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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.

I cannot escape an unending feeling of impending abandonment, where the most important thing seems to be recognizing the abandonment beforehand – not being surprised – not being taken for a fool.

I am the daughter of a mother with narcissistic personality disorder. When I was 15 years old, my mother told me I am not the kind of girl men fall in love with. I am, she said, the kind of girl who helps men get over the girl they fell in love with and who broke their heart, so that they can move on and fall in love with another girl. Internally believing every word, I spent the next 20 years trying to be the best “distraction” possible, carefully avoiding intimacy and denying myself the right to be loved. I jump back and forth between a dismissing/avoidant and fearful/preocuppied approach to relationships. I blog about my relationship experiences and feelings, which derive from my childhood experiences, as an effort to connect with and help others like me and to help myself through expression of things that are difficult to admit in my everyday emotional life.

I felt like this through most of 1999-2006. It was a feeling very specific to that relationship. Sucks to have to sit through the ad first in this version of the video, but the techno version on the “official” video just doesn’t do the feeling justice.

Our relationship endured, on and off, for 8 years. During the entire time, he had another, and he had many others. He would come sometimes to me right after one of them – I could tell because it would be more difficult to inspire the physical evidence of his excitement, and sometimes there was the residual smell and taste of the condom on him when he came to me. I didn’t care. At least, I told myself I didn’t care. We weren’t about monogamy, after all. He was engaged in an incestuous relationship that may as well have been a marriage. We were about sex. Yes, I was in love with him, but it didn’t mean we were in love. Remember, I am not the kind of girl men fall in love with :). I never looked him in the eyes – it would have been too much vulnerability. One day he said he was in love with me – but he couldn’t leave her. And then he tried to bring her into our relationship – make us a threesome. I did not reject her, I even felt badly for her, and in fact it was the moments sitting downstairs with him, caressing him and seeing that lust in his eyes, while I knew she was just upstairs, drowning in pain of what was happening in the next room, that made me unable to continue. In the end, I tried to break it off with him, but he seemed destroyed, so I came back. We engaged in a strange little dance for a few more months – he moving me further and further away, slowly. I let him let me down the easy way – easy for him – and one day I realized it had been over for a while. I had the conversation with him walking around the streets, crying, but begging him to let me let him go. And so he did. This is what I wrote just afterwards – things I never said to him:

You say one thing and then you say its opposite. I once thought you an innocent, and then I thought you a liar, and only now do I realize the depth of your neurosis. You change your mind every moment and forget what you felt yesterday because you are allowing others to choose your feelings for you. Your love for me was pure for as long as it was unknown by any others, for I never told you how to feel and no other knew well enough to try. Then you made the decision to end our relationship – whether you knew it or not, involving her was ending us. You have learned to believe that what she says of you is the truth. She governs your feelings on anything within which she is involved. Before her knowledge of our connection, you wanted permanence, not I. And once she became involved, you became certain that I wanted permanence, not you. And nothing will enlighten you, for your thoughts are her words. I did not before understand, but I believe I do now. You said things, walking around the block, as though they were just occurring to you then – old thoughts about what our relationship was. One moment asking me,, “What is over, anyway? We had nothing,” and the next telling me we treated our friendship like a monogamous relationship, that there was never anyone else for you. And I had though you confused, but now I see. Your will has been destroyed by your own decisions – decisions that you made when little more than a boy, but the consequences of which you must live with for the rest of your life. The decisions that you made will forever scar you – you can never evolve from them or change the direction of your life, for you made such permanent decisions, not realizing the terrible risk you were taking. A narcissist, you fell in love with the reflection of yourself, and now you are forever chained to that reflection. Even when you try to look away, to admit you feel no love, for it is to admit you feel no love for yourself, and that is unbearable. To betray it is to betray yourself, and to abandon it is to abandon yourself, for it has become you. You had to make it so in order to face what you had done. And worse, you cannot rest on a decision because you cannot face yourself, your true self and its desires and thoughts and wants, for long enough to really understand your feelings. Because to look at yourself is to see these horrible decisions and to view the cage within which you’ve placed yourself. The sad thing, darling, is your belief that I would claim you, another prison for your soul were you to finally break away from the one you’ve made. But I would never do so, for you are too scarred to love another and I cannot bear the neurosis. Your fear of entrapment by me is unfounded precisely because of that decision you made which created it. I wish that I could want you, but I know that the person you have become could never be the one I want. You should have been, yes, I believe if anything was ordained from above, it was this – but you have destroyed all possibility of its realization. And my situation, which once I believed a prison, I now realized was placed in my path to save me from hope, and to save me from this desire to possess you – to make it possible for me to live without you. For difficult though it is, though I think of you every night and every morning, cry for you when I’m alone – I can, and will, live without you.

When I unpack my frequently fearful and anxious emotional responses to anything that confuses me or makes me feel uncertain in relationships, I tend to find shame at the core of most of them – and somewhere around that, a resistance against vulnerability. When I saw Brene Brown’s first lecture on Shame, it resonated with me. The second literally made me cry. I haven’t read her book yet, but fully intend to.