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When I feel hurt or upset by something, I inevitably end up apologizing for feeling. Why do I do this?

We had a nice lunch today, everything was pleasant enough. When we parted, he even wanted to call and talk to me on the way home. We talked about his car, his business, and at some point I launched into some story, I don’t even remember about what – commiserating about something he had shared with me and I had a similar experience.

Suddenly in my mid-sentence he interrupted me: “I have to take a call, sorry” and abruptly hung up. I was hurt. And I wondered what was so important that he had to interrupt me mid-sentence to hang up. But I knew what it was – his ex-wife. I knew because there is always this same tone of panic and “jump” behavior when she calls. And I know that they have kids and probably he reacts this way because it could be, most likely is, some topic related to them. But does he have to hang up instantly every single time? When my ex calls, I don’t hang up. I let it go to voicemail and call back later. At the very least, I wait until he’s finished his sentence and then say I am getting a call and probably should wrap up and call them back – if it’s important enough to warrant breaking the other conversation.

I feel low priority, less important, and I want confirmation. So I ask…what was so important? Was it an emergency? Is everything ok? Everything is fine, he just had to take the call. I accuse him of being mysterious. Yes, because in my place I would say – “it was my ex, about the kids, I had to take it.” But he is vague. He responds with this admission…indeed, it was the ex, about the kids, he had to take it. And asks me what is wrong with that. So I tell him. I wouldn’t hang up on him so abruptly when my ex calls. Is it so urgent she can’t wait 10 seconds for you to explain your ex is calling and you think it’s about the kids so you need to take it? Would something horrible happen if it even went to voicemail and you let me finish my sentence and called her back 2 minutes later?

He is adamant. He has done nothing wrong. He is sure I have done exactly the same to him, remembers times. I ask him to remind me of when I have done the same. He refuses. I tell him I am sure it hasn’t happened because I have a pretty firm rule about this. Unless it is obviously urgent, I always let another call go to voicemail and get back to them later – I would consider doing otherwise disrespectful to him. He is more important. That he doesn’t do the same for me makes me feel less important. He accuses me of calling him a liar, tells me I am making things up (again), creating scandal, being hysterical. I am perfectly calm. I am not even worked up. I am just explaining how I feel and why. I don’t understand these accusations of hysteria. But they make me feel hyserical. I ask him – if I call while he is on the phone with her, does he hang up on her? He takes a long time answering, but eventually just says “yes.” And then adds that probably I am sure he is lying. He says it’s a matter of trusting your partner. And I don’t trust him. And this lack of trust affects him more and more each time I ‘make a scandal”. Well…probably he is right. I don’t trust him. I don’t trust anyone.

He goes silent. Then comes back and tells me he is afraid to behave any way at all with me because he doesn’t know how I will react. That I will “make myself offended” by something that he says or does. He says he doesn’t know what to do. And I wonder if I am so difficult. It’s true I am sensitive to things – more sensitive I guess than most. But I also think sometimes the things he does or says are genuinely hurtful to anyone who wants to feel important. A waiter made a comment to him – “I guess that’s why you’re dating her” when we were bantering about something in a restuarant. He responded quickly “I’m not dating her.” He didn’t think I should be hurt by this response. It was just a joke. But he also tells people who ask that I am “just a friend” – he says it’s because he doesn’t want his kids to get confused. I hear my mother’s words in his – he’s not datin me, I am just a friend, you’re not the kind of girl men fall in love with. He accuses me of “always expecting the worst” from him, always “making things up” and making “myself” offended. And even these statements are themselves hurtful. Like nothing I feel is valid – it’s all in my mind. He can do no wrong. It is all me. I am flawed. I am. Flawed.

I ask him if it’s possible that he doesn’t put as much importance on this phone etiquette as I do, and that I could feel hurt by his behavior even if he didn’t mean to hurt me and maybe even didn’t do anything wrong. It’s just a different outlook. He can affect me without meaning to sometimes. It’s not a representation of my trust in him, it’s just something we do differently. He goes silent again. When I try to engage him in conversation, he responds in quick short answers. I become more and more terrified – I remember the things he said, that he doesn’t know what to do, he is afraid to interact with me, I am too sensitive, too difficult, I begin to fear he is going to leave. I feel still hurt and angry and still less important than others – but I feel more afraid of being abandoned, and willing to sacrifice my right to feeling just to close this gap and feel somehow safer again.

I find myself apologizing for my feelngs. “I’m sorry for my behavior. I was selfish and stupid. And I am sure you would not drop a call with me if I really needed you and was talking about something important.” And even as I say this last bit – to try to assure him (and perhaps convince myself) that I do trust him – that he will throw it back at me as accusing him of not considering my conversation important. But I don’t know how to end it — how to stop being accused of accusing. And part of it is my fault – because it’s true, I don’t trust him. Maybe I could trust him more, a little more, if he would not make me feel flawed for feeling at all.

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