What If You're the Darth Vader Boyfriend/Girlfriend?

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Post by reboundstudent on Mon Oct 27, 2014 7:17 pm

This came up a few weeks ago, but was kind of a huge thread-jack so got dropped. However, it's been haunting me ever since. How do you know if you're the abuser in the relationship?

"Darth Vader BF/GF" is a term coined by Captain Awkward to describe "a terrible boyfriend/girlfriend/significant other who psychically drains the life out their partner, but who somehow retains a mystifying hold over the partner, possibly due to the partner wanting to see the good in them." Also used in conjunction with "emotional vampire."

I have frequently been told I am broken. My first boyfriend back in college accused me of being a crazy stalker. More than a few people have told me I am needy and draining (hell, my mother says I'm a "chore" to be around.) I wonder frequently if my needs, desires, insecurities and anxieties make me a Darth Vader. What makes this especially difficult is reading articles about how believing you are the abuser is actually a symptom of being a victim of emotional abuse.

So how do you tell if you're a Darth Vader, and need to fix yourself/break up with your victim/seal yourself into a cave for eternity, or if there's something else going on?
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Post by Gentleman Johnny on Mon Oct 27, 2014 7:30 pm

Give this a once over and see if you feel like it applies:
http://patrickwanis.com/blog/freeing-the-emotional-vampire-in-you/

Its a bit motivational speaker-y but the underlying concepts seem pretty sound.

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Post by reboundstudent on Mon Oct 27, 2014 7:40 pm

Gentleman Johnny wrote:Give this a once over and see if you feel like it applies:
http://patrickwanis.com/blog/freeing-the-emotional-vampire-in-you/

Its a bit motivational speaker-y but the underlying concepts seem pretty sound.

Hmm, I admit I'm.... not seeing the concepts? Like I get what he's talking about when he identifies how to work through being an emotional vampire but how do you tackle down the self-awareness to know that the label fits your behavior?

Where is the line between "emotional connection" and "emotional vampire"? When does a valid need become an abusive need?
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Post by nearly_takuan on Mon Oct 27, 2014 8:16 pm

The point gets a little lost because Wanis slides past it pretty quickly without "elaborating" as promised and goes on to list a bunch of labels, but:

1. Admit what your behavior is and how it is affecting others; do not label it, just identify it.

This makes sense to me. Some combination of reflecting on past behaviors/experiences and observing our present ongoing behaviors is pretty much the most we can do for self-measurement/self-correction. The tricky part (at least for me) is not immediately skipping ahead to the part where I browse the catalog and check off three out of five and feel bad and stop working on it.

I don't know if "valid need" and "abusive need" are mutually exclusive, or opposite to each other. You could have a need for personal attention and praise, and that would be valid whether you abusively guilt people into staying with you while constantly fishing for compliments from them, or communicate with your partner and work to satisfy each other's needs including reassurance and validation (that's how it works, right?).
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Post by UristMcBunny on Mon Oct 27, 2014 8:49 pm

I think nearly has it right. Needs themselves aren't abusive. It comes down to the methods by which we try to have our needs met.

So, to use one Captain Awkward letter as an example:

captainawkward.com/2014/05/12/entitlement-much/


[list]
[*]You guys broke up.
[*]She didn’t communicate for a year, but eventually gave in when you contacted her. Unfortunately you wanted to hash out the end of the relationship; she didn’t. She was into a new dude and didn’t want to talk about old emotional business.
[*]So she decided it wasn’t really for her. She tried a slow fade. After all, you guys weren’t really close anymore.
[*]Then she TOLD you what was up. “I don’t want to talk to you anymore.“
[*]You kept contacting her against her explicitly stated wishes. Emails seeking “healing” are still unwanted emails.
[*]She got angry and enforced the boundary.
[*]You happened to turn up at her work on a date and she didn’t like it.

Now, the Darth in this scenario had a need/desire. He wanted "closure" in the form of a conversation about the end of the relationship. What made him a Darth wasn't a desire for closure (although the myth of closure is something I think the Captain's stance on is correct). What made him a Darth was when he decided his desire for that made it okay to repeatedly attempt to make contact with her for this even after she was explicitly clear that she did not want to contact him, which he apparently responded to by writing an entire article trying to claim that her desire to be left alone constituted a form of "violence" towards him.

Basically, Darth isn't someone who has needs. Or even someone who is needy. A Darth is someone who acts as though their needs trump everyone else's needs, desires, safety and emotional wellbeing, who ignores boundaries, who blames others for their own problems and who does inappropriate stuff in response to healthy boundary setting.

Now, I don't know if you're a Darth, Marty. But what I do know is that from everything I've heard about your friends, you do not have a particularly healthy or respectful peer group to begin with, which is going to make working all this out particularly more difficult.

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Post by celette482 on Mon Oct 27, 2014 9:45 pm

UristMcBunny wrote:
Basically, Darth isn't someone who has needs. Or even someone who is needy. A Darth is someone who acts as though their needs trump everyone else's needs, desires, safety and emotional wellbeing, who ignores boundaries, who blames others for their own problems and who does inappropriate stuff in response to healthy boundary setting.

This. If you are constantly demanding that other people meet your needs, especially when they aren't the ones in the proper position to meet them, then you might be a Darth.

They can't make your emotions better. You can ask that other people not engage in behaviors that hurt you further. That's two different things. Example that isn't directed at you. Another person can't be responsible for making your self-esteem better, but you can certainly demand that they refrain from saying "You're such a loser."
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Post by waxingjaney on Mon Oct 27, 2014 10:13 pm

reboundstudent wrote:How do you know if you're the abuser in the relationship?
How many iterations of "I'm a bad romance" do you plan on posting?
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Post by nearly_takuan on Mon Oct 27, 2014 10:18 pm

Nobody's forcing you to click the thread links. If you don't want to help, don't help.
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Post by eselle28 on Mon Oct 27, 2014 10:24 pm

[mod hat on]Hey, waxingjaney, I'm going to direct you to the Forum Guidelines for this one. The first sentence of the first guideline is, "Be respectful." If you find that a particular community member's issues are irritating or repetitive or simply not to your interest, there are a couple of ways of dealing with it, starting with avoiding their threads but also including adding them to your foes list. Not being respectful is not one of the options.[mod hat off]
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Post by nonA on Mon Oct 27, 2014 10:35 pm

I'll be the brutally honest one here. Socially Awkward Girl can be difficult to deal with sometimes, what with the way a lot of her social expectations run counter to a lot of other peoples.

Having said that, one of the big things that keeps her from darthhood is that she does her best to be conscious of other people's thoughts and feelings. There are times when one person's energy will destructively interfere with another person's energy. (In the physics sense where it's a morally neutral consequence of being out of phase, not in the usual connotations of "destructive".) Sometimes people mesh poorly, that's different from being a bad actor.

And Marty, five people in this thread, including myself, have seen little to no evidence that you're a bad actor. One person got snippish (again, socially awkward girl can be socially awkward from time to time), try to remember where the consensus is so far.

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Post by UristMcBunny on Mon Oct 27, 2014 10:51 pm

Agree whole-heartedly with nonA. One of the key factors in Darth-hood is not caring, or ignoring, other people's opinions and needs. And from what I know of you from our online interactions, that is not something that describes you at all.

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Post by nearly_takuan on Mon Oct 27, 2014 11:01 pm

UristMcBunny wrote:One of the key factors in Darth-hood is not caring, or ignoring, other people's opinions and needs. And from what I know of you from our online interactions, that is not something that describes you at all.

Well...caring about other people's opinions and needs can manifest as demanding that they have positive opinions of you or "need" something from you in a way that gives personal validation, and that can turn Darth-y or Vampire-ish. The "bad people don't worry about whether they're bad" platitude only works in certain fictitious universes.

That being said, I don't believe Marty is one of those, or if she is, I think she's already pretty far along one of the right paths.
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Post by celette482 on Mon Oct 27, 2014 11:10 pm

If you're really worried that you have problematic behaviors, maybe you should move the focus of your thoughts away from global (I am a Darth Vader) to local (I do these things that are Not Cool).

Here are some questions to ask yourself, but you don't have to answer them here if you don't want to.

What specifically have you done in the past month that seems bad? What was your emotional state? What were you trying to accomplish? What was the actual fall-out? How did you handle the fall-out? How could you handle that emotional state with better, less Not Cool behaviors?

Get yourself out of the headspace of "I have to decide whether I am An Abuser or not" and get yourself into the headspace of "How can I react to emotions and situations in a more constructive way?" Labeling yourself an Abuser or Victim is this weird catch-22, where you could be just the target or the machiavelli and how could you ever know???? Well, you know by refusing to psych yourself out and instead look at concrete things that are happening and look for concrete solutions and making concrete steps to enact those solutions.

I think you are not treated well by the people in your life and that sometimes causes you to respond in less-than-helpful ways, but you're not being treated well.
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Post by reboundstudent on Tue Oct 28, 2014 12:05 am

waxingjaney wrote:
How many iterations of "I'm a bad romance" do you plan on posting?

I'm a Lady Gaga song?

What If You're the Darth Vader Boyfriend/Girlfriend?  Lady_gaga_gif__3_by_kamiigermanotta-d58qi8t

Anyway, welcome to the forums; I'm annoying here. Ya get used to it.

celette482 wrote: What specifically have you done in the past month that seems bad? What was your emotional state? What were you trying to accomplish? What was the actual fall-out? How did you handle the fall-out? How could you handle that emotional state with better, less Not Cool behaviors?

(Forgive me if TMI): the thing that makes me wonder if I seem bad is having unrealistic expectations, or unreasonable triggers. Like, if certain behaviors really trigger a huge insecurity for you, is it Darth Vader-er and crossing boundaries to ask someone to not engage in those behaviors? What if the other person says they aren't engaged in those behaviors, you're just imaging it, and are being unrealistic about having a concern or insecurity because it hasn't happened yet? And that by expressing that insecurity/concern, you are engaging in abusive behavior, because you're telling someone their own behavior is something it's not (gas-lighting.) Is it abusive behavior to demand someone deal with your insecurities?

It just feels like my hands are trapped in a big ball of string, and I have no idea which way is up or even how to start looking for constructive or concrete solutions. Is that abusive behavior, if you want to throw down the ball of string and say to hell with figuring out how to untangle it?

celette482 wrote:
I think you are not treated well by the people in your life and that sometimes causes you to respond in less-than-helpful ways, but you're not being treated well.

I just can't help but feel that that is a cop-out. Like, did they really mistreat me-or have I deluded myself into believing they did when in fact my perspective is warped? How do I know if something I see is true, or if it's my Darth Vader-ness turning myself into the guiltless victim? What if I really am fundamentally broken? What if the people who said the "mean" things to me weren't mean at all, but were totally right and I just pretended they were mean to avoid facing the truth that I'm rather awful, self-centered and abusive? I mean how the hell do you know?
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Post by nearly_takuan on Tue Oct 28, 2014 12:17 am

reboundstudent wrote:I just can't help but feel that that is a cop-out. Like, did they really mistreat me-or have I deluded myself into believing they did when in fact my perspective is warped? How do I know if something I see is true, or if it's my Darth Vader-ness turning myself into the guiltless victim? What if I really am fundamentally broken? What if the people who said the "mean" things to me weren't mean at all, but were totally right and I just pretended they were mean to avoid facing the truth that I'm rather awful, self-centered and abusive? I mean how the hell do you know?

You can't know. Not for certain. Your perspective will always get in the way of absolute truth. But no amount of other people's perspectives will necessarily add up to being any closer to the truth than your one.

At a certain point, you're just going to have to trust yourself.

It's not like we just blindly trust you for no reason. (Well, maybe some do, but I don't.) From your posts in threads that aren't about you, you seem generally level-headed, smarter than average, and perfectly sane. So it seems much more likely to me that your interpretation of things is mostly-right than that it's a fabrication of a deranged mind.
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Post by reboundstudent on Tue Oct 28, 2014 12:30 am

nearly_takuan wrote: You can't know. Not for certain. Your perspective will always get in the way of absolute truth. But no amount of other people's perspectives will necessarily add up to being any closer to the truth than your one.

At a certain point, you're just going to have to trust yourself.

It's not like we just blindly trust you for no reason. (Well, maybe some do, but I don't.) From your posts in threads that aren't about you, you seem generally level-headed, smarter than average, and perfectly sane. So it seems much more likely to me that your interpretation of things is mostly-right than that it's a fabrication of a deranged mind.

So if you can't know whose perspective is closer to right, how do you determine whose perspective gets preference? Like if Person A says Person B is "not pulling their load", but Person B thinks they're doing just fine, how do you negotiate that? Is "abusive" when Person A insists their need of having more of the load be addressed?

Maybe not deranged, but I wonder sometimes about charisma and being able to really sell a viewpoint. When I was a little kid, I had a friend who was-well, my mother calls her "psychotic" to this day. One time we were playing with cardboard boxes (we were 6 or 7 at the time.) I wanted to play upstairs-downstairs neighbors (I was big into I Love Lucy at the time), she wanted to play next door. She tried to insist I'd crush her if we stacked the boxes on top of each other. To prove her point, she made me crawl into the box, and started sitting on me and crushing me until I screamed and cried. When I told the teacher, my friend spun the whole thing as me bullying her; the teacher chalked it up to me having an "active imagination."

I tell this story because I wonder if somewhere along the line I unconsciously picked up this same ability to manipulate pity and sympathy from people, so I appear like the victim even when I'm not. Like how I've been to several therapists, told them all the same stories ("My friends, coworkers and dates all hate me; what am I doing wrong?"), and ended with all of them being completely unable to say why other people hated me. Am I just really, really good at appealing to some soft, squishy core of people with more power than me? Is that why people here believe my ex-friends were not-so-nice folks, when my ex-friends continue to maintain I am freaking nuts?
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Post by Guest on Tue Oct 28, 2014 6:03 am

I don't think it's abusive to have needs and insecurities. I think it's abusive when you expect someone else to manage those for you, or when you use those insecurities to manipulate or control another person.

If you're in a relationship with someone whose interpretation of your behaviour, or theirs, is radically different from your interpretation, then I don't think it's possible or even desirable to work out who is objectively "right". I think it's more important to work out what you want to do about it. That can mean anything from putting up with it to leaving, but it's a spectrum, not an either/or.

I think the advice to think about what state you are in emotionally when you have been told that you're performing these behaviours is good. You may be less able to assess your motivations when you're in a heightened state of insecurity or anxiety.

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Post by waxingjaney on Tue Oct 28, 2014 7:33 am

reboundstudent wrote:I'm annoying here. Ya get used to it.
You don't annoy me.
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Post by Guest on Tue Oct 28, 2014 9:17 am

Another quick thought, based on the discussion we had on DNL Prime a couple of months back - abusers are often abusive because they've been hurt, reacted in an irrational/instinctive way, got a reaction they wanted, and either consciously or unconsciously kept on with that behaviour because it works.

It doesn't mean that you're lying on your chaise longue, drinking martinis salted with the blood of your enemies, writing in your journal with a quill feather you plucked from the arse of the last remaining Turquoise-throated Puffleg:
"Monday: Woke up with a bit of a sore head from all the martinis. Feigned meningitis until BF was guilted into bringing me coffee. Told him he clearly didn't love me enough because it was lukewarm."
"Tuesday: Went to work, deleted co-worker's files out of spite and then cried that she was bullying me for being fat. Reported her to HR. Good chance of getting her fired this time, serves her right for having better shoes than me."
Wednesday: Lunch date with BF. Made him critique all the other women walking past, which he agreed to after I assured him it was a fun game and I wasn't going to get jealous. Accused him of cheating on me and stormed off. Good day, A+."

A person can behave in villainous ways without actually being a cartoon villain.

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Post by Mel on Tue Oct 28, 2014 10:44 am

I want to address two pieces of this:

reboundstudent wrote:
What if the people who said the "mean" things to me weren't mean at all, but were totally right and I just pretended they were mean to avoid facing the truth that I'm rather awful, self-centered and abusive? I mean how the hell do you know?  

reboundstudent wrote:I've been to several therapists, told them all the same stories ("My friends, coworkers and dates all hate me; what am I doing wrong?"), and ended with all of them being completely unable to say why other people hated me. Am I just really, really good at appealing to some soft, squishy core of people with more power than me? Is that why people here believe my ex-friends were not-so-nice folks, when my ex-friends continue to maintain I am freaking nuts?    

This, right here--why do other people react the way they do, and why do some have contradictory reactions to others--the truth is you can't know. Short of becoming telepathic, you are never going to know for sure why any person other than yourself thinks or does what they do. If you were just starting to experience this, I'd say it'd be worth exploring by talking to friends, therapist, whatever to try to figure out if there is a specific thing you're doing that provokes certain reactions... but I think it's pretty clear given how much you've already tried to determine that, and how little you've been able to pin down, that there isn't an obvious thing you could just stop doing and everything would be fine.

When you get to that point in a situation, I really think the best thing is to just set aside the worries about what the people who are no longer in your life think/thought, and focus on a) acting in ways that you feel are reasonable and ethical, to the best of your judgement, and b) paying attention to what people currently in your life who you care about say, if they bring up some issue they have with you.  Even if you were abusive in some way to people in the past, that's in the past.  What matters from here on is how you behave from here on.  

And if people right now--people you care about, whose opinions matter to you, and who you trust care about you enough that they wouldn't criticize you unless it was something they truly felt you should do something about--are telling you that you're being unreasonable or abusive or whathaveyou, and you want to do something about it, then I think you need to get them to tell you specific concrete behaviors that they want you to change.  Saying, "you're putting your insecurities on me" or "you're pretending to be a victim" or some such doesn't really tell you anything.  If they actually want to help you be a "better" person, not just get a dig in for some reason, they should be able to point to specific manifestations of this supposed problem.  E.g., "You ask me so many more questions when I'm hanging out with friends who are girls than friends who are guys, which makes me feel as if I have to prove I'm not going to cheat on you." or "When I mention to you something that bothers me, instead of talking with me about what could happen differently, you get upset that I'm upset and I end up needing to comfort you."  And then they should be willing to discuss what specific ways you could behave differently that would fix that problem (by making their own suggestions and asking for yours).  Again, being unwilling to suggest any way you could actually act "better" indicates their goal is not actually to solve the problem but simply to take out frustrations on you, which suggests this is a lot more about them than anything you've actually done wrong.

To sum up: Let the past be in the past, and deal with present problems by focusing on the concrete so you know exactly what the "bad" behavior looks like and what "better" behavior you could replace it with.

reboundstudent wrote:
the thing that makes me wonder if I seem bad is having unrealistic expectations, or unreasonable triggers. Like, if certain behaviors really trigger a huge insecurity for you, is it Darth Vader-er and crossing boundaries to ask someone to not engage in those behaviors? What if the other person says they aren't engaged in those behaviors, you're just imaging it, and are being unrealistic about having a concern or insecurity because it hasn't happened yet?

As others have said, there really isn't an objective standard of what is an "unrealistic" or "unreasonable" expectation or trigger. I mean, to take this point to an extreme--most of us in N. America would think it unreasonable for a guy to expect his wife never to let another man she's not related to see her hair.  But there are several countries (and subcommunities within N. America) where people would think it unreasonable for a woman to want to be around men she's not related to with her hair uncovered. Neither of these attitudes is wrong in itself. There is no strict division of "realistic" and "unrealistic" to compare your wants and needs to--you determine this relationship by relationship, with the partners and friends you actually have.  The difference between healthy and abusive is not in what you're asking for, but how you ask for it.

The first key point is of course that you do ask, not demand.  You are presenting a request while recognizing that they are an autonomous being who gets to make their own decision.  That's pretty simple.

Then you have to respect that autonomy by accepting their decision and then making a decision of your own, rather than focusing on trying to change them. To illustrate (because concrete is good!), three different ways a request could play out--and these apply regardless of how small or extreme the request is...

You: You know, hearing people whistle/kissing in public/knowing my boyfriend has female friends makes me uncomfortable. Do you think you could avoid whistling when you're around me/stick to holding hands when we're out of the house/stop seeing your female friends?
Them: A) I am totally okay with doing that!  B) But I can't concentrate unless I'm whistling/it makes me feel insecure if you won't kiss me in public/I really enjoy my female friends' company. Is there some other way we could make you comfortable?/What about this alternate strategy?  C) I think that is an unreasonable request and I won't do that.

A) - You've gotten what you asked for without complaint--Hurray!  No further discussion needed.

B) - Negotiation required. Now you make a decision about how much you're willing to negotiate on this subject.
Healthy responses: 1) It is totally acceptable to decide what you asked for is the only way you can be comfortable, and to therefore decide you can't keep dating/being friends with/hanging out with this person any more, as long as you express that as your decision and not as a way to try to pressure them into changing their mind.  e.g., "I'm sorry to hear that, but I really can't see this working out any other way.  I guess we're just not a good fit.  It was nice knowing you!"  2) It is also, of course, acceptable to negotiate in good faith, accepting an alternative offered or offering alternatives you feel you would be okay with. e.g., "What if you went to another part of the house when you really needed to concentrate/warned me so I could go to another part of the house? What if I just kissed you on the cheek?  What if you just didn't hang out with your female friends one-on-one?".  3) Finally, you can decide you're really not that uncomfortable with it and would rather put up with your feelings than try to negotiate. Only take this option if you truly believe you can be okay with it and act okay with it. e.g., "You know what, if it's that important to you, I can get used to it."
Abusive/manipulative responses: Trying to verbally coerce or guilt the person into going along with your original request ("But if you really like/love me" "I can't believe you're being such a crappy friend/bf" etc.). Pretending to be okay with an alternate approach and then acting upset when they follow the approach you both agreed to (e.g., giving them the silent treatment after they warn you they're going to be whistling now, kissing them in public but then making grumbling remarks about it afterward, etc.).

C) - Outright refusal. Again, the ball is back in your court, and you can make pretty much the same decisions as above: 1) Decide you can't deal and end things; 2) Decide to negotiate and propose alternate solutions; or 3) Decide you can accept it and back down.

In the latter two cases, if you go with 2 then the ball's in the other person's court again, they get to say A, B, or C to the new suggestion.  In the case of negotiation it can go back and forth several times, of course.  At some point you will either reach a solution you both find acceptable, or one of you will decide you've hit a dealbreaker and it's better to part ways.

Does that make sense?  Like I said, it really doesn't matter what the request is.  What matters is that you decide what's reasonable and realistic for you, you present that to the other person as clearly and respectfully as you can, and you let the other person decide what's reasonable and realistic for themselves. As long as you do that rather than attempting to coerce, pressure, or punish the other person, I don't see how your behavior could be considered abusive. And if you can't reach a common ground, you treat that not as a sign that one of you is unreasonable or unfair or abusive or whatever, but simply that your wants and needs are too different for you to be able to get along, which is a simply lack of compatibility, not a statement of anyone's worth as a person.*

Re: specifically the gaslighting, "you're just imagining it" element--this is where I think you need to come back to concrete behaviors, just like you should expect someone criticizing you to be able to point out concrete behaviors.  Presumably you have a good enough grip on reality that if you hear someone whistling/see them lean in to kiss you in public/see Facebook photos of them hanging out with friends, some of whom are female (just to use the same examples from above), you're not going to question whether they did actually do those things just because they claim they didn't.  And if they claim they didn't, then they're obviously the one gaslighting.  So I suspect when this is coming up, it's something more nebulous like, "You were flirting with another girl" or "You dismissed a point I made" or whatever, and you need to pick out what exactly the behavior is.  e.g., in the first case--hugging? making comments referring to sex? complimenting her looks?  In the second case--did not answer a specific question asked? said they didn't want to talk about it? statement disagreement without explaining why?  Pretty much anything that bothers you, I'd think you should be able to narrow it down to what specifically the other person did, which they can't then claim they didn't (they can claim they didn't intend it the way you interpreted it--"I hug all my friends! That's not flirting"--but not the action itself), and which you can then have a discussion above to determine a solution for that concrete behavior bothering you (which could be anywhere from them behaving differently to the discussion making you feel you'll no longer be bothered by the behavior now that you understand it better to one or both of you deciding this relationship isn't going to work out).

Um. That ended up being a really massive post.  But I hope it helps somewhat!

*As a side note, because I can see this coming up, yes, you might start to feel that your own wants/needs are unreasonable if you can't find anyone who will meet them.  But I think that's something you need to work on outside of a relationship/friendship--with a therapist, if grappling with it on your own isn't working--to find ways to feel less uncomfortable with whatever thing it is that the majority of people are going to want to do. Not wanting to be alone isn't an acceptable excuse for trying to push someone to behave in a certain way they don't really want to, or taking out your discomfort on them despite supposedly accepting that they're going to behave that way.  If you have very selective needs/wants, the non-abusive options are 1) accept that you are going to have more trouble finding good matches and try to select for these factors as early on and directly as possible, or 2) as I said above, work on changing your comfort levels on your own time. (You may find friends or partners who are open to helping you work through this stuff, but it shouldn't be something you expect, and you should let them decide exactly how much they're willing/able to help.)
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Post by Gentleman Johnny on Tue Oct 28, 2014 1:25 pm

You're not annoying, Marty. You're sometimes difficult to communicate with because I have no way to explain things that are obvious to me in text and because we clearly come from experiences different enough that what's obviously true to me is a huge leap of faith for you. Also, it looks like Mel did a much better job of breaking things down than I did, so I'll leave the rest of you to it.

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Post by kath on Wed Oct 29, 2014 12:56 am

reboundstudent wrote:
I tell this story because I wonder if somewhere along the line I unconsciously picked up this same ability to manipulate pity and sympathy from people, so I appear like the victim even when I'm not. Like how I've been to several therapists, told them all the same stories ("My friends, coworkers and dates all hate me; what am I doing wrong?"), and ended with all of them being completely unable to say why other people hated me. Am I just really, really good at appealing to some soft, squishy core of people with more power than me? Is that why people here believe my ex-friends were not-so-nice folks, when my ex-friends continue to maintain I am freaking nuts?    

But you can also unconsciously pick up the idea that you are always wrong or you don't have the tools to evaluate what really happened, and that particular instance of manipulation can live on, lurking below.

I also wanted to say that Mel's response is awesome.

Is it something that you'd want to talk through specifically? I don't think you need us to make those evaluations - I think Mel intended them to be very clear and I think she succeeded -  but if you would like that as practice, it would probably be something we can do.

I want to say something but I am not sure how to phrase this helpfully. I am going to try. If anyone has suggestions to make this better, please tell me, I will edit. And I freely admit that I could easily be completely wrong. Any other perspectives on this are also welcome. If people think this is going to be totally unhelpful, I'm very sorry, I am happy to delete it.

Also, the "you" in this case is you, Marty, but also you-as-presented-after-following-this-line-of-thought. I'm not saying I Know any of these things. I have no idea what better way to write this out, which is why I'm not positing it as "person A" - it wouldn't make sense.

One way I think that type of manipulation experienced as a child could come out is in not believing people when they say they like you. This is because someone who purported to be a friend did something indicating they didn't like or respect you. That's something that's very hard to understand, particularly as a kid, and because that behavior is not reasonable.

So, you have this founding assumption that you can't trust when people do nice things. They could always actually hate you. It feels safer to go with that assumption, because then if they do something you don't like or extract themselves from your life, that was what you were expecting anyway. So you require that people offer continual proof that they like you, and you take anything that might be an indication that they don't like you extremely seriously and it takes you a long time to move past it / a very large amount of evidence that they do like you for you to be comfortable in the relationship (friendly, romantic, casual, etc). This is a lot to ask of someone, and asking them to constantly prove themselves is exhausting - and a chore. That doesn't mean that you're doing it intentionally to be unfair to them. You're doing it for a reason - it's self-preservation. But you are also making other people responsible for what's going on in your head due to someone else's past behavior, and you would be requiring other people to do a lot of work that they may not be equipped to do.

You could try making it really easy for them - say "This very specifc thing is what bothers me. Could you do this other thing instead?" - that's straight out of Mel's flowchart.

And I think that's really the next thing you need to do.

You very clearly are not OK with being a Darth Vader. And it doesn't really matter if you've behaved perfectly in the past - I am sure that we have all done these things. I know I have. The point is - what do you do next? And the answer to that is clear from that flow chart - have a very specific conversation with the person in question.
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Post by Guest on Wed Oct 29, 2014 8:19 am

kath wrote:One way I think that type of manipulation experienced as a child could come out is in not believing people when they say they like you. This is because someone who purported to be a friend did something indicating they didn't like or respect you. That's something that's very hard to understand, particularly as a kid, and because that behavior is not reasonable.

So, you have this founding assumption that you can't trust when people do nice things. They could always actually hate you. It feels safer to go with that assumption, because then if they do something you don't like or extract themselves from your life, that was what you were expecting anyway. So you require that people offer continual proof that they like you, and you take anything that might be an indication that they don't like you extremely seriously and it takes you a long time to move past it / a very large amount of evidence that they do like you for you to be comfortable in the relationship (friendly, romantic, casual, etc).  This is a lot to ask of someone, and asking them to constantly prove themselves is exhausting - and a chore. That doesn't mean that you're doing it intentionally to be unfair to them. You're doing it for a reason - it's self-preservation. But you are also making other people responsible for what's going on in your head due to someone else's past behavior, and you would be requiring other people to do a lot of work that they may not be equipped to do.

kath, I just want to say that your above comment has crystallized SO MUCH about my issues relating to and trusting people. Really, really insightful, really helpful comment. Thank you so much. Smile

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Post by Guest on Wed Oct 29, 2014 8:47 am

kath's comment is fantastic. My relationship with my ex ended in large part because I got tired of being put through test after test to prove my love only to find that the bar had been raised yet again. And then, of course, I ended it, just proving her right. I knew it sprang from her insecurity, but ultimately she was telling me that I would never be enough for her and that my affection meant nothing. From her point of view, I just didn't love her enough to stay.

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Post by celette482 on Wed Oct 29, 2014 9:39 am

As someone who is secure to the point of arrogance and who always has one foot out the door (at least until I started thinking about being engaged), I would not put up with relationship testing. My commitment issues are less commitment issues and more "I don't need another person to be happy, so if you're doing stuff that makes me extremely frustrated I will see myself out" (which isn't necessarily good) What I really want is explicitness. If you need me to stop hanging out with male friends, ask me to do that, in words. Don't get all whiney and pouty when you see that I was with guys. Don't lash out at me the next day because you're jealous. If you need something from me, ask.

Asking, putting needs into words, is the exact polar opposite of abuse/darth vader ness. EVEN if the needs seem... darthvadery. (Honey, I need you to never see any of your male friends again, ever.) Asking, putting stuff out there, being explicit lets the other person decide "Okay, yeah, I can do that" or "HELL NO" or "Hm, what if I never hang out with guys one on one?" or some variation of negotiation. It tells them what you expect, instead of requiring them to watch their behavior all the time looking around for signs that you're about to blow up (or shut down or whatever your response is).

Basically everything Mel said.

I get why it's scary to ask. Same reason it's scary to ask someone out. You're basically opening the box with Schrodinger's Cat in it. As long as it isn't verbally expressed, it being "I need this, can you provide it for me or will it be too much for you?" the answer can be yes. You can go on assuming that the answer is yes and acting in a way that lines up with the answer being yes! Of course, the answer might also be no, and we're all afraid of hearing that no. The difference between someone who is a Darth Vader and someone trying very hard not to be is that the Darth Vader never stops to even consider that there might be a no in there. the Darth vader doesn't acknowledge, let alone entertain, the nullset. The Darth Vader assumes that everyone or at least THIS person is fully and completely available to handle any and all Darth Vader needs whenever they arise. The rest of us are just working up the courage to open the damn box.
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