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Insight on detaching

ff4152 posted 6/13/2020 10:54 AM

Perhaps detaching isnít the right word, but itís the best I can come up with right now

One of my ďwhysĒ is my inability to accept some things for how they are. Wanting more from people when they either canít or wonít reciprocate what I put into the relationship. As an example, my sibling is the last family member I have alive (aside from my wife and son of course). I try and maintain contact with them but there is little interest on their part. We will talk and Iíll find out about some big event in their life. Iíll ask them to keep me updated and nothing. Iíll poke them from time to time and I may get a one word response but thatís it.

To clarify, theyíve been this way most of their life. Their friends typically always came before the family. To be fair, if I was ever in dire straits, I know I could call them and they would be there. I had always hoped that the behavior would change but it doesnít look like it ever will.

My question is, how does one accept that this is how it is and move on? I know this is how my sibling is yet it still gets me tied up in knots. Aside from the emotional turmoil it causes me, Iíll go to the extreme and completely detach from the relationship. Iíll go NC and when they finally reach out, I will be emotionally disconnected for a time. Iíll open back up and the whole cycle repeats itself.

Zugzwang posted 6/13/2020 11:19 AM

Aside from the emotional turmoil it causes me, Iíll go to the extreme and completely detach from the relationship. Iíll go NC and when they finally reach out,
I try and maintain contact with them but there is little interest on their part.

Well, try to use what you did when you cheated on your wife, was it 7years? and apply it here to understand why other parties might do the same. You separate and detach the same way they do. Maybe a FOO thing? Maybe it might be more, be honest and ask why those people might have little interest on their part to be in a closer relationship with you. You have described yourself as having other addictions before you cheated. Maybe it is possible you are emotionally draining to them and they choose to keep you at arms length. Maybe you rely too much on them to keep you afloat? Bite the bullet, communicate and ask. Overall, use what you did to your wife to understand it all. Much of what you described being done to you is exactly what you were willing to do and still do to her.

Carissima posted 6/14/2020 03:52 AM

No stop sign.

With regards to your brother what was your dynamic growing up? Was it always like this or were you close as children but have grown apart as you have gotten older.

Did anything happen which could explain the rift if you were closer before?

Some people are just not comfortable sharing their lives with other people, even family.

I can't remember if you do IC but it may be worth discussing whether putting this in writing and sending it to your brother may be worthwhile.

Pippin posted 6/14/2020 08:11 AM

Hi ff4152, one of the things I've always liked about you, and not understood very well, is how you keep expecting people to be kind to you, to help you when you need help, and keep getting frustrated by them. It has come up over and over in your posts. Why are you so eternally optimistic, and always disappointed? I have wondered about it. I've wondered because I have a different dynamic and yours looks so foreign to me.

Here's my armchair psychology, since I know how suspicious you are of IC and probably not talking to one right now (you have the same dynamic with them, don't you? Worried about it, put yourself out there, expect help, get a little, then they always disappoint you and/or try to kill you).

If I remember correctly, your mother remarried when you were 4. So up to that age, you probably had a more or less responsive mother. She helped you when you needed help, loved you, etc. After that, she married your awful stepfather. And he was horrible!! I am so sorry for how he treated you. And even worse, he seemed to treat your siblings well, so you had the feeling that it was somehow your fault that you were the scapegoat. But worse than your stepfather's treatment was your mother not defending and protecting you. The things you have written turn my stomach. No mother should tolerate her child being treated that way by a man, let alone bring him in the house and witness it over and over without making it stop. i am so, so sorry that happened to you. So that set you up for this dynamic you experience over and over - you know that she can love you, can protect and help you (up to age 4), and then she stops (after age 4). You both expect to be loved and dread it being taken away, being left on your own and vulnerable.

With your friends and family, i suspect you set up tests for them to try to precipitate what you dread happening. like posting photos on facebook that show you need help or attention, then being upset when they don't reach out. And you probably communicate that demand and expectation and frustration, and they intuit it, and avoid you. And I'm sure you can see that pattern with your relationship with your wife and the affair.

That's not to say that they are not wrong, difficult, self absorbed, or at the very least imperfect. They definitely are. But your experience of it is worse than it needs to be, because it's a replay of your existential crisis, and you are probably also seeing things that are not really there.

So what to do? When i notice my old patterns replaying, the noticing itself helps, some. it doesn't make it go away but i can step outside it a bit. Feeling all those lonely and misunderstood feelings from when i was younger helps - i didn't give them any space then, because i had to march on. you have to re-experience it, feel it, to start to heal it.

another thing that helps is talking it over with someone who is not in the middle of it. my husband is my reality check when i'm losing it, and i'm his when he is experiencing old patterns (his are very different from mind, and easy for me to see, hard for him to see). When you're re-experiencing it i think you literally don't see reality clearly. Someone to help you really see what's going on can help so much, especially if they know your patterns.

IC, of course, and you can talk to the IC directly about your suspicions that they are going to let you down. if that feels terrifying, or hard, or if you avoid it, you know you are in the right ballpark.

And my SI friend, i have to be honest, the thing that really has helped me is religion, prayer, spirituality. My IC gets it wrong, my friends get it wrong, and my husband despite all he wants to do for me gets it very wrong sometimes (cue the song jesus is my only friend by sweet honey in the rock. i love that song). i remember a day i was just miserable, lonelier than i had ever felt before, and i went up to the church i used to go to every day to cry and felt such an enormous comfort. it took a long time to get there - luke 11 on persistence, months of it! but it's the only REAL help there is. The people who care for me (imperfectly) are showing a reflection of the perfect care, and when i experience that it's healing.

Hope that helps ff4152. i really hope you can find another way to keep growing.

(sorry for the erratic caps, my shift key is sticky)

Chili posted 6/14/2020 11:11 AM

Hey ff - I don't read or post too much in Wayward, but the Detaching in the title caught my eye. I'm a big proponent of learning how to detach from unhealthy people in a healthy way. And so here's my .02:

completely detach from the relationship.

I'm not sure you really do this during your cycles. I think perhaps it is one of those things you do to protect yourself (NC = no new hurts), but also to "see how they respond" or "what it might get you." Sort of a self-fulfilling prophecy or as another poster said, maybe a little test. Because you do still care - because it does still "tie you in knots."

I'm not a big fan of unspoken resentments. And I get that sometimes people really can't sit and have a truth-telling conversation. That's my cue to stop beating my head against the wall, but I always try to express the real or imagined crap that's in my head. Then I'm not walking away without giving it the old college try. It's terribly difficult for a lot of people to have empathy, much less translate the things in your head.

When I've had to set boundaries with people in my life or end a relationship, the self-talk that goes through my head has to do with really letting go. Letting go of the outcome. Letting go of the expectations. It sounds like, "Well, they really don't have the skills (or maturity or self-awareness or whatever your ______ is) to have a genuine loving relationship with me." Or even sometimes on a kinder scale: "We are very different people with different life goals and we just don't have enough common ground." They just can't and I'm not going to keep looking for it there any longer.

It took me a long time and a lot of hard work to learn how to truly detach. Doesn't mean there's not still a good dose of sadness that goes with it though.

ff4152 posted 6/14/2020 16:58 PM


My sibling and I are night and day personality wise. They are outgoing, large circle of friends, the golden child who went off to college and got a degree.

I was the longer, one or two friends, was my own best company who got kicked out of the house at 18.

We didn't really get along while living together. They were more into their friends that their weird little brother. That attitude was tempered once we lived apart and grew older. We became closer for a time after my mom died but that has gone by the wayside. We haven't really had any rifts in a very long time and do enjoy each others company when we do get together.


IDK if my mother was aware of the abuse or not because he never did anything while she was around. He never really left any physical marks either aside from a slightly swollen lip from time to time. If my mother noticed, she never said anything.

With your friends and family, i suspect you set up tests for them to try to precipitate what you dread happening. like posting photos on facebook that show you need help or attention, then being upset when they don't reach out.

I typically don't air any dirty laundry on FB. I think this mostly ties in with expectations and feelings of abandonment. I broached this subject with my IC once and he said I should try to remember that these people have lives too. He went on to say that its unreasonable to expect people to constantly "hit me up" when their lives and families obviously come first.

I do agree and understand that to a point. I guess where I have an issue and acknowledge the problem could lie with me, is feeling like I'm not a real priority when I don't hear from them. When I find that I'm the one doing most of the reaching out. This is more prevalent with my sibling that my friends which is why it is all the more painful to me.

I've talked this over with my wife ad nauseum and I suspect she is tired of hearing it over and over again. She has a similar situation with her family so she gets where I'm coming from but doesn't have any real solutions either.

I do envy you and others who can derive such comfort from religion. I attended church at a very young age and did the whole baptism/confirmation thing. I lost all interest and belief in it in my early teenage years. That feeling solidified when my own family turn their backs on me. I won't go into a whole woe-is-me diatribe save to say, I felt if there is a God, he turn his back on me long ago. I made my own way without his help and it had more or less worked so far. I certainly don't deride those who choose to believe, I just cannot wrap my head around it. Believe it or not, I wish I could.


I was so very trusting for a very long time. So much so that I often trusted folks who weren't deserving. As a result, I was often taken advantage of. Over time, I could completely detach from a person and shut them off emotionally. Very clearly developed this as a defense mechanism which initially helped.

The problem I have is its always on a hair trigger. When I think someone is pulling away or not showing any interest, I get upset. Because of this, I never have a real sense of when I'm being unreasonable and when I'm not.

Letting go of the outcome. Letting go of the expectations.

I do see these phrases all over SI and while I do see their merit, I have no idea how to IMPLEMENT them. Does that make any sense? I do want to be able to let go of these expectations and let the chips fall where they may.

HellFire posted 6/14/2020 17:30 PM

I'm so very sorry about your childhood.

I would have to think your mom knew. Or,at least, suspected. She didn't ask,because it was easier to pretend it wasn't happening. Asking meant she might have to do something, and she didn't want to uproot her life. A kid doesn't just get a swollen lip,occasionally, and mom doesn't notice. My kids get a scratch,I ask what happened. Of course, I'm over vigilant, because my mom was a lot like yours. I believe she knew her husband was touching me,but if she asked she might have to confront him. And he beat her on occasion so it was best not to ask,in her mind, I suppose.

As to the siblings not reaching out. Maybe they are going through something, and just can't find the energy. Let me explain. I've recently been diagnosed with trigeminal neuralgia. The pain is debilitating. All of my emotional energy goes to my kids, grandbabies, and husband. I just have nothing left right now. When my siblings reach out, I have trouble engaging. Im not detached. I adore my siblings. I just Can't right now. I would hate for them to feel I don't care. Maybe your siblings have something going on in their lives that make it hard for them to engage. Maybe it's them,not you.

Thissucks5678 posted 6/14/2020 17:32 PM

Hey, ff. I feel like a broken record posting about attachment styles all over SI at this point, but I just learned about them recently and they gave me a lot of insight into myself and my WH. Maybe you could look into that for yourself. Based on your posts, I canít quite figure out what attachment style you may have, but it might give you some insight into yourself and what you are looking for from others.

I wish you well and I hope this helps you. I know Iíve spent a lot of my life being let down by people. Itís only since after dday that Iíve been able to stop expecting so much from others. We are all just people doing the best we can to get by, you know? Everyone has their own issues that they came into this world with so for me at this point, as long as the other person is basically good and kind - thatís enough for me.

hikingout posted 6/15/2020 09:57 AM

Hellfire touched on what I was thinking...

And that is sometimes you have to just realize that other peoples behaviors are usually about them and not about you. We have no idea what our reach out points mean to someone else or why they can't reciprocate.

One of the things that is equally important to realize is that what you do may also be more about you than it is about them. Sometimes we look for unbelonging or slights, and we continue to try with that person. Sometimes we do things simply so they will reciprocate. Otherwise, we would probably just keep reaching out when we are thinking about them and show them that unconditional kindness.

Maybe what you need to acknowledge more are your expectations and whether they are something you can separate from. Otherwise we set our selves up for disappointment. If you instead say I am reaching out to this person so they know I care rather than a litmus test of your worth, then you can release your attachment to outcomes.

Hutch posted 6/15/2020 15:24 PM

I have a bit of a different perspective on relationships. My mother's siblings are quite interesting in that they can hold grudges like no other. I've never seen anything like it before. But I don't understand how you can go through so much in life with someone, they are your flesh and blood/siblings, and then cut them off. It's very strange but I watched my mother's sister do that. She and my mother shared different desires for their mother's care when she aged and they literally stopped talking. In my mother's defense, she did try, but my aunt would not budge. Sadly, my mother raised her sister for many years so this was a heart-breaking situation. My mother's sister died two years ago and they never reconciled. It's something my mother grieved and still cries about two years later.

I believe in removing toxic relationships from our lives. They serve no purpose but to bring you down and hurt you. BUT it's so very difficult when that is a family member or someone you really love. If you had a friend who didn't speak to you, you could easily move on. A sibling or someone you love, not so much. As people, we tend to desire the closeness of family. Affair aside, you are a family man who does love his family very much so it's natural you would want to have a loving relationship with your sister. I imagine that desire is even stronger because she is the only family you have left.

I've learned in life that we can only try in relationships. You can only put the effort in but if it's not reciprocated, we can't control the other person or that outcome. You can hold your head high knowing you tried. At some point, if you find that you are getting more hurt over the lack of response and desire to remain close, then maybe reach out periodically to check in, see how she is, and make that effort. That's all you can do.

I know it sounds so simple. It's not. It hurts but to keep yourself in a good headspace and not fall down the rabbit hole of sadness, you take a deep breath and know you tried. Ultimately, it's her loss.

[This message edited by Hutch at 7:41 PM, June 15th (Monday)]

Pippin posted 6/16/2020 10:33 AM

ff4152, I feel that I didn't answer your direct question on detaching so here's another shot.

I do think that coming to a deep understanding of your patterns will be the ultimate source of detaching. So here's a practical strategy based on another pattern I think you have.

I think you have unstated expectations when you reach out and offer connection. Didn't your stepfather make some kind of contract with you when you were younger? You held up your end of the contract to get what you wanted, for MONTHS if I remember correctly, and toward the end, he ripped it up with flimsy/no reason and took away the thing you had worked so hard for. I think you are making unstated contracts with people and you think they are ripping them up. That's the hair trigger anger, the moment you think the contract has been torn up.

One thing you can do is to actually write out the contract! Bring to your consciousness the thing that is lurking down there. "I, FF4152, have not contacted my sibling for months. However, it is now Christmas, and I am going to purchase gifts and reach out. I am saying to myself that it is without expectation, but actually I really expect at the minimum an acknowledgement that they have been received, and really I think they should also call and have a nice conversation, reciprocal gifts are just polite, and since I'm always the one reaching out they should do more than that."

You've got to be honest. Totally honest with what you expect, what you want, what your vulnerable heart so wishes they would do. It's scary to be honest, even to yourself on paper. Because that's when you get hurt. Much easier to be angry and blame them for being bad people.

Then, rip it up or burn it. What the pieces float away on the wind, or the smoke rise up. I know it sounds weird, but this actual act may help you detach from their response.

Separately, when I say to share with your wife, I don't mean to go over the old script of how angry you are. Instead, tell her what you want and ask if she will give it to you instead. You want them to recognize you as a priority to them, generous and kind person, someone who reaches out, someone who wants connection. Ask her to validate that in you. And not so much with words. A hug and a little murmur in your ear would go so much further to soothing you.

***more religious stuff***

You can toss out all the religious stuff you learned when you were little and start over. Do you believe you are an accident of physics and molecules, or you were created? If you believe you were created, you can start with that and only that. And then be super angry with your creator for give you such a crappy life. I am hardly ever angry. I could tell you the last time I was thoroughly angry to the day, month and year. (I think it was at an SI moderator!). I imagined Jesus, on the cross, and I was a Roman guard whipping him. I was actually gritting my teeth, clenching my hands imagining that. I poured all of my anger into that imagining. At the end of that particular mental scenario, he looked at me with pity, and mercy. I know it sounds bizarre. It helped. You can be as angry as you want that you weren't cared for, and express it. He can take it.

Thanksgiving2016 posted 6/17/2020 23:03 PM

You put too much effort into wondering why your childhood family is screwed up and not enough concentration on the he family you have now. Your wife and kids. Stop wondering why someone doesnít love you enough and focus on the ones who deserve it. Your siblings are just living their lives with their families. My WH has the same problem. He fucked up our family worrying about ďhisĒ family who couldnít care less. Since DDay I have demanded no contact. Iím happy. He has some perspective.

JBWD posted 6/18/2020 08:47 AM

I try and maintain contact with them but there is little interest on their part.

I would offer up this piece Iíve emphasized. Everything weíre writing here emphasizes that youíre making pretty drastic assumptions. Life, digital intrusions, work, all pile on us in different ways. And I believe that WSs have far more work on setting reasonable expectations- Which comes first and foremost in articulating them- and assessing how/why those expectations go unmet.

While we have discussed some of the potential contributors to the feelings you have when this sense of rejection surfaces, I want to remind you that you arenít your feelings. So yes letís certainly understand them but letís first assess if theyíre ďvalid.Ē Has your brother said thereís little interest?

My point is while we can be contemplative here, donít forget that what led us to cheating was more often than not avoiding the very simple process of addressing a feeling or a hunch. You control you- Pick up the phone and call your brother. Or set aside time to discuss your problem with the relationship as it stands. What youíre accepting here hasnít been validated. Yes thereís a lifetime pattern but youíre allowing the assumption to drive you. Like we repeat among ourselves pretty regularly, ďThe grass grows where you water it,Ē so if itís a relationship youíd like to address/improve, be the one to reach out and try.

Great book this leads me to:
ďFeeling GoodĒ by Dr David Burns (This is my go-to.) Cognitive behavioral therapy. Teaches you to stop and put the brakes on emotions, and work yourself back upstream to actually determining if what you perceive is accurate.

ff4152 posted 6/19/2020 08:47 AM

I donít know if Iím avoiding the issue or just trying to be pragmatic. In the case of my sister and possibly other LTR, I want to try and not be so invested in the caring of ďWhyĒ people are contacting me. I think I care too much and as a result, often make incorrect assumptions about it.

I do think there is a balancing act; one which I suck at. I need to acknowledge that silence does not mean loss of interest or abandonment. At the same time, I shouldnít ďremoveĒ myself such that I abandon them. I suppose thatís what I meant about detaching.

But setting expectations.... What is reasonable and what isnít? I think with any relationship there is some give and take. I think all of us want some kind of reciprocity when having a relationship with someone. If youíre always reaching out or pushing the relationship along, at some point youíre going to ask yourself why are you the only one nurturing it?

But what if youíre really not pushing it as hard as you think? That what you have is actually quite normal in most circumstances but are just unable to see it? I have a strong suspicion thatís where I fall. I wonder if my fear of abandonment morphed me into the taker I eventually became?

thatbpguy posted 6/19/2020 09:33 AM

ff4152, if this helps, I live less than 20 miles from my brother (one year apart) and we haven't said 10 words to each other in 30 years.


Beats me.

He's a good man, but chooses people very carefully he wants to be with. He also is one of those types who just doesn't talk much. We have no issues between us, but he has simply decided that he doesn't want to speak with me or pretty much any other siblings. Some people are just like that.

Zugzwang posted 6/24/2020 11:59 AM

I think all of us want some kind of reciprocity when having a relationship with someone. If youíre always reaching out or pushing the relationship along, at some point youíre going to ask yourself why are you the only one nurturing it?

So ask your wife's opinion. I would guess that during your 7year affair she felt that exact same way. Ask her what she felt and what she thought? Even if she doesn't know you had an affair, I am sure she can see a difference if you have changed in the man you were a couple years ago and the man you are now. What you are banging your head against a wall about is your wife's experience. So, get her opinion. Do you think your wife was reaching out to you and she was the only one trying to nurture the relationship while you were having your affair?

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