Emotional Blackmail

December 10th, 2011

Finally move to my new webhosting company so I can post this week’s post. 🙂

I read Emotional Blackmail by Susan Forward this week, and while there is a lot to it, and a lot that does not apply to my own situation. I found myself realizing that while I don’t let others blackmail me, I may be doing it for them. I have hot buttons from my past, that I use against myself to control my current behavior. I scare myself into behaving certain ways, even though I don’t want to. So here they are, and my attempts to disarm them.

Fear of anger or raised voices. There was hardly ever any yelling in my house as a child. Occasionally, my brother or I got yelled at, but mostly when we were too young to remember or doing something dangerous. But there was a single instance where my father yelled at my mother, called her a bad name, and she left the house. I heard the yelling, I still don’t know what it was about, and I saw her drive away. She came back, I don’t remember how long it took, but that set a hot button in my developing mind. Yelling and anger equals a loved one leaving. I struggle with that one, I fear raising anger, I fear conflict. I have become a peacemaker, which is not bad, unless it is at the expense of my own needs or wants. I blackmail myself – don’t do that, it’ll make them angry. You don’t want to see them angry. What if you make them so angry they just leave? Which is unfair to the other person, I’m not giving them a chance – to react to what I want, or to show that it doesn’t make them angry. And unfair to myself – I am not being true to who I am.

Emotional responsibility. I know I’ve talked about this before. Especially in the Ethical Slut posts. But I find it hard to not feel responsible when my partners are sad/upset/depressed. Or at least responsible for making them feel better, or to avoid causing those feelings. Obviously, none of us wants to upset our partners, but I can also take this too far, into blackmail. Don’t say that, you’ll only upset him. It’s not really that important, you don’t want to make him feel bad. Look at how miserable he is, how could you do that? But I am not the gauge of what will make a person sad. I am not responsible for how they react and deal with things. I should not avoid things because they’re uncomfortable to talk about. It only leads to deception and bottling, which is way worse than a few tears before things get worked out. I can offer to help, and keep talking through things. But I should not try to stop someone else feeling their own emotions and reactions.

Self worth. I’ve often struggled with replacement fears since becoming poly. I’ve always struggled with my self image and self esteem. Those things have been growing by leaps and bounds since I found a community here that loves and supports me for who I am. But there’s a hot button left over from college and my second boyfriend. I tried to date him a second time(or was it a third, I had an odd dating record), late in my sophomore year. He told me, he didn’t need the ego boost that dating me gave him anymore. He was popular now. What a strange thing to say, and even odder still to internalize. What it wrote in my head was, I’m only needed by guys who aren’t confident or popular, I’m just an ego boost until someone better comes along. This has played a major role in my replacement fears – worrying the new girl is better than me, so I won’t be needed anymore. It took a much stronger sense of self, this last time, to not go there. I am finally fully confident in my worth, and did not feel that I even Could be replaced.

 

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Poly Pie

October 29th, 2011

It has been a week. And once again, Thursday was too busy for me to get a post written. Two jobs is good for the checkbook, not so good for my writing pursuits. Life is full of changes. Growing, expanding, renegotiating, learning, adding, subtracting, multiplying. Relationships are the same.

He and toy are “officially dating” now. A new young woman has entered all our lives. Schedule changes are heading our way. So things are in a little bit of flux as we try to see where it is all lands. This has led to a lot of conversations. A lot of communication. And a lot of thinking and processing. Also, a lot of reacting, but hey, that’s where it all starts. Reactions let us know what’s important, and then we figure out what to do about it.

I seem to have, for the moment, gotten over my usual reaction of replacement fears to change, and have settled into a more tetchy fear of losing time and attention. More tetchy, because those things are limited. There is only so much time in a week, and so much attention to give. I started talking about it like a pie. Fearing my slice was going to get smaller, that someone else was going to get a slice, or a bigger slice, or already had, or whatever. The trouble is, that’s life, things are always changing and adjusting. I need to focus, not on, how do I get a bigger piece, or keep my exact piece, or any of that, but how to enjoy my slice to the fullest. To do that, I have to stop worrying about other people’s slices. I only have control over how I spend my own.

To that end, I tripped over an even older mental block. Asking for what I want. In order to facilitate him making decisions about those slices, he has to know what I want and need, so he can give me whatever he is able to. And in order for me to be happy, I have to take care of my own wants and needs. This means several things. First, I have to know what I want and need. Second, I have to tell him what I want and need. Third, I have to be patient about getting those met. I have several stumbling blocks in this series. Knowing what I need seems to have gotten easier, though I sometimes have trouble with the want/need line, falling on the side of, well, I don’t really Need that, I can Survive without it. I’m still working on that.

The blocks really come with telling him. A couple problems here. I grew up in a household where wants were generally not considered important. At birthdays or Christmas, you could ask for things, but other than that, only if offered. And at those times two times a year, we made wish lists and didn’t demand particular things. To say, you must get me this one thing or I will be miserable, was just not done. We made a list and we’d usually get a few things off that list, but not everything, and often things that weren’t on the list. You got what they wanted to give you. So, how does this translate now? Well, if I have everything I need, I feel selfish asking for things I want. At birthdays and Christmas, I tend to posts lists to my blog, but I don’t really ask for things directly. If I’m asked what I want (to do), I tend to come off shy or coy because I’m not used to being that direct.

The next block comes in with the third step. I’m a fairly patient person, but sometimes to a fault. I won’t ask for things if I feel like the answer will be not right now. For a couple reasons. One, it feels like a no to me, and I don’t like hearing no, so I just won’t ask. Two, because I figure I might as well wait until the answer is likely to be yes. But, as he reminds me, if he doesn’t know what I want, I am taking away his chance to decide if there’s time/opportunity for it, nor can he plan for it in the future if there isn’t time in that moment. So I have to ask, and then be patient about receiving.

To make the most of our slice of poly pie, we have to be fully informed of each other’s wants and needs. I have to grow and overcome some roadblocks, and let myself hear not now, without it meaning no. Sharing wants should be fun, describing things I like or want should be entertaining and arousing. Fantasies and daydreams come to life is what makes our lives amazing. Why would I deny either of us that?

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