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I unintentionally hurt an ex-partner. I am deeply struggling to forgive myself.

HomeForumsShare Your TruthI unintentionally hurt an ex-partner. I am deeply struggling to forgive myself.

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  • #397230
    Anonymous
    Inactive

    I do not intend for the background information to in any way excuse my behaviors, only to provide context.

    I had a rough home-life growing up. My father was emotionally rejecting and my mother was emotionally neglectful. The threat of violence loomed when my father was around. I learned to repress and ignore my feelings. I didn’t learn how to communicate in a healthy, adult way. In fact, I was scared of communicating my true feelings at all. I fell into a deep depression at 14 and didn’t begin to come out of it until I moved away from my family at 19 yrs old.

    I was 19 when I entered into my first relationship. I became quickly attached and this caused high-anxiety within me that I would be abandoned or that they would realize they deserved better. I felt jealous when they hung out with other girls more than I felt they were hanging out with me. I became clingy when they weren’t messaging me constantly. I struggled to communicate my feelings and to take accountability for my own anxiety. I struggled to trust them and often had to be reassured that they wanted to be with me in the first place.

    We rushed into intimacy 3 months in. We had not had any conversations on sex, expectations, boundaries, etc. To me, sex was about feeling close. To them, sex was simply something you could do with someone. I felt unsatisfied with our sex life as at the time I perceived myself to give much more than I received. I did not know how to open a conversation about this.

    When they initiated less than I did, when they rejected me for intimacy, and when they wanted to stop being intimate, I took the rejection extremely personally and withdrew internally to deal with the intensity of those feelings. My throat closed up. It often resulted in one of us eventually getting the nerve to talk and them reassuring me after a period of uncomfortable silence.

    Later on, when I reacted this way yet again, they left the house extremely upset and came back to have a conversation with me. They told me that everything up to that point had been feeling bad for them, that they ‘felt afraid to say no to me’ for fear of making me upset, and that it ‘was easier to go along with things’ than express themselves.

    I felt absolutely mortified and sick with myself. I hadn’t realized that I was creating a pressuring environment and from then on, my goal in our relationship was to help make them feel comfortable saying no to me. We stopped having sex to work on our underlying communication issues, only they were allowed to initiate intimacy from then on, I reaffirmed to them that they needed to say no to me regardless of my emotions, that I only wanted to be with someone who wanted to be with me, we spent less time together, and I started working on my responses + anxiety with a therapist.

    They broke up with me several months later for other reasons.

    I realized many of my behaviors were maladaptive and hurtful. For the past 3 years, I’ve undertook a healing journey to ensure nothing like this happens again in any of my relationships. We reconnected a year and a half in and they told me they forgave me for everything.

    I’ve reflected more deeply on the dynamic within our relationship since this reconciliation and recently reached out again to apologize for the ways I might’ve/have harmed them.

    They told me all is forgiven, we were young and inexperienced, there’s no need to feel bad anymore, they feel nothing but compassion and friendship for me, they feel lucky the relationship was with me despite it being unhealthy, and that they feel it was very beneficial to have met me.

    Despite this, I struggle to forgive myself. It was never my intent to hurt them but I did. I cannot change this. I feel sick with myself and dirty in my own skin. What is implied by their words is that they were intimate with me at times they did not truly want to be. I didn’t know they felt this way because it was not expressed to me but I blame myself entirely for the environment I played a large part in creating. I am ashamed.

    How do I learn to forgive myself?

     

    #397241
    anita
    Participant

    Dear Bee:

    I will reply to you further in about 11 hours, but for now:

    How do I learn to forgive myself?” – by continuing your healing journey, the one you started three years ago (“For the past 3 years, I’ve undertook a healing journey“). This is how I forgave myself for some of my past misbehaviors.

    Feel free to post again and add anything you’d like to add before I return to your thread.

    anita

    #397243
    Helcat
    Participant

    Hi Bee

    It is a good thing that you care about unintentionally hurting your ex. It means that you are a caring person and would never intentionally hurt someone! As you experienced, a side effect of abuse is that you can learn some bad habits. Being a victim of abuse is not your fault and only when we are conscious and aware of our behaviour can we correct it. As soon as your partner spoke to you, the issue was immediately addressed. It should be noted that your partner also had issues with communication. They should have told you much sooner that this was how they felt so you could address the problem. For the reasons listed above are likely the reasons why they forgave you. I’m guessing there were also good parts of the relationship as well as the unhealthy parts.

    The only thing I can add about learning to forgive yourself is what does continuing to beat yourself up achieve? Upsetting you as far as I can tell. What good does that do? You have learned from the experience, apologised and corrected your behaviour. Will you ever do the same thing again? What would you say to a friend if they confided in you what you just shared? Would you condemn them or comfort them? If the answer differs from how you treat yourself the issue isn’t really about forgiving yourself. The truth would be that you have a behaviour of self-criticism and this might ultimately be the source of the thoughts. Do you think you might want to learn to overcome behaviours of self-criticism? This is a form of self-abuse.

    • This reply was modified 8 months ago by Helcat.
    #397249
    Anonymous
    Inactive

    Thank you for writing me, HelcatI feel like on some level punishing myself is what I deserve. I label myself as a sexual abuser, a rapist, someone who sexually assaulted another human being. The people in my life tell me it is not so but in my mind, that is how I feel about myself. Being in the skin of someone such as that is utterly repulsive to me. There is some part of me that wishes me to suffer. I think this part of me wishes this because it is so very disappointed in me and wants to keep me from ever making the same mistakes again.

    I know for a fact this would never happen again as I have trained myself to take rejection less personally and to surround myself with people who are generally emotionally aware and communicative. I try to create a safe space for the people around me in my own way and I take care in making sure people understand they are not responsible for my emotions nor do they need to fix me. I try to communicate what I need and want. Rather than assuming what people want, I ask them beforehand and make sure they’re absolutely comfortable. I watch for their facial expressions just to make sure they’re okay with me reaching out to them.

    This relationship has scared me off of being in a relationship with someone again. I do not feel comfortable being a sexual being. I feel unclean. I am deathly afraid of hurting someone, not that I think I would intentionally do so, just that the potential is inherent.

    I would most likely not condemn my friend. I would feel compassion for them and try to be there for them. I’d probably think the fact that they care so much is indicative of a good heart, not that of one who abuses others.

    When I condemn myself, I’m thinking about the people in the world who would condemn me and label me as a sexual assaulter, an abuser, a rapist. I punish myself before those who do not understand my story do.

    I agree with you in that I tend to blame and criticize myself heavily when things go wrong. I do want to overcome my self-criticism and learn to see the situation with more grace for myself. Much as I feel like a villain and as though everything was my fault, the relationship was not good for either of us. Abusing myself is painful. In the past few days, I have even felt close to death from the shame I’m carrying.

    #397250
    Helcat
    Participant

    Hi Bee!

    I’m glad you decided to share these feelings. I invite you to consider how people are responding to you on your post. This is a real scenario where you are finding out how people are responding to your actions. Not a hypothetical scenario where you believe that people will criticise you as you criticise yourself.

    People that have been severely abused tend to internalise and take on the narrative of their abusers.

    This can lead to feelings of worthlessness and even believing on some level that they deserve abuse. Abuse victims often continue the cycle of abuse with themselves. Before this situation occurred what was it that you focused on and used to criticised yourself for?

    I’m not saying what happened was right, but your response to being informed of the situation was. What happened is unfortunate but understandable. I don’t think anyone can condemn you for that.

    Were you even taught about consent as a child or young adult? I’m guessing not.

    A good rule of thumb for sexual relationships according to my therapist was that both parties should be extremely enthusiastic and happy about it. If either you, or your partner isn’t enthusiastic or happy it would not be good idea  to continue.

    Have you ever slept with a partner (I’m not suggesting recollecting experiences of sexual assault) and not felt enthusiastic about it? This is a very common issue in relationships. Often people do push themselves to make their partners happy. Does that mean that every such encounter is sexual assault? I would suggest not because people are not mind readers.

    • This reply was modified 8 months ago by Helcat.
    #397255
    Anonymous
    Inactive

    Before this relationship, I often felt a sense of defectiveness about my insides. I believed I was unlovable. I would criticize myself for making the tiniest mistake or for not living up to my standards of performance. I also criticized myself for having feelings, wants, and needs in the first place. I thought that they didn’t matter and that by expressing them, I ran the risk of being abandoned. To this day, I internalize what others say of me and struggle to be on my own side. I have a difficult time believing I have ‘goodness’ in me. Part of why I attached so much to this first relationship was because I thought this would be my only chance, that no-one else would want to be with me, and that my ex was the only person who saw any good in me.

    I wasn’t taught about consent, no. I don’t think either of us were. One class in middle-school or high-school is not enough to cover the nuance of a relationship. That one class doesn’t talk about boundaries and healthy relationships, it doesn’t make it real. We both walked into the scenario blind and without experience and healthy modeling. I was raised with the stereotype that ‘all men want sex 24/7’. I now know this is false and that rejection isn’t always personal. And if it is, so what? There are many people in the world to have relationships with anyways.

    In my home-life, I wasn’t encouraged to have boundaries and was often denied them in the first place, particularly if I was expressing a negative emotion about it.

    The thing is, when I would initiate, they seemed more than happy to receive what I gave. I couldn’t tell by their facial expressions that they were feeling pressured. And they did not express a desire to stop. Now I know to ask beforehand in all things to ensure everything is okay.

    I have been with a partner I wasn’t feeling great about being with. The pressure I felt I likely put on myself but when it came to having these conversations about how to rebuild intimacy and make us both feel comfortable between my ex and I, I perceived myself to be doing a bulk of the work with less attention centered on myself and my needs. I tried to make them feel comfortable saying no but I did not yet feel comfortable saying no. I hadn’t said no ever and also needed reassurance. Once we had the talk about how they were feeling, I pushed my needs and wants entirely to the side. By this point, intimacy was beginning to feel disgusting to me. I felt sick with their overtures in some part although I did consent to it. I didn’t communicate this yet again for fear expressing myself would make them upset or that they’d leave me/our relationship would fail entirely. I’m sure they wouldn’t have minded had I said no. I wanted to make them feel nice and this was one of the remaining ways I had to feel close to them so I did it anyways.

    #397351
    Roberta
    Participant

    Dear Bee

    “Once we had the talk about how they were feeling, I pushed my needs and wants entirely to the side. By this point, intimacy was beginning to feel disgusting to me. I felt sick with their overtures in some part although I did consent to it. I didn’t communicate this yet again for fear expressing myself would make them upset or that they’d leave me/our relationship would fail entirely. I’m sure they wouldn’t have minded had I said no. I wanted to make them feel nice and this was one of the remaining ways I had to feel close to them so I did it anyways.”

    I have a question you say that you now feel like an abuser  even though at the time you thought it was consensual. and then later you posted the above statement.

    Do you now think /feel that your partner was an abuser? If not why? If yes why?

    It appears that your early role models and education in personal relationships did not equip you well, but you must see that you have the strength and integrity to form good relationships if you continue to work on becoming a happy whole person . The idea that you are dirty or an abuser is erroneous and will not help your peace and happiness in either the short or longterm

    #397352
    anita
    Participant

    Dear Bee:

    You shared that growing up, your father emotionally rejected you (“My father was emotionally rejecting“), and your mother emotionally neglected you (“my mother was emotionally neglectful”). You were afraid of your father becoming violent. You “often felt a sense of defectiveness about my insides“, believed that you were unlovable. You criticized yourself “for making the tiniest mistake… for having feelings, wants, and needs“, fearing that if you expressed your feelings, wants and needs, you “ran the risk of being abandoned“. Growing up, you struggled to be on your own side and had difficulty “believing I have ‘goodness’ in me“. You were also “raised with the stereotype that ‘all men want sex 24/7’”.

    At 14, you fell into a deep depression, and at 19, you moved away from your family and entered your first romantic relationship (I will refer to the person with whom you had your first relationship as A). You quickly got attached to A and you were very anxious: afraid that like your parents, A will emotionally (and physically) reject you (“they would realize they deserve better“), or emotionally abandon you (“I would be abandoned“). You were anxious, distrustful, jealous and clingy

    To you, “sex was about feeling close“; to A, “sex was simply something you could do with someone“. Sometimes when you initiated sex, A “seemed more than happy to receive what I gave… did not express a desire to stop“. At other times, he rejected your initiative. When the latter happened, you “took the rejection extremely personally and withdrew internally“. At one point, A told you that A “felt afraid to say no” to your sexual initiatives, fearing to make you upset, and that it “‘was easier to go along with things’ than express themselves“.

    This was news to you and you “felt absolutely mortified and sick” with yourself. The two of you stopped having sex while working on your communication, deciding that only A would initiate sex from then on, and you started working on your issues with a therapist. Several months later, A broke up with you “for other reasons“.

    In the last three years, you “undertook a healing journey to ensure nothing like this happens again in any of my relationships“. Having reconnected with A later, A told you that A forgave you for everything. You apologized to A again, and A told you that “all is forgiven… there’s no need to feel bad anymore… (it was) very beneficial to have met” you.

    Because A was sexually intimate with you at times when A “did not truly want to be“, you feel “sick with myself and dirty in my own skin… a sexual abuser, a rapist… utterly repulsive… There is some part of me that wishes me to suffer… because it is so very disappointed in me…  I do not feel comfortable being a sexual being. I feel unclean. I am deathly afraid of hurting someone…  In the past few days, I have even felt close to death from the shame I’m carrying“.

    My input today: it is possible that you are guilty of absolutely no sexual wrongdoing in regard to A. If you sometimes initiated sex and A appeared pleased, but later told you that (A) was not pleased and didn’t really want to have sex with you, then you are not retroactively guilty.

    Let’s say person 1, believing that person 2 is hungry, offers person 2 a sandwich. Person 2 accepts the offer and seems to enjoy it. Later on, after the sandwich was eaten, person 2 says to person 1: I wasn’t really hungry, I was afraid to say no, and I ate the sandwich just so to get along with you. In this scenario, person 1 is guilty of nothing but kindness. Person 1 is not retroactively guilty because person 1 believed that person 2 was hungry and had no reason to believe otherwise.

    There is also another possibility in this scenario: person 2 may have been hungry before eating the sandwich, but later on, no longer hungry and regretting having eaten the sandwich (for fear of gaining weight, let’s say), gets angry at person 1 for offering the sandwich, and proceeds to lie (to himself, and/ or to person 2), wanting person 2 to feel badly (not an unheard-of real-life scenario!).

    Continuing this scenario: after person 2 said what he said to person 1, if person 2 continues to offer person 2 sandwiches, pressuring person 2 to eat them (Green Eggs and Ham comes to mind, “eat them, eat them, here they are, eat them in a box, with a fox”, etc., but I am digressing), then person 1 is guilty of harassment.

    Back to your situation: if you had no idea that A did not really want your sexual initiative before he told you so, you are not retroactively guilty. If after he told you, you no longer initiated sex and never pressured him to have sex with you, then you are NOT GUILTY.

    * It is interesting that you didn’t think it relevant to reveal his reason he broke up with you. His reason or reasons may be relevant to the topic.

    * Also, interesting that you stated that for you, “sex was about feeling close“, but for A, “sex was simply something you could do with someone” – interesting because I imagine there would be hurt and anger on your part about you having had sex with A so to be close to A, suggesting that you considered A special, while A had sex with you because you were… someone to have sex with, suggesting that you could have been anyone and no one special. Where is that hurt and anger, I ask myself.

    How do I learn to forgive myself?” – first, is there a need for you to forgive A for having sex with you because it was “simply something (A) could do with someone”?

    Second: you cannot possibly be retroactively guilty, as I explained above.

    Third: you shared that you have a long-term habit of criticizing yourself “for making the tiniest mistake“, it’s not a big jump from criticizing yourself for the tiniest real mistake to => criticizing yourself for any alleged mistake (a mistake that someone accuses you of doing, but one that you are not guilty of).

    Fourth: growing up, you “often felt a sense of defectiveness about my insides” and had trouble “believing I have ‘goodness’ in me“. This is the origin of your self-hate that’s behind your motivation to condemn and punish yourself.

    When I condemn myself, I’m thinking about the people in the world who would condemn me and label me as a sexual assaulter, an abuser, a rapist…  I feel like a villain… I internalize what others say of me and struggle to be on my own side” – notice this: long ago, you internalized your condemning parents, and you took their side, meaning, you joined them in condemning you. So, within yourself, there is on one hand a group of people who are condemning you: your parents, yourself, and other people you fear will join this group (any time you make the tiniest mistake, or any time you are accused of a mistake), and on the other hand, there is this one single person, the accused.

    There is a certain satisfaction in joining a mob of accusers and haters, it feels safer in that group, and there is a certain satisfaction in all pointing the collective finger of blame at someone outside the group… don’t seek this certain satisfaction anymore, switch sides, be on your own side.

    anita

    #397353
    Helcat
    Participant

    Hi Bee

    This feeling of being defective or unlovable can be addressed. For me, it comes from a longing that any child has for a loving family that cares.Is this similar for you? Fortunately, we can learn to love ourselves, we can also receive love from a number of people including friends. The latter d cannot replace the former. Learning to love yourself is essential. I would also say it is important to see the situation for what it was instead of blaming yourself for it.

    People are not always mature enough to handle these delicate conversations sensitively. It is okay to for a partner to say it makes me feel pressured when I refuse and you get upset and confide that they have been difficulties saying n, which lead them to do something that they weren’t comfortable with. I wonder when communicating the consent issues did your partner say anything particularly harsh at the time? I ask because I know how easy it is to internalise the criticism of others when we care about them.

    I would agree, schools didn’t teach me enough about consent either. Not to mention, abuse tends to mess with boundaries! I was also raised with “all men want sex 24/7” I really don’t like that stereotype.

    My understanding (please correct me if I’m wrong) is that there were mutual issues regarding consent. When he raised his issues, you met his needs. Did he even hear your issues with consent? It certainly seems like your needs weren’t met. I totally understand with the abuse you experienced it is difficult to set that boundary.

    The thing about relationships is that there is implicit consent. Once consent is established, partners do not always check every time. They trust each other to communicate their needs otherwise when the time arises.

    I think that until you are ready to communicate your needs to a potential partner it is a bad idea to date. As a victim of previous abuse, I wish someone told me this. Dating without the ability to withdraw consent can be very traumatic.

    I find it concerning that your partner gave no visible indication that he was unhappy with the arrangement before raising this issue. My partner hums and haws giving visible indications sometimes and changes his mind (as he is entitled to). This doesn’t seem to have been the case at all for you.

    I can understand your fears in other relationships. The truth is though, not relationship is going to be the same as the one with your ex. You can even make consent less daunting by assigning code phrases. I simply ask my husband “How are you feeling?”.

    • This reply was modified 8 months ago by Helcat.
    • This reply was modified 8 months ago by Helcat.
    #397359
    Anonymous
    Inactive

    Thank you Roberta,

    I don’t think my partner was intentionally hurtful. They were similarly inexperienced and did not have healthy models of relationships either. There are times now that I question if I was treated badly because many of our miscommunications turned into me having misunderstood something and it being a problem of my issues with anxiety. I would talk about something that hurt me and my ex-partner would want me to repeat what was said word-for-word and have the exact date of it being said. This caused anxiety in me and I’d often come to the conclusion that I was making a big deal out of nothing and misunderstanding them. This happened often enough it became more difficult to speak up. They explained themselves well enough I couldn’t stand my ground. They expressed irritation with me for needing constant reassurance saying, ‘Why do I need to keep reassuring you?’

    I did try to express how I was feeling about our sex-life outside of sexual encounters and now I simply think we were incompatible with one another. They told me they didn’t initiate because I initiated so much that they ‘were all full’ (on physical touch) but I mainly initiated as much as I did because 1) it was reassured me they wanted to be with me and 2) our sex-life was unsatisfying for me as intimacy was usually done when they were ‘finished’.

    It’s hard to tell what parts were my anxiety and what parts were reasonable. It’s hard for me to trust my own perceptions already. Even as I write these words, there’s a feeling in me saying ‘You’re just trying to make yourself out to be a victim.’

    After our relationship, I was left with the feeling that ‘everything was my fault’. I said this to them once and they said, ‘I wouldn’t use those words.’ I feel like it implies they thought so too, though. Unfortunately I cannot remember all of the details nor everything that was said and done. I suspect it’s because of an issue with my brain that I struggle to remember things.

    My ex and I still communicate to this day but I am constantly afraid they’re going to change their mind about me. In our communications, I feel afraid and as though continuing to speak to them will ensure that they don’t think of me as a bad person. I worry if I say something wrong in my interactions with them, they’ll be upset with me and decide I’m not a good person after all.

    #397362
    Anonymous
    Inactive

    Helcat, yes. I can relate to the feeling of wanting a loving and caring family. I used to imagine my real dad, the dad I was supposed to have, was an educated and kind man, someone with real moral principles. He’d work at a museum or as a marine biologist or as an astronomer. He’d be the coolest person I knew and he’d teach me everything about the natural world. He’d be kind to my emotions and good to everyone.

    My mom would be similarly awesome. She’d protect me and teach me how to be in the world. She’d encourage me to go off on my own or stay, whatever was more beneficial for me. And we’d laugh all the time. My sister and I would be well-adjusted and make beautiful lives for ourselves. Life would truly be golden. I had dreams about a family with good, kind, and educated people.

    I don’t recall them saying anything hurtful, no. They told me they thought about breaking up with me but realized I might not know how they were feeling and so decided to come back and talk about it. They told me they were surprised I was receptive.

    I think them telling me it had felt bad for them for so long without telling me was the most hurtful part. It broke my heart. It felt like my entire world flipped and memories I had thought of as pleasant were suddenly sullied and wrong. I felt sick of myself and blamed myself for not knowing how I was causing someone to feel, wrapped up in my own feelings as I was. I asked them why they didn’t tell me right away and they said they ‘told me as soon as they knew how they felt’.

    I also do not like that stereotype. I think it perpetuates harmful ideas.

    I think I planned on having a talk with him and communicating that I also needed reassurance I could say no as I remember writing about it in my journal but I cannot remember if we ever did have that talk.

    In my future relationships, I plan on having these discussions before any sort of intimacy occurs so we both know where we stand. I think that’s the safest way to approach it from now on. I think based off my prior relationship, it’s safe to say I have an anxious attachment and so need a partner who can handle anxiety without taking it personally (as I continue to work on my own issues so it is not all on them) and someone who is openly communicative about what they want and are comfortable with, as well as someone who is okay with meeting my love language of physical touch.

    Now that I’m older, I think it’s possible that my ex-partner struggled with emotions entirely. They could not handle their own, much less deal with mine. I think they were very out-of-tune with themselves and saw potential in me to ‘fix me’ or something.

    They tried to teach me about codependency (once I was sitting on them and told them I missed them so much it felt like a piece of me was missing when they were away – and they told me that I sounded codependent) and accountability and me vs you issues and boundaries (they wrote those kinds of things down on a piece of paper for me to remember). It was a good-will effort to help me deal with my anxiety on my own. This made me think they were more experienced at everything, I felt like they were going to lead me and teach me how to be in a relationship because I was entirely clueless. I learned everything I knew from the internet.

    The code phrase is a good idea. At least until I work through this, it might be better for me to not initiate anything at all until I have those convo’s with the person and I’m taking better care of myself. I don’t think I would react poorly anymore, I’m just worried.

    #397365
    Anonymous
    Inactive

    Hi Anita, thank you for writing. I’ve lurked on this site for awhile and have consistently seen your name in the comments. I think it’s good of you to spend your time helping people.

    But say that person 1 goes quiet, moody, and even grows sad when person 2 doesn’t want the sandwich, person 2 would of course feel pressure to eat the sandwich in the future because they don’t want to make person 1 upset. Person 2 probably has trouble saying they don’t want to eat the sandwich as they care about hurting people’s feelings but person 1 doesn’t know their reactions are causing person 2 to feel bad as they usually end up talking the situation out after awhile of silence.

    Not only did I not initiate anything, I made sure to reaffirm to them that they needed to say no to me and that I didn’t want to be with anyone who didn’t consensually want to be with me. We had sex 1-2 times after that initial conversation and it was only initiated by him. We scheduled intimate time and stopped once that time was up regardless of whether or not anyone was finished. They said the aim of sex shouldn’t be orgasm so we focused more on the intimacy of the acts. Eventually though, as our relationship withered, sex and intimacy fell away too.

    They broke up with me a week or two after we had a fight on our last day of school. They were very anxious about us spending too much time together as before we had the big talk, they told me us spending as much time together as we had was unsustainable for their mental health. They even said their mental health was getting worse because of me.

    They at first spent more time with me because I behaved similarly dejected when they refused or had plans that didn’t involve me. We both agreed we needed to have our own lives outside of one another. I was trying but still struggled with my anxiety and feeling emotionally disconnected from them.

    They agreed to drive me home from college and we spent the night in the same room. The next morning I had to try and pack my things into their car and not everything would fit. There was a checkout time with a fine included if I didn’t clear my room in time so I started to shut down from the anxiety. I went into ‘fix-it’ mode and I think this made them feel anxious as it reminded them of times when I’d shut down in the past. I wanted to focus on taking care of my room situation and my ex wanted me to talk it out with them. I couldn’t do both. I went back to my room and had to throw so many things out, including stuff other people had bought me as gifts.

    My ex followed me around and burst out crying saying that they were afraid things were going back to the way they were and that I was mad at them and that I was going to break up with them. I stopped what I was doing to reassure them and bring them down from their panic.

    I finished throwing my things out and we had a meal together in silence. I got upset with the silence and asked them to just say something. In the car, I told them I ‘could’ve used more support’ and they snapped at me that they could’ve too. We rode back in silence for the most part. We tried to talk it out but at that point, our relationship was too strained.

    I felt them pulling away and a week or two later, they broke up with me over the phone. They told me they couldn’t focus on their mental health and fix this relationship. Even talking things out was too much of a strain for them.

    Later on, right before I went no contact to focus on my own healing, we had a phone-call in which they described me as ‘manipulative’, ‘toxic’, and ‘smothering’. I reflected on my behavior and apologized.

    I had many moments like those with A where something hurtful was said and I convinced myself/or was otherwise convinced I was seeing the situation distortedly. Maybe I was seeing the situation wrong. There’s part of me that feels anger when I consider that maybe I had reasonable feelings that were invalidated. And there’s a part of me that cannot trust my own perceptions, that feels guilty for not taking all of the blame and saying things that make A seem.. not so great.

    I felt hurt by what A said, yeah. I felt like I gave something precious away to them and they didn’t care. I felt like they didn’t care about whether or not I was satisfied or if I felt listened to.

    I felt resentful of them for talking at me and rarely asking me any questions about myself and for staying with me despite feeling bad being with me (they said ‘*everything* felt bad for them, not just intimacy, but they stayed with me cause they thought I was a great person) and for not seeming to care about whether or not I felt satisfied in our sex-life too.

    I remember crying to myself while they were sleeping peacefully on the other side of the bed. And I remember them telling me ‘no’ when I asked if I could take care of myself while they cleaned up in the shower. And even now, I think to myself, maybe I’m just misunderstanding!

    I guess I do feel angrier about things than I thought. I don’t feel right feeling angry about things they said and did because I was not a good partner either and again, the way they explained themselves, none of it was intentional.

    But maybe it’s important that I do tap into those feelings. There’s a sort of fog around our relationship I keep trying to push through. I know I was very messed up for a long time after the breakup.

    The image of all those people including me, condemning me, is a really sad one. I will try to take your advice.

    #397371
    anita
    Participant

    Dear Bee:

    You are welcome and thank you for your kind words.

    But say that person 1 goes quiet, moody, and even grows sad when person 2 doesn’t want the sandwich, person 2 would of course feel pressure to eat the sandwich in the future because they don’t want to make person 1 upset…” – person 1’s behavior will damage person 2 if person 2 is a child and person 1 is their parent, because of the great power difference and the child’s real dependence on the parent. But if person 1 and person 2 are peers (that is, of about the same age) there is no significant power difference, no real dependence, and so person 1’s behavior is annoying but not damaging to person 2.

    They broke up with me a week or two after we had a fight on our last day of school. They were very anxious about us spending too much time together…. (being) unsustainable for their mental health. They even said their mental health was getting worse because of me” – If A was a child and you were A’s parent, no way A would have said what they said and assert themselves the way A did. A was able to end the relationship with you for the sake of their mental health, something a child is not able to do.

    I want to read the rest of your post (so far, I read one part, responded to it, then read the next part, etc.) and reply in a few hours from now, possibly in about 14 hours for now. I will close this post with this thought: your guilt regarding A assumes that you have the power to damage A, but you never had that power. Annoying someone or inconveniencing someone is not the same as damaging the person, it’s a … mistake, a forgivable mistake when behavior is corrected (which you did).

    anita

    #397372
    anita
    Participant

    Dear Bee:

    “They expressed irritation with me for needing constant reassurance saying, ‘Why do I need to keep reassuring you?’ … They told me they couldn’t focus on their mental health and fix this relationship. Even talking things out was too much of a strain for them… they described me as ‘manipulative’, ‘toxic’, and ‘smothering’…  I don’t feel right feeling angry about things they said and did because I was not a good partner either… There’s a sort of fog around our relationship” –

    – this is my best understanding at this point, based on all that I read from you: like you said yourself, you suffer from an anxious attachment style (which means that you suffer from significant, elevated anxiety in the context of intimate relationships). This attachment style/ elevated anxiety, when gone wild (when uncontained) is very distressing for the person you are attached to, no matter how much they try to not take it personally (“it’s safe to say I have an anxious attachment and so need a partner who can handle anxiety without taking it personally“).

    It is not fair to expect another person to handle this attachment style/ uncontained elevated anxiety. It is your responsibility to regulate your emotions and contain the expressions of your anxiety, that is, to control your behavior (behaviors that were at times manipulative and smothering, like A said).

    Having said that, you are not a rapist, a sexual abuser, or any such thing, and A is not perfect. A took care of themselves when ending the relationship with you, removing the cause of their distress …. no damage lingers for A, as I see it. Your job is to learn emotion regulation skills, gain more insight into your childhood and relationships with your parents, and learn to control the expressions of your anxiety, so that your life quality improves, and the next intimate relationship is way better than the last.

    anita

    #397373
    Anonymous
    Inactive

    Thank you, anita. You are right, it is my responsibility to take care of my own emotions and anxiety. What I more closely meant is a partner who is able to communicate honestly, is patient, and is warm with me throughout the process of me taking care of myself. I’m sorry I said it the way I did.

    Thank you for your words. It means a lot to come from you, from my perspective. I will continue working on this healing path.

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