Not too long ago, I asked my crush about a past relationship and he informed me that he didn’t want to go into detail about it. My first reaction was hurt; I wanted to connect and grow closer by learning about this part of his past and I almost felt shut out by it. But the logical part of my brain reasoned with me: why was I making this about myself? It had nothing to do with me. He just felt uncomfortable sharing it.
Some time ago, my therapist (AND my boss haha) brought some very valuable information to light concerning my tenuous relationship with my mother; that our relationship lacked boundaries, which then translated into boundary-trampling in my other relationships. I put aside what made me uncomfortable in romantic relationships, and suffocated my partners’ limits, because my upbringing had taught me that discomfort equals love.
I want to say “in my family,” but maybe this wasn’t the case. Maybe it was just my mom in particular, who never took my personal mental comfort seriously. Sure, the normal PHYSICAL comforts were taken care of. But never my psyche.
She’d buy clog-shoes that felt uncomfortable on my feet, but insist I wear them because they were “fashionable.” She’d force me to wear a graduation dress that exposed far too much side-boob than my 13-year-old self was comfortable with. She’d demand that I hug so-and-so, despite my visible uneasiness, and call out that uneasiness as problematic because she didn’t understand it (or care to ask), putting me at war with my internal feelings.
We weren’t allowed to have boundaries as children, it seemed…because adults knew better what we should properly feel.
She’d drag me to the forefront of an audience to recite a pleasantry (knowing full well I hated being the center of attention) and stand idly by as her shadow as they asked me questions and she answered for me, until I had permission to flee. Or she’d shove me into a group of children at a gathering against my pleas and demand I make friends, where anxiety got the better of me and I’d break down and sob.
Once I reached adulthood, moved out and got my own job, apartment, and self-sufficiency, those habits never ended. She continued to pull me into the spotlight to show me off, cut me off to answer questions directed at me, and automatically make plans for me assuming it was a given I’d go along with them. Any time I expressed discomfort as an adult, manipulation tactics, guilt trips and gaslighting were used to coerce my submission.
Eventually, I resorted to ignoring her phone calls and texts most of the time, or preparing ironclad defenses like a lawyer as to why I couldn’t attend an event, simply because I was afraid to say “no” and the drama that would ensue as a result. But as an adult, why did I still need to live with this fear? Why couldn’t I ever say “Actually, I don’t feel like it,” or “I think that request is unfair, so no,” or “I feel uncomfortable,” without getting the 3rd degree for it and made to feel that my emotions were insubstantial somehow?
Always made to feel like a selfish person to choose yourself first, guilt became interweaved with the concept of “no,” and responsibility for everyone else’s feelings paramount to your own. And discomfort became a way of life; normal even. And boundaries ceased to exist between those who love each other and the more uncomfortable you feel, the stronger your bond and the higher your love must reach. Until distress spills over everywhere because you don’t even know what boundaries are anymore, or the source of your unhappiness.
But…you do know a state of constant discomfort doesn’t feel good, so you wonder…why would someone who loves me continue to put me in situations I don’t feel comfortable in, for their own satisfaction?
I don’t want to continue that cycle.
Unlearn that love.