A Deep Rooted Fear of Being Used

sleeveheart

New Here
Hi all, this is my first time posting. I feel so self conscious writing this. I am a stuck writer and I have been for the last 10 years. I feel whatever I write is stupid and incoherent. But here goes.

I met this guy online and he was very consistent in the beginning.

Let me write that again. Wow. I realized that I tend to"say the facts" because that's what the abusers told me to do. That's what school taught me to do.

Okay, so there's this guy I like. I think he's very attractive. We started talking on a dating app.

I like him because every time I ran away, he would get sad. He was also very consistent in his communication and never said a mean word to me, this whole time. He cared about my feelings when I expressed them. I never experienced someone like that. I didn't think anyone would ever be sad about my absence, considering this is a guy who I met about a month ago.

It was also easy becoming his girlfriend. When I got a little frustrated that we talk everyday but I'm not his girlfriend, he asked me at that moment if he wanted me to be his girlfriend. I didn't answer. But inside, I was so happy. (I have a problem with expressing emotion outwardly- I'm afraid I look stupid).

Wow, that word stupid is just the word that my critic loves to use. It definitely comes from all the people who abused me and exploited me.

On our first date, he told me a story about how he ended up in a car with a guy who was driving him somewhere to get r*ped and he narrowly managed to escape. I guess I felt safe when he told me that story. I felt that it's possible he might be understanding that I needed time.

When he asked me to be his girlfriend, he started talking to me about the sexual things he wanted to do to me (which mostly involved giving me oral pleasure). I kept saying, can we talk this slow, please? And since I survived sexual abuse, and I told him that I went through something very traumatizing (he tried to ask me details, and I told him I don't want to talk about it, he said ok). However, the next phone call he started himself with me on the phone. I froze and I didn't know how to ask him to stop. I felt like I was being mean. He was enjoying himself but I wasn't. I felt really ashamed and disgusted, to be honest. This whole phone sex, sending nudes, etc. is extremely baffling to me. Honestly, I have the understanding of sexuality like a middle schooler.

For our second date, he wanted to come over to my house and make me food (he's a chef) and cuddle. He promised that nothing sexual would happen. I told him it wasn't going to happen, because my home is a very sacred space (and my mother passed away early this year, and it's a space where I lived with her- I didn't mention her passing) and I had a guy I dated who promised the same thing but he ended up raping me (I told him numerous times I didn't want to have sex but he forced it in anyways- I didn't mention this to him either). I felt numb afterwards that time.

So, I finally told him, no I don't want to have phone sex. Can we start with holding hands, on a date? He didn't like it. He kept insisting on meeting me inside my home, since restaurants may not be the best place due to COVID, and it's getting really cold outside. I tried to be understanding, but an even bigger part of me wanted to keep my home sacred.

Yesterday, he asked me over text again if he could come over. I said I need a few dates outdoors before I let you into my home. He asked me if I was 100% sure. I said yes. Then, he insisted on being friends. I feel super sad about it, and replied by expressing how I really felt to him, which led me to a lot of reflection and good insights on my end. At the same time, I can't help but wish that he would be more understanding of me. I spoke with a hotline counselor after he said that and she mentioned how tiring it is to constantly have to advocate for yourself. It makes me angry sometimes that I've just had to defend myself my whole life. It's so hard for me to try to date and navigate intimate relationships.

The replies that I don't want is: he's a scumbag, or he just wanted sex, or he's a bad person, or get rid of him, or he's toxic, or why do you like him or why do you want to be with him considering he does (xyz). These answers without compassion will make me feel even worse. I already shit on myself for choosing the wrong people. I grew up in a dysfunctional family and experienced trauma and abuse at the hands of people I thought I could trust. And if I start to hear words like that, victim blaming and shaming, then it really hurts me, so please refrain from saying things like that.

Thank you for reading.
 

Chris-duck

MyPTSD Pro
I'm finding it hard to come up with a reply with those restrictions, and I imagine other people may feel similar. It's hard to know what to say if we can't acknowledge how unhelpful someone's actions have been for you. That doesn't mean you should or shouldn't be around him, or he's bad or anything, just right now might not be the best time for you guys to look at a relationship.

It sounds like you've maintained your own boundaries very well, which is something lots of us struggle with, so nice one. I hope things get easier for you.
 

Movingforward10

MyPTSD Pro
What replies do you want?

I think it is excellent that you said no to a second date in your home. And that you said you wanted to try and hold hands first. And that you said phone sex didn't do it for you. It's great you can express your needs and desires like that. It's great that you didn't allow any coercion to change your boundaries.

It is also, whilst you feel sad about it, great that you know now, at the start of this, that he wasn't able to meet your relational needs, before you got more involved.

What you can take from this is that: you know what you want and how you want a relationship to move forward.
 

Sideways

Moderator
It makes sense to me that a guy who had a profile on a dating site is looking for a relationship with sexual intimacy.

It makes perfect sense to me that someone you've met on the internet, you want to meet in a public place a few times before inviting him into your home, or considering sexual intimacy (that's plain common sense, right?).

So, neither of you have particularly unusual expectations. They are in conflict with each other, in terms of timeframes. And you're only a month in, so there's a good chance that this isn't "the one".

But, it doesn't read like there's anything disastrous happening in terms of your ability to navigate this relationship. You're interested in a relationship, but have common sense personal safety concerns, and have a slower pace than he has. That's just differences of expectations and wants, not a disaster.

So, cut yourself a break maybe. He's not being weird or creepy by being interested in sexual intimacy. You're doing the very common-sense thing of wanting to meet this internet stranger in public and getting to know him before you'll take it further.

If you're looking for a rock solid, intimate, long term relationship? This is a bit of a win, yeah? You met someone, you both had very healthy wants, but they were in conflict. No harm, no foul. Neither of you have done anything wrong, it just isn't working.

I definitely (definitely) wouldn't compromise on the "we have to meet in public a few times" requirement. With internet dating? To me, that's a safety MUST, that I absolutely wouldn't compromise on.
 

arfie

MyPTSD Pro
I grew up in a dysfunctional family and experienced trauma and abuse at the hands of people I thought I could trust.

i could have written those words myself. to my psycho senses are the heart and soul of all my relationship woes. i don't trust easy and even the slightest betrayal of my trust triggers my fight/flight instincts. my extreme difficulty in trusting causes me to have more unrealistic, trauma-reinforced expectations than we can cover in any couples workshop, though they carry on between relationships with mindless ease.

dunno if it applies to your case, or not, but whether i choose to dump the relationship or not, a dilemma like this one makes it time to pull out my trust psychotherapy tools. trust don't come easy to folks who were not able to trust our nurturers.
 

sleeveheart

New Here
I'm finding it hard to come up with a reply with those restrictions, and I imagine other people may feel similar. It's hard to know what to say if we can't acknowledge how unhelpful someone's actions have been for you. That doesn't mean you should or shouldn't be around him, or he's bad or anything, just right now might not be the best time for you guys to look at a relationship.

It sounds like you've maintained your own boundaries very well, which is something lots of us struggle with, so nice one. I hope things get easier for you.

I did some reflection on the restrictions, and I put those in place (for replies) because I know that as a trauma survivor it's so easy for me to think in black and white (dump him, keep talking to him, do this, do x to get him back, do y to get his ego in check), because that "simplicity" is what allowed me to survive.

I've come to realize that in intimate partnerships, that sort of black and white thinking is not helpful to the goals of achieving a healthy intimate partnership.

I noticed that if I navigate life by thinking in black and white, I'm going to struggle to create new connections in my mind that have the chance of becoming positive, even though the messages I'm getting may look ambiguous to me right now.

In the past, when a guy I was talking to did one thing "wrong" (as in, set off my alarm system that is VERY sensitive, especially around sexual stuff), I used to bolt. No advanced notice, just ghost, or be really flaky and/or intentionally crazymaking (but not in a harmful way, just enough to scare someone off) and go into flight mode. I still struggle with accepting myself as a sexual person due to trauma, so that's probably why.

I know I have a very small window of tolerance, and dating is so challenging for me. But I also do know that there has to be a way for me to overcome these things and get the healthy relationship that I want. And more than all the books or knowledge or psychology, it's me being courageous and facing it rather than avoiding it by practicing being in relation with others.

Thank you for your acknowledgment about my boundaries. Noticing that allowed me to be a little bit proud of myself rather than feeling like a complete failure.
 

sleeveheart

New Here
What replies do you want?

I think it is excellent that you said no to a second date in your home. And that you said you wanted to try and hold hands first. And that you said phone sex didn't do it for you. It's great you can express your needs and desires like that. It's great that you didn't allow any coercion to change your boundaries.

It is also, whilst you feel sad about it, great that you know now, at the start of this, that he wasn't able to meet your relational needs, before you got more involved.

What you can take from this is that: you know what you want and how you want a relationship to move forward.

I've mentioned this in another reply, but, telling me what the other person is like or his intentions (he's a scumbag, he just wanted me for sex, etc.) is very black and white thinking. While it may be true that he wanted to have sex with me, on the other side, it's very normal (as someone else stated) to want to have sex with someone you find attractive. While he may have just wanted me for sex, it's possible that we could have had a good connection as well.

Also, telling me about the other person isn't helping me, at the end of the day. I really wanted people to read my dilemma and let me know their own perspective, and allow me to make the final decision.

I've lived my whole life as a person who allowed her decisions to be co-opted by others by asking others what should I do? I don't know where I saw/heard this from, but a researcher named Brene Brown once said that if you have to ask everyone else what you should do, then you're not listening to your own self. I understand how that statement sounds very individualistic, but I resonate with the part where it's important to tap into your own voice (especially as an adult).

Anyways, this was mostly an act of sharing. I've come to realize that I will always come up with a solution, but it's always necessary for me to be surrounded by others. It makes me feel good, to do this with others than alone. That's the support that I want, and that's what I'm here for :)

I appreciate that you noticed it's possible I know what I want now. I do and I made it clear to myself again this time. I'm also sad (like you mentioned) that it might not end up working out. I can hope and communicate for a relationship but the other person has to want the same. Do we need time? Perhaps. I am comfortable saying that I don't know.

Honestly, I'm more proud of the fact that I spoke up for my own needs, and I didn't have a repeat situation like I did with the guy I dated earlier this year who sexually assaulted me.

Thank you for replying.
 

sleeveheart

New Here
It makes sense to me that a guy who had a profile on a dating site is looking for a relationship with sexual intimacy.

It makes perfect sense to me that someone you've met on the internet, you want to meet in a public place a few times before inviting him into your home, or considering sexual intimacy (that's plain common sense, right?).

So, neither of you have particularly unusual expectations. They are in conflict with each other, in terms of timeframes. And you're only a month in, so there's a good chance that this isn't "the one".

But, it doesn't read like there's anything disastrous happening in terms of your ability to navigate this relationship. You're interested in a relationship, but have common sense personal safety concerns, and have a slower pace than he has. That's just differences of expectations and wants, not a disaster.

So, cut yourself a break maybe. He's not being weird or creepy by being interested in sexual intimacy. You're doing the very common-sense thing of wanting to meet this internet stranger in public and getting to know him before you'll take it further.

If you're looking for a rock solid, intimate, long term relationship? This is a bit of a win, yeah? You met someone, you both had very healthy wants, but they were in conflict. No harm, no foul. Neither of you have done anything wrong, it just isn't working.

I definitely (definitely) wouldn't compromise on the "we have to meet in public a few times" requirement. With internet dating? To me, that's a safety MUST, that I absolutely wouldn't compromise on.

Hmm..interesting how you mentioned the words "the one". Honestly, I don't have this idea of "the one". The only idea I'm committed to, while dating, is the idea that I'm going to grow and learn about what it means to be in a healthy intimate partnership that feels good to me. This is probably the 5th or 6th time trying to date, after "giving up" and I think I started with the idea that there is a "one" or a soulmate. But that idea does set me up to get manipulated easily, I've found.

Do I believe that things will work out in perfection once I meet the right person? I don't think so anymore. I'm just willing to learn and grow the best I can, and hope that the person I'm talking to is willing to choose to do that with me, everyday. Because I was controlled by others my whole life, relationships are teaching me that there is no place for controlling the other person. And there's no need to fear conflict, either. Differences happen, and as a trauma survivor, not everything needs to be attended to at once. There can be space for serendipity. There's space for black and white and grey and colors.

And thank you for reiterating the safety portion. As a survivor, that's what I really needed to be validated for me. I also am able to tap into my sense of self a little more and recognize that, at this point in the relationship, having physical intimacy would be too much for me. Coupled with the fact that, as this person may not be on the same page as me, there is a possibility of them ghosting me, and I wouldn't be in a good space to handle that. If I was in the body space where the intimacy and the ghosting were to happen and I'd be okay, I wouldn't mind hooking up with this person. But that's the case right now.

I really appreciate that you didn't chalk up this relationship as an it's over, or it's not over or, etc. While that may be true, there's no real way of knowing what he's thinking unless he told me. He did say we were friends. (Which, I'm sure a lot of people have opinions about). I am sad about it, but whatever happens next is also within my decision. I hope that I can get to the point where I can put the focus back on myself and my needs, which I'm trying to do.

Thank you.
 

sleeveheart

New Here
i could have written those words myself. to my psycho senses are the heart and soul of all my relationship woes. i don't trust easy and even the slightest betrayal of my trust triggers my fight/flight instincts. my extreme difficulty in trusting causes me to have more unrealistic, trauma-reinforced expectations than we can cover in any couples workshop, though they carry on between relationships with mindless ease.

dunno if it applies to your case, or not, but whether i choose to dump the relationship or not, a dilemma like this one makes it time to pull out my trust psychotherapy tools. trust don't come easy to folks who were not able to trust our nurturers.
Very, very true. Trust is so fragile. But it is buildable, over time, just difficult.

Thank you for your input.
 

Friday

Moderator
The replies that I don't want is: he's a scumbag, or he just wanted sex, or he's a bad person, or get rid of him, or he's toxic, or why do you like him or why do you want to be with him considering he does (xyz).
When you get right down to it? Nothing about HIM really matters in this situation. He could be an amazing guy who is being really up front and honest about what he needs and wants, or he could be the king of assholery. FWIW I could barely even begin to form an opinion about him from what you’ve written, much less declare he is clearly ABC or XYZ; but again, this isn’t about him. This is about you. So what are you struggling with? (In this, or any other new/potential relationship).

A Deep Rooted Fear of Being Used
I'm afraid I look stupid
I didn't know how to ask him to stop. I felt like I was being mean. He was enjoying himself but I wasn't. I felt really ashamed and disgusted, to be honest.
I said yes. Then, he insisted on being friends. I feel super sad about it, and replied by expressing how I really felt to him,
I already shit on myself for choosing the wrong people.
Fear let’s us know something is a possibility.
Then we use our judgment to assess & act accordingly.

Hearts & Minds.

Emotions don’t logic so hot, that’s why we have minds to do so.

***

One of the things I flat out hate the most about PTSD? Not being able to trust my own judgment.

One of the things I like best about PTSD is that it’s not static. Not being able to trust my own judgment isn’t something that I’m just going to have to live with for the rest of my life, full on. Instead? Like every other symptom, or expression (of one or more symptoms alone or in conjunction), or lesson learned in trauma… the ability to trust myself and my judgment is something that can be worked on.

How does one work on trusting their own judgment?

By exercising it. A LOT. For a whole lotta reasons.

- Not the least of which being that sometimes we’re going to be wrong, and how we handle being wrong? Has as much, if not more in my experience, to do with establishing trust in myself as being right. Sometimes the consequences of making the wrong decision will be ginormous, sometimes they’ll be trifling. Knowing I can handle either? Is part of what allows me to make those decisions in the first place.

- Reality checking (like you’ve done here, and with the crisis line, and may well do with others IRL)… where the more often you find your own thoughts and feelings lining up with how things “are”, the more you can trust your own perceptions and assessments… meanwhile the more challenged you are the better one can define/redefine their thoughts/feelings/actions to better reflect where they themselves wish to be at. Whether it agrees with others, or not.

^^^ Just on that note? I agree with @Sideways. It all sounds quite reasonable. Both your actions and his.

INCLUDING your fear. In the whole rational fear vs irrational fear territory… when you don’t trust your own judgment, don’t know how to say stop/no, feel like you’re being mean (or have to be mean), are exhausted from advocating for yourself? Those are all very valid things to be aware of & account for & begin -or continue- to work on. In addition to PTSD irrational fears, cognitive distortions / core beliefs, etc. You don’t have a history of being totally secure in your own decisions & ability to handle mistakes… so it would be a bit looney to demand that faith in yourself without the experience backing it up. Trust is built. Not just granted. Which doesn’t mean that what you’re afraid of will always -or even ever- come true. I can be afraid of falling when I walk, so I walk more carefully and don’t fall. Or I learn how to fall better, so I’m not as afraid of falling. Or do both, practice walking AND falling. (Or I could just decide that since fear of falling is rational, never walk again. But that doesn’t make a whole lotta sense. Again, because it’s not the job of emotions to make sense. That’s zeh brainz job! Hearts feel. Minds think. Emotional reasoning says “I’m afraid of falling when I walk, so I won’t walk!” Sense, however, facepalms at that notion, and for good reason.)

This has already gotten long, so I’ll sign off for now & hit back later.
 
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sleeveheart

New Here
When you get right down to it? Nothing about HIM really matters in this situation. He could be an amazing guy who is being really up front and honest about what he needs and wants, or he could be the king of assholery. FWIW I could barely even begin to form an opinion about him from what you’ve written, much less declare he is clearly ABC or XYZ; but again, this isn’t about him. This is about you. So what are you struggling with? (In this, or any other new/potential relationship).






Fear let’s us know something is a possibility.
Then we use our judgment to assess & act accordingly.

Hearts & Minds.

Emotions don’t logic so hot, that’s why we have minds to do so.

***

One of the things I flat out hate the most about PTSD? Not being able to trust my own judgment.

One of the things I like best about PTSD is that it’s not static. Not being able to trust my own judgment isn’t something that I’m just going to have to live with for the rest of my life, full on. Instead? Like every other symptom, or expression (of one or more symptoms alone or in conjunction), or lesson learned in trauma… the ability to trust myself and my judgment is something that can be worked on.

How does one work on trusting their own judgment?

By exercising it. A LOT. For a whole lotta reasons.

- Not the least of which being that sometimes we’re going to be wrong, and how we handle being wrong? Has as much, if not more in my experience, to do with establishing trust in myself as being right. Sometimes the consequences of making the wrong decision will be ginormous, sometimes they’ll be trifling. Knowing I can handle either? Is part of what allows me to make those decisions in the first place.

- Reality checking (like you’ve done here, and with the crisis line, and may well do with others IRL)… where the more often you find your own thoughts and feelings lining up with how things “are”, the more you can trust your own perceptions and assessments… meanwhile the more challenged you are the better one can define/redefine their thoughts/feelings/actions to better reflect where they themselves wish to be at. Whether it agrees with others, or not.

^^^ Just on that note? I agree with @Sideways. It all sounds quite reasonable. Both your actions and his.

INCLUDING your fear. In the whole rational fear vs irrational fear territory… when you don’t trust your own judgment, don’t know how to say stop/no, feel like you’re being mean (or have to be mean), are exhausted from advocating for yourself? Those are all very valid things to be aware of & account for & begin -or continue- to work on. In addition to PTSD irrational fears, cognitive distortions / core beliefs, etc. You don’t have a history of being totally secure in your own decisions & ability to handle mistakes… so it would be a bit looney to demand that faith in yourself without the experience backing it up. Trust is built. Not just granted. Which doesn’t mean that what you’re afraid of will always -or even ever- come true. I can be afraid of falling when I walk, so I walk more carefully and don’t fall. Or I learn how to fall better, so I’m not as afraid of falling. Or do both, practice walking AND falling. (Or I could just decide that since fear of falling is rational, never walk again. But that doesn’t make a whole lotta sense. Again, because it’s not the job of emotions to make sense. That’s zeh brainz job! Hearts feel. Minds think. Emotional reasoning says “I’m afraid of falling when I walk, so I won’t walk!” Sense, however, facepalms at that notion, and for good reason.)

This has already gotten long, so I’ll sign off for now & hit back later.

"So it would be a bit looney to demand that faith in yourself with the experience of backing it up."

You're absolutely right.

It's true. The fear of falling, it doesn't feel good. I think I fight myself every step of the way when I take little risks. I mean, it is the cPTSD trying to protect me from getting hurt. I just have to keep going. Fall, get up. Fall better, get up better, every time.

Thank you for writing all of this. I refrained from replying right away because I wanted to process the things you took the time to write.
 

PreciousChild

MyPTSD Pro
As a single mom, I used dating apps because there really was no other way for me to meet people. All told, I was on and off it for about 15 years. I had one relationship lasting 6 months, another 1 year, and now my boyfriend (I think he's the real deal) for 3 years. Often, it was horrifying and crushing to be dating with cptsd. I was deeply in need of healing and love, but there were so many experiences of being re-wounded, betrayed and disappointed. I actually think my distrust for people deepened over the years because of online dating which is why I went for long, long periods not dating.

The ones who hurt me the most were the "players". They learn techniques to figure out what "women want", draw us in, but only for the purposes of using us. Seriously, I think there are even online cultures where "players" share tips. The last one I encountered was so practiced that he really had me going. Took me out to nice places, texted me every morning to greet me, "mirrored" my likes and preferences, etc., etc. In the past, behaviors like that made me feel loved, attended to, and fed my emotional needs. But my experience and intuition told me that he was doing all that to use me for sex, narcissistic attention, and would eventually discard me, so I cut things off with him after a few weeks. I think that even if I was a good catch, they would still do the same things.

Interestingly, I truly believe that the "players" I encountered, at least some of them, really was interested in me and did feel some level of infatuation and love. I had one man actually shed a tear because of how much he loved me he said (he was drunk), but was super pissed that I remembered he did that and told me I'd better never mention it again. But maybe due to their own wounds, they cannot truly open up their heart to experience full-on love. They have to remain on the superficial level, manipulate and control emotions, so they don't ever have to feel the hurt that they themselves inflict on others.

I think some of the feelings you have for this man is real, and perhaps vice versa. But personally, I would run away from this guy as fast as my legs could carry me based on his behaviors.
 
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