The topic of jealousy was addressed in couple’s therapy last week. We talked about my lack of jealousy in intimate relationships. It has a lot to do with how I see that reaction/set of emotions: as anger (and I have a huge aversion to anger). Its not only that though. It’s that I feel that jealousy is useless. It causes a whole bunch of issues if it’s unfounded (which it often is), so I don’t expend much energy on it in relationships in the first place. Yes, I’ll admit to jealousy of people who seem to have it together, of people who can keep their lives on track, or people who can make it through a day without thinking that the world would be better off if they just ceased to exist. That I’m jealous of… but of someone choosing to leave me in a relationship? No. I’m difficult to live with, depressed, selfish, needy, lazy, and take way more than I give. And this is not just my poor self-esteem. This is the truth of the moment. And it’s a truth I am not sure I am ready to change right now, not because I don’t care, but because I have not given myself permission to be any of these things until relatively recently in my life. My history has consisted of doing nothing but giving to others and bending over backwards to please others even when I had nothing to give and was completely spent. I have a history of ignoring my own needs and desires in order to make others happy (or keep them appeased). So in the last 7 or so years (more so in the last 3), I have swung to the other extreme. I take time for myself. I throw little-kid tantrums to to get my needs met. I am utterly selfish most of the time… and I feel incredibly guilty about it. I’m at constant war with my “training” from my childhood, and the new information I’m given on a daily basis. I have yet to find a happy medium.
The whole topic came about surrounding the concept of L’s crush on J. J asked if I was jealous of L’s energy being put into someone else (or the concept of someone else). I asserted that jealousy (at least the anger portion of it) was not something I ever really felt in any relationship. It’s not that the relationship means so little, or that I feel so secure in the relationship that I have no reason to feel jealous. It’s that I don’t feel I deserve to fight for it. If someone chooses to move on from me, who am I to stop them? I wasn’t worth the relationship in the first place. I’ll be sad about it, but I don’t feel myself worth sticking around for. J brought up a good point though. She said that L was the one “disadvantaged” at the start of the relationship because she was the one pursuing me. I was standoff-ish and non-committal (I had just come out of a 5-year relationship and my ex had been the one to get me the subscription to Match.com. I did not yet feel ready to jump back into something serious, so I dated other people for the first 6 months I knew L). She also brought up that a wandering eye in a relationship can often mean some needs are going unmet (to that I say: Duh! I’m still surprised that L has chosen to stay in this relationship, as it seems to be me doing all the taking while I battle my demons. I would hate being in a relationship with myself…). Jealousy is supposed to help signal that something is going unmet, and supposed to motivate me to work to meet those needs… The thing is, I feel incapable at this time of meeting some of those needs. How do you make emotional space for something you battle another aspect of daily? How do you balance caring for others and caring for yourself if your needs happen to be on opposite ends of the spectrum.
And now comes up the topic of sex… This is a tough one for me. I am torn between the teaching/learning that sex is a taboo topic, and society’s push to sexualize just about everything. I’m embarrassed by it, and my struggles with it. In a culture where sex is freely bragged about, all over TV, and “expected” once you hit a certain age, I am hindered by the shame brought on from abuse. Don’t get me wrong, it can be incredibly wonderful (especially with a partner to whom you are connected). But it can also be scary as sin. I have a history of molestation and rape… and the memories have come back with a vengeance since I moved back “home”… I don’t talk about it much. I talk around it, but not about it. It has always effected me, but it became a much larger obstacle in this environment. I’m back in the same place where a lot of it happened. I’m back in the same neighborhood, the same house, the same room… The memories and flashbacks came much harder and more often when we first moved back here, but they still linger. I have put up walls around myself to stay out of that head-space. I try my best not to think of any of it, but that means I avoid it with my wife also (talk about frustrating on her end). The act of having sex still very much triggers me. I get lost in the memories, and I suddenly can’t tell if I’m with my wife, or with Duckboy. Time warps. I’m at once very young and 16 and 34. My body confuses the physical sensations. My head launches into the past… The use of names during sex creeps me out, but I’m not quite sure why (that may go back to me having trouble associating with my name at times). I try my hand at changing the associations sometimes, but it’s difficult to do and does not always work. So how do I explain it to my wife without making her feel unloved and unwanted? I’m not sure… which leads to resentments and unmet needs. It leads to her desperately searching for a way to get those needs met within the bounds of our relationship (toys are wonderful inventions)… And it leads to a lot of fights. Neither of us likes to make the other feel bad, so we walk on eggshells in our fighting. We simply don’t talk much. We distance ourselves and cry and feel abandoned… I hate it. I wish I could change this about myself. I wish I could be ok with having sex all the times it comes up. I wish I could take those horrible memories and wipe them from my head. I wish I didn’t confuse her touch with the memory of his… I wish I could be normal! And I wish society did not place such emphasis on sex and sexualized behavior. I’m glad we can talk about it more openly, but at the same time, we are barred from talking about the scarier side of everything, the uncomfortable stuff, and the issues surrounding any negative experiences. Victims are still very stigmatized, and perpetrators are still somewhat exulted…
So I started working with De back in late August. She is a therapist at the local sexual assault crisis counseling center. Only, as much as I want to focus on the assaults and getting over the associations I have with sex, all the other stuff also crowds the exits and we are again left doing crisis stabilization instead of any meaningful trauma work. I don’t know how to change that… On Friday, De had mentioned trying a to start processing the traumas that I have experienced. I had desperately wanted to jump into everything and start right there, but my fears got the best of me. While I want to share the details of the past, I wish that no one else would ever have to experience it or hear it. And I worry that, in the telling, I will come to the realization that my reactions are over-blown, I will be invalidated in my pain (It really wasn’t that bad. Others have had it worse. You call that trauma? You’re just a whiney little child! <–all things I have heard in the past at one time or another). Also, I have a history of falling apart completely when facing my past. I have always lost complete control and become a huge liability. I tried telling her this, but I am not very good at expressing things a lot of the time (and people seem to have a difficult time grasping the extent of my decompensation unless they witness it for themselves. It's such a huge departure from my presentation when I'm "together" that it's difficult to imagine). I tried to tell her that I am willing to try it as long as we can guarantee it can be done safely, but that my fears make me believe that I should do it while inpatient. I came off sounding like I did not want to try it, which is completely wrong. I want nothing more than to tackle all of this once and for all… but I'm terrified. I don't trust myself. I don't want to put my wife through that level of "crazy" again. I don't want to cause De to resent ever having taken me on as a client. I don't want people to think less of me (I have a desperate desire to be liked while still feeling completely unworthy of that positive association).
My fear of falling comes not only from my past, but also from the ever-present thoughts of suicide that haunt the back of my head. Even if I don't have an active plan or desire to kill myself, the thoughts are always there. To have that so close, and to think of tackling trauma issues outpatient (which can be incredibly triggering) is very scary… but then why am I seeing De?
(in proof-reading this post, I find I have not touched on what it was that I originally wanted to say, but I also have lost whatever that was… humpf.)