credit as he has actually followed some of my guidance over the years. However, the whole premise of starting a relationship with someone who needs fixing to begin with is highly problematic. Naturally all of us need ‘some’ fixing and guidance and it is excellent if our partner helps us to see our blind spots. However, this is not quite what I do.

With my current partner I saw from the beginning that he has problems with functioning and pulling off his everyday life. I also saw financial issues. I thought that somehow I could make these problems go away. You know fix him to the point where these things would not be issues.

With my ex, I saw that he had problems being emotionally open and vulnerable. Again I thought that I will heroically help him to reconnect with his emotions. That did not work out.

I am not sure if I am super critical of my partners or I just choose partners who need fixing because that feels safer. Because then you always have a reason as to why not to invest so deeply yet. This is something I need to spend some more time thinking about.

Commitment phobia and trust issues

I am starting to understand that my addiction towards unavailable men has two main causes. One has been my feelings of unlovability which have now finally been addressed. The other one, however, is feeling that I cannot trust anyone. This is all evasive feelings which is now coming up strongly.

Finally I understand how I in fact do not want to let anyone close enough. I am afraid. I am afraid that they either become mean and put me down or that they will leave me. It is somehow safer to be in distance, because then at least nobody can hurt me. Then they will not endager my safety. I am at least somewhat in control. But somebody coming in, trying to torn down my wall of safety……this is so damn scary.

I am also starting to understand why physical contact has always been problematic for me. Why I needed to get drunk in order to enjoy physical contact. It is again the same feeling – I am unsafe. Someone is coming inside my bubble. They cannot be trusted.

It is very difficult to describe this feeling to someone who has never experienced it before. It is partially the feeling that you are all alone and partially the feeling that someone is trying to torn down the walls that you have built. You do not understand that in fact these walls to assure that you will be all alone. But you want to protect yourself against other people, not to show that you are so alone and defenseless. You assume that if they would know, they would automatically use it. If they knew you are so helpless they would abuse you. So this is how you never even give people a chance to prove the opposite. They will never get close enough for you to be convinced that they in fact are safe.

So who are the people who are willing to be in a relationship with someone like this? Other people with intimacy issues. No sane person would like to hang around someone who is mortally afraid of intimacy.

Deciding and becoming the person you want to be

One of the most fundamental events in my life was no doubt meeting and breaking up with my ex boyfriend, lets call him here Paul. See Paul was this committed, hard-working, responsible, wise etc etc guy. I idealized him. Among other things Paul was however also very perfectionistic and I never felt that I measured up to his standards. Not really. A familiar feeling which had sent me my whole life with my mother.
Breakup with Paul devastated me. In my mind he was someone the kind I would never find in my life. After Paul I met Greg, my current partner. Greg seemingly at least in the beginning appreciated me the way I was. The problem was, I did not like myself very much at this point. I did not respect myself much.
Now all the self-help books tell us about affirmations and all the other bullshit. In my opinion telling to yourself six times a day that you are lovable does not really change much. And I am going to also make a really harsh statement here – sometimes you have some work to do with yourself in order to be at least more lovable. I know everybody keeps telling how one’s partner needs to accepted them for who they are, but frankly, if you partner is obsessive gambler – would you really want to accept them this way. Or furthermore, would it do them any good if you did? In my case I was irresponsible at the point I dated my ex. I did not take responsibility nor for my life nor my feelings. I just kept believing that a man could solve all my problems. I just shifted all the responsibility to Paul. Now mind me, but this is not a very lovable behavior.
During next years Paul’s words kept haunting me in my self-development. He was my staple for male ideal and I guess partially I wanted to become worthy of him. Now on some level it sounds sick and twisted, but on another level I think it is a good idea. It is similar to having role models in life. Paul to me helped to define who I want to be.
So who do I want to be and how has therapy helped me to reach there? Well, I want to be someone who does not complain about her life, but actually does something to improve this. I want to be someone who dares to show other her real colors. I want to have integrity in all parts of my life. I want to be faithful to my commitments.
I think the previous pretty much describes the most important values for me. So with five years in therapy I have lost quite a bit in my easy-goingness and my lust for life. I am also not the center of parties. I am not this cute, smiley and innocent girl. But instead I have become someone who I think if I met today, could respect.
I will never meet up with Paul again, I think. But I suspect that he as well, would be proud of me today.

Bullying and feeling unsafe in the world

I am currently working on my feelings of unsafety and I am realizing how threatened I have felt my whole life.

I have been bullied, pretty much all through life. Even during my adulthood people have given me shitty treatment. I was constantly scared when going to parties and new social surroundings – what if I will be casted out and bullied again? In my mind I have always been this helpless four year old child.

My bullying started at the age of four when I moved together with my grandparents and had to move to small town. I was the new kid, easy to pick on because my mother had just moved away to another country and I found readjusting really complicated. From there on everything continued like a bad dream. I moved again, to the foreign country to live with my mother. Naturally I was again the new kid. Then I moved again and again. Altogether I moved four times and each time I had to deal with hostile kids. As if this was not enough, I also got a huge scar to my face which made me excellent laughing material even for strangers at the street.

By the age of fifteen I had seen it all. The bullying just continued and continued. I became so scared that it was obvious from my behavior and even strangers could pick it up. This how I also attracted several pedophiles who harassed me (luckily the worst it ever got was dry humping). In addition the whole situation at home with a mother who had moments of rage did not help either.

Needless to say that I have carried this fear with me for years.  For years I avoided passing my old school. Now I avoid going back home. Every time I go there I imagine someone meeting me and starting to bully me again. Even though I feel quite lonely in where I am right now, I am scared to return to my home country. Scared of those people who once bullied me telling me – I told you that you will never amount to anything. Scared of my friends giving me judgmental looks (I unfortunately chose multiple friends who were extremely judgmental of me).

Yes. I am scared of people. This is me in the beginning of solving this issue so I assume there will be more of such posts where I try to understand and reconfigure this fear.

When you seem to not get out of the viscous circle of commitment phobes

This post is going to be rather personal. I am dealing currently with my anxieties and issues around the fact that I am soon probably the only one in my close circle that does not have a family. Sometimes I keep asking myself where did I go wrong? Sometimes I also keep asking myself, is it already too late for me?

My commitment issues have pushed me to be together in non-commitmental relationships. Hell, in my first relationships I did not even want to tell to anyone that I was in a relationship. No wonder that the relationships did not take off. My last relationship has had its own non-commitmental quality as my boyfriend has kept telling me that we will discuss family next year. Now that the next year argument does not fly anymore, he conveniently shifted the argument to – we will discuss family if you agree to move to my home country. Note that nothing says that we will actually have a family in this case, it is more that this is a precondition to even start a discussion.

To be honest I am sad and scared. In my heart of hearts I understand that moving to another foreign country for a guy who so far has not made any significant commitment would be another mistake from my side. See this is exactly what happened with my ex. I moved, he did not have to make any significant investment and was even reluctant to promise me anything when I moved. Somehow I keep putting myself to these situations and honestly I am tired of it. It is not always courage that saves the day, some risks are honestly stupid. In hindsight I would say that it was stupid to move to another country for someone who did not make any commitment.

Yes, I keep hanging out in these relationships, even though I also at the same time feel sad. The last phase is to figure out what attracts me to these guys and how to get passed it. One thing I know, I am so exhausted of such non-commitmental relationships that soon I am rather willing to be single than invest my energy into someone who keeps telling me that things will change if only….

Sometimes you just want things to change. You want them to change quicker than they do. I want my life to change. I want to change the kind of relationships I engage in. But I seem to be psychologically tailored towards wishy-washy guys and seem to be struggling to make these changes. To be honest, my belief in my capability to recognize a decent guy has gone down a lot. I am struggling with my dark foresight that the next relationship will just be much the same. The problem is also that it is not like these guys outright tell you that they have commitment issues (or maybe they have those with me). No, they keep telling you something about the nice future. I do know it has worked for some girls. The nice future aspect has never worked for me. SO you never know when to give up. I have been postponing giving up for so long that I am starting to question my ability to move on at all.

 

Controlling through conditional love and problems in decision-making

I have a great fear of doing something wrong. I am literally mortified of making wrong decisions. In my mind there is always one right way to go and god forbid if I do not choose this one.

My fear of decision making or in general disappointing people in my life can be easily explained by the conditional caretaking that I received. Let me explain further. The goal of my life was not to disapprove my mother. As long as I conformed to her desires, I had some little emotional support. However, when my mother was disappointed, she would withdraw her love and support (threats to disown me, silent treatment etc). The knowledge that I was always just a step away from losing all the support made me people pleaser, but it also made me incapable of making my own decisions.

The worst thing that result in such a parenting was constant uncertainty. I could never be sure when I will disappoint my mother again. Furthermore, I could never be sure what the punishment will be. Sometimes my bad grades were just ignored (mother was in a good mood), sometimes they became the reason to kick me out on the street. The worst part about making mistakes was hence not the punishment but not knowing the consequences. Usually when I got a bad mark I was so stressed out the rest of the day that I could hardly focus on anything else. I had to call to my mother immediately once I got home, to just get rid of the feeling of approaching unknown danger.

So today, as well, I am most afraid of not knowing what comes. What if I make the wrong choice, what will it result in? I cannot handle insecurity at all. I am just constantly afraid that something bad is about to happen.

Now at least I can understand better as to why I am so mortally afraid of doing something wrong.