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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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  • #397374
    anita
    Participant

    Dear Bee:

    You are very welcome. I agree that it is important for both partners to communicate honestly, and to be patient and empathetic (warm) with each other (although not at all times as no human is perfect). I hope that you feel comfortable to post again at any time!

    anita

    #397377
    Helcat
    Participant

    Hi Bee

    Personally, I don’t think your ex handled the relationship well at all. From what you said they sounded intensely critical of your mental health issues as a result of your abuse. Did you confide that you had experiences of abuse?

    I had a variety of similar issues when I was younger and not once did my partners criticise me so. People were understanding and compassionate and instead of treating me with distain when I was upset. They comforted me and heard me out. They understood that what I was feeling was not because of them, it was because of abuse. They were able to communicate in healthy ways their needs without attempting to blame things on me.

    If anyone used my mental health issues that developed because of abuse against me I would have been very hurt.

    I disagree that what they said wasn’t intentional. It seems like they are very good at explaining away any wrongdoing on their part while at the same time turning around and blaming you.

    When someone doesn’t admit any faults or wrongdoing in a relationship and consistently blames someone else. They are avoiding responsibility for their own actions.

    There are lots of troubling things that your ex said but specifically focusing on the conversation that is the focus of this thread.

    “They told me they thought about breaking up with me” Threatening to leave someone is abusive.

    “They told me they were surprised I was receptive” That is negging you and implies that you’re not reasonable or abusive.

    “I think them telling me it had felt bad for them for so long without telling me was the most hurtful part.”

    “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’.”

    People don’t feel bad for so long then suddenly realise how they felt. It’s one or the other. Either he felt that way for a long time and chose to say nothing. Or he started to feel bad about the behaviour more recently. It comes across to me as him denying his responsibility to tell you as soon as he is aware of those feelings.

    The exchange perfectly summarises the theme in the relationship where he acts poorly blaming you, then denies his own responsibility for his actions. I’m guessing that a lot of his inappropriate remarks and behaviour were unchallenged because you were consistently made to feel at fault. This was not, responsibly telling a partner when challenging feelings arise “I feel pressured or upset when I refuse intimacy you shut down.” Instead he threatened you, implied that you were abusive, guilted you and denied his responsibility to discuss issues when they arise.

    I’m not suggesting that you bear no responsibility in the relationship. I’m pointing out that your anxiety wasn’t the only problem with the relationship. As Anita said learning to manage your emotions in relationships and in general is really important.

    • This reply was modified 8 months ago by Helcat.
    • This reply was modified 8 months ago by Helcat.
    #397408
    Anonymous
    Inactive

    Helcat,

    I did confide my past with them. As they started picking out my poor behaviors, they mentioned I would over-explain and talk about where that response came from (i.e. abuse) in a way that came off as an excuse. I’ve since practiced taking more accountability for myself.

    At the time, our relationship was one of the biggest outlets I had for talking about my childhood. I had only just left that home and I think was healing from it. I’d forget I said something about my history and repeat it. One time they said in an irritated tone, ‘You already said that.’

    As Anita said, my feelings were not their responsibility but I often times put my feelings on them because I did not know how to deal with them. I’d feel very anxious when we were apart and ask them to come over. As soon as they’d open the door, I’d fall apart. I’d tell them my feelings of jealousy, insecurity, and abandonment. They’d reassure me many times. As Anita said, this can be distressing for any partner to continually deal with without seeming accountability and responsibility on the end of the person with overactive anxiety. My ex partner was big on this. They continually tried to teach me about healthy relationships, boundaries, and accountability. They told me my feelings and problems are my responsibility and their feelings and problems were their responsibility. I agree with this generally, but looking back, something about it feels off.

    Once I shared my experience of anxiety on an online forum my ex had access to and they used it against me saying, ‘It’s like you only treat me well when you feel like it.’

    After we’d had our big conversation where they admitted to being close to breaking up with me and expressed that they had been feeling pressured by my reactions, we had a discussion in which they told me their only issues were communication and enabling me. Everything else wrong in our relationship was an issue with me, they implied.

    I think why they said they had been surprised I was receptive because at other times when they expressed an unrelated issue, I would feel anxious that they were upset with me and they’d turn to reassuring me. I cannot remember this well but considering my anxiety at the time, I cannot rule it out. I think they were implying not good things about me, too. It is painful because they said ‘everything in our relationship felt bad to them. the entire relationship is bad’ but they didn’t break up with me because they thought I was a great person.

    Regardless of whether they felt bad more recently or chose not to say anything in the first place, I still feel sick with myself because I must’ve created an environment where they didn’t feel like they could say anything. I don’t understand how they could see me as a good person yet see so much wrong in me, the relationship, and even think that I wouldn’t care about how they felt in our intimate life. Yet I still feel like whether or not they see good in me is life-or-death.

    #397414
    anita
    Participant

    Dear Bee:

    I don’t understand how they could see me as a good person yet see so much wrong in me, the relationship… Yet I still feel like whether or not they see good in me is life-or-death” – you are a good person, Bee. I know because you care so much about the question of good and bad. You desperately want to be a good person.

    Bad people passed the point of no return, that’s the point when a person doesn’t care anymore about being good or bad.

    I suffered from decades of feeling guilty, believing that I was a bad person, ever since I was a child. I used to think (I think I was a teenager at the time), that if I could live one day free of guilt, my life would be worth living.

    I know the pain of guilt, and getting free from it more and more, it really does feel like life worth living. I will be happy to help you through it, best I can, over time.

    I’ve been here on the forums every day for almost 7 years, starting on May 5, 2015. I read the stories of and communicated with thousands of members over the years (you can see my many thousands of posts over the years, they are all on record here, except for the threads members chose to delete). I mention this because my experience here, and in life otherwise, is the basis for my thinking of you as a good person.

    Your ex, they read like a good person too, and I can understand why it’s so important for you that they think of you as a good person. You wonder how they can think of you as a good person when having been so dissatisfied with your behaviors- my guess is that they see what I see: a good person, a person who desperately wants to be good.

    She desperately wants to be good, yet, she already is, says I!

    anita

    #397415
    Helcat
    Participant

    Hi Bee

    Telling someone who was abused that their trauma response as a result of their severe abuse comes off as an excuse is horrifically abusive!

    It is true that you are responsible for learning to manage your emotions. It sounds like you have grown a lot. It’s true that accountability is important. But it is also true that the context of your behaviour and your intent is important.

    That partner might have taught you some important lessons, but it’s very sad to hear the manner in which you received them. I think people deserve to learn these lessons through compassion.

    Accountability and responsibility for managing emotions goes both ways, if they were “suffering” in the relationship they were free to leave at any point. Instead they chose to stay, criticising and shaming you under the guise of “helping” before ultimately choosing to do what they should have done long before it got to that point. Dating someone that has experienced severe abuse, who hasn’t yet learned to manage their emotions isn’t for everyone. It takes someone who is compassionate and secure in themselves.

    I call BS on your ex being too afraid to say anything. Pardon my French. In my experience, people who are so heavily critical are not afraid of saying anything. The way you were treat legitimately makes me angry because you didn’t deserve it. I encourage you to read about verbal abuse.

    From our communication, I have learned that you care about how you affect others, that when someone asks you to change a behaviour you try your hardest to do so. These things don’t always happen overnight and you were young, still trying to figure out how to function after being abused.

    “everything in our relationship felt bad to them. the entire relationship is bad’ but they didn’t break up with me because they thought I was a great person.”

    In my opinion, they didn’t break up with you because they got something out of the relationship. A sense of superiority. I’m going to disagree with Anita, based on the comments and experiences that you shared your ex doesn’t strike me as a good person.

    • This reply was modified 8 months ago by Helcat.
    #397420
    Anonymous
    Inactive

    Helcat,

    Thank you for your heartfelt words and for showing that kind of care for me. I am not sure about my ex-partner. It felt like they were constantly frustrated with me and on the verge of breaking up with me yet I also remember them as someone who thought I was attractive, nice, funny, etc. I remember them as someone I felt love for and had fun with.

    An important detail I failed to mention is it is possible my ex-partner has Asperger’s. At the time of us dating, they were undiagnosed but a year ago, they told me they were going in to get tested. Considering this and their home life (parents were dysfunctional and emotionally stunted), it makes sense to me that they would have less of a threshold for stress and conflict in the relationship. What’s more, they were struggling with their mental health before we entered into a relationship. They had depression and suicidal ideation, even emotional numbness. They told me that their mental health was more important than the relationship and that they’d have to break up with me at any point if the relationship was becoming unsustainable for them. For an anxious attachment, statements like these sent me into a sort of overdrive.

    However, this could explain their blunt and critical way of expressing themselves to me.

    They would tell me it takes time to undo maladaptive behaviors we’ve learned and that what I said about my home-life made sense in connection to my behaviors but later on, they told me, ‘You keep saying you’re trying but nothing’s changing!’ I think they were trying to teach me what they had learned in therapy yet their words and actions were inconsistent as they stressed that I deal with these things on my own and clearly were unhappy in the relationship.

    Their emotional meltdowns make sense within the context of an Asperger’s diagnosis as well.

    I don’t feel I can blame them for anything considering their issues were undiagnosed and they did seem as though they were overextending themselves just to help me feel more secure, even to their own detriment.

    They once said their greatest fear was hurting the people they loved and they were even sensitive to killing video-game NPC’s.

    I was not an angel either, clearly, I did not always express myself well and I very much regret the way I handled myself and my emotions.

    #397421
    Anonymous
    Inactive

    Anita,

    Thank you for saying so and for your offer to help me. I don’t know how long it will take me to come to peace with my mistakes nor do I know if I can. I want to believe it can be eased over time though.

    #397423
    Helcat
    Participant

    Hi Bee

    Thank you for sharing some more context! This is a good example of why context is important.

    I’m glad that you did have some good times together. Your explanation does make sense. It think it’s very kind of you to have such empathy for someone that also hurt you.

    I will point out that neither depression or Asperger’s make people verbally abusive. That is down to personality. Some of the things he said and did go beyond being blunt or a little rude.

    As much as what he was trying to teach you what he learned in therapy, he still had a lot to learn himself.

    It seems like you’ve taken the best of what you can from that experience, which is a healthy mindset.

    I think it’s fair to say that neither of you were perfect, there were unhealthy elements on both sides. You were two young people with your own individual issues which weren’t exactly compatible.

    Your growth and maturity are commendable Bee. You are not the same person you were back then. You should be very proud of how much you have achieved!

    I would hope that your ex has grown and matured since then too. We all make mistakes, especially when we are young.

    • This reply was modified 8 months ago by Helcat.
    #397425
    Helcat
    Participant

    Hi Bee

    I just wanted to add that the impact of verbal abuse is significant. It directly relates to the difficulties that you are currently experiencing.

    We absorb negative messages that people we care about tell us. These messages can become deeply embedded in our minds.

    • This reply was modified 8 months ago by Helcat.
    #397429
    anita
    Participant

    Dear Bee:

    Anita, Thank you for saying so and for your offer to help me. I don’t know how long it will take me to come to peace with my mistakes nor do I know if I can. I want to believe it can be eased over time though“-

    -You are welcome, Bee. When in a relationship with another person and something feels wrong, or a lot feels wrong, and mistakes have been made, it’s important to be able to determine who made what mistake, and then each person needs to take responsibility for one own’s mistakes (not for the other’s) and learn to not repeat them.

    I hope that your distress will ease and that you will come to peace with your mistakes sooner than later.

    anita

    #397950
    anita
    Participant

    How are you, Bee?

    anita

    #397965
    Anonymous
    Inactive

    Hi, anita. Thank you for checking in on me and asking. I hope you are well.

    I am still struggling with these feelings daily. They have abated to some degree as I’ve discussed the issue with others and remember the words of forgiveness I received from my ex.

    I’ve more deeply realized that my ex and I might’ve been involved in a codependent relationship with the both of us exhibiting people-pleasing and codependent tendencies in various ways.

    I have also been trying to work through the anger at both my ex and myself. My ex for trying to change me to better fit their needs in the relationship and myself for not taking better care of my own needs. I wish I had sought out therapy immediately after arriving at school and had not entered into a relationship until I had worked through my issues and learned new skills.

    I can recognize I did not then have the tools to communicate as well as I do today but forgiving myself is difficult. There is very real grief and sorrow over how everything turned out and the harm that was done to both myself and the person involved with me.

    It is difficult to look at television shows, movies, books, and comics without thinking about the past. It is difficult to do anything without being in some way reminded of it. I am constantly worrying my ex will have experienced trauma from our relationship and will be negatively impacted in the future. Like Gabor Mate writes, ‘the body remembers the score’. I wish my ex had not met me nor me them and we had both learned how to heal ourselves in a less painful way.

    I don’t feel as though my environment can support what I’m going through so I have considered trying to find a place in the world to act as a rest-station whether this be a commune, a monastery, or an alternative spiritual landing pad where I’m surrounded by a positive and supportive environment and can gain perspective on what has happened, why it was that way, and what my place is in the world now.

    #397966
    anita
    Participant

    Dear Bee:

    You are welcome, good to read back from you. I am fine, thank you.

    Apri 15: “I am still struggling with these feelings daily… anger at both my ex and myself… forgiving myself is difficult. There is very real grief and sorrow over how everything turned out and the harm that was done to both myself and the person involved with me… thinking about the past… I am constantly worrying my ex will have experienced trauma from our relationship and will be negatively impacted in the future. Like Gabor Mate writes, ‘the body remembers the score’” –

    – we’ve been focusing on your young-adulthood relationship with your ex as the source of your feelings of guilt and struggles to forgive yourself, but I think that we’ve been focusing on the wrong thing all along.

    You started your thread on April 7 with these words: “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 don’t think that this is background information; I think that this is central information in regard to your struggles with guilt and forgiveness.

    You wrote, still April 7: “I tend to blame and criticize myself heavily when things go wrong… I feel like a villain and as though everything was my fault” – the strong tendency to blame yourself and to view yourself as a villain took hold within you during your childhood, way before you met your ex.

    Let’s look at what you posted today and how I think it relates to your still ongoing childhood emotional experience:

    I am still struggling with… anger” – anger at your emotionally rejecting father and at your emotionally neglectful mother, on one hand, and anger at yourself, on the other hand.

    “forgiving myself is difficult. There is very real grief and sorrow over how everything turned out and the harm that was done” – You feel real grief and sorrow over how it turned out that you (mistakenly) believe that you harmed any one of your parents, or both. But truth is, the child that you were was harmed by them, not the other way around… and through no fault of your own.

    “I am constantly worrying my ex will have experienced trauma from our relationship and will be negatively impacted in the future. Like Gabor Mate writes, ‘the body remembers the score’” – I think that it is your body that remembers the score, remembering your childhood trauma, a trauma that is still negatively impacting you. Isn’t it?

    anita

     

    #397977
    Anonymous
    Inactive

    Hi anita,

    There is so much to forgive myself for. I made choices to isolate myself from the people around me at an early age due to mental illness and what felt like a lack of support; from this decision I feel I have suffered the most.

    If I had not made the decision to isolate myself so long ago, I would’ve built better social skills by the time I entered college and perhaps my ex and I would not have met. Or we would’ve simply passed by one another. I hurt my sister by leaving our dysfunctional home after an experience of physical abuse. I thought since our mom would have more time to spend with her, she’d be treated better. I was silly and wrong. I have said hurtful words to friends and humiliated them when I was younger. I have not handled my anger well in the past, something I work on to keep away from others.

    If I could do it over, I’d do it better and I’d help everyone. If I couldn’t help my family, I’d at least be able to look out for my sister and try to find my group of people.

    I used to be very angry at my mother and father. Part of my younger depression was defensive anger towards them for treating us the way they did. Part of it was switching between schools so many times and losing all of my friends. My belief at the time was that it was not easy for me to make friends as I was a more quiet and shy person towards strangers. I had gotten ahold of books and articles on dysfunctional families and started to see things I hadn’t seen before.

    My mom always used to say, ‘we create our own misery in life’.’ Now that I’m here, I can’t say she’s wrong. I’m 22 and feel as though I am 50.

    I was hurtful towards my parents as a teenager. I thought my anger was justified then but now I feel if I were different, everything would’ve been alright. If I were a less difficult person, if I were a happier sort of person, if I’d reached out to people, if I’d kept trying, maybe everything would be better than it is.

    Sometimes I wonder if I’m not tough enough. The reason all of this happened is me.

    #397981
    anita
    Participant

    Dear Bee:

    There is so much to forgive myself for… I hurt my sister by leaving our dysfunctional home after an experience of physical abuse” – do you believe that it is wrong to leave a dysfunctional home where one experiences physical abuse?

    I hurt my sister… I thought since our mom would have more time to spend with her, she’d be treated better. I was silly and wrong” – who inside the home hurt your sister after you left, and how?

    I used to be very angry at my mother and father… for treating us the way they did… I was hurtful towards my parents as a teenager… I thought my anger was justified then, but now I feel if I were different, everything would’ve been alright. If I were less difficult person, if I were a happier sort of person… if I’d kept trying” – so, what you are saying is that your parents did not abuse or mistreat you or your sister, that it was you who abused and mistreated your parents and your sister?

    For example, the physical abuse you mentioned as the reason why you left home, are you saying that you were not physically abused, that whoever physically hit you was simply and justifiably reacting to you being “different… difficult… (not) happier sort of person“?

    anita

     

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