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Maintaining Self in Relationships

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  • #345214
    Fiest
    Participant

    I recently got out of a relationship where after about 3 months of being a normal human being, I turned into a co-dependent mess. This isn’t something new, so it’s something I’ve been working with for the past 10 years and 2 relationships.

    I absolutely love who I am when I’m being myself outside of relationships. And even for the first month or so. I’m legitimately happy, independent, fun, just like I am with my friends. In relationships I tend to take on more of the chasee. Not intentionally, but because I’m kinda silly when guys try to get close to me. It’s actually kind of embarrassing. The problem with this, is that these guys will see me as someone who wants a less serious relationship, someone who’s just fun.

    But little by little I get attached, lose myself and want more than they want. Only I don’t ask for it, I continue to play aloof, meanwhile inside I’m dying for so many reasons that I understand.

    Until now I was working on being true to myself so I can say that I want something deeper when it comes up. And working on maintaining myself in relationships.

    But now that I’ve gotten back to my fun-loving, unattached ways, I realize that this is who I want to be.. I like myself when I’m independent and unattached. Mostly I like it because I can see and love others as they truly are, not as I want them to be for me. In relationships I honestly can not detach to see people as individuals, which really sucks.

    So yes, I’m trying to figure out which is more truthful, being unattached and not co-dependent and loving people for who they are or trying not to be co-dependent and becoming too invested, which just enmeshes me with another. It seems like a straight-forward answer, but I feel like I have to choose one… that I can’t have both.

    Hope this makes sense!

    #345240
    anita
    Participant

    Dear Fiest:

    When you get enmeshed with a guy, when in a relationship, it’s most likely a re-enactment of what happened for you as a child with a parent, the young child that you were, afraid to be alone, afraid..

    I don’t think we talked about your childhood experience. If you want to, take it from here.

    anita

    #345284
    Fiest
    Participant

    Hi Anita,

    You’re awesome! I’ve seen that you’ve helped so many people. How do you do it?!

    I understand that feeling abandoned as a child, both physically and emotionally probably lends to my need for a guy that I like to need me. Anything less doesn’t feel like enough. I never feel secure in a relationship after I’ve fallen in love.

    It’s hard to understand where my need comes from, but not be able to change my actions. I think my fight or flight gets kicked in and I have no control over it. But I hide it very well… aside from occasional jealousy and passive aggressiveness….

     

    #345324
    anita
    Participant

    Dear Fiest:

    Thank you for your kind words, you just brought a smile to my face.

    I am looking at what you shared on this thread: you like being on your own, not in a relationship, feeling “legitimately happy, independent, fun”, but once you are in a relationship,  little by little, you get attached to the man and you lose yourself, that is, you lose your happy-independent-fun self (“little by little I get attached, lose myself and want more than they want”)

    In your recent relationship, you were a normal human being, you wrote, but three months into it, you “turned into a co-dependent mess”.

    “I get attached.. and want more than they want”- you want the man to need you, to love you completely, which is what you needed as a child from a parent, but didn’t get.

    “(I) Want more than they want. Only I don’t ask for it, I continue to play aloof”- this is what a young child does when she/he doesn’t get her parent’s attention or when her parent is often not there… she detaches and acts aloof, as if she doesn’t care. It happens after all the child’s cries were unheard again and again. The child no longer cries, no longer asks, having given up.

    “I was working on being true to myself.. working on maintaining myself in relationships”- you think that your true self is that “happy, independent, fun.. unattached”. You don’t know that the sad, dependent, needy and attached part of you is also your true self. Integrate the two selves,  and you will be healthily, authentically and truly.. you!

    “But now that I’ve gotten back to my fun-loving, unattached ways, I realize that this is who I want to be.. I like myself when I’m independent and unattached”- no one likes to feel dependent when there is no  one to depend on. It feels scary (“my fight or flight gets kicked in.. I have no control over it”), and sad and angry (“occasional jealousy and passive aggressiveness”), and none of these feel good.

    “I can see and love others as they truly are, not as I want them to be for me. In relationships I honestly can not detach to see people as individuals”- in relationships you see (once you feel attached) the man as a parent. Children don’t see their parents as individuals, they see their parents as they need them to  be. For example, a child having a mother who hits her badly, will see her mother as a loving mother, focusing on her mother feeding her in between beatings. A child closes her eyes best she can to who her parent is, and see her parent as who she needs her parent to be.

    “I understand that feeling abandoned as a child, both physically and emotionally probably lends to my need for a guy that I like to need me. Anything less doesn’t feel like enough”-

    – imagine you meet a man who does need you a whole lot: tell me, what is this man saying to  you, what is he doing for you?

    anita

     

     

    #345352
    Peter
    Participant

    Hi Fiest

    I suspect your situation resonates with a lot of people. The paradox of loving others is that it opens us and open experience of both joy and pain.  Opening to other people is messy. One of the purpose of relationships is to ‘heal the past’. The healthy relationship creating the safe space to explore and discover ourselves. Nothing like a relationship with others to reveal our best and worst selves. (often it takes a breakup for us do the work and see these’s aspects of our selves.)

    In the work you have done you discovered that when not partnered up you are more authentically yourself but wondering it that’s a excuse not to continue trying. Society in general places a lot of pressure to partner up so its understandable to wonder.  My opinion for what is worth is that your self discovery is a valid one. One does not need a partner to be fulfilled, whatever that means, and more and more people are finding that the single life is the life that best suits them. That said the choice of having to chose one or the other may be a false  one. Remaining true to your self with a open heart… things happen/change. Sometimes not looking is the best way to find things.

    #346004
    Fiest
    Participant

    Dear Anita,

    I cried when I read your reply. Your analysis and words hit me right in my heart. It’s funny that with my years of working to resolve my suffering I had never had it laid out that lucidly. The way that you have been able to take my words and translate them is astoundingly accurate. Thank you so much for taking the time to respond. It really changed my perspective and my life!

    “you want the man to need you, to love you completely, which is what you needed as a child from a parent, but didn’t get.”  This makes so much sense. Something I believed that I knew, but reading this comparison helps me to see the direct cause.

    “this is what a young child does when she/he doesn’t get her parent’s attention or when her parent is often not there… she detaches and acts aloof, as if she doesn’t care. It happens after all the child’s cries were unheard again and again. The child no longer cries, no longer asks, having given up.” – Another thing that I’ve kind of been aware of since I was younger, but never really correlated with my behavior in relationships.

    “Integrate the two selves,  and you will be healthily, authentically and truly.”  I realize my need to find my voice and courage to show who I am so that it doesn’t escape only as jealousy and passive-aggressiveness. I have tried EDMR for this.

    “no one likes to feel dependent when there is no  one to depend on.”  – Another eye-opening realization .

    in relationships you see (once you feel attached) the man as a parent.” This was like a slap of reality to my brain. The enmeshment and not seeing the other as an individual. When I read this a few days ago, so much of my confusion and fear melted away. This seemingly simple idea has provided me with a profound understanding. Especially with my last relationship. You ask me to imagine myself meeting someone who needed me and how it would look…

    I never knew what it would look like, or could even comprehend it until my last relationship. I was instantly attracted to someone I didn’t even know under the most peculiar conditions (working on a cruise ship – he was from another country). He was the first person I ever pursued in my life. A crazy magnetism. I liked him at first because of his sense of humor. I fell in love with him because not only did he want to spend all his time with me, but he could tell me that he wanted to. He didn’t play games and was confident. He also took such good care of me. I found out later he had two children, which made me realize that his fatherly side was what really tugged at my heart. I ended it a couple of months ago because I was tormenting myself daily (we both had left the ship, and were separated by 6,000 miles) because I didn’t trust that he wasn’t going to abandon me and go back to his ex-wife.

    Just thinking about him really digs into my heart. He’s certainly been assigned the role of a parent. And I see that I ignored all the things that might have been red flags (like the child with an abusive parent), to get the stuff that made me feel wanted and loved.

    I put all my time and effort into desperately trying to make it work, which actually sent me into a sort of depression. But now I’m beginning to see that I can’t possibly change all these things on my own and the burden is much too great to put on another. I’m finally beginning to realize that the only way to work through these things in the future is to be honest with myself and with whoever I may find myself with about my insecurities, as impossible as that may seem. Is it enough to just be honest about that? Is it possible to stop seeing the other as my parent and not an individual?

    Thank you again, Anita. I hope you are safe and well at this time.

     

     

     

    #346006
    Fiest
    Participant

    Hi Peter,

    Thank you for responding with your wisdom!

    “Sometimes not looking is the best way to find things.” This is important for me to remember. I realize when I get into fixing mode after a breakup, like you mentioned, I do often feel more anxiety around whether I’m better off single.

    All of your points helped to put things into perspective for me. I appreciate reading your words about it being okay to remain independent. When I have these thoughts, my mind instantly goes to me being a crazy old cat lady. But I do truly want a family, I just don’t feel like it’s meant to happen for me, especially with the issues that come up when in relationships.

    But, yes, going back to your wise words about and accepting that love brings both joy and pain… I will remember this!

    Thank you again for your help and wisdom!

    #346016
    anita
    Participant

    Dear Fiest:

    Good to read back from you, and thank you, I am as safe and as well as can be, and I wish you are too.

    You wrote about my recent post to you: “it really changed my perspective and my life!”- oh how I wish my post can change anyone’s life. But it can be a start, a new beginning. The reason a new understanding and perspective is not enough to change one’s life is because strong emotions from the past don’t go away because we understand better. Strong hurts and fears from childhood, don’t melt away when exposed to adult understanding. Instead, they keep going strong, and at one point, the person forgets the new understanding, figuring something like: what is the use of this understanding when I feel and behave just the same.

    Understanding the above will help in your next relationship: when you feel that you lose yourself once again (and it will happen), I hope that you will be thinking: this was expected, nothing abnormal or unusual in strong emotions staying strong in spite of excellent understanding. And at that point, you will be motivated to continue the healing process.

    Emotional healing and understanding/ learning are synonymous. The learning required has to take place repeatedly, over a long time. You understand something today, but you will understand the same more, tomorrow or in a week .. and then you will understand the very same issue even more/ better at a later time. Unlike academic/ rational understanding, emotional understanding takes way more time, is way more gradual, and it seems like there is always more to understand.

    You wrote in response to something I wrote: “When I read this a few days ago, so much of my confusion and fear melted away”- this is a wonderful feeling, but don’t expect it to stay, especially in your next relationship. You will be confused and scared again. But this is the nature of emotional healing: you have to persist even though you feel confused and scared.

    There is no way for an adult who was significantly injured emotionally in childhood (and there are so many of us that were!) to get rid of the hurt and fear and confusion.. and excessive needs once and for all, and start anew. It is inherently a very gradual and very slow process. If you persist and adhere to it though, you will see a huge and dependable progress in a matter of a year into a relationship, I am guessing. If you don’t persist, you will see yourself in the same (or worse) emotional predicaments pretty much for the rest of your life, so the choice, to bother with healing or not, is an easy choice to me.

    You wrote and asked: “I’m beginning to realize that the only way to work through these things in the future is to be honest with myself and with whomever I may find myself with about my insecurities.. to just be honest about it? Is it possible to stop seeing others as my parent and not an individual?”

    My answer: yes, it is possible to eventually see a man as the individual that he is. And yes, the only way to heal is to be honest with the man you are with in a relationship. But it needs to not be a situation where you over-share, sort of dump all your feelings and experiences on the guy and expect him to take all that you shared, make sense of it and figure out what is best to do next. The man is not and cannot be your psychotherapist. Plus he has his own issues from his childhood (like I wrote above, there are so many of us), so the relationship will have to be a Win-Win situation where the two of you help each other.

    There will need to two EARs in the relationship, the two of you practicing Empathy, Assertiveness, and Respect with each other.

    Quality psychotherapy is always a good idea, if and when available. Mine, 2011-13, was a combination of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT) with a heavy touch of Mindfulness.

    You are welcome to post here anytime and I will be glad to continue to communicate with you.  You don’t have to reply to me on the same day I post back to you, you can take your time and return whenever you want to return. You can bring any issue to me (it may be something that you already brought up, or something new) and I will reply to you every time.

    anita

     

    • This reply was modified 1 month, 4 weeks ago by anita.
    #346062
    Kris
    Participant

    Mu husband has lots of medical issues that I am trying to help him with and get him the care he needs.  All I can focus on right is his needs . Everyone is telling me that I must take care of myself. I am finding that difficult to do. It is even more difficult being in this  stay at home mode. I am lost . I do not know how to spend my time. I hear of others making productive use  of this time. I am not sure what I should be doing .

    #347792
    Fiest
    Participant

    Dear Anita,

    I’m glad to hear that you are safe and well!

    Thank you so much for offering your continuing support and communication. Knowing that I have a wise and supportive ear really does make a difference in navigating my healing.

    I’ve been continuing to process things. Thinking about why I am so attached (seeing partner as parent) continues to help me understand why the emotional attachment is so strong. But you’re right – just because I understand it won’t resolve the problem in the future. I guess for now, since I’m not in a relationship, it’s helping me to heal from my last one. As far as emotional healing goes, like you mentioned, I’ve also realized that my years and years of healing is not linear. It does seem to resurface as different lessons throughout time.  Then I think, ” oh no, not again!”. I think I become frustrated that I’m facing the same challenges over and over. But this time I think that having a perspective on all the components of my life that lead to my suffering in relationships and the need to constantly work on them, rather than resolving them miraculously and becoming a perfect person in the future, like you said, is giving me more perspective and hope.

    Thank you so much for the advice for future relationships! I want to think about what that requires and looks like. As of this moment, I’ve fallen back into some heavy grief. Probably because of the loneliness and lack of distractions due to quarantine.

    I can’t stop thinking about my ex being quarantined with his family. Resuming his life, having gone back to his wife and kids. We had been communicating since the breakup in Feb. here and there, just to check in with each other. I know I’m feeling strongly about rejection/abandonment because I haven’t heard from him in a while (I assume he’s gone back to his family).

    I’m working through all of this. But constant painful images and thoughts of him being happy with his family are overwhelming. I’m meditating and just trying to be with the thoughts, letting them come and go, writing in my journal, getting out, exercising, trying to take care of myself,  but I’m starting to feel like they’re starting to get ingrained in my brain and will not go away. I even try to just recognize that I can be happy for him and his family. That’s what I wanted for him. I can’t figure out why my brain wants me to think of these things. I feel like it’s glitchy and not serving to protect me at all. Sometimes I feel like I’m in purgatory or being made to suffer for something I’ve done. Which is completely irrational given all the real suffering in the world. I keep trying to be courageous and know that they’re just thoughts, that nothing lasts forever,… I don’t feel like this is the usual grief and pain that I feel after a breakup. I want to understand why my brain continues to play this harmful thought on a loop. Is there some purpose for this? Is it a way of holding on to something? Or is this something that I really wanted for myself with him, so him having it with someone else is leading to heartbreak?

    I realize this topic has kind of taken a turn from where it started. The evolution of healing, I guess…

    Thank you again, Anita for your thoughtfulness!

    Maile

    #347810
    anita
    Participant

    Dear Fiest (Maile):

    Glad to see you posted again!  I will be able to read and reply to you in about 14 hours from now.

    anita

    #347874
    Fiest
    Participant

    Hehe,  Thanks Anita!

    #347932
    anita
    Participant

    Dear Maile/Fiest:

    You are very welcome!

    Is your ex a married man (“I can’t stop thinking about my ex being quarantined with his family.. having gone back to his wife and kids”), and when in the relationship with you, he was separated from his wife?

    Regarding (1) the “constant painful images and thoughts of him..  will not go away.. my brain continues to play this harmful thought on a loop”, even though you are meditating, writing in a journal, exercising, etc., and (2) sometimes feeling that you are “in purgatory or being made to suffer for something I’ve done”, you asked: “Is there some purpose for this?”-

    – there is pain underneath your awareness that is fueling this loop of thinking about him being happy with his family. That pain is your childhood pain for not having been happy with your family, is my guess. The purpose you mentioned may be an invitation for you to bring this childhood pain up to your awareness.

    You probably remember unhappy events from your childhood, but do you feel the pain that you felt then, as a child?

    anita

    #347980
    Fiest
    Participant

    Hi Anita,

    I met him and hung out with him for a couple of weeks before finding out from someone else that he had a wife and kids. This sickened me and I immediately told him we couldn’t hang out. He said he was no longer with his wife, but that he has children that he misses. He left for a few months and when he came back, our relationship got more serious, but we never spoke about what we expected. I left a few months later, with intentions to just let the relationship go. He wanted to see me in the future, I wanted to visit him in his country, but nothing was planned.

    I got up the courage to write him and ask about his family, to tell him goodbye and thank you, and that I won’t be sad about saying goodbye because I knew he was a good father and partner and that his family was lucky to have him (I still didn’t know about his ex/wife). He replied that he had a wife, was never officially married for 11 years. They broke up when he left the ship the first time because he didn’t want to deceive either of us. He said they had been staying together for the kids and their relationship the past 3 years was bad. He told me over the following months that he never regretted that decision. I just assumed I was somehow a fling filling in for the pain he felt with his relationship. That he might be having a mid-life crisis. I never asked anything else other than if she wants him to go back home. He said he didn’t feel free in their relationship (I’m assuming she was demanding) and that he loved me more than he ever loved her. I know that his children are his life and that he wasn’t dealing with his wife’s rejection well. I could see that he was very sad at times. I told him that I knew this. I ever asked him if maybe they could go to counseling and work things out.

    I did all this despite my desire to have these things with him. I apologized later for my suggestions that he make it work for his children. That family is the most important thing. He said he understood my wanting for things to be better with his family, but sometimes better isn’t better. Despite all these reassurances, day and night I wondered if he wanted to go back. And it made me so anxious and crazy (never once telling him how I felt) that I finally just broke up with him because I couldn’t handle myself anymore. I regret it so much. Mostly because I wish I could’ve explained these things instead of running away.

    I’m pondering my childhood pain. I don’t know if my fantasy of having a family with him – someone who I see as a father figure who loved and accepted me is the cause of these thoughts. I used to wish that he would be happy and have his family, because that’s what I know is best for all in the long run. But now I can’t feel that way, even though I try. I guess I don’t know how to deal with these wants that feel so deep and primal. How to just push away a desire for belonging and to have a family or children. The more I think about it, the more I realize that these were always dreams of mine, but I never recognized them. Never before wanted them. And now that I’ve found them I think I also feel anxiety because I fear its too late.

    There’s just a lot of sadness, anguish, anxiety around the entire situation. I guess I’m feeling like it’s difficult to deal with these feelings more than other difficult thoughts because this is something that has more meaning. Like I’ve finally found something that feels meaningful in my life.

    Some context: when I was little, my entire bedroom was a nursery. I had so many dolls and everything that you would need to take care of real babies. I had always wanted to adopt a lot of children. I was always nurturing. My mother who was an OB nurse scared me out of ever having children when I was a teenager, so I just assumed I wasn’t ever going to have kids. But at this point in my life, I’m seeing myself as I was as a child. I loved taking care of things, loved my dolls, animals. Something I always saw as frivolous and unncessary in this crazy, overpopulated world.

    I apologize for the rambling. I just had a major emotional breakdown. The desire and wanting that cut into my gut and chest are still here. Now I just feel fear for never having this, desire to still be with the guy, and overwhelm all over again. Now the only way for me to stop feeling this ache is to imagine that maybe his wife felt the same about having him back… and I feel better that one less person is suffering. ??

    I have been dong mindfulness meditation twice a day and so many things that are good for me. Nothing seems to touch the grief and pain of not having a life with him…

    #347994
    anita
    Participant

    Dear Maile:

    Twelve days ago, you wrote: “I understand that feeling abandoned as a child, both physically and emotionally probably lends to my need for a guy that I like to need me.. I never feel secure in a relationship after I’ve fallen in love”.

    Today you wrote: “when I  was little, my entire bedroom was a nursery. I had so many dolls and everything.. My mother who was an OB nurse scared me out of having children when I was a teenager”-

    – in that nursery, with so many dolls and everything, what was it that you did not have?

    – is  it that your mother was absent a lot, working in a hospital as a nurse.. who was there with you when she was at work?

    – have you “always wanted to adopt a lot of children” because you were so lonely, alone and lonely in that nursery/ life as a child?

    – what did she say to you that scared you out of having children?

    The emotional breakdown you just had, it was about “the desire and wanting.. to still be  with the guy”, is it similar to the desire you had, as a young child, to not be alone, so terribly  alone?

    anita

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