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Stuck in letting go and worries

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  • #374338
    Felis
    Participant

    Hi,

    [I’m sorry this is gonna be long to read]

    I am experiencing a struggle in letting my ex go and still crying almost every single day while thinking of him.

    A bit of background: I met my ex on OLD back in March 2020 and we were dating until December. Our relationship might not be the best and secure, but we thrived for it. He did try to understand my needs and anxiety, I did try to understand his needs for space. Oftentimes, he would go for his activities in a period of time, I was triggered by this at first. I talked to him to let me know earlier if he wanted to go camping or hanging out with friends, he tried his best. I might say I was more anxious in this relationship, but it was still a fun, loving, and fulfilling relationship.

    In December, I was triggered when he disappeared again for almost a whole day. The next day he explained that he was hanging out till late, did not say sorry and said he would have dinner. That dinner did not happen as he was not feeling well. I was lashing out my emotions and insecurities onto him.

    I knew I was at the fault, so I sent him an apology text the next day. His phone was turned off for a whole day and he did not read my message. I knew this since we used Whatsapp as our main communication and he did not turn off his last seen status. He only used Whatsapp to communicate with me since he doesn’t really like how Whatsapp works.

    The days after that, I asked him about us – whether he wanted space or a break or still in this together. I admitted that I still wanted to be together with him, and wanted this to work. About an hour later, he opened his Whatsapp and just read all my messages – without responding to them. (at this point, his last seen was 24/12/2020)

    On 27/12, I explained to him – my vulnerability and insecurity and why I reacted this way. I wanted him to know why I was behaving so badly. I also mentioned that if he ever needs to reach out, I’ll be always here – on WhatsApp. (his last seen was still 24/12)

    I was hurt and kept myself busy with friends and activities throughout Christmas and New Year. The urge to cry and being emotional were beyond my reach.

    About 3 weeks after that, I made a fake account on the same OLD (I knew this was an unhealthy behavior of me) and found that he was back on the market and made himself available – looking for a long term partner and someone he could stay in a cabin with him. I was shattered – I knew I’m pretty much a city girl and living in a cabin would be a deal for me. During our relationship, he mentioned that he wants to buy a cabin house and lives in a wood. I did not say anything about this, but he kept saying I could live with him and grew plants together etc etc

    I deleted his contact number so I would not be obsessed looking at his WhatsApp.

    However, on 01/02, I tried again adding his number back and found his WA to be online. I kept waiting and waiting – thinking that he could give me some updates. None to available.  Last Thursday, I asked him to have some talks, he did not read my message – let alone giving a response. Since then, he turned off his WA again and his last seen was on last Thursday.

    Yesterday, I was in a spiral down. I checked again my WA and saw him online – but he turned off his last seen status. As someone with anxiety, this triggered me lot. I already thought he was texting another girl, but I did not react badly. I just deleted his number, meditated, watched a bunch of videos, and slept after that.

    But this morning alone, I was still stuck with the idea of ‘why’

    Why it was so hard for me to let go, why our seemingly perfect relationship could crumble, why is it so hard for him not to be a coward, why etc etc.

    Please help me.

    #374378
    anita
    Participant

    Dear Felis:

    I hope you feel much better soon. First, I will retell your story with quotes, second I will offer you my answers to your three why-questions, and ask you a question.

    You shared that you met your ex on an online dating site in March 2020 and dated him from then until December, nine months. You were anxious, needing him to often be close with you, and he needed space from you. He tired to understand your anxiety, and you tried “to understand his needs for space”.

    In Dec 2020, he “disappeared again for almost a whole day”. The next day, he “did not say sorry”, but said that the two of you will be having dinner. Later he cancelled the dinner, telling you that he was not feeling well. Your reaction: “l was lashing out my emotions and insecurities onto him”.

    The next day you sent him an apology text but he did not respond. Later, you explained to him your “vulnerabilities and insecurity and why I reacted this way. I wanted him to know why I was behaving so badly”, and again, he did not respond.

    Later, you made a fake account on the online dating site and found out that he was active there, “looking for a long term partner and someone he could stay in a cabin with him”, “during our relationship, he mentioned that he wants to buy a cabin house and live in a wood.. he kept saying I could live with him and grew plants together etc., etc.”  A few days ago, Feb 2021, you asked him to talk but “he did not read my message- let alone giving a response”.

    You asked: 1) “Why it was so hard for me to let go”?- because for you, “it was still a fun, loving, and fulfilling relationship”, and you grew emotionally attached to  him. When we get separated from the object of our attachment (your ex), we feel pain: “crying almost every single day while thinking of him”.

    2) “why our seemingly perfect relationship could crumble”?- it wasn’t perfect.

    3) “why is it so hard for him not to be a coward”? I don’t know that he is a coward. When you lashed out at him (” lashing out my emotions and insecurities onto him”), maybe he got scared not because he was a coward, but because you were really scary. Were you scary, as in yelling at him, calling him names, threatening him, perhaps you hit him?

    * He shared with you his dream of living in a cabin in the woods with a woman, perhaps with you. It is quiet in the woods, other than the sounds of the leaves blowing in the wind, birds chirping, maybe some coyotes howling at night…it is peaceful. The kinds of sounds that a man seeking peace and quiet does not want to hear in his cabin in the woods, are the sounds a woman makes when lashing out. (When the woman explains why she lashed out, it doesn’t mean that she will not lash out again).

    anita

    #374396
    Felis
    Participant

    Hi Anita,

    I feel better, thank you.

    In regards to my lashing out, I did not call him names, or threatening him. It was more demanding from my side, i.e I said, ‘why is it so hard for you to pick up my calls, and I was incredibly selfish to actually hope you could come even though you are sick, and I was upset as well with your disappearance act yesterday night.’

    The next morning when I re-read again my texts, I could not help but to blame myself since my texts sounded angry.

    You are so right, he is a man who likes quiet and peacefulness. But, I am different, I am very vocal about my feelings, any conflicts arising, or even any slight thing that bothers me.

    In these past weeks, I was blaming myself quite a lot for not controlling my emotions better.  I talked to my family and counselor about every single thing, they told me to be kind to myself and accept every human being has their own flaws. Even though I kept myself busy and tired throughout the period of January, my mind was busy with the heartbreak.

    I had to admit maybe I was the coward one, I could not stay at my rented house for a whole week since every nook and cranny reminded me of him, I could not watch my favorite shows, I could not eat properly, I could not be myself anymore.

    Journaling and encouraging words from my friends hugely help me to process and accept this breakup.

    I have something to ask, do you still it is still okay if I cling to the hope of him coming back one day?

    Thank,

    Felis

    #374400
    anita
    Participant

    Dear Felis:

    You are welcome. “It was more demanding from my side.. why is it so hard for you to pick up my calls.. hope you could come even though you are sick.. I am very vocal about my feelings… I talked to my family and counselor.. they told me to be kind to myself and accept every human being has their own flaws”-

    – yes, every human being has his/ her own flaws, therefore be kind to yourself and be kind to others, others like your then boyfriend: be vocal to him about your feelings, but be gently vocal, not harshly vocal.

    After the breakup, you “could not eat properly.. could not be myself anymore”- when attached, and then separated from the object of attachment, part of you is still glued to the other person, and it takes time to dissolve that glue and get the rest of yourself back to you.

    “is it still okay if I cling to the hope of him coming back one day?”- yes, it is okay, it is part of you being kind/ gentle with yourself: to give that glue more time to dissolve. Hoping that he will be  back is giving your attachment to him time to dissolve.

    You will be okay, Felis. Many millions of women and men all over the world were very attached to romantic others and then.. after some time, amazingly- they got attached to new romantic interests. Difficult to imagine now, isn’t it.. and yet it happens on a regular basis.

    anita

    #374804
    TeaK
    Participant

    Dear Felis,

    I am sorry you have to go through this. I’ve been in a similar situation quite a few years ago, and it’s really exhausting and frustrating, especially the inability to let go. From your description, it seems like you were the anxious party in the relationship, needing as much as his presence as possible and sort of clinging on to him, while he was more of the avoidant type, needing space and time away from you.

    It’s a frequent match – anxious and avoidant type getting together, but also often breaking up, because the ambivalent party starts feeling suffocated in the relationship, and the anxious party feels neglected and unloved.

    I don’t know if you’re familiar with the attachment theory, which talks about different attachment i.e. bonding styles between the parent and the child, which then affect our adult relationships as well. If we had secure attachment with our parents, we won’t be that clingy and needy, and will be able to give the other person room to breathe, so to speak, and allow them to have their own interests and hobbies, which might not always involve us.

    If we didn’t have secure attachment, there are two scenarios: 1) we will either become very clingy and anxious, constantly fearing that we’ll be left alone, or 2) we become afraid of intimacy and closeness, and want to be left alone, especially when the other party is clingy and insisting on intimacy. The first is the so-called anxious attachment style, which would be yours, and the second is the avoidant attachment style, which seems to be your ex boyfriend’s style.

    I too was the anxious party and literally thought I would die when my boyfriend threatened to leave me. I felt like I was falling into the ground and disappearing. I thought I won’t be able to survive without him…

    Fortunately, I could work through my fear in therapy, and realized that when I am obsessing about him, it’s the small child inside of me scared of being abandoned. I realized I won’t die without him, and it made things easier. From then on, I wasn’t clinging on to him so much, wasn’t controlling his every step, I could allow him room to breathe. And the result was that he didn’t feel threatened any more and spontaneously got closer to me. As I stopped clinging on to him, he stopped resisting and running away. Now we’re married 😊

    I hope this helps. Good luck to you!

    #374812
    anita
    Participant

    * Dear TeaK: you explained  attachment theory exceptionally clearly, clearer and simpler than what I read anywhere else, particularly the struggles of the person with  anxious attachment. I would like to direct another member who is extremely anxiously-attached to your post here and quote your post on her thread. May I do so?

    anita

     

    #374813
    TeaK
    Participant

    Absolutely, dear anita. I am glad I could help.

    #374814
    anita
    Participant

    * Thank you, TeaK, I will do so next.

    anita

    #375003
    Felis
    Participant

    Hi Anita,

    Thinking from your perspective does make a lot of sense, I spend many days recuperating myself by meditation. Sometimes in the middle of the day, while I am doing nothing, I totally agree with you in terms of lashing out. It is unfair for us to let our ugliness out and projecting our own insecurities to others.

    I am mostly taking everything for granted and I just realized this a few days ago.

    Thank you for chipping in and giving me some helpful advice. I wish a better future for him and for me, and oh, for you too and anyone else. In the time being, I am focusing on my career and my family. Cheers.

     

    Hi TeaK,

    Thank you for your explanation. It was totally clear and easy to read, my therapist also said the same thing like yours did. Last month, I was honestly obsessed with watching videos of breakups and ghosting and it came down to attachment style and the explanation behind it.

    After talking to my therapist, I think I may have abandonment issues from friends that have been with me since childhood, and now she just disappeared out of blue. I am still working on it and hoping for a better me in the next chapter.

    I have a question, does attachment style (e.g: anxious) always caused by the way they rise in a family? Or external factors could cause it too (e.g. being avoidant)?

    Thank you.

    #375008
    anita
    Participant

    Dear Felis:

    I will read your recent post and reply in a few hours.

    anita

    #375012
    anita
    Participant

    Dear Felis:

    You are welcome. I don’t know if I have much to add, but will be back to you in about 10 hours from now. I hope that TeaK will reply to you as well.

    anita

    #375017
    TeaK
    Participant

    Dear Felis,

    I believe if we have a strong fear of abandonment, it’s almost always related to our first years of life.  However, it doesn’t necessarily have to be due to our parents not giving us proper care. It can also be because e.g. we were sick as a child and needed to spend some time in a hospital, away from our parents. Or our mother was sick and couldn’t properly care for us. For me, my parents left me at my granny’s when I was about 1,5 years old, so that my mother can finish her university degree, and I was there for approx. 9 months. During that time my parents visited me only a handful of times, because it was far away. I didn’t know about it till I was 35 years old, but when I did find out, it explained a lot of my anxiety that I experienced throughout my childhood and into my adult life.

    So sometimes it’s the outer circumstances, and not necessarily our parents’ fault, that can cause us to be anxiously attached, but this wound usually happens quite early in childhood. Losing your best friend from childhood, with whom you bonded a lot, can also be traumatic, though I don’t think it’s the main cause of anxiety, it just added to it.

    #375020
    anita
    Participant

    Dear Felis:

    Thank you for wishing me and everyone else a better future. I wish you the same. I wrote to you yesterday that I didn’t know if I have much to add, but this morning, I do have much to add. If you choose to read the following, please take your time reading and considering what you read, because this post will be long, and it will include quotes from a Wikipedia entry and my comments on how those quotes may relate to you. First, a short summary of what you shared, with quotes (I am the one adding the italicized feature):

    You had a March-December 2020 relationship. “He did try to understand my.. anxiety, I did try to understand his needs for space”. He  was “a man who likes quiet and peacefulness”, a man who dreamed about  living in a cabin in the woods with a long-term partner, and you were a “city girl “who is “very vocal about my feelings, any conflicts arising, or even any slight thing that bothers me”.

    In December, your anxiety took over and you vocalized your anger at him: “I was lashing out my emotions and insecurities onto him.. I was at fault…I was behaving badly.. demanding.. i.e., I said, ‘why is it so hard for you to pick up my calls..  you could come even though you are sick… upset with your disappearance act..’.. my texts sounded angry.. not controlling my emotions”.

    He did not communicate with you since and did not reply to your messages. Instead, he went back on the online dating site where the two of you met, and has been looking for a long-term relationship, for a woman who will live with him in a cabin in the woods.

    You cried a lot, “could not eat properly.. could not be myself anymore”. You mentioned that you “may have abandonment issues” for having a childhood friend “disappeared out of blue”, and you asked about attachment styles and what causes those.

    I will now quote from Wikipedia on the topic of Attachment Theory, a theory that was formulated by the British psychiatrist and psychoanalyst John Bowlby, and comment on how, in my mind, this theory may relate to you:

    “The most important tenet is that young children need to develop a relationship with at least one primary caregiver for normal social and emotional development”- according to the main tenet of the theory, you cannot suffer from abandonment issues leading to you becoming anxiously-attached solely because a friend disappeared from your life; there has to be an abandonment issues in the context of your relationship with your primary care taker.

    “Within attachment theory, attachment means an affectionate bond or tie between an individual and an attachment figure (usually a caregiver)…  between a child and a caregiver, these bonds are based on the child’s need for safety, security, and protection, paramount in infancy and childhood.. for the purpose of survival”- being the anxious person that you are, in the relationship you had and otherwise, this quote means, as I understand it, that your instinctual need for safety, security and protection was not adequately met in childhood in the context of your relationship with your primary care taker.

    “Infants will form attachments to any consistent caregiver who is sensitive and responsive in social interactions with them… The biological mother is the usual principal attachment figure, but the role can be taken by anyone who consistently behaves in a ‘mothering’ way over a period of time…

    “‘Alarm’ is the term used for activation of the attachment behavioural system caused by fear of danger. ‘Anxiety’ is the anticipation or fear of being cut off from the attachment figure. If the figure is unavailable or unresponsive, separation distress occurs”- separation anxiety/ distress can happen not only if the primary caretaker is absent, but also, if the primary caretaker is present but too often does not respond to the child, and/ or rejects the child and/ or expresses anger at the child.

    When your boyfriend disappeared (“upset with your disappearance act”) back in December, the alarm was set in you, the fear of being abandoned/ being cut off from him was activated.

    “In general, a child with an anxious-ambivalent pattern of attachment will typically explore little and is often wary of strangers, even when the parent is present. When the caregiver departs, the child is often highly distressed. The child is generally ambivalent when the caregiver returns. The anxious-ambivalent strategy is a response to unpredictably responsive caregiver, and the displays of anger or helplessness towards the caregiver on reunion..”- notice, the child is highly distressed when the parent leaves, but is ambivalent (having mixed-feelings, including anger) when the parent returns: the child refuses to trust the parent to not leave again. This is similar to your behavior back in December: when your then boyfriend disappeared, you were highly distressed; upon reunion/ restoration of communication with him- you were angry and you lashed  out at him.

    “Securely attached adults have a ‘low level of personal distress and high levels of concern for others’.. Within romantic relationships, a securely attached adult will appear in the following ways: excellent conflict resolution, mentally flexible, effective communicators, avoidance of manipulation, comfortable with closeness without fearfulness of being enmeshed, quickly forgiving, viewing sex and emotional intimacy as one, believing they can positively impact their relationship, .. In summation, they are great partners who treat their spouses very well, as they are not afraid to give positively and ask for their needs to be met. Securely attached adults believe that there are ‘many potential partners that would be responsive to their needs’, and if they come across an individual who is not meeting their needs, they will typically lose interest very quickly.. research indicates that it only takes one securely attached partner within a romantic relationship to maintain healthy, emotional relationship functioning”- this research is encouraging, because there aren’t enough securely attached individuals to go around!

    “Anxious-preoccupied adults seek high levels of intimacy, approval and responsiveness from partners, becoming overly dependent. They tend to be less trusting, have less positive views about themselves and their partners, and may exhibit high levels of emotional expressiveness, worry and impulsiveness in their relationships…have not been able to develop sufficient defenses against separation anxiety..  these individuals will then overreact to the anticipation of separation or the actual separation from their attachment figure”-  your description of yourself as “very vocal about my feelings, any conflicts arising, or even any slight thing that bothers me” fits with “high levels of emotional expressiveness”. The “lashing out my emotions and insecurities onto him” fits with “impulsiveness” and overreacting.

    “The research showed that though there were cultural differences, the three basic patterns, secure, avoidant and ambivalent, can be found in every culture in which studies have been undertaken”- notice that the avoidant avoids intimacy and the ambivalent is conflicted about intimacy: seeking it desperately, on one hand, and distrustfully and angrily pushing it away, on the other hand.

    In other words, an anxiously attached adult can not find peace within a romantic relationship, even if the partner is very attentive and loving.  For the anxiously attached, it takes personal healing within and without a relationship, so to be at peace.

    anita

     

    #375079
    Felis
    Participant

    Hi TeaK,

    Hope you are doing well today and thank you for your time to respond to my question. You are totally right and my therapist agrees with this. I had a long session with her yesterday, even though I had a hard time recalling all the memories I had in my childhood, my therapist was patient enough to ask me some long questions.

    I think I knew where my abandonment issue coming from, this is due to the trauma left behind when my parents were busy working and providing necessities since we were not rich, I felt emotionally neglected. Also, when I was still in primary school, my mom would make a mock exam a day before the real test and I had to get a high score from her. There were a number of times when I could not answer my mom’s tests and she would throw a fit, e.g. yelling, throwing the book to my face. She would apologize after this by giving treatment or cooking some warm meals. I guess I am accustomed to this behavior, but deep down, I was mostly afraid I would be neglected again if I’m not smart enough.

    As I grew up, I tried to emphatize my parents, trying to understand my parents were still young when they had me, and working hard might add some stress as well. I could not blame them for these.

    I think, for now, I am trying to parent my inner child that, ‘I’m safe and my parents will never leave me behind.’

    Oh, and my childhood friend abandoned me a year ago, we just talked yesterday after she found my social media. We agreed to have a phone call this weekend when we are not busy with work and school.

    Thank you again.

     

    Hi Anita,

    Hope you are doing well today too.

    Thank you for your post. I will take my time to read this after work and get back to you again.

     

    #375089
    TeaK
    Participant

    Dear Felis,

    It’s great you’re discussing all those things with your therapist and putting them into perspective. Your mom throwing books at you if you don’t know the answer could be a pretty bad trauma, though you might have not taken is so badly since she later apologized. But as you say, it left a mark on you, and it actually might have impacted your self-esteem. How do you feel about yourself? Do you have self-confidence?

    You say: I think, for now, I am trying to parent my inner child that, ‘I’m safe and my parents will never leave me behind.’

    When you’re soothing your inner child, try to also phrase it as if you were a good parent to that child. So you might say something like “you’re safe and I will never leave you behind.” You can discuss it with your therapist first, but I think phrasing it like that would help even more.

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