For the past weeks I have been working with my trust issues regarding other people. Namely, I had the type of controlling mother that used ‘the take away’ tactic a lot, meaning she just threatened to take away her support, my home whatever that there was to take away when I did not do as she pleased.
I can use a good recent example of this as I am currently visiting. So my mum wanted me to clean the attic which for her is a bit more uncomfortable for various reasons. However she asked me five days before me leaving. Since she still needs to be next to me and supervise, I did my best to find a common time. I then quickly realized that my mum had four days of my staying already reserved and in fact there was only one particular day she could have done the cleaning. When I told her that no can do, I have plans for this day already, she threw a hissy fit and then promised to cancel one trip which we have planned together for the summer.
Each time she does these things I am thinking whether I should stop the contact altogether. I have mixed feelings in relation to that, partially because stopping all contact seems quite extreme and I think I would miss the occasional keeping in touch, on the other hand also because she being in my home country and offering me a place to stay comes in handy. But I understand that she has always been manipulating me with taking away these very benefits like the accommodation, but also her presence and connection. It somehow feels a bit like keeping in touch with her makes me weak and vulnerable and still susceptible to such threats.
It is exactly the same pattern which existed with my ex as well. My ex would give me his support until he thought I had done something that displeased him and then resorted to threats – threats of leaving me, verbal assaults, silent treatment etc. I was constantly being punished for disobeying.
There is a lot to discuss on this matter still and I am in the process of ruminating over the matter.
I am visiting my home country and as I talk to my old friends, I also understand that I have vastly different needs and expectations on communication today compared to seven years ago. I think it stroke me when I was trying to converse with an old friend and the conversation just did not go anywhere. It was like pulling the teeth, for me. Quick look into how my friend relates to other people and I understood – his common way of relating is non-personal. For him to talk about either his feelings or someone else’s feelings makes him vastly uncomfortable. I think it is sad. Why? Because he is currently ill and there is no one visiting him and taking care of him. He has plenty of acquaintances with whom he regularly relates to, but apparently no one who would be close enough to really go out of their way to care. I think it is exactly because he is not really relating to people on a deeper level.
My friend, of course is no exception. I have another friend with whom there is to some degree the same kind of wall. We talk about our life philosophies, different interesting topics, but it is always non personal. I know very little about his personal life. In fact I know nothing about his current romantic involvements. However, he is an interesting person to talk to and I would still call him a friend.
Then I have another friend with whom I can talk about personal matters. I also know quite a bit about his personal history. We have a similar way of reflecting on our experiences, searching some meaning and reason behind our actions. However, the problem with him is that I feel I cannot really trust him one hundred percent. I feel sometimes that he is engaging in some kind of power play with me. Like our communication was some kind of hidden battle where he needs to prove that he comes out on top. How does it show? – well it shows when he is occasionally telling me how my observations about his behavior were obvious, when he is desperately trying to tell me how he is smarter than I am etc. I am particularly in tune with such power plays because that was my exes Buena forte.
Then I have another friend with whom I can again talk about intimate things, feelings etc. He is going through difficult time now and to be honest is wearing me off with his neediness. He wants to constantly talk about psychological issues, either his or mine and I am of the opinion that not all communication needs to be about deep issues. He reminds me of myself when I discovered therapy and was deep into my issues, in a way that this was all I could talk about. To be honest, being at the receiving end of this is tiresome.
I am guessing that I am developing an idea of how I would want a friendship to be. I think similarly to relationships and needs, we have certain needs for our friendships. Probably no friend can fulfill all our needs, but I am getting a feeling that I am really missing a friend who would be in line with my current needs. Rather, several of my friendships are a testament about who I once was. Some of them speak about intimacy avoidance, some of neediness etc. I am understanding that people you let into your life become to define you. It is my time now to decide how I want to be defined and what are my needs in regards to friendships.
So recently I have been reading the book called “Don’t call it love: Breaking the cycle of relationship dependency”. As the title indicates, the book has gotten me thinking about my own dependency.
To be honest, I am not sure where I stand in my recovery. I know that before therapy I was a hardcore relationship dependent, going from one relationship to another, delegating responsibility for my life to other people etc. Now for the first time in my life I seem to be OK with the idea of being single. Well, part of me seems to be OK with it. So I assume progress has been made. However….
The truth be told, I have my other addictions which I use in order to cope with my sense of helplessness. I still do not feel quite in control of my life and the idea of having to accept full responsibility for it overwhelms and exhausts me. It seems altogether too much. Going from believing that the only way you can exist is through someone else taking care of you to well, I need to take care of myself. Suddenly you discover all these areas of your life which you hope some future partner will take care of.
In my case I hoped my future partner will take care of my financial situation, my accommodation, my lacking friends circle, my past time activities, my emotional stability….I guess these are the main things. Having to accept responsibility for all this myself seems too much too soon.
I have been ill already twice during this spring. I assume that my illnesses have something to do with this feeling of overwhelm which is accompanied by my acknowledgement that I will need to take care of all these areas myself. My body is reacting to the stress. I wish there was an easy way to get used to accepting this responsibility. Others usually get to mature and take these responsibilities step by step. I feel with me it is all hitting me at once. It is extremely tiring and my body just wants to shut down, I guess…
So, for the past days, I have been mulling over my potential issues related to online dating and the guys going into chasing mode. I think I am starting to finally understand what my problem is.
I do not know how to say no. In my childhood saying no was not really something that was acceptable. Me defending my interests or borders was interpreted as aggressive and rebellious and this was to be pushed down the minute it was seen. By the age of seven I had become so docile that when visiting someone I was afraid to ask where the toilet was. I was afraid to say when I had some pain or when I did not want to eat what was offered. Basically, I was afraid of creating any kinds of waves or attracting any kind of attention to myself.
This inability to say no lead me becoming a victim of child molesters. These guys know their game, they know whom to choose as a victim. Even though I was never sexually abused as a child (at least I think I was not), I became a head target for 50 year old guys, simply because they sensed my inability to say no. So all kinds of things happened from these guys touching my knees to dry humping. Luckily since I was never alone with these guys and never agreed to go anywhere with them, the worst never happened. However, I need to thank god that I was not particularly popular among teenage guys, because I swear to god, I would have just plainly done everything they told me to do.
So when I talk to guys in the internet, I suddenly become this little child again. I cannot tell them when they have crossed the borders. I am too scared to make any waves. I am too scared to make myself heard. So I am afraid that as I go on a date with someone, this pattern will just be exaggerated and I will just plainly agree doing whatever these guys want me to do. This has happened plenty in my relationships, why would that be any different on dates?
So I need to somehow take care of my vulnerabilities before I can go any further with my dating.
I have never dated….Here you have it. Dating has never attracted me and with the kind of trust issues which I have, web platforms were the last place where I would look for someone…Seriously.
Lately, I have pushed myself. What surprises me about online men (mind the term) is the quickness people want to do their business. No, I do not mean some random guys wanting to hook up with me (although even there I am amazed by their lack of flirting skills) but guys who allegedly look for serious partner. After one conversation, somehow guys start sending me good morning messages. They start writing to me after they have returned from a party on Friday night. To me it seems weird.
However, where I am seriously lost is, do only I think it is weird? Is it my distance and trust issues lashing up again? I am sure that part of it is true. However, I think this is not only it. There seems to be some desperation for creating some false intimacy. People seem to long for closeness, but they do not really want to do things that would lead to that closeness. It is like you want to go to the store and say – I would take this package of intimacy, please.
I feel uncomfortable with that. My relationships have always taken some time to develop. I think relationships need time to develop. You cannot just strike a conversation online with someone one evening and then the next day act like this was your partner. I mean where does this come from? Are people not really themselves aware of the problems with that behavior?
It is kind of like one night stand, but for intimacy. One night love, perhaps? You have clear needs that need to be satisfied, but you do not really have the patience to take time to ensure the long-term satisfaction. Instead, you go for something that seems to be more like an instant gratification. But, unlike with one night stand, where people understand that this is temporary and that this is not an OK behavior for relationship, one night lovers seem to be of the idea that this is it. This is how love is supposed to function. You can actually skip perhaps even meeting the other one face to face and just go to the phase of the relationship where you have someone who would emotionally support you and be interested in you and everything you do.
This is just the beginning of my musing on that topic. I will reflect longer about my own emotional issues behind these occurrences.
My default mode is to give responsibility for my life to someone else….Anyone else that agrees to take it. I mean, anyone else would be better qualified to take this responsibility than me, myself. I wonder why?
Of course, add to the equation also the fact that I do not really trust other people to stick around and you get a funny combination. I want someone to prove to me that they can take this responsibility and that I can count on them, but I am never convinced that I actually can.
So I can see two issues here. One is that I keep hoping that someone else will help me with things which any responsible adult should be able to handle themselves. The other problem is though my trust issues. And guess what, as much as I wanted to meet this person who would take responsibility for my life, I ran into two interlinked problems.
The first issue was that no one really wants to be responsible for another adult. I mean this is too much responsibility. I mean, whoever wants to be responsible, you should be suspicious off, because likely there is a significant tradeoff somewhere. The other issue was of course that I also tended to choose guys that were either instable or too immature to stick around once I had serious problems.
I am trying to take the responsibility for my life nowadays, but it is long and difficult process. It has its relapses.
Today I want to talk about some illogical connections which my childhood has created in my head. There is really not a better word I can currently find for that as I am still exploring the issue myself.
So the thing is, my childhood was about somehow finding out a way how to control my mother’s reactions to me. The whole childhood I entertained the idea that if I only tried hard enough, I would find a way to control these reactions and her dysfunctional emotions. So that was one and most primary purpose behind why I did things and also largely defined where I chose to put my efforts to. Mostly my efforts went to studying well and well, not making myself too visible. Just being low key and not driving any attention to myself. Of course I also suffered on constant anxiety – a feeling I could never really make sense of when I was a child. Anyways, I invested to something which my mother held dear – namely schoolwork. The rest, well….obviously was not of much importance or well did not give any significant effect as to whether my mother would be happy or not.
The problem here is that somehow such a focus came to define my life. During the university I focused on my school work. As other people explored social life and other things, I hanged along to a degree, but in my mind this was not important. I had internalized the idea that as long as I do well in school, everything will be fine. Labor market was scary for me, because school provided the safe haven. The only place where I knew how things function.
Such exaggerated focus to schoolwork during my growing up years and treating the success in school as some kind of key to success to all other areas of life has had a termendous effect on how I live my life. I have continuously ignored other areas thinking that if only work hard enough, somehow other areas would fall into place. Somehow I would feel more safe and somehow I would not experience problems in my finances etc. It is kind of magical thinking really – and the kind of thinking which does not help one in life. I have focused so much on my work because that was the only thing where I felt I could excercize some kind of control. School – the only thing that allowed me to somewhat control my mother’s reactions and feel like I am less dependent on her moods.
That is not how life works though…..
I am doing a lot of rethinking about my life these days, hence so many posts.
I have been anxious lately. Perhaps it is about my ex moving out soon. Perhaps it is my work stress. Perhaps it is my financial struggles. Perhaps it is some of my addictions. Perhaps it is my love interest blocking me. However, as I zoomed in to the anxiety, something really different started to uncover.
Namely, I am used to living my life, being controlled by someone unstable. Being dependent on someone who was not really dependable. I am used to feeling at least some level of anxiety all the time. I mean I had to constantly watch my steps. I developed a certain self-regulation mechanism where even when my mother was not a round, I was mortally afraid of her judgement. I still am. Only these days I rationalize it as me objectively screwing up.
So what do I do? I recreate this early childhood feeling of being dependent on someone non reliable. I choose either guys who constantly judge me. Or guys who are unreliable and unpredictable. Or maybe both in one person. Anything to recreate this early feeling of not being safe in the world. Hell, I even chose an unstable career which is based on me constantly getting scrutinized. Little did I know about how many of my choice in this life were defined by this constant feeling of insecurity and constant feeling of being unsafe.
Obviously it is not really something you fix with one day, but I think me understanding this already takes me closer to perhaps solving it. Perhaps being able to create a more secure life for myself. I feel that so far I have sabotaged all the kind of security there potentially was in my life. I feel that me realizing that I have been sabotaging it is a breakthrough. I am looking forward to being able to create a more secure future for myself.
When I was fifteen my father reappeared and wanted to establish some kind of contact with me. Mind me he had earlier occasionally shown up and met with me for one evening and then disappeared again. My very skeptical reading as to why he wanted to connect with me at the age of fifteen would be that, he assumed that most of the work of child-raising would be done by this point and he could reap some rewards of having a child.
However connecting with me did not exactly go as planned. Namely I was distant and mistrustful. I had trouble opening up and talking to him which was obviously not something he expected. In his mind he was hoping for a daughter who would embrace him warmly and give him some of the love he was missing in his life. The idea of having to rebuild the trust at this point was not part of his plan.
So it did not take long for him to disappear again. Even if it seems obvious that it was my fault, subconsciously, I think I have always held myself accountable for his disappearances. I mean how else would I explain that when my ex disappeared, somehow I believed him when he explained to me how I had made him disappear. How relationship with me was so draining that he had no choice but to vanish for months. I looked at other happy couples and felt myself like a total failure, because I somehow made my boyfriend want to run away from me and not even keep in contact with me.
Interestingly enough when my ex reappeared, it was not him who had to work with regaining my trust. No, instead it was me who somehow had to fight for not having him abandon me completely. This sounds perverse as I write this here but I think even today there is a part of me that keeps asking – why don’t they want me? Why does no one want me enough for them to invest and fight for their relationship with me? Why do I have to fight for the right to have them in my life instead?
It is apparently these types of men I keep looking for. The kind of men for whose presence I have to fight for. The kind who disappear and reappear or make me work for their attention and love never giving me enough security about the relationship.
It has taken me for years to understand that on some level I have taken responsibility for my father’s assholish behavior. That on some level I thought his disappearances spoke more about me than about him. I also understand that just because I now understand rationally that these disappearances should not speak of me, emotional understanding might take a while, still.
When I think about my two last relationships and now my short dating experience then there have been three men with whom I never felt secure enough. Surely with one of my exes, lets call him Robert, we even discussed marriage and children. We even discussed child names. However, Robert and me were in a long-distance relationship and he was postponing his move….constantly. He also let me know that he is not going to move unless he finds a good job. Even though we talked about me moving to his country, there was never a conscious effort from his side to help me with that. If I wanted to move, I was supposed to organize everything on my own….
This kind of ambivalence and lack of reciprocity I think characterizes my relationships. I am not talking about emotional closeness and affection here. Some of the guys I have dated with have been rather affectionate and loving, way more than I. What I am however talking about is that I never felt safe that these guys are going to stay. I did not feel as if I was part of their life.
I lived together with my recent ex for four years. Still during these four years, I did not feel like I was part of his life. He had his own little secret life when he was visiting his friends at his home country. I did not belong there. His friends did not accept me with open arms either. Rather they made no effort to include me and somehow he accepted this. Again, I felt unsafe.
I could continue with the list of behaviors here, but I think more worthwhile is still analyzing this feeling of being unsafe and left out. I do not think I am imagining it. I think all three guys were not ready to share their life with someone else to the degree that is needed for a fully blown relationship. There was a lack of commitment and lack of commonality. I always felt like I had to fight for the common future. Like I was the one holding everything afloat.
My last experience with someone is finally starting to make me realize that this is not how one should feel. I have been so invested in trying to figure out how to make these guys commit and love me that I have never asked myself – do I feel good in relationship with these guys? I am going wild here and guess that if a relationship makes you constantly second-guess yourself and induces a lot of anxiety in you, chances are high that your partner is probably not fully ready to be in a relationship. Instead, they keep sending you some kind of contradictory signals about commitment, which you accept, because you are so invested in trying to get their commitment.
I am not sure yet what a good and healthy thought process in this situation would look like. However, what I do know is that I do not want to feel that insecure anymore. I also do not want to be someone who has to convince their partners to make a bigger commitment. This is something that is still a very sensitive topic and which I will devote more time to in the future.