When it comes to my brother and my Ex and his family, I’m stumped. I’m an even keeled person for the most part. When I say I love you, I mean I love you all the time. It’s not conditional love. It’s not if you send me a gift or kiss my ass, then I love you. I love you, really no matter what. But I’m surrounded by people who offer and take away conditional love and the sad fact is that I thought it was my fault. I thought it was me.
Let me explain. The hot/cold treatment from them was baffling to me. I thought it was me that wasn’t enough so when the cold treatment came, I tried harder. They seemingly raised their expectations and I jumped higher according to their whims. Then, when they dropped me cold, I was understandably upset, wondering what I did and how I could get back into their good graces. It has been a lifetime of cyclical, dare I say it? Narcissistic abuse. When I did stand up at times and ask, actually speaking out to bring up the subject of why there was either silence or overly ‘loving’ treatment, I was met with baffled stares and silence, followed by them telling me it was all in my head. There was something wrong with me.
I am embarrassed to say, I believed them for it was all around me that this was happening. I always thought I was different. I wear my heart on my sleeve. I try to be a good person. I treat others like I want to be treated. These were my family members (blood and by marriage) who I thought loved me. So I thought it was me. There was something wrong with me. I was too sensitive and wanted a life on even keel, steady with love and kindness. Perhaps I was wrong? Perhaps that’s not the way life is supposed to be? I looked around and my friends weren’t that way with me, but I thought it was because they weren’t family. When I began to open up to friends about the situation and after some of them had observed the treatment of me by family, they confirmed what I knew in my heart, but didn’t want to see. There’s a lot of dysfunction in my life.
Ok, I knew that long ago. But after reading about narcissism I realized that many of the traits of narcissists could easily be associated to some of my family members, my Ex and his family as well. That took awhile for me to digest mentally, emotionally and spiritually. I didn’t want to accept it. I loved them for who they were, quirks and all. I understood that they didn’t meant to treat me badly, it was just that they needed to be coddled, to feel superior, to be the center of attention and to be overly praised. I was ok with freely giving them what they needed in order to keep the peace. It became so much easier for me to just allow them to be themselves and then they wouldn’t be cold to me as often. I thought that was being a good person – I was loving people for who they are.
But the price I paid for all of that was losing me. I was trying to keep up with their needs and not taking care of myself. I was being hurt by their mood swings from cool and aloof to syrupy sweet and lovey dovey. It was mental anguish not ever knowing how they would be with me and they could change at a moment’s notice. It certainly kept me on my toes, anxious when we were together or when we talked on the phone. I walked on eggshells with them as I did when I was married.
And finally, enough was enough. What I realized is that I’m healthier than I was and therefore I can finally see the light and I don’t want to live like this anymore. I want distance between us. I don’t want to be their pawn in the name of loving me. I am not sure that they even know what they do or what it is because part of it is innate. They need to say or be a certain way, otherwise they are not feeling good about themselves so it’s never going to change. The only way it’s going to change is if I change. Which is going to upset the traditional apple cart of family relations.
But I can’t go back to that anguish. As much as I may miss my family (biological and by ex-marriage unit), I know it’s not healthy love that is being given. I also know that it’s how they know how to love so they do love me in their own way, but I can’t do this anymore. I want to stay friendly and love them from afar. Be kind, be me, but keep a healthy distance so that I keep my heart intact. I need to get out of that comfort zone and into a healthy loving authentic me again.
I began extricating myself from this pattern which made them angry, but I did it step by step, slowly so as they didn’t see it until it was over. But they’re smart cookies and they probably noticed because that’s who they are. They are getting their unconditional love from me, but not in the pattern of the past. I can love them from afar, but no longer is this healthy me living like this anymore.
Thanks for reading and listening to me. I don’t know if any of this resonates with you and your relationships, but I’d sure like to hear if you’d like to share.