Emotional Modesty: Minimizing Emotional Needs to Avoid Conflict

Emotional Modesty: Minimizing Emotional Needs to Avoid Conflict

Reading Time: 8 minutes

As a child, what was your sense of emotional needs versus your parent’s reactions?

One afternoon Karla, my therapist, asked me this question.

I immediately launched into how my mom was a single parent and was always making sure us kids got to our activities on time, were fed, looked presentable and got our homework done. It was especially with the word reaction though, that I noted how my dad had a short temper, and was one relationship in my life which I would classify as an eggshell relationship – being careful and mindful about what you say or do when around them so as to not set them off, as they are usually set off easily – walking on eggshells. It was in the midst of chattering away about these aspects of life that I realized sometime in my childhood, in an effort to minimize the conflict potentially bubbling up from my dad and to keep things easy for my mom, I began to make myself emotionally smaller, by minimizing my emotional wants and needs.

To lessen my chances of “being a burden” while minimizing conflict, I think I reduced my own emotional needs in an attempt to minimize my parent’s reactions. This is not to suggest mom wasn’t attentive, or an open ear. I also wasn’t actively not talking to my mom about my problems – I was always very vocal about my concerns, worries and troubles. But I knew deep down, she was doing twice the work because she was the primary caregiver. She often says nowadays when she reflects on that time period, she was dancing as fast as she could, in an effort to keep up with the demands of being a single parent to two kids. It’s possible I downplayed my emotional needs so she wouldn’t have to dance faster.

When I first started working with Karla, I made it clear that it was my romantic relationships, more specifically, my thinking, my actions, reactions and my being when in romantic relationships, which were what I needed to work on. However, as she pointed out to me, aspects which concern us in one type of relationship, often tend to manifest themselves in other types of relationships.

I exist with a few (okay, more than a few) dysfunctional tendencies when in relationships, especially in terms of how I approach conflict within a relationship as well as my emotional maturity (or immaturity I guess) when handling said conflict. At first I thought a similar pattern of downplaying my emotional needs was taking place in my romantic relationships. Now, I wonder if it’s an internal struggle of repeating these old patterns, while at the same time, trying to make up for the extent to which I minimized these needs when I was younger. How do I usually do that? Bring up conflict when no conflict exists.

I tend to bring up little things that bug me, when in the grand scheme of the relationship, they’re not a big deal. So what if he didn’t know I wanted him to reach over to hold my hand during a movie? Was it really worth bringing up and making a big stink of it, and inevitably ruining the evening?

One tendency is that i’ll often attempt to put square pegs into round holes when dating. In other words, I try to conform to, and place the wants and needs of my partner on a pedestal just for the sake of keeping the peace. I will minimize my own emotional wants and needs, in order to avoid conflict. to make things fit when they are not fitting. We see this internal struggle, now becoming a struggle which affects my actions and behaviors.

I also tend to believe that if I bring up a point of conflict, my partner will break up with me. This stems from recognizing within myself that if I bring up enough insignificant points of conflict continuously and consistently, I have the potential to create unrest within the relationship. I’ve never been with a man who does this, it’s simply a byproduct of my internal dialogue and my actions. I know that this is connected to feeling insecure when I am with the person I care about (something I have touched upon in previous posts), as well as a lack of security and confidence within my own feelings and emotions.

The third point is that usually after I have brought up a point of conflict, I will feel guilty for having done so, to the point that I chastise myself for having brought it up. It’s like I can’t stop myself from addressing these points when they bubble up. When discussing my points of conflict within past relationships with friends, a few have said to me well if you brought it up then obviously it was something which bothered you, which makes it valid. I disagree though – if you bring up enough small things that are not a big deal, you become a nag, and no one wants to be in a relationship with their mother. I don’t think anyone actively seeks out a relationship with someone who creates conflict – hell, I wouldn’t want to be with someone like that, it sounds exhausting.

It eventually turns into a cycle – I get upset over something small, my partner and I resolve the argument, then I usually end up apologizing profusely, feeling guilty, asking for reassurance, worrying about it for days on end and questioning if the relationship will survive. This is all in addition to how much better things would have been had I not just kept my mouth shut (I know – I’m super hard on myself). It’s complete garbage on my mental health, I expose my insecurities and lack of confidence, and my partner turns into my therapist.

A few solutions I see in working to curve these patterns is learning to pick my battles and developing the ability to think critically as to if what I am about to address is really worth bringing up. Alternatively, stopping to ask myself if there is something within my own power, which I could do to improve the situation or fix the “little thing” which is bothering me. As I’ve said before, it takes two to tango in a relationship.

Another point is working to heal my inner child – consciously granting myself permission to heal by writing about these topics as well as attending therapy is helping. I’ve also realized that little points of conflict I tend to bring up, are more a reflection of how I view myself – for example do I stir up conflict as a means to avoid the conflict that lies within me? As an unhealthy means to release the suppressed emotional wants and needs from my younger self?

It actually took for someone to point it out to me to realize that I’ve never had an example of a healthy relationship. For the most part, learning how to be in a healthy relationship has been a real trial and error process – I think for a lot of people it is. It’s almost as if I allow my inner child to be the part of me which handles and controls how I respond to external conflict. While I’m not one to argue or shout at my partner (getting loud and aggressive is not my “argument style”), it’s very nit-picky and childish behavior on my part. This inner child extends to how I react as well. I let my inner child go off the rails, instead of being accountable for my actions as a grown ass woman. Learning to heal my inner child, work in tandem with it and taking back control of my responses to conflict is key.

One last point is developing my ability to respond before reacting to something which I deem “conflict” – this is why meditation has really proven beneficial, as it allows me to stay grounded in the present, and slow time down. Especially when my judgement is clouded, I sometimes have a hard time thinking clearly prior to blurting something out. It’s part of my responsibility as a caring, present, communicative partner, to do my part, whether that means recognizing and confronting legitimate points of conflict, or talking myself down from the ledge of addressing “little things” which seem like points of conflict but really are not.

Thank you for reading as always. If you liked what you read, give my post a like, hit the Follow button on the top right-hand corner of this post, and turn on post-notifications, so you never miss an LE blog post! Don’t forget to join my monthly email list by signing up below, for updates, bonus content, and recommendations from yours truly!

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My Troubles with Trauma

My Troubles with Trauma

Reading Time: 7 minutes

Despite this post talking about trauma, it does not go into great, graphic detail – it is more a reflection upon the trauma which I have experienced.

In my previous post, I touched upon my concerns and issues related to abandonment – primarily how abandonment has manifested itself in my past romantic relationships and how moving forward, I will actively work towards communicating to my partner that this is something I struggle with and continue to work through. I suggest that my concerns with abandonment have primarily stemmed from my father, and his inconsistent presence throughout my childhood.

I actually recommend you go back and read my previous post first, before you read this post, as it provides greater insight and context into this situation.

Today’s post is an extension of the previous one – how despite clear abandonment issues, I struggle to accept and to grant myself the peace of mind that what I experienced was a form of trauma. I also struggle with feelings of validity in several different areas of my life – I struggle to feel valid in the very fact that my dad was absent. I struggle to feel valid in using the term absent to describe my father. I struggle to feel valid with how his absence and it’s aftermath still affects me today as an adult. I especially struggle with feeling valid as to whether I have permission to refer to the aftermath I am experiencing as trauma.

One of the biggest inner challenges or turmoils I have struggled with and dealt with concerning this situation, is if my experience with this could be classified as trauma – and if it is considered trauma, is that trauma actually valid? Writing this post, my head is telling me my experience is not worth sharing because it is not trauma – but how can it not be when what occurred in my childhood is now manifesting itself in adulthood? When what took place when I was younger, is now having residual effects on my relationships, creating a lack in my ability to feel safe and secure when I am with someone I care about?

The struggles concerning my situation when I was younger, play out in a narrative that goes something like this: Sure, my dad was absent, but he was around, sporadically throughout my childhood, whereas some people’s parents are absent, period. There’s no floating in and out of their children’s lives as mine did – they’re just not there. My mind tells me I could have had it worse, that my experience is somehow less valid or not valid at all because at least he was involved in my life, in some way, shape, form or capacity.

So … that’s got to be better than the alternative which is not at all – right?

Re-reading those lines, and another more rational, more kind and gentle part of my mind appears and says no, honey – it’s not better. Looking back now, I feel certain it would have been better if he was either always there, or he was never there. I feel stuck in this weird limbo where at least I had him for parts of my life, but am I truly allowed to refer to him as an absent parent if he was around for some of it? This is what I grapple with, too – not only the validity of his absence, but the validity in referring to him as absent.

I made this analogy in my previous post as well, but I compare it in my mind to a fishing rod in the water with bait attached. The bait is my dad and I am the fish. It’s like when he was around it was exciting, it was amplifying a pretend normalcy despite the fact I had not seen him in months, despite the fact it was anything but normal. I know most people at this point would say what even is normal these days? but you get my point here. It was for me, a little fish, being lured by bait.

Which is why I wonder if my life would have been better off, had I never seen or experienced the bait to begin with?

All that being said, if we look at the facts and how life panned out, how could I not refer to my father as absent? I didn’t see him for the last 6 years of his life. Even before that, visits and phone calls from him were like a Russian Roulette style of parenting – maybe the gun won’t go off and i’ll get to see him, maybe the gun will go off and I won’t see him for another 4 months.

After he died (and even in the last few years leading up to his death), I think I carried a lot of guilt about not making an effort to see him. I had his phone number – why didn’t I call him? Why didn’t I set up a get-together? He only lived 45 minutes away. I was fortunate to have my brother with me on the day we found out he died because that same guilt came back and washed over me tenfold.

My mom was always supportive of my brother and I not having any reason to feel guilty of this exact thing and would repeatedly remind us of this. He was the parent, we were the children – if he wanted to see us, he should make the effort. I think that in and of itself was trauma too – knowing your parent lives so close, but them never making the effort to see you. You begin to question your worth, and what you could have done differently.

At the same time, I don’t think I would have wanted to see him or have gotten together with him. I am currently working on another post addressing his alcoholism (which brought with it even more trauma), but within the last 6 years of his life, his state/condition/however you want to refer to it, got really sick, to the point I ended up changing my phone number as a result of it. Bear with me on that post, it is coming. I know I mentioned it in my last post, My Mother: 10 Lessons at 60, but it’s a doozy, and I need to make sure I write it and capture it right, considering it involves both my mother and father’s side of the family.

Reflecting on the whole situation, I recognize that trauma is not one size fits all. Trauma looks different for everybody. Some will experience trauma to a greater, more severe degree, than others. In the same breath, just because my trauma may not be perceived as severe as others, who have endured much worse, that does not make my trauma any less valid.

I now recognize that in an attempt to take up less space with the trauma I experienced, I did not allow myself the space to heal, which probably would have made me a lot healthier and a lot happier. I said previously as well, it was not until I went to therapy that I made the connection that trouble within my romantic relationships may have occurred due to past abandonment concerns, and therefore the trauma experienced from that, is what has manifested itself in my relationships. Bottom line, I am working on granting myself permission to recognize my own trauma, by being more openly communicative with myself about my needs, as well as communicating to my future partner(s) about those needs, too.

Thank you for reading as always. If you liked what you read, give my post a like, hit the Follow button on the top right-hand corner of this post, and turn on post-notifications, so you never miss an LE blog post! Don’t forget to join my monthly email list by signing up below, for updates, bonus content, and recommendations from yours truly!

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My Mother: 10 Lessons at 60

My Mother: 10 Lessons at 60

[TW: ED]

Reading Time: 10 Minutes

Today my mom turns 60. This past weekend, I asked her to reflect on life as she turns the big 6-0 – looking back on lessons learned, what she’d go back and tell her younger self if she could, and what she plans to do moving forward.

I’ve focused a lot of my energy recently on writing about my dad, about his absence and inconsistency throughout my childhood, and (in the works at the moment) his alcoholism. But throughout this writing, I’ve often thought “What about mom? Why focus so much energy on the invisible parent when the other was so present. She was the real hero of these stories”. She understands that my writing is a way to work through what I’ve lived through, but I thought it was about time that I focus on her – what a perfect week/day to do so.

In the past, she’d put her own needs aside to raise us offspring, while at the same time, putting up with an immense amount of bullshit from my dad. She’s pushed past the societal stigmas of raising 2 kids as a single parent and the criticism that’s been dished out to her that kids from broken homes end up troubled. My brother and I have not let this stigma define us, shape us, or take hold of us – speak to past teachers, speak to family friends, speak to our places of employment and you will find praise of 2 hardworking, caring individuals. That’s not meant to boost us up, in fact I take it very humbly. What i’m saying is we owe that praise to her.

She often makes enough food to feed a small army and at 60, still hasn’t figured out the correct quota of person to pasta ratio. She found love again at 52, after choosing to stay single for 15 years so she could raise us kids (meanwhile i’m over here lamenting about being single at 30). She has shared her appreciation for older music and movies with my brother and I (a la impromptu Milli Vanilli boogie sessions in the kitchen). She is strong, she is kind and not afraid to speak her opinion. She is helpful and she is loving – happy 60th birthday to my momma. Without further ado, here are 10 lessons at 60 from my mother and 2 lessons she hopes to adapt moving forward.

Accept your partner as they are

“If you find yourself in a relationship, especially when you are younger, accept your partner as they are – do not try to change them. If you find yourself trying and struggling to change aspects of your partner, it may be wise to take a step back, reconsider who you are with and whether that’s the person you’re meant to be with. Reflecting upon my first marriage before your dad, my ex and I grew apart in different ways. I was naggy and didn’t speak for long periods of time (when upset). Looking back now, I recognize he was perfectly fine the way he was – it’s crazy now that I reflect on it.”

I asked her what she thought she was trying to change in him, and she said “all those dumb guy things – the things young guys don’t think about, but you expect them to. Especially when you are younger you think they can read your mind, you don’t communicate. That’s another thing – you should never not speak – even if you fight and yell at each other, it’s better to do that then not talk. Eric (her current partner) says he has nothing to work with when I shut down.”

Your friends can be your family

“My friends are more like my family. I have friends that I connect with more than family members. Just because you’re related to someone doesn’t mean you are automatically close with them. It also doesn’t mean you have to be friends with them. Some people have that (connection with their siblings), but just because you are related, it doesn’t mean you have to work at a relationship that is hard, or try to the point where it’s disturbing in your life – you can give up on it.”

Struggles are what make you stronger

“Every struggle led me to where I am now, which is a very positive place (I commented that it was probably the healthiest place she has ever been). Eric and I allow each other to just be ourselves. Every hurdle that you jump through and come out the other side, leads you to a better place.”

Wisdom with Money

“I would have been way wiser with money way earlier. But it was all about the party. You made the money and you spent the money, and you tried to save it but then took it out of places you shouldn’t have. I often think of Whistler Blackcombe, I could have bought a place for $8,000. Why were we so stupid with money? Why are you so smart?”

I proposed I thought it was because the economy was okay back then (in the 80’s), and the cost of living was cheaper, so there wasn’t as great of a need to save. As I pointed out to her now, I can’t afford to buy a house. “There were also jobs you could get without schooling, which may have also meant more disposable income when I was younger. I was also somewhat behind in money from raising your brother and you. So I would say just be wiser with money.”

Traveling lighter makes for a happier trip.

“Every trip I take I learn to take less with me because the less baggage you take with you, the happier your trip will be. Travel is so much easier with less and you usually don’t end up wearing half of what you take.”

Have Patience.

“Patience is something I have learned. Having patience has benefited me in that I don’t get agitated about little things. Patience also requires me to …”

Slow Down.

“If your pace is slower you have more patience. I’m in no hurry to get things done any longer. Sometimes things irritate me, but very little does anymore. I used to be the Queen of Rushing when I was younger, but I don’t rush anymore, I allow myself down time now. Some people might say it’s wrong, that you should live in the moment, but I don’t live in the moment. I know what I am eating a week and a half from now – that’s who I am. I have always had to be one date ahead, but that’s not something I think I have learned (a lesson from) – that’s something I see as a good thing for me, it’s what I do. It’s not something I would want to change ever.”

I asked her if she wished she lived more in the present over the years – “It was not a possibility as a single parent of 2 kids. But I look back to the summer holidays, that one summer we went to Drumheller – we put Sun In in our hair and you kids went back to school looking healthy and tanned. I look back at those times and I was present. I still knew what we were having for dinner and still knew what we were doing the next day, but I enjoyed it, I was with you kids. At home, when working full time and running from one activity to the next, I always had to be ahead of it. Now, I don’t have to do or be that way (both of us kids have flown the coop) but it’s an organizational thing for me, it’s part of who I am. I would rather be the way I am than at 4:00pm in the afternoon go “hmm what am I going to have for dinner?”. Speeding up to slow down, as I put it, and she agreed.

Don’t Take Yourself Too Seriously

“I have learned how to laugh at myself. If something is funny, and little things just happen, I don’t take it home with me. I don’t come home and say “oh my god, oh my god”. Instead of beating myself up about things, I can laugh at myself which is important. You don’t care as much about what people think as you get older.”

I told her I looked forward to growing older for that reason.

Eat Healthy, Everything in Moderation

“I think that a diet, like a really restrictive diet is not healthy – I think that the strive to be thin can be all-consuming. I did all kinds of stupid stuff. I took laxatives when I was in my 20’s, I made these muffins that were held together by bran and nothing else. I’ve always had a weight problem. I do love Weight Watchers, I don’t know if you can pump them up on your blog. My mother had me on this diet when I was 8 that was grapefruit, boiled eggs, and Swiss cheese and that’s all I ate for like a week. Those kinds of weird things – doing things to your body that are destructive. I just think healthy eating and a healthy lifestyle are the way to go, but also to live a little once in a while – have that doughnut if you want to, everything in moderation.”

As I pointed out to her, with that sort of diet when you are 8, you are reinforcing the belief that your body is not what it should be, you reinforce the idea of an “other”, like it should be something that it’s not. The second point is that creates such disordered eating when you start so young, in women especially, which is probably why she ended up making bran muffins with nothing to them.

“I would say enjoy life – if people relaxed a little bit more about diets, they would find their weight wouldn’t fluctuate so much and would probably be happier.”

Walk Away From DramaEspecially Workplace Drama

When talking about her previous workplace: “I was seen as not very social or friendly because I wanted to avoid the drama that filled my workplace. When I was younger I may have made more of an effort to be social but as I got older, and especially at the specific location of where I worked, my intent was to come to work, do my job and leave. Nobody there liked their job. They got stuck there because of the money, they were grumpy and hated what they were doing. They were trying to create something out of nothing and trying to make other people unhappy because they were not happy. It’s toxic – they were not happy in their own lives and there was so much talking about everyone else behind their backs. You don’t need it – stay away from it.”

2 Things To Work Towards

Become a Better Listener

“I would like to, in the future, between 60 and 70, to not, while someone is talking, have my brain going in a million different directions in how i’m going to respond to them. To stop my brain and actually listen to somebody. That’s one thing, it’s a big one. It’s always going – when you’re talking to me, I’m thinking of what i’m going to say or something else. And it’s not you, it’s just who I am and my brain has had to do that for years. That’s something I’m going to work on. It’s back to the point earlier about slowing down.”

Express Gratitude on a Daily Basis

“I would like to wake up every morning and think of something I’m grateful for, to take a page from your book. Because sometimes you forget, all the good you have and you need to remind yourself every day.”

Thank you for reading as always. If you liked what you read, give my post a like, hit the Follow button on the top right-hand corner of this post, and turn on post-notifications, so you never miss an LE blog post! Don’t forget to join my monthly email list by signing up below, for updates, bonus content, and recommendations from yours truly!

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My Name Is Lindsay and I Have Abandonment Issues

My Name Is Lindsay and I Have Abandonment Issues

I’ve been thinking a lot about my ex recently – and not in the way you might think.

Primarily, my thoughts have been about reflecting on particular moments, where I should have been more open and communicative with him and what I would say now if I had the chance. I always tout myself as someone who’s main solution of working through their problems and conflicts with others is by talking through them. I recognize that relationships take two to tango and not everything that created points of conflict between us was necessarily my fault (another blog topic we shall spare for another day – my Unhealthy All or Nothing Thinking Patterns).

What I should have been open about when communicating with him, however, was how unresolved trauma and abandonment issues from my childhood, may tend to manifest themselves in our relationship.

That being said, I can’t and won’t be too hard on myself. I have heard many times before that concerns which surface in adulthood are often a result of what took place in childhood, but it’s truly taken attending therapy for me to recognize this connection and see examples of it in my own life. It’s also taken therapy to make me realize the importance of communicating your mental health concerns and/or giving a head’s up to your current partner about your past trauma. Some people may read that and say Well of course Lindsay! Why would you not want to communicate that to your partner? I suppose in the simplest of ways I can outline it, I did not connect the dots that select arguments we had perhaps unconsciously stemmed, on a different plain, from my unresolved childhood concerns.

Photo by Evie S. on Unsplash

I should also note that we only dated for roughly 2 and half months and while we did share a lot of information with each other in that short time period (and even if I had in a hypothetical situation, say, “connected the dots”), I may have still held back from telling him because we were so new. Thinking back I feel too as though it would been a lot to handle, or too much for him to deal with – you want to keep things light and fun when you’re first with someone – would I make things too heavy if I had told him? I’m not agreeing with this necessarily – more so musing different outcomes in my mind. But even in the “honeymoon” phase of our relationship, concerns manifested themselves, so really, I should have been honest, regardless.

My own experience with unresolved childhood trauma, involves my father not being a consistent figure in my life. Yes – I have daddy issues. My parents separated when I was quite young. I was too young to remember it or to understand it, which for me, translated into it not having an affect on me in a profound way (which I am actually grateful for – some folks who’s parents split up when they are young, are greatly affected – this was not the case with me).

To sum up his life pattern in one word, especially in my conscious memory of him, it would be transient. He frequently bounced around to different living situations, in different buildings in different cities. I don’t recall there being one particular place he stayed in very long, the longest I think would have been a townhouse he resided in for a few years. I can’t remember his exact reasoning he gave to me as a child, when I would ask him why he was moving again, but I would wager to guess now he’d either a.) Skipped out on paying rent one too many times b.) Crossed a line with someone or c.) A combination of the two. It should be noted as well, that my dad perceived himself to never be in the wrong and never be at fault (it was always someone else’s fault), which did not serve him well when dealing with other people, as well as creating and sorting out conflict.

In addition to an inconsistent living situation, his presence was inconsistent throughout my life, too.

When he was present, I remember he’d take my brother and I out for dinner a lot, I remember gifts on random occasions which he would present to us, and randomly show up at our sporting events and moments of importance in our lives. This would irk my mum to no end, as when he showed up, he liked to pretend he was a fully fledged, fully supportive parent – “Joe Dad” as my mother referred to him – a facade of always being there, always supportive, all the time, when this couldn’t be further from the truth.

On the flip side of this consistency and showering of affection, there was a gaping hole. Birthdays missed, not seeing him for weeks or months at a time, maybe a phone call – maybe not. My dad also walked through life with a poor grasp of money and what to do with it when he had it. So even if he showered us with meals out and presents, he couldn’t save money to save his life and spent it faster than he made it. I recall one particular situation when we were spending the day with him. He stopped for gas and he put $5.00 in his tank. What is an average amount of money to put in your gas tank – $30? $50? Even as a kid, I remember thinking that it was weird and not quite right.

The final blow to the gaping hole came in 2010. I was 18 and it was my aunt (his sister) and uncle’s wedding. I had driven my brother and I, and I remember as we were leaving, my dad walked us out. He was drunk (now a particular detail which I view as insightful foreshadowing of the years to come), got teary-eyed (from the alcohol), and in his best “attempt to sound normal but slurred nonetheless” voice, said he loved us, and watched us drive away. That would be the last time I would ever see him. He eventually moved 45 minutes away from my brother and I to be closer to his sisters and for the next 6 years, until his death in 2016, he would on/off call to chat, but never make plans to see my brother or I. From here, we dive into a whole other story which I will share eventually, but for the sake of staying on track with today’s topic, we shall save that for another day.

I compare it in my mind to a fishing rod in the water with bait attached. The bait is my dad and I am the fish, being lured by the bait. It’s like when he was around it was like bait – exciting, amplifying a pretend normalcy despite the fact I had not seen him in months, despite the fact it was anything but normal. I know most people at this point would say what even is normal? but you get my point here.

Photo by Ahmed Zayan on Unsplash

So now we return to my ex and how this may have played a role in certain points of conflict.

We’d met in December, and spent most of the month together, including pretty much every day of the Christmas break. I work for a university, and the school had let out for it’s customary 2 week holiday break, so he’d requested time off from his own work so he could spend it with me, his new gal pal.

When January rolled around and he had to go back to work (as did I), I remember that first week back being so hard. I went from seeing him every day and talking to him every day, to now not seeing him and now not hearing from him for hours at a time.

I remember not being in a great mental state on that particular Friday when that first week wrapped up – we’d met up after he got off work, having already canceled dinner reservations because he’d been asked to work late. I remember him pulling his car into a grocery store parking lot because he needed to pick up a few things and I started to cry because I hadn’t seen him and it had been really difficult. Even writing that and thinking back to it now makes me want to cry. I’d communicated to him it had been hard. He’d tried to make me laugh to cheer me up, then reasoned with me that he has jobs where he can’t be on his phone or talk to me as much, which I understood.

Upon telling my therapist of this situation, she said the common theme here is that I felt unsettled. Feeling unsettled because my father himself was unsettled – moving around, all the time, never staying in one place too long. Feeling unsettled with the inconsistency my father created and manifested by always being in and out of my life. Feeling unsettled when I go from seeing my partner every day to suddenly not seeing him at all. While I saw my ex more consistently than my father, it would be fair to suggest that the same panic, fear and sadness I experienced that week of my ex not being as present and as with me as he had been, were unconscious emotions related back to my experience with my dad.

Of course, my ex didn’t literally abandon me, but perhaps my inner little fish felt baited again in a similar fashion as it had all those years before.

While it could very well have been simply me having a hard time adjusting to a new normal (as my mother has pointed out, it can be hard to go from seeing someone all the time, every day, to not seeing someone nearly as much), it’s possible I unconsciously felt slightly abandoned. This is what I would communicate to my ex if I could. That while I am content with my own time and recognize people have their own lives outside of those connected to their partners, I perhaps need a higher level of communication than other people when in relationships to feel secure – at least in the beginning stages of a new relationship when you’re working out common ground and feeling not as secure as say a year, or 5 years down the road.

I don’t feel shame surrounding my abandonment issues. On the contrary, getting them out in the open and talking about them, allows me to work through them. Identifying particular mental states which may not serve my future relationships well, but that I can communicate to my partner in advance, can help to mitigate them in the long run. Not to mention, writing articles such as this one helps me to better recognize my wants and needs in a relationship – it allows my partner to be better equipped in making me feel more safe and secure when I am with them, which ultimately translates to me showing up as the best (AND HEALTHIEST) version of myself for my partner.