On being a ‘type’ and attracting a ‘type’

IncantationSince I left my last relationship I have been thinking a lot about what happened and how I came to feel it was not working. I have found it much harder to write about than other break-ups and I think this is because I’m approaching it in a more measured way and trying to understand my own role in it all and that shit is just not very romantic I guess.

My friends are starting to tease me because there have been a few times recently when we go out to a club and someone talks to me and dances with me and then turns into a “stage five clinger” as my friend puts it. They won’t leave my side and before the night it through they are literally saying they love me. Literally in the club, drunk and saying to a woman they met an hour or two ago “I love you” “I’m in love with you” What!?!?!

Obviously this is a real turn off and I never call them or talk to them again for the most part. This doesn’t seem to happen to my friends though so I am wondering what it’s all about. My friend was saying the other day that in my recent relationship history I have been with people who either say “I love you” too soon and rush everything in a desperate attempt to “lock it down” and make the relationship feel safe for them, or people who will not say they love me even after years together. What is that about?

My therapist’s theory is that I present a very confident image to the world and I am attracting men who feel both awed and threatened by what they perceive to be my strength and confidence. They are drawn to me and what to contain or diminish me to ease their own anxiety about their own worth. I think that’s what it is…My recent ex was talking to me about growing old together on our first date and said “I love you” when he was drunk within a couple of weeks of meeting. Once we were ‘together’ he was constantly threatened by my friends and exes and would become verbally abusive when he was drunk calling me a “dirty lesbian” on one occasion and other times saying things like “Oh you’re just so fucking perfect aren’t you!” in an accusatory tone. He was jealous of my strong friendships, my social confidence, my sexuality, my ability to communicate with confidence.

In recent times I have tried dating again and both of the people I have had some dates with are people who suffer from anxiety. They are quite different in most other respects but I can’t help but wonder why I am still attracting this ‘type’ if it is in fact a ‘type’. I am apparently attracted to a ‘type’ myself and that is ‘people with complex mental health’. I don’t think these guys think I am a ‘Manic Pixie Dreamgirl’ but more of a Bad-ass queen who needs to use their strength to comfort and console the anxious mind of the troubled soul they perceive themselves to be. That if I lend some of my internal power to them then I will be manageable and they will be elevated. Does that sound conceited? I don’t really care. After all I am a Bad-ass Queen.

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Loss & Resentment

It has been more than 4 months since my last post I think and I have had many concerns in my relationship. It has been 5 weeks and one day since I left our apartment now. I am still turning everything over in my mind. Mostly I am angry, resentful, feeling bile and bitterness swell up inside me. It’s not pretty, but neither were his lies. I honestly never thought I would be in this position despite the red flags. The final straw for me came when I found out that my partner had been lying to me about his financial situation.

It had been a couple of weeks of tension as I had finished up at my job and was looking for a job in my new field of teaching. We had discussed that I would not have an income for a month or two and he had assured me that he would be fine to cover my rent and help me out with living expenses on the proviso that when I had work I would pay him back the rent money. This is what was said, but it was not the reality. In reality he was withholding financial support and playing games with me. He would tell me that he didn’t want me to put myself in debt with my credit card and wanted instead to give me some money…then he would repeatedly “forget” to go to the ATM. He would make me ask twice or three times, knowing how humiliating it was and how bad it made me feel.

I had caught him in a lie before and like this one it was not the event or situation itself that bothered me, it was the lie. I had told him then (nearly a year ago) that I did not care at all if his car had gone to a mechanic or not, but that I was dismayed by the lie. He gave the reason/excuse that he was traumatised by his upbringing of verbal and physical abuse and that it had resulted in extreme conflict avoidance (though not in those words). I told him at the time that I could understand that it was hard for him but that he could not use his trauma as an excuse for dishonesty and that if I caught him in a lie again I would not accept this excuse. I have never been abusive towards him and I don’t want to be treated like his mother.

So, after agreeing to be transparent with our finances since we were in a serious relationship, living together and spending family time with his son every second weekend he was holding out on sending me his salary information. I had queried it since he told me his take home pay and I was surprised it was not more based on what he told me about his salary. I asked him about it again  two weeks later and he shut down on me. Saying he was not annoyed but then withholding affection all day and barely speaking to me. I asked him to explain why he had not taken out any money for me when he had said he would and he said “I don’t know” I said “well I want you to think about it” “You know it makes me feel really bad to ask again and again so I want to know why you are putting me in this position” …no answer.

After a not very satisfying conversation where nothing was resolved and he told me he felt like I wasn’t listening to him we left it and went to bed. The next day after he again had not emailed me the info he said he would or talked to me about anything I went and found his pay information for myself. My stomach dropped and I lay on the couch shaking for a bit. I called my friends and I packed a back and took the dog and left for my mothers house.

I feel at this point I need to mention that of course I do not care at all what my partner earns and I have never cared about that. I do not want to be financially supported by my partner. We had both been broke at various time in our relationship and it has never been about money. What hurts me is that he knows me so little that he thinks he needs to lie. That he is so desperately insecure about his manhood or his position as a provider that he would lie to my face for 6 months about something like this.When I told him I was staying with my mum for a few days he said on the phone “Ok well have a good night, bye” and hung up the phone. He completely shut down emotionally. He could not express anything about me leaving, he could not try to talk to me about why, he could not apologize or take responsibility for his part in what was happening.

When I later confronted him about the lie he denied it. He continues to deny it. He says things like “it’s not black and white the way my company works out its pay system, if you want to believe that I lied then that’s fine but I have not been dishonest” What. The. Fuck. I was not born yesterday, I have had many jobs with different looking pay slips but none of them are out by nearly $20,000 Oh no, I’m not buying it. I was absolutely astonished that he was in such deep denial.

I know that this is a long and maybe boring post but I had to just get it all out. I never went back except to get all my things out of the apartment. I saw him a couple more times and I was sad when I saw him and then angry again afterwards. My happy little nest has been destroyed by his insecurity and emotional manipulation and I will not trust again so easily. I am so resentful.

It’s not you, it’s me…and you

readers

I’ve had a lot of tough conversations lately about my relationship and it has been an interesting time. The relationship itself has become a lot more calm and there have been no other alcohol related incidents since the last one which was nearly two months ago. It got me thinking about relationships in general and also the kind of advice people give based on their relationship with you and their perspective on long-term monogamous relationships in general.

Many people I know, and certainly my tight inner circle of besties have grown up in the self-help generation. Our parents went to therapy, we go to therapy, we read books about relationships and psychology and use words like, projection, containment and boundaries quite a bit. Above all, we hope be able to “own our shit”, of course there are many times in arguments when people say all kinds of unproductive and mean things but the goal I guess is to be able to identify your own role in all this mess in order to learn from each experience. When I was thinking and talking a lot about the problems I have had with my partner and in fact, with other people I have had romantic relationships with I realized that of course the common thread in all these situations where I feel taken for granted, ignored or encroached upon, is me.

Now there have been many times in my relationship that I have thought to myself “maybe this is actually too much” and “maybe I will not be able to get my needs met by this person, ever” but I had to think also about how I attract people who will help me to repeat unhealthy patterns of behaviour that I learnt from/with my mother. I am an explain-er, a peacekeeper, a diplomat. In my relationships I am the one who pushes for clear and honest communication and I am the one that feels more comfortable if I am contributing more to the relationship than my partner. I have recognized this recently and it is very challenge to try to break these patterns. I have also decided that it’s only really possible to work out your interpersonal problems in a relationship.  There have been times when I’ve felt I need to be alone to “work my shit out” or something like that. As Solange put it “I tried to let go my lover, thought if I was alone then maybe I could recover”. I have spent time intentionally staying single and trying to heal my heart or strengthen my self confidence after a damaging relationship in my 20s, but this is not that time.

When I was in high school single-parent families were the norm rather than the exception and as I grew up I realized that there were people around me (my own mother included) who had actually completely given up on romantic partnerships. These are people who have identified patterns in their behaviour in relationships that they were not comfortable with but that they had a hard time changing. I can see that for some people this is the right choice, and some of these people have many fulfilling friendships in their lives which defend against loneliness and isolation. I guess what I’m realizing is that I would rather try to work things out with the partner I have because I have to trust that I chose him for a reason and while part of that reason is based in unhealthy patterns there is another part which is that he has many of the qualities I need in my life. I have put in nearly two years with this person and don’t expect that we will never fight again but I feel like, even just for myself, it is worth working on and working on my own issues as well as trying to forge a new path with this person who I have so much love for.

 

I don’t want to leave but I feel like a fool

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There was always drama in our relationship from the very beginning and there was always alcohol too. The very first time I met my boyfriend he was nervous and so while I was on stage performing he was sculling pints of beer to the point where he (wisely) decided to take himself home an hour or so after the gig finished as he was stumbling drunk.

Thinking back to this now makes me feel like I have willfully ignored around a dozen red flags at the beginning of our relationship. ….And yet…I still don’t feel ready to leave.

In the first four months of dating there were already drunken fights and irrational jealousy and baseless accusations that amounted to a torrent of verbal abuse directed at me. The level of insecurity he displayed was incredible and for some reason I decided I still wanted to try to make it work. Why? Love makes you kind of dumb I guess. I’m repeating patterns due to my own emotional baggage, trying to fix things, trying to be enough of a motivator to get the people I care about to “work on themselves” and find happiness. He managed to make a terrible first impression on both of my best friends by being rude and anti-social or overly familiar (eg. telling my friend to “fuck off”, it was a joke but didn’t come off that way). The New years Eve when we had been together just over 4 months he got so drunk and high that he could hardly walk home and called me a “filthy lesbian” while accusing me of wanting to go home with another friend who was out with us. I still helped him stagger back to my house and didn’t even kick him out immediately when he pissed himself in my bed and when I realised he had destroyed my computer by spilling beer over the keyboard the night before.  Instead I took a few days away from him and told him if he ever got that drunk around me again or accused me of stupid shit again I was gonna end it immediately. Well that was a lie because after a few months of good times he got so drunk at my birthday party that he accused me of sleeping with a friend of mine (not of cheating just of having slept with him in the past) in front of a table of my close friends and would not let up, making everyone very uncomfortable, not least the friend who had just told me in confidence that he was getting divorced.

There are more anecdotes but I think I have made my point. I have forgiven so many incidents that were fueled by alcohol. So many rude or embarrassing moments have been forgiven already. This is why I was so surprised by his ultimatum to basically accept his drinking habits or leave the relationship. ….What?!??!

After having a pretty good albeit brief holiday in Adelaide with my family for Lunar New Year we came home and had Sunday Afternoon to relax before getting back into the work week. I had sewing stuff to do for an upcoming show and he wanted to have some drinks and play his computer game on his laptop. The first part of the afternoon was quite nice, both doing our own thing but in the same lounge occasionally giving each other a kiss.

I moved to the bedroom around 10:30 and went to bed around 11:30 and he stayed up till 4am and drank almost a whole bottle of vodka plus half a bottle of wine left over from before we went away.  Apart from the usual irritating drunk behavior like waking me through the night with a wet kiss on the forehead or lifting the covers to touch my leg (I’m sleeping goddammit!) leaving the balcony door open after me asking him to close it, there was no real drama that night. When I got up in the morning to go to work I was pretty concerned about the sheer volume of booze consumed and it made me wonder why he felt the need/desire to drink so much when he’s just at home on his own (at least drinking alone as I was not drinking).  I told him that afternoon that I didn’t really know how to discuss it but felt uncomfortable about how much he drank  and he didn’t have much to say about it. In the past we’ve spoken about his drinking and he’s said he doesn’t feel like he can stop until he has another way to process (read:escape) his emotions.

So yesterday (2 days post binge) I tried to talk about it with him again, saying that I felt like I couldn’t communicate with him when he was that drunk and I was worried about him. He said in a totally calm way that he felt like things had improved and that if I couldn’t see that or chose not to see that then I should just leave. That he wasn’t about to lie to me and say he would never drink again and that he would rather I be happy so if I wasn’t happy he felt he couldn’t do anything more and I should just leave the relationship.

So now we are just avoiding each other and being  polite but distant and I am wondering, should I just go and stay with a friend for a few days? Is this actually the end of the relationship? Just days ago we were talking about the possibility of having kids in the future. I feel like such a fool.

Response to my Astrological New Years Resolution

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Cancer

June 21 – July 22

Learn to let go of other peoples’ emotions and focus on your own. You need clarity and peace in your life more than anything else right now, and struggling through the problems of your close relationships isn’t helping. True friends will still be waiting after you fix yourself.

Hmmm…Yes. I think this is good advice (probably for anyone born at anytime of year). I found myself talking with a family member the other day about my partner (as you do) and as per usual I began to receive a lot of advice that was not for me but for my partner. A lot of it was reasonable and practical stuff, some of which I had discussed with my partner and some which I had no yet had the courage to bring up. But it is actually about courage? I find myself often in situations where I discuss my loved ones with other loved ones and get lots of advice about actions to be taken by the other person but I find myself resistant to this on the basis that it is not my life and aren’t we all supposed to be accepting that we can’t change others? I guess in some ways this is a very natural phenomenon. People want to find solutions for your, or someone else’s problem when maybe all you need is to be heard.

I can get very caught up in other peoples emotions and of course I want those around me and people I care about to be happy and feel content. This is a problem when you find yourself attracted to people who have trouble managing their emotions and simply sitting with their own feelings. It is particularly difficult when it comes to the really big stuff like confronting deeply hidden sources of insecurity or attempting to make sense of emotional triggers pushed by parents or coworkers. I am generally of the opinion that everyone is messed up emotionally in their own special way and we all bring people into our lives who will help us replay our damaging past in various ways. I also think that all relationships both romantic and platonic present challenges and need to be worked on from time to time. With this in mind I feel like this random Thought Catalog post about star signs and new years resolutions is quite well timed and appropriate.

Yes I do need a little clarity and peace in my life right now. No it does not benefit me to attempt to fix the problems of my loved ones or to guide them where I think they need to go. I am very fortunate to have extremely amazing BFF’s and so the last sentence means nothing to me as I assume they will be there, always.  I know they will.

“Are we there yet?” The slow crawl to adulthood.

The other day I was walking past a big pane of glass outside a building at work and I caught a glimpse of my reflection. Blouse, blazer, work lanyard and document wallet, the image of professionalism. Funny, I thought to myself, sometimes I don’t feel at all like an adult even though I am playing the role everyday. Well actually I only really play the role of adult professional 4 days a week and the rest of the time I feel like I am very much still working things out. Yes I know this is probably how a lot of people feel and it’s not exactly imposter syndrome I’m talking about…more like an acute awareness that maturity and a strong sense of being the same “you” regardless of where you are or what you are doing is something that develops slowly and not at an even pace.

There are things that signify adulthood that I have been doing for more than a decade, like paying rent and bills, doing grocery shopping and driving a car. There are other things like gossiping with friends, drinking too much and putting frivolous purchases on my credit card that remind me that maybe I am resistant to learning some lesson about life and adulthood. When my mum was my age she was desperately wanting to have a baby and within a year she would have her wish. I feel today like becoming a parent is the last proper rite of passage we have in western culture. It is really the only thing that forces us to shift our own needs and desires aside for the needs of another.

Is there a “look” that a person has once they have sacrificed enough to be considered an adult? I know women who are definitely adults in my mind who have never had kids so where does that leave me? I remember that when I was 22 and dating a 33 year old I felt like we were equals and I also realised that his not having a corporate job and dressing in jeans and hoodies maintained a certain youthfulness to his image. I know they clothes do not make the man but I definitely feel like a grown up when I go out in my blazer and heels and a nice tidy bun and then on the weekend when i get around in jeans and a band T-shirt and sneakers I feel decidedly like the teenage me with more confidence.

I suppose that in reality I have accepted the fact that maturity and adulthood is really a constantly evolving personal state and that we never really finish growing up mentally and emotionally. Our lives are a series of experiences and each one, be it large or small has a role to play in shaping our personality and perspective. Perhaps it is the natural reflective period at the end of the year or the way my life has changed this year that has me looking at myself sideways and thinking “who is that?” In the end I am as “grown up” and simultaneously as care-free and childish as I need to be at any given time. I can hold my own in meetings at work and I can enjoy a good old tickle-fight/wrestle with my partners son on the weekends. All in all it’s a good place to be.

The experiment in “No”

say no

At the end of last year I got sicker than I had ever been before and spent a week in hospital with acute Pyelonephritis (Kidney Infection). I really knocked me around and I was very scared a few times in hospital when the doctors were not sure what was making me so sick. After four days they decided it was a kidney infection that had emerged from an almost symptom-less UTI a week before. When I asked them why that had happened (I drink a good amount of water and always pee after sex) they just said “maybe you were a bit run-down?” It was a horrible time and so after I was released from hospital I went to see a naturopath and holistic health consultant to talk about how I could avoid this kind of thing happening again.

She sat me down and asked about what had been happening in the lead up me becoming unwell and having to be admitted to hospital. I had to admit I was overloaded. I was studying again for the first time in 5 years, I was working full time, I was rehearsing, writing and performing with my band and I did a number of other one off performance projects from September till the end of the year. In addition to all this I started a new relationship and a couple of months later my grandmother who I was very close to died. I was grieving, stressed, and not eating or sleeping well. This is the backdrop upon which the idea of a month of saying “no” emerged. I happened to have a very good friend who has the same issue of overloading her social and professional calendar and then feeling like she is letting people down or not giving enough to each of her commitments and she suggested to me that “just for March” we should both try really hard to say “no” to all extra invitations/gigs/projects/collaborations etc.

steve jobs no

I think for my friend and I there is a feeling that if you are not accepting every offer for a gig or a collaborative project especially in a creative/performance field that you may lose momentum or become irrelevant very quickly. I think this anxiety affects all of us in some way, perhaps it is essentially the same as FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out). If I say no to this or that invitation maybe my friends will stop asking me to come out or stop inviting me to do things with them? I think these are the things we worry about when we start to feel anxiety about not being involved in everything and taking every possible opportunity. I am not saying “no” just because I got sick, but being hospitalized certainly serves as a catalyst for re-assessing your behaviour and lifestyle and looking at whether or not you are setting yourself up for burnout.

The frustrating reality is that we are actually not able to do ‘everything’, at least not without sacrificing quality on some aspects. We don’t get enough sleep, we neglect our close friendships or relationships in preference of our career or other obligations. Part of the exercise of saying “no” is about re-assessing our priorities and making sure we check in with ourselves and focus, self-care and value our downtime. It’s also about valuing the contributions you have made already and acknowledging that you are allowed to focus on one thing at a time instead of feeling like if you are not buying into the ‘cult of busy’ and multitasking 24/7 then you are not “giving you all” or working hard enough to achieve your goals. Being busy can be good and we all want to feel productive, but looking at what level of activity and involvement is actually sustainable is important too.

We are all social animals and we want to be a part of a group or in many cases, a number of groups. It is part of our natural instincts to do this and that is why it was important for me to step back and make a deliberate and conscious decision to think twice about any and all new projects for the month of March. Now we are over half way through the month and I have turned down 3 gigs of various kinds already. It feels good. People are not angry or overly disappointed and they still remember that I exist. It is easy to build up and buy into a lot of anxieties about our social interactions and perhaps particularly when you are in a creative field. I think it is valuable to give ourselves time to look at our actions and take a minute to nurture ourselves through solitude and time alone as well as giving ourselves credit for all the things we do already. Maybe it is part of getting older, wanting to reflect and think about working smarter instead of harder. Creating a work/life balance seems to be a lifelong journey but for me, saying “no” for a month is a great way to work on it. I am actually feeling more productive, I am prioritizing and I am proving something to myself about value, balance and personal and internal processing that makes me feel healthier in body and mind.

Exploring the internal world