Posted by: Marie | August 5, 2010

(372) Truth keeps flowing – Part 4 of 5

Post #372
[Email to my therapist written on Saturday, February 27, 2010 – continued from previous post]

So, for now, in this journal entry, I’ll document some of the complaints I have relevant to relationships. I don’t feel able to relate the complaints back to my experiences with my dad until you can be with me as I do so – the part that is scariest for me is thinking back to how I was affected by my dad’s behavior. It is not as difficult to describe what he did, but it is overwhelming to remember how I was impacted emotionally by what he did. The latter is the part for which I need your support.

Complaint #1

I always try to take up as little energetic space and physical space as possible. I am as quiet as possible, I am as unemotional as possible, I ask for the least possible amount of help or attention, I arrange my body so I don’t accidentally touch anyone or use more space than I need. I do everything possible to anticipate and meet the needs of anyone with whom I associate.

I do this because I am afraid I will make people angry – I live in constant fear of being yelled at or criticized or rejected. If someone does react this way, I compromise my ability to meet my own needs in order to appease him or her. I can see that the other party is comfortably spread out while I am shriveled up in the corner, shivering from the cold and discomfort. I tell myself that it is okay – I’m not that uncomfortable, I’ll live.

Despite working so hard to not be “a bother”, I still find myself being yelled at and criticized and rejected for being a bother. For example, my last sexual relationship ended when he said, “What gets me about this whole conversation is that it’s been all about what you want and what you need – I don’t care what you want and what you need, I don’t want to deal with that.”

Photo by Martin Chen

I don’t know how to change this – I’m assuming it has to do with my needing to learn how to occupy my rightful space and resources and to stand up for myself when someone steps into my territory.

It really becomes obvious when I am in an intimate relationship. It is one thing to feel crowded in the less personal areas of who I am. But, when I let someone into the private parts of who I am, there is far less wiggle room and I feel crowded and stepped on all the time. I believe the other person will inevitably continue invading my space so I have to constantly be on guard and protective of what little space I do have or the other person will move in and totally squash and extinguish who I am.

In casual relationships, the struggle is between being with people and being alone. In intimate relationships, the struggle is between surviving and being extinguished.

The truth is that I am dying to connect with people on an intimate level. But, the pain of being in close relationships is immensely more intense than the pain of being alone. I’ve found isolation much more tolerable.

Complaint #2

I feel unheard and not understood most of the time. I think this is tied in with the above – that it is another symptom of my feeling stepped on. I don’t know if I’m not communicating well, if other people are not listening well, or if I don’t know how to know when I’ve been heard.

I think my habit of not telling the whole truth probably played a huge part in my always feeling stepped on – I think people wouldn’t step on me so much if I just plainly spoke my truth to them. And, speaking the truth feels like a much more powerful stance than being mute and standing with my fists ready to fight in anger.

Complaint #3

I have a love-hate relationship with men, in general. I desperately want to be in a healthy, emotionally intimate relationship with a man. But, I have trouble believing there are good men out there who would be interested in me for something other than sex and my willingness to do domestic choirs like cleaning and cooking.

Again, the pain of having my hopes dashed time after time is more intense than the pain of being alone. I’ve found the stabilized state of hopelessness and isolation much more tolerable.

Complaint #4

I have a love-hate relationship with touch. I am desperate for healthy, comforting, loving, safe touch, especially from a man. But, I have trouble believing that can exist without the expectation of reciprocal sex. And, right now, I can’t imagine having sex because my experience with sex so far has been destructive and demeaning. I am having trouble believing sex could be enjoyable.

[Continued in the next post . . . ]


  1. The last person you were in a sexual relationship with sounds like a jerk.

    Someone not caring about what you want and need sounds like a recipe for increasing your concern for your safety, wants and needs. It sounds like it must have been a pretty unsatisfactory relationship (but I know I’m going on very limited information and so could be entirely wrong).

    I do think it is possible to evolve a relationship where both people get most of their needs met most of the time. This does mean each being able to say what they need (requiring our partner to be a mind reader gets awfully difficult and confusing). And in my experience it means accepting that the other has needs and wants (if we want everything our own way why be in a relationship?) Gradually I think we can evolve a relationship to where it feels better than being alone. But I do think putting work into respect and care is necessary for this to happen.

    • Hey, Evan –

      I think “jerk” is a very kind term for that guy! It was an unsatisfactory relationship for me. I kept hoping that, if I worked very hard on the relationship (just like I worked very hard on my relationship with Mark), it would someday be satisfactory for me.

      That didn’t happen.

      My relationship with Mark is such a perfect example of how my historical relationships with men looked — I work very hard to make it healthy and enjoyable, the man doesn’t carry his share of the load and I end up in pain. That is one reason I value what happened with Mark . . . I got an opportunity to dissect the status quo.

      Great point!

      – Marie

  2. Hey Marie,

    It’s a big deal, this stuff. This is just my experience, being a guy and all–and a rather jerky guy, at times.

    Dealing with men will never be easy. Even the so-called “sensitive” new-agey types who style themselves as self-aware, kind, caring people can be real jerks. In fact, some of those guys can be even worse than the ones who are just “regular” joe’s….you know what I mean?

    It’s important to try and evaluate people from your gut. I believe that our deeper sensitivities and intuitions will almost immediately let us know what someone is really about, despite how they may try to “appear” in the world. So maybe you run into a big, tattooed truck driver who actually underneath it all is just a decent, kind, loving person.

    Maybe he doesnt know all the terms and psychological mumbo jumbo, but maybe he will be sensitive and loving nonetheless!!

    My point is that you will begin (and already are from the sound of it) trusting yourself and your instincts.

    The other thing to remember is that all human beings (and maybe guys especially) have some really, really dark and nasty undersides. We have some stuff that is not pleasant to look at or be around, and in a close relationship that stuff will come out. Finding ways to work through all of it together, as a team, is huge. And it aint easy.

    But when you find someone who is willing to do the work, you’ll know it. You’ll know it instantly because in that first “difficult” conversation you have, they won’t run from it. or if they do run, they’ll come back and face it down. You’ll see that here is someone who isn’t afraid to deal with the crap and the muck of life.

    Don’t give up hope, don’t settle, and most of all, don’t expect perfection or idealize. It’s never pretty, but in my experience, finding that partner (my wife) has been by far the most rewarding aspect of my life. And it’s not even close.

    Good luck, its a pleasure to read your words.


    • Hi, Aaron –

      I think what you are saying is accurate and pragmatic . . . it is true that we all have dark sides and no one has it all figured out and down pat. It is true that being in a healthy relationship requires effort to work though the tough stuff.

      You mention that we can use instinct to figure out what people are up to. I agree . . . but, I am learning that I am attracted to men who are not available to me in the way I desire. So, I’m having to rewire and reprogram my “picker” because my picker is currently broken.

      It is encouraging to me to read what you are writing . . . it gives me hope that healthy relationships are possible. Thank you for that hope!

      – Marie

  3. Marie, they are most definitely possible. The healthier you get, the more likely it becomes.

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