Old Wounds: Encountering an Ex (Someone Pls Respond ASAP!)

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BuddyBoi21
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Old Wounds: Encountering an Ex (Someone Pls Respond ASAP!)

Unread postby BuddyBoi21 » Sat Feb 15, 2020 7:28 pm

Hey everyone,
This is definitely a big mess of scattered old emotions I'm getting myself into.

Now I have some older posts that go waaaaaay back to me freaking out, having extremely negative self outlook and heavy thoughts of self harm because of how my relationship was going with my partner at the time (I was 19 and they were 18).
*NOTE: after reading this post and mentally back tracking through my negative dating experiences there's another major ex who kind of started this whole giant trust issues deal in my romantic relationships. However this doesn't resolve or completely brush over this ex that I'm concerned over. Carry on with your reading!

I had been left with added trauma pertaining to trust issues and my ability to believe in my partner's honesty. I broke up with this ex because I was and still am extremely certain they wanted to break up with me but just couldn't bear to tell me the truth. They told me they virtually stopped speaking to me due to depression the ~2 months before our relationship ended. They continued to isolate from me, we were long distance and their parents were anti-LGBT+ and racist. So I couldn't do anything besides sit in my own depression, spending a lot of my days crying in my room and waiting by my phone. Eventually I loaded up on local activism to keep myself busy (this would later contribute to my current burn out and highlight sign of my bipolar disorder).

Fast forward to today.
This same ex has contacted me saying they still had my old sweatshirt I had given them (you know that sappy old school "partner wearing your jacket/shirts"). I never got it back after we broke up considering they never spoke to me after the fact.

Now I just said to myself "let's rip this off like a bandaid" and I will now be going there tomorrow to get my shirt.

I don't know if it's stupid to expect or hope for this but I want some sort of closure after this interaction. Like somehow this deeply rooted and compounded trauma and pain will "magically" resolve itself over the course of a discussion over what happened.

I don't really care for either an apology or forgiveness (but I will still tell them I recognize my actions and take true responsibility for them, say I've been going to therapy. Y'know signs of personal development). I just want to feel like I can trust people again and move past the pain of what happened before they move away.

I can hear and feel it coming though. At least one or all of the responses will say "it takes time to heal wounds" and "this healing won't/doesn't need to involve this person". I guess these sound like the most logical responses but I still just really want this pain or whatever it is that feels off to go away. This feeling that forces me to hold on to my anxiety with dating more seriously, I just want it to be gone so the thought of speaking to a person I actually like doesn't make me want to vomit or run away.

I'm not looking to confront them and say they did everything wrong. I just want to let go of the trauma so I can feel like I actually moved on with my life, truly and fully moved on.

Even typing this out I would hope it's clear to other people what I want but I only have a vague idea from my point of view of what I want.

I want to say:
"You don't have to/aren't obligated to answer this question. Why wasn't I told the truth?"
"I apologize for my behavior. I felt I deserved to die which wasn't fair to myself but I do recognize I was acting as though I was entitled. It was never my intention to hurt you but I know I still did. I also engaged in abusive behaviors toward you and I'm sorry. I don't need to be forgive but I did need to let you know this"
If they disclose that they really did lie to me and just shut themself off to avoid the problem within our relationship rather than breaking up with me I will, in fact, feel exceedingly devestated, possibly angry and certainly betrayed.

This may further contribute to my trust issues and I will just have to learn to cope regardless.
I will also ask:
"Did you think I would harm you?"
I can already hear them saying yes if that was the case.

I'm just so ready to get hurt, to continue to feel pain and to have even more pain after this interaction.

I just really want to heal, so badly but I'm aware I shouldn't count on it at all.

Has anyone ever had this experience? Someone hurt you/you hurt someone else in a relationship (specifically romantic) or the relationship ended messy and you had the opportunity to speak to them?
1. What did you say?
2. Did you say something you wish you hadn't said?
3. Do you have something you wish you could've said?
4. Any extra thoughts, comments or concerns you want to add to my experience or yours?

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Re: Old Wounds: Encountering an Ex (Someone Pls Respond ASAP!)

Unread postby Gone.Sorry. » Sat Feb 15, 2020 8:21 pm

I'm going to make this quick since you're looking for a fast response, but I do have somewhere to be shortly, so this is going to be my bare minimum response just so you've had someone to talk to.

My sister recently had the chance to reconnect with an ex- who started pushing her away, being mean to her, and then after they broke up with her, revealed in a public blog post that they'd never loved her and had, in fact, cheated on her several times. My sister did not go lightly into this relationship. She's young 20s and her partner was as well - but her partner also had a young kid that my sister met and was a part of his life. How my sister was treated was so, so hurtful and devastating to her.

Recently, that ex- asked to speak with my sister. It's been more than a year since they broke up. Two, maybe? My sister decided to go through with it to see if she could get some closure.

In my sister's case, the meeting actually turned out well, for which I was so relieved - because I remember how hurt she was over everything that went down, and I was so afraid meeting would just re-open old wounds. The ex- apologized and said they'd been cruel and pushed her away because they'd been afraid of how much they cared for her. My sister was happy and relieved to go to this meeting.

HOWEVER

Giant, giant HOWEVER

My sister was okay because even though she thought meeting with her ex- would give her closure... she had already done that for herself. What she was looking for was an understanding of what happened. And you know what? She still does not have that because she cannot grasp why anyone would hurt someone they care deeply about. She is grateful for the apology and it has eased the past hurt a bit, but she'd already done a lot of work on accepting and moving past what had happened to her in the past.

In your case, your guess as to our advice is right in my case. I am extremely worried about how much you are putting onto this meeting. My sister meeting with her ex- because she treated it very lightly with some curiosity. If she heard what she wanted/needed - great! If she didn't, then that was disappointing, but it wouldn't be anything she hadn't already heard, processed, and moved forward from already.

You seem to be putting everything onto this meeting.

That is not realistic.

That is not going to happen.

There is no perfect thing that you can hear because you are going in with biiiiiiiiiiig expectations, and you just can't control what your ex- thinks or feels or will say. No one single thing you hear will undo the hurt of the past that you've experienced or has impacted you.

You need to continue working out your trust and relationship issues in therapy - in a safe place with a trained professional who can help you grieve what happened and figure out how to move on in healthier ways.

The fact that you've admitted hearing certain things would devastate you and worsen issues you're already struggling with is a giant red flag that you are not ready to meet with your ex-.

Please, please seriously consider give your ex- an address they can mail the sweatshirt to (preferably a friend who can help weed out any note your ex- leaves with the sweatshirt) or tell them to keep it/throw it out.

There is not a magical solution to your hurt or pain. I'm really, really sorry.

People put so much stock in "closure", but as a very good advice columnist (Captain Awkward if you want to look up some of her pieces of closure) says: "closure is the gift you give yourself". No one but you can give you closure. Even if your ex- said everything you wanted to hear, it would still have to be you that did the work of accepting it, believing it, and figuring out how to move forward with everything you'd heard and everything you'd been through.

Consider: if you meet your ex- and it does re-open up old hurts or creates new hurts... what are you going to do? How are you going to handle that? From your post, it doesn't sound like you're prepared to be able handle it. Why purposefully put yourself in the position of getting hurt and undoing the progress you've made for something you yourself have admitted is an unrealistic goal? Can you see how this sounds like an unhealthy choice - a way to psychologically self-harm?

IIRC (don't have time to double check at the moment), you are/have been going to therapy? Please, whether you decide to go through with this meeting or not, get a meeting soon with your therapist to talk about this. Whatever happens, you need more space to process your feelings, and I really think that'd be safest for you to do with some help and guidance, since this is understandably a really emotional and intense situation for you.

Take care. <3

EDIT: Got back and worded something I wrote better. Won't expand for now since you haven't responded in the meantime + you have two responses to process through.
Last edited by Gone.Sorry. on Sat Feb 15, 2020 9:14 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Old Wounds: Encountering an Ex (Someone Pls Respond ASAP!)

Unread postby 0PT1M15T1C » Sat Feb 15, 2020 8:54 pm

So there's a lot to unpack in what you wrote and I'm really wondering if going to see them to pick up the hoodie/shirt would be the greatest idea or if maybe having them mail it or something would be a better idea.

This relationship really doesn't sound like it was a healthy one and a lot of times going to see the person who caused us pain can be quite difficult.

Although in my experience I was forced to "mediate" with the person, it just made things so much worse for me and traumatised me, seeing them sent me into a spiral, after seeing them I cried for a long time, threw up and found myself unable to speak at all for about 2 days following it..
Like horriblegoose said, you seem to be putting an awful lot on this meaning, and that was a mistake I made at the time, I thought it would solve my problems and it just made things worse which added another level of hurt, because my expectations had not been met.

I wish I hadn't let them know they were causing me pain, or even had caused me pain because it seems they've taken that as a way to continue. Although I don't think that applies to you. This person in my life was and still is extremely abusive.
I wish I never did it to be honest. I wish I never agreed to sit and see them, to have them be close to me, I regret that very much.

I would honestly say, if you are going to see them, make it clear it is for that shirt, and nothing else exchange the item and leave. Don't discuss things with them, I did that once in my past and made the mistake of trusting the person who hurt me, and just fell back into the abuse.
That's my honest opinion on that. Although you may have a lot of questions for them, sometimes knowing the truth to those questions is worse than leaving them unanswered, for me the answer to "Why did you do this?" was "Because I wanted you to feel pain" which left me not only hurt, but with so many other questions some of which sent me back into thinking what happened was my fault or that I did something to provoke them.

While this is my experience, it may not be yours, and only you can decide what is best for you but I would really encourage you to really think about the reasons this would be good for you, as well as weigh out the pros and cons, if it will hurt you, is it still going to be beneficial?

I think we all have questions we wish could be answered and sometimes asking them can make the other person feel attacked as well, which may be important to note. Sometimes it's just better to leave things where they were, and really focus on healing.
I also had a friend go through this, quite similar to you in fact, and for them, reconnecting ended up with a lot of problems for them, the person was still manipulative, and made my friend feel like complete crap when truly, they were not the one in the wrong, they struggled with that afterwards for some time, the person once again tried to talk to them and I said that it was enough and blocked this person on their social media for them (they asked me to do it) and kept them at their word to not talk to this person. For them, at the time that was beneficial.

No matter what though, the choice is up to you and know I support you in that. I hope things, whatever you decide go well.
You have the power to say "This is not how my story will end".

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Re: Old Wounds: Encountering an Ex (Someone Pls Respond ASAP!)

Unread postby Gone.Sorry. » Sun Feb 16, 2020 12:54 am

Sorry to post again - I just realized something that I missed in your OP the first time around. It sounds like you're going to your ex's house to get your sweatshirt?

If I've understood that correctly and you're still set on seeing your ex-, please seriously consider rescheduling to meet a more neutral location. This is also something that worked well for my sister. They met at a coffee shop, someplace in public where they would both be encouraged to speak civilly and keep things calm and reasonable, as well a provide them both with a safety net of either of them being completely free to walk out if need be. I trust that you're not in physical danger of being held somewhere, but meeting at a third location would just put you both on more equal footing and might help you emotionally be able to leave if you need to leave. As well, my sister was very smart in asking a friend to meet her sometime after she would meet with her ex- so that she had an excuse to leave if it turned out she needed. In her case, her friend was really early and actually ended up showing up at the same time as her ex-, which my sister said actually helped make things less awkward having someone else there to break the ice.

A coffee shop or even a park (preferably not someplace that dredges up even more memories) would be a much better option than your ex's house. Also, letting a friend know to check in with you after [x] amount of time would be a good idea as well (honestly it wouldn't be a bad idea if that friend could just go with you to the meeting).

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Re: Old Wounds: Encountering an Ex (Someone Pls Respond ASAP!)

Unread postby BuddyBoi21 » Sun Feb 16, 2020 7:25 am

Okay so I'll give a short blurb here about my current feelings:

I guess I'm putting a lot of value on this???

I don't know, I'm more bent out of shape still over the fact that they literally just stopped talking to me instead of confronting our problems. A sign of extremely poor communication.

I can't tell y'all that I don't want to deal with this pain head on because burying this is how and why I ended up in my last relationship and not giving a damn about anyone I ended up with afterward. If we had to frame anything a certain way I'd say I was the abusive partner to them more of an extent than they were. They had anger issues and would shut down when they were upset instead of talking to me. I was (unknowingly but imo it doesn't matter) manipulative and it's why I felt I was coercive.

I just don't care about that. I feel like this trauma still exists for some ungodly reason and I literally just want it to go away in a healthy manner. I do have a therapy appointment tomorrow. I won't be going alone, I'm bringing one of my closest friends to support me when I get this shirt.

Realistically I know that talking to them will NOT magically make things heal. It's just that I NEED more options because I feel like I'm running out. I've been in therapy for roughly 2 years over this and it's still not entirely gone. I want it to go away. I want to stop feeling hurt, I want to settle the last portion of me that blames myself for the way things ended.

"I have justified their behavior and that other ex's behavior because a part of me deep down feels like I deserve it. Like it doesn't matter that I didn't intend to and didn't recognize my behaviors as abusive/manipulative/creepy/stalker-ish, it's still bad. I have this instinctive and comforting response to say to myself that I deserved to be hurt, that I deserved to be punished and that I deserved to die or just live unhappy because I was such a little shit.

Regardless of being autistic, regardless of being on the bipolar spectrum, regardless of my guilt I'm still a bad person who did something wrong and I need to atone for it."

I know this thought process is unhealthy, if I don't acknowledge it's still there it won't go away.

This is what this sliver says and for the longest time I've locked them up and buried them but they're still there and I'm certain that this is why I can't bring myself to approach almost any healthy vulnerable relationship with any sort of confidence or without fear and anxiety.

I know this won't fix any of my problems. I just want the pain to go away. Also this ex lives with their parents and from the sound of it they probably still don't drive and/or still doesn't have their own car so I have no options.

I just want the pain to go away. I don't know or care how, I just want it to go. Suppressing my feelings can't and won't help me. And while I feel hurt, I can empathize that they were probably trying to keep themself safe and that avoidance seemed to be the only solution. I personally wouldn't have handled it in the same way that they did but I'm masculine and have been a tough person when I needed to be for as long as I can remember so my input does't matter.

I'm still going to do it because I feel like I need to do something about this. I don't think this will ever go away if I spend my whole life ignoring it and saying "okay this chapter is done" then keep doing the same shit that got me there.

I keep saying this because I hope that if I say it enough it will happen but that's stupid.

I understand your concerns but I really trust my gut on this one. I know it might (and probably will) hurt even more but it's not like I won't get over most of it at least. I'll keep you all updated. Thanks.

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Re: Old Wounds: Encountering an Ex (Someone Pls Respond ASAP!)

Unread postby Jacob » Sun Feb 16, 2020 10:47 am

Hi BuddyBoi21,

I hope the meeting goes as well as is possible in such circumstances. I don't think it's good or bad to go, it's just a choice that you're free to make. Choices around exes can often be hard because there is so often not a 'right thing' to do, if only!

It sounds like you are going through something lots of people do. We hear constantly about what it is to have a healthy relationships and that how we behave in relationships defines who we are as people... it might say something about us, but it doesn't define us. However if you are someone who suffers with mental issues (tell me about it) it therefore makes a lot of sense that a past relationship would be a persistent lens to view ourselves through when judging and criticising ourselves.

That self-critique and judging is likely to go deeper than that one relationship, so expecting yourself to feel fine, after 2 years since break up doesn't really take into account that 'distance in time since relationship' is arbitrary. And the ways you have grown as a person since might not directly translate to being 'over' that part of the past.

I'm still a bad person who did something wrong and I need to atone for it.


I don't believe 'bad person' is at all a fair way to talk about yourself and sounds very much the kind of thing that comes from guilt and rumination. If we make mistakes even those that hurt others, there isn't always a clear path of what to do next. If someone doesn't want any 'atonement' from you or even an apology, then it can't be given, even if it was wanted, it is likely not to suddenly fix everything.

At some point we need to forgive ourselves, and give way to the fact that we can't control our past actions, we can't accurately judge our past selves and we can't fix ill feelings with complex thoughts. Self-forgiveness, self-compassion and self-acceptance, can be very noble life-long projects which take much longer than 2 years. How we can be good to others in the future is a far better place to focus. I hope slowly you'll feel like you can get there.
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Re: Old Wounds: Encountering an Ex (Someone Pls Respond ASAP!)

Unread postby BuddyBoi21 » Sun Feb 16, 2020 10:51 am

Update:
I haven't read any of the new posts.
I'm stuck in traffic and about 10 minutes away from their town. My friend bailed so I am currently alone. Good luck to me I guess.

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Re: Old Wounds: Encountering an Ex (Someone Pls Respond ASAP!)

Unread postby Siân » Sun Feb 16, 2020 11:19 am

Jacob said a lot of good things, so I'll just say we see you, we're here when you're done and want to talk. I hope you get more comfort than hurt out of seeing them.

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Re: Old Wounds: Encountering an Ex (Someone Pls Respond ASAP!)

Unread postby BuddyBoi21 » Sun Feb 16, 2020 3:09 pm

Hello everyone,

So great news, the meeting went exceedingly well! We both apologized for our past actions. Literally the first thing they said when I told them I'd been thinking about our past relationship was that they wanted to let things go and be friends.

We still actually get along very well in terms of personality. We discussed what happened and they said something that I heard both in therapy and that I acknowledged when in a healthier head space: "we both had a lot going on so that's why the relationship was so messy".

They also did answer my question. With the look on their face and their tone, I believe them when they said their depression was the primary reason they wouldn't speak to me as our relationship ended. They also held themself accountable for their actions and recognized that prolonging our break up was the wrong way to handle our situation.

I'm happy they acknowledged my pain and genuinely apologized for it. It's also nice to internalize they don't view me as a bad person.

I really want to thank everyone for their support and responses.

Jacob, I really like what you had to say. I will say that my biggest issue that was apparent through this whole post is that I spiraled and relapsed into a headspace and form of coping where I viewed myself negatively and felt "punishment" in the form of self harm was justified.

I know that I need to continue to work on self forgiveness and compassion because that's one of the biggest things that I struggle with in these sorts of issues.

Another thing I mentioned to this new friend (formerly my ex) is that there's a "final boss". I mentioned I had pre existing trust issues. I used to mention someone that I had a crush on, too quickly tried to establish a friendship with and that I bought a prom ticket for (many people felt I was taken advantage of and after I realized what had happened I beat myself up over it, considering myself stupid for not having more self respect).

I was hurt by this person but now I'm over them. But this person, the one who I think really jump started my trust issues in romantic relationships, was completely brushed over. I could make a separate post to explain everything but the short version is that if I ever saw them again (what I wanted from them then and still want now) is to see self accountabiloty.

They communicated with me terribly, basically lied to me and never told me outright they were no longer interested in me.

I was devastated and felt betrayed. I still feel this residual sort of pain because they were afraid I would sexually assault them. Looking back I feel like this is one of my larger signs of being autistic because of how much I struggled with nonverbal communication in my teens.

I am obviously holding myself accountable but I don't exactly know how to express self compassion and forgiveness in this situation. I don't want to invalidate the other person's feelings, especially since they viewed me as something so negative and as someone that could hurt them.

On the other side I feel like this contributes to a lot if not all of my anxiety pertaining to dating and pursuing new partners and it isn't fair for me to hold on to something that was handled poorly by another person. What do y'all think?

(Feel free to ask for a separate post if needed)

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Re: Old Wounds: Encountering an Ex (Someone Pls Respond ASAP!)

Unread postby rubyted » Sun Feb 16, 2020 4:44 pm

Hi, BuddyBoi21 - hope it's okay that I'm jumping in on this post!

First of all, I'm so glad to hear that meeting with your ex went well and that you both feel like you were able to be authentic and be accountable for your roles in the relationship ending. That's awesome and so relieving.

I'm thinking about this most recent post you made, about your initial ex who you feel is responsible for a lot of your mistrust and trauma responses in your relationships now. I totally relate and hear you that it's hard to find self-compassion and forgiveness in a situation where you feel you're owed an apology from someone, or that you're held back from moving on and being more present in relationships until they acknowledge what went down between you two and their part in it.

I'm wondering if you're feeling like because this meeting with this ex went so well, maybe you're ready to meet with the initial ex. Are you considering that?

While I think it's fair to be considering what you would say to them and how, and what you would want to hear, I think you don't NEED that closure to be present in your relationships moving forward. It isn't fair that you feel you have this baggage and anxiety/trauma in your current relationships, but you also might not get to hear the self-accountability you want from that initial ex, and it might feel more triggering to reach out and be met with someone who's still processing their feelings about you and might not be ready to meet you in the middle in the way that you're looking for.

I'm not hearing that you absolutely need them to apologize before you can move on, but that what happened between you is causing a lot of problems in your relationships now, and I'm wondering if you can start to do the work of releasing and processing that trauma even without a clear apology from them, because there's no way to absolutely determine if that's what you'll get.

Does that make sense? How does that resonate with you, and is reaching out to the inital ex something you're even considering at this point?

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Re: Old Wounds: Encountering an Ex (Someone Pls Respond ASAP!)

Unread postby BuddyBoi21 » Sun Feb 16, 2020 10:41 pm

Hey rubyted,

I'll start out by saying there's a very small chance I could even contact this person. I went to high school with them, graduated two years before them and I don't even remember their last name.

So just to clear some things up, I don't feel like I'm owed an apology exactly. What I would like is that accountability. I hope there's some sort of distinction here?

I wouldn't say they're a core reason for my distrust but definitely the last bit of baggage that I carry currently.

I completely hear what you're saying about closure and not exactly needing that interaction to move on. The thing is I understand it's not needed but I don't think the approach is for everyone, myself being one of those people. When I say I struggle with self compassion/forgiveness it's not from a point of external validation in that case.

With that I'm talking about another issue in which I struggle with properly using self accountability WITHOUT self harm/punishment. Does this make sense? Like I can recognize I've done something wrong but I never allow myself to live it down and may even feel it's necessary to mentally or even physically hurt myself.

It's not like I haven't been doing work to cope with either of these problems but it feels like there are smaller bits and pieces still stuck. Like a deeply lodged splinter. With the self harm, I've successfully kept it away from physical but in my most recent relapse I fantasized and had ideations of self harm and much worse.

I do my best to internalize and remind myself that any new partners I pursue are nothing like this person but now I feel like my problems lie more in whether or not I view myself as a bad person and whether or not I view myself as someone deserving of love (consciously or not).

I do understand that I don't need to do any sort of meeting/confronting/whatever to reach any sort of closure with this but I do feel like it's worth trying. I hope this trial and error approach with my trauma doesn't sound stupid or dangerous. I just want to move on but maybe it'll take years and I just have to learn to be okay with that.

Genuinely, I want them to acknowledge what happened instead of just painting me as the "bad guy" and chalk up their actions solely to fear. This is a problem for therapy later.

Thank you or your input.

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Re: Old Wounds: Encountering an Ex (Someone Pls Respond ASAP!)

Unread postby Amanda F. » Mon Feb 17, 2020 10:48 am

Hi BuddyBoi21,

Forgiving ourselves and offering self-compassion can be really difficult sometimes. Is this something you've talked about with your therapist? Have they given you any suggestions for how to be more gentle with yourself?

It's important to recognize that trauma really messes with our brains and bodies. Feeling like we're constantly at fault can be an outcome of traumatic experiences. I wonder, if you held that thought in your mind, whether it would allow you to at least separate a bit from how intense the feelings of self-judgment can be? Trauma wasn't your fault, and there is room to see that.

If a beloved friend was telling you all of this - if they'd had the same experiences you had - and said they were struggling with feeling like they deserved to be punished, what would you say to them?

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Re: Old Wounds: Encountering an Ex (Someone Pls Respond ASAP!)

Unread postby BuddyBoi21 » Wed Feb 19, 2020 2:15 am

Hi Amanda,

This topic has been brought up quite a few times with my therapist and there has never been a specific plan established to help aside from reassurance, reframing and remembering all people make mistakes.

If someone I knew were saying the same things I wouldn't really be able to say much except for "Yeah, I can relate and that happens. It sucks.". The most I could provide is understanding that situation/state of mind and saying it isn't the healthiest coping skill I might suggest journaling and talking more about it in therapy if the person had access to one that they liked. Other than that nothing extremely deep or specific.

I was able to go to therapy this Monday and I'd like to believe it was productive. I was told operating with a more balanced and situational approach to my emotions and personal traits would be better than an all-of-nothing approach. This has calmed me down quite a bit.

It wasn't the fact I had trouble opening myself up to others but more so how much/when/where/who I opened up to them. So it feels like things have been put more at ease but still I feel like that person from waaay back in my high school years could've handled that situation better by being more direct and honest with me rather than just assuming I'd hurt them and then leave.

My therapist also validated my actions from when I was younger and trying to show my affection toward people. I felt ashamed for unknowingly stalking people I had crushes on when I was in K-12 schooling. She told me that it happened a lot with people and kids on the spectrum and that some people have ended up in more messy situations than my own (or more extreme/adult consequence versions).

That made me ease up more on the fact that I wasn't socialized like neurotypical kids and basically learned all of my socialization from TV/movies/etc. I realize that learning different isn't exactly my fault and that I think I understand the concept of someone doing something considered wrong or bad because they literally didn't know what they were doing wasn't okay. I hope this sort of reframing doesn't sound problematic. I know it doesn't excuse everyone when someone does something bad and everyone regardless should be held accountable for their actions. I hope this makes sense.

Thank you!

Amanda F.
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Re: Old Wounds: Encountering an Ex (Someone Pls Respond ASAP!)

Unread postby Amanda F. » Thu Feb 20, 2020 11:24 am

Hi BuddyBoi21,

That reframing doesn't sound bad or problematic at all to me. On the contrary, it sounds very healthy. When we're children, we often are never taught what kinds of behaviors are appropriate, or are flat-out taught wrong things - so extending yourself that compassion and understanding (as you continue to grow and identify how you do want to feel and act in the world) is one of the best things you can do for yourself. I think you should be proud of yourself for taking the initiative to work on these things with your therapist; to better understand yourself in the service of YOU.

I wanted to clarify what I meant about imagining that a friend was telling you these things (and it actually relates to what you described working on with your therapist). You said that you would offer empathy by saying "that sucks, I can relate." If your friend was in need of some compassion, is there anything you'd say to them to make them feel less upset or help them realize this wasn't their fault?

BuddyBoi21
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Re: Old Wounds: Encountering an Ex (Someone Pls Respond ASAP!)

Unread postby BuddyBoi21 » Sun Feb 23, 2020 6:55 pm

Hey Amanda,

So after googling the definition to more accurately think of what compassion looks like, I would say that "You didn't know. No one taught you this thing was bad and because you care to take responsibility an change means that you are a good person for putting forth the effort". (People have said this to me before and I still felt guilty a lot of the time. It's why I don't think there's much I could say to help aside from empathy and shared experience.)

I really didn't feel great at all when people told me what was said above. Once my therapist said that other autistic people did that as kids and still continued to do it as adults it made me feel a million times better. It's because I knew I wasn't alone and that the commonality of it made me feel valid in being different when it came to socially developing.

I feel like a lot of my feelings of downplaying and thinking as though I'm "using autism as an excuse" is possibly some sort of internalized ableism.

What do you think?

Thanks!

Amanda F.
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Re: Old Wounds: Encountering an Ex (Someone Pls Respond ASAP!)

Unread postby Amanda F. » Mon Feb 24, 2020 10:17 am

Hi BuddyBoi21,

I understand your concern. It does sound possible that your feeling that you are using autism as an "excuse" could be a result of some internalized ableism. I like this article, Sex on the Brain: Sex and Autism, Mental Illness, and Other Cognitive Diversity because it points out that for neurodiverse folks, when something goes wrong their diverse brain gets brought in as the cause:

...when things are going badly, suddenly it's all about your disability — and that's not correct. While your disability obviously plays a role in how you interact with people, and the world, it's not to blame for your relationship problems.


Sexuality doesn't exist in a bubble; it's a wonderfully complex part of our lives that is influenced and formed by so many things, including the diverse ways in which our brains work, our unique balances of hormones and other chemicals in our bodies, the experiences we had growing up (both chosen and not chosen, such as the way your parents raised and socialized you), the cultural messages we receive throughout life, experiences with other people, and more.

So that said, I do want to encourage you to integrate your autism into your sexuality not as an excuse, but instead with the understanding that it's normal and common, as you said. Being autistic is a real and valid part of your life experience. Aspects of our identities frequently interplay with our experience of sex, because - how could they not?

Heather actually posted a response (to another question) which I think applies here too. Much of how we all learn to find comfortable about and understanding of their sexuality boils down to working toward self-acceptance.

But in my book, what sexual liberation is in the most general way is basically radical self-acceptance and self-love. So, in your case what that might look like is acknowledging, accepting and honoring the things you feel uncertain or nervous about. Taking your time -- whatever time you need -- to find the people and situations where you feel comfortable and safe to put your desires out there and invite others into them. [...]

Get what I'm saying here? Can we maybe talk more from that place, instead of a place of shame and a lack of self-love and acceptance?


How does that all land with you?

BuddyBoi21
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Re: Old Wounds: Encountering an Ex (Someone Pls Respond ASAP!)

Unread postby BuddyBoi21 » Tue Feb 25, 2020 7:17 am

Hey Amanda,

I like everything that you have to say here. It definitely shows there is some internalized ableism. The more I integrate my autism into my already very marginalized identity, the more I feel like it'll make it "too hard" for people I'm attracted to and/or interested in to date me or have sex with me.

When I integrate the two, the shame of my sexuality comes back into play again. When I was younger I was REALLY interested in sex, I might go as far to say it was obsessive and because I didn't socialize like neurotypical kids and teens, I had no idea how to express my sexuality regardless of what it was at the time. My parents had already drilled into my head that the "right" kind of sex was heterosexual, PIV, in wedlock with someone you loved.

By the time I got to my teens and was more openly queer I still had trouble expressing or even doing anything sexual with another person. I feared getting an STD and getting in trouble with my parents. I was disgusted by cis boys and their unruly behavior but moreso felt that if I wasn't ever penetrated by anybody that I wouldn't go to hell. I also felt being penetrated would devalue my masculinity and in theory would make me feel extremely vulnerable (I didn't trust anyone in a sexual context) and dysphoric (which comes up more in my later teens).

My parents also socially isolated me as punishment for being in and catching me in my first queer relationship at 14. With no internet to reach out to and no friends I felt "socially stunted". I also wasn't in any clubs or anything because they didn't have the time or money to do anything. So I spent many of my days between 14-18 going to school, coming home and masturbating in my free time.

I would read fanfiction and would eventually use porn. I think of how I wanted someone so badly and how I didn't have too many friends because I wanted to insert myself into my crush's friend group and get closer to them (pretty much my senior year of high school). I had a lot of sexual thoughts and fantasies about my crushes that I considered impure and creepy. So I always wanted to cuddle, hug and kiss people I was attracted to a lot and wanted to do sexual activities with clothes on like grinding.

I didn't really understand it but I even remember my senior prom and how I allowed someone to grind against me when we danced. When I started to realize I was becoming horny I freaked out internally and felt embarrassed and pushed her away from me. I really liked it though and wanted to do it again but (again no understanding of social "rules") wanted to do it again with someone I was attracted to. I masturbated for two days straight thinking about that.

Integrating my sexuality and autism when looking at these meant I either express my sexual desire wrong or scare people away because I'm blunt and don't understand the social "rules" of neurtypical people. People would be turned off and if I did something by accident due to misunderstanding it wouldn't matter anyway because I hurt them.

As I got older I "learned" that sex didn't equate to love like I associated it with and that nothing in romamce really mattered, that's how I ended up in my last relationship.

I stopped caring about how "love" or "sex" worked. To an extent I felt (and still kind of feel) like I'm "late" in my romantic and social development in approaching sex. Many people around my age don't seem to want casual sex as much anymore and are settling down or focusing more on careers. To an extent I'm doing the same.

Instead of seeking sexual partners heavily, I just masturbate on a schedule and focus on anything and everything aside from sex. I see people I find attractive on campus, recognize them and keep going. Even the person I met at that conference who's studying abroad currently is someone I think of sexually and romantically but I have no faith something would actually come of it, no matter how much I would like it.

For integrating my autism with my sexuality it means that people have to go at my "weird" pace and communicate openly with detail. I can say I want to go more slow and feel like I come off as shy to many partners so that's how I describe myself. I also tell my partners that if they want my to do something that they should be able to tell me openly.

It feels like people consider my directness a turn off (sexual or not) both in and out of public school. It also feels like that even dating a person with autism (to neurotypical people) is considered an inconvenience which is why I just don't really want to try anymore unless it's with another autistic person.

Until then I've just been masturbating when I can and just trying to focus my desires for a romantic/sexual partner on something else because I feel it's not achievable right now. And so far it feels like it's easy to not date since I've always been the one to initiate anything.

Again even that thing that happened recently, I initiated it first. I will say what struck me differently is that they were flirting in a way I understood; like it was a lot more obvious that even someone like me who struggled with nonverbal cues actually understood. Even me being direct and getting closer to them and asking beforehand. They liked it???

That was a whole big tangent but I guess you get the point. I will bring this up in therapy (which may be next week or the week after I'll have to double check). As for that last bit about That Person, I know they won't be the last person I meet like this so I'm going to keep that out of my head am focus on this stuff.

I look forward to hearing from you?

Amanda F.
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Re: Old Wounds: Encountering an Ex (Someone Pls Respond ASAP!)

Unread postby Amanda F. » Thu Feb 27, 2020 12:38 pm

Hi BuddyBoi21! Sorry for the delay.

I’m going to try and address what you wrote, but if I leave anything out that you want to talk more about, please let me know! :)

Thank you for sharing more of your story of sexual development. Much of what you’ve described is actually pretty common for many people: unsure of how to express sexuality as children, poor sex education that drills in some problematic heteronormative and/or shameful thoughts about oneself, lack of communication from unsupportive parents… Sex-negative culture really does a number on us! I’m sorry that you, too, grew up in a culture and an environment that didn’t send you positive messages about your sexuality. However, it’s good to reflect on this, because in learning to accept ourselves, we have to understand (to some degree) why we are the way we are.

It was not your fault that you were raised that way/in that environment. Children can’t choose what messages they receive. We rely on our caregivers for that. So when it comes to acceptance of your behaviors and your sexuality, please remember that you didn’t choose how to be raised. You can now choose to be different, to want different things, while accepting that part of why those things feel challenging was because you were raised a certain way. <3

Much of the confusing and negative messaging we receive around sex could also be applied to how we generally relate and communicate with other people. Unfortunately, most people are never taught how to communicate openly and clearly with others (and ESPECIALLY around sex). Even neuro “typical” people struggle to tell each other what they want and need. Sure, some people do use less direct ways of doing that, but I think that often actually ends poorly for one or both parties.

When it comes to integrating your autism with your sexuality - I admire and celebrate your approach to communication, and I hope you can start thinking of it that way too. It may be surprising to people who aren’t used to direct communication, but it’s also the fastest away to ensuring that both you and your partner ACTUALLY get what you want! And it avoids confusion and consent issues. I recognize that some other people may not see that as a turn-on, like you said - but I also think that others WILL enjoy that. For example, that person that liked your directness!

One way to identify people who might be into your directness is to bring it up fairly early on (which it sounds like you may be doing already), and in a positive way. Your communication style is a strength, not a weird or bad thing. Communicating openly and with detail helps you and your partners understand each other and get what you want - that’s AWESOME! Being open about the pace you’d like to go? I think that’s wonderful. It shows that you know yourself and have taken care to communicate it to others. So letting someone know early that this is just your style and that it's positive can help them put it in that context, too.

One other thing I want to add is that self-acceptance can take some time. When we’ve spent years feeing negatively about aspects of ourselves, it won’t be an overnight shift into feeling great about them. So please see this as part of a journey and don’t be frustrated if some of your feelings stick around. Just be gentle with those feelings.

I want to make sure I’m focusing on things that are helpful to you - can you tell me going forward how I can support you? Are there more questions you have?

BuddyBoi21
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Re: Old Wounds: Encountering an Ex (Someone Pls Respond ASAP!)

Unread postby BuddyBoi21 » Fri Feb 28, 2020 11:53 am

Hey Amanda!

I really appreciate the support and reassurance about my upbringing and perceptions of sex growing up. A question that I have that's open to everyone is, how do I go about dating/super casual relationships/new sexual partners?
Or at least, how to I cope with these feelings of sexual frustration, touch starvation and romantic loneliness?

I will note for the first portion that That Person is sinking further and further away from my mind in a romantic sense. Like I think of them sexually but have shoved away the ideas or fantasies of a romantic relationship together (mostly because It's very unlikely to happen imo). So because of this I find myself wanting to date and/or have sex with people who live near me. I still feel nervous around it but it's particularly hard because a person I'd like to ask out is a friend.

I can't tell if she has any sort of interest in me or even if she's queer so I just talk to her as I would with anyone else and shove the romantic thoughts away. Sometimes she says things and the feelings come back a bit but for the most part I ignore them.

As for the second question it ties into this. In the meantime of not dating or having sex (which is not by choice, just a circumstance set up by the universe or whatever) how do I better cope if I'm not doing enough currently. I miss having good sex and being cuddled and kissed but I know I can't have these things right now because of my current situation.

I masturbate when I can and my sex toys work alright. I play an instrument and I've been studying music theory and focusing on start my new job(s) and my schoolwork/career. I also try to see my friends where and when I can. But still I feel that vague emptiness and think about good it felt to orgasm so intensely. I can't seem to get that when I'm masturbating and I don't have a single sexual partner regardless of compatibility.

I just want more distractions to keep me from paying attention to these feelings. I also don't want to have sex be the main focus in my life even though I want it.

I don't know if that's a shame thought or not. I do remember seeing some things about how autistic people can be focused on certain interests (I fear one of mine is sex). I also heard that there's a spectrum/stereotype that autistic people are asexual. I feel like I REALLY like sex but it's just something I have to ignore for a while until I end up being approached by someone I like.

I hope this makes sense and I will discuss this with my therapist too. Thank you!

Mo
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Re: Old Wounds: Encountering an Ex (Someone Pls Respond ASAP!)

Unread postby Mo » Fri Feb 28, 2020 6:10 pm

It sounds like you're on a good path as far as taking care of things that might make you more likely to run into situations where you'll meet people who could be good matches as dating or sexual partners, and making sure there are other things in your life you're focusing on so that it doesn't feel like everything is riding on the possibility of finding a partner. What's tough, I think, is that you can do the "right" things and still wind up waiting a while for things to fall into place

The basic answer to your first question, of how to find partners, is to find ways to meet and interact with people you have something in common with or find interesting, and if you find someone you're interested in having some sort of relationship or physical intimacy with, to ask them in a low-pressure sort of way and see what happens. From what you've talked about here in recent weeks, it sounds like you're doing some of that, and that's great.
I think I've talked about this a little before, and I don't want to repeat it because I don't think you've heard it before, but because I don't think there's a secret beyond this basic stuff that you are missing; there's no guaranteed way to find someone on a certain timeframe, and dating does wind up being a lot of trial and error or waiting sometimes. It sounds like you're putting yourself out there in a way that feels comfortable to you right now, you're making choices about who you do or don't want to discuss your feelings with (if you ever did want to consider asking your friend out, and wanted to talk about that, we could certainly do that), and that's honestly what I'd recommend to anyone asking these sorts of questions.

The second part of it, how to deal with frustration or longing related to not having a partner right now, can be tricky to answer, since what will feel best as a way to manage those feelings can vary from person to person. It sounds like you're keeping yourself busy and staying connected to other people, and that's a good start.
Sometimes, too, I think it can help to let yourself feel that sadness for a little bit. Distraction and ways to channel that energy and drive into something else are important, but I think acknowledging those feelings is important, too. I have a friend who has a lot of romantic longing right now, and her way of dealing with it is to write really beautiful romance fiction. It's a bittersweet thing for her, but ultimately her feelings make her work really special and she's ultimately proud of it even though there are aspects of it that feel sad to her.
I don't know whether that particular approach would appeal to you, but there may be some other way you can let yourself feel and express a little bit of that sadness or emptiness in a constructive way. This might be something to discuss in therapy; your therapist may have some ideas or suggestions for you.

BuddyBoi21
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Re: Old Wounds: Encountering an Ex (Someone Pls Respond ASAP!)

Unread postby BuddyBoi21 » Sat Feb 29, 2020 7:42 pm

Hey Mo,

I will start to say that overall this was a good thing to hear and read.

I'll go in actual order though:
I'm happy to know that I'm going in the "right" direction with how I'm directing myself in response to everything. Once I read (and honestly forgot about it until I saw it) the "time" concept of romantic/sexual anything, I essentially broke down and cried for roughly an hour.

I do understand that trial and error is a part of dating. But what hit me was that "time" and the fact these feelings of longing won't ever go away. That's something I wanted; I want to stop feeling that longing or desire for intimacy or love with another person romantically.

Realistically and logically, I know that's both impossible and probably unhealthy to wish for. So it's why I started to cry. I wanted to go out and play my guitar as a distraction. I felt sad after reading that specific part and tried to block it off, I also had to pick something up from my friend. I got in my car started my playlist and got frustrated over my singing, realized I was irritable and I REALLY started to acknowledge my feelings. I switched on a song that summed up how I felt; I felt like I was begging for love which is essentially what the singer was doing throughout the song.

The more I sang along, the more I cried. I felt pathetic for having these feelings of longing and when I got to my friend's place, I was incoherently sobbing. They did an amazing job being supportive and comforting me. Not only have they said something like this but so has my therapist: [in referance to these feelings] "This is why people continue to live and continue. People want to find love and we all have this desire for intimacy."

I grew up expressing these feelings outwardly as well as my frustrations as to why no one I was attracted to took an interest in me (this was high school and some of early college so there was a lot of self negative talk and unfair views of myself). It wasn't received well obviously. I struggled even more to maintain friendships then too because of that.

A lot of times it was the same thing; don't look for it, love yourself first, be okay with being single. It's probably why I went to the extreme of blocking people out romantically. I felt it was bad to even want anyone romantically. To have this desire meant I was doing something wrong, that I was wear or just sad and pathetic.

Recently since opening up more about how much I do want to be in love with another person and have a happy, healthy, long term relationship I've realized this old shame. I realize I still haven't fully internalized these feelings are normal and okay to have.

As a way to cope I could start writing songs but again my first thought in response is "this is stupid; just play something fun and forget about girls". Almost like a frustrated 16 year old boy who doesn't understand his feelings, it's that instinctual annoyance and shame toward something that feels vulnerable and seemingly illogical longing.

I anticipate that if I write songs or make music that it'll sound cheesy and cliche. I'm happy for your friend and that she makes wonderful fiction. I feel like if I write these songs and dig them up later that they'll be like an embarrassing or maybe a nostalgic journal entry. I'll look back at it and think it was silly how I sad I felt over this or I'll just think about how sad I was and feel I was overreacting.

Another big thing is that I think with being autistic this feeling is much more intense than people who aren't autistic. Again these feelings have been validated and I'm grateful for the support but wow do I want to stop feeling this! Either way I will discuss it in therapy. Also I realize I've been avoiding my feelings for the last few days and focusing into music for this exact reason: I was trying to avoid feeling that desire and sadness.

This will be brought up with my therapist. I hope I can bring myself to make music even if it seems silly or embarrassing.

Thank you again!

Amanda F.
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Re: Old Wounds: Encountering an Ex (Someone Pls Respond ASAP!)

Unread postby Amanda F. » Mon Mar 02, 2020 5:21 pm

Hi BuddyBoi21,

You know, I've talked myself out of creating things so many times in my life because I thought I'd be embarrassed of what I made. Visual art, poetry, songwriting, writing in general. And to be honest? I'm kicking myself now for not honoring that desire to create and express myself. I even wish I had stuff I think I'd be embarrassed of, because it would be something that *I* made.

There's something so visceral, so *human* about creating and expressing ourselves. Even if you never look at it again -even if it gets tucked away in a closet or a hard drive - I think listening to that desire you have to MAKE something is really good for you. It's part of your identity asking to come out. And expression in that way can be a really useful outlet to deal with some of those difficult feelings.

This may sound cliché, but it's helped me during difficult times to remember that literally everyone goes through them. The feelings you're experiencing, the discomfort, the heartache...you're not alone. <3

And importantly, those feelings won't last forever, either (even though it seems like they might right now). With time, you WILL meet more people, and some of them will turn out to be good matches for you in various ways. For now, though, remember that even a "messy" expression of feelings (crying, feeling a little overwhelmed, wishing they would go away) is actually 100% normal, and you're doing the right thing by giving yourself space to feel those things.

You mentioned you haven't quite internalized the feeling that wishing for love and a healthy relationship is okay. I was wondering if there are any examples you've discovered - media, therapist comments, art - that do reinforce that? Maybe we could come up with a list of things that make you feel good about those desires for you to look at now and then, to remind yourself that it IS okay to want those things.


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