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What does somebody who’s having a tough time with a breakup and possibly even battling with No Contact (NC) have in common with someone who regards being disagreed with or experiencing conflict and criticism as not being liked and rejection? Not much on the surface of things but as it turns out, the same issue dominates each situation:

Just like in Monday’s post on how negative associations can undermine your progress post-breakup or your NC attempts, negative associations affect the way you handle and respond to conflict and criticism.

What springs to mind when you think of conflict? If you have negative associations, it will be stuff from the past – memories, assumptions, long-held beliefs, key phrases, and it’s likely that each time you get into a conflict or criticism situation (or c-situations as I like to refer to them), the feelings associated with them will get activated and you’ll slip into your typical response with little conscious thought.

Let’s imagine that when somebody disagrees with us, we associate this with not being liked and being rejected and in turn, we have an associated response of getting angry with the person, which could include lashing out, cutting them off etc. This means that no matter who it is and how much they like or even love us, or even the validity of the c-situation, our response will be prompted by the association, not by the present.

When we examine situations that elicit similar responses, we recognise that they’re linked by association. If we grew up in an environment where conflicts weren’t resolved healthily or at all, or where disagreeing and being different was seen as being displeasing instead of having an opinion and our own set of values, we’ll feel wounded by being disagreed with and by having differences highlighted. We’re thrown ‘back there’ again. Our blanket response treats and regards all conflict as having come from a ‘bad’ place plus all criticism including fair criticism aka ‘feedback’ is treated as an attack. The ‘rule’ becomes ‘You’re either with me or against me. If you’re with me, you don’t disagree with me or be honest. If you do, I’ll take it as rejection and bounce you out of my life.’

Of course we forget when we try to control the amount of conflict and criticism in our lives plus we have ‘heavy’ responses due to negative associations, that we’re limiting our own honesty as well as curtailing it in our interpersonal relationships.

I used to interpret conflict and criticism as a signal to press my eject button soon or that it meant that the person disliked me and was rejecting me. Super defensive, I’d distance myself as quickly as possible. Conflict and criticism in my family used to elicit explosive reactions followed by silence and then pressing the Reset Button as if nothing happened, or you got cut off and cast out. S0me could start conflict and express criticism fair or not, but others couldn’t. It’s easy to see why I had relationships with men who in some instances, could start a fight with a paper bag and tell me all about myself while I was barely allowed a side-eye, and also why even the slight possibility of c-situations would destabilise me, often activating my pleaser tendencies.

Just as I outlined in the breakup / NC scenario, that if we focus purely on the actions but haven’t changed the associations, that what we’re doing is going to feel ‘wrong’ or ‘weird’ which will likely result in going back on ourselves, in c-situations, if we focus purely on trying to change our response (e.g. calming ourselves down, pushing down our feelings) on the basis that on some level we recognise that we’re off base, it’s not going to change the fact that we still associate disagreement with rejection.

We’re attempting to respond to those feelings differently without recognising the beliefs and associations behind the response. We might display less anger but feel quietly resentful and that will play out in our actions, probably in passive aggression. If we evaluate not just our responses but what we’re responding to and the associations, we can then differentiate between disagreement and rejection and in turn change the associations, and in turn, change how we feel and act.

Change the meaning, change the feeling.

Feeling angry is a natural response to conflict and criticism but conflict and criticism doesn’t automatically equate to not being liked and rejected. I say it often, but feelings aren’t facts; they’re feelings. They happen instinctively without reasoning and knowledge.

Negative associations are indicative of bowling along and into things unconsciously using patterns. It’s the whole A + B = C thing – I feel this so it must mean that and then matching the ‘data’ with a default response.

Negative associations mean that we’re heavily influenced by the past not rooted in the present, which of course confuses the very instincts that we’re using. These associations lead us into blind alleys and have us either doing the same thing and expecting a different response (and then being surprised when we’re in Groundhog Day), or have us feeling under threat when there isn’t one and under-reacting when there is one.

If we work on the associations as well as being more aware of our responses, we’ll get to be angry (it’s a very valid and necessary emotion) without feeling as if the sky is falling down and come out the other side of it plus, c-situations won’t always spell the demise of a relationship, romantic or otherwise. It also means that c-situations won’t signal us being instantly teleported into the past where we may have felt powerless and caught up in BS.  This is important because it’s inevitable when we stick with the negative associations to become afraid of our own responses or ‘losing’ more people out of our lives, which in turn can cause us to feel lost and silenced while also wondering, What’s wrong with me? or feeling angry with lots of people.

The past doesn’t have to be our now or the future. Change the associations, change the meaning, change the feeling, change the responses.

Your thoughts?

Also see my post on learning how to deal with conflict and criticism for improved self-esteem and relationships.

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37 Responses to Are you treating all conflict and criticism as ‘bad’? Negative associations strike again!

  1. Karen says:

    Conflict is inevitable, and is often the doorway to discussing matters of difference and resolving them.
    Resolving issues brings people closer together afterwards because the air is clear, concessions have been made and everyone is satisfied.
    When conflict takes on a negative connotation, it’s often because the person with whom we are having a conflict is (a) not as invested in the relationship as we are, so they don’t really want to spend any time with us unless it’s fun time (b) a passive aggressive who hates confrontation so much they will say or do anything to avoid conflict, then not follow through on whatever bullshit they promised (c) a blamer who refuses to admit his or her part in the conflict and tells you it’s all your fault (d)an emotionally unavailable faker who runs whenever the going gets tough, or (e) a person who will take conflict as an excuse to accuse the other person of being a drama queen, nitpicker, nagger, bitch, etc.
    Conflicts are often great ways to see what the other person is made of. If they are willing to work through conflicts with you, that is a great sign. If they have communication tools that actually help resolve conflicts faster and more equitably, that’s even better.
    It won’t take long to root out the losers by the way they respond to conflict. Chances are, if you love someone and they refuse to engage in mature conflict resolution without having to win or making you look bad, they are slapping you in the face with a red flag.
    Mature adults who profess to love you understand that some conflict is inevitable, and they will want to resolve it with you without any excuses, stalling or hassles.
    Show me a person who can’t handle conflict and I’ll show you either a child or an immature assclown.
    Even with my friends and relatives, if they can’t work with me to iron out conflicts, the less likely I will want to be around them, and the subjects we discuss will become far more bland and impersonal.
    And one more thing. Watch out for people who are always trying to create conflicts just for the sake of arguing. They are tedious and their agendas are not worth identifying–they just need to go pick fights with someone who loves to argue just for the sake of arguing as much as they do.
    And that’s my take on conflicts.

    • simple pleasures says:

      Brilliant. Stick around.

    • Wiser says:

      That was a great comment Karen. I spent the last year of therapy trying to sort out my relationship with anger, which has been a complicated one. My mother was always out of control and half-crazy when she was angry, and it took me most of my adult life to understand that anger was her last-resort emotion when she felt absolutely powerless and frustrated. Mostly it was because my father NEVER engaged with her or solved problems, but instead walked away from all conflicts and hid in his room. I didn’t understand these dynamics as a child, but I knew my mother was scary at those times and really unpleasant. Anger just seemed enormously dysfunctional. I never wanted to sink to those levels, so I never allowed myself to get angry. I married a man just like me, and during our 15 year marriage I don’t think we had a single fight. Avoiding confrontation was our main leisure activity. Of course, we didn’t realize it then, but that was the death-knell to any real intimacy between us.

      With the help of therapy I’ve finally come to see anger as an emotion of strength, empowerment and protection. It’s an ally, not a demon, and absolutely necessary. My therapist made me watch movies and TV shows in which characters were in conflict or got mad at each other, but in controlled and helpful ways. In almost all cases, it was a sign of really caring about the other person and situation, and came from a position of strength.

      • moving on says:

        Wiser, would you mind sharing a few of the movie titles? Thank you.

        • Wiser says:

          The best movies are ones that depict some conflict between friends in which the main characters are likeable and have inherent dignity. Such as: The Big Chill, The King’s Speech, Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner, Philadelphia. Since all drama is based on conflict (otherwise movies about interactions between people would be very dull!) the great dramas are very powerful, showing good people willing to endure and engage with conflict: 12 Angry Men, On the Waterfront, Gandhi… Actually, the thing that helped the most was the original Star Trek series. As hokey as it sounds, the friendship between Kirk, Bones and Spock was perfect to illustrate what healthy relationships are all about. Each was willing to become angry and challenge the other if that person needed to be told off or set straight or confronted. They never shied away from speaking their minds or showing anger if appropriate – but it was always to help the other person see their actions more clearly or to improve the situation. The series also showed that these three men could not have enjoyed the level of intimacy that they had without these confrontations.

          • Pauline says:

            Loved the original Star Trek series and the biggest take away was the enduring friendship between the main characters and the respect and love they had for each other as they worked through their many differences. This is what made the series such a huge success with millions of people all around the world and those principals still stand up today.
            They were always there for each other and always would be and were able to resolve their issues.

            This is something that we seem to have forgotten how to do in this world of fast everything, instant gratification and hiding anonymously behind their computer screens with all the internet trolls infesting Facebook, Twitter and all those other so called social media sites. I digress.

            Great post Nat, I’m getting a lot better at handling conflict and criticism and not seeing it as a personal attack.
            I’m much better at being able to work out whether the criticism is constructive and coming from a place of care or if it’s coming from a numpty of either gender.

            Having been able to clean up my own act (a work still in progress) I find I’m a lot less critical of others for being who they are, flawed like me and not perfect. The difference being That I’m learning to stop pointing out their character flaws and what they need to do to fix themselves or be. (Think I picked that up from my Mum …)
            These days I let the AC’s, EUM’s et al move on and I steer clear. I’m much happier.

          • Wiser says:

            It seems strange to have to turn to pop culture to see healthy conflict modeled, but I have to see it in action, not just read about it.

    • CC says:

      karen

      Well put. I have faced all the situations you mention. My last ex got triggered over so many things and as soon as there was conflict (he got triggered) he would break up with me. We must have broken up 3 times and we were only dating 7 months. I also hate the guys who blame you. One thing I need to add, is you can;t determine if a guy can handle conflict when you are mad. I found they usually could to some degree, but the true test is if they can handle conflict when THEY are mad. I found many couldn’t or would simply run away and you wouldn’t hear from them again..in my experience.

    • Jenna says:

      Karen: Great post. My ex AC was all of the things from A – E and more. The one thing he really liked to do when there was conflict (the conflict consisted of me expressing myself when my needs weren’t being met, which was almost all the time).. He couldn’t handle it and would always say I was just being ‘hormonal’, or it must be that time of the month again, or this happens every thirty days or so, instead of accepting any kind of responsibility, or god forbid trying to work it out with me. Anytime there was conflict like this, turned it around on me and made it look I was being unreasonable…when all I did was compromise and try to make it easy for him.
      After seven years of me giving and him taking it is finally over. I feel used and discarded like a piece of trash. All I did was try to make it work..I was a loyal, a friend I was always there for him, I,m good looking, athletic, funny, and I gave him everything sexually a guy could ever want, frequently…not because I wanted to keep him but because I really loved him and enjoyed all of it. I am in my third week of NC and it’s been a roller coaster.. Good days, and bad days.. But this has been a really bad week. Really emotional. I am so tired of crying over this guy..I just want it to stop. I want to feel normal again.

      • Lorraine says:

        Jenna,
        Wow, I really feel your pain Jenna. Roller coaster is right. I see myself in your post so much. Sometimes it seems like all of us here on BR were involved with the same person…

        My ex AC did the same thing. He would shut down completely if he couldn’t handle the conflict. Hang up, Walk out, whatever he could to get away from any issues we had until eventually I knew it just wasn’t worth it and handled him with kit gloves.

        I also was so good to this man. Always there for him and he knew it. Its been three months since we broke up and he went back to his ex. But its been a roller coaster of trying to be NC and him contacting me or running into me. Each time, the disappointment cycle starts: he flirts, I get hopeful, I get disappointed. I’m also soooo tired of crying over him.

        His latest “attack” was texting me last Friday to please help him. I of course answered his text It was so urgent to please look through my paperwork and receipts to find out when we had bought something last year that he broke. Anyway, I was away and couldn’t help him at that moment but told him I would as soon as I got home Monday evening. He wanted to know why I wasn’t home!! He started texting again on Monday while I was traveling about his dilemma. I assured him that I would get to it as soon as I got home. Part of me feeling like “oh he needs me”. I spent two hours searching and going online and getting information for him. I made an appt. for him to bring the broken device in to be looked at.

        I never heard from him. When the appt. day came, I got so angry, I emailed him and told him off. I said WTF is wrong with you? I spent two hours doing this for you and you couldn’t take two seconds to let me know what you wanted to do? I was never so angry.

        He swore he didn’t get the text, but the AC that he is, took the wounded puppy route. “I’m so sorry I never received your text” Thank you for all your help. blah blah blah We went back and forth a while but I was just left feeling hopeless and hurt again.

        Today I woke up feeling like I’m getting closer to blocking him. Crying all the time, still not understanding why he chose her. Everything was going so great with us and he swore he couldn’t stand her. He still won’t admit he’s even back with her.

        All the ladies here swear NC and blocking is the only way to go and I’m certain they are right, its just getting strong enough to stand up and say I dont want to feel like this anymore, I’m done with you. I’m not there yet and I don’t know why. I don’t know what I’m even holding on to anymore.

        It has been a rollercoaster for me too. When I feel hopeful, I’m happy, when I feel hopeless, I cry all the time. The last few days, I’ve felt hopeless.

        I guess we have to keep taking one step at a time, get stronger, and realize we deserve better. Everytime I start to realize that, something happens that sets me back.

        Anyway, best to you and lots of hugs. If you’re not hearing from him, trust me, you are so much better off. It will definitely get easier.

        Love,
        Lorraine

    • HappyAgain says:

      Karen that is so true of all relationships like u said. People who care about you are willing to work to resolve conflict just like u are. I think it attests to their level of respect and value for the relationship you have whether romantic, friendship or family. Thanks for sharing.

  2. Magnolia says:

    Ha – feel like this was written just for me! I just came out of a meeting with the counsellor I set up when I got my fibroid diagnosis; it was the first time I’ve seen her since I heard about the no-job-offer.

    I realize that recent events leave me feeling marginalized, bullied, left out, not liked, rejected, etc and that I have been feeling like a little kid again, like a loser who can’t avoid getting picked on. Old victim-mentality stuff.

    Fortunately I’ve got some images of me that I can believe in: someone still supported and loved by many people, I’ve gotten the validation of recent requests for me to do more of the work I do, my new Head has put in a good word for me with a prominent researcher in my hometown (where my family is) and apparently the researcher is enthusiastic to hear from me and to potentially work together.

    While I do know that one colleague of mine who had a hand in the decision to not promote me really *doesn’t* like me, and said as much, it doesn’t mean everyone on the committee who might have wanted a different candidate “doesn’t like me.” Anyway, one of my main learnings from BR was how to handle not being liked.

    I have totally been feeling “powerless and caught up in BS,” but am also relearning how focusing on my own self-esteem and self-care is the most effective way for me to work through the fresh angers and lingering residues of old negative associations.

    Thanks Nat.

  3. Curveball says:

    Because I’ve been equally emotionally unavailable in relationships, reacting to criticism has been my achilles heel. It’s something I’m working through in therapy – and the good news is now I recognize it. These posts also help. My typical reaction to criticism was to be passive aggressive and then fly the handle. It also didn’t help that the type of men I had relationships were, without fail, extremely critical of me.

    • CC says:

      I hate to admit it, but I used to have this problem with my boyfriends (and to a lesser degree still do). I seemed to have a need to critisize them and I always found something to critisize. So, I picked an EUM or AC and I would critisize them on their behaviours, their lack of compassion, the way they ran their lives, or the way they mistreated me. I realized that I treated them the way I was treated by my parents (especaily my mother) and I know this, but for some reason I couldn’t stop it. I vowed to not do that anymore and in my last relationship, I made steps to communicate and not get critical, but he didn’t like that either which I reacted to. Anyways, anger issues are huge, I found that men with traumatic pasts had suppressed anger or were passive aggressive.

      I often wondered if I attracted EUMs or ACs so I can critisize them and now when I feel myself being angry around a man, I walk away. I can sense it pretty much from the beginning. I dated this one guy who was so codependent, I just knew I’d be on his case and decided to stay away from him for his sake. I also felt the anger when we first spoke, there was no reason for it, but I knew it was a sign, then later I found out how codependent he was with his ex and knew this wouldn’t work for me, becasue I did not respect him. I think that’s what it seems to come down to, if I don;t respect how a man thinks, behaves, runs his life, then i get angry and want to critisize them. I know I’m not perfect, not by a long shot, and this is what I keep reminding myself of. It’s a tough one for me. I think becasue of the critisim I endured, I still must believe in perfection, which is why I can be so hard on myself at times and hard on men. Then I feel guilty and have stayed too long with ACs and EUMs, whereas not doing that would allow me to see them for who they are a lot quicker. Critisicm is soul destroying and creates a lot of confusion that keeps you stuck in wrong relationships.

      • Mymble says:

        Cc
        Good comment, a lot of that applies to me too. Anger is one of the “threat” responses and in my case linked in to depression and anxiety. I hadn’t realised that until I went on anti depressants and found the out of control anger simply disappeared. If I feel angry and the urge to criticise it’s that something is making me afraid and anxious. Of course the things that trigger me are often perceiving faults/behaviors in others that worry me in myself.

        • CC says:

          Mymble,

          Thanks for your reply, I can see that when I critisize it is becasue something they are doing or saying is making me anxious and afraid. I think it is a defense mechanism for me to prevent from getting hurt. The more I date, it seems almost harder to trust….or maybe I am just more aware of how easily I allow myself to get attached before I have enough information.

          I was upset earlier this week that the ex addict is not calling or emailing me, he seemed so into me last week right after we met. However, he did tell me he’s not ready for a relationship and I said it might be better to communicate when he is…but he called me last week and thanked me for getting together with him and that he still wants to call me. I said ok at the time. Then he went skiing with his men’s group last weekend and I haven’t heard from him since. He was calling everyday and now nothing for a week. Srange and me no likey! He was sending me long emails, emoting etc etc and now nothing. See, in my books he should have sent me an email saying “I thought about what you said about not communicating until I am ready for a realtionship, so I am going to honor your request and hope we can continue at a later date if the feelings are still there.” Something like that, and he has the type of processing persoanlity to have sent that email, but he chose to go cold turkey on me and leave me wondering if he has lost interest in me, or if he is honoring my request. This type of communication will have me critisizing him in no time. I might see him at church this Sunday, but it all feels very up in the air….aughh, I just want clear direct communication and behaviours and when I don;t get them, I critisie, but now I am learning to just walk away. Not my problem!

        • CC says:

          Mymble,

          Before you read my longer post to you. If you didn’t read my post last week about the ex addict, he is a guy I met at my church whom I was attracted to and conversed with. He told me he’s an ex addict, clean for 25 yrs and still goes to NA groups etc. He told me he just got out of a relationship and isn;t ready yet to have a new one. Ok, I just thought if you read about the ex addict, you’d be going, what the hey! Why is she even considering as ex addict,,,and maybe you still will, I think it too, but his actions do illustrate a point. Read on.

        • CC says:

          Mymble

          You said;
          Of course the things that trigger me are often perceiving faults/behaviors in others that worry me in myself.

          I need to think about that one. I usually critisize because they aren’t doing what I think the appropriate thing is and what I would do, such as the email I talked about in the earlier post. But, I will take a closer look at that, maybe, I am missing something. Thanks.

  4. A says:

    “This is important because it’s inevitable when we stick with the negative associations to become afraid of our own responses or ‘losing’ more people out of our lives, which in turn can cause us to feel lost and silenced…or feeling angry with lots of people.”

    I recognize myself in this. Conflict or someone else’s anger can make me very anxious. My association is a rage-aholic father who was quite scary as a child. There was no reasoning with him, he never took responsibility, and he would go off for no reason at all. Nothing was ever resolved or discussed in our household, so my experience of conflict is being unfairly attacked by someone in a position of power who *should* know better. I was powerless.

    I’ve dated an AC who liked to paint everything as being my fault, and showed unreasonable levels of rage. I’ve also had friends who use the silent treatment rather than having a discussion, or blow up and make personal attacks, then expect that it should all be immediately forgotten.

    It’s hard for me to initiate a conversation with a friend about behaviour that has upset me. I assume it will not go well and mean the end of the friendship. But, the alternative to trying is that I will be angry and probably back away from the friendship anyways.

    I think that I’m slowly getting better at standing up for myself in ways that would have made me hesitate before. I need to remember to respond when need be rather than let crappy behaviour slide because I’m worried that *my* comment will make things awkward. Especially in the case of someone who has been rude and inconsiderate on a regular basis, it’s their behaviour creating a situation that needs to be addressed – I’m not the one creating an issue, I’m responding to one.

  5. teachable says:

    “Feeling angry is a natural response to conflict and criticism but conflict and criticism doesn’t automatically equate to not being liked and rejected.”

    I take criticism well if it is couched kindly and coming from a person who obviously has my best interests at heart. In fact I want to know what other people’s perceptions are of my behaviour at times. This helps me to understand how I am coming across.

    Anger for me though is a sign that my boundaries have been transgressed in some way. When I get angry about something it is ALWAYS for a reason. For me the reason isn’t because ‘something current reminds of something from the past’. To me this is a cop out people throw at others in an attempt to let the boundary transgressor off the hook or which those keen to placate the current transgresser accept or offer up, in an effort to smooth things over.

    To me just because a current transgressor might be transgressing my boundaries inappropriately in similar way to that which I have experienced in the past does not ‘lessen the transgressen of the current transgresser’. Also, it is appropriate that my level of anger would increase if I am re-abused (transgression of boundaries if it continues repeatedly after boundaries have been clearly stated, is indeed abuse) in a similar way to that which I have been abused in the past. This is because I will know what that past abuse was, and I will have already been harmed by it so I will be even more indignant (ie angrier) that the same thing is happening, with a different or same person, once again.

    When I get angry it is always because something that has happened in the now has transgressed my boundaries in some way. It’s never just because someone was ‘critical’ of me for something. I know this because I’ve done a hell of a lot of work on anger throughout my life because as a child I had a lot of it to deal with.

    Otherwise I agree that conflict and criticism doesnt neccessarily equate with not being liked or being rejected. Conflict is very normal in relationships of all kinds. It’s how we deal with it that makes it healthy or unhealthy.

    As for criticism, one must however assess in what context it is being offered. In work scenerio’s it is part and parcle of working life re performance appraisals etc.

    In personal relationships, it is just not appropriate to go around criticising people. Opinions are like arseholes. Everyone’s got one and they all… well you know the saying. An opinion (and that is all criticim is – an opinion of someone else about you, which may or may not be a fair assessment), about oneself, is only of worth to the listener if it comes from someone you trust and respect to have your best interests at heart. So, who knows who these people are? You do! Therefore, criticism, WHEN INVITED AS FEEDBACK from one of these people is totally appropriate. Alternatively, if a friend or partner is having ‘an issue’ with you in your relationship, and wants to talk with you about this, and if you agree that you are happy to discuss this knowing what it is about, then here too, criticism in again, totally appropriate.

    The keys here are that these types of criticism are likely to be CONSTRUCTIVE criticism. The feedback given is being offered with a view to improving your relationship.

    Anything else is just people blowing hot air out of their arses & some abusers are very good at couching their abuse as ‘only trying to help’ by giving ‘feedback’ or ‘constructive criticism’ so be careful. The trick here is did you A) invite the feedback yourself from someone whose opinion about you you admire and respect or B) were you asked if you would like to hear such feedback from a friend or partner before they launched into giving you such feedback? In either of these cases you can be assured that the criticism no matter how clumsily delivered is well intentioned.

    Otherwise, I have no bones telling people that they can keep their opinions to themselves. Why on earth do I want to hear OPINIONS of other people about me from people who I don’t trust to have my best interests at heart? I don’t. End of.

    • free voice says:

      @teachable. Excellent post, thank-you.

    • noquay says:

      Yep, excellent post. Rather than criticise in a relationship, I would quietly just redo the task myself, the way I wanted it done. I realized my ex husband was awful at cleaning, dishes, not because he was a slob, but his close up vision was very poor. I’d then ask him to do stuff where such vision is not needed. Win-win. I welcome constructive criticism because I want to be the best me that I can possibly be. I recently was criticised for being too hard on myself, I get very angry at myself when I fail in any way. This strategy worked well when I had to educate/raise myself up/ force myself to excel in order to escape the life and values I was brought up in. Worked well during my youth, in middle age, not so much. On the opposite end of the spectrum are those who criticise as a form of lashing out of putting their crap on you. I cannot help but notice that well meaning colleagues/friends who tell me to settle for a life of alone, to settle for someone unattractive/unambitious/down and out, have married such folk themselves; none of them are happy in their marriages or are very bitter, angry, singles.

  6. Peanut says:

    I’m in an inner conflict with dating. Not fully over the ex but so close. I’m not attracted to the bad boy types anymore just confident, assertive yet warm men. (Those are the best).

    I have classes with some of the sweetest men I’ve met. Just so lovely. All men are not x,y,z…

    Or assclowns. I just never noticed the good ones because then I might have dated them and would have needed to have been vulnerable, i.e., going after something truly pleasurable that I authentically wanted.

    Bad boys were my type because I thought I was bad and no one else decent would want me.

  7. teachable says:

    Pleasure Free Voice. Just glad someone understands my ‘messy’ posts! LOL (You would not guess IRL I battled perfectionism! Clearly, I have come quite a ways with this! LMAO)

    CC I wrote a long reply to yr post on this topic y.day but the computer ‘ate it’. Bugger. Do you want me to have another crack?

    Peanut that last line is brilliant! You will soon (if not already) find the spell of bad boys broken. When I was young (as is way too young – doh), I allowed myself to associate with n’er do well types. A bit of counselling & I quickly realised, I WANTED to succeed in life so changed this, very early on. I am now totally turned off by anyone not 100% on the straight & narrow & have been for decades. I think it quite a hoot! LOL

    • CC says:

      teachable, yes I would like to hear your feedback, I’m sure it will be very useful and I have been dealing with the issue I wrote about in my earlier post for a long time. Thanks, I look forward to hearing from you!

  8. Nat Attack says:

    Like most people, I am full of contradictions. At my core, I am deeply confident and know who I am. But I also struggle a lot with negative criticism.

    My ex waited until the night before he was scheduled to fly out to Alaska (where he’s a seasonal worker) to break up with me. For months he had lied and told me that everything was wonderful between us, that he loved me, that he was willing to compromise on issues and work with me. He said these things because he couldn’t handle telling me the truth. “I am a coward,” he said, during his break-up speech. Later on, he even confessed that he felt that there had been a strain between us for years, for our entire relationship, none of which had ever been expressed to me. He said that being around me was an emotional burden because he could never make me happy, and he just needed to be free from that burden. He said he knew that it must be awful to hear this, but he felt that I deserved to know why he was leaving me.

    What a mess of feelings I was left with after his confessions! It was difficult for a long time to see what was true and what was false, because it was just so damn painful to learn that he had never been honest with me. Was it true that I was impossible to please? Too emotional? Being my boyfriend was a burden? I felt disoriented, much the way I felt during childhood, when everything I did, from the way I sat, to the way I ate, provoked criticism and screaming.

    I’m learning to separate my crap from my ex’s crap. My crap: too self-deprecating, too naive. His crap: daddy issues, daddy issues, daddy issues. I think I’m getting there. Even on difficult days, I feel supported by the commitment I’ve made to myself. And I definitely appreciate reading these great posts by all of you! I guess all this is just part of the human experience, and it’s valuable even if it sucks sometimes.

    • Pauline says:

      Nat Attack

      Let me get this straight, he had been lying to you the whole time you were together saying he loved you and was willing to work with you on issues (every couple has them, there’s no such thing as 100% agreement on everything) and then just before he leaves on a work contract he makes a “true confession” about how he has always felt the relationship was a burden right from the start, he couldn’t please you etc, that he’s a coward and in effect dumped the blame for his actions, behaviour and all the lies he had to tell you squarely on your shoulders and over the course of several years he never had the courage to say one little word.

      What makes you think that this so called “confession” of his was actually the truth?
      In what way was he ever compelled to stay if he wasn’t happy?

      I just don’t wear it when people tell me I’m to blame for what they are doing or have done, as if I’m some sort of powerful being who controls their every action and thought when in reality they are doing exactly what they want and avoiding any responsibility for their own actions by saying … it’s all your fault!

      It’s just not true and you need to have a big re-think about this so called confession of his as he left. Seriously, just as he’s leaving he dumps all this crap on you and says he’s a coward, pffft, highly unlikely.
      His timing and confession was all thought out beforehand and tells me he’s done this before.

      • Nat Attack says:

        Hi Pauline,

        Yes,Pauline, thanks for your words of wisdom! I seriously doubt the validity of his confession. It is all a giant load of crap, and I’ve been stepping on it for way too long!

        And thank god I went NC (three months) and don’t need to deal with it anymore! Now I just have to deal with my own crap. =)

      • lizzp says:

        Hammer hits nail Pauline. The man is a liar, except he was right about one thing…he *is* a coward..so goddamn cowardly infact that he had to couch his cowardice as a reaction to another person or ‘the relationship’ instead of owning the role of his own emotional defectiveness around intimacy. This sort of insidious doofus can really get up my goat if I allow it, even reading about one of them will do it if I let it!!

  9. TH says:

    This reminded me of this link. I think it says the same thing at this post:
    http://serenityonlinetherapy.com/reparent_the_wounded_child.htm

  10. Trina says:

    When someone crashes against my boundaries, it seems the sensible thing to do is say STOP. But sometimes this push cracks me open, breaking into the padlocked compartments of my soul, revealing archives of forgotten pain. And when I open the moldy file from my past and look at it honestly, take the opportunity to know myself better, to straighten out what’s been jumbled up and throw away what’s no longer needed, a clear space for new, healthier experiences to be stored is created, and then boundaries can be redrawn with broader strokes.

  11. Grizelda says:

    We have conflict and we have criticism. Conflict I understand — it happens sometimes as a result of people interacting. It’s Adult-Adult.

    But criticism? Criticism happens as a result of one person putting themselves in a position of authority over the other — forsaking Adult-Adult and trying to create Parent-Child, for those I’m Ok You’re Ok fans out there.

    Sometimes criticism is merited. Sometimes it’s about some pretty heinous behaviour very recently performed by someone that really diminished the other person, and the other person takes issue with that. Other times, I don’t know. Other times, criticism is used unmerited as a tool for control. Something to keep the other person off balance, in a state of flux, weakness or hurt. I mean when they extrapolate one incident of behaviour that didn’t diminish them in any way into a full blown personality characteristic that is held up as an example of why Criticised Person OWES Mr/Ms Critic.

    The way I see it, if you find yourself criticised, examine the motives of the critic. Because if you feel tempted somehow to make up for what they’ve decided are ‘your mistakes’ by rewarding them with pleasing behaviour, stop the hell right there. Think about whether or not their complaint about your flaws is merited. Did your behaviour really diminish them? If so, by how much? If not, why are they trying to elicit rewards from you?

  12. dancingqueen says:

    I liked Teachable’s comments about criticism needing to be invited. I have a hard time around people who feel free to constantly criticize: to me, even if it is coming from fear or depression it is still boundary busting behavior. It is just not appropriate to be telling others how to fix themselves unless they ask you.

    That said, if someone is constantly complaining about the same bad relationship issues and never addressing them then I will offer my opinion which is “look nothing seems to be changing so in some way this must be working for you. So we probably should not talk about it.”

    Of course, if someone is doing something dangerous like drugs then expressing concern unsolicited is valid. But come froma respectful place.

  13. dancingqueen says:

    @Grizelda yes! Constant criticizing IS a power grab to try to put themselves above and you below. WELL PUT!

  14. noquay says:

    DQ
    Yep, criticism is often someone laying their own inadequacy on you. Like I posted earlier, I get a lot of criticism from colleagues/friends stating that I am too picky. I simply tell them that I need to be with an equal in terms of values, health, education. Our purpose in life is to live it, not try to repair others. You stated it perfectly; some folk truly like to be in failure-land. It’s a lot easier to just sit at the bar and blame others for your lack of income, poor job prospects, (here we folk of color are blamed for taking “their” jobs) rather than lift yourself up beyond your upbringing and circumstances. Doing nothing is easy; going beyond, lifting yourself up is hard work.

  15. Janiqua says:

    Another wonderful post…and Karen, thanks so much for your take on conflict…all of your descriptions were so true and I saw a bit of all of them in my most recent relationship, I just wish I had been able to read your comments a few weeks/months ago so I would have been more sure that this guy definitely was not worth it.

    I kept asking him to try and work things out. he would get so angry at little things, like if I would text him while he was cooking his dinner!he would freak out and it made no sense,because most people just ignore texts and emails if they are busy.

    I would constantly get blamed for things and he would never take any responsibility for his behavior. It made me feel horrible. It has been a month since I have seen him and while the memories are fading,I miss the friend I thought I had in him. I wish I could talk with him, but he would freak out over such little things and block me from calling, texting, social media, etc…just so he didn’t have to deal when we were dating…which made everything more frustrating. so I still have no way to even contact him if I even wanted to say hello, which I know I shouldn’t anyway…just hard and sad as I still do miss him…

My Book - Mr Unavailable and the Fallback Girl

Stop believing that you did something to make them unavailable or that their inadequacies are down to your inadequacies - it is not about you; they are unavailable!

My Book - Mr Unavailable and the Fallback Girl

Stop believing that you did something to make them unavailable or that their inadequacies are down to your inadequacies - it is not about you; they are unavailable!