I feel sick......
I feel shaky....
He still works at the church.............
He deserves to be on the list for sex offenders......
He deserves his Karma.....
We go through our days dancing around the topic. I need more, I need change. She has not called any therapists. I do not mention it and pretend it usually doesn't bother me. When I do break down about it she gets sad and angry. Why won't she call anyone if she has said she wants help? Am I being an enabler, just letting us hang in this limbo? How do I catalyze change without doing anything to push us apart? How do I keep her pain in mind without feeding a stalemate?
We have mild affection, hugging and cuddling, but we can go a year without anything more. I'm so sick of missing it.
Would it be productive of me to find a couples therapist and take the initiative to schedule therapy for both of us, instead of bothering her about getting her own therapist? Maybe that would be catalytic without being aggressive. Do I just need to put it out there and say "It upsets me that you aren't taking this step".
I'm terrified of a lifetime plateau.
I'm confused about something else too. I feel like this is a confession...even though I have not done anything. An old friend that was once an old flame has suddenly reestablished contact with me after years of silence. She just moved to the area and wants to pick up our friendship. We've spent a small amount of time together and it was good to see her. Thing is...it was so easy to remember what falling for this friend when things went well was like. We never dated and never would have worked, but there was marked sexual tension then and it was definitely present in our reunion.
I don't want to leave my partner or cheat on her, but it has just been strange noticing and processing this. The friend is flirtateous and affectionate toward me. I have to admit, being starved for affection, flirtation and intimacy, I like the attention. I feel guilty for that, for being distracted. Though - I remember why we never would have worked and why we stopped talking. That is just as clear as the more positive possibilities we once held. Time has mellowed us both out, but I am smart enough to know that some things never change and what I have with Vicki is infinitely richer.
I think the guilt comes from the fact that I enjoy the attention and would probably go after her if I were single. I feel like a bit of a hypocrit because I get very jealous of anyone showing interest in or flirting with Vicki. I see it as a threat, because if she can't give me much, but can flirt with someone else...what is wrong with me?
I am also thinking about what my own abuse has done to my personality...and if it has conditioned me to be an enabler, or how it is affecting or contributing to my relationship. I'm just thinking too much, it may be an Autumn thing. Thank you for listening. Thanks for any input.
Surviving abuse does so many things to our psyche. Something that many abuser survivors report is a difficulty in saying no to or setting boundaries with others. Abuse has so many levels to it that show us that our opinion doesn't matter. Our abusers force their will, their wants on us, and oftentimes we are hurt further if we say no or refuse.
For so many survivors of abuse, it became a survival skill to learn not to say no. We are often so fearful of being hurt further that we train ourselves to stop saying no to our abusers. Over time, or even with a single instance of abuse, we grow to fear saying no to other people, too. After seeing the dark side of humanity, after experiencing abuse, we often lose our self-confidence, making it even more difficult for us to say no. Also, especially for those abused as children, we grow to feel an enormous responsibility for others' emotions - that their happiness relies on us. Sometimes, on top of everything else, saying no feels like we're hurting someone else or depriving them of happiness. Often, we end up sacrificing our own wants out of a combination of all of these things.
For many of us, this might have led into unwanted relationships, unwanted sex, possibly even drug or alcohol use because we feel that we must do those things or fear retribution. The instinct to comply is a very, very hard one to shake - as it had indeed become a survival tactic, and saying no feels like you're putting yourself in danger.
But - there are ways to learn to say no, to regain that confidence, while acknowledging why your brain instilled that instinct into you. The best way to start is always to start small. Start by saying no in a relatively safe environment. For example - if you're out eating at a restaurant, say no to extra fries or coleslaw, or say no to lemon in your water. Practice saying no in an environment where the worst consequence is that your water won't be lemony. I know how silly it sounds, but practice it.
When you gain some confidence, try the next step up - say no or 'no thank you' when someone you know offers you a glass of water or something. Move from being in an impersonal place to a personal one, but still, start small. Over time, keep bumping up the level to which you say no (and remember, you can change your mind immediately after you say no if you want to!), until you feel a bit more confident. As silly as it sounds, practicing is a great way to build confidence and reclaim some of your rights to your wants and needs.
So this week's questions are:
- Do you have difficulty saying no? If so, what is the hardest thing to say no to?
- Do you fear specific consequences when saying no?
- What are some safe places for you to practice saying no?