Collateral Damage Pt. 2

Collateral Damage Pt. 2

I am angry. I am angry with myself mostly.

There is a lot of responsibility that lies squarely at my own feet for how I allow people to treat me. I am not blameless, though truthfully I’ve never claimed to be.

Rather I am achingly aware of my shortcomings and I spend a disproportionate amount of time focusing on them. I have low self-esteem and in incurable desire to care for people, to “love them whole”. Noble but not practical. It’s like having a neon sign above my head that reads “Free Heart Repairs Here While You Wait”. I unwittingly make myself available to the emotionally deficient and manipulative.

What is it about these people (men) that doesn’t stop me from getting drawn in? When it becomes clear that these people (men) are not suitable, why do I not turn and run?

I spend a lot of time processing the emotions of other people and I’m not very good at turning this off. It’s for this reason that I avoid social contact, unless it’s with a close knit group of people, because walking into a crowded room is like receiving the signal for hundreds of radio waves which all broadcast simultaneously.  I allow myself to be affected by each one of those radio waves as opposed to letting them simply move through or past me.

Sometimes I project these feelings without realising their origin (meaning they aren’t my emotions). This is bad, especially when I’m under stress and have the tendency to dissociate which  impairs my reaction to an emotionally charged situation. I will either shut down completely, try to run away or I will become defensive, agitated and shouty.

It’s not all doom and gloom though. On the positive side, my empathy makes me very good at helping others with their problems, talking through deeply emotional issues and providing comfort because I can feel their pain, sometimes on a visceral level. I can relate to others on a very intimate level and as a result of this the other person feels cared for, understood, appreciated, and I feel needed. This is the hook.

Co-dependency.

I am primarily focused on helping the other person but I do this at the expense of my own emotional well-being and welfare. Something that is apparent in a co-dependent relationship. This disorder was first identified around a decade ago while studying the interpersonal relationships in families of alcoholics but the term has broadened to include any dysfunctional family or relationship.

Often co-dependency is called relationship addiction because people with co-dependency very often form and maintain relationships that are predominantly one-sided, emotionally destructive and/or abusive. Co-dependents have low self-esteem and will look outwards to make themselves feel better and may do so through alcohol, drugs, food and/or sensory pleasures like gambling or indiscriminate sexual activity.

This can also be true for the INFJ who when stressed is forced to process data using our extroverted sensing function with which we have very little experience and with which we have extreme difficulty managing.

It’s been said that there is no better way to deal with your own pain than by helping someone else with theirs. It seems this is something I have taken to heart as a method of ignoring my own pain and consistently not dealing with it. Noble but not wise.

Childhood bullying, emotional trauma suffered at the hands of my ex-husband’s family, the divorce of my parents and my father’s subsequent marriage to a woman who despised me and my siblings, my emotionally distant relationship with my father, as well as my own divorce have all had long term effects made worse because I didn’t adequately deal with them.

The more I have tried to dull, cover and numb these painful events, the more I’ve sought out a subject to nurture, take care of and “fix” without ever having afforded myself the space and time to sufficiently process my own traumas and heal sufficiently.

So where to from here?

It’s easy to feel uncared for when people cannot love you the way you need to be loved. It’s also difficult (for HSPs especially) not to internalise this as a reflection of your own self-worth.

The truth is, how people behave and operate has so much less to do with you than you think. It’s about their own insecurities, their own struggles, their own anxiety and feelings of inadequacy.

This is not evidence of your failings and it doesn’t mean you are difficult to love. Nor does it mean you are unworthy of love.

The fact that you can empathise and are able and willing to share your love even if it means having your heart broken, is a strength. Loving someone else is a courageous act.

And so the work isn’t to fundamentally change who I am, the work is to deal with what happened and leave it behind in the past where it belongs and make better choices. To stop making a choice of people who only make an option of me.

I am not too much, I am not needy, I am not too sensitive.

I am thoughtful, I am empathetic, I am kind, I am vulnerable, I am generous of spirit and I am enough.

You are enough.

 

Image by Amarit Opassetthakul and licensed by CC

 

What is love?

What is love?Some people will tell you that love is an emotion that stands on it’s own, that it is independent of all others. I am not one of those people.

I do not give any credence to statements like “love is enough” or “sometimes love just isn’t enough”, whichever the case.

Love is not security.

Love is not sex.

Love is not companionship.

I believe there are three pillars upon which love is built. Essentially, I believe that love is a by product of these foundational elements, which are;

Honesty

Trust

Respect

If you look at these three qualities it’s quite easy to see that they are what love, in it’s fullest and purest form is made up of and they all need to be present to enable love to exist in the first place. Unless you have all three of these elements, you don’t have love. You may have what appears to be love, infatuation, lust, affection, amongst others but you’re kidding yourself if you believe you have love.

So with this in mind, let’s look at these three elements.

Let’s start with honesty, because it’s a big one and one with which we all have the most trouble.

Honesty means more than just telling the truth. It also means being sincere with your words and your actions, being fair, true to yourself and your partner, and having integrity. Honesty vastly begins and ends with you.

Unless we can be honest with ourselves and take ownership of our shortcomings, we will have a very difficult time being honest with and accepting honesty from others.

There are many people who claim to be “honest above all else” yet, in my experience, it is usually these very people who when confronted with dishonesty or lies, all do one thing; they get angry and/or defensive. Understandably so. We hate to confront our shortcomings especially when anything less than perfect is “undesirable”, certainly in modern popular culture.
I’m no psychiatrist but I do know that anger and defensiveness are often used to deflect that which we refuse to acknowledge about ourselves and if you refuse to accept your own shortcomings, how is it that you can be so audacious as to call out the shortcomings of your partner, or anyone else for that matter? We are not all guilty of the same behaviours but we do all have shortcomings and unless we can sit down and be truly honest with ourselves first, how we expect honesty to survive in a relationship? For this element to build a foundation for love it must not simply survive, rather it must be cultivated, nurtured.

I am not saying that we should run around the surface of the earth blurting out every subjectively honest thing we think our loved ones should be made aware of or that we try to use honesty to justify unhealthy or unkind behaviour within a relationship romantic or otherwise.

This brings us to trust, the timid, nervous and extremely fragile little animal inside each of us that is often the one who takes the most abuse in life.

Trust is not simply a placing of expectation that we will not be hurt in another person’s metaphorical hands, it is also the placing of one’s hope, confidence and faith in another person with the hope that person does not hurt us. An action that demands we make ourselves vulnerable and this scares us.

It scares us because to a large extent vulnerability has a negative connotation in an age where we are continually told we—both genders but especially men—must be strong; yet strength and vulnerability are not mutually exclusive.
Being vulnerable and placing one’s trust in someone else takes an immeasurable amount of strength and is therefore not weakness at all, especially given how trust in others can take such brutal beatings.

There are very few people, if any, who have not at some point had the trust they placed in someone completely decimated but it is the one thing we need to be able to give that defines the trust you receive in return.

The final foundational element is respect and as with honesty, unless you respect yourself, you will be unable to give respect to another.
Respect–are you also singing Aretha Franklin in your head or is it just me…?–is not just esteeming a person for their position in your life, but respecting them in how you treat their body, their feelings, their thoughts as expressed to you and how you conduct yourself when they are not around.
Respect is taking into consideration how your actions will directly affect that person, especially if this effect is negative. It’s more about recognising someone else’s position in our life as important, valuable and worth honouring. If you do this your treatment of that person will be positive. If you don’t, it’s likely to be quite negative.

So with this in mind, I think it’s easy to see why I don’t believe that love is an emotion that stands on its own merit. If you have neither honesty, trust or respect there can be no love. This is because love in its fullest form is honest, it is trusting, it is respectful.

As three strands twist together to make a rope, so honesty, trust and respect twist to make love.

The twist of the strands in a rope serves not only to keep a rope together, but enables the rope to more evenly distribute tension among the individual strands. Without any twist in the rope, the shortest strand(s) would always be supporting a much higher proportion of the total load.

It is the same for love. If there is uneven distribution between partners, friends, colleagues etc., one person will always be bearing the bulk of the emotional load and if there is one thing I’ve learned in my life, it’s that this uneven yolk will breed resentment and like I have said before resentment is relationship cancer.

More than this however, uneven yoking in a relationship will cause one person to become fatigued, unbalanced and will set the stage for abuse in some form, be it physical, emotional or psychological and this will eventually lead to the demise of the relationship. If it doesn’t, it will perpetuate unhealthy habits within the relationship and that is not good for anyone.

Thank you for reading.

Fight Club: How To Fight A Fair Fight In A Relationship

Fight Club: How to Fight a Fair Fight In a Relationship

Relationships, especially romantic relationships require work, they require love in action, they require compromise and a necessary element of working out our issues comes in the form of a fight.

A fight does not have to be a screaming match, nor does it necessarily have to be something we look at negatively. A fight that is fair, has boundaries and is constructive can do your relationship the world of good, clear the air, set things straight and often bear some pretty tasty fruit aka make-up sex.

If you want your relationship to be one that weathers the stormy days, then implementing some clearly defined boundaries when you fight is essential. Though not an exact science because no two relationships are alike, here are some practical and helpful guidelines to ensuring that you are not only heard but that you hear what your partner is saying, which will in turn help you to address concerns levelled at you and most importantly, deal with the issue at hand and move forward. No one wants to fight over the same thing time after time, it’s frustrating, not at all constructive, demoralising and largely unnecessary.

Fight Club Rules
1. You do not talk about fight club
Aside perhaps from trying to gain perspective and guidance from only your closest and most trusted confidants do not get caught up in the trap of bad mouthing you partner every time you have a disagreement.
Constant bad mouthing will create a negative and one-sided perception that you would not appreciate were the shoe on the other foot. After you’ve kissed and made up, your relationship may lose credibility in the eyes of your friends.

2. You do not talk about fight club AT ALL on social media
This really should go without saying but having witnessed couples having a go at each other whilst still together or shortly after having broken up, it warrants repeating.
Break-ups can be messy, emotional, and traumatic events for the couple going through a separation, yet are largely storms in teacups taking place in a land far away for bystanders and friends.
If you condemn your partner or ex on a public platform, prepare to be judged for every utterance, which can severely affect relationships with mutual friends. Always remember, when you fling mud, you’re likely to get some on yourself.

3. If Someone Says Stop, The Fight Is Over
No two people have the same temperament, tolerance levels and attention spans. To expect your partner to sit through an overly detailed account of everything they’ve been perceived by you to have done wrong can be exhausting. When tensions rise and you are nowhere near to resolving the conflict, you may need to take a break and calm down.
No one likes to be shouted at. No one likes shouting because they feel they are not being heard either. When it stops being constructive, take five (or fifty) minutes to breathe. Come back to resolve the issue when you are both calm. Be respectful of your partner’s desire to take a time out and conversely, don’t leave it for too long if you know your partner likes to sort things out and move on faster than you do.

4. Only Two People To A Fight
There are two people in the relationship, there should only be two people involved in any given argument. The moment you involve a friend or family member in your intimate relationship, things are going to get messy. If you are arguing about what a third party said or did, look at the incident in and of itself and put yourself in your partner’s shoes.
If someone close to your partner offended you, for example, speak to that person directly and do not take it out on your partner. If a friend says something that is unwarranted of your partner, have your partner’s back and do not undermine them because you want to put on a show for your friends. This will damage the trust aspect of your relationship in the long term.

5. One Fight At A Time
Multi-tasking is an illusion – so are 2-in-1 shampoos but that’s a story for another day. Give arguments the attention and closure they deserve to prevent them from rearing their ugly heads time after time. It is not constructive to dredge up long buried events, especially if you are using that event as a form of defence against a gripe levelled at you by your partner. That tactic is tantamount to emotional manipulation and has no place in a healthy relationship. It may be that you don’t like what your partner has said; however when we face the truth about ourselves and the effect our actions have on others, it can be painful. Put your pride in your back pocket and commit to working on your flaws as much as you would like your partner to work on theirs. If one person is doing all the compromising—which in fact is no longer compromising but sacrifice—it’s going to cause resentment and that is relationship cancer.

6. No Fists, No Weapons
Ever.
If you or someone you know is trapped in an abusive relationship, please contact one of the following organisations;
Lifeline South Africa’s National Helpline on 0861-322322
Stop Gender Violence Helpline on 0800-150150
POWA – People Opposed to Women Abuse on 083-7651235
Family & Marriage Association of South Africa on 011-9757106/7

7. Fights Will Go On As Long As They Have To
Though do whatever you can to prevent an argument lasting past bedtime. Take the time to listen to your partner. Too often we listen with the intent to respond and are busy formulating our counter argument before that person is finished speaking. This will cause undue frustration.
I once heard of a couple who fought over text message in different rooms of the house, so they did not shout at each other, talk over each other or have their children witness their spat. They did have some guidelines like one message at a time and at intervals of a minute. This may not work for everyone but find a method that helps you minimise fallout, as it were.

8. If This Is Your First Night At Fight Club, You Have To Fight
It’s much easier to lay down some ground rules for a fight before you actually have one. Some rules that I apply to myself are as follows;
Never use absolutes (pun intended) – No matter how valid your point, you will derail your entire argument by using absolutes.
Cruelty is unnecessary – In my experience, cruelty is only ever used to detract from a valid argument. Don’t fall into the trap. When you calm down you will likely regret having said something awful and you will be unable to take it back.
Afford your partner the same courtesies you seek – For instance, if you hate being spoken over, do not interrupt your partner. If you don’t like being sworn at, do not swear at your partner. If you expect your partner to change minor behaviours, you should be prepared to do the same.
Do not use accusatory language – Speak in the first person, say ‘I’ more than you say ‘you’ and try not to point. If you appear to accuse then your partner will go on the defensive and is less likely to listen to you.
Apologise when you are wrong – When you realise you are wrong, apologise, sincerely and do not use the words “I’m sorry” as some sort of fix all that you bandy about to get you out of trouble or the words become meaningless.
Make amends – If you have unintentionally hurt your partner and are sorry, make amends immediately. Find out what your partners love language is and make it up to them.

If you still find yourselves unable to navigate the stormy seas, you may want to enlist the help of a relationship counsellor.
Before you balk at the idea of therapy, take cognisance of the fact that your car needs fuel, oil, and regular services to keep it in good mechanical health. Your relationship is the same. You can take precautionary measures and stop problems before they start or you can address the problems when you encounter them. Long gone are the days where couples therapy was perceived as a failure or something to be ashamed of or laughed at. In fact, it demonstrates your desire to maintain and in many cases, improve your relationship.

You often hear it said that ‘all you need is love’ and I am not here to argue that. Love is essential but you need more than love to preserve your relationship and couples therapy is one of those tools that can help you do that.