Tuesday, May 11, 2010

We were failures at relationships--Part One

I went to my home group's meeting tonight and heard the story of one of the group members on her 3rd.  Al-Anon anniversary. She had a good story to tell.  And one of the things that I took away from it was how similar we were in that neither of us knew how to have a relationship with others. 

She had a good upbringing but with dysfunctional parents.  Over time, she had one failed relationship after another, mostly with alcoholics or addicts.  She had been let down by a lot of people and did her share of letting down as well.  Isn't this what we do?  We let ourselves down by accepting the behavior of the alcoholic that wasn't acceptable.  I used to believe that things would change just because I wished them to. That simply doesn't happen.  Things change when I take action for myself. 

In retrospect,  I don't think that I had much of clue about how to have a close relationship.  Instead I had a set of fantasies about how it all "should" be.  And when those unreal expectations weren't met,  I built up a lot of resentment.  In relationships with people, I either gave too much or too little. In either case, I was confused because my life and relationships weren't working.  I understood the pain of living for years with so much anger.  And I too confused hating the disease with intense feelings of dislike for the alcoholic.

I thought that I would put down some of the characteristics that I had which set me up for failing with other people in relationships and just plain living: 
  1. I didn't know what a normal relationship was
  2. I  judged myself and others harshly
  3. I had difficulty just having fun--everything had an agenda
  4. I took myself way too seriously and was overly responsible
  5. I didn't like change or know how to deal with it
  6. I sought approval and affirmations from others but not from myself
  7. I wanted immediate gratification
  8. I avoided conflict because I didn't know how to deal with it
  9. I feared rejection and abandonment and would put up with a lot of stuff to avoid being rejected
  10. I feared criticism and judgment of myself, but would not hesitate to criticize or judge others
  11. I had a lot of misplaced loyalty
Eventually, when I had enough pain in my life, I found my way into Al-Anon.  I desperately needed balance.  I wanted to learn how to have a relationship that wasn't destructive, one that was  motivated by a true desire to give, with an underlying attitude of respect for others and for myself.  But I had to ask myself a lot of really tough questions in recovery: 

Am I giving because I want to or because I feel responsible to?
Am I feeling an obligation, guilt, shame or superior?
Am I afraid to say no?
Am I just wanting people to like me?
If I assist others, am I really enabling and thereby preventing others from facing their true responsibilities?
Am I giving because I want to and it feels right to me?
    Tomorrow, I want to write about what my shortcomings did to perpetuate my failure at relating to others. And what I found to be a solution.



      This lady who had the string of relationships with alcoholics and addicts... am I to understand that she was NOT using?...

      ... I just don't understand why/how anyone could put up with a drinker without also being drunk

      or why on earth anyone would wanna live with an addict ~ unless they were sharing the drugs!!

    2. Heavy stuff! Acceptance isn't easy, and neither is balance. . .

    3. wow. wow. wow.
      thank you for writing this today...

    4. Excellent post Syd. I am mulling over a lot of these issues right now myself. Not sure I am ready to put it all out there in a blog yet. You have given me so much to think about. Thanks.

    5. You told my story today.

      My failure to have good relationships is what brought me to Al-Anon in the first place. Only I didn't realize my dysfunction had anything to do with alcoholism, so I didn't stay.

      I only discovered that after my daughter began struggling with addiction and I came back. Only when I got a sponsor and started working the steps, did that become crystal clear.

      I love the list of questions at the end. What a great checklist for motives. I look forward to part 2.

    6. Thanks for this excellent post, Syd; you covered a lot of ground with crystal clarity.

    7. I can really relate to the characteristics you've listed in your post. With each passing day, things are beginning to make more sense. I'm planning to attend my first Al-Anon meeting this Saturday.

    8. I want to read about the solution.

    9. Every single one of your characteristics describes me as well. We are not unique, just like they say. Thanks for the post.

    10. hi Syd

      these are some great points on failed relationships, I so relate to many of them over the years. I am hoping that I am learning from mine and other mistakes for the future, someday :)

      I dont comment much on blogs these days, but I do really appreciate you stopping by mine, and your comments always :)


    11. #3 and #4 wowza! (#3I had difficulty just having fun--everything had an agenda. #4I took myself way too seriously and was overly responsible )You hit it on the head so well Syd (as usual). I didn't even know those were "Al-Anon" things though. I thought it was just me. I had an alcoholic parent who WANTED me to be responsible, but then when I was, it became a bad thing and was held against me. To this day I battle that agenda thing. I am always creating lists in my head and on paper. I try to get away from it, but I always come back to it.

    12. yeah, cant wait for tomorrow...that list is pretty encompassing of many of the problems in relationships...great post...

    13. Great insights here Syd. Got steered here by a friend who recently stumbled across you. Glad she pointed me here. I'll be back to read & share.

    14. Syd, I was similar. I gave my heart away too quickly. I was drawn to people who had tons of issues because I was "going to save them". I was a chameleon that would mold into anything they wanted. I was so busy looking for acceptance, attention and love that I didn't have a clue. Then I met my husband, got married and cheated him out of me for years. I am just finally learning how to give, to receive, to do special things, to build a solid relationship. AA saved me...I'm glad Al-Anon was there for you!

    15. Thanks for sharing your feelings with us. It is truly amazing how we blind ourselves to the destructive behaviors of the ones we love. Sooner or later we realize what it cost us to turn a bind eye to all the horrible things done to us by this person and how much everyone lost because of it. It is hard not to take all the blame even when it should sit squarely on the shoulders of the abusive person. It is important not to put up with it again after you have come to the realization that you don't need to take it anymore. Good luck and live strong.

    16. boy did I need to read this today. Thanks Syd..you hit it right on for me.

    17. Check. Check. Check. Trying to figure out why this sounds so familiar... hmmm...
      Excellent post! Thanks!
      God bless.

    18. Your post today is hauntingly real for me. The comments by everybody who followed made me feel not so alone with my stuggles.

    19. how i've missed your posts. great stuff syd! a lot of this is very familiar...

    20. hey Syd, where'd ya find my list of "relationship based difficulties?" I thought I had burned that lol

      I can relate to so much in this post and wait a minute, I'M the alcoholic in my story! What's up with that?

    21. I am of the mind that the only way to love another is to allow them to be as they will be. I can not stop the gloaters nor the complainers I can only accept that this is where they are at the moment. In this I can ne the stalk on which the lotus rises for them or I can be the swamp in which the stalk is nourished.

      It makes little difference to them what I am and all the difference to me to know who I am at any given moment.

    22. As usual, a timely post. All I can say is "thank you."

    23. I can relate to so much in this post. My life is good and I believe it all came about just as God intended. If not for that fact, I would wish I had found the healing power of Al-Anon in my younger years. That is one of the reasons I think Alateen is such a blessing.

      Great post.


    24. Syd, fantastic post – very enlightening for me! I thought I was pretty balanced & together, then I read your post & saw a lot of myself there…lol! I’m the adult child of an alcoholic, was married to an alcoholic once (husband #2) and I am the mom of a son, almost 20, that’s an addict. I think I’ve made progress and I’m always working toward improving & changing things I know are wrong or that I could do better…you have to be open to the possibility that you aren’t perfect (some just aren’t capable of this) and that we all have things we can work on no matter what your past or current is. Thanks again, I really enjoyed it and now I’m off to read part 2!!!


    Let me know what you think. I like reading what you have to say.