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Was I wrong to offer friendship.. feeling I’ve done wrong

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  • #372361
    Oceandrive24
    Participant

    Hi there

    I’m a single mum to my two teenage sons one of which has autism OCD social anxiety and sensory difficulties and who I care for and home educate. I have no respite but my parents visit each week to support where they can although they do find it difficult at times.

    I’m seeking a listening ear and hopefully another point of view on my situation.
    My previous relationship (not my boys father) ended just short of 2 years ago mainly due to my ex being frustrated that I never seemed to have more time for him, plus he struggled in understanding my youngest son (15).

    I’ve been seeing a guy who I’ve been meeting for walks with over the last 3 weeks after he asked me out and having been chatting on the doorstep and when we bump into one another whilst he is out on his rounds (he’s a mail man) over the last 6 months.

    I enjoy his company our walks and random chats and likewise he has said he does too. I was unsure how to proceed with regards to a relationship as this was what he was indicating when we first met up for our walks 3 weeks ago he wanted us to date. I felt very cautious and unsure of what I felt able to offer given my situation with my son. I explained to him that I felt cautious and the situation with my son to him and asked to take things slowly and see how it goes be that friendship or maybe something more to which he was happy to do.

    I thought very carefully about things and we went for a walk on New Year’s day and he asked me how I felt things were going. I thanked him for being so patient and understanding with me over the last few weeks. I said to him that I had been feeling a bit unsure how to let him know that I felt friendship was all I can offer without hurting his feelings, but I realised that I needed to be honest with him. I explained that my situation at home with my son can be somewhat complex and unpredictable, meaning that with time constraints, lack of respite, support etc friendship is all I realistically feel able to offer right now. I told him that I value the friendship we have developed, and would very much like that to continue, and hoped that he would like that too. He said that he understood and was happy to be friends as he enjoys my company and he’s just glad that I still want to put up with him. I told him I don’t put up with him but that he is a nice person and I enjoy his company.

    I’m feeling glad that we can continue to enjoy one another’s company and our friendship. But if I’m very honest I know I would like more, and as far as I’m aware I think he still does too. Having giving my reasons for offering friendship more thought, I’m now feeling that I may have been unfair to him. I feel that perhaps I have unintentionally decided for him if he wanted to date me instead of being open and honest about my situation with my son and allowing him to decide for himself. What I mean is I do not think I have the time to devote to any relationship so I stop myself from having one, which I know is wrong despite my meaning the best of intentions. Maybe it would be or have been better to have given him the gift of making his own choice with all the information and if he chooses to give it a try then he went into the whole thing eyes wide open?

    Is it wrong of me to have offered him friendship knowing that deep down I would like it to have been able to become more? I’m not sure how to make things right? I feel I’ve been honest but also I’m aware why I’ve offered friendship and not more. Sorry if that all sounds rather confusing, I’m definitely feeling confused and I appreciate I do have the tendancy to think too deeply about things.

    Thanks for reading x

    #372373
    anita
    Participant

    Dear Oceandrive24:

    You shared that you are a single mum of two teenagers. You home-educate your 15 year old son and are otherwise very busy with him because he has autism, OCD, social anxiety and sensory difficulties. In the last six months you’ve been chatting with a man occasionally. Three weeks ago, you started going for walks with him and he expressed that he wanted to date you. You explained to him how busy you are with your son, and “asked to take things slowly and see how it goes be that friendship or maybe something more”.

    On New Year’s Day, you told him that you are very busy with your son, and therefore, all you can offer him was friendship. He told you that he understood and was happy to be friends with you. You realize that you want more with him, and you think that you may have been unfair to him for having “unintentionally decided for him if he wanted to date” you, instead of “allowing him to decide for himself… Maybe it would have been better to have given him the gift of making his own choice with all the information”.

    My comment: A decision on whether to have a relationship between two people needs to be made by the two individuals, not by one. If you give him all the information and let him make the decision for you- you are giving your power away.

    You asked: “Is it wrong of me to have offered him friendship knowing that deep down I would like to have been able to become more?”- I don’t think it’s wrong of you. I suggest that you have a conversation with him (or a series of conversations): tell him that you have an interest in him as more than a friend, share with him all the information about your life that you want to share, and have him share with you about his life: what occupies his time outside work, what is his social life like, etc.- get to know each other and figure out together what kind of a relationship you would like to have.

    anita

    #372389
    Oceandrive24
    Participant

    Thank you for taking the time to read my post and reply, it is much appreciated.

     

    ‘A decision on whether to have a relationship between two people needs to be made by the two individuals, not by one. If you give him all the information and let him make the decision for you- you are giving your power away.’.. This makes alot of sense and is something I had not thought about. I need to decide what is right for me and likewise it is for him to decide what is right for him.

    Whilst on our last few walks after I offered friendship I’ve began to feel more relaxed and the conversation has began to flow, and it seemed to be the same for him. We began to share more. I’ve shared a little more about my son, about my parents and growing up, about work, my interests and social life as limited as that can be sometimes, but I do connect with my friends regularly.. In our conversation whilst we have laughed and joked – we have a similar sense of humour – I have found out more about him.. Although he is happy being alone and independent he’d like company too, someone to share his life with whilst still being able to spend time alone.. this made me think of how I enjoy my independance and do like time alone. What I mean in my last relationship it felt claustrophobic and it felt too much leading to feeling like I needed to escape, I couldn’t give him what he felt he needed – to be there all the time. Does that make sense? I enjoy company but not being joined at the hip.

    We’ve spoken about what things we like to do outside work/caring duties.. He likes history WW2, antiques, model making, reading, walking, he used to be in the territorial army, he likes watching old films and is intrigued by science fiction, we’ve had some great conversation around that!  Socially minus the current pandemic he’ll meet on the odd occasion for a beer with a mate or mates at his local, or head off to a car boot sale or antiques market. Me, I like history, antique markets, keeping fit and being active, long walks and fresh air, reading, making things/crafting..

    I guess there’s plenty more to find out..

    I do feel at ease with him and it’s made me think this evening whether I’m hiding behind friendship out fear? Fear that what I can offer wouldn’t be enough.. that he would want more like my ex did.. but then he’s not my ex.. x

     

    #372391
    anita
    Participant

    Dear Oceandrive24:

    I am not focused enough at this time and read only parts of your recent post. I would like to return to your thread in about 16 hours from now, re-read and reply to you further. Can you elaborate, before I return, on your last paragraph, about your fear?

    anita

    • This reply was modified 2 weeks, 1 day ago by anita.
    #372396
    Oceandrive24
    Participant

    My fear relates to when I split with my ex partner two years ago, I have been single since. We split mainly due to him wanting more from me – more time together, staying over his more often, and him staying at mind, trips away an so on – as my son’s mental health difficulties were beginning to esculate further. He also found it difficult to tolerate my son, and didn’t agree with the way I parented him saying I needed to be alot stricter. I couldn’t have him sleepover at mine either as my son would not tolerate people outside of our family in our house. It’s still the same now, and he won’t even allow his dad to step any further into our house than the conservatory when he comes to pick him and his brother up. I was the one to end things as I felt under pressure and overwhelmed trying to find the time to spend with him, and meet his needs, but realising I wasn’t meeting my own needs and he wasn’t considering my needs. I have spent the last few years trying to seek support and help for my son from mental health services etc, but due to my son refusing to engage with anyone professionals or otherwise he has been discharged from services until he is able to engage. I simply manage the best I can mostly alone and with my parents helping where they can.

    • This reply was modified 2 weeks, 1 day ago by Oceandrive24.
    #372400
    Oceandrive24
    Participant

    I forgot to mention than in terms of caring for my son he is in my care 24/7, and visits his dad along with his brother once every other Saturday but they very rarely of at all stay overnight – now they are old enough to make that choice they generally choose not to stay over. They used to stay at my parents sometimes, but that is a rarity too now.

    I’ve managed to carve out time a few days a week of a morning to go for walks for a few hours or so with this guy on the days he has off.. but I still fear, based in past experience as I’ve explained, that I feel I wouldn’t be able to offer enough time to a relationship.

    Just feeling quite sad now coming to realise, despite loving my sons to bits, how restricted my life feels at times..

    #372432
    anita
    Participant

    Dear Oceandrive24:

    Your ex was wrong to say that you needed to be stricter with your son, even more wrong to say that you needed “to be a lot stricter” with him. It’s probably a good thing that he is no longer in your life, seems to me that he was not kind or gentle, exacerbating your “under pressure and overwhelmed” state of mind.

    But not all men are the same, maybe the man we are discussing is kind and gentle, and instead of adding pressure to your life, he will lessen it.

    “I still fear..  that..  I wouldn’t be able to offer enough time to a relationship”- this man may be very different from the previous. Maybe he is not a demanding man, maybe he is more giving than taking. Some men feel good about themselves if they make their girlfriend’s life better/ easier. Maybe he is one of these men.

    Talk to him, open up to him more: not all at once, and not in a desperate way (so to not overwhelm him), but in an honest, responsible way, a bit at a time, until you expressed it all. And listen to him, ask him questions, get a feel to what he is looking for.

    You shared that one of your sons is 15, has autism, OCD, social anxiety and sensory difficulties, he doesn’t tolerate people from outside the family being in his house. You looked for support and help for your son from mental health services, but because your son refused to engage with professionals, he was discharged from services until he is able to engage. You therefore manage best you can, caring for him 24/7, and your life therefore is very restricted-

    – I am not a professional but I suffered from OCD (diagnosed) as a child, and adult, most acutely as a teenager, as well as from sensory over-responsiveness (over-sensitivity to sounds, light, heat, humidity, clothes, sensations within the body, etc.). I experience great improvement on both fronts, and maybe I can offer you some of my insight and advice in regard to caring for your son, is you’d like.

    anita

     

    #372438
    Oceandrive24
    Participant

    I made a wise choice in leaving my ex, and I have settled into being the best parent I am able to be for my son, it’s been a huge learning curve. I do appreciate it’s difficult for others to understand the way I parent my son, but I know I need to do what feels right for me and for my son. Feeling under pressure and constant judgement when with my ex was not helping in any way or form and if anything made my parenting journey alot harder at the time.

    I appreciate that not all men are the same, and I’m glad they’re not.. It makes sense to open up to him a bit at a time, and gain a sense of what he is looking for perhaps before I tell him that I have an interest in him as more than a friend.. Although I want to be honest with him so it might be wise to tell him that I have an interest in him as more than a friend..

    I would be very grateful for your insight and advice in caring for my son as the more understanding I have of what it feels like or may feel like for my son and ways I might help him (and I) to better manage, the better.

    #372443
    anita
    Participant

    Dear Oceandrive24:

    “It makes sense to open up to him.. before I tell him that I have an interest in him as more than a friend… Although I want to be honest with him so it might be wise to tell him that I have an interest in him as more than a friend”-

    – this piece of information, that you have an interest in him as more than a friend- is not that powerful that it should matter when you tell him about this interest: you can tell him about this interest and add that you  are not interested or ready to act on this interest at this time. Telling him that you have an interest in him as more than a friend does not mean that you have lost control about what you do/ he does next.

    Regarding insight and advice about caring for your son:  I would say keep calm around him best you can, see to it that he can expect and depend on consistent reactions and behaviors on your part, that he can depend on the same daily routine every day; have soft lights in his room/ house, perhaps a sound machine that produces white noise, ocean waves, or rain (his choice)- that will soften unexpected sounds, and give him the needed sameness of sound, comfortable clothing, nothing too tight. I will be glad to give you my input regarding any specifics about your caring for him that you want to bring up to me.

    anita

    #372450
    Oceandrive24
    Participant

    I think I understand/see what you mean regarding telling him of my interest in him.
    I do try to keep calm around my son as best as I can, I do find it difficult on occasions especially when I’m tired, this can be a problem as his OCD somewhat extends his bedtime routine. He has created his own daily routine although he has become nocturnal and now doesn’t wake/get up until 4.30/5pm. He has a projector light in his room which he’s had since young along with two fans, I recently got daylight bulbs for a few rooms in the house which he seems to like, so I’m looking to get some more to put in other rooms too. He has preference for certain loose clothing which I buy, jogging bottoms, hoodie, t-shirt, and for the labels to be cut out. I’ve bought him some chew jewellery as he will otherwise chew on the neck line of his clothing, chewing gum helps too. The main difficulties I have is helping him to accept and understand his OCD, he’s aware something feels different as he will say he has to have a shower for example but in the same sentence say he doesn’t want to but just has to otherwise xyz will occur. His OCD revolves around contamination so there’s alot of cleaning, wiping of his body and items. He also sees his older brother as a source of contamination.

    When his older brother is online or with his mates, he insists that he always joins them too because they are his mates too even though he has only met them a handful of times. My older son doesn’t mind his brother joining them occasionally online or outside for a game of football, but he would like to spend time with his mates on his own. My younger son gets angry about it and it causes alot of friction with my older son feeling trapped.

    The other thing is encouraging him to engage/communicate with others. It would be nice if he is able develop a new friendship or two I think this would benefit him greatly.

    I would like to gain an understanding of why he finds it difficult to talk about it, or accept it? Any insight into OCD would be much appreciated.

    #372460
    anita
    Participant

    Dear Oceandrive24:

    I understand that it is difficult/ impossible to feel and/ or act calm all the time, especially when tired, that’s why I qualified the suggestion with “best you can”. Regarding your older son, he should have his alone-time with his mates without his brother interrupting, even if it displeases his younger brother.

    You wrote: “he’s aware something feels different as he will say he has to have a shower for example but in the same sentence say he doesn’t want to but just has to otherwise xyz will occur”- I don’t have a clear picture of this example:  can you describe it to me clearly, in detail- what does he say/do, what do you say/do in the context of the interaction with him?

    “The main difficulties I have is helping him to accept and understand his OCD… I would like to gain an understanding of why he finds it difficult to talk about it, or accept it?”- please take all the time you need (I will be away from the computer for a while) and let me know what you said to him so far in regard to his OCD/ how did you try to help him accept and understand his OCD?

    anita

    #372593
    Oceandrive24
    Participant

    Hi Anita.. I’ve tried my best to go into a bit more detail.. My son has struggled to share with me the thoughts underlying his difficulties, and when I have asked him why he is feeling uncomfortable, he says that I wouldn’t understand, that he has so many thoughts in his head that he can’t get rid of them, and that he is doing these things to make them go away, but he won’t share anything further with me. There are other times when I have asked him why he is feeling uncomfortable or why he feels the need to do certain things, another example is when he goes outside he will wear his big thick winter coat, on this particular occasion during the hot summer last year, when asked why he feels the need to wear it and he says, “I’m protected”, but will not be able to explain further what this means. He constantly seeks reassurance when he feels that people around him are coughing or sneezing, or if people brush past him and touch him in public, or if his brother has touched him. I try at these times to query why he feels this matters so much and that lots of people have potentially brushed past/touched me without knowing and that I am ok, but I am again met with “you just don’t understand. When I ask him to help me to understand how it feels for him, he says to me “you’re just not listening to me, why does no one listen!. I don’t want to explain, I just need to do it!”. The one occasion where he has said that he doesn’t want to complete the ritual but feels he has to was last week – He said “I’ve got to have a shower now, I don’t want to have a shower, but i’ve got to have one”. I asked why he felt he needed to have a shower if he didn’t really want to have one and he said, “because I’ve got to. Because I think K (his brother) touched me and I asked you if he touched me and you don’t know!, so I’ve got to have a shower! You just don’t understand and don’t you listen!”. At this point he became quite angry and subsequently asked me to leave his room, which is what will happen on most occasions if I try to talk about things. I appreciate I am probably going about things completely the wrong way, but having not experienced OCD myself and obviously not knowing what is going through his mind, I simply do the best I can even though it may not be the right way to address it.

    #372601
    anita
    Participant

    Dear Oceandrive24:

    You wrote that your son struggles to share with you “the thoughts underlying his difficulties”, but from what you shared, he did a good job sharing with you his thoughts and underlying difficulties. He told you that “he won’t share anything further”  because there is nothing further that he is able to share.  Let’s look at what he told you:

    1. “he says that.. he has so many thoughts in his head that he can’t get rid of them, and that he is doing these things to make them go away”- the so many thoughts in his head that he can’t get rid of are his Obsession (the O in his OCD),  the things he is doing to make the obsessions go away are his Compulsions (the C in his OCD).

    Wikipedia in its entry on OCD read: “Obsessions are thoughts that recur and persist despite efforts to ignore or confront them. People with OCD frequently perform tasks, or compulsions to seek relief from obsession-related anxiety”.

    Wikipedia explains that obsessions are not always concrete/ clear thoughts or images. Sometimes the obsessions are vague: “A relatively vague obsession could involve a general sense of disarray or tension”- your son cannot clearly describe to you obsessions that are vague, and not clear to him.

    2. When you asked him why he feels the need to wear his big thick winter coat in a hot summer day, he told you: “‘I’m protected’, but will not be able to explain further what this means”- based on what you shared elsewhere, he means that he feels that he is in danger when he is around other people: he is afraid that they will contaminate him. He wears his thick winter coat not because he is cold and wants to get warm on a summer day, but because the thickness of the coat is like an armor, insulating him and protecting him from other people contaminating him.

    3. When you asked him “why he feels this matters so much” that people around him cough or sneeze, or that they brush against him, so much that it causes him to “constantly seeks reassurance” that  he wasn’t touched by others, and he says to you: “you don’t understand”- he means that his fear of being touched and contaminated is so strong and overwhelming, and that if you understood how strong his fear, then you wouldn’t be surprised that it does indeed matter to him so much.

    4. “When I ask him to help me to understand how it feels for him, he says to me ‘you’re just not listening to me, why does no one listen! I don’t want to explain, I just need to do it!”- he means that he often feels a sudden, intense fear that overwhelms him and takes over his behavior. When he feels this overwhelming fear he needs to/ has to do what it takes to get rid of that fear, even if it is for a short time.

    Wikipedia, in its entry on OCD, under Compulsions, reads: “people with OCD perform compulsive rituals because they inexplicably feel they have to”- your son told you “I don’t want to explain” because he can’t explain, the need/ urge to do the  compulsion is.. inexplicable.

    5. Last week he said: “I’ve got to have a shower now, I don’t want to have a shower, but I’ve got to have one”. You asked: “why he felt he needed to have a shower if he didn’t really want to have one”, and he answered: “because I’ve got to. Because I think K (his brother) touched me and I asked you if he touched me and you don’t know! So I’ve got to have a shower! You just don’t understand and don’t you listen!”. He then asked you to leave his room-

    – what you indeed didn’t understand is that a person suffering from OCD doesn’t feel like doing the compulsion, doesn’t really want to do it- he does it because he has to, he is compelled to do it. He often knows that the compulsion is not rational, that it is not a solution, but he..  has to do  it because there is an immediate (and temporary) relief when completing the compulsion.

    The OCD sufferer experiences fear so intense, that he/ she is too desperate to get that relief at the end of the compulsion, even though he knows the relief will not last. He needs the relief now!

    Wikipedia continues regarding compulsions/ compulsive actions: ” individuals with OCD are aware that their behaviors are not rational, but feel compelled to follow through with them to fend off feelings of panic or dread“… they are aware that the relief is only temporary, that the intrusive thoughts will soon return”.

    anita

    #372604
    Oceandrive24
    Participant

    Thank you for helping me to better understand how my son is potentially feeling and why it is so difficult for him to relay anything to me.

    Is there a particular way in which I can approach my son with his OCD? So that I might be able to gently help him to understand what OCD is and how it affects him. And/or the best way I can support him without making things more overwhelming for him?

    Are there perhaps some of my own behaviours in the way I interact with him that I may need to consider? I appreciate my own anxieties about him may not be helpful.

    #372614
    anita
    Participant

    Dear Oceandrive24:

    You are welcome. “Is there a particular way in which I can approach my son with his OCD?… Are there perhaps some of my own behaviours in the way I interact with him that I may need to consider?”-

    1. You can stop asking him questions that he already answered best he could/ best anyone suffering from OCD is able to answer. This way, over time, he is not likely to get angry and frustrated with questions that are evidence that you didn’t listen to what he told you before, and that you don’t understand him.

    2. Understand that the problem for him is not an intellectual inability to think rationally/ to intellectually identify problems and solutions. The problem for him is the fear that overwhelms him. You can’t rationalize fear.

    So, don’t have conversations with him aimed at rationally understanding his OCD. Instead, work on ways to help him lessen his fear. There is a concept in Dialectical Behavioural Therapy (DBT) called emotional regulation skills. It  is a set of skills that your son can learn and practice so that over time, his fear will lessen and lessen, and at one point on, his fear will not be so great that it will overwhelm him.

    Research the topic and get back to me, if you will, and I will reply to you further.

    anita

    • This reply was modified 1 week, 4 days ago by anita.
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