The Lovely Addict

Expectations: realistic or unrealistic?

So, in this week’s episode of The Break Up Journal, I grapple with expectations. Mostly my expectations of others (my PoA in particular) and whether or not they are realistic or unrealistic. On the one hand,  I’m angry at P for being “lazy” and not reaching out to me enough while I am away. On the other, I turn my anger into a sort of “suck it up” attitude, directed inward, and basically determine that I am a whining, complaining, ungrateful person who should be happy with a boyfriend who is a hard worker and does the best he can.

So, which is it? Is my anger warranted? Or am I being too whiny and demanding?

This type of dilemma is very common in love addiction and the reason for it is based on values, or, better yet, lack thereof. When we do not have a firm grasp on our values–  a thing (a principle, a belief, a standard of behavior) that we regard as essential to our being, so essential, in fact, that without it, we feel lacking or wrong or worthless–we cannot determine which way we need to go to “feel good” or be right within ourselves. We especially don’t know who date! Had I known that trusting a person I am dating  is one of my values I probably would not have stuck around in this particular relationship. Had I known that I cannot be with someone who smokes pot is another of my values, this relationship would have been over before it started.

In the July 9 blog, I am angry with everyone BUT myself. I am blaming others for not supporting me or meeting my needs or reading my mind or catering to my loneliness. But, if I were driven by my values versus depending on others for my happiness, I most likely would not be so angry.

Healthy people choose their values over their relationships. Unhealthy people do not.

And yet, even knowing that your values need to come first, it’s often very hard to figure out if you are being realistic in your expectations of others, or unrealistic. In The Break Up Journal example, should I expect P to step up to the plate and give me more attention, or is this expectation unrealistic?

To answer that, I would need to calculate the times he gives me attention versus the times he doesn’t. If I ask him 10 times to spend more time with me and the response rate is low (i.e., I only receive the attention I am looking for 1-3 times out of 10), it would be unrealistic of me to think he is capable of meeting my needs. I, therefore, have no right being angry with him because at this point, the onus is on me to recognize this. More importantly, I would need to turn to my “values” to see if I am holding true to one that states, “my partner pays me a realistic amount of attention.”

The flip side of this argument, of course, is, Am I being unrealistic in the amount of time I am demanding from my partner? I find this to be an extremely important question that must be asked. The trouble is, you most likely won’t like the answer. Why? Because it’s ironic. We tend to seek the most attention from people who have trouble giving it. The more distant or avoidant my partner would become, the more I craved his attention. This pattern was repeated for years until I finally caught on and finally knew how to recognize the avoidant personality.

Expectations are not bad. We want to have them. We want them to be relatively high (perhaps not too high), but in direct proportion to our self-esteem. But, more importantly is that we have expectations of the right kind of people. If I date a man with a high school diploma and expect him to think, act and perform as if he had a PhD, who’s at fault here? Are my expectations of him realistic?

Nope.

I’ve said it before, I often feel sorry for the girl (me) writing in The Break Up Journal. She desperately wants to grow and change, but she’s not there yet. She’s still holding on. And yet, I smile, knowingly. A complete transformation is only months away from her. Unfortunately, from her vantage point, she simply cannot see it. Perhaps YOU are in the same situation. 😉

 

Self-sabotage

I’ve been hearing a lot of talk of self-sabotage and while this is a a real and true problem that applies to most of us (addiction, by nature, is self-sabotage), I feel as though it is being misused in many ways.

Self-sabotage, according to Psychology Today is, “behavior that results from a misguided attempt to rescue ourselves from our own negative feelings.” In other words, self-sabotage is self-destructive behavior that keeps us from living and growing up to become healthy adults. Addiction is self-sabotage. Addiction is a behavior or defense mechanism that we believe is soothing us and helping us to avert pain and suffering, whereas in reality, it is blocking us from living a healthier, happier life.

But many here are using the term self-sabotage to explain how they are finally finding truly healthy mates, but instead of giving into them and accepting their goodness, they are running away.

This is where I tend to believe the idea of self-sabotage is misused. I believe, as humans, we have a gut instinct about people. We know what we like. And I think that most of us, if given the opportunity, would not turn down a good, healthy relationship. Heck, love addicts will settle for a bad relationship because they want one so badly, so why wouldn’t they adapt to and accept a good relationship?!

I too used to believe I was sabotaging myself by running away from some men. In retrospect, I ran away from those men for a reason: I simply didn’t like them. Whether they were healthy or not, wasn’t the point. The point was, we had no chemistry, no attraction, and little in common. But in my mind, at the time, I thought I was a fool for turning down someone who was seemingly healthy. I must be sabotaging myself, I thought. And yet, what I was really doing, was not recognizing the nature of attraction. You can have two completely normal, healthy, good looking, smart loving, ready individuals and NOTHING will come of them. Why? They’re not attracted to each other. Period.

Because we come from the love addict perspective, it is often skewed. We tend to think in black and white.If someone is healthy and I turn them down, that makes me unhealthy. But that’s entirely NOT true. We cannot blame some of our choices on self-sabotage, but must instead, hold accountable, our ability to recognize someone we like and can ultimately love. We have far more strength in this department than we give ourselves credit for. And if you don’t believe me, here’s a little test: look back at all the men and/or women you’ve dated. How many times can you recall, upon first meeting them, that despite a sense of chemistry and attraction, you detected RED FLAGS? That tells me, that most of us have it in us to sense danger and sense attraction. WHere we go wrong is not in the sensing part, but in the taking action part. We recognize the red flags, but we choose to ignore them.

The same can be said for situations where you meet someone with no red flags but also, little to no chemistry. You sense the no red flags, and you sense the no chemistry, but you ignore the lack of chemistry and date anyway. After getting sexually involved, you wonder why you are not attracted to someone who has no red flags. You blame yourself. You think it’s self-sabotage.

I don’t think it is. I think our instinct for attraction is far more powerful than we give it credit for. And think we can be attracted to good people and bad. It is in the logical choices we make or don’t make (to choose someone good or settle for someone bad) that creates in us the “addict’s brain.”

OUr true self-sabotage comes not from giving up good relationships, but from remaining in bad ones. When we finally have the recognition that we should seek a healthy person, that does not mean that EVERY healthy person will be right for us.

Lastly, I think that many people get involved too quickly after recovery (myself included). When we don’t have a strong sense of self and knowing who we are, we have trouble recognizing someone who might be right for us. So, it makes dating harder. And it makes it seem like we are throwing away something that could be good for us. You don’t know what’s good for you until you really take the time to get know someone. And that takes years.

Eight months into my new relationship with D, I was on the brink of throwing it away. I had a very silly (immature) notion that I should be dating a scraggly, dark-haired, wild musician-type. That’s who I was physically attracted to. And I felt that if I dated D, who was blond, German, all-AMerican, clean-cut family man, I would be giving up that fantasy forever. This made me heartbroken. It hurt to have to say goodbye to a long held fantasy. But I realized that in order to grow up, I had to start valuing other things more than my fantasies and my childish notion of beauty. I had to really THINK about what I had with D and if it was worth throwing away. D was generous, kind, attentive to me, caring, he made me laugh, he was intelligent, he was good looking, we had chemistry, he was mature, and he had no red flags.

Growing up and making the right choices is what life is all about. I had to give up thinking with my EMOTIONS and I had to think with my HEAD. When I did that, everything fell into alignment.

I do believe, as my own personal story shows, that wecansabotage ourselves by giving up something good. But it takes A LONG time to realize you have something good. And it takes a lot more than throwing away healthy to sabotage yourself. To this day, I can still fall into a pattern of being ungrateful for what I have. So, I have to bring myself back, constantly, to a remembrance of my VALUES.

Does anyone else have any thoughts on self-sabotage? Share ’em!

He’s right, she’s wrong (or is that vice versa?)

Yesterday, D got upset with me. Two things usually set him off: when my “tone” is aggressive, despite me having good intentions (eg. When he went out during the tail end of the hurricane to pick up fallen branches, but the wind was still blowing pretty strongly. My response: “What are you doing??!?! Get in the house!!!” His response: “DOn’t yell at me!”); and when I accuse him of some character defecit (eg. When I say things like, “you’re not understanding me,” or “You probably should have seen that one coming,” or “It seems like you might not be very in touch with your emotions…”)

Granted, no one wants to be yelled at, nor told that they’re doing something wrong. But sometimes, he’s a litte too senstive. Hell, he’s dating an Italian woman. I thought my “tone” was colorful 😉

Anyway, so last night, he was very upset because his group of core friends from high school (think “Bill Chill“; if you’re younger think “Old School“) attempted to plan a turning 40 party for one of their other friends, and kinda included D, but kinda didn’t. The upsetting part is that D is turning 40 too, a day after this other friend. For starters, that wasn’t acknowledged in any of the correspondence. Then, when they decided on a time when they could all get together, they ended up changing it, later,  to a time when D couldn’t go. Needless to say, he felt hugely snubbed. And so I comforted him as best I could. “Those guys are self-centered assholes, and they’ll never change…” I said.  “Yeah!” He agreed. “How dare they leave you out when you’re just as much a part of that group as anybody,” I said. “Yeah!” He agreed. And then, “But darling, you shouldn’t have any expectations of them because they do this all the time!” With that, he snapped at me too. Suddenly it was, “You’re not helping any. “In fact, you’re making things worse.”

“How so?” I asked. “It’s the truth. Those guys can’t be trusted and you should know that by now.”

“I don’t need to be told, ‘You should know better’ when that doesn’t change the fact that I’m a little upset right now and have a right to be upset.”

“Sure! You have a right to be upset. I’m not trying to take that away from you. But doesn’t it help to be reminded that this is nothing personal? That you’re in control of having expectations of these idiots or having none, based on knowing their history?” I mean let’s be realistic, here. They do this all the time.

“No, it doesn’t. Because while I have no expectations of most of them, I do have slightly higher expecations of some of them.”

The conversation basically went on like that, but I ended up feeling pissed off myself that as soon as I state a fairly obvious truth, D gets angry with me.

D and I don’t bicker. And we don’t get into many arguments. But it’s these moments when I feel he doesn’t quite understand my intention. And that bothers me. I never mean to hurt. I never want to tell him that he’s wrong, no good or bad at something, and so when he thinks that’s what I am doing, I feel hugely misunderstood. On top of that when he calls me out on it, it makes me feel attacked.

I mean, is it so wrong to want to draw attention to someone’s own part in their upset? Is it so wrong to want to help them place some of the blame on themselves? Heck, this is what recovery is all about, isn’t it? Removing blame from the PoA and placing it squarely on our own shoulders. And yet, I am beginning to realize that not everyone in the world is in “recovery mode” and not everyone wants to accept blame for something they clearly believe they didn’t create or do. Events are done unto people. Period. And there is no personal responsibility for it. And if there is, it doesn’t always need to be mentioned. Is this right? I guess it is. On a scale of human behavior where one end it total insanity and the other is complete self-awareness and good health, I consider D to be pretty close to the  emotionally and mentally healthy guy. A real marker of “normal” if ever there were such a thing. And yet, at times like these, I kinda think he’s being a big baby.

I wanted to post this for its inconsequentialness. This is what healthy relationships are all about. A healthy balance between two totally different, unique individuals and their personal idiosyncrasies. The “Im right”; “No, I’m right” moments we cannot avoid simply because no two people think alike. So, I’d take this any day as opposed to the extreme imbalance, drama and love-sick insanity and confusion of my past!

But I’m still right, right? 😉

Just one of those weeks…

 

So, I have this lovely new addition built onto my house. And my lovely boyfriend and his two kids are about to move in as soon as the back bedrooms are painted. You’d think this would be a happy time for me. And yet, I am obsessed with feeling miserable, burnt out and put upon. I feel  as though I have been dealing with the brunt of the problems that arise and that I am the one who has taken on more responsibility in this move. I feel like, I am supposed to get my house rebuilt, cleaned up, put together, and when all that is done, D will simply move in and we’ll all live happily ever after.

The reality is, he has been helping, and so my whining about there being an imbalance of responsibility is a little distorted. He has taken certain things under his wing (the banking issue; the rug; buying the new closets). He has moved some furniture around. And he has always been supportive of helping me whenever he’s here. Despite the fact that I have had to deal with more, I should not be complaining so much and pointing the finger so much. So, why am I?

Last night when the idiot cable guy drilled a hole on the outside of my cedar clap siding (when I specifically asked him not to), I lost it. It was the final straw. D came over after I was already irate and on the phone with the cable company, saw that I had things under control and said, “This sucks. We’ll have to get this repaired and send them the bill. OK, well,  I have to go to pick up my kids.” And off he went. I kinda yelled at him and said, “That’s it? That’s all you’re going to do?” His response was, “What do you want me to do? You’re already handling it.”

“Well, I don’t want to be handling it. I want YOU to handle it so I can go jump off a bridge. ” I didn’t say any of that. But I thought it. And I didn’t even think it as it was happening. I was just FEELING it. Eventually I realized I was feeling abandoned, neglected and insecure for being such a whiny baby. More than anything, I wanted him to take care of me. I wanted him to be my life raft because I’m so done with this project and I want a vice to help take off the edge.

Later, I ended up blaming him for not doing enough. He took that personally, got incredibly defensive and we ended it by saying we’ll talk more about it tomorrow (today).

V from theronhardlegacy.com said that, “even worse than avoiding conflict is creating conflict.” I think that’s what’s at hand now. And I am a little embarrassed to know that this is happening this late into recovery. I should know better. And yet STRESS and lots of it, will trip me up and have me reverting back to my old ways. It’s something I need to constantly be aware of.

But how do I manage it? How do I not blame D? How do I reduce my level of stress and stop creating more conflict? Thoughts and suggestions are are needed folks. Have you got any? Because at the moment, I can’t seem to see the forest through the trees.

The bigger picture

Utterly Alone
Image by Michelle Brea (busy-away) via Flickr

One of the ways in which I found D to be so healthy was that he was a firm believer in the “the bigger picture.” When we obsess over the little things in our lives, he’d say, we tend to lose sight of the bigger stuff: the roof over our heads, the beauty of our children, our health, the food on our table. Of course, he never said it as preachy as that. But you get my point. For him, it was always important to remember what really counted.

I agree with him, and yet, right now, I cannot see the bigger picture. I can only feel the discomfort of sleeping down the hall, in a single bed with a bad mattress, in  a room piled high with temporary crap. I can only react to the complete loss of privacy that I now have with 3-12 men running through my house all day long, building an addition. I can only hear the noise. I can only tell you how impossible it has been to relax. To go to the bathroom in private! To flop down on a sofa to watch TV. To sit at my desk in my room and write in my journal. All those favorite things of mine have been stripped away and I resent all the people who have taken them away (mind you, I agreed to an addition because the bigger picture is that after its built, D can move in.)

And then there was last night. My son came home and mentioned that he “only had to study.” What he didn’t mention was that he had to study for EVERY SINGLE CLASS HE HAS and that inevitably means I have to sit down and help him through it all. I resented it because I wanted to take the boys out to dinner last night and couldn’t do it. So, I yelled at him, and it almost came off as sounding like I was blaming him for ruining MY life. Well, the more I thought about it, I WAS.

Again, I was unable to see the bigger picture.

And there’s s myriad of other  things I resent….but the biggest one is that I have been having serious issues with my stomach again–complete IBS, like the old days. And it’s all due to stress. The thing is, it’s putting a wedge between D and I. And that’s its main purpose– to isolate me. When I have stomach issues, I want to be alone. I do not want to participate in any activity. I don’t even want to have sex or be close to D. And I cannot see the bigger picture. I can only see the trouble my stomach is going through and how to run away from people and be alone.

I guess this bothers me so much because I thought those days were over. I thought I had my stomach issues under control, but I guess I don’t. More disturbing, is that I see all this inability to deal with stress as a reflection upon my success, or lack thereof, in recovery. All these stressors are having the effect upon me of wanting to BLAME outside sources for my discomfort. It’s my son’s fault for screwing up my night last night; it’s D’s fault for upsetting my stomach; it’s D’s and the workers fault for putting me out like this and inconveniencing my life. It’s everyone else fault for making me miserable because I am incapable of adapting to this stress on my own.

I’m not hiding behind a man anymore; I am hiding behind my physical, mental and emotional response to stress.

I need to find that happy, positive place back, and sadly, I feel as though I can only make it there ALONE. This in turn makes me believe I cannot last successfully in a relationship. But it’s been over TWO YEARS OF BLISS! Am I just not seeing the bigger picture? Oh wait…I’m not.

Ugg. I need to work this out. Somehow. Or, simply, I need to remember one of the most important lessons I ever learned in recovery: nothing lasts forever. This too shall pass. Maybe that will help to put things in perspective. WHatever the case may be, I need to face the stress. Here’s a good website to start. I definitely react to stress by:

  • Zoning out for hours in front of the TV or computer
  • Withdrawing from friends, family, and activities
  • Sleeping too much
  • Procrastinating
  • Filling up every minute of the day to avoid facing problems
  • Taking out your stress on others (lashing out, angry outbursts, physical violence)

Off to read and learn! Ironically, or is that coincidentally, one of their methods of adapting to stress is to “look at the bigger picture.”

Look at the big picture. Take perspective of the stressful situation. Ask yourself how important it will be in the long run. Will it matter in a month? A year? Is it really worth getting upset over? If the answer is no, focus your time and energy elsewhere.

Awkward situations & compromises

So yesterday, D’s parents wanted to celebrate his son’s birthday out at a restaurant before they went on vacation. I’m not so sure his parents personally ever invite me to these things as much as D just “tells” them that he’s bringing me along. And of course, the ex is invited. I’m not all that great under these types of circumstances. His parents tend to treat me like the “other woman,” as if I stole their innocent son away from his loving wife. That couldn’t be further from the truth. The ex left D for another man, divorced him, got engaged to this new guy, threatened to move the kids to another state, and then suddenly broke up with the new guy after realizing it was just a crush, and had the nerve to ask D to get back together (I met D six months after his divorce; six months into our relationship, when she said she wanted him back, I said, “go back to her” and meant it, but he had no intentions of ever doing that.) Still, D’s parents invite her over for Christmas dinner (and not me) and sit him at the table beside her as if everything is just the way it used to be.

Anyway, so I go to say hello to D’s dad out in front of the restaurant, and go up to kiss him on the cheek, and he’s looking stone cold straight ahead. By that point I had entered his personal space and couldn’t back out, so I said to him, in a kind of funny way, “I’m trying to kiss you.” He awkwardly leans down and gives me his cheek and after a quick tap, I went inside, mortified.

That shook me up a little, and yet, there was no recovery in sight. At the table, I end up sitting next to D, but across the table from his ex, who, I have to say, was being friendly enough, complimenting me on my hair, etc. But really, just chattering on about superficial things like money, clothes, make-up and so on. She’s a vibrant, dramatic Italian girl, very beautiful, but, a little shallow, and I have to say it, stupid for not being so grateful for D when she had him. So, she starts chattering on about D coming over and eating leftovers out of her fridge, and asking him to take pictures of her and their son, calling him by little affectionate terms like “Hey D-boy, would you pass me the salt?” At one point she mentions a couple instances when D got sick in the past, (“Did he tell you about the time when he broke out into hives from eating lobster?” and then there was,  “D doesn’t like spicy food, in fact, he’ll never eat garlic, and I put garlic on everything…” I actually felt like saying, “D actually loves food with garlic on it, as long as he doesn’t know it’s there.” But I kept my mouth shut.)

One hour later it was over, everyone said their goodbyes and we left, heading over my brother and sister-in-law’s house for yet another birthday party. But by this point, I felt completely beat up. I felt uncomfortable, awkward, unwanted, and alien. All my old insecurities came out (I don’t belong here, these people don’t like me, the ex is so much more beautiful than me, I’m a failure). I wanted to bury my head in the sand and hide. I wanted to run away. I certainly didn’t want to stay a second longer than I had to.

I was pissed off that D was over his ex’s eating leftovers. Where were his boundaries? I don’t go over my ex’s house and go scavenging through his fridge. OK, so it’s still D’s house where she’s living (they haven’t been able to sell it yet), but still…

Then, I thought I might be overreacting. Not looking at the bigger picture and being grateful.  Most of our life together runs smoothly and no relationship can be perfect, right? The trouble is, when you remarry, or date a divorced man with kids, part of the package is having to deal with his parents AND his ex wife. As much as I would love it to be “just us,” that will never happen. I’m in a relationship with her as well. And every kid party or family gathering, I have to deal with her whether I like it or not.

The issue of discomfort here is coming from my own level of immaturity. The kid in me is saying, “No! No! No! I don’t want to ever eat my veggies or tie my shoes or put on that party dress! I want to do what I want, when I want, with whom I want. Period! Now leave me alone.”  The adult in me, however, has to have compassion and has to be able to compromise and weigh the scales and enter into a few awkward situations for the sake of her partner. A healthy relationship takes having to bite the bullet sometimes. It’s very important to D that I accompany him to these family events. He feels as though it is support for him and acceptance of his family (despite that they don’t accept me 100%). And here’s the important thing: none of my core values are being jeopardized or relinquished in this situation. I am still intact. My values are still able to come first. The problem isn’t really occurring between D and I either (although he really needs to stay out of his ex’s fridge!). So….as much as I am bitching here about having to put up with tips from the ex on what D does and doesn’t eat, and socially awkward moments between his parents and I,  I DO see the bigger picture. I don’t like it, but I am willing to let it drop.

And on that note, here’s my unsolicited advice: write down an example of how you have compromised in a situation and done something you really didn’t want to do. Did you go to a party with a friend when you really didn’t want to? Did you get drunk with your PoA even though you hate to drink and it makes you feel like crap? Did you have sex with your PoA even though you swore you wouldn’t? Examine if that “thing” you did went against your CORE VALUES or not. If it did, that’s a pretty good indicator that it was the wrong kind of compromise. If it didn’t go against your core values and YOU stayed intact, how did it make you feel? Awkward? Uncomfortable? Bitter? Angry? Do you think the “child” in you is overreacting and that maybe, like me, you simply need to tell yourself “grow up!”? Just because something feels awkward or uncomfortable doesn’t mean the entire relationship is “wrong” or bad. But knowing your values will help you recognize the difference.