February 1, 2024 at 1:01 pm #427482
You are welcome, and do take your time. Thank you for the note.
anitaFebruary 4, 2024 at 12:42 am #427542
As I re-read our communication I am getting the feel of the Freeze Response that we talked about, which we both had in common as children growing up, and as adults (an experience that has improved a lot for me in recent years).
Yes, it is the freeze response I think.
The emotional skills I am referring to are such as recognizing what you are feeling, being able to label your emotions (instead of drowning in endless overthinking and confusion), and once you label an emotion, understanding the message behind the emotion.
When you are not sure if your interpretation is accurate because you don’t have enough information, you need to talk to the relevant person about what happened, to get needed information, and to clarify feelings and motivations, so to confidently know what happened and proceed from there.
That happens often. Maybe I should be seeing a therapist.
if she really dislikes watching certain movies, no reason for her to watch them. Maybe she has ADHD and it is difficult for her to sit down and watch a movie that is boring for her to watch. Again, without an incriminating context, I don’t see the wrongdoing on her part.
Yes, but the thing is…It may be my fault. Because in the past I used to watch a lot of movies she wanted to, and I was bored because I didn’t like them. But SHE liked them and she wanted us to watch it.. She just encouraged me, did not force me of course.. But I don’t have my own opinion most of times.. and I did watch the movies, went to concerts I was not interested in because they were all events she wanted to see or be at. Oftentimes I was just there, bored. But I could never say no. That’s why I am angry now when she says she is not interested in something I want to see. This one time I told her I used to see all those concerts I was not interested in, I did not even know the bands. And then she kind of stopped inviting me to them. And I’m going to concert later this year, in the summer and she is not coming with me because..she is not interested. So all those times I used to go with her..I was just stupid. Not having my own opinion. I feel resentful now and stupid.
So sometimes you choose a movie and she watches it with you.. but so far every time you suggested to watch a movie she said No? And the only times her No changed to a Yes, was after you complained about her initial No?
Yes. She agreed to watch a movie last time because she already knows I would be angry about it. That’s the only way I can get her to do anything with me.
did you tell her in the past that her paying for groceries and such offends you? If you did, what conversation proceeded on the matter?
No. She probably does it out of habit or something. Because in the past I used to not have money sometimes or she would get something expensive for her so she probably decided she would pay for everything. I would pay her back for my things. But the thing is. I could never do something like that. I could never decide “I will pay and you just..go away with your credit card”. She would not let. If she wanted to pay and I would try to stop her – that would not happen.
Of course, you don’t have to answer these, or any of my questions. But if you choose to answer, please be as clear and as factual as you can be, not including your interpretations of what she said, but only what she said (her words) and her actions, as well as your words and your actions in any particular situation.
I feel like I am not factual and just more confusing.
Maybe I need context. If in the past, you told her that it offends you that she is paying for groceries when the two of you are shopping, or at a restaurant, then I could see that she’s been disrespecting you by paying. But without any context, it seems generous of her, not offensive.
I never told her that.February 4, 2024 at 12:56 am #427543
Last week we had a strange conversation again. I am feeling as if I am mentally ill. Or manipulated.
We planned vacation. We never went anywhere during our relationship, except for some short trips and concerts. She never liked going on vacation, she prefers concerts. I always dreamed of travelling but she did not want to go.
We finally agreed we were going to see Italy or some other place but we agreed on Italy.
And I wanted to include her in searching for plane tickets etc because I felt like she was leaving this for me and it felt too much.
So we started searching. I wanted to see Palermo but turned out it was too expensive and tickets were not convenient. So it was Venice or Spain. She did not like Spain although I said it looks exotic and very nice, I told her I liked it. But she said Venice it is – we are going to Venice. I also liked Venice but I felt like she decided it – I did not say anything, just quietly responded. We were searching for hotels in Venice and then I said – let’s see the other options, and she said okay. And then I said there’s Greece and Athens. And she got excited and said we are choosing Athens. Turned out it’s cheaper and she dreamed about this. And I said okay..but we did not consider Spain..she just said it’s only a beach and a city. And she said it’s her birthday so she is choosing a trip and also some time ago she asked me if I wanted to go to Athens and I said yes. I don’t remember it but it was probably true. I just say yes to things she is excited about, I just don’t think. I don’t have my own opinion. And she was I was a bit upset and she said OK let’s go to Spain it’s a beach and sunny, so on and so on… I think she did not want me to be upset. But at this point I did not know what I wanted anymore. Spain seemed like a bad idea already because she rejected it earlier and seemed like she did not want to upset me. But I said: no, let’s go to Athens, it’s your birthday. It was weird but I don’t think she was angry or anything.
And as I was saying at this point I did not even know what I wanted to choose. I could not sleep at night. I felt like I am mentally ill. I wanted to be honest and talk about it but I did not know how and what to say. She said: I feel like you are not interested in any place except for Spain.
Am I mentally ill?February 4, 2024 at 1:32 am #427544
Anita..can you tell what is wrong with me? I feel like I am really trying to be honest, to have a good relationship and I can see she is also trying. She really does. Or those things I said to her what makes me upset etc she does try to change it. Not perfectly and not every time but I see she does want to. And yet still there’s a problem every time we try to talk about something.February 4, 2024 at 9:04 am #427548
“Maybe I should be seeing a therapist“- if you can afford one who is a good CBT therapist who will teach you emotion regulation skills (distress tolerance), that will be best for you!
(I m adding the boldface feature to this quote): “In the past I used to watch a lot of movies she wanted to, and I was bored because I didn’t like them. But SHE liked them and she wanted us to watch it.. She just encouraged me, did not force me of course.. But I don’t have my own opinion most of times… I could never say no. That’s why I am angry now when she says she is not interested in something I want to see…I feel resentful now and stupid“- this is a classic description of a codependent relationship where your sense of self/ self identity is minimal, there is like a vacuum in the area where Caroline’s Identity (Caroline’s opinions, likes, wants) is supposed to be , so- in your mind and in practice- she takes over this vacuum: life becomes about her opinions, her likes, her wants. The result is indeed anger and resentment on the part of the one who is codependent.
“She agreed to watch a movie last time because she already knows I would be angry about it. That’s the only way I can get her to do anything with me“- if you don’t express to her that you dislike something and you go along with it, then it’s only when you get angry that she has the opportunity to know that you don’t like something…?
“I could never do something like that. I could never decide “I will pay and you just.. go away with your credit card”. She would not let. If she wanted to pay and I would try to stop her – that would not happen“- you need to learn assertiveness skills. If you act assertively with her (instead of passively/ codependently), you will not be angry with her for being assertive.
In regard to whether you told her in the past that it offends you when she pays for groceries, you answered: “I never told her that“- so when she paid for groceries, she didn’t know and had no way to know that it’d offend you.
“We planned vacation… We finally agreed we were going to see Italy… she said Venice it is… at this point I did not know what I wanted anymore… Am I mentally ill?“- you are in a desperate need to learn emotion regulation and assertiveness skills, as well as challenging distressing thoughts (CBT).
“Anita.. can you tell what is wrong with me? I feel like I am really trying to be honest, to have a good relationship and I can see she is also trying. She really does. Or those things I said to her what makes me upset etc. she does try to change it. Not perfectly and not every time but I see she does want to. And yet still there’s a problem every time we try to talk about something“- the vacuum I mentioned earlier, it needs to get filled with Caroline, with what Caroline thinks, likes (and dislikes) wants, believes in, etc. Your girlfriend did not create this vacuum. It was created long ago, when you were growing up.
You need to get to know yourself, get to know the positive and wonderful things about yourself and come to a place where you think well of you, a place where you esteem and respect yourself. Does this sound right to you?
anitaFebruary 4, 2024 at 10:49 am #427553
Yes, that makes sense. The vacuum thing.
I do not want to say she’s evil for acting like that but I said many times already that I want to feel like I get to decide things too. And she knows that. But she knows that overall, not specific. I mean specific cases in the past, yes, some of them. But in present time when I don’t want to do something I go quiet. And then I get angry later. I know I shouldn’t behave like that, I should just say right away in a normal tone, not angry tone later. But I don’t know how to do that. I feel like she is more confident and assertive with her opinions and I just take a step back and not say anything. Today it happened again I got angry about the Athens vacations and she got angry too that she thought I agreed and now I’m saying I don’t want to go. But later she said Okay let’s go to some other place where we both want to go, she knows I wanted to see Norway and there’s my favorite book author there, places like museums related to those books. And it was nice she proposed it but it’s cold there now so I said ok let’s go to Athens and we will visit Norway some other time during the summer. And it seems okay now. But I had to agree to something she wanted in the end. She asked me many times: Ok what do you want? what is the place you want to see? And I couldn’t say. Because I did not know anymore. I did not know how to resolve this situation, this conflict. And then she said Ok let’s go to Norway, I don’t care about Athens anymore.
She said it, not me. I couldn’t.
Sorry I let it all out here but it is kind of regulating for me to just write it all. I see it and I understand it better now thanks to you Anita. And I want to change it because I am in a relationship with someone who cares. I know she is not perfect but I can see she wants to try to fix things. It just got so complicated. Today I told her “It’s all getting complicated once I say what I want” because it is. When she says she wants something and I agree, it’s all good. I think she just got used to it. And about a year ago I started to see it and did not want to agree to things anymore. And I think she is just not used to it because she did not know it. And now it sounds like I am angry and resentful for past things. Which is not even her fault, not entirely at least. It is a bit her fault in my opinion because she wants so badly for us to do things she likes. She sometimes imposes things like boardgames etc. She wants to buy those I would like instead of just leave me alone.
How can I learn this “emotion regulation and assertiveness skills, as well as challenging distressing thoughts (CBT)”, Anita? Can I learn it by myself? is reading a book enough? or should I see a therapist. I am really desperate, I am having panic attacks because of this. I think it is all too much in my life right now.February 4, 2024 at 1:41 pm #427558
“In present time when I don’t want to do something I go quiet. And then I get angry later. I know I shouldn’t behave like that, I should just say right away in a normal tone, not angry tone later“- yes.
“But I don’t know how to do that“- next time you notice that you went quiet because you don’t want to do something she wants to do, say in a normal tone: I don’t want to do this.
“I do not want to say she’s evil… feel like she is more confident and assertive with her opinions and I just take a step back and not say anything… She asked me many times: Ok what do you want? what is the place you want to see? And I couldn’t say..”– she reads like a decent person, not evil at all. Your struggles with not knowing what you think/ feel/ want etc. (the vacuum we talked about), makes all long-term relationships difficult, romantic and otherwise.
“Sorry I let it all out here but it is kind of regulating for me to just write it all. I see it and I understand it better now thanks to you Anita“- you are very welcome to let it all out here, any day, any time. And thank you for your appreciation!
“I want to change it because I am in a relationship with someone who cares“- you said it, she cares.
“How can I learn this ’emotion regulation and assertiveness skills, as well as challenging distressing thoughts (CBT)”, Anita? Can I learn it by myself? is reading a book enough? or should I see a therapist. I am really desperate, I am having panic attacks because of this. I think it is all too much in my life right now“- (1) try guided meditations during today and before going to sleep, will you? (2) Therapy with a good therapist will be best. (3) research emotion regulation skills, (part of Dialectical Behavioral Therapy, DBT) and CBT, consider buying a book and a workbook on each of these topics, and see how it works for you.
anitaFebruary 4, 2024 at 2:32 pm #427561
next time you notice that you went quiet because you don’t want to do something she wants to do, say in a normal tone: I don’t want to do this.
Ok. But what if I can’t say what I want? I couldn’t say because I did not know anymore. I thought we would go to one place we agreed and it turned out she was all over picking places and I just couldn’t follow. I think I needed time to decide.
I will try to just say that I don’t want to do something next time.
Now I know I agreed to this city she picked but I can’t help thinking: Am I again doing something she picked? I think I kind of am. But I won’t say anything anymore because she tried and she asked and I couldn’t say. And I said okay it’s the best choice. Now I keep thinking I did this again to myself and I won’t enjoy this trip because again it was something she wants to do.
(1) try guided meditations during today and before going to sleep, will you?
Ok, I will do this today. In what way is it going to help?
(2) Therapy with a good therapist will be best.
It’s going to be difficult but I was thinking about this before so probably should looking for someone.
(3) research emotion regulation skills, (part of Dialectical Behavioral Therapy, DBT) and CBT, consider buying a book and a workbook on each of these topics, and see how it works for you.
Okay. Thank you Anita.February 4, 2024 at 3:35 pm #427565
I will reply further in the morning, but for now, in regard to: “Ok. But what if I can’t say what I want?“- you can say: I don’t know what I want right now. Let’s talk about it again late, after I think about it for awhile. This way, you are assertive and you are taking a timeout, so to figure out- when you are away from her and from the conversation, when you are alone- what it is that you want.
anitaFebruary 4, 2024 at 10:45 pm #427575
That seems reasonable. I should have said that. Instead I just agreed on vacation I am not excited about. Again.February 5, 2024 at 10:20 am #427593
“Now I know I agreed to this city she picked but I can’t help thinking: Am I again doing something she picked? I think I kind of am. But I won’t say anything anymore because she tried and she asked and I couldn’t say. And I said okay it’s the best choice. Now I keep thinking I did this again to myself and I won’t enjoy this trip because again it was something she wants to do… I just agreed on vacation I am not excited about. Again.“-
– Everything is difficult when you don’t own your .. own life: all relationships are difficult, at work and personally, there’s so much self-doubt and heightened anxiety when your life is owned (in your mind) by someone else, someone more powerful than you… and there is always someone more powerful than you… when you feel powerless.
From psychology today on powerlessness: “It is the feeling that we have had to, or must seriously, compromise ourselves or something we hold dear due to external forces seemingly beyond our control”, “Power exists in all relationships. Having power means to have a sense of control, to have choices and the ability to influence our environment and others. It’s a natural and healthy instinct to exert our power to get our wants and needs met…
“Impaired Power: In contrast, many of us may feel powerless and victims of outside forces. We can feel like our destiny is out of our hands. Some of us voluntarily give up our power to others. We may feel uncomfortable with exercising our own power, and believe that we will alienate others. Instead, we might react to others, defer to their wants and need, and have trouble making decisions and initiating independent action. We might feel like we’re being mean or raising our voice when we merely state what we want or don’t like.
“This impaired sense of power is common and stems from: 1. A habitual external focus 2. Shame and low self-esteem- not feeling worthy. 3. Dependence and lack of autonomy– excessive need for a relationship 4. Lack of assertiveness and deference to others’ decisions 5. Discomfort with power and a belief that it harms relationships. 6. Fear of rejection and abandonment…
“Power Imbalances in Relationships: Many relationships have power imbalances. If we’ve denied our power and don’t express ourselves for any of the above reasons, it’s natural for someone else to fill the vacuum.”
Remember how you started your first thread on tb back in Sept 2022? “I have a male friend“- he, a coworker at the time, was more powerful than you and he took over your life back then, he filled in that Personal Power Vacuum (PPV, if you will).
Back to psychology today/ do you feel controlled in your relationship: “Growing up in a dysfunctional family can result in an impaired relationship to power. Generally, this occurs if we grow up in families where power was exercised over others in a dominant-submissive pattern. Our needs and feelings were ignored or criticized. When personal power and self-worth aren’t encouraged we come to believe that power and love can’t coexist. Power gets a bad rep. We’re afraid of our own power or can only get our needs met by being indirect. We might learn to feel safe and be loved through accommodating others, by and people-pleasing… We may be unable to know and assert our wants and needs or make decisions, often even for ourselves. We relinquish control over ourselves and often defer to others or don’t act at all…
“How to Become Empowered: Love and power are not incongruous. In fact, love doesn’t mean giving up oneself, which eventually leads to resentment. Love actually requires the exercise of power. To claim our power means learning to live consciously, taking responsibility for ourselves and choices, building self-esteem, and asking directly for our needs and wants. As we learn to express ourselves honestly and set boundaries and say no, we create safety and mutual respect, allowing our partner to do the same”-
– to this day, Caroline, I have some trouble knowing what I want and/ or asserting what I want. When asked what I want, I commonly say: whatever you want. I grew up very much in a dominant (my mother)- submissive (myself) pattern of relationship. The way to please my mother when she was angry at me, raging at me with words that hurt so much (and some physical violence) was to lower my head and look at the ground. I remember her saying to me during a pause in beating me: “the only thing I like about you is that you are looking down and you don’t say anything back to me“.
I remember that sentence because it made me feel like a good girl, that there is something likeable about me, something that draws approval: to be submissive, to display powerlessness for someone powerful.. hence the birth of my own PPV (Personal Power Vacuum).
I still experience the euphoria of feeling approved of, of feeling liked- sometimes- by being submissive, as in saying to another: you’re in control, whatever you want. But then, I suffered a WHOLE LOT for giving my power away, bringing me to practical life circumstances that are hurting me now, and which I cannot reverse.
Back to your post, you wrote in regard to my suggestion that you try guided meditations: “Ok, I will do this today. In what way is it going to help?“- I hope that it will help you to slow down, to calm down, which is an emotion regulation skill required for you to think effectively when needed, and come up with real solutions to real problems, instead of drowning in self-doubt and overthinking.
anitaFebruary 7, 2024 at 12:20 pm #427668
I re-read your thread from the beginning, taking notes, and this is what I figure this morning after a few hours of study (I’ll refer to your girlfriend as G, and in my comments, I will be using the present tense in regard to what you shared back in 2023 and onwards, for simplicity):
About G: “She works from home and is on camera very often and her mother is coming into her apartment (it’s in the same house) when she’s in a meeting sometimes” (July 1, 2023)- reads like her mother is intrusive and doesn’t ask G’s permission before entering G’s apartment. I assume that this is not new behavior on her mother’s part.
When you met G, “She did not have a job for years and didn’t believe in herself, she had this job where she cleaned some lady’s house, earning very little money. You wouldn’t even pay rent for her monthly earnings. She had no self esteem… she was so humble, shy” (July 1, 2023). This is in line with her growing up with an intrusive, dominant mother who made G feel powerless.
In relation to G, at the time of the beginning relationship, you felt superior, the one in power: “Then I got this job and I recommended her. (I have slightly higher position)… Me bossing her around was.. I don’t know really.. telling her to make dinner while she was at my place, telling her to pick up a package etc. The least she could do, because 4 days a week she was at home (she cleaned only on 1 day) and I worked 6 days a week” (July 1), “When she was cleaning and I had better job.. I think yes I thought of her as inferior. She is younger and I already had more money, I paid for her many times. So I think I saw her as less capable at this time. Also I did shopping, made dinners etc. She usually just stayed at home doing nothing” (Jan 21, 2024)-
– At the time, you felt more powerful than G. You wanted to help her feel more powerful than she felt, and, I think, you didn’t feel comfortable with that power, so you decreased (diminished) your power in the relationship, so that she will feel increased: “I wanted her to be more confident and to see her succeed. And it got out of hand because I started to diminish myself so that she wouldn’t feel worse” (July 1)
But it got out of hand (your words) and she became the dominant one in the relationship: “She does this often – I like something or want something like new furniture or new tv, or just order sushi – she always says ‘Why do you need it?’, ‘No, stop it’, ‘don’t’, and I …. stop it. I listen to her” (June 2, 2023), “she tells me to do or not to do things all the time, and the reason might be that I ask her about everything. While we are shopping I ask her ‘should we buy this’ ‘maybe I will buy this’ and she almost always says ‘No, don’t’. ‘You can’t afford it’ ‘Why do you need this’ and it’s always on grocery shopping that she cares about spending too much money (my money buying my things – and I have my own money)” (June 3, 2023)
Growing up, she had little to no power. For example, when she accompanied her mother shopping, and her mother over shopped, she had no power to stop her mother from buying too many things (“she used to shop with her mother and she would go around the shop for hours choosing stupid and unnecessary things to buy“, June 3, 2023), but with you, Caroline, she .. sort of made up for that lack of power by telling you what she couldn’t tell her mother: “No, stop it“!, “Don’t“!
“She is in power and allows me to do things. She decides” (June 8)- I am guessing that she found this new power intoxicating.
“I hope she will stop bullying me but I am afraid she kind of.. got used to it already. As I mentioned she apologized and then she continued doing the same. I think she doesn’t really notice it anymore, it’s how she communicates with me… I hate this life. Sorry if this is too much. I coped with so many similar situations already and seems like I have no one. No one who respects me anymore.” (June 2, 2023)- she likes her new power. And you hate going back to powerlessness with which you grew up.. your old powerlessness.
You hate your powerlessness, but you keep feeding it: “I realized she tells me to do or not to do things all the time, and the reason might be that I ask her about everything. While we are shopping I ask her ‘should we buy this’ ‘maybe I will buy this’… I ask her everything” (June 3, 2023).
Why do you feed something you hate (being powerless)? I believe that the answer to tis question is in this quote: “I feel like there is no ME in this relationship. I became HER… I do not have autonomy. I become the other person. I think I am a bit scared.. of not being someone else, of being my own. I don’t know if this makes sense but I feel like this is what is happening here. I think being separate will break us up because I need her approval, I am scared of doing something she doesn’t like, of having life that she does not like, approve, does not want to go into. I prefer becoming someone else than risking her not approving my hobbies, lifestyle etc.” (June 13, 2023)-
– Seems to me, that being yourself is scary because in your mind, ever since you were a child, being you (having your own opinions, likes, wants, etc., and asserting those), meant being totally alone. And for a child, being totally alone is a threat to one’s very life.
“We finally agreed we were going to see Italy or some other place but we agreed on Italy. And I wanted to include her in searching for plane tickets etc., because I felt like she was leaving this for me and it felt too much” (Feb 4, 2024)- she wasn’t controlling (she didn’t take your power away) in regard to deciding on plane tickets, etc., you had the power to make those decisions, but you felt uncomfortable with that power.. it was too much power, for you, too much of a threat.
What followed reads like a negotiation of where to go, a negotiation in which, seems to me, she fairly included you, and the choice of where to go was not because she bullied you, not at all in this case. You said let’s go to Athens (“I said: no, let’s go to Athens“), so Athens it is.
Back to the fear of having and asserting your own opinions, likes, preferences, etc., what happened to you as a child when you expressed such to your parents/ family members? In my case, when I did (and I don’t remember expressing), I know that I was dismissed at best and punished at worse.. ridiculed and made fun of.