Difficulties in enforcing the borders

I find enforcing borders still somewhat an alien concept. It is as if I have read somewhere that I need to enforce borders in order to make other people respect me, but something inside of me still wants to say “yeah, but what if they abandon me”. As a result I feel as an impostor most of the time – it is like telling yourself that you really love veggies, because you know that they are good for you, but on the inside you would just want fries.

This ambivalence sometimes creates contradictory situations where I have enforced a border and then start acting the ways which shows that I would want to take it back. This is not made easier by the fact that the price I pay for my borders is sometimes losing the people who have been in my life for a long time. These are some really difficult choices to make.

Lets take one example from my work. I am leading a group and yesterday was a deadline for one task. However, naturally the task was not delivered. I really had to convince myself to send out the email today which asks people to send their contribution at least by Thursday. I noticed similar self-doubt lurking in – am I doing the right thing, what if this messes up my relationship with my colleagues once and for all. What if what if….

So I keep reading the literature on borders and try to test around with those. However, I am afraid that I leave a rather wishy-washy impression for the outsider as my borders appear in random places and sometimes rather strongly. I suspect that it will take years for me to get right as it took years of bad treatment to lose all the borders to begin with. It sucks and makes for a lot of confusion for both you and others, unfortunately. Furthermore, I feel that in some relationships the disrespect has become so big, that it will be impossible for me to claim respect now. That probably means giving up some more relationships in the future. This unfortunately does not make one feel as if one is improving their life, but rather as if things are only getting more difficult.

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.

 

Realizing and negotiating your needs in the relationship

My partner has a high need for alone time. Most of our evenings are spent with him staying at his computer and us barely saying a word to eachother. This has not always been the case, but went worse when he started telling me how emotionally needy I was and how conversations in our relationship were his favor to me. So for a while I just swallowed my needs and felt bad about being emotionally needy. Not only this, but he also pathologized my needs, by telling me how everything was caused by my childhood traumas and how no person in this world could potentially fulfill my emotional needs.

I took and victimized myself. I felt rejected and left alone. I also felt ashamed and took it as my mission to become super independent in therapy so that no one could ever tell me again how they are doing me favors in the relationship. This until……

I realized that the relationship cannot function based on one person’s needs only. Even though he has high need to withdraw, he cannot run this relationship based solely on his need. His need for emotional detachment is no healthier or more natural than my need for emotional closeness. When I finally realized this and stopped judging myself for what he called my emotional neediness, it was easier for me to negotiate the terms of the relationship. I suddenly realized that my needs are important and are not pathological, just different.

To be honest, being able to negotiate my needs was freeing for me. I have spent so much time feeling victimized and feeling as if the relationship runs solely on his terms that the whole idea that I can ask for what I need and it is also important feels like a totally new level of empowerment. It feels as if I do not need to spend my whole life trying to conform to someone else’s standards and go an extra mile to be liked by them, but that I can also have my own demands and needs.

I know that for many people that might seem simple and logical, but for me that is a real game changer.

Similar friendship patterns

A lot is written on how we attract similar kind of romantic relationships, but much less about friendships. So I will dedicate this post to friendships.

I have noticed that I seem to have one predominant friendship pattern. I seek out these wise and strong women that would help me with my issues. Basically I seek a surrogate mother, I guess. The problem with these friendships is that well, you cannot have a mother when you are grownup, it always has its negative sides.

Here is how these friendships develop – first we are both content. They, because they feel admired and have control in this relationship and me, because I have finally found someone who will support me. As the relationship continues, I start to feel more and more inferior as my acute feelings of unworthiness progress. My friends on the other hand start to either withdraw (because my neediness is too much for them) or indulge in a sense of control and put me down further.

Obviously relationships are not one sided and I have to take full responsibility for my relationship troubles. The problem is, as much as I try, I cannot seem to shake off two major contributing feelings – that I am worse than everyone else and that I am helpless. These are the two very strong feelings still left in me. I am afraid that as long as I harbor those feelings, I will continue to attract similar kind of relationships further down the road.

The interesting part of analysing same-sex relationships, in this case friendships, is the fact that you notice how they represent your relationship with your same-sex parent. So it is not only the opposite sex parent whose role in our life is defining in terms of relationships, but also same sex parent. So my relationships with my friends are a good representation of my relationship with mom.

How you get out of the addiction of chasing unavailable men

I have a habit in my life. I am chasing these guys that need to be convinced about committing to me. Granted this pattern has gone better over the years. I began by chasing a guy who was clearly not interested in me. Somehow I could read meaning into smallest sentences of his and convince myself that in fact he was so into me, he just did not know this. After him came another guy who was clearly into my friend and just wanted me as a friend. Oh well, he was at least friendly towards me, which is more than I can say about the first guy. Right after this came my ex who I never completely figured out. He told me that he was never in love with me, so I guess I need to believe his version of things. The obvious development was that at least this time I could convince the ‘unavailable guy’ to have a relationship with me. After him came my current boyfriend, who, clearly was and is in love with me, but struggles giving away his independence (as in including me in his plans, believing that I should somehow convince him to return home earlier than nine etc etc). In the middle have been some crushes who at least show interest in me, but are unavailable for other reasons.

I guess I can at least say that well, current unavailable guys are into me. This can be seen as a positive development in a sense that I will not develop feelings towards someone who totally disregards or ignores me. One could motivate that it is part of maturing, but in my case I think addressing the problem has had some real consequences. However, the truth is that the pattern is still there, even though not as strong as it used to be.

I am starting to realize however that the problem is in my whole thinking. I have always been obsessed about finding out how to make guys love you. I have read millions of guidebooks as to how to attract guys. The simple idea that you have to however convince someone to be into you, that you have to change and market yourself so that they would first develop and then not loose interest in you, might be behind the whole problem.

I have never considered what those guys did to attract me. I have never assumed that they should somehow market and transform themselves in order to be liked by me. I have never considered myself an award, but rather thought that these guys are an award. I have accepted a behavior towards me which has been questionable to say the least. While accepting this behavior my main concern has been – does he still like me. Did I do everything right? My attention has been totally on what these guys think of me and not what I think of them.

I am not going to say that with this post my whole life will suddenly be transformed. Transformation is long and hard process, this is something five years of therapy have definitely shown me. But what I hope is that there is a positive development happening which will ultimately lead me not being so attracted to guys who need to be convinced to want me. Of course what I also secretly hope is that this will lead me to instead attract guys who are convinced that I am what they want.

Expectations and the fear of expectations

They say that one of the reasons behind commitment phobia is a fear of expectations. I can honestly admit that I have kept my partners away from my life in order to avoid facing their judgement. I did not want them to witness what a mess I was. Eventually I had to still let someone see this mess – my current boyfriend and even he agrees that I was a hot mess when we started living together.

The funny thing about this fear of disappointing others is hence that it is completely justified. You do not want to go into a relationship warning your partner about you not having your life together. So when is the good point to tell them that well, actually……you have a depression or you are bad at housework etc etc.

In my case I am slowly facing the fact that I will never become a good family person. I believe that ship has sailed. I can try to compensate as much as I want, I can go to psychologist and I can heal my wounds, but there are some things I cannot change anymore. At least that is how I feel.

I grew up on my own. Or as my boyfriend likes to say – among cats. He has on multiple occasions compared me with a girl from a jungle – the one that has no idea how a family life should function. I have no idea how to conform to common meals. I still struggle cooking regularly. I have a tendency to hide myself behind my work. I struggle spending intimate time with my boyfriend. There is just too much to compensate for.

Family matters. Not only for psychological health, but also for our lifestyle. I have spent 30 years living like an hermit. The fact that my boyfriend is not the greatest fan of family life does not help. I feel that for any random guy I would be a complete disappointment in terms of my household skills or the lack of those. I terms of what I cannot do.

I can feel quite confident today in my skills as a social being. As a seductress. Even as partially independent woman. But I am not sure if I will ever feel confident as a housewife. And the fact that I am so painfully aware of all my misgivings in this area does not help.

Feeling unwanted as a distorting lens

My whole life I have felt unwanted. This feeling has been following me in life for so long that it has completely clouded my judgements about what is going around me. For instance I never entered to the relationship fully believing that these guys actually wanted to date me. I rather thought, well I could somehow trick them there, but wait until they find out who they are actually dating. Similarly, I felt major insecurity in social situations, where I would always assume that any moment now someone will ‘find out’ who I really am. That I am just pretending to be confident and having my life together.

This feeling of unwanted has also naturally motivated me to engage in series of relationships which were non-commitmental and long for guys who never had equal interest in me. The trouble is, I have real difficulty distinguishing when a guy is unavailable and when I am just based on my deep feeling of unwantedness over interpreting things. For instance I cannot to a date say if my ex boyfriend actually was serious about me and if he was only pushed away by my neediness and my beliefs that he does not love me or if he actually indeed did not love me. The same applies to a degree to my current relationship. I cannot understand if he is serious about me or not.

I have spent so long time believing that people do not care about me nor would choose me if they have a choice that well, all my life has basically been molded around this belief. The trouble is, this belief did not come from thin air. Naturally I spent years of hearing my mother telling me in various forms how I was unlovable and I spent years being bullied and casted out by my peers. These are painful memories which still seem so recent. Every time I feel somewhat left out of some social circle it feels way worse for me than for other people, because it just awakens all these old feelings again. Every time I suspect that my boyfriend never has had an intention to commit to me, it feels like I am not going to get out of this hole ever.

I am not sure how much of the healing has to come inside of me and how much of it has to actually come from changing the outside environment. I am starting to acknowledge that in fact several of the unavailable guys that I chased actually in fact did not want me. I am starting to acknowledge that my last visit to my boyfriend’s home was colored by his friends ‘testing me’ and being in general less than welcoming. I am also starting to acknowledge that many friends have forgotten me and many who I thought were friends cared very little for me to begin with. So everything feels somewhat a mix right now. I am trying to push through, but sometimes the pain is quite overwhelming.

Co-dependency from the perspective of dependant

I have thought about the topic of dependency quite a lot during the recent days, both in relation to my mother and my boyfriend. This post hence is somewhat a follow up to my previous post on martyrs.

I think it is fair to say that I and my boyfriend once formed a co-dependent relationship. He was the care-taker and I was the dependent. Today I am going to comment on the whole tango from my perspective.

See, I grew up with the knowledge that I was helpless. After all, my mother had built a solid ground for that in the hopes of keeping me dependent on her forever. In return for favors and occasional care-taking, she wanted the obedience and admiration.

I would say that very similar pattern existed between me and my boyfriend during the first years of our relationship (no there was no addiction there). He made it clear to me that he does not depend on me in any way and could leave at any point in time. This naturally pushed me towards more people-pleasing behaviors as I was desperately trying to keep him at my side. The knowledge that I am so dependent on him and he is so independent (at least so I thought) made me loath myself more. I knew I was dependent and I hated myself for this. He knew as well that I was dependent and that this gives him the freedom to dictate the terms of the relationship.

Not only was my boyfriend setting the terms of the relationship, he also had little respect for me. I was the needy one, the child, the dependent, who needed to be taken care of. This was a hassle, but had its benefits, because all kinds of problems in the relationship could be put on me. So I wallowed deeper in my dependency role thinking that with so many flaws and being so helpless, he was the only person who would ever going to want to be with me anyways.

If anybody has viewed a show named Californication then there we have a perfect example of co-dependent relationship. Many people might wonder why Karen keeps going back to Hank, but the answer is the same – she gets the sense of power from being the parent, being in control, being admired and dictating the terms. She takes pride in her role as a martyr. Hank and Karen are equally messed up, even though for the viewer, Hank might seem the dysfunctional one.

Why am I saying this – because there is a lot of empathy for co-dependents in our society. However, the dependents are seen as the seed of evil. Having been in this role myself, I would say that such an attitude sfurther reinforces the sense of shame which the dependent feels. From my own perspective, I can say that coming out of the role of dependent can be really difficult and often times your co-dependent partner is trying hard to keep you in this role through criticism, relentless offers of favors and by underlining their superior role.

My experience with martyrs and conditional love

I made a relative breakthrough in my therapy recently. Namely, I realized that I had grown up with the knowledge that I did not deserve my mother’s care nor love. So when she gave it to me, it must have been because she was so giving and not because I actually deserved to be loved.

Yes, my mother was an excellent martyr. Excellent at pointing out what all she had given to me and how selfish I was. The thought of, maybe I deserved to be given all these things never occurred to me. It is funny, because I did not fully buy into my mother being this selfless creature either. I knew she was neglectful, but part of me still believed that I was undeserving of even what little she gave me.

The same pattern has continued in my current relationship. My boyfriend makes an excellent martyr. Unlike my mother, he does give more and he is more generous with his love. However, he has left me in no dark about all the favors that he is continuously doing for me.

I spent years feeling very thankful, but also resentful for everything that he had done for me. After all he was there when I really had a difficult time in therapy etc. It never occurred to me that maybe I deserved to be listened and helped. Maybe it was my value that motivated him doing these things. Maybe he did not love me because he was such a good and giving person, but maybe he loved me because I was such a good person.

Martyrs unfortunately have the tendency to make love about them. You hear them talking about how they are so loving and giving, but you rarely hear them saying how others in fact deserve their love. Hence it is not difficult to pick up a message that maybe you are unworthy of all their care and effort. Maybe you should be eternally grateful, because who else will love such a selfish beast you are?

Scared to death of being single

I have a fear in connection to my relationships with men. The fear is that no one will ever commit to me for real. Lets face it, no man has so far. Yes, I am living together with my boyfriend, but every time we talk about future, I get a realization that the kind of future I want, with children and marriage, might never happen with him.

I will be honest. This has upset me for quite a while. I have been trying to take it easy, but this has been one of my main concerns ever since I started dating. That maybe, just maybe I will never find anyone. Maybe I will be all alone. Just like my mother. Deep down I am scared as hell.

My fear naturally has made me make some unreasonable relationship choices. I have pretty much jumped to the relationship with any decent guy that showed interest in me. I have refused to breakup even if it was clear that this relationship is not good. Anything just to avoid the pain of being single.

Unfortunately this panic before being alone has created exactly what it has intended to avoid. I am waking up to realization that my panic has pushed me to commit to guys that with their behavior showed me from the beginning that their interest is not equal to mine. In my delusional mindset I tried to convince myself that they actually really loved me and I will just need to help them. Love conquers everything…. Well, years later I have to admit, no it really does not. Instead, it has left me with the feeling of….well desperation to a degree. Feeling that I am trying so hard, but obviously in wrong places. See, it is not enough to try hard and then just keep doing the very same. This is how I have functioned so far. Just hoped that I will somehow convince those commitment resistant guys to commit. Once they will see how great I am, they cannot but to commit. It appears that actually yes they can.

So my somewhat poor choices have been greatly inspired by my desperate fear of being left alone. This is the hurdle which I am facing right now and I have to say that this fear is overwhelming me to a degree that I have serious urges to just quiet it with alcohol every waking moment. This, I find, is just indicative as to how strong this issue is. Whatever it takes, I will have to push myself through somehow.