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  • #408018
    Tee
    Participant

    Dear Sadlyconfused,

    you are welcome and sorry for a delay in responding. I will try to give you my input, in hope that it will help you see things more clearly (and be less confused). Please know that my intention is not to criticize or judge you, but to help you.

    Yeah, it [people pleasing] was the way my mother acted around everyone and I learned from a young age that this was how you got people to love you and treat you well. I think I believed that kindness from other people had to be earned and that it wasn’t something that I was just automatically worthy of.

    I had a father who treated my mother like dirt and his cruelty and criticism towards/of me really amped up when she died and could no longer protect me from it. I grew up in a very misogynistic environment and walked on eggshells.

    It seems to me that your mother protected you by taking the brunt of your father’s wrath on herself, not by standing up to him? She sort of took the blow, but didn’t teach you how to protect yourself from it? If so, she unfortunately showed you a bad example of how to behave around abusive people – to appease them instead of stand up to them. You saw a different example only later, when you started working and saw that other people don’t take the abuse so readily.

    It was a shock to find that people actually respected me less for being a doormat. I don’t think I’d ever fully allowed myself to even feel anger until I was in my late twenties. I had been miserable and resentful for many years but I’d suppressed these emotions so much that I had never even known it until I started to stand up to my father as an adult.

    No wonder you didn’t allow yourself to feel anger – because had you felt it, your father would have probably punished you. Aggressive, misogyinist men don’t take well when a woman opposes them. He might have even become physically violent if you hadn’t done as he told you?

    That’s great btw that you finally managed to stand up to your father, even if later in your life!

     

    I never really made a big thing about taking anti-depressants in the first place, so I don’t think he’s aware that I no longer take them. I think generally he trusts me to do what’s right for me and would be supportive of it. I think I didn’t tell him a couple of years ago that I was weaning off them because I knew that it was potentially going to be a bumpy ride for a while in terms of side-effects but I’d hoped that it wouldn’t last as long as it did.

    It seems to be that you were afraid of being completely honest with your husband – maybe projecting some of your father’s criticism into him – and so you didn’t really tell him when you started taking anti-depressants (you were still dating at that time). And you didn’t tell him later either that you were weening off. Do you think that the reason could be the fear of judgment?

    Please don’t think that I am judging you or anything, I am just trying to understand the dynamic in your relationship. You said you had communication problems. It could be that a part of it was your fear of being judged by your husband? Even though he might not have been judgmental, or at least not as judgmental as your father (you said he would probably support you in doing what you believe is right for you)?

    Our relationship was fine while I was on anti-depressants, but I wasn’t feeling fully and was going through the motions with day to day life. I didn’t think I had any resentments at the time because I was largely so tired and work focused that it didn’t seem to matter. I just wanted to sleep! I think all the things which did matter to me and needed to be addressed became more apparent when I stopped taking anti-depressants.

    Right. So for the majority of your marriage, until about 2 years ago, you couldn’t feel fully because you were on anti-depressants and you were only going through the motions, a little bit like being on an auto-pilot, right? You worked a lot, felt exhausted most of the time and in your spare time you just wanted to sleep. You didn’t feel resentment towards your husband, mostly because you didn’t feel much anyway, you didn’t pay attention to your feelings, nor to his feelings too much, I guess?

    Your marriage survived this “auto-pilot” phase, and only started shaking when you started weening off anti-depressants. I might have an idea why is that, but I don’t want to jump into conclusions. If you feel it’s relevant, and want to share some more about that phase of your marriage, please do so.

    What is important is that now, after a rough patch, you started opening up towards your husband and that he reciprocates, and that you can laugh together and talk more sincerely with each other. If your emotional intimacy is growing, that’s fantastic!

    Has he reduced his Discord dependence? Because based on what you’ve shared, it did become an addiction already, with him spending every single moment using the app…

     

    #407991
    Tee
    Participant

    Dear Dan,

    In my last post I said: I can imagine that you felt very alone and frightened during your childhood, having to endure the pain and the trauma on your own, not sharing any of that with your parents.

    It occurred to me – and anita already mentioned it – that the pain was probably too much for you to handle (and it would have been for anyone in your situation), and that’s why you disassociated and were not in touch with your feelings. It is very common for victims of abuse to disassociate because it enables them to survive the trauma.

    I am not a professional and don’t want to explain things that I know only superficially about, but I think that disassociation is the reason why you don’t really know why you didn’t tell your parents about the abuse. You said you vividly remember the time when the abuse happened when you were 8 or 9 years old. But you still don’t know why you didn’t tell you parents… Which would be a sign that you switched off your feelings and disassociated.

    Disassociation is common for victims of abuse, because it helps the person survive the trauma. It’s a self-protection mechanism. You did what you had to do under the circumstances. I guess the circumstances weren’t too good in your family: you said other things happened to you as well, and you are welcome to share about it when you feel ready. There is a reason why the first time you felt validated and appreciated was with your wife. It’s probably because it never happened in your family, with your parents. We can talk about this if you’d like…

    I think it would make sense to see a therapist specialized in trauma work, perhaps even someone specialized in childhood sexual abuse, to process the sexual abuse trauma. I unfortunately cannot give you competent advice on that matter. But we can talk about the attachment trauma, i.e. the relationship between you and your parents (which was perhaps different than the relationship between your parents and your brother?)

    All that – both the sexual abuse and the poor/inadequate relationship with your parents – could have led to you feeling lack of self-worth (which you mentioned in one of your earlier posts).

    I also think that it would be good to practice some self-care – to prepare yourself a healthy meal, or go for a walk, or go to a concert… You said earlier: “I would try to please her while neglecting my own needs“. Is there a need that you have (or a hobby), that you have been neglecting, and that you could return to now?

     

    #407988
    Tee
    Participant

    Dear Dan,

    I feel very broken at the moment and do not want to feel this way. There are so many things that I know I need to address and don’t know where to start.

    I hear you… The first thing is to have a lot of compassion for yourself. You don’t need to fix anything at the moment. Give yourself time.

    Healing begins with self-acceptance and self-compassion. Accept yourself exactly as you are at the moment, with all your good and bad sides. Accept everything, without judgment. Do you think you can do that?

    #407983
    Tee
    Participant

    Dear Dan,

    My parents didn’t know about it and I didn’t tell my family until I was 23 years old.

    What do you think was the reason for not telling them? There could be plenty of reasons, e.g. your parents were really busy and you didn’t want to burden them with your problems, or they might have been criticizing/strict and you didn’t feel safe to confide in them, or your brother was telling you not to tell anyone…

    The fact that you didn’t tell your parents till you were an adult tells me that you either didn’t feel completely safe and secure to share something like that with them, or that you were afraid of your brother (or alternatively, you wanted to protect him), and that’s why you didn’t say anything.

    I can imagine that you felt very alone and frightened during your childhood, having to endure the pain and the trauma on your own, not sharing any of that with your parents. There might be even some similarity with your situation with your wife, where you felt very alone and miserable when she couldn’t spend time with you, and yet you didn’t complain, you kept it for yourself and tried to endure. Would you say that some parts of how you felt with your wife (when you felt neglected and rejected) remind you of how you felt during your childhood?

    I am sorry you are feeling down these days…and I know how it is to be abandoned and feel inconsolable… But I still think that a lot of that pain is the pain of your inner child. In fact, my guess is that your wife – when she was available and could spend quality time with you – was meeting some of your unmet childhood needs. And I think that’s why you saw her as your source of happiness…  What do you think? Do you think there might be some truth in it?

     

    #407924
    Tee
    Participant

    Dear Dan,

    unfortunately there is no option to send a PM on this forum.

    I understand this is a very sensitive topic and that you might feel uncomfortable talking about it on a public forum, even if anonymously. If you feel uncomfortable sharing more about your parents’ reaction, then I’d suggest to talk about it with your therapist, because I think it’s very important for your healing.

    In an ideal case, you should have received your parents’ love, compassion and protection, so that the harm and the trauma you’ve experienced would be minimized. But unfortunately, parents are often far from ideal, and their reaction can harm us further, rather than help us. I am sorry if your parents’ reaction was not as loving and supportive as it should have been.

    Whatever you choose to share here, I will be glad to answer.

     

    #407887
    Tee
    Participant

    Dear Sadlyconfused,

    I don’t think either that you are a bad woman wearing a mask of a good woman, or pretending to be a good woman, deceiving people. As people pleasers, we allow others to cross our boundaries. We are afraid to say No and be assertive. We are afraid to stand up for ourselves, even if the things we are required to do go against our wishes and our best interests. But we suppress our wishes, we suppress our anger too, and we do what is required of us, maybe even with a smile on our face, because we are afraid of rejection and criticism.

    It is in that sense that I used the words “pretend” and “wear a mask”, because as people pleasers, we aren’t authentic. Not because we want to deceive others, but because we don’t want to be judged, and ultimately, we don’t want to be rejected.

     

    #407803
    Tee
    Participant

    Dear Dan,

    I know what I need to do I just can’t get started and would rather drown my pain.

    I hear you, and I know exactly what you’re talking about… I used to sabotage myself with binge eating, for many many years. The pain was just so big. I believed I was unlovable and unworthy – and that’s the pain I was trying to soothe. In vain, of course.

    Only much later have I come across the concept of the inner child. And realized that the child within each of us is so lovable and worthy, but he/she had been told, or had been treated by others in a way that he concluded that he is unlovable, that he is a freak, a nobody, that there is something terribly wrong with him.

    The child concludes that he is bad, even if he had done nothing wrong but was in fact a victim of abuse. In fact, the child believes that they deserved the abuse, and if they would only change and become “perfect” and “good”, that’s when the abuse would stop and their parents would finally love them.

    I’ve realized that there was a precious little girl inside of me, who was so heavily criticized and put down, who was never good enough for her mother, whose achievements were taken for granted and her even the slightest mistakes punished… I’ve realized that that girl needs my love and compassion, not my condemnation and judgement. She was a victim, not a villain. She needs my protection, but above all, my compassion.

    Dan, I know you’re hurting, and I am pretty sure that a lot of that pain is your inner child hurting… because he feels rejected and unloved, and probably unlovable too. But he is not unlovable – he is so precious and lovable! He’s been through a lot and he hasn’t deserved the abuse he went through. He needs your help, he needs your compassion, he needs you to take him into his arms and soothe him.

    That too is one important aspect of self-parenting: self-soothing.

    It’s good that you are in therapy. If you want to talk about anything at all, I am here…

     

    #407672
    Tee
    Participant

    Dear Sadlyconfused,

    I would just like to add and echo anita’s words: please have compassion for yourself.

    I have actually very recently realised that self-compassion is probably key to developing more emotional resilience (I started a workbook on self compassion just the other week!) so it’s reassuring that you’ve advised this. I think I’ve harshly judged myself all my life for the reactions I have and felt like there was something wrong with me.

    That’s wonderful that you’ve realized the importance of self-compassion and have started a workbook on that topic! We all need self-compassion, but specially people who were heavily criticized as children. We need that loving, kind, compassionate voice to replace the harsh voice of the inner critic.

    Something has just occurred to me – you asked who you are (since you are not and shouldn’t be a people pleaser!) Well, your true self is a compassionate self, having the voice of a gentle, kind and loving parent. If you can find such a voice within yourself, this is the voice of your True Self. If you get anchored in self-compassion, the pieces of the puzzle will start coming together, and you’ll be discovering more and more of your authentic self.

     

    #407671
    Tee
    Participant

    Dear Sadlyconfused,

    Please allow me to retell parts of what you’ve shared and what I’ve gleaned from your posts. This helps me get a clearer picture.

    You’ve shared that your father treated your mother like dirt. His cruelty and criticism towards/of you amped up when your mother died and couldn’t protect you from it. You were pretty young when your mother died, around 16-17 years old. When you were around 20 yrs old, you met your now husband, and 5 years later you two got married.

    In order to deal with your father’s misogyny, criticism and cruelty, you became a massive people pleaser. You lost yourself and became what other people expected of you. As you are now trying to heal from your childhood trauma, you are asking yourself: “Who actually am I? What do I stand for?”

    People naturally assumed that my easy-going, people pleasing habit was my core personality, rather than the trauma response that it really was.

    I would imagine that as a people pleaser, you weren’t actually easy-going, but that you pretended that you were happy to accommodate them and do whatever they asked of you, even if it went against your wishes. So you might have worn a mask of “kindness”, saying things like “sure, no problem, I’ll do it”, but underneath you felt miserable and probably resentful too?

    If I am counting right, you started taking anti-depressants about 14 years ago (one year into your relationship with your husband), and you have been taking them for 12 years. In the last couple of years you have been weening off anti-depressants. This has caused problems in your marriage, since you couldn’t feel anything for anyone, including your husband. You also had heightened anxiety. You now can feel again and the communication with your husband has improved in the last 3-4 months.

    You haven’t told your husband that you were weening off anti-depressants, which you now see as a big mistake because it would have explained your poor behavior. Does your husband now know that you’re no longer taking anti-depressants? Does he support you in that decision?

    You still cry when thinking about your mother, even if she died 20 years ago. This tells me that the wound is still raw. I think it’s because a part of you (the child and teenager that you were) still feels helpless and horrified at the thought of living without your mother’s protection, alone with your father, in an environment full of hatred and cruelty. A part of you is still stuck in the past, and this is probably the part that needs healing the most.

    It’s great that in the last couple of years, you are learning about trauma and getting better at self-care. And that you’ve made more progress in those 2 years than in the 12 years of being on anti-depressants. Are you attending therapy? Because I would assume that if one wants to ween off anti-depressants, one would need therapy to support that process…

    You said that once you started weening off, you’ve experienced loss of emotions – you couldn’t feel anything for anyone. Maybe this was a protective mechanism – to cut off all emotions, so they wouldn’t overwhelm you?

    Since you’ve started this thread due to an issue with your husband, I am wondering about the dynamic between the two of you. From what you’ve shared so far, he is a decent man who has behaved “out of character” recently. You are thinking that it was because he had a crush on some girl online, since you weren’t emotionally available. May I ask – is he in general a good husband? Does he respect you? How was your relationship while you were on anti-depressants? Please answer only if you feel comfortable talking about it.

     

    #407655
    Tee
    Participant

    Dear Dan,

    I am glad that my first post aligns with how you view the situation and that you feel it’s close to the truth. Let me just quickly repeat the gist of what I said about your needs:

    I am thinking that maybe you need a companion who doesn’t have so many responsibilities with children and other people in her life, but can spend a lot of pleasurable time with you, going to trips, concerts, mini vacations etc. You need someone who is free (and care-free enough) to spend a lot of pleasurable time with you, and not burdened by all those responsibilities.

    So you need a lot of alone time with your wife, spent in pleasurable and fun activities, where you can enjoy each other’s presence. Is that right?

    That in itself is a legitimate need, i.e. a legitimate thing to look for in a partner. There are many people who don’t have children, or who have grown children, and who want to enjoy life as much as possible. This may include traveling, going to concerts, engaging in hobbies, and simply having a lot of free time just to themselves. It would be perfect if you could have such a companion, with similar needs and preferences, and a similar level of freedom.

    But let me be completely honest: I think that even if you found such a partner, I am afraid you wouldn’t be truly happy, because it seems that your happiness depends on your partner (Much of my happiness came from her), which you yourself said is not healthy.

    So I agree that you would need a better relationship with yourself first (What I need is a better relationship with myself), and only then consider another relationship, or perhaps even renewal of the relationship with your wife.

    To be honest though. I’m still holding onto hope that maybe in a few years my wife and I could possibly get back together. With how things went down I do keep that hope alive.

    I understand that. You see her as a perfect woman for you, you said you love her unconditionally. But unfortunately there can be quite a few years before your wife is free to love you freely. Because she seems to have a tremendous sense of guilt if she spends time away from her children. And the children, specially her son, seem to have something against you. In the worse-case scenario, it could be as much as 8 years (till her son is 18) until your wife feels free (guilt-free) to be with you again. Are you willing to wait (and suffer) that long?

    I mean, you might even choose to wait, but as you yourself said, use that time wisely and work on yourself: I think it’s a good time to work on myself, improve myself and who knows what the future holds?

    Exactly! The future is unpredictable, but one thing is certain: if you want a better future, you would need to heal those emotional scars that prevent you from being happy. You would need to learn to be happy even without a “perfect” partner to meet your needs.

    And now we come to the core of the problem: the emotional scars, and the abuse you have suffered as a child. I am really sorry about that, Dan. That is tough.

    It’s good you are starting to read/watch videos about attachment trauma. The attachment trauma happens in the relationship with our parents or primary care-givers. My question (if you would like to answer) is how did your parents respond to your sexual abuse? Did they know about it? What was their reaction? Because their response (or lack thereof) was probably crucial, and it either helped you, or sadly, it further contributed to you feeling traumatized.

    I’ll be glad to keep this conversation going, if you feel it benefits you.

     

    #407639
    Tee
    Participant

    Dear Katrine,

    I am glad you are feeling better, now that you have a clear plan for how to go about it. I like your plan: apologize, appreciate his efforts, express your feelings. And yes, keep it simple and non-defensive.

    I’m trying to not take a potentiale rejection personally cause sometimes it’s not just about liking someone it could be a whole lot of other reasons.

    Yes, there is such a possibility that he likes you but he still for some reason rejects you – a reason that has nothing to do with you. And you are completely right: if something like that happens, don’t take it personally, don’t take it to mean that you are not good enough. In fact, you can tell yourself: “I am lovable, even if he says no.” Or “I am worthy, even if he says no”. You can repeat such positive affirmations beforehand, to boost your self-confidence and feel more at ease when you talk to him.

    And as anita said, I also think you will feel good about yourself for trying it and expressing yourself, rather than hiding and withdrawing. I am rooting for you!

     

    #407597
    Tee
    Participant

    Dear Katrine,

    I think your main message should be about yourself: that you like him but you haven’t always shown it because you get anxious around the people you like. You don’t have to say it in one breath and admit that you like him immediately, but you can pace it a little. I like your idea to start with explaining your own behavior and apologizing for it:

    I was thinking about apologizing for my behaviour and say when my anxiety kicks in i become rude without knowing (shut ting down, ignoring people) and it’s hard for me to keep a conversation going(he had to constanly be the conversation starter) and then tell him i apreciate him taking time meeting me and give a yoga session

    So you acknowledge that you behaved a little strangely and you explain why. If you want, you can also apologize for when you left the pub without saying goodbye. That would be a great prelude into saying that you did it because you like him, and seeing him talk with another girl made you really anxious, so anxious that you felt you had to leave immediately. And then I’d watch his reaction…

    I would leave out this part:

    then maybe something like but I don’t believe you didn’t read any intention into this, I think you like me as much as I like you. You had several chanses to cancel but didn’t you could have left soon after the session but you stayed.

    I wouldn’t argue with him, or present “evidence” that he likes you. It’s on him to tell you that. I mean, you can say that you’ve read some of his behavior as having a thing for you, but you shouldn’t claim it as evidence that he really does. If he still resists and doesn’t want to admit that he likes you as a girlfriend, then there is no point in pushing. If he likes you, he should admit it as soon as you admit it to him… If he needs convincing and is reluctant – after you’ve confessed what you feel about him – then I don’t think you should argue and push any further. But I hope it won’t come to that!

    So in summary, this is what I’d suggest: express your side of the story and your feelings, don’t assume his feelings. And watch his reaction… I hope it will be a positive one!

    #407539
    Tee
    Participant

    Dear Dan,

    Even though you aren’t responding, maybe you are reading this, and I hope you don’t mind if I continue developing my understanding of you and your situation… I would like to backtrack a little and correct what I said in my previous post. In my previous post I was musing that your needs might not be primarily emotional, but rather that it’s the need for physical closeness and intimacy, as well as spending a lot of time with your wife alone, having her full attention.

    Now I am thinking that those too are emotional needs, because having our partner’s undivided attention, their positive, loving and caring attention – meets a huge emotional need. We feel loved, seen, validated, appreciated….

    You said something very important:

    I think I wanted more attention than I was getting. Much of my happiness came from her which isn’t healthy. I would try to please her while neglecting my own needs.

    My interpretation of “Much of my happiness came from her” is that you couldn’t feel happy on your own, when she wasn’t around, or when she wasn’t paying enough attention to you. You needed her to give you a  lot of attention, to spend time with you, to touch you, in order to feel happy, and even to feel good about yourself. Would you say that’s true?

    If so – if you needed her to feel good about yourself, and if her lack of attention caused you to feel unloved and unworthy – that would signal a childhood wound. And it would also explain why you now feel devastated and why you cannot move on, although you are telling yourself you should.

    You asked about self-parenting. If what I wrote above is mostly correct, then indeed you would need to get in touch with your wounded inner child and help him heal. There is a way out, and it doesn’t have to be as painful as it is for you at the moment.

    I wish you healing! And I would be glad to keep talking to you, if you choose so.

     

    #407537
    Tee
    Participant

    Dear Katrine,

    how about telling him that you’d like to try that turkish restaurant that he suggested, and if he would like to join you and show you what the best dishes are. Since now you know that he likes you, chances are you won’t shut down if he acts a bit awkward or insecure once you are there. You can keep being warm and friendly, and I think things will develop from there…

    It’s good to know that he too is working on his mental health and improving his self-awareness!

     

    #407447
    Tee
    Participant

    Dear Dan,

    I loved anita’s explanation of what parenting and self-parenting is. Self-parenting really is feeding ourselves – giving ourselves nurturance – both physically and emotionally.

    You said you were somewhat needy in the relationship, but you couldn’t pinpoint what your needs were. This is what you said about your neediness:

    When I say needs I can’t really pinpoint what exactly.

    About my neediness. I think I wanted more attention than I was getting. Much of my happiness came from her which isn’t healthy. I would try to please her while neglecting my own needs.

    As for my needs. Again it’s hard for me to say exactly what. I would often want to go on a mini vacation as we really didn’t have a honeymoon and she wouldn’t want to go. I also feel closest with her through physical touch. At some point that wasn’t being reciprocated. I’m not just talking about sex but just any kind of physical affection.

    You also said that a couple of months after the separation, you reunited for a while and were meeting in her house when the children were at their dad’s. It was very important for you to spend time alone with her, having physical intimacy (which was great – you said you had great sexual chemistry), enjoying a glass of wine (“we both enjoyed our drinks on the weekends together”), and simply spending a cozy time together.

    This “idyll” lasted for about a month, and then she asked for some space again, and you gave her space. Your meetups haven’t resumed after that, since her daughter refused to go to her dad’s place for the weekends, and then her mother moved in again in June.

    Based on everything you have written, I am thinking that perhaps your neediness is not so much emotional neediness. Maybe you don’t need a “mother”, as I have assumed earlier. But rather, I am thinking that maybe you need a companion who doesn’t have so many responsibilities with children and other people in her life, but can spend a lot of pleasurable time with you, going to trips, concerts, mini vacations etc. You need someone who is free (and care-free enough) to spend a lot of pleasurable time with you, and not burdened by all those responsibilities.

    Things were great before covid, when she had the children for a week, and then she had a week off, when she was free to spend time with you. But covid ruined that and you found yourself in quite a different situation. And it got worse and worse, since her responsibilities grew – because for some reason the children didn’t want to go back to spending half of the time with their father any longer. Her mother also moved in and out, and then her father too.

    And so she became a full-time mom and care-taker, burdened by all those responsibilities. Perhaps she even took on too many responsibilities and wasn’t setting proper boundaries, so it was worse than it should have been. Nevertheless, in this new situation, she felt she couldn’t give you what you need (she said “what you deserve”). Perhaps what she feels you need and deserve is a much less burdened wife who can spend a lot of pleasurable time with you, and give you much more attention than she presently can?

    I am not saying that you are wrong for wanting a less burdened and more available wife and companion. It’s just that she at the moment cannot be it. Partially due to her life situation, partially maybe because she cannot set boundaries with her family, and so she becomes mother and care-taker exclusively, without any fun time for herself.

    What do you think?

     

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