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Author Topic: Coercion in a past relationship
Redskies
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I think I'd just like to tell someone this, because I've only ever told my current partner.

I had my first boyfriend when I was 17, and he was 16. He'd been asking me for months, and I'd always turned him down, but he seemed so very into me, in the end I thought I'd try going out with him. We were reasonable friends, and he seemed nice.

At the time, I was in counseling for sexual abuse I'd experienced as a child and suffering from depression from that and a very unhealthy home situation. I told him those things right from the start, because I didn't think I could relate to someone without them being relevant. He knew the abuse was a big deal to me and something I was finding very tough, and he seemed caring and understanding.

We'd only been together a couple of weeks. We were kissing with our arms round each other, which was the most we'd done at that point, when he moved his hands round and towards my chest. I stopped, took my hands and stopped his and moved them away, and carried on kissing him. A few minutes later, he moved his hands back, and I moved them away again. This repeated a number of times; I don't remember what I said, I remember clearly that at least once I did a big serious stop and told him that I really wasn't comfortable with that and I didn't want that. I also remember telling him that him keep going back to something I'd made clear that I didn't want was really hard for me and that he wasn't to do it, that it wasn't fair on me and that I really didn't want it but I was finding it hard and hurtful to keep stopping him. I'm pretty sure I mentioned my history about why it was so not good for me.

I don't really remember what he said. I definitely had the impression that he had understood me and agreed. I think that in what he said was something about him not being able to help himself, he was so attracted to me. I told him that he should be in control of himself. He said it was difficult.

He carried on doing it, a little more each time. I took his hands away so many times, but each time they went further. I didn't make a big fuss because each time I stopped him, he stopped immediately, and that's what people are supposed to do, right? If someone hadn't've stopped when I said, I'd've yelled, hit, and left. I didn't want to make a fuss. I just wanted to be normal for once. I'd already told him everything I had on the matter, I didn't know what else to say. I'd been conditioned by my past abuse to let someone carry on if they ignored my doubts and protests, if they were someone who was nice to me and cared about me.

In the end I just couldn't do it any more. I gave up exerting my own wishes. I put my mind to enjoying it, as I couldn't stop it any more. He groped my chest, over clothes, under clothes.

I knew it felt wrong to me at the time, but somehow I didn't properly know he was doing something wrong. I guess I got used to the sexual contact, and continued a sexual relationship. He also pressured me, in a similar way, into manual sex on me, before I felt ready.

Months later, my story about deciding to have/having first intercourse could be held up as a model of a healthy way to do it - which makes me feel ill in context, and makes me want to forget it. He was also supportive about my recovery from abuse, heard me talk some about it, and was very good at noticing when I stopped being actively engaged in intercourse, and stopping straight away. However, I nearly always felt pressured about starting again before I was ready; his hug would begin to feel a certain way, and I felt pressured, and therefore not safe and further from wanting to restart. I told him that, and he would always say something about not wanting to pressure me, but libido taking over. I tried to be understanding of that and just say no when I didn't feel ok, but I still found that really hard, which I told him. He told me he found it hard not to try to restart sex without an absolute "this is definitely not happening".

About three years later (yes, I stayed in that relationship for a lamentably long time), I'd been away for months. The night I got back, I was confused, overwhelmed, and needed mental and physical space, which I told him. He also saw me cry when I saw the huge airport carpark and thousands of shiny cars (culture shock). That night, in a similar way, he pushed me into manual sex on me, even though I'd said I wasn't ready. I just didn't know how to stop it, he interpreted my rejections as rejections of him and the relationship, and that wasn't what I meant, that was the last thing I needed right then. I guess I thought that it was on me, so it wasn't like he was demanding something of me.

Sometime years after it happened, I mentioned to him how I felt about him touching my chest in the beginning. I told him that I hadn't been ok with it, I'd felt pushed, and I'd stopped him, but hadn't been able to go on stopping him, and that I felt upset about it. I told him that I didn't want it to become a big deal in our relationship and I was telling him how I felt so that we could clear the air. He seemed upset, he told me he was upset about it. He did not apologise or ask me how I was doing with it, or if I needed anything. I dropped the subject because it wasn't going anywhere and I'd said it, and I never mentioned it again.

I've known for a long time now that he did something wrong. It slowly formed in my brain. More recently, it properly clicked that it classes as sexual assault. Still, writing this made me realise even more what a complete a*wipe that guy was. Really? REALLY?? I was as clear as a set of flood-lights, and all he could do was whine about his poor little self. £$%^&*!!!

That guy, unsurprisingly, went on to treat me exceptionally badly for years in ways which fall short of abuse, completely ground down my personality, self-belief and self-worth, and then left me for someone less trouble, more interesting and more adoring of him. While lying about the fact that he wanted to leave, that there was someone else, and that he was leaving. The lying, not the leaving, was what nearly destroyed me.

The upside is that my current partner has been Awesomest of All Awesomes about this. I didn't have to explain to Partner how the early experiences were bad, and I think Partner mentally classed them as assault before I did. Partner has also been the only person to fully understand the absolute hideousness of the situation in later years (although I have shared that with a few others) and exactly what and why I was completely destroyed about, and even talked about the rubbish guy in ways that made me laugh because they were so spot-on and funny.

Thank you for being a space in which I can tell this. I'd feel strange about telling anyone generally because it was so long ago, and I guess because I still don't want anyone to know that the beginning wasn't ok and that I "should" have realised and got out then and saved myself the rest.

It feels better to be able to say to a whole load of people, yes, that guy was an absolute £$%^&*.

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The kyriarchy usually assumes that I am the kind of woman of whom it would approve. I have a peculiar kind of fun showing it just how much I am not.

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Heather
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I'm glad that we can be here for you to have a space where you can tell your story -- and talk about it if you want to -- and feel safe.

Do you want to talk about this?

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Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
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Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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Redskies
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I think I might like to talk about it, maybe just a bit.

I think I'd like to check that someone else thinks that that guy was responsible for his own behaviour, because I spent such a long time coming up with excuses about him being young and not knowing any better and not meaning to do any harm that I'm a still a bit scared that other (reasonable) people could actually think that (and think that it excuses it).

I came to the conclusion that he was self-centred and arrogant, and only cared about the things that He believed and could understand were important instead of accepting another person's wishes and boundaries as they really were.

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The kyriarchy usually assumes that I am the kind of woman of whom it would approve. I have a peculiar kind of fun showing it just how much I am not.

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Heather
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You know, I often find it interesting when people assume that younger people have to learn consent from a starting point of being coercive or forceful. Before this was my big, I taught little kids, the oldest being elementary age, and that way of thinking about this always stands so counter so what I observed with kids and touch, for the most part.

It's not just you, mind, that's not the first time I've heard that. But my experience is, including my more academic understanding of human development, that most people certainly are always in a learning process with consent, but that it doesn't usually start from that kind of negative, nonconsensual place. For sure, some people do start there, but I'd not say that's the norm. In healthy people, I think people know well before they're getting sexual with people that it's not cool to just keep grabbing someone, or to push or coerce someone when it comes to physical touch.

So, no, it sounds to me like you were giving some very clear messages. I mean, sure, I'd say that to me it's pretty clear you yourself got some messaging that wasn't healthy long before this, and if you hadn't, you'd probably have ditched this person way before you did and not kept on and on and on with this back and forth. But I don't think that is about sending unclear messages to him: continuing to move his hands, not asking for what he was doing, saying when you didn't want something, these are all clear messages.

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Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
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Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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Redskies
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I think I gave clear messages, and he just chose to ignore them.

I don't think that people start from a forceful/coercive place, so it makes less sense that I would have used that as an excuse. I think I maybe had to find an excuses for him to make it fit the contradictory idea that he can't have known what he was doing. I do think, though, that sometimes people get messages that it's "normal" or "natural" for a guy to push as much as he can, and for a woman to resist. I really dislike that, as it sets up so many unhelpful situations.

Yes, I definitely already had some really unhealthy messages. That's partly why I'm angry about what he did; because I was telling him why it wasn't ok for me and why I couldn't handle it, and he just kept on anyway. The only interpretation I have of that is that his own wants were more important to him than my needs. I'm also angry because after what I'd experienced already, this was the last thing I needed.

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The kyriarchy usually assumes that I am the kind of woman of whom it would approve. I have a peculiar kind of fun showing it just how much I am not.

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Heather
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quote:
I think I gave clear messages, and he just chose to ignore them.
That's sure what it sounds like to me.

And by all means, I think it's fair to say no one wants to believe someone they trust is choosing to do them harm, so we will often try and find any and every possible explanation BUT that one sometimes. And if and when there's already a history of abuse in our lives, obviously one more person harming us is always the last thing we want to acknowledge.

I agree that people get and send those messages about guys: they are very pervasive, and again, I'd say that on the whole when men aren't socialized to behave that way, those messages also are often false. It can help to remember that while yes, of people who sexually abuse (people of any gender) the vast majority of male, repeat offenses are pretty much the rule. MOST men do not assault or abuse anyone.

By all means, you've every right to be angry: we always have that right when someone does us harm.

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Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
About Me • Get our book!
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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Redskies
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Completely in agreement about our society's messages and the actual reality, and have said that myself before [Smile]

It's strange, but figuring it out completely about the early part of that relationship has actually helped me feel better about it. I had a really hard time processing how bad he was to me towards the end, and figuring out how the hell that happened, and having that destroy any positive things I could take from the relationship. That last bit was tough because I didn't have a lot else that I could take forward from my life as positives. Recognising his behaviour from the beginning for what it was made me think that he was actually always not that great, at least to me, and actually set up the whole way of relating to me as not-good. So I didn't have anything good to lose there after all. He was a bad deal all the way along, and only explicitly showed himself as such when I no longer had anything he wanted.

But yeh, I'm still so angry about the coercion. With claiming to care about me, and knowing my history, he should have known better. How dare he do that. And I think that he found the only way he could get what he wanted - as I said, if someone just hadn't stopped, I wouldn't have put up with that. But stopping and starting again 30 seconds later - I didn't know what to do with that. And I'm sure it wasn't cunningly planned out, but I don't think it's any coincidence at all that he found the only way to get what he wanted.

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The kyriarchy usually assumes that I am the kind of woman of whom it would approve. I have a peculiar kind of fun showing it just how much I am not.

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Heather
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You know, one thing I can add to this is a reminder that UNlearning abuse when we have learned it takes time. And if it was the thing we knew in our most formative relationships, it can be a very hard, long process, and the blind spots can be everywhere.

Clearly, you've been going through this process and have obviously made some serious headway. At the same time, there were some red flags with this other guy you obviously didn't see coming. But that happens, and it's easier for it to happen when we have been taught, covertly and overtly, to basically ignore those signs. So not your fault, you know?

I'm really glad to hear you express your anger so clearly. That's good! Anger is powerful stuff, and when we use it positively, can really be of benefit to our lives.

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Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
About Me • Get our book!
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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Redskies
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I was just reminded. In that relationship, once, we were discussing a specific incident in a book. A male character put his hand inside a female character's vagina when she was too drunk to properly know what was happening or to say/do anything against it. She is portrayed the next day as knowing that something bad happened to her but not properly remembering, and feeling grim. His thoughts are described as worry that she would remember it was him and that he'd lose his career as a doctor, and that was what he'd done Really that bad anyway, although he knew that it was supposed to be.

When we spoke about it, my then boyfriend said that he did not think that what the character did was all that bad, and that he shouldn't lose his career over it. He'd made a mistake. It had been wrong, but not that bad. I explained how someone doing that to a person was so horribly invasive and personal and traumatic, but he never accepted what I was saying, never understood how it could be traumatic to have someone do that to you, and in the absence of understanding, never just took my word for it on the basis that it was something he couldn't relate to.

I felt very uneasy and not-right about it at the time, but didn't know where to go with it and how much clearer I could make myself, so I dropped it.

Clearly, this was never a stellar guy.

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The kyriarchy usually assumes that I am the kind of woman of whom it would approve. I have a peculiar kind of fun showing it just how much I am not.

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Heather
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No, obviously not. And chances are, too, that if the story had been about a boy and a man had put his fingers inside that boy's genital orifice when he was too drunk, this person probably would have had a different opinion, to boot.

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Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
About Me • Get our book!
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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Redskies
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(Posts crossed [Smile] )

I absolutely know that unlearning abuse takes time. I've been doing that a bit for a while, or trying...

I didn't see the red flags because it was normal to me to have people, not just the person who abused me, to have the ultimate say over what happened to my body and for me not to have ultimate control. Not cool. I know it's completely not my fault that I didn't see it, because I didn't know any better. And I was just happy that someone finally seemed to like me, and wasn't in a hurry to give that up. And I was used to having to jump through someone else's hoops to try to keep them liking me.

I'm angry as well because he knew right from the start that I had issues with trust in relationships, and he said that he wouldn't mess with that. Way to so totally do the opposite. It was a huge effort on my part to manage the trust, and he so totally did not deserve it.

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The kyriarchy usually assumes that I am the kind of woman of whom it would approve. I have a peculiar kind of fun showing it just how much I am not.

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Redskies
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Heather - ha. Quite possibly! Though I did try to relate my explanations to someone putting a hand in a drunk person's anus... but it was like he was determined not to understand, and didn't think that the anus was all that personal... I always thought that if someone had tried to do it to him, though, he'd've been appalled. Just a complete lack of empathy.

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The kyriarchy usually assumes that I am the kind of woman of whom it would approve. I have a peculiar kind of fun showing it just how much I am not.

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Redskies
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I just find it hard to get how he could be so caring and understanding about my abuse, and then be so, well, not-stellar in nearly every other way around the issue. The best answer I have is that he needed to be the wonderful caring needed awesome person in his own head, and was too self-centred to care about anything that wasn't already in his own world view of "difficult" or "painful" or that didn't suit him to care about.

It's still kind of hard to bring it all together, though.

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The kyriarchy usually assumes that I am the kind of woman of whom it would approve. I have a peculiar kind of fun showing it just how much I am not.

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Heather
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Maybe he wasn't so caring and understanding? Or maybe it was easy for him to be the way he was when someone else was the perpetrator? Something tough to deal with is that often enough, people who are SO QUICK to "rescue" people in abuse, or apparently help people heal from another abuser are abusers themselves. It can, unfortunately, be a bit of a power trip for them.

Your theories sound plausible to me, too.And that can be part of what I was just talking about, too: a way of convincing oneself that one is a better person than one actually is. [Frown]

Ever read "Why Does He Do That?" by Lundy Bancroft? It's an excellent resource for better understanding abusive and controlling people on the whole, even though it's primarily about men who are that way.

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Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
About Me • Get our book!
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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Redskies
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I've never read that. I'm interested in looking into it, in several different contexts in my life.

What you said threw me for a loop a little. I've never thought of it that way. I totally get your point generally, and it's almost an obvious point. Somehow thinking about it maybe applying to this person specifically is taking more time. I'd never thought of him as an abusive person; but there are off-notes the entire way through that can all nudge a bit that way.

I relate to the power trip thing a bit better. I think he was very insecure and needed to be someone's knight. He couldn't even leave me, despite clearly being very unhappy and explicitly expressing it to someone else (I found out later), until he had someone else definitely, unmistakeably established to be a knight to. (I say that with some knowledge - I accessed some private correspondance with that person and discovered that way. I did that when there was something badly, badly wrong and I had no other way to find out what it was. I'm really, really glad I did and know what I know.)

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The kyriarchy usually assumes that I am the kind of woman of whom it would approve. I have a peculiar kind of fun showing it just how much I am not.

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Heather
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Well, and I'm sure you already recognize that the whole idea of saving someone when they are capable of saving themselves, and having that be a big part of an intimate relationship is a problem right from the get-go. We can't be someone's knight and their equal partner.

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Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
About Me • Get our book!
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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Redskies
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Yes, very much recognise that. Always did. I was always clear to him that I didn't want, and he shouldn't be, responsible for me, or making everything better for me. I also suggested on a number of occasions that he get any kind of support for himself, as I was well aware my issues were not minor, but he never took me seriously. I also asked him to read a particular book on survivors, but he was clearly unwilling and never agreed. Periodically, I would check in with him that he was ok about all my issues, and made clear I did not expect someone to stay with me come what may, and he always said he was absolutely fine, until one time he asked me to stop bringing it up. He was clearly uncomfortable. Of course I did what he asked.

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The kyriarchy usually assumes that I am the kind of woman of whom it would approve. I have a peculiar kind of fun showing it just how much I am not.

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Heather
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I'm afraid I have to run off to give a training, then another all day tomorrow, but I'll be back Thursday. Sorry to run out on you!

Hopefully some of this can at least get you started on moving things forward some more, though it seems like you've done a brilliant job of it already yourself!

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Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
About Me • Get our book!
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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Redskies
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If he was controlling, it's not in a form I recognise from anything I already know. But there are things that might come into that category.

One time on a trip, he wanted to have sex in the open at a tourist site. I said no way, because it was right outside a village and frequently visited and there was no cover. I'm pretty adventurous myself (in the broad sense [Smile] ), but there's no way that's acceptable because of non-consenting viewers. Not to mention, oh, foreign country where I don't even know the law about it. He took my refusal in bad grace and clearly was unhappy that I wasn't doing something he wanted. He seemed even more grumpy 5 minutes later when a family showed up, proving me right. I didn't like being made to feel like a too-sensible killjoy, when as I said, I'm fairly adventurous. It's not like the guy was an exhibitionist, either - he must just have been unhappy that he couldn't have exactly what his precious self wanted exactly when he wanted it. He also tried to argue with me about the other potential people, saying it shouldn't be a problem because sex wasn't wrong, and as for any children, well, it's not like it would hurt them.

He also got grumpy when I wasn't comfortable being really cuddly or kissing deeply in front of friends. He would go all hurt-withdrawn and talk about how rejected he felt and how there was nothing wrong with that intimate behaviour in public. He didn't recognise my own discomfort with it - oh, his own poor feelings were hurt by the rejection. Ignoring the fact that I took him out of a public room and very well kissed him. He stayed grumpy and hurt-withdrawn with me. Oh, he'd already been rejected, his poor feelings.

As you can see, I get sarcastic sometimes in response to things like this. Not at the time, sadly!

[ 10-25-2011, 08:09 PM: Message edited by: Redskies ]

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The kyriarchy usually assumes that I am the kind of woman of whom it would approve. I have a peculiar kind of fun showing it just how much I am not.

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Redskies
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Thanks so much, Heather.

Edit: peculiar juxtaposition of a sarcasm reference and a genuine feeling... I do indeed mean a real thank-you [Smile]

[ 10-25-2011, 08:06 PM: Message edited by: Redskies ]

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The kyriarchy usually assumes that I am the kind of woman of whom it would approve. I have a peculiar kind of fun showing it just how much I am not.

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Redskies
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I totally get that Heather, at least, isn't available, and I don't mean to be annoying by repeat posting, it's just my brain's on a bit of a roll right now, and sometimes writing it out can help me figure it out.

That guy was really controlling around the break-up. First he refused to speak to me for five weeks, then sent me a break-up letter. I think my behaviour to him was as reasonable, considerate and understanding as a person could possibly get in the circumstances. When I called him a couple of weeks later about something practical, he let it go to voicemail (then called me right back because it was something for him). A month later, when I texted to ask for a meeting for a conversation and to exchange belongings, first of all he texted right back yes, and then didn't follow up, and finally, when pressed, repeatedly weaseled out of it while not being direct. He finally repeatedly refused to meet me in person, though did deign to have a phone conversation. He did not tell me a fraction of the truth of the situation, I told him what I knew and he still painted it a different way.

It's hard to comprehend someone as controlling when they were insecure and a bit wet themselves. It's also hard to think of someone as controlling when they repeatedly told you how great you were with a lot of things. When I think about it, though, he would always tell me how great I was according to how He saw me. When we met, we were in the same field. I left that field a little while later, though remained there casually. It was always his big thing. I loved it too, but he never seemed to recognise that. I felt patronised; and in later years, he would want to talk to me about what he was doing, but complain that I didn't seem interested enough. What had happened was, I had lost all my own opinions, because he would carry on talking as if I hadn't said anything. My points clearly meant nothing to someone who was supposed to value me, so they couldn't be worth anything, right?

I am now back in that field, and working on making it my career. I think it speaks volumes that it was barely 4 weeks from the end of that relationship, while I was still absolutely reeling, when I first said that what I really wanted for my life was back in that field and that it's what I've always loved and where I felt I belonged. I'm planning on being big in the field, too, and he can stick that wherever he doesn't want it.

It's still a bit peculiar to think of this person as controlling, and I'm going to need to let it mull around a bit to see if it settles. There's quite a few things that fit, though - just not in a way I'm familiar with.

I'm also having trouble with the controlling thing because, well. I know I'm fairly complex to deal with and would give a lot of people headaches, I'm stubborn as hell, and it's not like he had a great time in the relationship. (Note to self: he didn't leave - he instead treated you badly.) It's like He felt trapped in it, which comes out clearly in the correspondance to my replacement. He told her how wonderful she was and how upset he was that other people had treated her badly in just the same way he had with me, and built a connection with her about how they'd both been ill-used and under-appreciated.

Hm. If I was reading someone else write this, it wouldn't fit any definitive categories I know about, but I'd sure as hell think that something was really up with that guy.

The odd thing is, I don't think he's some master manipulator, I think he really believes it.

I'm also having some difficulty dealing with being back in the same field where we both used to live. He's not around, but a lot of associations are, and particularly, a lot of people, who knew he and I when we were together and some of whom knew him more recently while he was successfully career-building. The field is very network-y and all about working with other people. None of this is fun for me while I'm starting out and still feeling extremely insecure about other people's reactions to what I'm doing and my ability at it. More long-term, I'm planning on going to a different country, but in the short term, I'd like to deal better in my own head, and deal better so that I can make a good enough job of establishing myself and getting what I need so I can continue the way I want.

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The kyriarchy usually assumes that I am the kind of woman of whom it would approve. I have a peculiar kind of fun showing it just how much I am not.

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Redskies
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Oh. My. Goodness.

I was finding this really tough, tougher than I expected, and I just really needed someone to talk to about it, or at least some support. So I asked Partner.

I just couldn't get past, the more I read what I wrote, the more I knew something was really, really wrong, and yet it completely didn't fit anything I know covering abusive relationships and controlling behaviour, and it all felt so slippery and inexpressible about what was wrong. I was blurting all this out, and lots more individual stories and events of something being wrong.

Partner has training in clinical psychology, to the point of being able to apply it but not practise it. They were looking up something online and sent me a copy-paste, and said to read it. It was a list of statements. I started reading, and each statement emphatically applied to the bad guy. I knew right from the beginning that this list was It, it was perfect. I stopped partway through and said to Partner, you're going to tell me that he has a psychological condition, aren't you. Nod. You're going to tell me that he's a narcissist, aren't you. Yes.

I am well aware that armchair-type diagnosis is mostly dodgy and, frankly, dangerous. However, Partner keeps the vast majority of their thoughts about other people's mental states to themself, knowing full well the many ethical and practical problems. I am also very unpersuadable about things - if something wasn't right, it would be highly unlikely that anyone would make me think it were true, even if I wanted to think it were. I also knew the bad guy very, very well.

On one psych diagnostic list for narcissistic personality disorder, that guy from my history emphatically fit 14 out of 14 critieria. On another, the DSM, he fit 8 1/2 out of 9. The standard for diagnosis on that one is 5 out of 9.

I just sobbed. Finally, everything made sense. Shock, relief. No wonder something was wrong. No wonder I couldn't tell what, and no wonder I couldn't know at the time. It also means that none of it was my fault. The things that don't make sense about his own role in all of it, rather than it being that me and my issues were so messed up that it did someone real harm and utterly messed them up, were all down to him. I could have been perfect, and nothing would have been different.

It's started feeling very unreal again, and I'm wondering if Partner and I really got this right. When we were talking, every few seconds it would hit me again, this is real, and I would beam for joy. I feel like someone has clicked their fingers and completely re-written a huge horrible part of my history. I didn't even know that that was possible. I feel like someone lifted a huge weight off me. I feel free in a way that I haven't in 9 years. I am certain that we're right.

Right now I think I'm exhausted from the emotion. I kept realising more and more things that fit and that were explained, and were now not my fault, and could never have been any different.

Oh my goodness, this is real. This is one of the best things that ever happened to me.

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The kyriarchy usually assumes that I am the kind of woman of whom it would approve. I have a peculiar kind of fun showing it just how much I am not.

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Heather
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You know that even if your partner's assessment of this person isn't accurate, it STILL wasn't your fault, yes?

I',m not trying to take the wind out of your sails, mind. As well, I think it's clear quite a lot of people who are abusive, controlling or otherwise unhealthy in intimate relationships are often narcissistic or have other antisocial personality disorders. So, for sure, I agree that this very well could have been his deal.

But either way? Still not your fault. Whatever the reason, though, I'm very glad you're feeling that.

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Redskies
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Thanks, Heather.

It's not that I'm hugely attached to psychiatry or diagnoses; in many ways, I'm really not a fan. It's more that I've discovered that what I've been describing about this person for years, which has never been taken seriously by anyone (before Partner), is something that some other people recognise is a thing.

I didn't know until last night that none of it, nothing, was my fault. Because, unsurprisingly, I thought that that guy was reacting to me. I didn't know that it was possible that there are some people in the world who genuinely don't react to other people at all, but only to the ideas in their own head. I know I can be tough to deal with, but I thought I would have to be really, really awful for a person to act the way he did. Realising that he was always acting according to his own images means that his behaviour was never anything to do with me.

I was so terribly hurt that someone who cared for me could behave the way he did. And it looked like he cared so, so much, from the things he did - beyond what many people would do. Him not caring in the slightest, and it all being about his own self-image, makes everything make sense, and gives me the gift that actually, no-one who cared about me ever did treat me that badly. I don't have to be thankful for the tiniest thing he ever did, because he did it all for himself.

Around the breakup, in the midst of being very supportive, my dad was also very victim-blamey to me. He said that nobody could have coped with some things about me - he was basically saying that it was understandable how that guy acted the way he did, and that I, or the frustration of being with me, had driven him to it. That never seemed ok to me, but I also partly believed it myself, while feeling at the same time that there was something fundamentally wrong with that view. Now I know it's seven planets this side of wrong.

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The kyriarchy usually assumes that I am the kind of woman of whom it would approve. I have a peculiar kind of fun showing it just how much I am not.

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Heather
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Well, it sounds like this has been one heck of a great 24 hours for you, then! Might you perhaps do something special for yourself today/tonight to celebrate?

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Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
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Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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Redskies
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I was still feeling a bit delicate, so listened to some good music [Smile] Think I'll do more of a celebration-feeling thing when I feel ready, though - I'd like that.

As I said, my dad was quite victim-blamey to me when he was meaning to be supportive and caring. I'd like to try to tackle that, to have him understand events differently. He tends to struggle with anything that isn't the way he thinks it should be or that falls outside the way he already understands the world. I'd like to see if I can put this particular victim-blamey thing right so that I know I'll not come across it again and that I know there's no chance there'll ever be a reference to anything supposedly positive about that guy. Do you have any suggestions/thoughts about how I can go about it with my dad?

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The kyriarchy usually assumes that I am the kind of woman of whom it would approve. I have a peculiar kind of fun showing it just how much I am not.

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Heather
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Ho many years have passed since he was like that with you about this? And between then and now, do you feel like he's done any growth around it?

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Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
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Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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Redskies
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The stuff I was thinking of happened just under three years ago. But actually, just a few weeks ago my dad tried to tell me that if I didn't improve, no-one would be able to cope with me, my current partner wouldn't be able to cope and it wasn't fair on them and I should think about what I was doing...etc. My current partner has been really clear about where they're at, and didn't want anyone to talk to me like that anyway, and considers it their job to bring up with me anything that they want/need to, and felt that my dad saying that fed into the problems and made it worse. I thought that too, but that was another person's opinion.

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The kyriarchy usually assumes that I am the kind of woman of whom it would approve. I have a peculiar kind of fun showing it just how much I am not.

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Redskies
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To make that make a bit more sense, I have ongoing mental health issues from my childhood that I'm doing my damndest to tackle. It's kinda slow.

I was also thinking that it might help my dad drop that idea if he could know that I never actually drove someone "crazy"/away in the first place.

[ 10-29-2011, 10:36 AM: Message edited by: Redskies ]

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The kyriarchy usually assumes that I am the kind of woman of whom it would approve. I have a peculiar kind of fun showing it just how much I am not.

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Heather
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(Ho = how. It's becoming more and more obvious this broad needs the time off she's about to take. Sorry about that, I didn't mean to imply your dad was a ho.)

So, it's sounding to me like, realistically, any expectation you have of your father making even a minor turnaround with this any time soon wouldn't be sound. I know that sucks -- and personally, I've had a parent in my life, too, with some seriously destructive and nonsupportive attitudes that have taken decades for any improvement, so I feel you -- but my sense is that you're probably best off accepting that he is where he's at for now, and you'll probably be happiest not trying to turn that around right now, since it seems most likely to just end in frustration.

My best advice would be to leave it for now, and give this some more time: maybe even a few years. The older people are, the more we can tend to get very stuck in our ideas and frameworks, especially if we've not always been in the process of evaluating and reevaluating them. Big change tends to take a lot of time, and a lot of growth, a good deal of which has to come from that person's desire TO grow in that way.

Mind, I think you can probably bookmark it in a way you might feel better about, maybe by just telling your Dad that you hope in the future he comes around and changes his thinking on this, because you don't think it's sound and it is also very hurtful to you. You can also certainly set a limit around these things he voices, asking him to simply keep them to himself.

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Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
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Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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Redskies
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(Hee. Barely noticed it [Smile] and yay for time off!)

Yeh, I know what you mean here, and I haven't had hope for any major turn-around. I think I'll still want to mention it sometime, just so I've done it, and write off anything he says after that as "yeh, your thoughts here are a bit broken...". But definitely not doing it as part of my growth.

He's kind of a problem around this, because I grew up in some really unhealthy dynamics that I'm trying to heal from, and him saying stuff like that really, really gets in the way of my healing. But I can't tell him about the work that I'm doing, because he's not a safe person to discuss it with - he's not good around any kind of illness, let alone mental, or personal/psychological difficulties. When he said the stuff recently, it pushed a raw button for me and I was very angry, controlledly, and told him exactly what I thought about him saying it (why it was wrong and unhelpful). He says that he "can't deal with anger" (although gets angry himself) and feels silenced/like he can't say anything right. I hear him on that, that will have been exacerbated by the former family dynamics. He appears to forget, though, that I was a Child in those dynamics and was badly affected too... So, even if I understand a little where he's coming from, it doesn't make it ok, and he can't say that stuff to me.

Basically, I'm trying to heal from feeling "I'll make everything bad for everyone I come into contact with no matter how hard I try", so hearing "you make things bad for people!" is Really not what I need.

It's weird because he also really respects me, and knows that I was the only person to give him good advice about a relationship situation of his own a while back. Basically, he tries, but the world just totally baffles him.

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The kyriarchy usually assumes that I am the kind of woman of whom it would approve. I have a peculiar kind of fun showing it just how much I am not.

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Heather
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Your father sounds very much like one of my parents. In the biggest way, I so get this. And boy, do I know how much it hurts and sucks. For me, I took considerable time and big space away from that parent: years and years of it. Obviously, that might not be what you want or what is right for you, and it's certainly not the only option, just what worked for me.

But I also think you are already seeing how much of his attitudes really are not about you, but more are triggered by you and your experiences. It seems clear you make him have to look at and deal with some hard things he'd rather not and isn't yet skilled himself at dealing with well. Alas, our parents aren't automatically more enlightened or evolved than we are simply because they've had more time to be or became parents. If only!

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Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
About Me • Get our book!
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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Redskies
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Thanks. Support and solidarity around this really helps.

Sadly, my other parent, while also meaning care and support, is even more damaging, in different ways. So it's my mother who I take the serious space from. I suppose I just try not to discuss things with my dad where it's not going to go well, but occasionally he just insists on having his say. Partly because he experiences my avoidance of certain discussions as mistreatment and me being clueless, or something. And I really relate to your assessment of the situation, it's what I think too.

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The kyriarchy usually assumes that I am the kind of woman of whom it would approve. I have a peculiar kind of fun showing it just how much I am not.

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Heather
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When he insists on saying things that are hurtful to you, after you have already set limits, can I ask what happens if you just stand up and walk away?

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Heather Corinna, Executive Director & Founder, Scarleteen
About Me • Get our book!
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. - Margaret Mead

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Redskies
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He gets cross while I'm walking away.

He remains cross and hurt that he didn't get to say something that he thought I needed to hear. I think he thinks I'm not working in the way that humans normally do (which is correct) and he has to tell me this and make it change (which is not correct). He either has to tell me sometime later that I did the wrong thing by just walking out and not hearing him, or he bottles it up. He goes on about having respect for other people being so important. It's like he gets cross that there is this weird thing happening which he doesn't understand and can't control.

Edit: sorry, shortening that: he tries to say it another time, but more crossly.

Complication is, I currently live with my dad. Hadn't for years, but just now for one year, it seemed the best option for me to not have to somehow manage to put a roof over my head while I sort myself out and create the future I want. I have the roof for free, but am not otherwise financially dependent.

[ 10-29-2011, 12:14 PM: Message edited by: Redskies ]

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The kyriarchy usually assumes that I am the kind of woman of whom it would approve. I have a peculiar kind of fun showing it just how much I am not.

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