Comments for Controlling Female

Comments for Controlling Female

Material posted here is intended for educational purposes only, and must not be considered a substitute for informed advice from your own health care provider.

Courtesy of Dr. Irene Matiatos  Copyright© 2000. The material on this website may be distributed freely for non-commercial or educational purposes provided that author credit is given. For commercial distribution, please contact the author at


 B1: Submit
Date: Wednesday, June 14, 2000


Dear Jennie,

Becoming aware you have a problem is a very big step in recovery.

Listen to Dr. Irene she knows what she is talking about and listen to yourself.

Dr. Irene says you can't treat another person badly and still respect yourself. Sounds like your going through this.

I have done some of the things you talk about and when I want go to look where I don't belong I get paper and pen and go sit with my feelings. Often times my feelings tell me I am terrified of being left. I am not trusting. It is past issue for me. Sitting with your feelings is scary at first then it tells you something about yourself. Embrace whatever it is and say I may not like this and it's a part of me. Like having a cavity. It just is. Then go about accepting that part of you. I tell myself ok this is a part of me now I can do something different.

Be sure to note his behavior, too. Is he giving you clues that make you feel insecure? Has he been dishonest in the past? You may be dealing with real issues.

Your honesty was good to hear. It is rare for someone who controls to admit and own it. Good job!

I will pray for you. Anyone who has enough inside them to have this awareness can make it all the way.


God bless,


B1: Submit
Date: Wednesday, June 14, 2000


Jennie, I, too, have been where you are. Dr. Irene is right-this is fixable. To make a long story short: We are both recovering alcoholic controllers in our house. I could work myself up into such a high state of anxiety over what he was doing, with whom, checking his wallet, his email, questions - I should have been a detective for all the time I spent on trying to control his time and how he spent it. Similar to your situation, I was also given "permission" to control until ever so subtly the tables turned.

Soon, (after he had been away from AA meetings for over 6 months - a dry drunk) I was being told you cannot have a computer, you cannot have this, you will do this, there will be no more of this or that, etc. I began to feel like I was drowning in water soon to be way over my head. I had no way of protecting or saving myself except go to this website and reading Dr. Irene's feedback to others every day and Alanon. Both this site and the Alanon program wants you to focus on you; to let go of our obsession with another's behavior; to stop playing detective; detach; take responsibility for ourselves and our actions; not to do for others what they could do for themselves; not to manipulate situations so that others will do what we want them to do; be direct, and assertive, etc. I think you can get an idea of what Alanon program can do for you if you suit up and show up and practice it as a way of life. As Dr. Irene said earlier change your behavior for you first, then he could possible change his. Keep coming back one day at a time. ODAT 83(My year of sobriety)

  B1: Submit
Date: Wednesday, June 14, 2000


I have so frequently taken responsibility for someone else or made decisions for someone else, so I can understand at least in part what Jennie's going through. I have this mantra that I keep repeating to myself: "I cannot change anyone. The only person I can change is myself." It is amazing how many times a day I repeat that. It helps me a lot, oddly enough.

B1: Submit
Date: Thursday, June 15, 2000


Yes, it is clear that Jennie has problems that she openly admits. They are pretty serious, from what I can see. However, this is one case where I find Dr. Irene's comments to be confusing. I agree that "both" parties here have problems or else her boyfriend wouldn't stay in the relationship. However, this brings back terrible memories of me in a relationship with my abusive ex-boyfriend who was clearly mainly responsible for the dysfunction in our relationship. Yet after talking to his therapist, he would come back to me and say "it takes two to tango", and "you play a part in this too" and other comments of this nature. I feel the part that I played in creating the situation was simply "STAYING" with him. 

Yes. That was exactly your part.

So this is frustrating. When someone has problems and they need help and their therapist puts responsibility on the other partner, I feel that this enables the abuser/controller to BLAME their partner more and take less responsibility for THEIR actions. I'm not saying that we co-dependents don't have issues or problems, but I don' feel that the abuser/controller should have constant reminders that they are not totally responsible. Often, this is what they need more of. This entitles them to do more of what they know how to do so well - BLAME THE VICTIM. 

Please clarify. I have difficulty with this and this is what continues to frustrate me several months after the relationship has been over. Has his therapist been telling him that I had issues too so he didn't have to work as hard? When he acted out and threw things around and cursed me horribly and hung up and did other nasty things to me when all I did was try to talk to him and I was doing all the work in reading about relationship issues, the last thing he said to me was "WE need help" or "WE'RE going to kill one another". Again, because he was told that two play a part, I was also supposed to play a part in fixing his damage. PLEASE HELP to clarify some of this. Thanks.


Dear LHW, I'm glad you brought this up. In "ordinary" couple's therapy, where there is little awareness of how slippery the abuser can be, the victim often looks bad to the therapist. For example, the victim might be asked to keep the house cleaner if that is one of the abuser's impossible demands. The abuser's impossible demands are argued so well (especially given the beaten-down victim's insecurity, depression, emotional reactivity, and inability to effectively counter argue), the demands appear plausible to the unwitting therapist! That is what "blame the victim" stuff is. 

My position does not blame the victim. I ask the abuser to behave appropriately - but I ask the victim to behave appropriately as well: The abuser has to stop the games and manipulation, as well as master the skills necessary to the appropriate expression of anger. The victim has to recognize and call the abuse, as well as master the skills necessary to the appropriate expression of anger. The victim is not "blamed!" 

Very occasionally a victim who has suffered years of abuse and has finally identified the problem, is so rageful, they will refuse to take responsibility for themselves. Any directive to behave appropriately is read as "blaming the victim."   

However, if the victim does not learn appropriate expression, the victim - in their rightful rage - can behave abusively; as a result, the victim's integrity will suffer. In addition, the victim's abuse gives the abuser an "excuse" to continue abuse. How can the pot get away with calling the kettle black?  The power may be more balanced (sometimes the balance of power will shift!), but the games continue...

Also note that in the typical relationship where the victim allows the abuse to continue hoping that in time the abuser will realize they are loved, etc. - the victim is trying to control the abuser - and is violating the abuser's boundaries! The abuser plays the same control and violation games, albeit in a different form. I believe that control and boundary violation are not OK in any form.

I fail to see how the victim is blamed by asking each individual to clean up their respective acts and to take responsibility for themselves. I think there is a serious flaw in asking the abuser to get a handle, while implying that it is OK for the victim to misbehave. 

Hope this clears things up a bit.   Dr. Irene

 B1: Submit
Date: Thursday, June 15, 2000


TO LHW: this is jennie and i just wanted to respond to your post. i think that your thinking that because dr. irene said that my boyfriend has problems too, cause he chooses to stay with me despite the way i am that i wont take full responsibility for my actions and or problem. this is not the case at all. i know my boyfriend loves me and that is why he stays with me, my problems are independent of his and do not connect at least not in my mind, cause i had this problem long before i met him. his staying with me maybe a problem that he has but it is "his" problem and i don't hold him responsible for my own set of problems. Correct Jennie. Each of you have problems. like i said tho i feel he is better off without me cause who needs someone running your own life when they can't even run their own, right? but he says he wants to be with me. if he wants to be with me regardless of how i am, then yes, he does have a problem, but it is his, as my control, insecurity, jealousy, etc. are mine. it is so hard to recognize change but not know how to do it. i know i have a lot of work, and at times of stress it seems i snoop more and trust less. at times it's almost like i want to find something so i can justifiably end this relationship which i don't want to end. makes no sense i know, it's just part of what i'm trying to fix about myself. every little disagreement we get into which isn't many, the first thing i want to do is pack up my clothes, dog and daughter and hit the hiway. but i'm working on that too. i'm sorry for what you Went through, i can truly sympathize with you having been on both ends of the stick. i hope you are getting along better now and have found someone to treat you right. good luck...respond back if you'd like. jennie

 B1: Submit
Date: Thursday, June 15, 2000


Jennie! It's LHW. I truly feel that what you are doing is TERRIFIC! I have no issues whatsoever with what you've said. You are taking RESPONSIBILITY for your behavior and it's a beautiful thing. You must really care about this man because you are here to help yourself and preserve your relationship. Where I was coming from with my remarks was that many abusive/controlling people never take the RESPONSIBILITY for their behavior that you have! Many of them are looking for a scapegoat, a way out, someone to blame. Correct. That is exactly what abusive people do! The victim's error is in their willingness to accept blame. It gets frustrating for the victim (and this is where we need work) as we tend to accept that blame for ourselves and really think that WE are the problem! You got it! So when a therapist tells a controller/abuser that "you're partner has problems too", this is music to their ears! (again, not talking for all cases but mine and many others). I understand that a therapist's goal is not to inflict blame on their client's partner, but by stating that "your partner has problems too" is TAKING blame away from the client, and I feel that this can be harmful as many of these people NEED TO TAKE RESPONSIBILITY! That is exactly what frustrates co-dependents!. We tend to be overly responsible/our partners tend to be under-responsible. That was the difficulty I had in understanding Dr. Irene's response - not at all what you are doing. 

I have big concerns with personality types whose main issues are to avoid responsibility, and a when a therapist throws some of that on to the partner, it is a downward spiral for us. The main reason you get into trouble in "ordinary" counseling is because the therapist is not aware of the distorted balance of power. The therapist assumes each individual is equally powerful... This really doesn't help us at all as victims. What you are doing is healthy. Recognizing problems is good, then you can help yourself. Blaming others and living in denial about who you are is a dead-end street. Being told that your partner has problems gets you "off the hook". I wish my ex-boyfriend's therapist didn't keep telling him I had problems (what kind of problems did she mean, that I was co-dependent, that I tolerated him)? Isn't part of therapy to help difficult people become more tolerable?...this enabled him to continue behaving the way he did and he justified it, as he threw this back at me several times in the midst of his name calling rages (my therapist said this, my therapist said that). He was either mis-using your therapist's words (probable) or the therapist didn't get it. Meanwhile, I kept bending over backwards more and more thinking I WAS the crazy person (since after all, he had a professional involved), trying to figure it all out, thinking maybe I was causing his problems, like he said. Nobody ever, ever, ever, EVER causes another person's problems! Nobody has that much power. If you are in fact "causing" someone's problems, that is because your partner is allowing you to "cause" them! This is why even though Jennie is the perpetrator as per her description of events, her boyfriend is responsible for any woes he allows her to cause him. Get it? 

I knew it was time for me to seek therapy to help sort this out on my own and deal with my issues. I found in that process that if you are truly frightened that someone is going to strike at you because they start banging things around due to a simple, calm comment you made in an effort to communicate with them, it is ABUSE. It was horribly frustrating. Everything I tried to discuss with him, he threw back on me (projection). And, with projection, the therapist initially doesn't know who to believe! If I said I felt like I was walking on eggshells, HE was, etc.! 

I couldn't change this person and I had to leave. That was the only boundary option for me. Correct. Your ex sounds pretty intractable... It seems that you are doing some work to try to avoid such a thing...much more value for your boyfriend than was placed on me. I hope this makes sense and sorry for the rambling, but this touched on something deep for me. I think once you are feeling more secure with yourself, Jen, you'll be able to interact better with your boyfriend. Hopefully, he'll also deal with HIS issues. But remember this: co-dependents keep "looking on the bright side" and hoping maybe someday the light will shine through. TWO people working on a relationship is what it's all about! Best of Luck, LHW  Best of luck to you too LWH...


B1: Submit


And one of the problems I see is the default assumption that doesn't get challenged unless there's heaps of evidence to the contrary that (in a heterosexual relationship) victim = female.

Two of my closest friends took, and watched their fathers take, horrendous verbal and sometimes physical abuse from their mothers. One of my friends, after her father left the insanity and talked about getting custody of her, was informed by her (extremely deranged and alcoholic) mother that should her father try to get custody, she would play the sexual abuse card. Never mind that it had NO bearing in reality whatsoever ... a woman who happened to be a teacher accusing a man with a slight bit of physical deformity of molesting their beautiful little girl would tend to be listened to no matter how off her nut she obviously was. At least he thought so enough to give up trying for custody for a bit. Very sad.

Personal victimhood, or the perceived societal victimhood of being female, is not something that I believe it's a good thing to hide behind. I've done it, in the past, as a female and more specifically as a survivor of sexual assault. I do really get a perception sometimes especially from women of "it's ok for me to be a little bit abusive because I've been a victim for so long and it's only fair, poor me" around here.

It's NOT OK to be "a little bit" abusive. I know this and try my best to keep it in mind. I don't always succeed. One of the most difficult things to work through in my relationship is that my fiancée has bought wholesale into the idea that man = abuser no matter what (which makes him more inclined to take inappropriate stuff from me because it's "his fault." *sigh*) And of course the flip side of my insistence that I wouldn't stay with someone who was an abuser after watching my best friend suffer two years of hell with one, so if there's abuse going on it must be me who's doing it. Or as I occasionally put it, "If it's my fault, I can fix it. If it's your fault, the only way I can fix it is to leave, and I don't want to do that, but I can't make you fix yourself." Yes, very twisted logic, I know, yet with a small grain of truth. After all, if we both were willing to put all our energy into fixing ourselves, not for the sake of the relationship but for ourselves, the relationship would probably improve as well -- or (much as I hate to consider this) die a natural death.

That's the principle I'm trying to work from right now. I know two older women who started off with their husbands in roughly my situation. One just went through a relatively amicable but nonetheless painful divorce; the other is still madly in love after 25 years.


It's hard not to be controlling of others. There's an essay up on my web page about how I identify with the villain of a particular SF series who wanted to destroy the world-as-they-knew-it and rebuild it in his image. It's frustrating to *see* so may things that could be SO MUCH BETTER if you could just FIX THEM! ... but to know that your hands are tied, and that even when you *could* use influence in that way, you *shouldn't* take that freedom away from others. And when people give up trying this on a societal level, it's too easy and tempting to do it to those closest to us. The people I see as "controlling caretakers" (like myself, my ex-girlfriend, and to an extent both of my parents) fit a profile of sorts: significantly above-average intelligence, usually somewhat extroverted (though not always), committed (in theory though not always in practice) to social justice as they see it.

We're the Jeckyls of the world ... in trying to separate out evil from the world, we magnify it in ourselves. I'm forewarned. I'll do the very best I can to keep from letting Hyde take me over. :)

-AngryGirl  AngryGirl, Please send me your url; I'll link you...


B1: Submit


Jennie, It sounds like you are making excellent progress, checking into all avenues for help. Keep up the good work! I wanted to tell you that the various drugs do not all have the same exact side effects and that the effects vary from person to person. The only way to know is take it, usually for a month or so. Then if that one doesn't work, try another. Also you might investigate if there have been any studies on what 5HTP does for OCD if that is what you have. Best wishes.

LHW, You are not alone in your frustrations. Thanks for voicing them. And thanks to Dr. Irene for explaining; it is helpful. Above, Dr. Irene said: "In a relationship where the victim allows the abuse to continue hoping that in time the abuser will realize they are loved, etc., the victim is trying to control the abuser - as well as violating the abuser's boundaries. The abuser plays the same control and violation games, albeit in a different form. " From where I am now, I can understand the part about " the victim is trying to control the abuser" - trying being a key word. Also obviously the victim does not think in those terms. However, I do not understand how a victim in such a situation is violating an abuser's boundaries. I hope that Dr. I will offer further explanation. Thanks again. -S    

Sure S. Typically the boundary violation occurs by the abuser against the victim. However, victim-perpetrated boundary violations occur when the fed-up victim, guarding against "blame the victim" adamantly defend an (incorrect) perception. This angry victim refuses to look inside, because now everything is the abuser's fault, and they will never doubt their perceptions again, EVER!  

Look at it this way: the victim has spent years doubting their perceptions. When this imperfect individual makes an ordinary perceptual error, they fall into thinking they are being blamed - when they are in fact being asked to clean up their act! This gets complicated and is on the write-an-article list...

Also, I recently fixed a posting problem with this board that I thought was causing all the blank "submits," but they are still occurring. Any ideas why? Please email to Thanks. Dr. Irene

Addendum: The victim also typically violates the abuser's boundaries when the victim tries to "fix" the abuser: insisting how the abuser should behave - which is different from setting limits and going away when treated in a way that is not OK.

B1: Submit


hello everybody, this is jennie: this is an update of my post; the other day as always i listened to my bf's messages on his cell phone. i really don't listen to them too much cause i have to erase them or he will know i listened to them. however at his office i can listen to them without his knowledge cause you can save them without them saying "saved". by the way he does know that i have his access code as he has mine too, he just doesnt know the extent i listen to them. well the other night there was four messages, three business one ? it was a sultry female voice saying "thanks for calling me back, please try again" no name, no number. my first instinct was his ex-gf. of course i confront him on it cause then he'll know i was on there and snooping. it bothered me all day tho. i kept wanting to re-check his voice mail, but cause i know it could lose him business if i do by erasing important messages, i held myself back! it was sooo hard tho. i had to do so much self-talk that i got sick of talking to myself. i asked myself alot of questions like "do you really think it was her?" give him enough rope he"ll hang himself, "ya know he loves you"," what are you trying to find out" "do you really wanna know?" Jennie, when you do this, you violate his boundaries and you diminish your self-respect, let alone subject yourself to these awful emotions. on and on the self-talk went, but i made it through the day, and without checking either voice mail! today i had the opportunity to casually ask him if he had heard from his ex-gf, he said no! so i feel better but it's the anxiety of not knowing that gets me every time and it doesn't get relieved until i get an answer. i know this keeps repeating itself endlessly. Please stop this; you just perpetuate stuff. Look at it this way, if you lose him, he was never yours... the counselor i was seeing put it this way. i feel so scared and threatened inside that when something comes up i need him to fill it up, after it has been filled it is almost immediately emptied again and in need on constant filling. the only way it will ever get filled will be from me. Yes. Your counselor is right on target. he is talking about my constant need for reassurance and how i need my bf to do that for me, instead of trusting him and feeling good about myself and letting "things happen naturally" that is a part of my controlling. today is another day i get to start out new and see what progress i can make on myself. it is such a challenge and a struggle and i know it is for a lifetime that i have to adopt this "new me". if only my inner voice would let me rest. she is the culprit behind this, whispering lit'l things in my ear to cause the suspicion which causes me to check his voice mail, etc. i will be working away and i hear this voice say "check his voice mail" "see where he is " on and on again, until i believe her and do it. i have to literally yell at her to stop it. Do that! Loudly, at the top of your lungs if need be! This is an effective behavioral technique called "thought stopping." (i'm not talking about schizophrenia I know) i am just talking about my inner critic voice and what a pain she is to live with, i wish i could rip her out of my head then maybe i could live, love, dance, laugh be spontaneous and have fun, instead of being so rigid and reserved. thank you for listening. thank you all who responded. jennie Jennie, get some help with the medication. Use thought stopping. Read up on it. Always remember that nobody is worth compromising your self esteem...

B1: Submit


Jennie, if your boyfriend went out of town--if that isn't totally unthinkable to you :) --and if his mother invited you to a birthday dinner, would you go on your own?

If you go to karaoke on Saturday nights, do you ever stand up there, take that mike in your hand, and sing to the crowd?

If you feel you "have no clue" why you control situations like that birthday party--well, I understand the insecurity about your boyfriend that led you to insist he leave early. But then why not go with him in the first place and stay a while together?

You mentioned feeling anxious about a lot of things, including "social anxiety." So I'll suggest some things to you. I'm only guessing, so if I'm wrong, I'm wrong; but if any of it makes sense, if it feels right to you...

Suppose on the one hand you feel nervous in social gatherings, like a birthday party, and prefer to avoid them. And on the other hand, you've already told us about the difficulties you have with boundaries, with your boyfriend--and he has some difficulties too. It's like a confusion of identity, as if the two of you are sometimes merged into one blur. And that must feel good at times--safe and warm, you know--though it causes problems when you're apart. But if you can't always tell where you end and he begins, if you also confuse your feelings with his, and if you're nervous in social situations, maybe you feel he is too--or should be; and so you "rescue" him from a social gathering that you're afraid of, as if he should be too, by staying home and telling him to come home early, when you're really rescuing yourself.

And if he has problems of his own, does he have any problems with his family too, where they could have originated? If so, maybe in a way you *are* rescuing him from something by pulling him away from his family. Though this doesn't have to be true; I'm only speculating.

But you may be hiding behind him to cover your own anxieties about the world outside, and he seems to be hiding behind you too in other ways; and you're clinging to one another like two scared kids, as you pull him with you into a snug little cocoon where you can feel safe with him. I expect he feels safer with you too, which is one reason why he loves you. And I don't doubt he loves you; not for a moment. That's why he puts up with the way you cling to him. If that's irksome to him at times, at least it tells him--most of the time, anyway--that you're frantic enough about him that you won't run away from him, that you'll stay to look after him, just as he looks after you.

He could be insecure himself in some ways--different ways from yourself, perhaps. You asked "Who needs someone running your own life when they can't even run their own?" That might seem true; but you and he do have *pieces* of one another running complementary pieces of each other's lives; and that may seem a lot better than nothing if it's hard for either of you to stand up in complete confidence by yourselves. Sometimes he's reassuring the "frightened little girl" part of you. Sometimes he's playing little boy, asking "Mom, can I have a drink?" Does he have a "naughty little boy" side as well? If you weren't hovering around being so anxious, would he have eight or ten or a dozen beers? If that's true, you're reassuring one another at the same time: you're reassuring him that he doesn't have to drink too much, while he's reassuring you that you've got everything under control.

There's nothing wrong with playing little-boy and little-girl roles--my wife and I do that now and then (though not about drinking)--as long as we realize it's a game. Or rather, that these are only parts of ourselves, and other parts of ourselves are capable of looking after ourselves: that we can each stand up as a whole person and trust each other to do the same. Maybe together, the pieces of you and of your boyfriend make up something like a whole person; but there are still big gaps, like your anxieties, and large overlaps too, like your erasure of his phone messages; and even without those it can't feel secure.

If it didn't seem right to you when your counselor said "you don't think you're good enough for him" or "you don't think you deserve him," maybe that's because it was badly phrased. If you feel you *deserve* to be happy and loved, you're dead right; you do! :) But you did also say you had low self esteem. If I replaced the counselor's words with "you're afraid you're not good enough--or don't act well enough--to *keep him with you*, would that fit better?

If you feel like leaving him at times and hitting the "hiway," is that because he's so hard to live with? Is it really because you feel you're so bad for him? Or is it because you're afraid he might be about to leave you, and so you want to leave first out of self-protection--or to bring the awful waiting to an end? Or is it because you see him as the cause of your fears, and you think the fear will stop if you leave him? These are all separate feelings, though more than one of them can be present; but can you distinguish one from another?

If you can't, Jennie, is it all muddled together in your head? What's him and what's you; what your needs are and what his needs are; what your fears are and what his fears are. If you feel you "have no clue," could that be because of the confusion? We can only see things clearly when they're sorted out and separated, not when they're all mixed up together in a big mess.

If none of this rings true, then I've got it all wrong. Jennie, if this doesn't ring true, think about it again. This post is big time on target... But if you are suffering from some generalized anxiety, so that you're nervous of social situations *and* of your boyfriend leaving you, and perhaps other things besides--then by getting the anxiety attended to as Dr. Irene suggests, you can take care of several of these problems at the same time, giving you space to get all the other pieces disentangled from one another and sorted out. You've taken the first big step by waking up; and yes, this is all very fixable.

One other thing: Faith asked whether your boyfriend is giving you any clues that make you feel insecure, whether he's been dishonest in the past. I didn't get that impression from anything you said; rather the opposite. If you only *feel* insecure, then don't confuse your feelings with the reality about him. But if you do keep prying into his female business clients and showing anxiety about them, then he *could* start hiding them from you--I *don't* say he will, but he might--not because he's doing anything wrong, but because he's got a business to run while at the same time he's trying to save you from your own anxieties. Not to mention protecting messages that are essential to his business. Then after that, you could find out he's hiding something, *assume* he's doing it for a bad reason, and get really mad with him--and he'll start hiding things all the more, and so on. This is how two people can drive one another mad in a runaway feedback loop. It happens all the time, in other ways too. So any time you're tempted to pry, and above all to interfere, it's a good reason not to, if you don't want to drive him to be dishonest when he isn't naturally. Just sit with that anxiety.

And when you've finished reading all those books on boundaries, I'd give them to your boyfriend to read. I've a feeling he could learn something from them as well. And take care of yourself, and let us know how it goes! :)

- Gordon  Oh Gordon, I should have recognized your post. Good stuff...again.

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gordon, are you a counselor or something? how can you be so insightful? first of all i want to clear up the fact that my boyfriend don't even know that i am writing and reading these things. he knows i was in counseling for my jealousy at his insistence, but he don't know to the extent my problems. i could not tell him what i do out of shame and humiliation. i have my pride and he is not easy to talk to either, he is very affectionate and loving but talking intimately is not something he is comfortable doing so i turn to the internet a lot for answers. he says i am a internet junkie, probably true. well if he had to go out of town i'd be right there to go with him. i don't sing karaoke either. i don't think i'd go without him to his mothers, i don't know tho, probably out of respect. i do not have no clue why i do these things. i know i feel threatened in some way, real or imagined. even when i want to go with him, the first thing i do is say "no" first then maybe later i'll change my mind. i have never noticed him to be nervous in social situations, he goes to them as the right thing to do attitude. he is very responsible, he don't need me, he has never seemed dependent or isolated. he never seemed to have "problems" he don't think like i think he would, like i read too many romance novels. i asked him the other night while we we're at a Mexican restaurant and the waitress was very attractive, if he ever asked a waitress out. he said "no, why would i do that?' "where do you come up with these things?" well i've seen it a lot on t.v. and read about it and have had boyfriends before say things like that, so why not him? according to his responses when i ask him scenarios like above, he thinks i'm weird, maybe i am. he never seems insecure and seems to trust me whole heartedly, good or bad i don't know. while at a bar one time a guy we know came in and tipped me back and kissed me, my b/f didn't care, if it had been someone kissing him, we'd be on the floor fighting :) he has a lot of confidence and never seems insecure. his only problem that i see is the communication. when i met him he drank every night 6-8 beers give or take, he admits he is a heavy drinker, but now he drinks an occasional beer at dinner and on sat. night at our karaoke, that's it. i know if we split up he'd be doing it alot again tho. it is true that he does reassure the "frightened little girl" in me but she is never satisfied, that is what i was trying to say about the part of me that always need to be filled up, but once filled up it is temporarily satisfied, it's like a tire with a slow leak, air will only stay for so long. he does not have a naughty little boy side, we both do at times, talk like little kids in a joking way, like i'll say my socky wockys, just joking around tho and he does it too, but so does my daughter now, just something goofy i started on accident. i haven't checked his voice mail since yesterday, i have held myself back real hard today, GOOD! it is so hard to do, but i did it one minute at a time, that is all i can do for now. the other thing i always do is look for reassurance by asking him to death about his clients, appt. meetings, his schedule, so i can see if anything that he has to do today sounds threatening and if it does i might try to sabotage it later, tho i try not to. but i ask endless questions about his day which is so hard on me as well. today i didn't ask him like i normally do, it's something else i'm trying not to do, maybe the less i know about his business the better, like you said, then he feels he has to hide things, then when i find out i think he's keeping secrets, etc. i see your point so well as i have already had that thrown in my face by him, and it stung. the way i think is that he don't deserve to be treated the way i treat him that is why i think i should leave him. funny thing tho is, that when i was actually going to one day after he blew up at me and told me to "butt out of his business" i was ready to go home and pack my bags and leave him, knowing it was in his best interest, through the tears i heard a voice say "quitter" i asked the counselor i was seeing if that made me a quitter, he said "yes" when in counseling the counselor would ask me question and all i could say is "i don't know" when it came to questions about my feelings. i still don't know, things are always so jumbled in my mind that i can't think straight. when i hear that voice droning on and on in my head, i can't shut her up i have to tell her "JUST SHUT UP". it helps... if i could sort thing out and separate them believe me i would, doing so tho i have no idea how to. i can think and think and think and get absolutely no where, it hurts and is frustrating. as for being afraid of him leaving me, i'm more afraid of the pain, i think if it didn't hurt so much i'd of left him by now. i don't know if i'm waiting for him to leave me. the counselor said i think i don't think i deserve him so i'm trying to leave him or sabatage things so he leaves, me 'drive him away so to speak' maybe so, not consciously tho. if only i knew my own mind and feelings, then i could do something about my behavior, as it is i think i just have to change the behavior and maybe later answers will come as to they "why's" of it all. Good thinking. Before assuming you are motivated to drive him away, I would assume that you are simply behaving the only way you know. You need to learn coping skills, including sitting with anxiety and just letting it pass; hear its message, but let logic rule your behavior. i tried to answer your questions as i had printed them out, fourteen pages in all from this board, he'd be mad if he knew i did that. he is the type of person who pays bills on time, has regular oil changes, hair cuts, respects his family, takes care of things, does what he say's he's going to do and really takes care of us. something i have never seen a guy actually do. it is cool and strange at the same time, he is very reliable and steady, i wish i was. thank you for your time. i am still considering the meds, i was on paxil once but it killed my libido and that was a total drag, but i may try it again. jennie Good idea. Right now you need chemical help to put you in a space where you can apply all these lessons.

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Dear Jennie,

I saw a lot of stuff about the different things you do to control situations. And yet somewhere in there you showed a very good insight: that you seek control in order to feel less frightened and anxious. So my question to you is, what are some of the things you can do to feel a bit less fearful?

One of my teachers used to say that people have two major fears in life: "What I need, I'll never be able to get" and "What I have, somebody's going to take away." And yet life proves that neither of those HAS to be true. :)

Best wishes, Gayla


dr. irene, this is Jennie. Hi Jennie. I have a question: is it controlling to ask someone not to do something? Only if what the person is doing directly affects you. Such as, "Please don't drink when we go out tonight, or switch to near beer?" or, "Can we go home now?"   Knowing the other person doesn't want to. Why not? You are making requests here, not issuing orders. Your partner can say "No."  If your partner is drinking and you don't want to be in a car with him, get a ride home - and bring your own car next time. But, if your partner doesn't understand why you don't want him driving when he's been drinking, you may need a new partner! Also, if you want to go home and your partner doesn't, you can ask, but don't insist. Get a ride if you really want to leave. But, if your partner doesn't take your feelings into consideration, perhaps you should have a partner who does... I  am trying to figure out boundaries, but I am having a hard time deciphering between asking for something or controlling something to get what you want and if asking someone to do something you want them to do is controlling or selfish or what.  thank you so much. As a rule of thumb, it is OK to ask for ANYTHING at all. Once or twice. Then, drop it and accept the answer you get. Also, do what you have to do (like find a ride home if he's been drinking.)


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Hi Jennie,

It does sound as if your boyfriend might have a few problems communicating with you. Maybe he can be affectionate and loving but doesn't really listen to your feelings that well? I can see why you wouldn't want to tell him about all the things you've been feeling and doing, but are you able to tell him in general terms that you feel very anxious about him all the time, that you worry a lot about what he's up to, things like that? There's a difference between asking him all the questions about his clients and so on, to try to soothe all the anxieties in your mind, and just telling him about the anxieties themselves--but it depends whether he's understanding about them and acknowledges them. Yes. Exactly my concerns. Sometimes I think Jennie is so into how awful she is, she fails to see what he is - or is not - doing.

Maybe he doesn't like giving out a lot of intimate knowledge about himself either. Well, a lot of men don't seem to do as well as they might in either of these two areas. I guess romance novels aren't always the best source for learning about ordinary men. :) In other circumstances though your question about the waitress would seem perfectly normal to me, the kind of thing any woman might ask a man out of curiosity. I wouldn't be wondering "where do you come up with these things?" I've never asked a waitress out either, but I have asked a hairdresser out. :)

And that "kid stuff" is just plain fun. We do it too.

So if your boyfriend is at ease in social situations, and if you'd feel comfortable enough going to dinner on your own with his mother, maybe you're just anxious about his hanging out with any other people at all? Because someone else might take his attention away from you, wherever he is, and whether you're with him or not? If that slow leak needs constant refilling, you can't miss any opportunity at all to keep it topped up!

I still wonder though how far your focus on your boyfriend is an attempt to relieve anxiety. What I mean is that if you were entirely on your own, you could be full of anxiety anyway--until you get it taken care of, that is. So maybe you turn your attention to him all the time, even when he's not there, to try to take your mind off yourself. Only that doesn't work for you, because you just develop anxieties around him instead, what he's doing, whether he's with someone else. Did the jealousy counseling help at all?

That little inner voice that keeps bugging you: is it just a voice, or do you think it might be an echo of a voice belonging to someone in particular? Like your mother, for instance? I'm sure it helps to be assertive with it and tell it to shut up. It might help to know where it's coming from as well, whether anyone else has said the kinds of things this voice says to you.

Take care,

- Gordon :)

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hi gordon, it's jennie, thanks for replying: answers to your questions are; he does listen (somewhat) he just don't know how to respond or is uncomfortable with it. he knows i have alot of anxiety and jealousy, god knows i put him through hell with it, but have mellowed some. there is an ad in todays paper for a study of a new medication for social anxiety, i showed it to him, he encouraged me to call and try it, so i will on monday. when i hear him talking to a female client and he is laughing with her, it sends a sweat, like a hot flash all through me and my heart races. i feel so left out and hurt, and i say to him, "boy i wish i could make you laugh like that" i try to leave the room at times when i know he is talking to a female, but it's not always possible. i think if he is around other women he might find one more attractive, more in common, more outgoing, etc. and be taken away by her, he says, he don't want to be taken away by any one else cause he loves me. he does what he can to reassure me, but i know he tires of it as i would too. when on my own i feel anxiety but i don't have anxiety about jealousy, trust, security, things like that, more like everyday stuff, ya know work, family, kids. the jealousy counseling helped to a point, i learned to look the other way when i see an attractive female coming towards us that way i don't see if he is looking or not. i use to think at times that he does it on purpose cause it feeds his ego, but i don't think he does any more, maybe a time or two he did, that was along time ago tho. in counseling we focused mostly on my past, the youngest of 7 and used as a scape goat for my sisters, the two oldest were already out of the house and with families of their own by the time i came along, so it was mostly the five of us. in our early teens and preteens we all seemed to hate each other, there was no love, hugs, kisses, i love you's, no contact except we getting hit by my sisters, and being called mommy's baby for running to her for protection. by the time i was 13 i was drinking and doing drugs and always running away from home, yet missing "home" when i was gone. i moved out when i was fifteen with a guy who was 22, we have two kids together now and are somewhat friends. still my up bringing was lonely and scary. i never had or new or still don't know who my father is, not even a name, no one seems to no. my mom died in 92 and took her secret with her. i tried to pretend that my brother was my dad and did everything i could for him until one day i was tired and hot and didn't want to go to the store for him so he threw a scissor at me, missing me on purpose tho, i ran out of the house and wondered the streets crying and fantasying about my "real" dad coming and taking me away, he never did. the inner critic voice doesn't seem to belong to anyone but me, once in a while i guess i could hear my mom, but mostly it seems to be mine. ya know i can say i do this and do that trying to change, but i can talk the talk but can't seem to quite walk the walk, i crawl a little here and there and when an opportunity comes up to "learn" from like not giving into listening to that voice to check his voice mail, i can walk away or give in, giving in is easier, but i haven't given in in 3-4 days now and it feels sooooooo good. but other opportunities have come up to show by b'f that i am trying to overcome my anxiety and support him by being with him at family things, yet another opportunity comes and goes and i try to think of ways out. like today is fathers day, we we're going to his dads for a while, he went to pick up his grandma to take her to the store then pick me up, i called him and said "do you mind if i don't go, i'd like to get the laundry done"? true and not true. he said he didn't mind. next sat. there is a wedding and reception (co-worker) i don't want to go, don't know these people and probably never will, he thinks he should go cause we were invited, i said b.s. you go cause you want to not because you're invited, we we're trying to settle on going to the wedding or reception, nothing more has been said about it. yesterday i had scenario after scenario playing in my head about arguing with him about "not" going. i kept asking myself "why not go"? no answer came. it's like a little girl in there just wanting her way and having a temper tantrum until she gets it, it's the only way to relieve the anxiety and threats. i feel so bad after "winning" it never feels like a "win" or triumphant" so i pass up so much opportunity to work on myself, knowing what i need to do and should do, but just not being able to bring myself to do it. i can sit here and say "I'LL DO IT!", but when the time comes, i get out of it. i am still thinking about more counseling. i am without insurance, so it is hard. i will keep trying tho. oh, one more thing, i know a lot of guys that don't think anything of asking out a waitress, bartender, receptionist, etc. that is probably why i ask my b'f if he would, he still says he wouldn't cause he doesn't want anyone else but me. the strokes feel so good, but i know i have to give them to myself and not look outward for them. sorry this is so long, i guess i had alot on my mind. thanks for listening! jennie  Do try to get counseling, but if you have to make a choice between medication and counseling, do the meds first. This is so very important; you will think straighter.

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Hi Jennie,

Thanks so much for telling me about yourself. This is a very difficult background to have to overcome--which doesn't mean you can't do it! :) --so no wonder you've had such a hard time. Anything you've managed to do to improve on it is a feather in your cap. Whether or not you're suffering from OCD--and if that runs in the family, it could be the cause of some of that background, so it's important to get it looked at for yourself--all these troubles run hand in hand and make each other worse, so you've had a lot to contend with.

The family you grew up in sounds like chaos for a start. No real parenting--not that reached you, at any rate--and no order or security. No wonder you're attracted to a man who in many ways brings you order and security--solid, conventional, fairly secure in himself, looks after most things. Even if he does have some problems of his own, with communication and possibly with drinking for instance, and maybe a little stuffiness as well--which can be forgivable. :) As far at that most of that goes, there's not a thing wrong with it. Yet it's not what you'd always known. No wonder you're terrified of losing it. To you, it can't be "normal"; it's not what you've learned to expect, and not what you expect to continue.

So you were the youngest in your family. That reminds me of a branch of my own extended family, where the only marriage I know of (I'm careful to say) that was verbally abusive, to some extent at least, was that of the youngest daughter in a family of six children. It can be a difficult position to be in. Often we think of the youngest girl, or boy, as the "spoilt baby" of the family--and there could have been a bit of that for this woman--though I don't know if that was all there was to it. For all I know she could have been the bullied and ridiculed baby as well, like yourself. And I do have to be careful about pinning cause onto any dysfunctional marriage. Since her brothers and sisters mostly made more successful relationships, it's always tempting to suspect the extraneous factor--the man she married--as genial, responsible, easygoing and generous as he seemed to be. That's a story I'd love to tell, though I don't have time now; gotta catch a plane in the morning.

But I will say two things. She was the prettiest, and she was the only blonde one. And while I don't know for sure if she was more intelligent than her siblings--never mind what they say about blondes! :) --I have one piece of evidence to suspect it, plus a personal observation of her shrewdness, however shallow. Yet beauty and intelligence are only benefits if we get a chance to use them and have them admired. They can also arouse jealousy and backlash from siblings, which can crush the personality. Are you attractive, Jennie? Could you have been prettier than your sisters, and aroused their jealousy? I don't need to ask if you're smart. The fact that you woke up to what you were doing, and came here to learn how to fix it, is solid proof of that.

And secondly, however sad this woman's story is, it was nothing compared with yours. To have no father--that you ever knew--is a terrible thing, to an extent badly underestimated by many people today. It's every bit as bad for a girl as for a boy. My father died when I was seventeen--for which I was very sorry--but at least I had enough years with him to learn who he was, and more important, what he stood for. Even if our father dies when we're three years old, or even before we're born, at least we can have a memory, or an image--through what our mother says about him--of who he was, which means so much more than just a name on a piece of paper. I'm very sorry that you've been deprived of this, perhaps beyond recovery.

It means you started with no notion of what a father is--what an adult male should be--and as David Blankenhorn wrote, "what it ought to mean for a man to have a child." It means you started life *without approval* from an adult male, without confidence in your ability to bring a twinkle to a man's eye, which is every bit as important to a girl as to a boy. In your family history, a man is someone who wasn't worth keeping around, or even naming, in your mother's eyes--or who ran away, meaning he didn't care enough about you to stick around and look after you (which may or may not be true)--implying that you "weren't worth" looking after--or at any rate, someone who *isn't there* for you. No wonder you're afraid of being abandoned.

But I say to you, as a father myself, that you *are* worth looking after, and you *are* worth sticking around for. And I do believe your boyfriend thinks so too. All you have to do is prove that to your own satisfaction. One way of doing this is to stop looking for evidence that it *isn't* true, and spend a little time counting up all the evidence that it *is* true.

Anyone who has no notion of what a man and a father is, or should be, just has to invent one out of nothing. You can do this too; but when you succeed, you'll know what a feather in your cap that was too, because the whole world makes it hard for you today. A man is represented so often by his successes in the outside world--in real estate for instance--or on TV and in movies, by his ability to score goals or riddle an enemy with bullets, or at best to "conquer" women by seducing them into his bed. Not to put his arm around his wife, daughter, or son, and say "I love you"--and to prove it by what he does for them. At best his image in the home may be that of a bumbling idiot for brainless imbeciles to giggle at; not of a competent, caring human being. We're all up against opposition today. Stuff the opposition's twisted picture of reality right down its throat, with my personal compliments. :)

Of course you had to invent an image of a father out of your brother, the only person you could seize on at the time. It was the only thing you could do. All of human history is nothing but a poignant tale of people struggling bravely in ignorance, doing the best they knew how at the time. I could tell you about a friend of mine from India, who knew a little boy just eight years old, struggling--with success, at that!--to help his three-year-old sister survive in the desperate poverty of Calcutta streets. All on their own! It was far too much to put on you; and it was too much to put on your brother as well. Yeah, he threw a pair of scissors at you. That was bad. I'm betting he'd been taught to do that, or at any rate knew no better way, just as you'd been taught nothing better. You are never to blame for what you don't know!

Of course you invented fantasies about your "real dad" coming to rescue you. Everybody in that position does the same, boy or girl. Of course you ran away at fifteen and took up with a guy of 22, a "father figure." And I'll say this for you. If you're still friends with him after all these years, and after all the confusion you must have been suffering at the time, then you must have made a fairly smart pick, even at fifteen.

As for those voices in your head, no wonder they're confused as well. If you identify them as female, there's not just your mother there; there's all your sisters as well, muddled up in a deafening chorus of criticism, warning, and fearmongering. Do keep telling the lot of them to shut up. I must feel sorry for them; they didn't have any more chance than you did; but that doesn't mean they can be of much help to you whatsoever. Do stick to your own path.

You've told us you have "control issues." So you do; but don't ever underestimate yout ability to attract sympathy, help, and support, Jennie. What makes the difference is your ability to expose the fears underlying that need for "control." There's a reason why they're there. I don't know what to do about "no insurance." I gather you have some access to counseling anyway. I don't expect all the meds are the same. Some of them won't kill that libido as badly as others; ask your doctor when you get the chance. But don't underestimate what's been done to you in life--and never underestimate your ability to overcome it! :)

See you from Massachusetts, I hope. Love to you; *you deserve it*!

- Gordon

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gordon, i suppose when you replied to my post that you didn't expect a long correspondence like this. after this i wont bother you but i wanted to add a few things. about my "dad" my mom was married twice, three kids from the first "supposedly" and the other four of us from the second. the other four of us have his last name but only one actually belongs to this guy, the other two "twins" have a different dad and i have a different one too. my oldest sister did the family tree and told me when she was doing it that "he" is not my dad, which i figured long time ago anyway. my mom wanted us to believe he was, probably so she wouldn't look bad. i told her i knew he wasn't my dad and she insisted he was. years later i managed to locate him through my sister who was his biological daughter. she would n't tell me tho where he was until i told her "i know he's not my dad" then she gave me his number. i called him and asked him if he knew who was, he said i came along long after they seperated so he didn't know. anyway, i grew up with my moms alcoholic boyfriend. my sister says he was around when we were little but i don't remember him until i was around 9-11. i guess that was my father figure, tho i never thought of his as such. as for what you said about being attracted to my boyfriend cause he brings order and shows responsibility, etc. this is very true, tho at first i was not interested in him. i have learned alot from him just watching and of course being lectured from him as well about paying bill, taking care of things, and i now try to teach my daughter these things so she will know too. you asked if i am attractive; i think average. my sisters seemed to hate me for the way i dressed and acted. they were oh so pure, and then there was me, i wore the short shorts, make up, haltertop and had clevage i wasn't afraid to show off my body while they seem to hide there's, even now. i was called a whore, a slut, a bitch, over and over again, i never understood why they hated me so much. when i was in counseling we talked alot about my past and everytime i went there i cried against my will. it got to where i didn't want to go any more, but i did. i can't say my sisters were jealous, maybe i embarrassed them. we all still have our place in the family and all though i dress very conservatively now, i still think about their remarks if i show anything. i have heard myself saying the same things to my daughters when they dressed sexy or revealing, jealousy? maybe. bringing a twinkle to a mans eyes? what a sweet way to put it. i have always felt that all i brought to a man was a headache, always wondering in the back of my mind, why they stay with me, they are as sick as me, etc. they like to be treated like crap. i now know that we were feeding off each other's needs. i don't think that my dad ever knew i existed. my sisters think their dad knew about them but chose not to be involved, i don't think he knew about them either. i guess i can't hold my brother responsible then for the ways he treated me or the rest of the family either. ya know, today i am just having a bad day. i woke up feeling fine, then my boyfriend was dressed up and i asked him why,he said he had a meeting at his job. i said you never went to meeting at your old job, why do you go to them at this new job. he said he should of went to the one's at his old job, and i said yeah but you didn't. then i asked him straight out, is there someone there that you like? he said, you mean interested in? i said , yes, and he said no. still i felt betrayed. i listened to his voice mail, first time in almost a week. there was a message from his boss saying she wanted to know how his meeting went with "jenna" i never knew he had a meeting with "jenna" so this is why i had asked him about "liking someone up there". since then i have felt guilty for snooping again,and angry that i didn't know about his meeting with her. to hide from my pain i went to take a shower and also to try to deal with these emotions that came up. when i was in the shower i once again thought about packing up and leaving him, then your words hit me. "do you want to run away from what he makes you feel?" and i just about went into shock at the realization that that was so true. i blame him sorta i think for making me hurt when it is my jealousy and insecurity that does it. still it is so much easier to run from the pain. now i am faced with the shame of listening to his voice mail, (which i told him i did). he didn't get mad tho. he did ask if i was going to start with this again? the endless drilling of why, where, and howcome when it comes to a female, i have been good about it lately. ya know, having the ability to expose "fears" is one thing and being consciously aware of everything you do and why you do it and what not, is another and actually doing something about it is another. a feather in my cap i don't feel i have earned yet. when i can not check his voice mail, and trust him fully, and rationalize my jealousy and insecurity then maybe i can give myself some credit, but for now, everything is still a blue and a stuggle and jumbled up in my head to the point of needing that "fix" from him, that reassurance, that filling up the tire thing. until i can do these on my own, i don't deserve a feather. however, to ease my guilt i will apologize to him for snooping and drilling and maybe i'll get a feather in his cap :) thank you gordon, for all your words of encouragement, enlightenment and insightfulness, you are truly a wonderful and understanding person, i envy your wife. are you a counselor or what, please tell me. you have helped me more on these posts then the counselor did in months, it's amazing. thank you soooo much. you don't have to reply unless you want to. thanks god bless you! jennie in colorado..............

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Hi Jennie,

Thanks for writing back. Yeah, that dad situation is pretty confusing, all fragmented and jumbled up, not knowing who's who in a way. That's just one more reason why it's hard to get a handle on anything. It's still true that your real dad is a man who, whatever the reason, "was not there" for you, just as your twin sisters' dad wasn't there for them either. Then underneath all this is the lie about who he was. So you grew up with the experience that people tell lies to you--big lies, not just little ones--and people keep secrets from you. That doesn't build much trust in other people. As for the alcoholic boyfriend, maybe he was "there" in a way, and familiar, but he didn't sound to me like a great example of the kind of man to look around for later in life. Alcoholism is something a lot of people cover up as well. It's funny too that you don't remember him from when you were little. I wonder if there was some kind of bad stuff going on in the family when you were little that you'd rather forget.

Still, it's never too late in life to learn things--whether it's orderly finances or anything else :) --and pass them on to your kids.

Heck, I can't talk about paying bills on time; I had a laptop computer stolen a few weeks back with some financial records on it, so here I am calling round to see who I owe what to, and finding out the phone bill's more than a month overdue. Whoops! :)

I'm sure from what you said that the answer to "are you attractive?" is really Yes. :) Only it doesn't make too much difference whether you were pretty and your sisters did things out of spite, or whether, as you said, they attacked you for the way you dressed. It's still all hostility *to you*. It's a very bad idea to call kids names. It makes me think of a previous friend of my daughter's. Her father was calling her a "whore" when she was only around thirteen. Guess what she's got a reputation for now, poor kid.

And yeah, you've got it about "feeding off each each other's needs." Your brother is certainly *responsible* for throwing a pair of scissors at you, and anything else he may have done, but it's hard for everyone, as it was for your sisters and yourself, growing up in a mess.

It sounds as if your boyfriend's meeting with "Jenna" was definitely a business meeting, since his boss wanted to know how it went. He might just not be mentioning whom he meets with (unless you ask outright) because he knows you'd feel upset any time it's a woman. Only that can put both of you in a bind. The trouble is, it doesn't make any difference what he says if you ask him whether there's anyone he's interested in. He can say "no" perfectly truthfully, and you'd still feel betrayed. It doesn't feel reassuring. It can even feel the opposite; if you expect people to lie and cover up all the time, then "it's just what he would say." Then "no" can mean "yes" to you, and instead of being reassuring, the suspicion is "he's still betraying me with this woman, and now he's lying to me on top of it." But it doesn't have to be true at all.

Anyway, thanks for what you said about me! :) I'm glad to help if I can. All those fears and worries are like a tin can tied to a cat's tail. I'm not calling you a "cat" or anything :) but try to run away from them and they just keep following on behind, dragging and clanking away intolerably. There's nothing for it but to turn around and chew away at the string until it comes off. Feather in your cap? Don't underestimate yourself. You're collecting them. You get one handed out to you just for coming here in the first place, and extras for anything you do afterwards.

Oh, so you're in Colorado, corner-to-corner with Arizona where I live. Only I'm writing from Mass. right now. That's three hours of jet lag, because in AZ we don't put out clocks on in the summer.

Me? No, I'm not a counselor. I mostly work with computers, though I do a lot of things round that, including sales presentations and some training. Still, working with computers and working with people doesn't have to be entirely different. Often in both cases it's a matter of looking at how something is supposed to work, or can work--and figuring out where it might have gone wrong! :) We often say that humans are "irrational," but I don't think that's really true. It's more that humans follow "crazy logic" a lot of the time. What some people do might *seem* crazy to others, and it's usually complicated as well, but most of the time there's still "logic" behind it that they can figure out--and fix, if they want to.

Take care,


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gordon, well for not being a counselor or something you are filled with such knowledge and insight that maybe you should be one! well things have been going o.k. since i have been trying so hard not to show my colors. i have been reading alot of books on codependency and the psychology of the mind. i really enjoy carl jungs theory about the ego, id, animus, anima, the observer and the self. i am using my "observer" self alot these days, and in this book it says to intentionally do what you do when jealous or controlling or whatever, but use the observer and that way you can't deny consciousness. so i tried it or purpose and i said something to my b/f about "jenna" and watched, it was really interesting and informational. i realized how petty i sound and how insecure and annoying i can be with repeated remarks like these. so i observe myself and learn. i also have been observing him too tho. i have come to the conclusion that he can really be a crabby, uninvolved person in my life. i love him dearly and i want to be happy with him, but since some things about his personality have come to light, i'm not so sure. i still think about "hitting the hyway" when we get into our spats, there aren't many, and mostly minor, but still i wanna leave him and be single or something, yet at night, in his arms, when he is calmed down from the day, i love him more and more. what a mess. i wish i was single at times to do as i want but i'd definitely feel very lonely for him. oh times i wish he'd just get so mad and fed up with me that he'd leave, that way i'd not feel the guilt. sick huh? how was your plane flight? jennie

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Dear Jennie, I am on Serzone, it is an anti-depressant that also helps with anxiety and sleep. It does NOT affect your sex life at all and doesn't have the side effects of most other medications. That and Wellbutrin are the only things i know of that don't affect the sex life. Good luck Kalysto

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To Jennie:

Al-Anon meetings are a good idea from the Dr. I started going a couple of months ago and it helps.

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I'm glad al-anon was mentioned. People who drink too much aren't trust-worthy and the people around them tend to beome very controlling, even when they don't realize conciously what is going on. This is what I suspect is going on, too. I lived with an alcoholic for years without conciously realizing what was going on. Al-Anon opened my eyes.

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I am like your boyfriend. Why do we want you to take responsibility for us. Well then you won't be upset with others. "We are so affraid of being rejected", rejection means you aren't good enough. If you can keep someone happy they won't reject you.

It all stems from childhood. Not learnt the appropriate skills. Or being told so many times that what we think is wrong. We stop feeling then.

We see people like yourself, who look so in control in this scary world, we see these people like yourself have problems and we try to rescue you, though we don't see that we to have problems. Problems with wanting to be with someone in control so that they can guide us.

We have self esteem issues, which are further hit when you are displeased with us, it becomes a vicious circle, we don't want to lose you so we try so hard. We pretend to ourselves that we can't leave because we are rescuing you, though its because we are affraid of being alone.

Being alone means we haven't an identity. Being alone means where am I meant to be in the world Being alone means whoops no one to tell me I'm okay Being alone means we have no support Being alone, is lonely

We are more scared of being alone than we are of putting up with any treatment as long as we're wanted.

Sad really.

I am trying to recover. I am just so scared of the reactions I get when I try to take my life back. The fear is he will leave.

I've left myself but when he asked me home he wiped away my tears and took away my fears.

Don't blame yourself. Its not about blame its about awareness and recovering.


Yes Gordon its me!!!!

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I've been looking at a similar dynamic in my relationship as well. My most important relationship so far just ended due to this 'codependency' dance -- ultimately resulting in total frustration for both of us.

For the longest time, I (like you) thought I was the majority of the problem; and my partner went along with this assessment of me being the main part of the problem, because, I WAS obviously acting increasingly needy, dependent, critical, insecure. In other words, I expressed my anger, feelings, needs DIRECTLY. In fact, I overreacted to the slightly whiff of withdrawal on his part. The problem is, as codependent people do, I tried to get HIM to change HIS behavior instead of focusing on my own fear of abandonment. Instead of being more independent.

What one person expresses, the other represses. . .

And by me being in an increasing state of turmoil and distrust and by increasingly trying to control his life, my own career/hobbies/friendships slowly dwindled and became less interesting. How could I focus on my life when I was increasing caught up in running his? And I paid the price.

But why did I feel such distrust? (More on this, below.)

Meanwhile, I increasingly thought, as he did, that I was just this totally insecure, needy, dependent, controlling woman. And in part, he was right. But it was a dynamic. That is, it took both of us to create this.

And ironically, the more needy and insecure I became, the more he appeared to be together and secure, not expressing his needs hardly at all. An interesting dynamic, don't you think? Food for thought. . .

My issue was definitely showing up in a more overt manner. I mean, my anger and control was really apparent. No mistake about that. And after having a fight with him, I too felt bad/guilty. I became a controlling bitch and there he was this easygoing, secure guy, just trying to appease me. Here I was, trying to control him, thinking that if I did so, it would relieve my own feelings of anxiety and insecurity.

But, of course, my behavior and reactiveness, had the opposite effect. The more I needed, criticized, tried to control HIS behavior, the more he withdrew, the more he judged me as being too insecure. I was the identified problem in the duo. Finally he just wanted out; but, true to the dynamic, instead of saying what he felt (he didn't want to deal with my anger), he acted in an indirect way. He became more detached, more withdrawn. Consequently, since I was the one who expressed feelings in the relationship, I finally said it was over.

But it's not. There's so much more I've learned, albeit the hard way (thru loss and pain).

What I didn't see so clearly at first was the opposite side of the dynamic, what my partner was contributing to the mix. While my behavior was more overt, his was more covert and harder to see. While my expression of neediness and anger was direct, his was indirect. And we were both trying to control the other instead of looking at our own issues.

As the saying goes, "what one person represses, the other expresses." How did that work in our relationship?

What did I repress? I repressed my own need to be independent/self-reliant/detached. Why? Well, that goes back to childhood, as it does for most of us. In my upbringing, my father, whom I adored, was very detached--to the point of being self-centered, insensitive to others needs, withholding of the whole truth about things, etc. And because it was painful to not be responded to, I learned to dislike these traits of his. Instead, I valued and developed the opposite in myself: being responsive to others' needs (caretaking, aka controlling). Just like my mother, by the way.

By being so invested in taking care of another, we not only end up trying to control their life, but we're also doing so to get them to like us, which makes us feel less anxious, more worthy. We had to give up our own needs to get crumbs of approval. Otherwise, we were punished with neglect (in my case)or criticism (in my partner's case).

Our faulty thinking is, If someone doesn't take care of his own life, and if we step in and fill the need, then we will not be abandoned (neglected, criticized, wounded).

But what we learned as the best defense in childhood, becomes a trap, a vicious circle, in our adult relationships. Because the more we take care of others, the less responsible they may become for themselves. And we get this view that we can actually control someone else's response to us, which is a joke.

In addition, as we focus more and more on significant other's actions, the less time and emotional energy we have to deal with our own issues or on developing our our lives. Which, ironically, is why we do it. Isn't it "easier" to focus on someone else's flaws than look at what we need to reform in ourself?

What I really needed to focus on was my need to control MY OWN LIFE, to detach from focusing on my partner and to become more independent. To not be dependent on him for my feeling good, but to depend on myself. Self-reliance.

My partner, on the other hand, didn't repress his independent self. Quite the contrar. . . instead, he repressed the side of himself that has needs; he was incapable of expressing his own anger, expressing his own insecurities, needs.

The truth is, he felt safer when he didn't show his own needs or anger. Why? Because he grew up with a parent who was needy and who expressed it in an unhealthy way, who expressed her frustration in her own life by continually criticizing her son, my partner. She tried to get her needs met through him. (Notice a pattern? Notice how the same patten is now happening in his adult relationship? Same thing with me. . . We pass it on to our kids.)

He learned that in order to survive, he needed to put his own needs and anger aside, and to try to appease the angry, critical parent. Just like I learned to be 'valuable' to my unavailable parent by putting myself aside and taking care of him. We learned that in order to feel good somewhat about ourselves, to feel worthy, we had to focus on doing whatever the overpowering parent needed. I learned to become a caretaker, and became overly concerned with taking care of my father (and my mother). My partner became easygoing, learned to repress his own needs, esp his anger. There was only punishment for him when he told his mother NO. Or when he put forth his own vulnerabilities. And when he got punished for expressing his own needs, anger, vulnerabilities, he felt worthless.

But even when we repress our needs or anger, it still leaks out. Indirectly.

In his situation, he learned that expressing neediness and anger was a wounding thing; his mother wounded his sense of self by her constant criticisms. He certainly didn't want to be like that, because he knew how terrible it felt to be on the receiving side of it. In my case, I certainly didn't want to be as self-centered and withholding of love, emotionally absent as my father, because I knew how terrible that felt to be on the receiving side. So we both repressed and overly developed the opposite reaction. It was our best defense at the time. But now, in our adult relationships, it just doesn't work.

Of course, my ex DID have needs, insecurities, dependency, anger. But he blocked that out; it was too dangerous for him to show; it could really get out of control, just like his mother.

So he learned to appear invulnerable. And he learned to avoid criticism like the plague. The only way he could express his anger or needs, even minimally, was to appear to be in control at all costs, to be above such out-of-control things as feelings. Anger brought out his anxiety (his anger and my anger), so to avoid any expression of anger, he withdrew. He learned be the rational one, the one who's together. That was the only way he got strokes from his mother.

Actually, he was as much a caretaker as me. He was continually attuned to my mood to see if it was safe or not. Instead of verbalizing his boundaries and saying what he needed directly, he hid behind an easygoing, invulnerable facade. He did that with everyone. He acted together, rarely disclosed insecurities or needs; he was in control all the time. He avoided any potential of anger or neediness in me at all costs. But he paid the price: nobody really knew who he was. They liked him, but they didn't know him. How could they? And that's a very lonely place to be.

So, why did I feel such distrust, insecurity? Increasingly, I realized that he didn't tell me the truth. He couldn't. He was too afraid of expressing his needs, insecurities, his anger. But it leaked out anyway, as it always does. He withdrew to avoid my anger and his; he became inauthentic to avoid expressing his own anger or needs. He wanted harmony, even if it was at the cost of superficiality. The more superficial he became, the more abandoned and, therefore, insecure I felt. The more he withdrew, the less I felt needed (therefore, the less worthy I felt). After all, caretakers get their sense of worth by being needed. . . It's sick.

Anyway, how did he try to control me? He contorted himself to appease me, to try and second guess me. And when there was something that might piss me off legitimately, he would avoid bringing it up, or tell a half truth. He would do anything, but be real. And when I finally found out, well it became more and more of a trust issue. I became more distrustful and insecure in the relationship, while he felt more criticized and more and more withdrawn.

Instead of expressing his own needs--to protect himself, and to control me , he told half truths, lies of omission, he was evasive; sometimes he even told outright lies. Why? He so feared anger and neediness (mine as well as his own), he would do ANYTHING to keep the peace. But in hiding his own anger and needs, he became dishonest, and ultimately resentful. And he blamed me. Because it was easier than looking at himself. But he couldn't express his anger. So he continued to withdraw and tell lies.

He blamed me, and I blamed him. Well, somewhat. Since I was the identified problem, I also blamed myself. Well, as you can imagine, this quickly destroys the trust or good feelings in a relationship. On both parts. My anger/insecurity; his withdrawal and dishonesty. We both fed the worst in each other by not acknowledging our own part in the dynamic.

From the beginning, I never knew what was really going on in him. There was this continuing feeling that something was not congruent in his behavior. Well, he was saying this, but in my gut I felt that there was more to it. So I'd try to draw him out. "Tell me how you feel? Is something going on with you?" He'd say not. But something wasn't real. Something felt dishonest. Was he hiding something? another woman? etc. etc. In fact, he WAS hiding something: himself.

We both undermined the relationship until there was nothing left.

The essence of codependence is when each person tries to control "the other" instead of looking at their own, more challenging issues.

And isn't it interesting how we seem to have the same issue in one relationship after another? At least until we learn our own lesson. What one represses, the other expresses.

But usually, neither person can see the forest thru the trees. The finger-pointing begins, the frustrations mount. The identified needy person acts out the neediness and dependency for both people. The identified person without any needs, who ironically seems more secure as the other partner becomes less secure, withdraws behind a stoic, needless, all-too-together face.

Both people are pissed, but they express it in different ways. Both are trying to control the other so they won't have to feel the fear of looking at their own issue, but they express it in different ways. The "needy" one holds on, while the "withdrawer" doesn't want to disappoint. It's the same pattern until the bitter end. Finally, the whole thing blows up.

The antidote?

The needy one has to focus on taking care of her own needs, becoming more independent, practicing detachment, self-control--instead of smothering her partner with her needs. To face her fear of taking care of herself; to not abandon herself. To look at how this started in childhood.

The withdrawer needs to acknowledge that he does indeed have needs, dependencies, to learn how to appropriately and directly and timely express anger, set boundaries, to engage with his partner, to tell the whole truth, to not abandon or withdraw from his partner just because her needs scare the shit out of him or because he can't set limits. To look at his childhood to see where it all began.

Codependency. It's a sick dynamic, and it only gets worse with time. One is over-responsible and the other is under-responsible. One appears overly needy, the other appears to have few if any needs or insecurities at all. And both, in their own different ways, try to control the heck out of each other. But it just doesn't work.

The only thing we can do is focus on changing our own behavior. No matter how hard we try, we can never change someone else. Only ourself. It was a hard lesson to see. And I still have so much to learn.

Hope this self-revelation helps someone out there.