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love, trust, and codepenency

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Gomphus posted 1/20/2014 08:38 AM

I'll be discussing this, again, with my IC today so I'm posting to sort of get my thoughts straight.

I'm not sure if I was codependent before my marriage but I certainly was during. I was the classic people-pleaser, so afraid of losing my ex wife that I tried to hard, lost myself, and opened the door to infidelity (I know, her choice). Anyway, I have tried to address this codependency/conflict avoidance/people pleasing part of myself and am learning to get my needs met without being passive, etc. Lots of CBT and IC. Now I am in a relationship, 9 months, and I feel the same creeping feeling that something is wrong with me.

I recently had the 'I need my alone time' with my SO and I get the feeling that I need less than her. My feeling, and this could totally be my own baggage talking, is that she wants more than I and she wants to be together all the time whereas I don't need as much, and prefer less, than 100% contact time. For lots of reasons: 1) I'm an introvert with extroverted tendencies so I need recharge, 2) I have my kids half time and when I do I give them 95% so I need a break after - SO does not get 100% of the other 50% - she is also with my and my kids much of that time. 3) I like being by myself 4) I work from home, so I don't even get to go to the office for a break. Now, I currently can't figure out if I'm projecting exwife onto SO but I get the feeling that SO is disappointed in my alone time, that she really wants to be with us/me nearly all of the time. After we discussed this, she has stepped back, but I get the feeling she did so at a great sacrifice. She says little things that give me the feeling that she is not exactly thrilled with the 'new mode'. For example, she gets back from a trip just as I am doing bedtime routines last night and acts disappointed that I am distracted and can't talk and/or she can't come over or it would throw of bed time. I can't exactly explain it and I'm wondering if it's me.

Is it me that ASSUMES how she feels, assuming she wants more and I want less, making me the bad guy and the failure? Is it a trust issue? I don't trust what she tells me b/c of her actions or b/c of my history? Am I unable to fully commit to a relationship past a certain point of 'togetherness' for fear of loss?

It's tough b/c I can't really tell. Am I out of touch with my 'inner voice'? I truly can't tell if I'm 'just not that into her' or whether I have some issues to address.

Anyway, thoughts and experiences are appreciated, thanks for letting me write it out.

hexed posted 1/20/2014 08:53 AM

It's tough b/c I can't really tell. Am I out of touch with my 'inner voice'? I truly can't tell if I'm 'just not that into her' or whether I have some issues to address.

maybe some of all of it.

I can relate to this so much. I am an introvert with extroverted tendencies. Many people think I'm extroverted but I really do need a lot of alone time to recharge.

One thing you brought up is something I just got an important lesson in -- projecting. I was feeling overwhelmed b/c I was so busy and I wasn't getting any 'me' time. I felt guilty spending any of my very small amount of free time away from my SO. Turns out he was very supportive when I brought it up. It made the little alone time I was getting so much more pleasurable b/c I wasn't feeling guilty. Talk to her. Better to find out what she's really thinking.

Maybe you're not 'that' in to her. However, it might be hard to be clear on this if you aren't getting your needed alone time. If she isn't open to that time, maybe you have an issue. Maybe you'll just be happier and a better partner with that time and she will appreciate it and the relationship will continue to grow.

This is clearly very important to you. You aren't going to be happy if you're not getting it. Speak your own truth. Be true to your own needs. Be healthy and discuss it with your SO. That is the only way you can address the issue.

Gomphus posted 1/20/2014 08:58 AM

THanks, hexed. I meant to add I have pretty bad anxiety over this so you're right, it's important to me. I'm not sleeping well and I'm carrying a lot of stress in my shoulder muscles - both of which are pretty abnormal for me. She is also stressed about it. We talked some but she is not the greatest communicator, either.

On the one hand we are so very compatible. On the other we are so much alike with our anxieties, introvertedness, and difficulty getting our needs met. Two people pleasers.

My issue is NOT wanting to people please any more. I feel like the pendulum may swing the other direct and I don't want to rob SO of her needs just b/c I'm trying to change.

inconnu posted 1/20/2014 09:45 AM

We talked some but she is not the greatest communicator, either.

This may be where your biggest issue is, then. Both of you could be assuming the other means X,Y,Z when really you mean A,B,C.

It's really tough learning what's normal behavior when you've been co-dependent. Throw in being introverted, and needing (not wanting, needing) time to yourself...well, it makes for situations where clear communication is vital.

I'd be flat-out honest and tell her that you're learning how not to be co-dependent, because being in a healthy relationship with mutual respect for each other's feelings is very important to you. And I'd give her some information on introverts, because a lot of extroverts truly can't imagine what it's like to be introverts, and then there are also people who don't know they're introverts until they read some of the descriptions. It could be eye-opening for her, and bring more understanding.

Gomphus posted 1/20/2014 10:01 AM

Thanks, inconnu. funny, I did just that - we talked about me learning to not be codependent. And she is also an introvert, and claims to understand, but actions speak louder than words. Her idea of alone time is going for a run by herself. Mine is having a whole day off to work/write/etc. I'm worried she's people-pleasing me and, as a result, not getting her own needs met. Funny how getting my needs me feels like selfishness. Good fodder for IC today. SO and I will talk soon.

velveteer posted 1/20/2014 10:20 AM

Gomphus - I could have written this (if only I had the insight). I am just out of a 2 year relationship and these were all factors for me too, even if the final straw was a different deal breaker issue (different life goals).

Like you I am just not sure what it all was/ is. I need my alone time too and also have a lot going on with my kids. My SO wasn't getting her needs met and saw my need for alone time as a hurtful indication that I didn't want to be with her. We didn't communicate well and I always felt like the bad guy trying to articulate my need for some alone time and also the extent of my commitments and responsibilities, which did constrain the time available for our relationship. It just never got resolved and if anything got worse, even as we became more invested and more integrated. Like you, I also became very stressed about it as I became aware that SO was getting more upset about it - I kept blaming myself and taking on the responsibility for it and then stretching myself ever thinner to try to 'fix it'.

I don't know what to advise other than try to find a way to communicate with her about it. At the same time, be clear about what you want. I'm not sure I always was, but then I'm not sure I always knew what I wanted and I have only past relationships for experience and they have, in the main, been long-term and serious. Long-term and serious somehow feels harder right now and I think that is at least partly to do with the legacy of infidelity.

I hope you can find a way to talk to her about this. SO and I tried many times, but it was always difficult. The break up is very recent, so right now I'm feeling a heavy loss, and wondering what we could have done better. Talk to her.

Good luck

Gomphus posted 1/20/2014 10:26 AM

Velveteer. IE empathize greatly with you, obviously, because I think about losing her a lot. I know I would be sad but I can handle it (so can you!!). THANK YOU so much for sharing that there are others like me.

I know there are infidelity related issues that will change as I address and deal with those. It's so muddy b/c I know there are other issues. I feel like I have identified most of them but sometimes I throw up my hands and say I have no idea.

I can't seem to shake the feeling that I'm selfish for needing anything. EXW used to say I was 'needy gomphus' and playing 'woe is me' all the time whenever I tried to get my needs met. I'm so used to not getting what I need that getting it feels selfish and just wrong. It's a fine line between getting what I need and being selfish. I guess I have a complex about that. My dad was NPD and I try very hard to not be like him (he got much better later in life).

Edit: Did not notice V's gender, lol

[This message edited by Gomphus at 10:36 AM, January 20th (Monday)]

velveteer posted 1/20/2014 10:52 AM

yeah I wondered....

Crescita posted 1/20/2014 11:11 AM

My SO and I struggle with this a lot too. He tends to view together time as quality time even if we aren’t interacting, I’d rather spend that time alone. It’s very challenging trying to find that right balance of alone time and quality time for both of us.

I think as long as you are trying to understand each other’s needs and accommodate there is a chance you can work it out together. Since your time is at a premium, maybe it would serve you both better to work on making time together better in quality rather than increasing quantity. Giving undivided attention, even if just for a 30 minute phone call, might do more to make her feel like a priority than spending several hours with you while you are distracted.

peacelovetea posted 1/20/2014 12:04 PM

I have had/am having similar issues with people pleasing. But one thing that struck me reading your post, maybe because its what I've been working on myself, is that you are still trying to anticipate her response and analyze her reaction rather than focusing on your own part of it. Her response is on her -- you stated your need. It is ok if she is disappointed or sad or whatever she feels, but her choice to react is not about what you said you needed, it is about her own feelings. You can choose what you choose without being responsible for her reaction. (I do this all the time too I have been so lucky to have an SO that really calls me out on this stuff so I am learning!) Also, she can be disappointed in the moment, but still not end up resentful in the long run, but that is also her responsibility.

I am really working on simply stating what I need in the moment, whether that is "I want to see you today" or "I need to hear x" or whatever. That doesn't obligate SO to comply, but it means he knows explicitly what I want, so that he can choose clearly whether he can do that at that moment or not, and if not we can negotiate a compromise. Otherwise we get trapped in my hedging that I want x, and he is trying to guess, and I am trying to manage his response because I am afraid he will be annoyed or whatever, and he gets annoyed because I am not being clear. I have found that actually, hearing "I really need to be alone today, but let's do lunch tomorrow" while disappointing sometimes is still better than the game of guess-what-I-want. Doesn't mean I always have the guts to just say what I want flat out -- old habits die hard -- but I am practicing!

Of course, working out WHY it is so damned hard for me to just say what I want is yet another question for IC. Sigh. Always something new to deal with!

peacelovetea posted 1/20/2014 12:12 PM

I just thought of an incident that might illustrate what I mean -- I know I had a shock of OH! when it happened.

We were installing a cabinet on a wall, and before we lifted it he said to me "tell me as soon as your start to feel fatigue" (I was to be holding underneath while he screwed it in). So we lift it up, and I am starting to think about saying something, but realize we are almost done, so I don't, and he asks if I am doing ok, and I say "yup" but he says "ok, I hear in your voice that you are getting tired. Don't do that -- if I can't trust you to say you are when you are then I have to keep watching out for you. If you just say it then I know I can focus on this and not worry about you, I can trust you."

Because its true. And something I have considered about holding back in general -- can he trust me to be truthful no matter what? And isn't that what I want from him as well?

cmego posted 1/20/2014 12:43 PM

G~ what is her "love language" and what is yours? Do you know??

There are a group of us on here that are the same "extroverted introvert" and require downtime. Walking with my dog does give me alone/down time…but I also just need to be quiet some evening and veg in front of the TV or with a book.

My marriage didn't require me to be present, except for the kids. No demands on my time because he travelled all of the time. So, I had plenty of down time and never had to ask for downtime.

*IF* it were me, I like to have a plan in place. It tells me that 1)the guy IS interested in spending time with me and 2) I know when it is coming so I can plan accordingly. That way she could see that you are trying to balance making yourself happy AND her happy, and vice versa…she should be trying to do the same.

As to the kids…she doesn't have any, correct? Therefore pretty clueless what a bedtime routine looks like and requires, especially of a single parent.

Communicate. There is nothing wrong with you. She may not be "the one", hard to tell yet…BUT…you will need to learn to communicate no matter who you are dating.

Gomphus posted 1/20/2014 13:42 PM

Thanks guys!! Great story plt, it's so cool that you have a SO that calls you on it. It's so easy to fall back onto old comfortable habits. So much easier to NOT talk about this stuff.

Cme. Did not know about the love languages so I did the test. I'm Quality Time. I did not like all the 'do you like gifts' stuff, though. I will see if SO wants to try it.

I think SO likes the plan idea, too. In fact, she just turned me down for hanging out today since she knows it's Monday after my 5-day stretch with kids and I like to catch up. Now if I could just believe that she is cool with it and not telling me that just to make me feel good. I asked her if she was - we shall see.

She has no kids, yes, and even though I try to explain how these things work, she doesn't quite understand. There has been some conflict wrt the kids. She has different ideas of parenting based on her parents, who largely ignored her and her brother to take care of themselves, and my hands on, touchy-feely approach. Also, she feels like I choose them over her sometimes, which is true, and I try to balance it out buy ay carumba it's tough.

IC restated much of what has been said here - especially the communication thing as well as what plt mentioned about assuming what my SO's reaction will be without asking her. I do that too much.

I am improving, and thanks for saying there's nothing wrong with me. I just know I can do better/it can be better and strive for that. You nailed it, C. Too early to tell if she's the one - but it's not easy to tell somebody that, especially if they may disagree!!

velveteer posted 1/20/2014 16:31 PM

I'm recognising the issues wrt the kids too G. This is a tricky balance and I do wonder if SO not having kids herself was a part of this. To many parents (and plenty that aren't too) the idea of putting the needs of the kids first is second nature. I feel SO didn't always really get that, but maybe that's me assuming things again. I certainly feel that she felt like second choice a lot when that simply wasn't how I thought about it at all.

SO and I are done but I know I need to take some learning from this. This thread is really helping. Thought it was just me with these issues .!

finallymefirst posted 1/20/2014 23:14 PM

I don't know, but Velveteer and Gomphus sound like the ideal guys for me, time wise. U have ur time and I have my time and we meet in the middle. Have time to miss each other, go to the movies or dinner, have some good sex, do some cuddling, get a good night sleep and go our separate ways in the morning, until time permits hooking up again Just focusing on ENJOYING the time that we do have together.

@Gomphus having said that, I do believe that some of this is infidelity related. U said that she declined an offer to hangout after your 5 day stint with the kids, but that u don't really "trust" that she is really cool with it. (paraphrasing) That sounds like a consequence of betrayal. Its hard to trust people.

hexed posted 1/20/2014 23:21 PM

lots of people comment on my SO and me. Both of us have jobs that involve lots of travel. Is it hard sometimes ...yes but we both need alone time so we've come to appreciate that part of it.

Neither of us has been travelling lately. We are both home. Spent a couple of hours together this evening. Now we have both retreated to our respective caves and will meet back up at bed time.

You have to define what is mandatory for you.

Kids add to the challenge but you have to include your needs in with everyone else's.

velveteer posted 1/21/2014 02:26 AM

I think its about how your needs and theirs fit together. My SO wasn't happy with the time issue and with what she felt was her need to always compromise to fit around my schedule. She was also fond of bringing up the comments of others - where's velveteer, when are you two moving in - says she was always making excuses for me. I think she wanted a more committed relationship - which is entirely fair - I just wasn't ready and I was also not good at expressing what is was I needed/ wanted. Instead I tried to please.

cmego posted 1/21/2014 07:18 AM

I think that we shouldn't paint anything in broad strokes of "I'm a people pleaser" and view that as a negative in a relationship.

In a committed relationship, meaning you are only with each other, there should be a level of doing things that please your partner. After all, you are two separate people with two separate needs who need to learn about each other. Part of a relationship is communicating your needs, hearing the other persons needs and coming up with a compromise in the middle that leaves both partners satisfied.

For example, when I'm in a committed relationship, I don't need to see the guy everyday, maybe twice a week if it works. BUT, I like to receive a text at least once a day. Just a "Good Morning. Thinking about you." That small gesture of a text means so much to me.

I don't expect him to know that…but I do expect that when I say, "This is what I need to feel secure", the guy is going to listen and try to please me. That doesn't make him a people pleaser, but tuned into my needs.

If a guy says to me, "I like when you tell me I'm hot…", well, then I'm going to tuck that information away and make an effort to tell him. I will go out of my way to buy things I know he likes, wear clothes I know he likes, etc.

I just think what is missing for you, both G and V, is learning to communicate your needs and why you need them. Then listening to the response and working out something that works for everyone.

Usually these issues present as one thing, but are really about something else. Here is another example in my life right now: My son is having separation issues, and therefore doesn't want to see his Dad. Well, that pissed off/hurt my ex. As I tried to explain to ex, "This isn't about ds hating you. This is about a little boy who misses his Mommy, and having to go to your house means you are the one making him miss his Mommy. So, although the problem looks like he doesn't want to go to his Dad's house, the real problem is that he just misses his Mommy."

The surface may look like you don't want to spend time with your SO, or that is how she perceives it, when the real issue is that you simply NEED time alone to recharge. It looks like one thing (rejection), or she perceives it as rejection based on how it is framed. "I just got home and hanging with my kids. I just want some alone time" instead of communicated like: "I really need to recharge my introvert batteries. I can't wait to see you Friday at dinner!"

We label ourselves as codependent, or people pleasers or whatever negativity we heap on ourselves, when most of it is just learning to communicate our needs and do the small things that please "normal" people.

We view ourselves through those lenses that our EX's installed in us. We focus on everything we do wrong, instead of being thrilled at what we are trying to do right.

Gomphus posted 1/21/2014 07:48 AM

You're so right on C. And part of the problem related to that is A) I feel SELFISH for need my needs met. I'm afraid of being NPD, as many of us probably are. I don't want to be exw. I know, as long as I listen to her needs it's all good, but getting my needs met is unnatural and, like nicotine, I/we have to struggle with it every day to make sure I don't slip back into old habits. What a pain, lol.

Also, the things that are hard to communicate aren't things like 'tell me I'm hot' or 'send me a text' they're 'I don't like this about you' or 'stay away from me' - things that are counter to a relationship! But, as you say, that's on the surface. What seems to be an issue for the receiver (my SO in this case) of the 'i need this' is the difficulty not taking it personally and seeing that A) these things come from an effort to improve the relationship, B) like you have said, C, they come from love - a desire for both parties to feel better and get both their needs me, and C) a requirement for a healthy relationship for people with overactive brains (maybe everyone).

So the potential for the relationship to fail, for me, is the major obstacle making it difficult to communicate the 'hard stuff'. Part of this is from my own catastrophic thinking, or my habit of doing this and struggle not to. If I ask SO for X, Y, or Z, she will leave me. And truthfully, I'm ok with the end of a relationship but I fear SO or whomever will not be, creating a new and more intense conflict to avoid.

And there is another big part of it, overwhelming concern, fear, obsession with how my partner FEELS. When I was married I remember exw admonishing me for frequently asking 'are you OK'. My IC thinks this is me voicing my need for communication and to know how my partner feels so that I don't have to assume/project/etc. their feelings. WHICH IS WHAT I"M DOING NOW WITH SO, lol.

So I'm seeing a link between my overactive mind chatter and general brain anxiety (which I manage very well by myself and for my kids, but not so much in a relationship) and relationship needs. I think I need to have sort of a running dialogue with my partner to ensure we are on the same page. So far, in 9 months, we did it a bit in the early days, hit the 'kids/marriage/living together' stage, and backed off the communication. For the past few months we've been in a conflict avoidance, low communication mode and we talked once almost two weeks ago and need to have round 2. But, like I said, I'm wondering if I don't need sort of a high number of regular check-ins to get my needs met. And a partner who is similar, probably.

Gomphus posted 1/21/2014 07:53 AM

And I also think V nailed it on the 'needs fitting together' bit. Seems to me that individuals have these centerpoints on issues like communication and these centers have boundaries. I'm wondering if the key to less strenuous (i.e., good, healthy, workable) relationships is for both parties to have similar boundaries around their centerpoints within which the two people overlap. Seems that once you have a person having to widen their boundaries you run into a new level of difficulty. Any relationship can probably work, but the cumulative effect of these variances is probably the mathematical measure of compatibility. I could totally draw this out with a bunch of Venn diagrams. . . .

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