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Just how do you know..?

(21 Posts)
SimonSmithsAmazingDancingBear Wed 01-Mar-17 10:38:51

If you had an emotionally abusive upbringing and, as a result, have had mostly abusive relationships, how do you know whether:

You have good strong boundaries or whether your expectations are too high?

Someone is genuinely respectful of you or "just not that into you"?

Has their priorities right or is just not that fussed about seeing you?

How can you tell?

How do you know?

BernieBear Wed 01-Mar-17 10:50:34

Watching this with interest, I have a similar background to you Simon and met someone a month ago after not having a relationship for years due to previous bad relationships and problematic upbringing. Like you I struggle to understand what is acceptable/unacceptable

SimonSmithsAmazingDancingBear Wed 01-Mar-17 10:57:40

Hi Bernie. It's hard isn't it?

I was hit quite a lot by a previous partner in my early twenties. His mum told me it was only because he loved me so much that he became so 'passionate' and my mum asked me what I'd done to provoke him, It wasn't the first time I was hit in a relationship, my dad also did.

I know that for many years afterwards I dumped anyone who wasn't possessive or who didn't hit me. Firstly because I didn't realise that some relationships didn't involve hitting, I thought everyone was hit by their dad/boyfriends, and because I genuinely thought that anyone who didn't hit me wasn't sufficiently bothered about me to care what I did.

I wouldn't tolerate being hit now. Even once, or a push, and I'd be gone, but it's the other, emotional stuff, that I find so impossible!

SimonSmithsAmazingDancingBear Wed 01-Mar-17 10:58:39

Just to clarify, I took a lack of 'control' and hitting to be indicative of their lack of interest in me. I just assumed it wasn't a 'proper' relationship confused

SimonSmithsAmazingDancingBear Wed 01-Mar-17 13:00:00


Could really do with some pointers on this!

YetAnotherGuy Wed 01-Mar-17 13:17:48

One technique you might find useful is to ask yourself "What advice would I give to someone else who's describing the problem to me?" It could be a good idea to actually write the problem down

I generally find that the advice I give to others is much better than the ideas swimming round in my head

So what would you say to someone else?

I don't have much experience of toxic relationships, but one good pointer can be whether you have any mutual friends, Not foolproof, but many abusers don't want to be checked up on

Have zero tolerance of seriously bad treatment - I don't mean minor niggles though

And as for "He hits you because he loves you" - total bollocks

SimonSmithsAmazingDancingBear Wed 01-Mar-17 13:22:36

Thanks, YetAnotherGuy, no I've got my head around the hitting thing now! Can't believe it ever made sense, if I'm honest, but there you go.

I know what you mean about giving other people better advice than you give yourself, but even that's a bit off when it comes to this sort of thing. I'm just not able to read the signs well enough.

My only realistic option feels like Avoid Relationships Altogether and, whilst I realise that this is probably where I'm heading, it makes me a bit sad.

YetAnotherGuy Wed 01-Mar-17 13:34:49

Avoiding relationships would be drastic and a shame

Unfortunately when we start a relationship we project all our hopes and desires on to that person. And of course at first they're perfect because they haven't had a chance to do anything wrong

Perhaps you need to take things much slower - like at about a quarter of the speed. Or slower. Or a lot slower

Anyone who really wants you will wait - trust me

SimonSmithsAmazingDancingBear Wed 01-Mar-17 13:41:50

Ok, so I'm going to pick up on your taking things slowly comment, because that's a perfect example.

How do you know if someone's taking it slowly because they're respecting you, because they're level headed and think it's important for you to both maintain your own life and not just drop everything for each other and because they're not all that fussed about seeing you?

That's my point. I can't tell. I don't know how you would tell the difference.

SimonSmithsAmazingDancingBear Wed 01-Mar-17 13:43:48

And what do you mean about taking it slowly? Are you talking sex? Because that's not really the issue. It's the rest of it. I just don't get any of it.

HeavenlyEyes Wed 01-Mar-17 13:47:56

I would recommend the Freedom Programme if you haven't already done it.

SimonSmithsAmazingDancingBear Wed 01-Mar-17 14:16:14

Thanks. I did it online. I've also read Lundy Bancroft. And I've had counselling.

I think I have good, strong boundaries. I have no issue with walking away from someone if I think it's not right. But I can't tell if my expectations are now too high.

I don't want someone who wants to see me every day, or to be texting/phoning/in constant contact. I don't need to know what someone is thinking/doing/or where they are every second of the day. But I can't tell if they're functional and have their own life going on, or whether they're just not that into me.

Realisitically, most men I'd meet who are my age have children. I don't want them to prioritise me over their children, or their friends. Ideally, I'd like them to have an amicable working relationship with their ex and don't expect them to drop their friends/children or even to cancel plans with them to see me. But at what point does it stop being "having their priorities right" and "just not all that bothered about seeing you?"

AstrantiaMallow Wed 01-Mar-17 21:52:55

Is this hypothetical or are you seeing someone?

Do you think that if you meet the right person, you'll just know. I have similar background, just one abusive relationship behind me. I'm dating a lovely man (widower with grown up child admittedly, so he hasn't really got the level of responsibility a man with young children would). We see each other twice a week, and we talk in between mostly phone, we don't actually text much, and might not speak every day. There's no game playing, never has been, as in it doesn't matter who last texted or phoned.
It went very slow, mostly because of my situation. We've been going out now for a while. I feel he has his priorities right in that he doesn't stifle me or want to see me all the time, he has a life, but equally I feel he very much wants to spend time with me, he plans ahead as it were and communicates. He remembers things I've told him too.
Not sure if that helps...

BertieBotts Wed 01-Mar-17 23:03:08

I managed to recalibrate my sense of what was okay/normal by obsessively hanging around MN Relationships (To the point that at one point I could mentally start a thread and imagine the responses...) and the baggage reclaim forums and reading St. Lundy... I think Baggage Reclaim is particularly good at explaining what healthy relationships/boundaries/standards look like.

It's difficult because so much of this is subjective too. What's okay to one person might be a dealbreaker to another, and that's okay. I think the biggest gamechanger of an idea for me was realising that relationships aren't something which are scored or owed, it's not something you can do well or badly about, it doesn't mean you have to "reward" a person if they behave particularly well, it's just about assessing how well you fit with another person. You can't make a bad fit good by saying or doing the "right" things, and it doesn't mean you've failed or you're of low value if a relationship doesn't work out. Likewise you can walk away at any point and you don't need to feel guilty despite what people will say because nobody is owed a relationship with you.

People are so massively varied, men aren't a different species that we need to learn to speak the language of (actually, scratch the former, THIS was the biggest gamechanger for me). First priority, you have to be able to relate to him as a person rather than him being overwhelmingly a man (which won't make sense unless you've previously been sucked into crappy ideas about gender) and he needs to see you as a person first rather than a woman first and a person second.

Point is that there are so many things which we think are flaws or unlovable about ourselves which we then go "Oh I'm not perfect so I've got to put up with some crap as well" - well, you don't - in fact although it seems impossible there are people in the world who would find your flaws inconsequential, or whose strengths balance out your weaknesses. And you should approach things this way as well. Don't accept what you find annoying, what's too much hard work, what's jarring to yourself just because they are good in other ways. It's not like people have a set amount of niceness/goodness points and once they are used up you have to accept their crapness in other ways, it's possible to find someone whose flaws you find inconsequential.

I don't really think it's possible to have your standards too high, TBH, unless you're expecting superhuman things or getting really petty like specifying eye colour and specific taste in novels? You have to love yourself first and find meaning in your own life and your own future, to the point that it should be pretty difficult for anyone to get a look in to be honest, because it would have to be someone who was seriously great, and/or someone who has very similar or compatible ideas to your own, who you'd risk those dreams and plans to allow in.

SimonSmithsAmazingDancingBear Thu 02-Mar-17 09:18:41

Is this hypothetical or are you seeing someone?

Well a bit of both really.

I've been seeing someone for a few months. We can only see each other once a week anyway due to work/family commitments, I've stayed over at him a couple of time, he's not been to mine. We don't talk on the phone, but we text daily. Sometimes, it's just good morning/good evening/catch up during the day texts, sometimes it'll be a lengthier chat. It didn't/doesn't feel like there was any game playing, I'm not 'anxious' about him, he seems to have been pretty straight up, and I think he's a good and decent man... I just don't think he's 'into' me.

I know the perils of lovebombing and constant flirting or sexting attempts, he does none of these, but he doesn't flirt with me at all. And the messages have gone from feeling like we were going somewhere, to a bit perfunctory. But then he sends good morning and good evening messages every day and has done, without fail, since the start. So he's clearly thinking about doing that.

See, this is what I can't tell. I think I've concluded that he's not interested, but he hasn't said anything to make me think he isn't interested anymore. I just sense that he's not. My friend thinks I'm being overly analytical and critical because of my past.

We had a bit of a chat the other day and he said that he likes our relationship and the fact there's no pressure on either of us and it's easy and we get on so well. And we laugh and get on really well when we're together. All of which is true. But...

I think he likes me. I think he likes spending time with me, when we do. I don't think he's sufficiently interested to make time to see me. But then, to make more time to see me, he'd have to not see his children one night. Or I'd have to not see mine or cancel a commitment. Which I wouldn't want or expect on either side.

But then it's early days, and we both work full time and have teenagers and maybe I'm expecting too much.

But then all I expect is to 'know' that the person I'm supposed to be with wants to see me or is looking forward to seeing me, even if circumstances mean that it's not possible right now...

I haven't seen him for a fortnight and he hasn't asked when I'm next free. For example.

He's not interested is he?

Bertie That's the thing, I know it's only been a few months, but I think we 'fit' well. In terms of this man, there are no red flags about him personally at all. We are incredibly compatible in many ways. Even down to not wanting to be in each other's pockets. I just think that, if you asked, he would say I was interested in him and I don't think I could say the same about him.

But my friend says that that is because I have issues around not feeling worthy and that if he treats me well and is kind and considerate when we are together then that is all that counts. But I'm not sure it is.

This is the point where I say to myself, "it's not worth the hassle, he's clearly not interested" and walk. But this is also where I make mistakes!


I'm going to have to end it, aren't I?

BertieBotts Thu 02-Mar-17 09:39:33

It's hard to tell from your post - forget "whether he's interested" - because you're trying to read his mind and that's not helpful.

Are you happy with the arrangement as it stands? Because you say that it fits well, it's low key, you don't want him to make time for you by blowing off other commitments, but then you seem unhappy with his level of interest in you.

I would guess from what you've said that he's just happy with how things are right now. He's not interested in moving the relationship up any further level (for now). He's even said that he likes the lack of pressure.

It's okay if what you want is a bit more active interest but what would that look like? Would it look like him wanting to see you more often, just making contact more often?

I do see your point about looking forward to the next time you'll see each other but perhaps he's not very social like that and it genuinely doesn't bother him that he doesn't know when he'll next see you. That's a subjective thing whether it's a problem or not really but it is one which is time limited, if you ever move in together, it will likely go away. Though if you both have teenagers moving in might be a LONG way off and if it bothers you now, then it bothers you. But I would try to stop framing it as "this means he's not interested and therefore I should end the relationship" and instead frame it as "This is the situation/his personality as it stands, am I happy with that?"

TL;DR, I think he's told you that he is interested but his level of involvement may be lower than you'd like. It's up to you whether you accept that level of involvement, ask directly for more input or decide it's not what you want from a relationship.

AstrantiaMallow Thu 02-Mar-17 11:23:24

Bertie's posts are great. More articulate than mine🙂. But I think it should be what you're happy with.
It sounds in a way you're putting up with something you're not entirely happy with. Maybe you need to think about what you'd like? That he has kids shouldn't make you feel that you have to put up with something you're not happy with.

I wouldn't be happy with not seeing my boyfriend for two weeks with no plans ahead, and I think I would ask him. The other way round, there have been times (esp at the start) when we didn't see each other for 2 weeks + because I couldn't. I had court/children with me etc, but I was open about it, we'd talk properly on the phone once or twice during that time and we both knew when next. I suppose I would expect the same. We rarely text good morning/night. I've read before, watch for their actions, not their words. It's true. In the early days, it was friendship, during which there wasn't any flirting really, he would still make plans for the next time, in the middle of his/my commitments. It was discussed openly.
I should say that all this was very new to me as I'm nearly NC with emotionally stunted/abusive DM and my ex was abusive, and I haven't always found it easy to communicate my needs and feelings, and tend to retreat in my shell!

hellsbellsmelons Thu 02-Mar-17 11:33:14

As you've previously been abuse you need to speak with Womens Aid.
Your boundaries and understanding of relationships will be very warped.
Call them 0808 2000 247
Ask about their Freedom Programme.
Attend the course.
You can do it on-line but it's far better to attend in person.
This will help you with all sorts of aspects of your life, self esteem, boundaries, spotting red flags.
Please enrol urgently and get it done.
You'll know a lot more after that.

SimonSmithsAmazingDancingBear Thu 02-Mar-17 11:52:12

Thanks for the replies.

I don't know what I want really. I have a pretty useless ex husband who has one of the children overnight once a fortnight and for one day at the weekend, each weekend. The eldest is old enough to babysit the youngest, but I'm not going to go out and leave them at home alone so that I can see a man. He has his children on an almost 50/50 basis, but it's not strictly so. They are, rightly, his priority. So that impacts hugely.

I am ok with not seeing someone more than once or twice a week, or not for a fortnight if that's necessary, I think it's just felt that in the last 3 or 4 weeks, it's got a bit too 'comfortable'.

I just don't know.

I think that because my starting point is that no one will want me (because that's what I've always known), I'm constantly looking for the signs that "now it's time to walk away" rather than anything else.

Thanks, HellsBellsMelons. I will look at that.

I take it that this doesn't really look good then?

AstrantiaMallow Thu 02-Mar-17 13:33:24

Could you talk to him?

If it's literally morning/night texts it's just perfunctory really. Doesn't cost much does it? Personally really not a fan of that. Even with children he could find the time to talk between dates. What do you mean 'too comfortable'? Do you think he makes little effort and it's just on his terms? Do you do nice things when you meet?

If you're not too happy, probably best to talk to him and decide one way or another?

SimonSmithsAmazingDancingBear Thu 02-Mar-17 14:49:29

Yeah, I think I'm going to talk to him.

No, it's not just that, obviously, I'd know if that was the case. Up until a couple of weeks ago, we'd have lengthy chats. There wasn't much contact over the past couple of weeks but his kids had half term and they went away for a few days, then mine were off and I was busy... We knew there'd be no chance of seeing each other then. Prior to that, I went away for a weekend with my friends and he went away for a weekend he had planned...

I suppose I'm wondering if that break kind of meant out of sight, out of mind, or whether he was busy with his kids and then respectful of my time with mine. And then this week is just not back on track because we haven't seen each other.

We were still in touch over those weeks, just not as much.

"Too comfortable", yes probably just 'less effort'. Not no effort, it's been really nice. Just 'easy'. Can't really explain. And yes, probably a bit on his terms, but due to his work pattern, it would have to be, mine's a bit more predictable. I have set nights that I'm definitely free, he's not always free on those evenings.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not sitting around waiting for him, I don't have any free nights myself now until next week because I've filled them doing other things. But that's it, without actually planning to see each other/do stuff, I could see how weeks could pass without the opportunity.

I think he's quite laid back, but that just isn't going to work for me, not with the restrictions already in place.

I can see how I've 'improved' though. In previous relationships, I'd have always kept time free, or only pencilled arrangements in, or been willing to make an excuse to cancel in favour of seeing him if he asked me last minute. And I wouldn't do that now.

Just feel a bit sad, I suppose. I don't really meet met very often. I don't do online dating or anything because I'm not really interested in 'dating'. He's the first person I've met in a long time who I've genuinely been attracted to and who seemed interested in me. We're very compatible in many ways, but I don't think that's enough.

I will speak to him and make a decision then.

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