I feel as though I need to do some writing just to try and sort things out in my own head. Suspect that this is being triggered in a large part by the recent death of my father. I'm hoping that writing all of this stuff down might dispell some of the anxiety I feel and also (maybe) provide some sort of clarity about what to do next.
The anxiety comes in the form of thoughts along the lines of OMG – what am I doing with my life?? Here I am – nearly 40, living alone with 2 dogs. No husband and no children.
The end of my life is unlikely to be like the end of my father's life - surrounded by his wife and adult children.
I know my thoughts are usual given the pressure that we are all under to get married and produce children but normally I don't feel them. Many times when I was single, I had people ask me if I was worried that I'd end up old, lonely and that I'd die like that. I wasn't at all. But something about sitting surrounded by family for weeks and watching Dad die has put a few doubts in my mind.
So – I think some writing might help. :-)
I've always been a bit of an outsider in my family – something that I was reminded of when we all spent so much time together. We had many family discussions about why IP is a weirdo – it was always a common family subject. I think that the only time I properly fitted in was during the 10 years that I lived with my ex. (this is not to say that my family don't love me – they do. They absolutely love me and we get on very well – they just don't get me).
My ex and I had a traditional mono relationship. Both had good jobs, large house, 2 cars etc. All as expected and my family thought it was great. He is a wonderful man and the fact that we are not together now is down to me not him.
The thing is, I think I've always felt constrained by emotional closeness that involves only 2 people. For me, monogamy isn't really about sex – it's about emotional connection. And – I think we are pushed down that line way before sex is ever an issue.
For the years when I was between about 9 and 12, I was friends with 2 girls who were best friends with each other. They were considered quite cool in our school and lots of people wanted to hang out with them but they only ever needed each other. I can't remember how it came about but eventually, the 3 of us became close. I remember the friendship being happy and us having fun as a group and also as individual pairs. Was good. :-)
I also remember being told that I was being used by them. That they didn't care about me and just kept me around so that neither of them would ever need to be on their own. I remember clearly being pushed into getting a best friend of my own. Which I did – she's a lovely girl and we are friends today (I'm seeing her this evening in fact). As young girls, though, our relationship was difficult. I felt trapped in it. The expectation that I share all my hopes, dreams and problems with just one person felt horrible and I know that sometimes I was awful to my friend.
I think that friendship and my outsiderness from my family are what has triggered my lifelong need to to travel around and be away from home lots.
When I started being old enough to be sexual, I had a series of what looked like fairly casual relationships, the odd kind of poly-ish relationship and some very short term mono relationships. During that period in my life, I had similar chats with friends about being used by these blokes. And then I met my ex and fell in love.
In many ways the problems were similar to the problems I had with my best friend. Like her, my ex is happy with a small amount of friends. He limits his emotional involvement and keeps it very much for his partner. He was threatened by my need to have several emotionally close friends.
We fought lots about it and gradually, I let lots of those people go from my life altogether or altered the friendships so that the emotional closeness was no longer there. I felt trapped, lonely and depressed. I think my ex probably felt scared and as if he was going to be replaced all the time. I have huge regrets that we were both so young and inexperienced – I think that if I were to go into that relationship today we would cope better and be able to work things out.
As it was, when we split up, I lost my best friend. My ex met a new partner very quickly afterward. He has been married to her for years now and I'm told she's lovely. But she was uncomfortable with him being friends with an ex – so I backed off. I didn't contact him at all for years because I didn't want his new relationship being put under pressure. I want him to be happy – he deserves to have the sort of relationship that is fulfilling to him and the fact that I missed him dreadfully wasn't a reason for me to put that at risk.
And I stayed single. :-) I couldn't bear the thought of being in a relationship again. I didn't want to fall in love with and then hurt somebody else. Plus - even the thought of somebody calling me their girlfriend made me feel trapped. Spending time with couples made me feel trapped (apart from a few exceptions among my friends). I hated talking to people who were in new relationships about how they spent their weekends – their chats about coffee, art galleries and seeing films made me feel trapped.
I associated all of that with loss of friends, loss of freedom and being able to be emotionally close with only one person.
So I carried on with my life. Took up new hobbies, studied for a degree, made new friends, did lots of travelling around. Slowly, slowly, I started to feel better. I started to contact some of the friends that I had let go of while with my ex and many of them rekindled.
Eventually, I got in touch with an old friend, lover and source of epic fights between my ex and I. He and I found we still got on and gradually we fell in love. He is, thankfully, very open to different lifestyles and was very understanding about the difficulties I have with relationships. I find now that I can describe him as my SO without it causing too much discomfort.
We have work to do on our relationship. I have work to do on my discomfort around relationships in general. So – just now neither of us are being sexual with other people. I found at the start of our relationship that I wasn't comfortable with it which seems strange to me – while we were lovers all those years ago, my SO and I both had other lovers without it being an issue. But this time round it was a problem to both of us – so for the moment, we are not.
Apart from anything else – I feel very strongly that if we aren't okay with it then it isn't fair on anybody else. Too easy to hurt people that way.
It seems we have lots of work to do – and me going through a series of losing a couple of very close relationships to death during the past year hasn't helped with that work!
We are – however – able to be emotionally close with other people which is wonderful. I think that for both of us the freedom to be emotionally close to other people is more important than the freedom to be sexually close to other people. In time, hopefully we can do both.
Hmmm – I was right. Just writing down where I am today and how I got here has helped a bit with my anxiety over making poor choices in life.
I'd welcome discussion on this so if anybody feels that they have something to say, please do.
I'm sorry for your loss. You have my sincere condolences. And yes having gone through similar events does trigger these thoughts and feelings.
Shortly after our last funeral I was thinking about how we always try to remember and honor the joy and happiness of the people lost and it was time to start finding joy and happiness for myself ....to be retold by other later down the line.
Poor choices happen....I got a couple that are going to haunt me til I die, but that just the nature of game can't dwell on it. As long as you're not making the same poor choices over and over and in that mix you find your joy and happiness it all works out in the end.
Take care D
Thanks D. :)
I have been thinking more about this and I wonder if part of my unease just now comes from having a strong, subconscious, emotional connection in my mind that links marriage and kids with safety and security.
While I know logically that getting married and having children is not a guaranteed route to being safe and secure - emotionally, financially or physically - think that my emotional self feels differently.
My logical self tells me that I'm okay. I have friends around me with who love me and who I would trust absolutely to take care of various parts of my life if I was to become unable to do so myself any longer.
More importantly, my legal next of kin - my mum, brother and sister - are people that I can trust to do whatever I would need them to in a time of crisis. Even if they didn't agree with or understand my wishes. My brother and sisters gf and bf are people I would trust to be guiding voices if my own relatives were finding things difficult.
So - logically I'm fine. My position now is no more or less safe than it would be if I had decided to lead a more traditional life.
And yet - there is sometimes still a little voice in my head urging me to stop and to find a more conventional life.
Hopefully writing, talking and thinking about it will help to keep that feeling in check.
Are your thoughts centered around safety and security....or the bond of traditional families with children and the natural support system? Or the biological urge for family and children?
Depending on where you live Long term care insurance could cover that old age/care issue. If that's the type of security you are talking about.
Why are you resistant to listening to any of those head voices little or otherwise? What would be the down side for you in exploring that little voice. How would that change things for you?
Thanks for the questions, D - was thinking about them yesterday evening.
I have no biological urge for children and no conscious desire to have the lifestyle that having children means. I look after small children fairly regularly and while I do like them - they are fun and entertaining - I'm always happy to get away.
And more than that - I don't approve of marriage and never have done. To me, it's a bit iffy from a moral perspective. Not like killing somebody - but still, not something I'd be overly happy getting involved with.
Sadly, in the UK, no amount of legal documents, advance directives, living wills or other documentation is enough to guarantee that doctors will do what you want. They always consult with the legal next of kin - whoever those people are they get the biggest say.
The up side of that experience was that I had the chance to explore what listening to those voices would be like.
Another up side was that once it was done, I was able to enjoy being single and exploring what I wanted to do without worrying that I should be looking for a partner.
The down side was that I lost myself totally in that relationship. I had to change so much to stay in it which I did because I loved - and still love - my ex. Ultimately I became depressed, lonely and miserable.
So - I'm reasonably confident that the little voices are not really mine. Those are from my mum who would feel safer if I was settled in a traditional way or from married friends who would feel the same way. They are loving, caring, well meaning voices but I think that listening to them wouldn't serve me well.
I think. A crystal ball would be nice!! lol
Seriously, though. More so than before all the dealing with illness and death that has been going on in my life in the past year or so, I'm feeling like those little voices are stronger than before.
I thought they had gone away and it's quite surprising to have them back again.
Wait, so one relationship made you miserable, therefore that structure is unworkable? What if you had one relationship that did not require you to change so much that you became depressed and miserable?
Just the question that occurred to me while reading.
I really appreciate this thread. I occasionally have moments that border on panic, when I imagine I'm ancient and feeble and have no one to care for me. I've never really chosen safety, in the relationship route. Which actually makes me laugh, because I've had lots of partners who were afraid to be involved with me because I'm 'stable.' Srsly, laughing. My current partners did not know me when I was beyond nutty. They look at my work history, and assume because I was at one institution for 13 years, that makes me 'stable.' They don't seem to hear me when I explain that 13 years represents 6 jobs, plus some considerable time in the temp pool. My current place is 10 years and six jobs (not including promotions in the same office ~ then it's 8). But in relationships and the whole traditional life thing? I've never gone that route. In high school, I'm fairly certain that I had way more sex than my peers (and no one knew it, because I was 'the best little girl in the world'). I spent my twenties in the lesbian community. I've never been properly engaged to be married, although I've had some entertaining fictions.
So yah, thanks!
oh but wait, I guess there's more ;)
We're also fed that message daily, multiple times, by our culture. It oozes through the air. Love songs, movies, television, magazines, parents, girlfriends...they all attempt to persuade us into that. So it doesn't surprise me your voices are back.
Some people know themselves and their own thought processes very well and are able to discern better which of those thoughts are not self-originated - we call those people psychic, but we all have that ability. The way to tell whether or not it is your own thought process is to be very familiar with yourself, what you want in life, and how you tend to think. Awareness is key. And being willing to question those voices and discover for yourself what you really want in your heart of hearts is also key.
It makes sense that when you have been spending a great amount of time with family, and emotions are heightened, that the voices seem "louder" or more strident. Same DNA, learned patterns, etc. You sound like you have a good amount of self-awareness. The death of a loved one shakes people up, it might be a while before those voices quiet down. Well, in actuality, oftentimes some of those voices never go away and just become like static in the background - you're aware of them but know you don't need to pay credence to them, and eventually they don't bother you anymore.
My condolences for the death of your father.
Anyway - two or three years have passed since she and I had those chats and I think I'm clearer now about my feelings.
I think that structure is unworkable for me because I think it encourages me to think and behave in ways that are bad for me.
So - I grew up feeling like an outsider in my family. And feeling like an outsider with friends too (I was heavily involved in several sports and am not terribly sporty!) As an outsider I would sometimes feel not welcome, I'd sometimes isolate myself from friends etc.
When my ex and I were together, I was never an outsider. He loved me so much and we were very close. So I stopped making efforts with other people. When he found it difficult for me to have close friendships, I let them go (and it was easy to do so because I never felt like I was important to those people).
Now I know and feel differently. But. But. But. I have spent more than three quarters of my life feeling like an unimportant outsider and however much I now understand that those feelings were not necessary, I know that they lurk within me still.
Of course they do - they are far more familiar to me than my feelings of being loved, wanted and included.
I'm just wary of replicating a situation that encouraged that way of thinking - and I feel that having somebody who I live with and who is a life partner might encourage that way of thinking. Maybe in time when I've had more time to practise feeling loved and wanted, I'll feel differently but right now I wouldn't want to take the risk.
Thank you - I think I've had that inside waiting to come out for some time.
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