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    I have to tell you how much I appreciate what you’ve said here. I feel like I’m being seen and that isn’t easy to come by for me. The few people who really know me would say what you’ve said. I recently came across a poem a friend wrote me years ago in which she describes how I’m misunderstood, and that is really true. I look one way, act another way, speak and engage in a certain way and then make another impression entirely on many people. My astrologer once told me that my challenge in life is to translate myself. People don’t often get me, as I’m a tad confusing lol, but unfortunately I do tend to internalize that. I was the quiet one, the studious one, the one who never quite fit in, even when she tried. Being a loner feels more natural, but everyone needs companionship, which more frequently shows up in a romantic context. I’ve learned so much about myself and other people in them. They haven’t always been great, but I wouldn’t change them, because I grew somehow or I got stronger in some way. Challenges and limitations are some of my greatest teachers and allies.

    As for men, I don’t always have the best picker. In honesty, I tend to gravitate toward different iterations of my dad, with different ratios of both his good and his less-than-easy qualities. He has always been a staple in my life and his life was hard, so leaving men with similar qualities perhaps feels, deep down, like I am somehow abandoning him. So there it is, what I’ve heard before–I am still unconsciously working out my daddy issues.

    Finding a partner on equal footing has been challenging, but I will either meet that person or persons one day or meet an ever better version of myself as I go.

    Thank you again for this, Anita. Be well.


    So you’ve worked with therapists before, but that doesn’t really detailed what your relationship with yourself as is. You might have worked hard on your mental health, trying to accept yourself as is, but it still seems that you wish to change things about yourself? As you tend to think that you can change what doesn’t serve you in life? Does that mean letting go of the toxic messages that was ingrained into you or changing your personality? But I don’t think you ‘should’ have to do anything. Everything is a choice and you have the choice to do what is reasonable for you.

    My relationship to myself is one that is ever evolving. It hasn’t always been the best. I haven’t had a whole lot of people support me, be on my side, or show me how to really love myself, so I had to learn and I am still learning. I have come really far, but things still crop up because I, like most, am a work in progress. And no, I know there is no “should” necessary in that, but if I keep running into problems in my life because of something that stems from my issue(s), I work hard to fix it. So it isn’t about changing my personality so much as working to fix the ingrained messages and beliefs that make connecting to myself or others more difficult.

    Now, regarding your relationship, what kind of people are you letting into your life? No idea if you live in an area teeming with a huge population that you can meet a lot of people, and making friends is difficult. But what kind of people are you letting take up your time and attention? I don’t write this to shame/blame you, but I am curious as to why you’ve tolerated your ex projecting his insecurities onto you. From your narrative, he has done it multiple times. You’ve realized it wasn’t about you, of course, but you still stayed with him. You’d made the choice to stay with him. Why?

    I live in a small suburb but have access to larger cities. Covid 19 makes getting out and making new people harder. Introversion does, too. But it’s not impossible. I think that if I made a special, all out push for an extended period of time, I could cultivate some more friendships. As for what I’ve tolerated, I tend to think it’s because I do know that I’m an imperfect work in progress who would like forgiveness and understanding. And he’s great I’m enough ways for these to not be total deal breakers. But when these things come up and I feel like I’m fighting on my own or that we can’t be on the same side or that these instances are more than momentary lapses to be learned from, I can and do walk away. Sometimes it might take me longer than average person though, honestly. But I do wonder if it’s deeper than that and if I’m allowing myself to be taken advantage of/hurt/abused sometimes out of trying to be tolerant, patient, or understanding. A hard thing to face, but definitely a possibility. But I’ve also cut a lot of people out of my life who were otherwise draining, selfish, or incompatible. I try to take a little time to truly figure out the difference. If he is unable to see anything past his own nose, ego, and needs, then no this won’t work. The imbalance will be too great.
    <p style=”text-align: left;”>I don’t know if the previous guy before this did the same thing, but him calling you names is shaming and gas-lighting you. You wanted to discuss his hurtful actions and he tried to shift the blame to ‘you’ being a “psychopath” therefore he wouldn’t have to take total responsibility for sleeping with someone else. You still wanted to speak with him after that.</p>
    Yes, as for the gaslighting you’re right. I knew it and felt it and let him know about himself as a result. But I did miss talking to him and reached out for very brief interactions later, never to any real satisfaction. Maybe just to get it out of my system, because I knew I didn’t want to restart a relationship with him, even when he tried. Not a great choice, but I did what I did. It’s like, we cared about each other at one point, I need to ease myself off of this relationship and see that it actually isn’t what I thought and isn’t worth the headache.

    Hence, why I am an advocate of writing down the toxic things people said or did to you so that you can revisit another day when you’re calm and rational. The note serve as evidence that such a thing did happened and that you weren’t imagining it just because you wonder if them calling you ‘crazy’ has any validity to it.

    I will start using this tactic.

    You can’t change people, but you can choose to tolerate their actions. But why did you choose to tolerate them not taking responsibility for their actions and their emotions? You’ve tolerated them pushing the responsibilities onto you. From the guy who called you a psychopath while he chose to sleep with someone else to the guy who needed external validations from people while accusing you of looking down at him.

    I hear you, GL. He called me a psychopath and I asked what he was even basing that on. He had no response and changed the subject, so I knew for sure that he was just saying it to be an ass. I think that stemmed from my own insecurities about depression and anxiety and wondering, “am I ok? Do people see something about me that I’m missing?” But with that mindset, it’s so easy to let other people dictate ourselves to us. But that was a thought that came and went quickly in that scenario. I see that I do let people (usually guys) mistreat me and I let them off the hook. Self-esteem? Come in, self-esteem, do you read me? I will say that in the moment of the guy accusing me of looking down at him, I got peeved for a moment, told him I thought no such thing, walked away, and realized he was projecting how he felt about having vertigo as a byproduct of health conditions that he has. He doesn’t share the issues with people and felt vulnerable that I’d seen it. After walking away, I came back, looked at his face, and just hugged him. He started to cry. He felt vulnerable in an unbearable way initially and then leaned into feeling vulnerable in a good way. I do wish he were able to access those feelings himself without first laying blame, and maybe I AM too tolerant of other people’s childhood traumas and subsequent coping mechanisms (or lack thereof). But again, I have my own stuff and try not to immediately shut people out because of them. We progress and grow in stages. If they seem like they are able to shift and grow, why throw them out? I need to see a little more (again, maybe too much) before I do that and I have done that.

    I’m all for accepting people as they are, but that doesn’t mean tolerating toxic behavior. Hence, why the question of what is your relationship with yourself that you would tolerate these behaviors? Do you feel that you don’t deserve better or that as good as it gets?

    I think I’ve addressed this at other points in this post, so I won’t be repetitive, but you do raise a good point. I am tolerant to a fault, but I don’t stay in a situation forever and live with my fate. I grapple with it, I try to understand what else might be going on, I try not to take it personally. I am good about expressing myself and not backing down in a fight. Some would say I’m scrappy, have cojones, or that I can even be too tough about somethings. But I do have a tendency to bend too much in my romantic relationships. When I reach my limit, though, I do break up, divorce, or otherwise walk away. But again, I take longer to do so than many. Do I feel that it’s as good as it gets? No, I wouldn’t necessarily say that, but where I feel codependency creeping in is still feeling attached to that person and not wanting to give up on them and let them go if I don’t feel ready. This all sounds so contradictory.

    So you feel emotions intensely, but do you act on them the moment you feel it because you seem to think it’s not a good thing. Your emotions may be strong, but you are the one giving them meaning. You can honestly just feel then move on with life. Why would you wish to detach from them at times?

    When I say detach from them, I do mean to feel them/notice them without clinging to them/giving them meaning and acting on them, not to just ignore them or shove them down. I was unclear there.

    You don’t like relationships ending, okay. But life does not promise forever. Regardless of how much you care about someone, when a relationship has run its course, then the best you can do is wish the other well. Goodbyes are said all the time, what with the earth becoming a global economy. You can fly and live anywhere as long as you have the means. Emotions are fleeting and people do grow out of their relationships. Nothing is guaranteed in life. So where does your mistrust come from? That when people said they ‘liked’ you, that it was false because they eventually bid you farewell? Or does it come from your insecurity that you’re not worth the effort to cultivate a relationship with? But what do you think you deserve?
    <p style=”text-align: left;”>My mistrust is more like a reserve or apprehension about making new friends because things are often so fleeting. Along with my innate personality being a tad more reserved and introverted, I come from a big military background, so investing in others isn’t my strong suit. I keep trying and things don’t often work out. There can sometimes be a slight desperation in that: meeting people you click with and then all of a sudden, you’ve unclicked. It’s still jarring. But it does explain how it can perhaps be offputting to some people when I’m trying to make friends. Being either reserved/standoffish or slightly too eager doesn’t exactly bode well for new girlfriends. I can see that. I think that as far as what I deserve and should cultivate, it just keeps coming back to me and having no big expectations from anyone. Living in the moment, primarily to make myself happy and fulfilled so that I’m what I need to be for my daughter and my goals.</p>
    Thanks again, GL




    Hey Anita, to address your questions and comments,
    <p style=”text-align: left;”>One of the things I didn’t address was my discomfort regarding his behavior involving teenage girls. I felt that there is something wrong with his attitude and some of his behavior in this context. I don’t know if he understand how wrong it is to flirt with and even spend time alone with any teenage girl (at least teenagers who  are not part of the household).</p>
    The teenage girls are family friends. They are both daughters of folks who come to the house. The one in question is the sister of his late nephew’s best friend. He explained today that he sometimes invites her over to hang out or watch movies and didn’t mention it to me because it didn’t seem worthy of mention. Hm. Ok. We talk about our days and that just doesn’t come up? Sure, anything is possible. Also, there are other people in the household and family who are closer to her age. Why isn’t she spending time with them? Why would you even WANT to spend time with a 19 year old girl as a 45 year old man? I am a few years younger than him and a woman and if I don’t have much in common with her, how do you? But he is a bit of a free spirit and apparently her family knows they hang out and no one else has an issue but me.

    I am not clear if you agree, disagree or partially agree with my understanding that you have unrealistic expectations of men, specifically, expecting the current guy to filter his thoughts and behaviors to such a degree that he has to be overly careful/ uncomfortable about what he says and does?

    He doesn’t have to be, that’s the thing. I expressed how I felt, asked questions about what he thinks of/why he thinks he does it out loud to me, and said he doesn’t have to do anything. It was his choice to try filtering and then getting mad that he “had to.” Say and do what you want, but if you can do that, why can’t I also say that this is how I feel about it sometimes? If I can be slightly less uncomfortable about it and he can be slightly less effusive, great. It’s not that I don’t try. As for other unrealistic expectations, that’s possible. But for me, it’s often about trying to strike a balance between not being too rigid/letting my sensitivity overtake another person’s free will and letting too much get past me in that effort, which is being touched on with GL and their comments.

    Thanks, Anita


    Anita, thanks for your reply. I appreciate it.

    1. As you make practical choices in life, including whether to end this relationship or not- choose what will minimize your stress level, which I think should be your highest priority, for your own well being and for your daughter “who is having some serious growing pains with the divorce, Covid-19, and a frequently stressed out mom“.

    You are very right about this. Prioritizing my peace should always be at the top of my list.
    <p style=”text-align: left;”>2. You mentioned your lack of social support: “a frequently stressed out mom who has no other family or friends around.. I don’t have anyone else to confide in about this”- if you find my input helpful, keep posting here and I will be glad to read from you and reply every time you post.</p>
    I appreciate that.

    – the first man, it was not effective to give him a long, or very long list of your questions and concerns, fears and doubts. There was an assumption on your part that he is able and willing to process all that information and come up with a plan of action that will take care of your long list of issues with him and otherwise. I very much doubt that he was that capable. Even if he was a capable psychotherapist, he would have been way less capable in the context of a personal relationship. You gave him too much credit, giving him that list and attempting to discuss it.

    I feel you’re right about this too. I’d had a few literally sleepless nights. He was living in Asia and we’d had some long conversations in which I abandoned my needs for sleep in order to communicate with him, so by the time I decided to write out all those questions, concerns, and explanations, I wasn’t really thinking that clearly. No, it wasn’t the smartest thing to do, but deep down I knew I didn’t trust him anymore anyway. That list was just a way of trying to confirm something that didn’t need his confirmation. It made zero sense.

    – the second man, like you implied, he is quite immature, but he reads like a good guy. You see him as worse than he is; again, giving him too much credit in a negative way. His easy going lifestyle/young age lifestyle may be a benefit to you, in comparison to being involved with a very mature, busy and very uptight man.

    Yeah, he is a good guy. I think the only way in which I see him as worse than he is is with my having issues with his relationships with teenage girls. My own past raises my hackles when I see it, to an irrational point. I feel it to be something I need to really get used to and understand over time before I can truly trust that it’s solely innocent. I hate that it’s like that for me, but it’s true. It doesn’t just come from nowhere, but it is harmful in the context of a relationship. And again, I don’t judge him for his life. I comment on its simplicity as a boon to him and because I wish I had it. Mentioning it to him reads as judgment, but that is not what I feel about it. And you are right, I do not want to be with an uptight, busy, overly mature man. I like to be silly and spontaneous and have fun. I have enough on my plate and don’t need to add further seriousness to it. When I say he doesn’t leave the house and reads and paints, these are his words, too. Not a judgment.

    – you are overly critical of the men, expecting some kind of impossible perfection from them. Not that any of the men was even close to any idea of perfection, but your expectations are unreasonable. You watch them too closely, looking for reasons to get suspicious and offended, not giving them the space to just be. You expect them to remember everything you told them at all times, be focused, and filter themselves accordingly, on an ongoing basis- an impossible task for a human (possible for a computerized robot).

    I actually have a lot more flexibility in what I allow than I communicate here. But if literally one of your only issues with a partner was constant comments on other women’s looks or bodies and you mention it to him instead of sitting on it and silently stewing, why can’t that be a topic? I don’t tell anyone how to dress, be, etc. But if I start to feel uncomfortable or disrespected, it’s expecting too much to bring it up and want to have a conversation about it, one that ends with me saying, “Hey, that’s just how I feel. I cannot tell you how to be or what to do.” And when it came to sexual favors with the last guy, that was something he could have communicated to me. He asked me to maintain a long-distance relationship. We talked about almost everything. Maybe it was foolish of me to think that that would be a topic he would broach, but I did. I was trusting. I don’t even ask for constant filtering. I truly don’t. But I did want to address it because we also talk about a lot of topics and I wanted to understand his thought process in those moments. I find people attractive, but I don’t need to always call it out. It raises questions of, is there an underlying reason for this? Some people truly want you to feel insecure by doing that. If he had said, yeah join in, I think it’s blah blah blah, I’d have said sure! But he nixed that idea. I just try to make sense of things for myself. Is it annoying to others? Yeah, probably so. I know that not everything makes sense or needs to be analyzed.

    Having this unrealistic human-behavior expectation would make a healthy and lasting relationship with any man, including one who is almost perfect- an impossibility.

    I give and accept a lot. But I am also inquisitive and not always the most trusting of every single thing. Time and experience have shown me that I mustn’t trust without clarity or an explanation sometimes (see the above sexual favors response in which I trusted he was not straying because I thought we were more straightforward than that). But yes, I could probably stand to focus more on myself and making myself happy so that I am less focused on the behaviors of the people I’m seeing.

    – reads to me that you are over-reactive at times, to put it mildly, earning yourself the term “psychopath” that the first man mentioned and the what the second man referred to as your violence (“he still tried to.. play up my ‘violence’”). A daily routine of aerobic exercise, like long, brisk daily walks, listening to guided meditations and practicing Mindfulness can help you to pause between feeling triggered and reacting/ over-reacting to the feeling.

    I have to disagree with the psychopath reference here, Anita. That is a serious thing to lodge at someone that he was actually pretty mean to. What strikes me is that I am always meant to be more forgiving of these men but that same understanding is not always as readily welcome to me. I know that I am only responsible for myself, but they have accountability too. I’m drunk, I kick at a stool while seated, I don’t knock it down or go on a rampage, but feel like his touching my person was uncalled for. I’d gone on a five mile walk that day, but too much alcohol, nicotine, and caffeine with not enough food spell disaster for someone with a sensitive system. So yes, that is a combo that made me particularly “over-reactive.” And again, I was quite out of it, but he slapped my hand and broke a beer bottle in the street and I’m the one needing to take responsiblity for all of it? How? Again, accountability on both sides here.



    <p style=”text-align: left;”>Hi GL. Thanks for your reply. I’ll do my best to address your questions.</p>
    <p style=”text-align: left;”>Each person do have their own personal baggage. So the question is: how have you learned how to live with yours?</p>
    I have seen many therapists over the years. I was once on medication before I decided to try more alternative routes. I currently work with a life coach who helps me identify harmful core beliefs. I am always trying to understand my past and my childhood and how those events inform my current actions and situations. I don’t sit still on getting help, changing, or mental health. I am still working at just accepting that I am who I am and maybe I won’t ever change. I tend to think that I can change the things in my life that don’t serve me.
    <p style=”text-align: left;”>Though you’ve detailed the paths some of your relationship had taken, you don’t have anything on the topic of self care, other than you don’t have any support near you? Do they live far from you? Are you active in any social forums? Were you a part of any group meet ups before that you can contact via Zoom? What activities have you taken up other than attending classes?</p>
    Yes, my family live in other states and out of the country. I am not active in social forums, though I am looking to find some. I was part of a few groups and organizations that do not meet by Zoom as they have disbanded due to the virus. I have not identified other organizations in the past few months to get involved in.

    Which lead to the question: what is the relationship you have with yourself? Is it similar to the kind of relationship you had with your exes? Is it the kind that you called yourself names and shame yourself? Is it the kind that you find boring if it’s just you alone with yourself? Do you allow yourself to feel your emotions or do you feel them through the reactions of others?

    I did not shame those men. When I talk about their actions or where they are I’m their lives, it is meant to be descriptive, curious, etc. I am an introvert, so I typically prefer my own company and don’t mind being bored or alone. That has often contributed to friends falling by the wayside over the years; in periods of recharge or depression or loss, not everyone stays around. Or I put more effort into my own quiet than in developing friendships. I do well with one on one relationships and intimacy, so I do end up in romantic relationships. Things are a two way street, though. My efforts to make new friends don’t always go the way I’d like. I try, not everyone responds. Not everyone is everyone else’s cup of tea. It’s painful and sometimes I shut down and get down on myself for not being better at making friends. This has been me my whole life. And honestly, I’m at a point where I don’t always trust others or that they’ll stay or want to be around. One of my issues. Also, I do allow myself to feel my own emotions, sometimes to a fault. It would behoove me to detach from them a bit more at times.

    He might have ‘close’ family nearby that could potentially support him, but you don’t know their family’s history as intimately as he does. So it was a judgement on your part to tell him that it felt that the separation easier for him than you because he had ‘support’. His anger of that is pretty understandable. You decided you knew what his possible emotional state was or the support he had when you’re not even him. But did he actually told you that he wasn’t responsible for his emotions or was that you deciding how to interpret it? Because a lot of his actions does look like from your narrative, but you’ll also have to see it as a judgement call on your part too.

    He and I have talked at length about his relationship with his family and I have experienced it firsthand; this was not am out-of-pocket observation. I did not tell him how he felt so much as assume. “It seems like maybe separation is easier for you because you have family around.” That is an assumption that is easily refuted and I do not mind being corrected and told what the deal really is when it comes to other’s emotions. I said it when trying to understand his relative nonchalance about it when he is oftentimes more effusive about his feelings toward me. People make assumptions all the time and we correct them. He makes them at me often. I may get a little peeved, but I try to correct the assumption. He doesn’t always shift his assumption based on my correction, however. I can’t do anything about that. I said he doesn’t take responsibility for his emotions because he often doesn’t. He will lodge a judgment at me, “You think I’m being weak right now, stop looking at me like I’m weak,” when that is the farthest thing from my mind. I take a moment to see where he’s coming from and think, “Ok, this isn’t about me,” and try to be patient about getting to what’s really going on.

    Now, it’s understandable that you’re combing through your memories to try to make sense of your past, but your vocabulary has a feeling of blame in it. You don’t want to be a fool? What does that mean? You were ashamed of being drunk even though that’s just a chemical reaction in your body which means you weren’t clear headed at that moment? You have a lot of baggage, yes, but where’s the compassion for being human? You’re caring, but for whom?

    Maybe there is some blame there, when I’m really just wanting to take responsiblity for my actions. I don’t want to be a fool drunkenly accusing people of things when sober I would never have behaved like that. But I am the one who chose to drink. I was ashamed of how I behaved, yes. Shame can be a powerful motivator to make different choices in the future: “I know I don’t tolerate caffeine and nicotine well. I will limit myself to x amount of drinks.” I don’t judge all drunk people for drinking or doing drunk behaviors. I felt bad that we’d had such a great time and a pretty good relationship and I potentially ruined it with my actions. It’s up to me to forgive myself and I’m mostly there. I do have compassion for myself for being a young victim of predators. I do have compassion for myself for feeling sad about being betrayed. Sometimes we don’t know when a trigger will get pulled. I was also being judged by him for those same chemical reactions you mention, although when he had a similar chemical reaction recently, that same standard did not apply to him, but to me to be aware of his state and not hold him accountable, and I did not. It just doesn’t feel fair to me. But hey, life isn’t right?

    You’ve excused a lot of your ex behavior until the straw broke the camel back so what’s helped you opened your eyes to the reality of your relationship? To the relationships that you want, but don’t do much to cultivate? There are many ways to create a support system, but you’ve only focused on romantic relationships so far. What about friendship? Why did so much of your effort go into romantic relationships and not friendships? You want a support system, but it doesn’t seem you’ve tried to established any friendships to even get it started.

    Again, friendships are a two way street. I’ve had many emails and texts go unanswered over the past months. Even though it seems I wrote a tome up there and tried to provide some context, one cannot fully write one’s life out completely in a post that’s focused on getting insight about a particular situation. I have walked into many rooms and been immediately dismissed. I have had long, deep, and supportive talks with people that I’d see on a regular basis that end up going nowhere. I am friendly and open in my old (ha) age, but things don’t always click. At the party the other night, I made friends with the wives and shot the shit with the husbands. Great times had by all until I lost my mind. Like everyone, surely there are many things about myself I’m missing, I know that. But if I knew what to do differently, I would.

    Again, thanks for your comment GL.

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