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Epiphany, and I Really Don't Like What I've Learned

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srdncjellyfish posted 1/3/2014 21:15 PM

I swear my husband should have been a counsellor, but then he'd be the poorest one in the profession because he would actually be able to *tell* people what's wrong with them and set them on the path to healing. Anyway...

My husband and I were having a conversation the other day, and he was asking me about my relationship previous to him. He's done this a lot, and until this conversation, I could never understand why that relationship mattered. It was a long-distance teenage thing that I used to fill the lonliness in my life. I never took it seriously and never really thought he (then-boyfriend) did either. A little back story...

I know it (the relationship) only happened because I met him when I was 15, all my other friends were getting boyfriends, and I thought it was just time for that to happen with me. I had only become interested in guys in the previous year or so and had, until then, been largely asexual. I liked being able to say I had a boyfriend without having to do any of the work. We talked once a week on the phone for a little over a year (he could tell you exactly how long). Then I broke up with him because I was about to leave for college, three hours further from him than I already was, and I just didn't really see a future with this person.

We briefly got back together before I met my husband, but that's veering into a totally different direction. This is all to say that when my husband and I were talking the other day, he asked me how I really felt about my ex, and I finally realized, and said, that I saw him more as an accessory.

That realization created a domino effect in my mind that led me to realize I've treated people this way my entire life. While I've always understood that other people had thoughts and feelings just like I do, it never seemed "real" to me; I guess that's what you call a lack of empathy. This has started explaining so much about my entire life that it's incredibly overwhelming. Why I was always so lonely. Why I had so much trouble making friends. Why people seemed to avoid me.

I know what I'm describing sounds narcisistic, and to a degree it is, but I've done a lot of reading on narcs and really don't think I am one. I have (and have always had, and never hid) a massive inferiority complex. I've never told the world how amazing I am or thought I was a gift to the world. In my mind, everyone is better than me, and everything bad that happens is my fault. I was terrified of confrontation and was a huge people-pleaser (both faults that contributed to my cheating).

However, I never really considered the feelings of others. I wanted people to like me, desperately, and never understood why they didn't. It never dawned on me that, in my quest to be well-liked, I shoved everyone around me away because I was so over-bearing.

When I cheated, I honestly didn't think my husband would care. I know that sounds callous, but that was where my mind was at the time. As long as I stayed out of his way, he wouldn't give two shits what I did, I thought. What I was really doing was projecting my lack of regard onto him. I did the same when I lied, thinking I was somehow being more helpful by lying than by telling the truth, in spite of the fact that my husband kept saying, "Just tell me the truth, and everything will be okay." I didn't believe that. He couldn't be telling the truth. Again, total lack of respect for his needs or feelings.

I was a shitty person. I can still be a shitty person. When I'm overly tired, cranky, frustrated, upset, those old coping mechanisms come screaming back and cause more damage.

God this post is all over the place, but I really needed to start the process of writing this all down. I'm extremely overwhelmed, and I'm terrified that I can't "fix myself," for lack of a better phrase. I don't want to be a shitty person. I don't want to be unable to empathize with my husband. I want and need to be a better person than I am right now, than I have been in the past.


Clarrissa posted 1/3/2014 21:48 PM

Part of fixing yourself is first facing yourself. You're doing that. Every WS here has found out things about themselves they didn't like.

I was once like you in how I felt about myself. I didn't think I mattered, felt I was constantly overlooked or ignored and had major self esteem issues. You felt worthless so you treated others as worthless or as accessories. I believe that's called projection. Regardless, you treated others the way you thought you were being treated. (BTW no narcissist thinks they're a narcissist. They'd deny the diagnosis to their last breath.)

So, now that you know this about yourself, you can work to change it. One thing you can do is ask yourself "How would *I* feel if someone did/said this to me?" Another thing you could do in regards to your self esteem is list everything you're good at. Things no one has to tell you that you're good at. The list may be only two or three things but it'll be a start.

You've started on a path that won't be easy but you've taken the first step, one of the hardest - looking at yourself without the blinders on. That's big and you sincerely want to change.

Keep posting, asking questions, digging into your issues. We're here to help because we know what you're going through. We've walked this road ourselves.

srdncjellyfish posted 1/3/2014 21:56 PM


Thank you so much for your response; it actually made me cry a little, just to read that someone else understands.

The Golden Rule thinking, how would I feel if treated this way, is exactly how my husband is advising me now. The real challenge in that is, with my inferiority issues, my knee-jerk reaction is, "I'd probably deserve it, or at least take it because I'm not worth anything better." But that's not an honest answer to how I would feel, deep down, on a visceral level. That's the digging I need to do, and it's going to take a huge shovel to dig through so much surface-layer bullshit.

My husband and I are on the verge of "taking a break," and I obviously don't want that to happen. Historically, I've only really gotten things at the 50th minute of the 11th hour, and I'm hoping I've started to reach this level of understanding in time to save my marriage.

A sign of my growing maturity, though, is that I've realized that, even if this isn't in time to save my marriage, until I'm dead, it's always in time to save me. And as long as we're both alive, there's always a chance that a new relationship/marriage with my wonderful husband can emerge.

I really like your idea of writing down my strengths and talents. I'll need to journal on that.

Thank you again, so much, for responding. It means a lot to me right now.

Clarrissa posted 1/3/2014 22:57 PM

I think you're going to be fine. Why? Because you understand that you need to change for *you*. Not your H, not your kids but for you.

One thing I realized about myself is, for most of my life, I let others put me in a hole. I *helped* them put me in that hole and I was always looking for someone to dig me out. Then it hit me. I didn't need a shovel, I needed a ladder... and I had the ladder all along. It was not easy to admit to myself that I *let* myself get that screwed up. Not consciously of course but I didn't do anything to prevent it because I felt I had no voice (part of my somewhat unique FOO issues). I know that I have that voice and I'm using it. Still feels a bit strange but I've found it and I'm using it.

One thing about listing your strengths and talents is it will boost your self esteem. And *you* will be doing it for *yourself*, not someone else. Self validation.

I'm sure others will be along to post, to give you advice and guidance. Weekends are always a bit slow around here so keep posting. You've been heard and you're understood.

SlowUptake posted 1/3/2014 23:21 PM

A sign of my growing maturity, though, is that I've realized that, even if this isn't in time to save my marriage, until I'm dead, it's always in time to save me. And as long as we're both alive, there's always a chance that a new relationship/marriage with my wonderful husband can emerge.

You have let go of the outcome and have reliased that becoming a better person is the primary goal. If your marriage is saved as well, that's a happy bonus.

That's some great progress!

Sorry can't give you any advice, it's not required.

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