The question I’m in my 50s with kids who all left home recently. I had a relationship with a patient, kind man – but it wasn’t always easy, mostly because of my insecurities. We left and I messed things up by starting fights and as a result he decided to end it.
Until this episode, I was a friendly, easy-going, non-confrontational person. The problem is that I no longer recognize myself. When the relationship ended, I was out of control. I had created so much drama and upheaval, mostly fueled by alcohol.
I made accusations against him at work and he almost lost his job. I did not stop there. Overcome with compulsion and driven by anger, I messaged his friends and reported him so much on social media that he threatened legal action.
I fear my unpredictability and my lack of control. How can I be so full of hate, revenge and wickedness? My mother, who passed away, was a difficult person and it’s her unpredictability that I think plays into it. I don’t want to become her. I want this to stop. I could end up in court. I let such a good thing slip by and I’ll never get it back.
Philippa’s response I have hope because you have a clear idea of your situation. You don’t blame your ex and want to examine your own behavior and impulses. It is commendable. You are on the right track.
We want our children to lead their own lives, but that doesn’t mean we don’t feel abandoned when they leave home. This may be a contributing factor to your recent change in behavior.
You say, “I don’t recognize myself anymore. First, you need to exclude anything medical. Make an appointment with your GP and tell them exactly what happened. A sudden drop in estrogen, which occurs during menopause, may have made you intolerant and debilitating. Or maybe you are taking medication that is seriously affecting you. It’s unlikely, but you may even have suffered some kind of brain damage, so your impulse control is wrecked. Maybe alcohol also makes you lose control. Or it could be something else, or a combination of the above… so make that date. They may also refer you to a psychiatrist or mental health team.
You talk about insecurity. I guess this means you have a deep fear of being abandoned and may need more reassurance than most, which may be felt by others to be too demanding and may lead to arguments. When you don’t get that extra reassurance, the desperation you feel can drive you on a rampage. Alcohol can also fuel this. You may have felt that your ex was the sole cause of your suffering. Your behavior seems to say, “I hate you, don’t leave me.” You can’t manipulate or bully your way to a healthy relationship, and when the red haze clears, you know it.
Maybe when you were a baby or child it was only through extreme tantrums that you got the attention you needed, negative attention feeling better than nothing – and recent events may have triggered this regression in you. Or, triggered by insecurity, as you put it, you may feel compelled to act like your mother. The habits and reactions of parents are often the model for ours. You had nowhere to go to escape the conflict with your mother but, of course, another adult can walk away, and so your mother’s plan for close relationships fails you.
When you start therapy, and I think you should, you can get upset because the therapist is only available for you at fixed times. You’ll probably want to punish them for not being there for you when you want them to be, but with them you can overcome that and find better ways to soothe and comfort yourself when you feel in danger of being rejected.
It’s one thing to get revenge and fantasize about acts of revenge and it’s another to carry them out, and I’m afraid you’ve crossed that line. I am of course sorry for your victim – for his own good you must remove him and his friends from your contacts and let him live his life in peace. But I’m sorry for you too. I think this episode may have rekindled one of your very old wounds, perhaps an emotional abandonment by your parents? I highly recommend forming a good working alliance with a therapist, but consult your doctor first.
I would like you to know that I know many clients in psychotherapy who had an “I hate you, don’t leave me” relationship pattern and then broke that pattern and formed good relationships. We have more than one chance to put our lives on the right track.
For advice on trauma therapy, contact emdrassociation.org.uk
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