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Compassion and accountability?

  • Thread starter acceptablebadger
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Hey all! How do you all balance compassion with accountability or enabling with your partners?

I broke up with my partner and I’m still pretty heartbroken about it. This was my first time dating someone with complex trauma, and while I found him brilliant and thoughtful and charming, I’ll admit I found him often very needy and very sensitive (note: I lean avoidantly attached, so def trying to work on my side of this.) The relationship was going really fast, and I was often asking for a slower pace. Negotiating time for myself and my friends felt hard. Whenever anything was an issue it felt like it was urgent and we had to spend hours and days discussing things that never quite resolved. He read rejection into a lot of things I did. He said speaking his needs directly was super vulnerable and a good partner is attuned to the other’s needs and takes on the responsibility of sorting them out and soothing them. He came from a “guess”/indirect framework and I came from a “guess”/indirect framework and have therapeutically grown into really valuing an “ask”/direct framework, so he would assume what I needed and I would try to give him options or choice. He would passive aggressively guilt me or attack my priorities if he felt like I wasn’t meeting his expectations. When I voiced my needs, there were times he said I was taking his agency away from him. There were other times when I would receive 3-4 contradictory messages about how I was supposed to communicate or make plans with him and he wanted empathy from me when he expressed his changed opinion vs anger or frustration.

He spoke a lot about compassion and being able to see under the request - to see distress and get to the root of it and soothe the other person. The problem is, I felt like I was not being extended this in return. I’m a human, I make mistakes, I have my own triggers and little t traumas from a pretty sheltered upbringing. And instead of compassion I was often told I was being selfish, unkind, judgmental, that my needs weren’t important or weren’t compatible with a healthy relationship, and that I was stingy with my time.

I guess there’s a part of me that wishes I could be this gentle giant that could stay super centered during these moments and react to the passive aggressiveness, the contradictions, the feelings of rejection with a gentle and firm push back when things hurt or are confusing, and reassurance when he’s feeling rejected or insecure. And that if I could be this compassionate, the cycle of our conflict would lessen because he would feel safe and secure.

But I also know by the end I was exhausted and confounded by a lot of it. It felt tangled up and really hard to know how to care for him and also care for myself.

Curious what people’s thoughts are on these types of thought:

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The IG links were removed due to the forum rules, so the content is:

Post #1:
- Less "you need to have more self worth" and more "I see how hard you just wanted to be loved."

- Less "you're too sensitive" and more "there is someone out there who will handle these parts of you with tender love and care."

- Less "you're too needy" and more "you wouldn't feel needy if your needs wre being met."

Post #2:
- Society's obsession with constant self improvement has fooled us into thinking that healing means never getting triggered again, or no longer being impacted by our painful pasts. But respectfully, as a trained trauma therapist, that is not healing. That is perfectionism disguised as healing.

Healing from trauma is not found in the absence of something. It is not about being "cured" or "fixed." Healing from trauma is the presence of something. That something being endless self compassion for when we are struggling, and safe and healthy connection with partners who are willing to sit with us through the pain.

Yet, I often hear from students, clients, etc. that this is not possible because partners or loved ones will say "I am not your therapist" or "it's not my job to heal you." And while those comments certainly don't help, they are a broader reflection of the ever-present pressure society puts on all of us to be symptomless; cured; perfect.

This is also the same pressure that expects partners, especially men, to act as "fixers" with solutions, rather than offering space and understanding.

But healing isn't "I don't struggled with trauma anymore." In reality, healing is "I am struggling with my trauma, can you please hold me through it?"

Post #3:
- I have A LOT of feelings about the concepts of neediness and clinginess. The TLDR is that they are myths created to support systems of oppression, which do not want us to have our needs met, and that romanticize independence, villainize codependence, and totally ignore interdependence. There are reasons for this!!

I’ve spent my whole life feeling like I’m too needy or clingy and what I’ve realized is that anyone who ever said those things to me was a human who was unable to give me what I asked for: attention, time, validation, security, comfort. My needs were translated into neediness. In other words, I was made to feel like I was the problem here.