missmaven: MM (Default)
The falling out with my best friend happened a bit less than a year before my divorce started. That relationship worked well as a distraction from or explanation of the issues in my marriage. Once away from it the evident issues in my marriage couldn't be ignored.
As my marriage crumbled my father came back into my life and offered to help. I needed it and I accepted it gratefully. But I was aware of his issues, too. I'd already cut off contact with him once before due to his unhealthy behavior. My trust was tentative at best, but any port in a storm.
I'd become aware that being raised by an alcoholic narcissist fed right into me trying to be the referee between two alcoholic narcissists. You tend to gravitate towards what is familiar, not what is healthy. All three men were the same mistake with different faces.
It was easy to look at the situation and realize I had made bad initial choices. Wrap it up in a neat package of these early family-of-origin issues. I'd learned, I'd grown and I was committed to getting out. I realized I would have to make hard choices and cut out crucial people in order to establish a healthier living dynamic. It was going to be hard, but worth it. So very worth it.
I was committed to getting my life on healthier ground.

And I'd done it!
I'd distanced myself from my best friend. I'd come out clean on the other side of my divorce, and I'd cut off contact with my father after he became abusive again.

Shortly before the one-year anniversary of my divorce being finalized I had paid off our (now my) unsecured debt and realized my long time dream of being debt free. Shed of those toxic people and looming debt, THIS was when life starts.
This is the part where the story wraps up with 'happily ever after'. This is the part where I heal; where I move on into all the awesome that I'd been waiting for.

(I could write a whole blog post about how life after you’ve repaired or recovered from a big life issue isn’t a walk in the park.)

A couple months later I had to make the choice to cut another toxic person out of my life. Again. She wasn't involved in the toxicity of the other three. She couldn't be wrapped up in the nice neat little package of my family-of-origin mistakes I'd already learned from. She had her own unique history of dysfunction. She'd been a long time friend and was thoroughly enmeshed in my social circle. She even had an intimate connection with one of my partners.
Getting her removed from my life was rather complicated - which is an odd thing to say when you realize I had to go to court to legally and financially disentangle myself from my ex. The thing is, with my ex, the lines were pretty well drawn. Friends either chose him, me, or were mature about my request for space and to keep our personal lives separate. There was no guilt or pressure about having to ‘play nice’ with each other in social settings. People absolutely understood we weren’t on good terms. I guess having your ex take out a restraining order on you does have its benefits. Regardless of who you choose to believe ends up being an asshole.
This newer removal wasn’t so clear cut. My partner had invested a lot of time and interest in the relationship and he wasn’t willing to give up entirely. I realized that I might have to choose to watch and try to be supportive of someone being abused. And…
I wasn't ready for that.

I realized I wasn’t going to be able to do that. In a very real but subtle way that realization shook me to my core. I wasn’t going to be able to stand by and watch him be mistreated.
What I was realizing was that I was too broken, or not yet healed enough, to be closely involved with someone who was going through abuse. I'm still not.
I've likened it to having a broken arm. It's out of the cast but I'm not about to go lifting weights with it. It can only take so much pressure. And being around someone who is abusive or is choosing to stay in an abusive relationship is beyond my weight class currently.
That's a hard thing to admit.

Maybe it’s not something someone is supposed to feel they can accomplish in the best of situations. I don’t know. But I knew I wouldn’t be able to, and that meant I had to be prepared to cut another person out of my life. This time, not someone who was toxic, but someone who wasn’t able to say no to being abused.

In the end, there's a happy ending. Most of us, including my partner, have chosen to get the needed distance from her. Honestly, in the process of trying to get distance she dramatically pushed us away. It took a while, with her circling back to re-attack or rehash the litany of wrong doings she felt we'd inflicted on her. But she's gone. Off living her life somewhere else and leaving us alone.
But the situation left me shaken. The choice to remove the toxic people from my life wasn’t a one-and-done choice – no matter how hard of a choice that was to implement. Choosing to be healthy is an ongoing battle. There will be more toxic people that you have to make that choice on. You will loose friends. And more importantly that choice isn’t always going to be to remove toxic people. Sometimes the choice will be to remove the enablers of toxic people.
missmaven: MM (Default)
Once upon a time, there was a boy who grew up with a happy dream. He was told when he was very young—as soon as he was old enough to understand anything, really—that a beautiful piece of land out on the edge of town was in trust for him. When he was grown up, it would be his very own and was sure to bring him great contentment. His family and other relatives often described the land to him in terms that made it sound like a fairy world, paradise on earth. They did not tell him precisely when it would be his but implied that it would be when he was around age sixteen or twenty.

In his mid-teens, the boy began to visit the property and take walks on it, dreaming of owning it. Two or three years later, he felt the time had come to take it on. However, by then he had noticed some disturbing things: From time to time, he would observe people hiking or picnicking on his acres, and when he told them not to come there without his permission, they refused to leave and insisted that the land was public! When he questioned his relatives about this, they reassured him that there was no claim to the land but his.

In his late adolescence and early twenties, he became increasingly frustrated about the failure of the townspeople to respect his ownership. He first tried to manage the problem through compromise. He set aside a small section of the property as a public picnic area and even spent his own money to put up some tables. On the remainder of the land, he put up "No Trespassing" signs and expected people to stay off. But, to his amazement, town residents showed no signs of gratitude for his concession; instead, they continued to help themselves to the enjoyment of the full area.

The boy finally could tolerate the intrusions on his birthright no longer. He began screaming and swearing at people who trespassed and in this way succeeded in driving many of them away. The few who were not cowed by him became targets of his physical assaults. And when even his aggression did not completely clear the area, he bought a gun and began firing at people just to frighten them, not actually to shoot them. The townspeople came to the conclusion that the young man was insane.

One particularly courageous local resident decided to spend a day searching through the town real estate records and was able to establish what a number of people had suspected all along: The property was indeed public. The claim made by the boy's family on his behalf was the product of legend and misconception, without any basis in the documentary record.

When the boy was confronted with this evidence, his ire only grew. He was convinced that the townspeople had conspired to alter the records and that they were out to deprive him of his most cherished dream. For several years after, his behavior remained erratic; at times it seemed that he had accepted having been misled during his childhood, but then he would erupt again in efforts to regain control of the land through lawsuits, creating booby traps on the land to injure visitors and employing any other strategy he could think of. His relatives encouraged him to maintain his belligerence, telling him, "Don't let them take away what is yours." Years went by before he was able to accept the fact that his dream would never be realized and that he would have to learn to share the land. Over that period he went through a painful, though ultimately freeing, process of gradually accepting how badly misled he had been and how destructive his behavior had been as a result.

IN ORDER TO know how to foster change in abusive [people], individuals and communities need to understand not only how abusive thinking works...but also where it comes from. Overcoming the scourge of relationship abuse demands attention to the root causes of the problem.
The story I have just told is a metaphor for the childhood social process that produces an abuser.

— The Making of an Abusive Man. In: Why Does He Do That, Lundy Bancroft

missmaven: MM (Default)
Had my second therapy session today. Talked about the string of people that I cut out of my life - my best friend, my husband, my father, and later another friend. Each one was a choice to remove an abusive or toxic person out of my life. I feel justified in my choices, but it still hurts.
I loved them. Cared about them. The break up’s weren't angry arguments, they were quiet acceptances. I love you, but that’s not enough. You have to treat me within preset perimeters of decency and you weren't doing that. So you have to go. 
Acceptance is a small quiet room.

I hope that you see what a huge thing it is to have the courage to break your own heart.”
Jeanette LeBlanc, Rebelle Society

I commented to a partner of mine recently that I feel I’ve lost so much innocence. It wasn’t the naïvety of ‘Love conquers all’. It was the belief that I chose good people to put my love and trust in. The realization that I chose wrong.

I wanted nothing more than to have a civil divorce. It’s easy to walk a way and throw the relationship in the trash. Just blame them for all your problems and be done with it. It’d be easy.
But we have a child together, and for that sake I was willing to swallow pride and anger in order to have a civil divorce and remain on friendly terms. My son having co-parents that worked together was more important than any amount of vengeance or justice I felt I deserved.

I did not have a civil divorce. My ex lied to the courts and stripped my rights as a parent for two weeks. During those two weeks he used visitation with my son as leverage to try and upset me, break me, and get me to agree to his outlandish terms. It made it impossible to trust him or feel comfortable letting him into any element of my life that wasn’t necessary for my son. I’m committed to maintaining a professional business-like relationship in co-parenting and that’s it.

I wanted so much to remain civil, to remain friends an he let me down.

I would love to have a father that I could include in my life. I can’t. Some times he’s healthy but sometimes he’s not. And I cut off contact during the start of a downward spiral I’d seen before. I'd like to think he'll come out of it and try to reconnect, but I'm all out of forgiveness this time. I'm done being his scapegoat. 

My best friend spent years telling me that he was first and foremost my friend. I picked up on it immediately - he chases women for sex. He doesn’t have women he’s close to that he’s not having sex with. One day he was going to realize that he was never going to have sex with me and push me away in anger.
He insisted for years that wasn’t the case. And eventually I believed him.
There were several years of flirting and sexual tension and the possibility that we might hook up. But any possibility ended when he decided to use me as a pawn in my own life, without my knowledge and without my consent. 
He kicked me out of his house one night after he tried to come onto me and I told him I had no sexual feelings for him what so ever. That after what he'd done I never would. He’s tried to reconnect numerous times but I’ve turned him down. I'm not interested in reconnecting with someone who betrayed me to the extent that he did. I miss my best friend. But the reality is he’s not there anymore, someone who’s arrogant and abusive has taken his place.

I wish these people could have been better. Could have been good enough to keep in my life. I don’t demand perfection. I’m pretty damn reasonable in my expectations.

None of these relationships ended in a big blow up. I just quietly walked away. They’d all gotten very angry and confrontational by the point that I did. It would have been easier to yell and scream and vent my frustration at all the things the’d done to let me down. But it wouldn’t have solved anything. It would’t have saved the relationship.
What was the point? So much energy had already been wasted and I was just tired. And hurt.

Recently I’ve been starting to sort through all the emotions. I’ll get choked up and cry at a random song on the radio. I find at times I want nothing more than to climb up on a roof top and scream at the world.

It’s so unfair. I shouldn’t have to break my own heart. Over and over. 

You should have been better.

missmaven: MM (Default)
You have the right, without shame, blame or guilt: In all intimate relationships:
  • to be free from coercion, violence and intimidation
  • to choose the level of involvement and intimacy you want
  • to revoke consent to any form of intimacy at any time
  • to be told the truth
  • to say no to requests
  • to hold and express differing points of view
  • to feel all your emotions
  • to feel and communicate your emotions and needs
  • to set boundaries concerning your privacy needs
  • to set clear limits on the obligations you will make
  • to seek balance between what you give to the relationship and what is given back to you
  • to know that your partner will work with you to resolve problems that arise
  • to choose whether you want a monogamous or polyamorous relationship
  • to grow and change
  • to make mistakes
  • to end a relationship
In poly relationships:
  • to decide how many partners you want
  • to choose your own partners
  • to have an equal say with each of your partners in deciding the form your relationship with that partner will take
  • to choose the level of time and investment you will offer to each partner
  • to understand clearly any rules that will apply to your relationship before entering into it
  • to discuss with your partners decisions that affect you
  • to have time alone with each of your partners
  • to enjoy passion and special moments with each of your partners
  • In a poly network:
  • to choose the level of involvement and intimacy you want with your partners’ other partners
  • to be treated with courtesy
  • to seek compromise
  • to have relationships with people, not with relationships
  • to have plans made with your partner be respected; for instance, not changed at the last minute for trivial reasons
  • to be treated as a peer of every other person, not as a subordinate
The Relationship Bill of Rights by Franklin Veaux, More than Two
missmaven: MM (Default)
The following are some basic rights to which all parties to a relationship are entitled.
  • The right to good will from the other.
  • The right to emotional support.
  • The right to be heard by the other and to be responded to with courtesy.
  • The right to have your own view, even if your partner has a different view.
  • The right to have your feelings and experience acknowledged as real.
  • The right to receive a sincere apology for any jokes you may find offensive.
  • The right to clear and informative answers to questions that concern what is legitimately your business.
  • The right to live free from accusation and blame.
  • The right to live free from criticism, judgment, put-downs or ridicule.
  • The right to have your work and your interests spoken of with respect.
  • The right to encouragement.
  • The right to live free from emotional and physical threat.
  • The right to live free from angry outburst and rage.
  • The right to be called by no name that devalues you.
  • The right to be respectfully asked rather than ordered.

From "The Verbally Abusive Relationship: How to Recognize it and How to Respond" by Patricia Evans
missmaven: MM (Default)
Very few of us were fortunate enough to be raised in a loving and supporting poly household. And even for those that were most of the movies they watched, books they read and relationships they saw were examples of how to monogamy.
We don't get a lot of examples on how to poly, so there's a lot of unlearning and learning to do.

When learning new behaviors or concepts you don't just pluck out the old and replace with the new. It's not a switch in the brain.
It's muscle memory (actually more neural pathway) and we have them because it makes life more efficient. I don't have to think through how to make my coffee in the morning or start my car, I've got it down. My brain just auto pilots.

In the same way, you've learned how to survive in a situation that no longer applies. You've developed an ingrained response, and a lot of these are so second nature we don't even realize we have them.
Trying to develop a new, more healthy way to do it is gonna take time and patience. Each time you practice the new, more healthy thought process it becomes a bit easier. Over and over again you have to mentally choose to respond with the new tactic. Until one day it becomes your go-to response. But even then, in times of stress, you're likely to fall back to those old habits.
missmaven: MM (Default)

A prescriptive label is calling something what you want it to be (regardless of if it is) often in the hope to make it that way. 

e.g. Calling her your girlfriend after just one date isn’t gonna make it true, buddy. 

A descriptive label is a term used to describe an already existing dynamic.

e.g. There wasn’t really a day that we started dating, after about six months we just realized that we were. 

Prescriptive labels are ‘wishful thinking’. They’re bad because you’re assigning a value to something that doesn’t exist and asserting a level of pressure on the other person to conform to that ideal.  
Descriptive labels tend to form organically and arise after everyone involved is comfortable using that term. Sometime you just start using them because that's what you are and have been for a while. Sometimes you have a conversation about what everyone's comfortable with and come to a consensus that way. 
Why use a label at all? Labels exist because we use things like words to more efficiently communicate. You know that coffee cup sitting on your desk? Does it really only ever have coffee in it? Do you sometimes use it for water, too? I bet you do. Then why call it a coffee cup? Why use such a limiting label for something that could be used in so many diverse ways. Did you know you can put things like pens in those, too? You can’t even drink pens!
We use a label like “coffee cup” because that descriptor let’s us know what it generically looks like. It’s probably ceramic and has a handle. If I said tea cup you’d have probably envisioned a more demure vessel. Possibly one with a saucer.
Being human beings we understand that it's more efficient to communicate with word despite how imperfect they are. We also understand that labels do not always minutely encapsulate the entirely of an object or idea. We understand it’s simply a word used to communicate a general concept and that that concept is flexible, organic and may vary among different people or cultures. 
missmaven: MM (Default)
Yes. There are people who become entrenched in the identity of being the broken one. In my experience, they are outliers and not the norm. 
More often than not, people do not need another to rob them of their agency and fix their problems for them. Even if you're successful, it can be more damaging and humiliating to have another do that than to continue on struggling to fix your issues on your own. 
Fixing ourselves is how we grow. 
What most people need is the space to sort through their issues on their own and in their own time. Sometimes that space is telling things to someone only to hear ourselves speak, or that just voicing them in itself overcomes the fear that it will make us less lovable.
That being said, it is also not anyone’s responsibility to be the one that holds that space for them. 
I remember specifically, years back, when I was sorting through several of my issues. I routinely hashed out my head meats to my partner. One day he said he was tired of it. He didn’t want to listen to it anymore. Not that he wasn't supportive of my growth, just that he wanted to be able to come home, relax and unwind from a stressful day at work. 
And you know what I did?
I found another support group that was willing to listen to me as I worked through my issues. 
I didn’t get angry at him, I didn’t get resentful or insist that he was failing me because he wasn't willing to listen to me drone on and on. It can be a lot to be the person that quietly holds space for another who is sorting through their pain. 
Everyone has their own limits, their own battles and we need to be respectful of their agency as well.
I think it's the responsibility of the person who's venting to first ask. We've all just opened up and poured out our feelings to a friend because we're so entrenched in our own heads. It happens. 
But, especially for the bigger stuff, it's important to ask first if they've got the bandwidth to listen. 
Some days they don't. Some days they're fighting their own battles and just don't have the energy to back you as you fight yours.
I've had many situations where I've listened, then told them I was at my limit and the next step is to get some distance if they ignore that boundary.
It's sad because you know they're turning to you because they feel a closeness, an intimacy with you. But you can't sacrifice your own sanity and stability to be there for someone. 
You do that then you just have two broken people.
missmaven: MM (Default)
How to Handle a Rumor: The Test of Three

Keep this philosophy in mind the next time you either hear or are about to repeat a rumor.

Truth. Have you made absolutely sure that what you are about to tell me is true?
Goodness. Is what you are about to tell me something good?
Usefulness. Is what you want to tell me going to be Useful to me?

If what you want to tell me is neither True nor Good nor even Useful, why tell it to me at all?

Taken from here.

missmaven: MM (Default)
I remember the day my son asked me to replay a song on the radio. When I tried to explain to him that I couldn't, that the radio was much like broadcast TV - live streaming and not on-demand play - I realized he'd never really experienced either radio or broadcast TV. 
I was flabbergasted to realize that most his generation will grow up having largely experienced only instant, on-demand access to things. 
I even find myself frustrated at times when I can't track down a desired movie and have it available at a moments notice. I've become so used to the on-demand access.
Recently Praxx and I were watching Westworld, as it aired. There was something wonderful about the anticipation, the guesswork involved in having to wait and discover what would happen a week later.
This video made several good points about how life has changed in this culture of immediacy.

I want to come back and talk more about this video and some of the points it touches on. 

missmaven: MM (Default)
 I’ve been seeing a lot of comments lately about the aberrant behavior of people. It’s from just a random gathering of conversations and situations, nothing specific. But I have noticed a similar refrain being repeated as a response - They must be mentally ill/unstable/having a breakdown. I hope they get the help they need. 
It’s meant as a compassionate thought. It’s also labeling the action as a one off or outlier of the person’s overall behavior. 
Maybe this person’s just a horrible human being? Maybe they never learned how to treat people with kindness and respect even when they aren’t getting their way or are angry. Maybe this is the type of person that does’t just go off on a store clerk but also goes home and berates their spouse everyday. 
And more than anything what I hear in these comments is silence that this behavior is unacceptable and that the people on the other end of that vitriol in no way deserved to be exposed to it. That THEY are the real victims here. 
At this point I often think back to one of the most personally hurtful and destructive points in my life - my divorce. It was nasty. 
He was nasty. But he had been for years. Behind closed doors he was severely controlling and verbally abusive. And perhaps because of that very abuse I was determined to never project my anger or hurt on someone who does not deserve it. 
And I never did. At no point did I loose my tempter and yell and scream at someone. No matter how much pain and hurt I was in I never chose to lash out at the people that where there for me - because above all I valued them, their love, trust and kindness, their support of me. 
I never lost sight of that.
When we were in meditation, at one point the mediator came back to my room and told me that my soon-to-be-ex was angry - very angry. He’d been yelling and his anger was “palatable” she said. She looked obviously shaken by his display. 
She looked at me after saying this as if it was supposed to motivate me to cave. 
I just looked at her and said, “That’s why I’m doing this, so that I don’t have to be in the same room with him when he’s that angry ever again.”
No amount of pain or anguish in my life makes it okay to abuse a bystander, a loved one or a friend. 
When you make the choice to do so you damage your character, and risk destroying the relationship you have with that person or business. 
We all make mistakes. We all act in a way that isn’t aligned with the person we’d like to be from time to time. It’s important that we apologize and make amends for those transgressions whenever possible. 
Otherwise, people are left to assume we’ve acted well within our comfort zone. 
There are people that believe it is okay to lash out in hurt or anger. That their pain validates their actions. And their wrong. 
They’re just wrong. 
Words and actions live on after the moment of anger has passed. And you can destroy a relationship that took years to build in a single moment by lashing out in anger. The victim of that vitriol is not to blame for rightfully setting a boundary preventing you from ever hurting them that way again. 
There are so many stories I can tell about this. Times I was told it was my fault for causing their anger. That if I only had said this, or done that they wouldn’t have lost control. 
Times I had learned enough to put my foot down and say this behavior is not acceptable and I won’t put up with it in my life - only to be guilted by a loved one that I should be more forgiving. That I was being stubborn and difficult for saying I would not allow someone to continue to abuse me.  
And I’ve hit a point in my life where I don’t care anymore. Judge me all you want. I will set my boundaries on what behavior is acceptable around me. And if you can not conduct yourself in that manner I will no longer allow you in my life. 
And it becomes so simple, once you are sure of that boundary. Once you can see it as unacceptable and draw that line in the sand. It’s simple. 
It can make some social engagements or scheduling tricky. But having those people out of my life makes my life so simple. 
There’s so much less hurt, pain and anguish. The fear of saying the wrong thing when you know saying anything is the wrong thing, and saying nothing is even worse. 
The endless circular conversations that solve nothing and only give them more ammunition to attack you with. 
After my divorce there were times my life felt down right empty - the lack of convolution and confabulation left my life empty. And that’s something people don’t talk about a lot - that when you remove these toxic people they leave a hole. That they have taken up so much of your time and engr. that there is an emptiness when they are gone. it’s a hard thing to work through. Some people go on to fill that emptiness relapsing and going back or finding another similarly toxic person.
At first I frantically filled it with hobbies and doubling down with work. But eventually, over time it leveled out and now I’m just me. 
I’m busy as hell. Between my work, kiddo, kiddo’s school and trying to fit in a social life I don’t have any time to spare. I often get frustrated that I can’t find any down time, or time to focus on myself. 
The point is once again my life is full. But it’s full of better things. So many better things. 
Inevitably one of those toxic people reappear, or a new one shows up in my life and I have to reaffirm that boundary. Sometimes it’s easy, sometimes it’s hard. It’s not a fix-it and forget it situation. It’s an ongoing lifestyle. 
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