Nobody owes you a relationship 

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

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

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

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

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

 

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Manipulative people

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

All the relationships without emotional intimacy…..

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friends who secretly like to see you sad

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

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

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

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

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

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

The balance between getting respect and being vulnerable

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Is commitment fear a real thing?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

When people disappear

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

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

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

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

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

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.

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.

Relationships with entitled people

Do you have people whose every phone call makes you shiver and want to run miles away? Well, I realized that for me such a person has been my mum. And then my ex best friend and perhaps one of my exes and a few other people… What joins all these people together however is a sense entitlement and the very demanding attitude they have taken towards me. The underlying idea seems to me the following – they assume I owe them my love and well lets face it submission since they provide me certain other services. It really is a contract where as a gratitude for some protection or what not I become the person satisfying their needs. When these needs are not satisfied, logically I get an angry reaction.

My ex best friend contacted me recently after two years of total silence. This was a big one. I was just there in shock, trying to figure out what to do. Finally I did something which I am still so proud of.  Namely asked if anything in her attitude towards relationships and friendships had changed over the years and if she thought that there was some evidence which confirmed that we could get along today.

I assume that it was a shock for her. People like my mum and my ex best friend do not think that way. They think you owe them something and that it is just a matter of time till you come back to them because you are so dependent. It surprises them if you choose not to return. It surprises them even more if you actually start setting boundaries and also setting demands on them. Somehow control is lost.

For years I was an errandboy for my mums needs. Whenever she would call with another demand, I was there to run and please. Being in her proximity made me nervous because there was always some hidden expectation which I never realized and which would make her explode. Through my reaction to my ex best friends contact I realized the pattern was the same with her. I felt like I needed to conform and realize her needs and demands without words being expressed.

I am not saying these were one sided relationships, not at all. After all I got my protection, I got some caring and whatever else that I wanted. However, I am realizing that I do not need the benefits anymore. Not if the cost is having to be constantly alert to someone else’s needs and having to be ready for an anger outburst if I have not attended to their needs.

So essentially I feel I have made great progress because I am actively choosing to say no to demanding and entitled people in my life. After so many years, I do not really think I will end up in another relationship or friendship with such a person.