what's normal?

iVillage Member
Registered: 02-15-2008
what's normal?
19
Wed, 07-14-2010 - 11:00pm

Hello All, I am new to this board. I'll try to make a long story short;) I suffered emotional abuse as a child and it has affected my self esteem my whole life. I know I can not blame my past and must stop the internal negative self talk but it has affected my whole life.

I left my home and got married at 20--now I realize it was to escape--not a good idea. My ex h had an affair and fell into drug use. I divorced at 25. At that time I sold all my belongings except for my summer clothes, my bike and my parakeet and moved thousands of miles away to Key West where I had friends from high school. I stayed for over 20 years :) I started painting full time, I'm an artist, I successfully opened galleries with artist friends and bought my own home on the water--sounds great doesn't it? It is truly a paradise!

During my time in Key West I had a relationship with a man who is an alcoholic. Of course, I always took care of him and 'fixed' everything but never expected the same for myself. Yes I know classic co-dependant, I have read all the books. So eventually I kicked him out told him I couldn't take it any more and lived happily single until I was 45 then I met King Turd! (not his actual name of course but a moniker given him by a friend;)

He was wonderful in the beginning--told me he loved me with all his heart and that he was the luckiest man on earth--yadda, yadda, yadda, we dated for a short time and got married. Within two years I discovered he was having online affairs was on dating sites listed as single, meeting women out of town when he was away for work and had ran up my credit cards to astronomical proportions and had taken tens of thousands of dollars from me. Of course, stupid me, I willingly helped him in every way I could before I discovered his nonsense. We separated and divorced 3 years ago. I went from my owning my own home and having a successful business to having to file bankruptcy and live with my sister in another state.

So now I am rebuilding my life. I met a new man 9 months ago and he is pretty wonderful. The total opposite of any other relationship in my life. He has had some health issues this past summer--open heart surgery--for a congenital heart condition. I was with him throughout the whole ordeal. He is much better, has almost totally recovered and feeling great. During this time I didn't work on my artwork totally was by his side. This week my Honey wanted to go to visit his family out of town and I said go, enjoy yourself but I NEED to get some work done. So all this week I have been at home by myself and I realize I don't know how to be in a truly healthy relationship!? When He didn't call me in the evening I kind of freaked! What? I have talked to him every day during the day. So I called him tonight and we had a great conversation.

So how do I not lose myself, again, in this relationship? What is normal behavior in a healthy relationship? Do I expect him to call at certain times? Am I being silly? How do you ask for what you want or need? I have a problem asking for anything! ugg! This week I realized my self esteem is still in the tank. I am so willing to give, give, give and don't feel I DESERVE to receive. Help? any thoughts?

Ollie

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iVillage Member
Registered: 09-10-2009
Fri, 07-16-2010 - 11:38am

hey, ollie, welcome to the board. i have trouble sometimes asking for what i need, too. but i feel so much better after i ask! i was thinking about this very issue the other day and i realized that my husband just wants me to be happy so if i need something from him i should just ask him. it's probably the same with your BF, too - he sounds like a great guy and that he really cares about you, and why wouldn't he want you to be happy? that should be enough reassurance for you :)


i think that the key ingredient for a healthy relationship - and others will probably disagree - is to

Avatar for firstglimpse
iVillage Member
Registered: 04-08-2003
Fri, 07-16-2010 - 1:48pm

{{hugs}}

What an ordeal you've been through. Have you ever had any sort of a relationship that was not abusive? Even with a girlfriend? Something to base a healthy relationship off of?

Also, you must have had some good esteem at one time or another. I don't think you can own a successful business worth tens of thousands w/o having some sort of esteem. So you do have something to refer back on somewhere.

I remember hearing, we marry our parents, which simply never made any sense to me at all. Until one therapist who explained it to me, as my H has characteristic of both my father & mother.

When we do not feel loved or accepted by our parents (such as from emotional abuse) and we meet somebody with our parents characteristics & they are able to show us love - then we have this life-long need of being accepted by our parents fulfilled.

So, we have 2 things against us.

1. B/c we were seeking acceptance from our parents we were willing to modify ourselves over & over trying to get it right. So learning to please people is in our building blocks of our personality. It's what we started to do from the very first days of our lives.

2. Then never feeling accepted by our parent(s), we then go find a partner that has these negative traits, so we can get them to accept us despite these traits.

---

So how do we get out of this loop? Well, I'm not 100%, but I have a theory....

Instead of looking for acceptance from other people, look for acceptance from ourselves.

This is what I tell my children. There is one person who is going to be there for every success in your life. There is one person who is going to be there every single time you fall. There is only person you can count on every single day of your life. Treat this person well & make this person your best friend. This person is you.

Maybe if we can look at our partners as spices in our lives. They are not what sustains us, but instead adds flavor.

What is 'normal' I wish I could tell you. I have not a clue. How often do you need him to call? Well, I guess it's between the two of you?

How do you ask him for what you need? Well, start with something small. Try one thing at first, something that seems 'normal' to you. So for example you could say something like, 'you know I love talking to you every day and if I get a good-night before bed I sleep much better.'

Another therapist told me ALL relationships have some form of co-dependency. It's what makes relationships work. I depend on my H to take out the garbage & he depends on me to change diapers. I lean on him, he leans on me. We get into our rituals & we tend to depend on each other.

Another thing you could try, which has helped me a great deal, is to learn about 'acceptance therapy' or 'mindfulness' or 'Buddhism.' They are all pretty much the same thing. The approach here is to learn how to focus & enjoy today rather than reliving the past and/or predicting the future. Life happens here, today, at this moment.

I leave you with two of my favorite quotes:

"The definition of forgiveness is giving up all hope for a better past."

"Yesterday is history, tomorrow is a mystery, and today is a gift; that’s why they call it the present."




"Only when we are sick of our sickness shall we cease to be sick."

~ Lao-Tzu, from The Tao Te Cheng



"Only when we are sick of our sickness shall we cease to be sick."

~ Lao-Tzu, from The Tao Te Cheng
iVillage Member
Registered: 02-15-2008
Fri, 07-16-2010 - 6:17pm

Thank you so much firstglimpse!! Your words are so wise.

Yes I have had/do have good relationships. I have many friends in Key West where I lived for so long and I actually consider so many of them to be my family. I am always just a phone call or an email away I guess. Since I have moved I have not made many new friends. I have my sister and her two girls here and my Honey. I guess making other new friends would be a good step for me. But how to go about it?

I have studied and read many books about mindfulness and living in the now. My favorite is "A New Earth". It actually got me through my divorce when all seemed hopeless.

I think my favorite part of your response is about being your own best friend. I haven't been my own best friend and even with all the success I have achieved somehow I usually only saw the failures. I think I have sabotaged myself so many times. Listen to this negative talk! geeez!

If we married our parents, then oh my gosh, I must have married my Mother;) Lets hope that has stopped!

thanks for your insights!
Ollie

iVillage Member
Registered: 02-15-2008
Fri, 07-16-2010 - 6:20pm

Thanks for your insights Happy pants! You are right the past doesn't predict the future!

thanks, Ollie

Avatar for firstglimpse
iVillage Member
Registered: 04-08-2003
Sat, 07-17-2010 - 1:36pm

I'm not very good at making friends. I never have been. But maybe I have a few ideas for you to at least meet people.

1. Go onto Craigslist & under services offer to teach some art. This might give you an opportunity to meet people one on one in a non-threatening way - and make a buck at the same time.

2. There is a site called meetup.org. Right now I'm with a group of ladies who are trying hard to get monthly meetings/seminars/workshops together regarding mind & body fitness.

3. Take a class that is in something your developing. Like a cooking, gardening, or knitting class. Something you've had interest in, but never really perused.

----

So you do have good relationships. Maybe if you could sit down & think about these relationships, then write down (with pen & paper - not on a computer) what makes these relationships work. See if you recognize how these traits were developed. Then look at your relationship w/your bf, how does it compare. Are you treating it differently, why? Do you see places your skimping on the building a strong relationship like you have in the Keys?

This might sound bad, but are you a little bit intimidated in this relationship now because he doesn't need you as much? He's healthier and stronger & doesn't need you at bedside? Is there a part of you that needs him dependent on you?

--

As far as making yourself your best friend. This is not something that happens over night & it is something you have to work on for the rest of your life.

I have found just doing one small thing for myself & work on making it a habit helps a great deal. For me the first thing was big, not small, but it was to quit smoking. I realized this was a self-abuse and as long as I was abusing myself every single day I could never move forward. I replaced my after-dinner cigarette with a cup of herbal tea. This became my moment. Trading self-abuse with something that was actually good for me. I would recognize what I was doing and thanked myself for doing it. Then I started to look at my diet. What is one small thing I could do to start treating myself better. Etc. It's a slow process, but I would rather make it last than it be fast.

I have found as I start to treat myself better, my H treat me better too. I am an example of how people should treat me.

If you found a lost & scared puppy you would not come rushing it. Instead, you would try to gain its trust before taking into your arms. Make small gestures toward yourself and once you start to feel comfortable being nice to yourself - then you can do more.

If you want to change negative talk to positive, choose one thing. For example, though I'm not over weight, I'm larger than I ever have been. So every time I looked in the mirror I was seeing myself larger than I really was. I started looking in the mirror & finding the positive physical traits in myself. Within a couple of weeks I started to notice I was looking pretty good in the mirror ... and I had not lost a lb or an inch.

I am going to the library today. I'll look for the 'new earth' book.

Thanks!




"Only when we are sick of our sickness shall we cease to be sick."

~ Lao-Tzu, from The Tao Te Cheng



"Only when we are sick of our sickness shall we cease to be sick."

~ Lao-Tzu, from The Tao Te Cheng
iVillage Member
Registered: 02-15-2008
Sat, 07-17-2010 - 3:01pm

Hi firstglimpse, You will love the book. It is A New Earth by Eckhart Tolle!

thanks, Ollie

iVillage Member
Registered: 06-04-2010
Sat, 07-24-2010 - 12:13pm

Instead of looking for acceptance from other people, look for acceptance from ourselves.

It is a very noble concept but totally unreasonable for someone like me, not only with low self-esteem (actually "low" is not even accurate, more like non-existent) but with identity issues such as "who am I?" and "what are my morals and values?". Just my 2 cents.

iVillage Member
Registered: 09-10-2009
Sat, 07-24-2010 - 8:17pm
sorry to butt in - i don't think "who am i?" and "what are my morals and values?" are necessarily bad questions and don't mean that you have low self-esteem. it just means that you're trying to figure out your place in the world. as far as accepting yourself goes, if there is something about you that you can and want to change, then don't accept it until you make the changes you want. if there is something that you think could use improvement but don't want to work on, then you have to accept it by default. anyway, just my two cents :)
iVillage Member
Registered: 02-15-2008
Sun, 07-25-2010 - 5:18pm

thank you all for your comments! I guess that what I am lacking is valuing myself. I realize what I need to work on but sometimes I am at a loss and fall back into old behaviors--ie. beating myself up or placing others needs above my own. I am a master at that one! I also have a problem expressing what I need or feel out of some crazy fear of acceptance of others. Honestly after all I have been through I know I can survive just about anything.

First glimpse--interesting concept about my bf not needing me as much but I am not sure if that is what my issue is. I am glad he doesn't "need" me as much as far as his health is concerned. I am getting back into my work and new doors are opening for me in that aspect. A friend of mine commented how I can be successful in my work and have the ability to say NO and stand my ground but in my personal relationships I have difficulties. How do all of you say NO without fearing judgement or abandonment?

Here is my latest situation, I have been living with bf for 7 months. During this time he has had major heart surgery and fears about his job (he's a teacher) continuing among other things. I was by his side for his surgery, have supported him through his job fears and other things (he has a full time position now) and he is healthy and moving forward. All through this time I neglected my own business and myself and now I am playing catch up. I do not regret helping him by any stretch of the imagination. I love him dearly.

Lately he has had issues with my two dogs--by the way, they have lived here for the entire 7 months and are wonderful dogs, not destructive, friendly, housebroken and loveable--he says when they move in the night they wake him up! WTF! He has never said anything about this before! They have never kept him awake before--his snoring keeps me awake and I just put a pillow over my head and say nothing. Geeez! I think his insomnia is a product of something else and he is using my dogs as scapegoats. The pups sleep in their dog beds in the bedroom and have for their entire lives. To others animals may be a non-issue. To me they are my family, my fur kids, and have kept me sane for many years. I am an animal lover and when my dog's leave this earth I will have other pets. I have told BF this. He knew this when I moved in to his house. So I said well they can sleep downstairs. My older pup has no problem with that, the younger one on the other hand is not happy about it and has cried for two nights straight. I have to train him all over again and I am not sure how long it will take.

Compromise right? So I have been sleeping in the hallway upstairs when my pup yips I shush him and he stops so my BF can sleep and is not disturbed by my dogs. How crazy is that? I'm exhausted, not getting enough work done and BF doesn't seem concerned for my well being. Ugg. I know it is a long story, must be the sleep deprivation!

So how do I stop this insanity and say no more--put a pillow over my head and let BF do the same? I know it may take time for my 6 year old dog to be used to the change. How do I ask BF to compromise? thoughts?

Ollie

iVillage Member
Registered: 09-10-2009
Mon, 07-26-2010 - 8:34am
earplugs? or a deep-sleep CD that your BF can fall asleep to? when we first got our puppy DH and i didn't sleep very well because we were worried about him waking up in the middle of the night (which he did

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