Tag Archives: socializing

Thoughts from a Dark Valley: Lenience as Trauma Response.

In these quiet, internet-free days, I continue to discover things about my past and myself that I have been avoiding.

I have determined that my desire to be free of jealousy or possessiveness, both on the giving and receiving ends, is as much a trauma response as hyper-independence is.

I have always wondered what makes some people deeply jealous and possessive. Some men will say they are protecting their partner from all the bad men out there. It seems they are protecting what they see as a possession that can be taken because they fear they aren’t good/strong enough to keep it. I don’t know how most women come by their jealousy, but I suspect it isn’t terribly different reasoning regarding the rationale vs. the truth.

To be fair, in the early years, I had my own jealous fits. In time, however, I became secure in the love of my spouse. I got angry at hypocrisy; when expectations, like no lunches in groups including the opposite sex or no drinks after work, only applied to one of us, but I never feared he would cheat on me.

Obviously, there are experiences that engender this insecurity other than just personal feelings of inferiority. Surely, insecurity is often a trauma response. I’ve examined again and again where my own insecurities come from and I don’t wish to delve into those events from youth and first marriage in this entry. Suffice it to say, I do understand insecurities and still have my own.

Nonetheless, when I look back over the decades and see just how much damage all this “protection” has done to my self esteem, my ability to function in social settings, and my trust in men, I wish I had been more aware of the real dangers of jealousy. More accurately, I wish I’d listened when the experts said, “jealousy is a toxic trait.”

That toxicity isn’t as simple as causing strife in a relationship or even the painful destruction of a relationship. It can be, when it does the kind of emotional damage it did to me over decades, real trauma in the form of complex-PTSD. *

I understand that trauma and c-PTSD more each day relative to hyper-independence and lenience. My desire to be free of any incumbrance of jealousy or possessiveness in a future relationship, to go so far as to tell a love interest , “hey, do whatever you want, just use protection,” and mean it, is also a trauma response. It is not out of some sort of virtue or feigned equanimity that I would tell a man, “I won’t get jealous or possessive. I won’t demand utter fidelity in a relationship.”** It is because deeply ingrained insecurity was used on me in so many painful and unnecessary ways (deliberately or otherwise) to drive me into a cave of isolation through self-hatred and fear.

I will NEVER allow anyone to do that to me again nor will I be the partner doing that to anyone else.

It’s a sort of partners’ version of the abused child who, upon growing up and having their own children, becomes excessively lenient with their own children.

Likely as not, it spells disaster for me and future relationships. It already interfered with one. Many American men expect to be able to do whatever they please, (“men are programmed to have as many partners as possible” goes the story) but their women damn well better be pure as the driven snow. If I tell a potential partner that he can do as he pleases, he will likely hear, as one man said to me, that I want to “sleep with five hundred men.”

I have no such desire. I would like the sometime partnership of one loving and decent man who doesn’t seek to own me.

Otherwise, I will never allow a man to dictate my behavior again, either through insecurity or insults like the above, ridiculous “500 men” comment.

This is me, for now. Perhaps in time, I will balance the trauma response with something more socially acceptable, but for now, the barest hint of jealousy, and it’s concomitant behaviors, dominance and withdrawal of respect, will send me running.

*This is not a self-diagnosis. Qualified mental health care personnel have made this determination and always should be consulted.

**To be clear, I respect and admire fidelity and I would expect it in myself if in a long-term relationship. I simply refuse to demand it or have it demanded of me.

Happy Holidays: The purge, the recovery, and starting over.

Now and then, especially given the small space of my new home, I clean and purge. This holiday, with just the dog, seemed a good time to purge.

Wednesday, I cleaned my guest room. It has become a storage space of sorts. Bike, sewing/embroidery bits, stationery, cleaning supplies, and tools. All the things I don’t use daily, but need regularly, reside there. I have a china cabinet/hutch in that room that belonged to my paternal grandmother. I sorted through it and found some items from my second marriage.

I have clung to these things, believing that I wanted the good memories with which they were imbued. I found photographs, cutesy keepsakes, jewelry, and pens. All were weighed down with emotions.

Instead of feeling the warmth of good memories, I dropped into rage, ambivalence, or indifference.

Part of the process of recovering from divorce is learning to be alone through all events, good or bad, right? Still, therein lies part of my anger. I was never meant to be alone at this stage of my life. This should not be. Yet here I am.

Thirteen months ago I was more alone than I’ve ever been in my life despite being married. Thirteen months ago I was convinced I was unneeded, unloved, and a burden. Thirteen months ago, I tried to end my life in a very feeble way—by swimming out to into the Gulf of Mexico on a red flag day. At the time, I didn’t even view it as an “active suicide attempt.” I just thought, “If I drown, I drown. No one will be the wiser.” After a treading water in crashing waves, then a quiet panic, and finally finding my feet on the third sandbar again, I made my way back to shore in tears.

Now, I’m divorced, not dating, COVID-19 forces me to avoid being too social, and my child and grandchildren are 240 miles away. Yet, I do have more friends in my life than ever and more care and concern for and from them than I am accustomed to. My siblings and I are closer than we have been in years. Life, while constrained by a virus, has opened up by working on the beach, rescuing birds, and reawakening my interest in human interaction. Some days, many days, in fact, remain difficult. Some days I just wait to get to nighttime so I can shut my eyes and shut out the world.

But I never want to swim beyond that third sandbar again or take any other drastic measures as I wanted to many times in previous years. I am grateful I failed in my attempt.

I will spend the coming holidays with Sammy making new traditions just for us. Many thousands who have lost loved ones this year will not have that luxury. I hurt for them, knowing as I do that my loss pales in comparison to theirs.

I now have new and better memories I am building in this life. I expect to spend future holidays with my daughter and grandchildren and create still more memories. I will create things for this space and those to come that I won’t need to purge.