Over the last month or so I have been having a bit of trouble with what I call my 'alert panic danger alarm' - a consequence of being in a toxic (understatement) relationship. I know hypervigilance has kept me safe and ongoing/constant anxiety has ensured we stay that way, but I also know this alarm can sense extreme danger when maybe only a degree of caution is needed and it can make me feel under threat when that isn't always the case. It massively impacts my ability to live happily and find enjoyment in things so I've been trying to challenge it.
As a number of people here know I now have a newish 'friend' (definitely part of me challenging myself). During our friendship I have been finding it difficult to know when this wonky alarm of mine is serving me well and when it is just being annoying. Sometimes I wonder if I have gone too far in challenging it and have let things slide with him that I shouldn't have. My friend is kind and heaps of fun. He's charismatic and I enjoy his company. But he also wants more than I want and can be pushy about things, though usually in a nice 'trying to help' kind of way. I have noticed some red flags and felt uncomfortable with them at times, but have also been quick to question their existence or put them down to me 'just being sensitive'. The way he is with me is very different to what I am used to and I think that can add a layer of confusion too.
I'm pretty frustrated at myself. I pride myself in being strong and confident with things like this and have found a level of assertiveness I never expected I could regain. But at the end of the day when it is just me on my own, I can sit with jumbled up feelings of self doubt wondering where all of those things I've worked at can go (or worse - whether I ever really had them or am just kidding myself thinking I did). I feel like I should know better or be able to do better with this one than maybe I am sometimes.
I imagine there would be a lot of people who are left with similar feelings in a new relationship after experiencing an abusive one. I am wondering how you distinguish between what doesn't feel right for you because of a faulty alarm system and what doesn't feel right because it really isn't right for you?
@CheerBear I think we can self-sabotage in such situations because we do not want to get hurt again. That does not mean that what we are feeling internally is wrong and you should not listen to that voice. Often when we have been through such an abusive relationship and relationship we have subsequently will be tricky. The key here I think is to work out if these are indeed residual feelings from your past hurt or new feelings with this relationship. If they are new feelings then act on them and if they are risidual feelings then maybe see where this goes giving it a little more time. You can only go on how he treats you in the present but if he is pushing you to have more than what you want then maybe he isn't right for you at this point in your life. You do need to put yourself first here and think what it is that you really want - that is most important - because if you want very different things in both this relationship and out of life then you will have difficulties moving forward anyway. A lot to think about Hon but you are a strong, independent and courageous women and you will do what is right for you in both the short-term and longer term.
Thank you @Everan for replying and sharing. I really like that perspective. I am not sure whether I could work out what comes from senses and what comes from my mind though but will definitely think on this one as something about it makes lots of sense. Thanks again 🙂
Thanks heaps @Zoe7 for replying too. I get why it may seem that way but I don't think this is self sabotage. It would almost be self sabotage not to be questioning this stuff I think, at least from my perspective of this situation. I agree with how important it is to be able to work out what are residual feelings and what are new ones. I guess that's a lot easier said than done when trauma stuffs around with our ability to do exactly that though, as I know you understand.
I know what I want and what he wants are different and I think that's going to be very hard (it already can be). He wants the 'very much together' thing. I want a friend to have fun with which he says he can do but I'm not so sure he can. Maybe a bit of this kind of push pull is pretty normal and with time it will settle (or not). Thank you for your vote of confidence. Much appreciated ❤
Hi @CheerBear I fully understand how difficult it is to start a new relationship after an abusive one. A couple of things come to mind. One is not to let him rush you. If he knows about what happened before he should accept this imo. Two is to really look at any red flags (as you mentioned) and not bury them. 2017 I did a course called Living Beyond Abuse and it taught me a lot. If you have a local women's centre they might have something similar. I still have all the material they gave us and a section of it was about getting into new relationships. If I can help, and if you want to, perhaps naming the red flags here could help. People say to trust our instincts but when you've been abused before it's really hard to trust both externally (other people) and internally (our radar). Most relationship (domestic) abuse victims have been 'groomed' in some way by their perpetrator, who is frequently a narcissist. (Often seeming like a rescuer or protector in the 'honeymoon' phase). It's common to be cut off from previous social contacts and friends, to be expected to be available at all times and let them into every aspect of our lives. There is a cycle in most abusive relationships which I can go into in more detail if you want me to.
Hoping this reply is helpful and not too invasive. I only want to help.
It is often that one person in a relationship feels more for the other than they can themselves @CheerBear - but it gets difficult if you can't see yourself having the same feelings for them longer term. It sounds like you are at that point and feeling pressured - even subconsciously - to find feelings you do not have. That is not what you want or need in this relationship. Time may change that but these things cannot be forced - they have to progress (or not) naturally ...and when you have had the history you have had there is no wonder you are questioning the relationship. You can only judge on what you are presented with though Hon and you know both him and you best and it really does come down to what you want out of this relationship and if he can give you that - whatever 'that' is.
Thank you heaps @eth. I hear how much you want to help and know how helpful you are (and really appreciate it/you) ❤
Something that does my head in a bit is that I do know this stuff. I've lived and breathed it for a long time, including in my personal life and in study and work (volunteer work and uni). That's where a lot of my 'should know better' comes from I think. I get it in a rational sense and if I was to look in as an outsider I think it would be much easier. But there are feelings involved that make it kind of a big blur sometimes (maybe what you touched on @Everan). Feelings come in and thinking goes out in a way 😕
I want to talk about the red flags but I don't think it would be totally helpful and I need to be careful about making sure I don't set myself into a spin. I spoke briefly with a counsellor the other day who asked some cleverly worded probing questions and got me talking, but the result of it was lots of unsettled feelings and I have struggled over the last couple of nights to sleep (and my sleep is already pretty wonky as you know). He's not abusive but I think there can be some emotional twisting and tugging and turning happening, which feels off sometimes. I dont want to give it more weight than it is worth but want to make sure it doesn't get bigger or harder too (if that makes sense).
Super appreciate you listening and sharing. Thanks again eth.
No worries @CheerBear. I'm hoping I understand where you're coming from in your last post. It's great that you have the counsellor irl that you can discuss things with. Hope your sleep settles down. Here for you however you want to share.
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