I could do with some advice
So - I have an issue that causes me grief and also arguments between me and my SO. I would really appreciate thoughts and any advice that people have.
The problem is that I have a need for changes of plan to be communicated to me in a way that makes me feel as if I have been thought about, considered and am important. I'm talking here about plans changing because of life getting in the way rather than as the result of a life and death situation.
I know that this seems very minor but I have a very strong emotional reaction to plans changing and it being communicated in a way that seems to dismiss me. I become upset and angry beyond what is reasonable for the situation.
This causes problems between my SO and I - he becomes defensive and angry too. And then we fight.
I would like to be able to stop having such a strong response partly for the benefit of our relationship. But mostly for myself - I don't like these feelings and while I think a certain amount of annoyance over suddenly changed plans is okay - I feel that my level of emotion is just too much.
I know very much where it comes from. It is very much rooted in and part of a deep fear of being abandoned.
I know rationally that my reaction is over the top - and also, not at all necessary. I fear being abandoned because I grew up feeling as though I wasn't as important as my younger siblings. While I understand why I feel like that, I now understand it to be false.
What happened was - at various times starting when I was very young and for various reasons, my siblings have been demanding and needed help from our parents. I have always been self-contained and capable and so tended to be left to get on with things while they were being helped. My parents only had so much time to go around and also they always saw me as not needing any help - mostly quite rightly. I mostly didn't need help.
The result was that I had repeated experiences of being left alone often very suddenly when my siblings needed help (I suspect a great many eldest children have similar experiences).
I think that my feelings on this are ridiculous - my parents love me and see me as very much part of the family. My feeling that I am not as wanted is understandable but not correct (or at least, only correct in my world).
I get along very well with my siblings - my amazing sister especially as she lives near enough to see quite regularly.
So - I see where my extreme emotional response comes from but I have no idea how to get rid of it. I wondered if any of you guys have any ideas?
Thanks in advance.
I'm an eldest and feel similarly to you. Though I don't get help from my mother out of choice. She's terrible at helping. But either way, my life ended up being messed up because of the way I brought myself up.
I have been working for a long time on myself, resolving anger and jealousy and other terrible emotions. Doing very well at it too. I keep my emotions under large amounts of control without a lot of effort.
The key for me, is just understanding what needs to change. It's fair enough saying, oh I'm depressed, I should just be happy!... But that doesn't work. You have to see why you're depressed, and solve THAT. It may not and probably won't be any single thing either. But you will see change if you just take it one step at a time. Don't throw yourself into trying to fix everything at once.
The hard part for me to describe, is HOW you fix a problem. Without knowing what the problems are that cause these things, it's hard for me to really have a starting point.
I could perhaps help you with an example though.
I have [and I'm still working on this] been a huge control freak through my life. I like to control my own destiny as it were. Unfortunately, you can't do that by changing other people. It's like trying to swim through a brick wall, when what you really need to be doing, is just letting the river determine which direction you go. Rather than being around people you feel you have to change, be around people you love for who they are.
I use this as an example, because it is a point I'm at personally. But I hope it can at least help you find your path into helping yourself.
First and foremost great job owning your emotions and working to create positive change in yourself! You said that you know your responses are out of line with reality, but I worry that you may be selling yourself a bit short. Is your partner actually cancelling plans with you in favor of plans with someone else? That would frustrate me, depending on the circumstance, and would definitely be a problem if it became a pattern. Is your partner supportive of your need for validation and reinforcement?
Assuming that you are right, and this really is an overblown reaction to an emotional trigger from your past, I can recommend two things. First, it will help a ton if you deal with the source of the problem. Have you tried to resolve your feelings of abandonment from childhood? I worked through 'Toxic Parents' with my partner, and we both thought it was an amazing book that helped us heal. Another thing you could consider is cognitive behavioral therapy. You would need to see a psychologist, but they can teach you how to train the patterns in your mind to try to break the link between plans changing today and pain from childhood.
While you try to fix things in yourself, see if there is anything you can do for validation. Perhaps your partner could write some affirmations of their love for you, and you could read them over to yourself when you feel insecure? Perhaps just having your partner remind you that you are loved, and rescheduling an event rather than just cancelling it or leaving it up in the air would help.
Hope you find solutions,
I don't do well with changes of plans either. For years I would get all bent out of shape, cranky and very unpleasant when my husband would call with a last minute change (even something simple, like going to dinner at someones house). I finally sat him down and explained that I just flat don't do well with last minute changes as it brings on serious anxiety, my brain needs time to process the change of plans (like a couple hours or more).
This has worked amazingly well. Now instead of telling me when I get home that we have been invited to dinner, he will call me at work, inform me of the invite and I tell him that I'll let him know in about an hour whether to accept or not. I know myself well enough now, that I can usually say, "it will probably be yes, but I just need some time to process".
Wow, it's wonderful that you figured out something that would help, and it's wonderful that your husband is actually doing it.
Thank you for these thought provoking comments.
@Somegeezer - Loving your advice and so agree with you about spending time with the right people. :)
I have a question for you.
@liberumcredo - Thankfully, my SO is very supportive and very good at providing validation normally. The plan changing thing isn't around ditching me to see other people - it's more that my SO has a very busy, stressful life.
Sometimes the stress leads to lack of good communication. Often I'm right to be annoyed about it - but if I was able to be less emotional and more constructive, we could deal with the problem more easily.
Thanks for the book recommendation - I'll check it out. Sounds good.
@SNeacail - Grand solution. Will think about how to apply it to my situation.
Thanks again, guys. xxx
Of course, when it comes to poly, most my friends really don't understand it, which is why there are so many great people on a site like this. =]
You're definitely already beginning the work by coming here and asking questions in the first place. You've been able to pinpoint the root, stemming from your childhood, and instead of feeling like it's too much, allow that feeling.
Give yourself permission to feel it, and own it.
Other than that, I second Geezer's advice.
I think by understanding the feeling you start the process of changing it, but that takes time. What I think is more pressing than changing the feeling is changing how you react to it.
Here you describe your dynamic with your SO
I'm not saying it's his responsibility, merely that he is in a position to help you. When both of you are aware of the issue, there are two people who can take notice when it's happening again. Maybe the two of you can together figure out ways to address this. Like, for instance, when he tells you that there has been a change in plans, if he remembers to he could say something like "I know I told you I'm coming home at 5, I'm sorry I know that you don't like to be surprised by these things but I can't make it until 8 because of X". That's just an example, obviously I don't know how he usually lets you know. What I'm looking for is that if he knows you're trying to work on it, maybe he could help you by trying to say something that makes you feel like he is considerate your feelings.
Anyway, the main part isn't that, but the emotions that come up for you and your reaction to them. You write that you feel angry and become upset. How does that manifest itself? How exactly do you act once you become angry and upset? Lashing out, blaming, passive-aggressive? Whatever it is, try to stop yourself from doing that. That may not be easy, and will not probably always work, but you might be able to do that at times if you are conscious about it.
The hard part in that is that anger will make you feel that your response is completely justified in that situation because you feel that your SO was inconsiderate, and therefore if you refrain from "punishing" your SO, he will get away with it. But you can make a deal with yourself: you do your best not to react in your usual manner even though you feel that your anger is justified. Rather, when you feel angry and upset, you sit with it (and go over in your head why your SO is the meanest and most inconsiderate person in the world, as the anger makes you feel) and remind yourself that you don't have to let him know what you feel right away (by e.g. lashing out) but you can wait until you're calm. Then after you've calmed down, if you still feel that he acted inconsiderately towards you, you can tell him how his actions made you feel. And if you don't, then it was good that you managed to refrain from "punishing" him.
Now, if you fail in your attempt to control your reaction to the anger, you can still do something to rectify the situation as soon as you catch yourself in it. You can force yourself, at that moment, to stop whatever it is you do when you're angry, and make yourself apologise. Even when that feels like the last thing you want to do, it isn't impossible to utter the words "I'm feeling really strong emotions right now and I'm aware that even though I feel angry it's not your fault. I'm sorry that I'm taking it out on you.". By doing that, you show him that he doesn't need to be defensive, which takes the edge off his anger. That way you can avoid the fight, or stop it in its tracks. And that positive result is something you can try to remember when you feel stubborn and angry and don't want to admit you might be overreacting.
Again, your SO can help you with this step. If he is aware of the issue, he can note when he is triggered into defensive mode by your anger, and at that point rather than escalating he can ask you "Are you sure your acting reasonably?". Now, that may be hard for him to do. But if he does it, it is again your responsibility to swallow your pride and admit that you may be overreacting. And then again you won't get into a fight.
Hope this is helpful. :)
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