I decided to get back on Bumble recently. I was reading a book on trauma and surprisingly it had light dating as a suggestion as a component of recovery. I haven't told my friends about this, the view that I am not ready to date is unanimous. I tend to agree with this, I am definitely not ready for anything serious, nor do I want it. I want to just have fun for a while, the last thing I want is to be locked down again right away.
So I am swiping and I matched with some really interesting men. I began chatting, light fun easy banter the stuff I love, and actually really miss. The conversations were so normal, respectful and non-threatening. I felt comfortable. They were interested in me, they saw value in me. They wanted to connect with me. They seem to consider themselves fortunate to be talking to me. The were no little jabs in the conversation, no covert insults, no sign of contempt. I was being treated like a human being, normal. Then all of a sudden it hit me like a brick. I was triggered.
I DIDNT DESERVE THAT TREATMENT! All of a sudden I could see what I had be told by friends and family members for months, that the treatment I had been exposed to was toxic and out of line. Suddenly I could really see it. I had been told constantly that I deserved better. Intellectually I understood this, but emotionally I didn't get it. What was better? What is normal? Just give me a bit I can fix this. If only I do this or this then it will be different he will treat me the way he did in the beginning. I would ruminate endlessly trying to figure out how I could solve this, looking for the clues and subtle meanings.
I have been told often that what was happening was unacceptable. But, like many (or perhaps all victims) I blame myself. I am always quick to think I did something wrong that upset my partner and caused them to treat me that way.
I was in another "something" I dont know how to categorize it, for a while after my marriage. From that relationship, I learned more than I think I have learned from any relationship in my life.
I learned how easily I can be dominated and manipulated. How I accept unacceptable treatment. I barely knew this guy but I let him treat me like shit. I handed my power over in and instant, only because he told me (through various manipulation and subtle messaging) that that he was superior to me, and I would submit. I also learned I didn't know what normal looks like. A few months back, and I had asked a male friend of mine if what had happened during a specific incident was a normal. My friend looked at me wide eyes and shocked "Carolynne! You KNOW that is not normal!, that is toxic! WTF"
The fact is, I really didn't know, not at all. I could feel the effect, I was confused, hurt and it definitely knocked me off balance. If I had a healthy sense of myself and healthy boundaries I would have slammed the door shut almost immediately. But I didn't. Because someone I really liked was giving me the attention I wanted. He acted confident and so sure of himself, he knew how the world should work, he had all the answers. To me this is very attractive. It was familiar of course. The contempt, being dominated, me being treated like a second class human being. I have read we keep seeking the familiar to work out earlier traumas. I can see that now. And although I didn't handle things in the best manner. I realized no matter what I did, I deserved to be treated with respect at a minimum.
If he didn't want a connection with me, just let me go respectfully. I am not unreasonable. There was no need for the abrupt cut off for no apparent reason in the middle of conversations. I finally see, really see, that this in fact is not normal at all. It is a form of manipulation designed to maintain control. Designed to keep you on the hook. If you challenge me you will be abandoned. Not only is it not normal, it is completely unacceptable.
While this most recent entanglement was the catalyst, it gave me the perspective to look back on earlier relationships, with my ex-husband and even my parents. And I truly realized how I never deserved any of that. In general, people around me don't see how I have been affected. I usually appear like someone who has it completely together, I dont look like someone that has been traumatized. But I have been walking around my entire life with a giant weight on my chest that feels like someone reached in and gouged out my heart and there is just this raw painful hole. I would always smile and pretend nothing was wrong. I always hid my feelings, ironically it was this man that caused me to open up. He told me he needed a partner that would communicate and share their feelings. I wasn't ready at the time. He even said "oh big bad ----- is coming, I better withdraw I might catch feelings and fall in love" Mocking me. So, like I always do, I responded by not doing what felt comfortable to me, but doing what he wanted. Of course later he would chastise me for being to open "what's with all this heavy shit" Confusing as hell. The upside to this though, is I have opened up, and its been incredibly helpful.
In my life, there was always this message that I was not as worthy as others. And I definitely attached myself to people that promoted this view. It has finally occurred to me that I deserve better. That behaviour is pure bullshit. Its power and control.
Frequently, I still get the vision of my ex-husband screaming in my face how I am a lying cheating slut while he feigned barely being able to control himself from hitting me. Even just writing this now my ears hurt. This was something that would happen any time I ventured outside of his defined boundaries of our relationship. I wasn't supposed to ask questions or challenge him. I was just supposed to worship and admire. The same thing happened in this subsequent entanglement, when I asked what I said that made him think I thought he was up to no good, he said I was gaslighting him.
What do I remember about all this, complete confusion. I always felt confused and I didn't understand. What I should have done is recognize that the nature of the interaction was unhealthy and not a respectful discussion, then closed the door and walked away. But I am shamed to admit, I kept trying to understand, trying to see what I did wrong. Thinking I did something that warranted that. I kept trying to contact him to talk it out. He of course stonewalled and cut off all communication. Its a power game. I accepted all this, for some reason I believed I caused these things. No, I didn't. This is what abusive people do to get and keep control of you. They do things to knock you off balance, and they often do it deliberately. These things dont happen in healthy relationships.
I did in fact have a healthy relationship once. And I remember a specific incident where someone had mildly insulted me in public. His reaction was to immediately grab me and pull me close to comfort me while he glared at the offender. But his prime concern was my feelings. That was more than 30 years ago, but I still remember how it felt. He made me feel better and he soothed the sting. That is what is supposed to happen. Also we were able to end it on good terms. Any time I saw him after that we still had respect and positive regard for each other. The fact it didn't work out isn't a reason to hate someone. Relationships are not supposed to be your partner hurting you over and over and over again and holding a grudge.
Its a shock to suddenly realize I never did anything to deserve to be treated that way. Did I handle everything perfectly without fault. No definitely not. But in a normal interaction those are things you can iron out if there is an equal power balance What I did do was allow myself to be drawn into a dynamic that ultimate hurt me. I was sabotaging myself by continuing to engage. There were multiple times in earlier interactions the signs were there. I dont think any emotionally healthy person would have continued to engage. But I was not emotionally healthy, so I kept trying, so at least we could part on good terms. I really didn't want bad feelings. I wanted a good memory. The fact is, I found out this person had a long history of infidelity, and abuse. The red flags were everywhere. Why would I care what this person thought, or why would I want to have him in my life at all. It made me realize there needs to be a shift, to me really thinking about what is best for me. What is good for me. Not what that other person wants.
I met with an old friend recently. And he said to me "you have been living for others so long, you dont even know how to live for yourself" and its completely true. I dont post certain things because I dont want a certain someone to think its about them. ALWAYS worrying about what this person thinks or feels. But what about me! What do I feel! What do I want!. Part of accepting the bullshit has been my focus on the other, what they want they get. I would bend over backwards to accommodate even if it meant sacrificing myself. Treat me like shit, you must be right, because I cant possibly matter. My job is to smooth it over with you. This is what deep down I believed. A complete lack of boundaries.
So this is something I have to work on, to walk away when respect is not being served, and do walk away early. I was told by my psychologist, that if you feel a strong irresistible pull towards someone that is a sign its toxic. I believe this is true.
I guess its a break though that I finally see that that behaviour is unacceptable, and I definitely did not deserve it. I guess the next step is to learn how to walk away and let go as soon as it appears.
I am hoping the readers of this blog will comment with their experiences. You can post anonymously, I think there is a lot of value in all of us sharing our story.
And Ted, I can see that you check my blog every morning. I also see you driving by all the time. You know as well as I do my house is not on your way. I know your monitoring me. Stop