Reading through chapter 5 of Peg Streep’s book, Daughter Detox, took me longer than I anticipated.
Christmas break is over, students are back, and I have been exhausted as I try to get my body back into a routine. Reading and writing, sadly, took a backseat over the last week.
Thank goodness for the weekend!
So–chapter 5 deals with the distinguishing phase. In other words, it deals with the way the patterns of behavior we developed during childhood interfere with our relationships today.
Through counseling, I definitely think that I have started to really take a look, and really understand, some of the reasons why I act the way I do…and how these actions play out in my relationships with friends, my spouse, and even total strangers.
This wasn’t always the case.
No…in fact, when I saw my therapist for the very first time, I remember her asking me how my marriage was. I remember lying through my teeth…saying all was fine. After all–I wasn’t there to talk about that!! I was there to talk about depression and anxiety…not relationships!
My therapist didn’t let that happen. She knew better. She knew that there was some underlying childhood “stuff” that I needed to sort through to feel better TODAY.
It wasn’t long before I began to trust her. Before I began to tell her what I was really feeling at home…and, I will never forget when she said to me, “You know, sometimes, when people have only known love that is emotionally unavailable, they also pick partners who are emotionally unavailable. It is what feels safe…”
It felt, honestly, like life slapped me in the face. Like…really? That is what we flock to? After all the pain and all the desire to JUST. FEEL. LOVED?
Chapter 5 talks all about this.
So–let me talk about my marriage first. I’ve written a lot about it over the last few months, especially after I requested a divorce, felt ready to leave, and then decided to give my husband a second chance.
We have been together since I was just a 19 year old baby. He is 14 years older. He has always felt safe to me. He takes care of me. He is financially stable. He is an amazing father.
Love…love is where we struggle. We struggle with intimacy and communication. We struggle with connection.
He struggles with depression and anxiety…a much more chronic form of it than I have experienced. He struggles with negativity and pessimism. He has a need for control that often zaps all happiness and excitement from his life.
Me? I am spontaneous. I am optimistic. I am easily excited. I am a dreamer.
He is a realist.
I would never say, however, that I married my mother. He is not hurtful. He is not passive aggressive. He is not vindictive or cold. He does not wield love as a weapon.
Rather, he has very limited experience with love. He doesn’t always know how to show it. He doesn’t always know how to comfort. He doesn’t know how to be intimate on the level that I dream of…passion, connection. The level that, through therapy, I have come to feel that I deserve.
Together, we struggle to communicate. I dance around the problems, never wanting to make him feel uncomfortable and rarely feeling brave enough to say what is real if it might hurt him. He? He likes to avoid…he likes to sweep it under the rug and go on like everything is okay.
It is a frustrating cycle…but one we can recognize and, after I finally felt brave enough to blow the lid off of things, he is seeking therapy and so are we.
Peg Streep spends many pages discussing how attachment styles can influence relationship patterns. How these style influence how we perceive sex and love…it was pretty illuminating. And, pretty accurate.
We have lots of work to do. Will it work? Hard to say. But we are trying.
Now….relationships, of course, are not limited solely to spouses and lovers. And, as I have discovered over the last two years, my biggest struggle has come from the search of what I will call my second mom.
I have spent lots of time looking for another, wiser, loving woman to take me under her wing. Someone who I talk to. Ask questions. Have a give and take relationship with. And, most importantly, someone who could just find value in me. I never realized, of course, that this is what I was doing, but I can see it now.
I have been lucky enough to find friendships in a few women, and they have been amazing…but also fraught with worry and emotion.
Peg Streep writes about rejection sensitivity.
Well…spoiler alert: I have this, big time.
If I feel like I have said something wrong? Shared too much? Perhaps, shown too much of my “crazy?” I trigger.
I begin to worry that everything in the relationship will be lost. I seek reassurance. I feel shame for needing the reassurance and then worry that that need will create a self-fulfilling prophecy: I worry the person will leave, I need reassurance, the person is taken aback–sees how much work I am–and, eventually, gives up and just leaves.
For the longest time, I have been asking: Why? Why am I like this? I can see the cycle.
I just can’t stop the automatic script.
Because…that is what it is. An automatic, unconscious way of behaving, born from the way I behaved with my own mother as a child. Born from the fear of her rejection when I messed up.
In therapy, I have said, I feel like the little girl in these situations. The scared third grader, hiding in the back of her dark closet, hugging her knees.
My therapist has encouraged me for a LONG time to give that little girl what she needs. But, a bigger part of me screams–IT ISN’T REAL. NO ONE GAVE ME WHAT I NEEDED!!!
Chapter 6? Chapter 6 talks about disarming our default settings–making the unconscious, conscious.
I sure hope I can learn how to flip the script.