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Realizing the damage done

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Kintsugi posted 7/8/2020 09:13 AM

If she was upset, then the adult thing to do is to talk about it. Not stew in resentment and then punish you. That's how teenagers handle shit.

Hi Elle, thanks for the input. What's becoming painfully apparent is we both have work to do on our side of the street. Me for communication style in arguments and maybe her/us for how we communicate in the long run.

They are Criticism, Contempt, Defensiveness, and Stonewalling. And from what you've described, I can see some Criticism and a good bit of Stonewalling in your interactions with her.

Thanks Cham, you nailed it. Others have mentioned Gottman, and I'm now getting around to diving in. Gottman and the Four Horseman was a topic in my IR awhile back. I guess I'm getting the opportunity to connect the dots on a personal level as the pattern of behavior is clearly there. Honestly, Gottman never entered my mind in our interactions, I was so focused on changing the behavior on my own, and ignoring the needed understanding behind my behavior to change it. Sometimes you don't know, what you don't know until you know it, recognize it and acknowledge it.

I do think this lady was trying to get through to you, but even here, you've dismissed her as "overly sensitive". So, let's go with that. Let's say she's a sensitive gal... what that means is that the stonewalling she's getting while trying to reach you is just going to heighten her sensitivities as she's shut out. So, not only is her emotional plea being ignored, it's being tossed completely out of the house.

Ouch. That sound of the 2x4 and subsequent light bulb moment hurts, but well deserved and welcomed. Thank you for that insight. Coming full circle on the issue of "overly sensitive" I'm understanding she was probably in a state of hypersensitivity because of the history. Each event heightened her sensitivity level, and without understanding on my part the situation escalated.

Yes, no matter what happens this has been quite the learning experience. I own my role in how I haven't dealt with conflict. I don't know how it's going to play out, if she has the faith and willingness to take the risk, or even acknowledge in the bigger picture the understanding that we both played a role getting here.

EllieKMAS posted 7/8/2020 10:54 AM

Coming full circle on the issue of "overly sensitive" I'm understanding she was probably in a state of hypersensitivity because of the history. Each event heightened her sensitivity level, and without understanding on my part the situation escalated.
OK, so your side of the street here and the lesson you can take is to be more aware of the other person's feelings and how your interactions affect things. Learn to manage your own conflict better.

But I still say - if she is overly sensitive due to her own history (apart from you), then THAT part is hers to manage herself. You aren't responsible for that background.

Ex: My dad was a grade-A jerk. He was incredibly critical and did a lot of emotional and mental damage. Has it colored my reactions? You betcha it has. But if my partner has something to talk to me about that is a legitimate criticism of something I am doing in the relationship, it isn't fair to them for me to claim 'daddy issues' and shut the conversation down because I am sensitive to criticism. My dad issues aren't my partner's responsibility to manage. Those issues are on MY side of the street.

Point I am making is that if you can get back together and both of you can learn and grow from this experience, great! If that isn't going to happen, then learn what you can about yourself and use this to try to further your own personal growth.

ChamomileTea posted 7/8/2020 14:26 PM

Gottman never entered my mind in our interactions, I was so focused on changing the behavior on my own, and ignoring the needed understanding behind my behavior to change it.

Gottman is awesome. Read all you can because he's just that good. If you noticed in the essay (which as actually written by another therapist).. the "flooding" you described in your earlier posts is what causes the stonewalling. When your reactions are that strong, there's most likely some leftover damage from either FOO, or in your case, maybe the trauma of the last relationship. It's up to you to figure out what's actually causing the flooding.

And maybe your girlfriend is bringing in some of her previous baggage too. And like Ellie points out, that's something she needs to get to the root of. Because let's say, for example, that you're working your new communications style perfectly, and your criticism has become constructive complaint. If she's still HEARING criticism, you're going to get defensiveness, and defensiveness is just as damaging to the relationship.

I do hope it all works out for you. She's asked for NC for now, and it's respectful to follow her wishes. But it sounds to me like you two have something worth saving.

Kintsugi posted 7/16/2020 15:29 PM

Hi everyone.

This is tough. I've been pretty good (not perfect) on the no contact. She's blocked me though regardless. We had a long talk two days ago, it was the two weeks she asked for. I had hoped she would say yes to Gottman couple counseling. She at first said ok, but the next day she texted and said she wasn't interested in counseling with me, she wants to be alone, I should go to counseling and wanted her space for "at least four months."

She thinks I'm a narcissist. Reading a healthline article on the subject reads like she wrote straight from it in her earlier communication. I don't think I am, but that is her perception and that hurts deeply. I scored a 2 on an online NP quiz, over 20 is a narcissist.

I talked to a former therapist on the phone for a bit. She said it well. It sounds like for our own reasons we were both hurting in the relationship and we pulled back for our own reasons. This makes sense to me and explains why neither of us were able to see the other persons point of view. I was checking out in my own way, she was checking out in her way and the resentment grew.

Even so, reading the Healthline info on narcissism hits close to home. She see me as criticizing, belittling, gaslighting, and not committing to her emotionally. Ouch. And like she's done by blocking me, the article says to block the person so they stay true to their decision to GTFO. How did it ever get to this point.

[This message edited by Kintsugi at 3:36 PM, July 16th (Thursday)]

Kintsugi posted 8/11/2020 11:31 AM

Hi everyone, an update and probably lead in to a close out.

The two occasions we sat down since the break up and talked initially looked promising toward some sort of path forward together, only to be followed up the next day with an "I need to do this" type of response and we remained in break up. The option for counseling was denied ("I don't want to go to counseling with you"). We had some Messenger communication a few weeks back, only to have her state she had to go because she was overwhelmed. She is having someone pick up the remainder of her things tomorrow. This is done.

A few weeks back I ran across a file I had written and scanned from late 2018. I completely forgot about it. She and I sat down and talked this out back in 2018. It has three parts as written on the sheet of paper. 1) "Feelings - I don't know what you are feeling until you tell me" 2) "I only see the behavior resulting from the feelings. (Beliefs)" This has a dotted line to "criticism" which I read this to mean how I feel in her communication to me. Essentially sections 1 and 2 diagram that I needed her to tell me in "when you do X it makes me feel Y" fashion so I could understand and validate the feelings.

Telling her what I needed so I could understand and validate never happened. She never initiated any discussion. Come to learn she continued to bottle up it all up and not communicate how she was feeling, ultimately leading to the break up. The wedge issue is what I now know is stonewalling. That being me asking her to leave as the physiological flooding overwhelmed me, and I thought in doing so I was simply asking for some space. NOT! This was all the reason she needed. I'll give her this, I knew with each instance of asking for space and that she go back to her place, the clock was ticking. I didn't understand what was going on inside me, that it had a name and there was a strategy we could have taken. The problem with that I needed her help to do it. I think saw it as "my problem" only and the "you" language, you never/you always played a role to getting me to that point. We had so much more going on.

3) The following is what she had texted in 2018 during an argument I think that prompted me to diagram out items 1 and 2. This is her texting to me and it mirrors the sentiment I provided earlier in the thread of an email she sent prompting the break up. To me, these are broad sweeping generalities, that I can't do much with other than to say, "ok, I hear you." To fix it, I need more specifics, which never came in my mind:

-I'm always blamed every time there's an issue.

-It's causing me to question myself.

-I can't handle the responsibilities of your low self-esteem, I do try not to contribute to them as sensitive as I can be.

-But I feel if I want to make a statement of how you are acting or being it gets turned around into I am attacking you.

-I am not trying to attack you.

-I am just trying to be open about the way you are acting towards me.

-That makes me feel like I can't speak my mind in front of you.

-So I find myself holding things inside of me.

-I am starting to feel like I am allowing myself to be treated as if my feelings don't matter.

-Allowing my feelings to not be validated.

-I do not want to live that way and feel insecure.

As I read the above from 2018 and compare it to similar sentiment from June my mind is blank on the specifics that transpired for her to make these statements and which prompted me to seek tangible behavior examples in 2018. I'm pretty dialed into the "I feel X when you do Y" concept, and I'm at a loss of what I specifically did or said for her to make these sort of statements in 2018 let alone more recently in June. I've learned she is a "you" person when in disagreement, and rereading that claim, I guess I can be too if I sometimes questioned her being oversensitive.

Reading the 2018 and similar June sentiment from her has really frustrating me. As I look to the next chapter in my life, I'm trying to use this as a learning opportunity, and I'm LOST trying to figure out the magnitude what may have been said to result in those statement, and understand it. She continued since 2018 to generally not communicate her feelings until it exploded into break up.

The breakup has to be for the best. I'm at a loss to the communication break down. The reference to "I'm (she) is always blamed every time there is an issue" REALLY has my head spinning.

I mentioned early on I did a "Seinfeld-like" eye roll/ facial expression in our final argument, she programmed a radio station for a city that was two hours from our home location, and I had a quick thought, "seriously?", thinking we'd never pick it up the signal when we got home, having lost our local radio station on the way down while traveling. This upset her. The facial expression eye roll wasn't the norm, at least, I don't think it was. I will say and acknowledge, I had become increasingly frustrated with certain aspects of our relationship, maybe it reflected on my overall demeanor. I knew facial expression/eye roll upset her at the time and looking back I think I did dismiss it as being overly sensitive. I didn't apologize, I stewed on it on the ride home, I was frustrated over an equally minor incident the previous day (I had a piece of dry skin and gently and playfully, I thought, hit her arm with it and she stormed off). I did think she was being overly sensitive on both incidents (I know, this is a red flag on me that invalidates her feelings). I don't think the eye roll thing was the norm. I am aware it is invalidating and poor behavior. I thought she was picking fights and I had dug in over my own growing frustration and the "fight" the day before. What a difference an apology could have made. Honestly, I think she was trying to instigate fights to initiate a breakup. It exploded when we got home, the pattern of me asking her for space and to go to her place kicked in and here we are. Do I want to be right, or happy could not be more true. Maybe I just answered my own question. How many more incidents were there like this that I don't remember? We just didn't communicate and work it out. Neither of us initiated communication. I chalk this up to differences in how men and women communicate or maybe even individual people. I didn't feel every fight or emotion had to be talked out, maybe she did. I always had to desire and expectation for something to be talked out it needed. She didn't initiate or communicate her need to.

Maybe this is just a final vent, oh well. Thank you for helping me learn about myself.

[This message edited by Kintsugi at 2:08 PM, August 11th (Tuesday)]

EllieKMAS posted 8/11/2020 11:45 AM

kintsugi, the bottom line here is that all YOU can control is YOU. You have the power to speak to your needs and wants. You have the power to control how you act and react. You have the power to have an adult discussion and change your actions accordingly if you so choose, or to walk away from a situation where the other party is not respectful of your boundaries.

Her own background and issues are HERS to deal with. Yes, maybe you rolled your eyes and it hurt her feelings - but an adult would communicate about that. I don't know her issues, but from what you've said here IMO she doesn't clearly communicate her wants/needs/feelings, but instead expects you to just know them. That's not a lasting recipe for success. And that part of this is on her.

For you? My advice is to take this as a learning experience - let it make you smarter and kinder and learn which flags are red without the rosy lenses on. Wish her well and keep on moving. It's sucky, but hopefully learning from it will make it a little less so.

twicefooled posted 8/11/2020 13:08 PM

You can be 2 lovely people and still not be right for each other.

Just because you've put in 3 yrs doesn't mean you have to commit to wasting more time on this relationship, that doesn't seem to make either of you happy.

One thing my therapist told me stuck in my mind all these years: If you keep putting time into the wrong relationship, you aren't available for the right relationship.

Relationships really shouldn't be this hard. I'm sorry. I've had 2 relationships post-divorce (both ended for different reasons) but I discovered more about myself each time. Take some time to be alone and see how much better you feel.

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