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Husband’s interactions with online female friend

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  • #407300
    Sadlyconfused
    Participant

    I’m trying to get my head straight about something I learned a few nights ago. To start with some context, basically my husband and I have been through a rough patch over the last year or two, which over the last three or four months has greatly improved as we communicate better and work on self-improvement. A lot of our issues were due to a number of frustrations which had been allowed to build over the years as a result of not communicating properly, along with me weaning off anti-depressants and dealing with the heightened anxiety and anhedonia (lack of feeling/emotions) that came from this. For so long I felt like I couldn’t feel anything for anyone. I acknowledge that this must have been a really difficult time for my husband and I know that he’s had poor mental health too. I’m largely getting better now (I no longer experience anhedonia) but I’m dealing with the repercussions of my previously poorly managed mental health and lack of communication over this time.

    Anyway, we were having a discussion the other evening about his Discord use. Discord is a community chatting app for gamers, if anyone isn’t aware of it already. I confided in him that I had been worried about how much he uses it and what he talks about on there. To be honest, I find it really hard not knowing who all his online friends are. I’m also really aware that people can get carried away with online interactions, which is a paranoia that feeds into the thing that’s now troubling me.

    He freely brought up the fact that the only out of context thing that would have potentially upset me if I had seen it would be a comment he left on a female gamer friend’s photo of her at work. He’s been very open about all his gaming buddies but he’d never actually mentioned this woman to me before. It was a photo she had posted to their public community group, so not a one-on-one thing. He had apparently left a comment to her saying something like: “If I were 10 years younger, lived in Texas and wasn’t married…”

    He says it was a jokey thing and that everyone in the community talks like that about one another. I appreciate his honesty and the fact he brought this up of his own volition but I just feel so hurt and can’t stop thinking about it. I told him that commenting things like this on another woman’s photo, even in jest as he claims it was, is a slippery slope and that I feel really disrespected by it. He was adamant that he had done nothing wrong, that they’re all friends on there and that it just sounds bad out of context. I asked him if he would say that to another woman if I were in the room and he said that he might do, depending on who it was and if it was a friend. Really though, in real life I don’t think he would. In the whole 15 years or so that we’ve been together he’s never acted like that.

    I don’t think there is anything more to it than him just leaving a comment on her photo, so it bothers me that I’m so hurt by it.  Generally it causes me pain because my self-esteem is low and I do wonder if I’m just taking it too seriously. I think part of the deeper pain though is that I thought he might be remorseful about the fact I’m upset by it, but instead I feel like he disregarded my feelings and couldn’t understand why it hurt me. I thought it might be an opportunity to get some mutually agreed upon boundaries in place when it comes to online interactions with the opposite sex, but he just flat out said that there was nothing wrong with his behaviour. I think his perspective is that she’s all the way across the pond in another country with a boyfriend and that nothing will ever happen with her, so with that practical boundary in place it shouldn’t have any impact on me.

    So it makes me wonder whether this might be a conflict in values. I find myself asking questions. For instance, would other people generally be okay with their spouse saying things like this? Am I too uptight? Would I be less upset by it if I generally felt stronger mentally? Am I judging too quickly without knowing the full context? (I haven’t seen the photo or the comment, just his vague retelling of it). I just don’t really know what to think about it, or rather what kind of attitude or mindset I want to work towards in order to be more at ease with it. I suspect given how difficult things have been I’m attributing more meaning to the comment than I should, however I also find it difficult to understand why he felt any need to comment on her appearance in the first place.

    If anyone has any insight I’d be so grateful. I admit that I’m a very sensitive person and I’m never quite sure whether I’m just being too emotional or whether I’m justified in my hurt, so some opinions or advice would be really appreciated.

    #407308
    anita
    Participant

    Dear Sadlyconfused:

    Would other people generally be okay with their spouse saying things like this?“- I’d be okay, in the context that you described: it was a one-time, single comment on a publicly displayed photo, she lives far away, she has a boyfriend, and this type of commentary is a common practice on their website.

    Am I too uptight?”– more uptight than I currently am, but less uptight than I used to be.

    Would I be less upset by it if I generally felt stronger mentally?“- yes, I believe so.

    Am I judging too quickly without knowing the full context?“- he volunteered the information and provided the context quite honestly, reads to me. Seems to me that the context was simple, not complicated (not something that requires further understanding).

    I also find it difficult to understand why he felt any need to comment on her appearance in the first place“- men have felt the need to comment on the physical appearance of women probably from the beginning of time. Men’s attention to the physical appearance of women is what’s behind the many billion dollars’ worth of industry all over the world: men (heterosexual men) just love to look at women, it’s in their mammalian genes they can’t help it!

    In regard to the rest of what you shared: it’s very positive that over the last 3-4 moths, the communicate with your husband has improved, that you work on self-improvement and that as a result, your relationship greatly improved. I imagine that your husband felt comfortable telling you about the comment he made because of the much improved communication.

    me weaning off anti-depressants… I’m never quite sure whether I’m just being too emotional“- if you are currently weaning off anti-depressants, I bet that you are indeed too emotional.

    dealing with the heightened anxiety and anhedonia… For so long I felt like I couldn’t feel anything for anyone“- you couldn’t feel anything and now, you feel too much, as a result of weaning off anti-depressants: do I understand correctly?

    I know that he’s had poor mental health too. I’m largely getting better now“- it will take the two of you to continue to work together, so to benefit each other’s mental health and the health of marriage.

    He freely brought up the fact that the only out of context thing that would have potentially upset me if I had seen it would be a comment he left on a female gamer friend’s photo.. (in) their public community group, so not a one-on-one thing… something like: ‘If I were 10 years younger, lived in Texas and wasn’t married“- (1) don’t punish him for being honest with you and freely volunteering information, you don’t want to discourage him from being honest and open with you, (2) if this is the only thing in his online activity that could upset you, my goodness, you are a fortunate wife!

    He says it was a jokey thing and that everyone in the community talks like that about one another“- reads believable to me.

    “I told him that commenting things like this on another woman’s photo, even in jest as he claims it was, is a slippery slope and that I feel really disrespected by it“- I don’t think it’s a slippery slope and again, it is in the heterosexual man’s mammalian genes to think what he thought (if not to voice it), so it’s nothing personal.

    I think part of the deeper pain though is that I thought he might be remorseful about the fact I’m upset by it, but instead I feel like he disregarded my feelings and couldn’t understand why it hurt me… but he just flat out said that there was nothing wrong with his behaviour“- I feel badly that you are experiencing deep pain over this (or over any topic), and I hope that he does too. Yet, I don’t think that it is his fault that you feel this particular pain. His comment triggered a pre-existing pain; it  didn’t cause the pain. Do you agree?

    anita

    #407324
    Sadlyconfused
    Participant

    Hi Anita, thank you so much for your response. A rational, unbiased opinion was exactly what I needed to read, I think.

    He freely brought up the fact that the only out of context thing that would have potentially upset me if I had seen it would be a comment he left on a female gamer friend’s photo.. (in) their public community group, so not a one-on-one thing… something like: ‘If I were 10 years younger, lived in Texas and wasn’t married“- (1) don’t punish him for being honest with you and freely volunteering information, you don’t want to discourage him from being honest and open with you, (2) if this is the only thing in his online activity that could upset you, my goodness, you are a fortunate wife!

    This is it and it’s why I wanted to get an outside perspective because my emotional reaction seems so out of line with the way he sees it, which suggests that it probably is me being irrational. He freely volunteered this information and I don’t want to put him off from sharing anything in the future. I’m worried the damage might have already been done in this respect, though I did say at the time that I understood the context and was okay with it. I truly felt that at the time after he had given an explanation. It was only ruminating the day afterwards that I started to get insecure about it again. I have heard stories of married men having far more worrying online activity.

    “Yet, I don’t think that it is his fault that you feel this particular pain. His comment triggered a pre-existing pain; it  didn’t cause the pain. Do you agree?”

    Yeah, and it’s frustrating because deep down I know this; my insecurity stems from something entirely darker. 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. That along with bullying from my peers at school about my looks and general quietness has made me really sensitive to feeling like I’m not good enough. This other woman looks the opposite of me physically and is bubbly, chatty and funny. I think it probably hurt because I took that aspect personally…weirdly if the comment had been directed at someone more like me I might not have been as bothered by it. Yes, I do think this is way more about my stuff than it is about the actual comment. It was a trigger.
    <p style=”text-align: left;”>It feels productive to have figure that out. Thank you so much again for your post, it’s really helped me.</p>

    #407346
    anita
    Participant

    Dear Sadlyconfused:

    You are very welcome and thank you for expressing your appreciation.

    I’m worried the damage might have already been done in this respect… It was only ruminating the day afterwards that I started to get insecure about it again“- unless you shared with your husband a whole lot about how troubled you were over the comment, he may not be aware of how troubled you were and for how long (he can’t read your mind or feel your emotions), and therefore, there may be no damage done.

    My insecurity stems from something entirely darker…  This other woman looks the opposite of me physically and is bubbly, chatty and funny…weirdly if the comment had been directed at someone more like me, I might not have been as bothered by it… It was a trigger“-

    – no wonder you were so troubled by the comment. In my first reply I answered your question (“Am I too uptight?”), this way: “more uptight than I currently am, but less uptight than I used to be“. I used to get similarly triggered as a woman because I too grew up in a home where I was criticized a lot,  hated, really. I too walked on eggshells, bullied (mostly by my mother), and… I too had a “general quietness” about me. I was introverted, anxious and oh, so jealous of bubbly, outgoing girls: I so wished I was them, or like them. That childhood/ teenage jealousy carried into my adulthood.

    Try to practice compassion toward yourself every time you get triggered this way, perhaps say to yourself something like: no wonder I get triggered. Anyone in my place, with my past experience, would get triggered this way… I suffered so much. I don’t want to suffer anymore. When you talk compassionately to yourself, you get motivated to no longer suffer unnecessarily simply because you don’t deserve to suffer.

    Anytime you’d like to post, please do. I would love to read from you and reply whenever you choose to post.

    anita

    #407352
    pink24
    Participant

    Hi Sadlyconfused,

    It’s obvious your husband does think he said something wrong (not hugely wrong, but a bit off color honestly) else he wouldn’t have told you/confessed it to you. So don’t put it all on you, you know?  Sure there might be previous pain–hence your large reaction–but, he could also have said something he probably knows wasn’t the best thing, else he wouldn’t have told you. Both things can be true.

    Suffice to say, I don’t think your husband’s comment is that big of deal. We’re all human, we all flirt. Flirting is fun.  No harm in that. So if you can accept that, then you’re all good. If you trust your husband not to go any farther than that, then cool.

    Just don’t put it all on you, you know? If you had made the same comment to another guy, I don’t think your husband would be too enthused. Being married is tough, and these things do happen. But they’re not the end of the world, rather par for the course. We’re all human!

    Good luck!

    Pink:)

    #407360
    Tee
    Participant

    Dear Sadlyconfused,

    I am not completely sure but still, there is something about this situation that doesn’t sit well with me. I mean, it’s okay if he finds a woman attractive, you can’t blame him for that. But it’s less okay that he expressed it to her, even if “everyone in the community talks like that about one another”. Why would members of a gaming community need to talk to each other in a flirty, sexualized way?

    He was adamant that he had done nothing wrong, that they’re all friends on there and that it just sounds bad out of context.

    Well, is he talking like that with his female colleagues at work? Or with his female friends? Are there sexual undertones in his interaction with women? There are many places (work places included) where it is the case, but when I worked at such a place, I felt very uncomfortable.

    I think part of the deeper pain though is that I thought he might be remorseful about the fact I’m upset by it, but instead I feel like he disregarded my feelings and couldn’t understand why it hurt me. I thought it might be an opportunity to get some mutually agreed upon boundaries in place when it comes to online interactions with the opposite sex, but he just flat out said that there was nothing wrong with his behaviour.

    I also see it as problematic. Claiming that making flirty/sexual comments to women is completely fine and that you shouldn’t be upset about it – well I don’t agree with it. Because such behavior is disrespectful, first and foremost to you, but also to those women who feel uncomfortable being at the receiving end of such sexual remarks.

    In any case, I understand why you are upset about his lack of insight and sensitivity about this topic.

     

    #407362
    anita
    Participant

    Dear Sadlyconfused:

    Sept 22 (original post): “a few nights ago… we were having a discussion the other evening about his Discord use. .. He’s been very open about all his gaming buddies but he’d never actually mentioned this woman to me before… I haven’t seen the photo or the comment, just his vague retelling of it”, Sept 23: “This other woman looks the opposite of me physically and is bubbly, chatty and funny“-

    – I am thinking: before your conversation with your husband a few nights ago, you did not know about the existence of this woman-gamer. Therefore, either (1) when you posted your original post, you did not yet see her photo. You saw it and read her conversations with other gamers for the first time the day after, seeing/ reading for yourself that she looks and behaves the opposite of you, bubbly, etc.,  or (2) you never saw her photo or read her conversations with other gamers, but your husband described to you how she looks and  behaves. Which one of these two possibilities (perhaps there is a third possibility) is true may be significant.

    I want to re-read all that you shared, slowly and carefully, rearrange what you shared in chronological order. If you are reading, I hope that it’s okay that I repeat your words, particularly on topics that still hurt:

    Your very misogynistic (woman hating) father treated your now deceased mother like dirt. He mistreated you as well, expressing criticism and cruelty toward you. Your mother partly protected you from him, but when she died, his criticisms and cruelty really amped up. As a result, you grew up receiving his criticisms and cruelty and walking on eggshells, so to prevent even more of his criticism and cruelty.

    You were a generally quiet girl (the opposite of bubbly, chatty an funny), a very sensitive person with a low self-esteem.  Peers at school bullied you for your quietness and for your looks. Among your peers, you felt like you were not good enough.

    You got married about 15 years ago. For all the years of your marriage, your husband did not flirt with other women or made flirty comments (“In the whole 15 years or so that we’ve been together he’s never acted like that“). For some time, like you, he experienced poor mental health.

    During the marriage, you took antidepressant medications. When weaning off the drugs, in the last year or two, you experienced heightened anxiety and anhedonia (lack of feeling/ emotion). For so long, you felt like you couldn’t feel anything for anyone, including for your husband. In the last 3-4 months you and your husband worked on your communication and it greatly improved.

    Your husband is a gamer who uses Discord, a chatting app for gamers. Recently, during a conversation where you expressed your concern regarding his interactions with women on Discord, he volunteered that the only thing he did there that could upset you was that he left a comment on a female gamer’s public photo, something like: “If I were 10 years younger, lived in Texas and wasn’t married…”, a jokey thing, he said, something everyone in the Discord community does. His comment triggered your childhood experience of criticism, cruelty and peer bullying.  partly because the woman he sent the comment to looks the opposite of you physically and unlike your general quietness, she is bubbly, chatty and funny.

    My comments based on your 2 posts alone: (1) I am sorry that you and your mother suffered from a misogynist father and husband. I can’t imagine a worse situation for a woman (your mother) and a girl (you) than living with a man who hates women (and girls)!

    (2) Congratulations for successfully (if I understand correctly) weaning yourself off anti-depressants. I know how very difficult it is to accomplish this. When I tried to wean myself off anti-depressants (and from a benzodiazepine), I almost didn’t make it because of the intense heightened anxiety involved,

    (3) Congratulations for improving the communication between you and your husband in the last few months. May you, your husband and the marriage continue to heal and improve!

    (4) I hope that you are no longer walking on eggshells (a habit that is hard to break). I used to move from the two extremes: being passive (walking on eggshells, saying nothing… being very quiet) and being confrontational and aggressive (saying too much and in the wrong way). Moderation is key to mental health, the moving away from extremes.

    I enjoyed our short communication and would love to keep it going, if you feel similarly, of course.

    anita

    #407642
    Sadlyconfused
    Participant

    Hi Anita,

    “– no wonder you were so troubled by the comment. In my first reply I answered your question (“Am I too uptight?”), this way: “more uptight than I currently am, but less uptight than I used to be“. I used to get similarly triggered as a woman because I too grew up in a home where I was criticized a lot,  hated, really. I too walked on eggshells, bullied (mostly by my mother), and… I too had a “general quietness” about me. I was introverted, anxious and oh, so jealous of bubbly, outgoing girls: I so wished I was them, or like them. That childhood/ teenage jealousy carried into my adulthood.

    Try to practice compassion toward yourself every time you get triggered this way, perhaps say to yourself something like: no wonder I get triggered. Anyone in my place, with my past experience, would get triggered this way… I suffered so much. I don’t want to suffer anymore. When you talk compassionately to yourself, you get motivated to no longer suffer unnecessarily simply because you don’t deserve to suffer.”

    Thank you and I’m sorry to hear that you had to go through similar experiences when you were younger. I do carry a lot of shame and fear in me and 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. There’s a difference between knowing that and believing it though, so it’s something I definitely want to work on further. I’m starting to study dialectical behavioural therapy more too to get a better sense of what’s happening when I react so emotionally and to figure out how to cope better.

    Hi Pink24,

    “It’s obvious your husband does think he said something wrong (not hugely wrong, but a bit off color honestly) else he wouldn’t have told you/confessed it to you. So don’t put it all on you, you know?  Sure there might be previous pain–hence your large reaction–but, he could also have said something he probably knows wasn’t the best thing, else he wouldn’t have told you. Both things can be true.”

    Thank you for this. There had been a lot of behaviour on his part over the last few months which did come across as a bit odd and out of character, so a lot of this has been me trying to figure out what exactly was going on. I can be very black and white about things and jump to extremes though, when the reality is that it was probably a grey area thing all along.

    “Just don’t put it all on you, you know? If you had made the same comment to another guy, I don’t think your husband would be too enthused. Being married is tough, and these things do happen. But they’re not the end of the world, rather par for the course. We’re all human!”

    Yeah, this makes a lot of sense. I guess when you’ve been together a long time if there’s something missing from the relationship and there have been previous problems that haven’t been addressed then this kind of thing can start to happen. He probably did have a crush on this woman and his behaviour wasn’t entirely appropriate, but at the same time I acknowledge that I wasn’t emotionally available for such a long time, so ultimately it’s not that surprising that this happened when it’s all considered in context. I think if I told him that I’d made a comment like that to another man then he would be as surprised as I was to learn of it, since I’ve never acted that way. So yeah, I’m giving myself some leeway about my reaction.

    Hi Tee,

    “I am not completely sure but still, there is something about this situation that doesn’t sit well with me. I mean, it’s okay if he finds a woman attractive, you can’t blame him for that. But it’s less okay that he expressed it to her, even if “everyone in the community talks like that about one another”. Why would members of a gaming community need to talk to each other in a flirty, sexualized way?”

    Thank you, this is largely how I see it. I think that generally the online gaming scene can be very sexualised. Many gaming girls on Twitch tout for views by being scantily dressed and provocative, then set up these Discord groups which are like fan clubs where their viewers can chat to them personally. A lot of the men on there are either teenagers or in their twenties, so I think generally the chat can become quite immature. There’s such a thing as self-awareness and rising above it though, so I feel disappointed.

    “Well, is he talking like that with his female colleagues at work? Or with his female friends? Are there sexual undertones in his interaction with women? There are many places (work places included) where it is the case, but when I worked at such a place, I felt very uncomfortable.”

    No, I’ve never known him to act like that around females, though his hobbies have been largely male dominated until he started playing this game regularly and I don’t think he’s really had any female friends while we’ve been together, though he had a few before our relationship. This is why it came as such a shock to me as it just seems so out of character, but maybe this has always been how he’s interacted in female friendships. Who knows? I don’t want to deter him from having friendships with other women but at the same time I think there is a need to have some consideration for your partner’s feelings, even if you do think they’re overreacting.

    #407643
    Sadlyconfused
    Participant

    <div>Hi again Anita, I thought I’d do a separate post in response so I could reply to your latest post a bit more in depth. :)</div>
    <div></div>

    “– I am thinking: before your conversation with your husband a few nights ago, you did not know about the existence of this woman-gamer. Therefore, either (1) when you posted your original post, you did not yet see her photo. You saw it and read her conversations with other gamers for the first time the day after, seeing/ reading for yourself that she looks and behaves the opposite of you, bubbly, etc.,  or (2) you never saw her photo or read her conversations with other gamers, but your husband described to you how she looks and  behaves. Which one of these two possibilities (perhaps there is a third possibility) is true may be significant.”

    <div></div>
    <div><span style=”color: #333333; font-family: Arial, Helvetica Neue, Helvetica, sans-serif;”>He mentioned her nickname when he was telling me about the comment, so from there I looked her up on social media and was able to see for myself who she is and how she portrays herself. My husband didn’t go into any depth about who she is or what kind of relationship they had, he just alluded to her being part of the general gang that he was socialising with. </span></div>
    <div><span style=”color: #333333; font-family: Arial, Helvetica Neue, Helvetica, sans-serif;”> </span></div>

    <div><span style=”color: #333333; font-family: Arial, Helvetica Neue, Helvetica, sans-serif;”>”</span>I want to re-read all that you shared, slowly and carefully, rearrange what you shared in chronological order. If you are reading, I hope that it’s okay that I repeat your words, particularly on topics that still hurt:”</div>

    <div></div>
    <div>It’s really good to have another person’s perspective on it all, so thank you.</div>
    <div></div>

    <div>”You got married about 15 years ago. For all the years of your marriage, your husband did not flirt with other women or made flirty comments (“In the whole 15 years or so that we’ve been together he’s never acted like that“). For some time, like you, he experienced poor mental health.”</div>

    <div></div>
    <div><span style=”color: #333333; font-family: Arial, Helvetica Neue, Helvetica, sans-serif;”>We got together 15 years ago and got married 10 years ago. He’s never been openly flirtatious in front of me and hasn’t had close female friends during the time we’ve been together. He’s quite extroverted but also reserved and respectful when interacting with others, though also playful and humorous with good friends. I guess this was the latter part of his personality coming out on the gaming community. I feel quite bad currently about getting so upset about it, as I think the game itself was a fun outlet for him. </span></div>
    <div></div>

    <div>”My comments based on your 2 posts alone: (1) I am sorry that you and your mother suffered from a misogynist father and husband. I can’t imagine a worse situation for a woman (your mother) and a girl (you) than living with a man who hates women (and girls)!”</div>

    <div></div>
    <div>Thank you for this, it wasn’t the best start I could have had. I became a massive people pleaser to get through it, which has been really difficult to emerge from as it’s pretty much been my identity my whole life. Without it, who actually am I? What do I stand for? It’s hard. I think this has caused quite a few interpersonal issues for me over the last three or so years as people quite naturally assumed that my easy-going, people pleasing habit was my core personality, rather than the trauma response that it really was.</div>
    <div></div>

    <div>”(2) Congratulations for successfully (if I understand correctly) weaning yourself off anti-depressants. I know how very difficult it is to accomplish this. When I tried to wean myself off anti-depressants (and from a benzodiazepine), I almost didn’t make it because of the intense heightened anxiety involved,”</div>

    <div></div>
    <div>I’m so glad you got through it and came out the other side. I know antidepressants help a lot of people but I think I was far too complacent on them and didn’t do the work needed to address my trauma. I need to learn to process my feelings rather than numbing them and I think I have so much unresolved grieving to do, particularly around the death of my mother. I can’t openly talk about her without crying and it happened nearly 20 years ago. The heightened anxiety has been so hard but I think a lot of it is trauma related and a result of my early development. I was on anti-depressants pretty much continuously for about 12 years and I’m now playing catch-up in my mid thirties. :/ Although it’s frustrating, I think by learning about trauma and getting better at self care I’ve started to make far more progress in the last couple of years than I ever did in the previous 12. I didn’t tell my husband that I was weaning off anti-depressants which I feel was a massive communication error on my part, as my poor behaviour had no explanation. I have such a bad habit of just trying to deal with things alone, as though it’s something shameful.</div>
    <div></div>
    <div>Sorry if I’ve run on a bit here, not sure if I’m potentially oversharing.</div>
    <div></div>

    <div>”(3) Congratulations for improving the communication between you and your husband in the last few months. May you, your husband and the marriage continue to heal and improve!”</div>

    <div></div>
    <div>Thank you, hopefully it will get back on track again. I’m aiming to continue effective self-care for myself first and foremost, plus to strengthen my communication skills, so that hopefully we never reach such a low point again. I’ll do the work on my part, then what will be will be.</div>
    <div></div>
    <div>”</div>

    <div>(4) I hope that you are no longer walking on eggshells (a habit that is hard to break). I used to move from the two extremes: being passive (walking on eggshells, saying nothing… being very quiet) and being confrontational and aggressive (saying too much and in the wrong way). Moderation is key to mental health, the moving away from extremes.”</div>

    <div></div>
    <div>Yep, it’s a very difficult habit to break! This is exactly how I’ve been, I’ve let little things fester into resentment and they’ve then turned into bigger issues in my head. I have a tendency to get overwhelmed and close off when I’m upset too, largely because I’ve just been so illiterate when it comes to naming emotions and have a hard time working out what’s even bothering me in the first place. Recognising that it’s probably usually an old trauma that I’m rehashing (my inner child) helps to distance myself from the emotion a bit. It’s hard to balance that with things that are genuinely a present day problem though and which might require an assertive response. Having perspective from others really helps.</div>
    <div></div>

    <div>”I enjoyed our short communication and would love to keep it going, if you feel similarly, of course.”</div>

    <div></div>
    <div>Thanks again Anita, yes I’d love to!</div>

    #407644
    Sadlyconfused
    Participant

    Oh my word, what did I do to the formatting in that last post?! Sorry, hope you can make head or tail of that – face palm!

    #407656
    anita
    Participant

    Dear Sadlyconfused:

    You are very welcome. The excess print is not a problem for me, it’s okay. It happens to my posts when I copy text from outside tiny buddha and paste it into my tiny buddha posts.

    I think I’ve harshly judged myself all my life for the reactions I have, and felt like there was something wrong with me“- same here. What I learned is that at least in-the-beginning, that is, when I was a child, there was absolutely nothing wrong with my reactions. What was wrong was in the actions I was reacting to. When I fully understood this, I was able to understand why and how I reacted inappropriately as an adult and felt empathy for myself: for the wrong that was done to me, and for the resulting pain and dysfunction that I experienced as an adult.

    There is a difference between knowing that and believing it though“- to believe that there was nothing wrong with you in-the-beginning, you have to go back in time to your beginning, so to speak, and give the wrongness (the guilt) back to whom it belongs.

    I’m starting to study dialectical behavioural therapy, more too get a better sense of what’s happening when I react so emotionally… I can be very black and white about things and jump to extremes though, when the reality is that it was probably a grey area thing all along“- DBT is tailored for extreme, all-or-nothing, black-and-white thinkers. It is about cognitive moderation. With cognitive moderation comes emotional moderation.

    He probably did have a crush on this woman… but at the same time I acknowledge that I wasn’t emotionally available“- men, including married men, get crushes even when their wives are emotionally available. The crushes often have to do with the man’s emotional experience as a boy, way before he met the woman he married.

    He mentioned her nickname… I looked her up on social media and was able to see for myself.. My husband didn’t go into any depth about who she is“- good, I was concerned that maybe he did go into depth. This makes me feel even better about your husband.

    I feel quite bad currently about getting so upset about it, as I think the game itself was a fun outlet for him… it (childhood) wasn’t the best start I could have had“-  the way you emotionally reacted to your husband’s comment was not based on thinking that the game was bad, and/ or that he shouldn’t have fun. The way you reacted was based on your painful experience in the start of your life.

    I became a massive people pleaser to get through it, which has been really difficult to emerge from as it’s pretty much been my identity my whole life. Without it, 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“- in regard to people pleasing: every young child is naturally a people pleaser (and a massive people pleaser, at that), particularly eager to please her parents and other adults. As adults, we still want to please other people. People pleasing is a genetic characteristic of all social animals. It is not a trauma response.

    When as adults we practice extreme people-pleasing, it is a trauma response. But when you try to figure out who you are (“who actually am I?”), remember the topic of extreme thinking: it is not that you are either a people pleaser (and that’s bad) or you don’t have any people-pleasing tendencies (and that’s good). Reality is that you are a people pleaser (people are people-pleasers), that’s really who you are and it is your core personality!

    I need to learn how to process my feelings… I have so much unresolved grieving to do, particularly around the death of my mother. I can’t openly talk about her without crying, and it happened nearly 20 years ago“- I don’t know if it is a good idea, but maybe it is (you decide): if you want to, you can talk about your mother here, tell me about her and about what hurts so much. If you choose to do this, you can italicize all the parts you don’t want me to respond to, and to the parts that are not italicized: I will make sure to respond empathetically and respectfully.

    I didn’t tell my husband that I was weaning off anti-depressants“- when I read that, my first thought was: how nice of Sadlyconfused to not burden her husband with this information.

    .. which I feel was a massive communication error on my part, as my poor behaviour had no explanation. I have such a bad habit of just trying to deal with things alone“- how indeed you judge yourself harshly (see your words in the quote with which I opened this post): a massive error, poor behaviour, bad habit…?

    Here is an empathetic reframing of this sentence: looking back, I can see that I made an error not telling my husband because if I told him, he would have become aware of the withdrawal symptoms that I suffered. I have this habit of dealing with things alone because I was so alone for too long,  as a child and onward.

    “(Walking on eggshells is) a very difficult habit to break! .. I’ve let little things fester into resentment and they’ve then turned into bigger issues in my head“- how about forming a new daily habit: every day, locate a tiny resentment and appropriately voice it?

    It’s hard to balance (old trauma) with things that are genuinely a present day problem though and which might require an assertive response“- when confused about a current problem or situation, you are welcome to share about it here and get my take on whether it requires an assertive response.

    anita

    #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.

     

    #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.

     

    #407879
    anita
    Participant

    Dear Sadlyconfused:

    In no way do I think that you are a bad woman wearing a mask of a good woman, or pretending to be a good woman.  Being an extreme people pleaser does not mean deceit. It means being afraid to displease.. being afraid, that’s all. I hope that you are feeling and doing better, and I hope to read from you again sometime.

    anita

    #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.

     

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