Fear of Entrapment

Athill

Policy Enforcement
Hi all,


As a bit of back story, my father died of a heart attack when he was in his mid-50s. He and my mother, who was extremely mentally ill, had been married for 30 years or so, and I watched him get slowly crushed by her. The legacy of that is deep in me (and I suffer from complex PTSD related to her abuse myself).

Not surprisingly, I've been crap at relationships for my entire life, seeking out relationships that have an end date, or that I know I'll end. The relationship I'm currently in fits that category, but thanks to COVID, I'm not longer leaving. She recently asked to take the relationship from casual to something more serious, and asked if I'm in or out. I can't see myself with this partner forever, but I also can't see myself with ANY partner forever. A close friend, my best friend who has known me for decades, cautioned me against pulling the ripcord and ending this relationship, when I'm still enjoying it and it feels healthy, just because all my trigger points are getting hit.

I feel the terror in my body about being entrapped, like my father was (though realistically he could have left). It's like I am completely robbed of agency. Things are going well with this woman now. If things stop being good, we can part ways. But my body - oh boy. It's on fire.

I'm curious how others, particularly those with Complex PTSD, deal with the fear of entrapment, and welcome any and all comments.
 

Athill

Policy Enforcement
It's a good question, and one I need to figure out on top of the other stuff. Sometimes yes, I think, sometimes no. But it's hard to kind of separate my fears from reality.
 

Mee

MyPTSD Pro
This was massive for me earlier in life. i believe I am polyamorous because of seeing relationship abuse and neither party leaving. I could see being with lots of people or alone - not putting my eggs in one basket. And yet - for the most part I have. And my marriage is the one thing in life I’ll blow my own trumpet about - my Dh and I do marriage well.

You know - you are kind of over the worst but I think? You know what your ‘issues ‘ are and how they express in relationships.

How I deal with this is I communicate- a lot . I tell dh I’m sad/ anxious/ happy etc. i don’t expect him to mind read - I ask for the same. We communicate clearly and kindly about problems or obstacles as soon as possible, in private, and with affection ( it’s not him or me that’s the problem- it’s the action or the impact ) . Before committing we talked about the big issues - money. Kids, religion, politics - and found out where we agreed and where we did not- It’s not about agreeing everywhere -in my opinion that would be liathesome- but about respecting, discussing compromise and deal breakers . Knowing yourself - because not all wants are needs. And - we change. Giving each other grace to grow, change …that’s sometimes a tough one, but good.

Ultimately I think when I run or avoid a person ( as opposed to cutting contact for safety or serious dispute) it’s not them - it’s something in me - and I cannot outrun me. I’ve not outrun DH either for almost twenty years - I’ve tried a couple of times , once early in the relationship and then after developing ptsd - I didn’t think it fair he should live with me and have to cope with me .
 

ruborcoraxxx

Sponsor
I don’t engage forever with someone. I think relationships, any relationships, last the time they have to. They can be very deep and intense and long or shallow and long or shallow and short. The person I stayed the most time in my life? Was almost my husband. I would say it was equivalent. But there was uncertainty from the beginning to the end. Because both of us knew at some point we would need something different. Years afterwards, we still are very close friends.

When I want to be serious with someone… I say. I want to share my life with you. It’s an invitation for deeper intimacy but I don’t live it as an entrapment. It’s the vow of a deep commitment and good will, but it doesn’t ask for results. I do not believe in marriage, and I do not believe love lasts forever neither; however, it doesn’t mean that the experience is vain and shouldn’t exist. Sharing my life with someone I cherish, for the time it lasts. Perhaps a year. Perhaps a lifetime. But I stay (and I hope the other person also to stay) attentive to my needs and desires and ways of growing. And if paths break apart, then they break apart, but that can be done with respect and love, too.

I’m not North American or Christian, so the symbolism of marriage is quite hazy for me. I did propose to someone back in time. It was my vow of loyalty, desire and love. To share for real and be real about the relationship. But even under marriage, I do believe it’s more an arrangement than a sacred thing, and I do not believe in eternal love. At least not for everyone. Sometimes you can see people who love each other for a very long time and have that connection. But it’s okay to experience things differently and eventually, to fail.

Have trust in yourself and ask yourself if you want to get closer, and what it means to get closer for you. Also it would be good to communicate to your partner and ask what they exactly mean, with an open heart.

Give yourself and your partner the time to have a gentle, open discussion about this. Results might be very unexpected but liberating. Who knows?
 

Athill

Policy Enforcement
When I want to be serious with someone… I say. I want to share my life with you. It’s an invitation for deeper intimacy but I don’t live it as an entrapment. It’s the vow of a deep commitment and good will, but it doesn’t ask for results. I do not believe in marriage, and I do not believe love lasts forever neither; however, it doesn’t mean that the experience is vain and shouldn’t exist. Sharing my life with someone I cherish, for the time it lasts. Perhaps a year. Perhaps a lifetime. But I stay (and I hope the other person also to stay) attentive to my needs and desires and ways of growing. And if paths break apart, then they break apart, but that can be done with respect and love, too.

This is beautiful, and resonates with me. Thank you for sharing your perspective, my friend.
 
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Friday

Moderator
Difference source, although still complex trauma, but cha. Issues in spades with being trapped.

Dealt with in my early years by simply walking away from my life on a regular/irregular basis. Friends, lovers, jobs, homes… just stand up one day in a cafe, not even having eaten, or finished eating, or ordered… cross the street, get on a train and start over in a new city/country. Until the next urge to leave struck.

Of course, leaving one life and starting another, was when I was doing rather a lot better than I had been. Years prior, I’d been incapable -or unwilling- to even set up a “home” to walk away from. What the actual progression looked like was this:

- Merry-Go-Round of Work a few weeks/months, Party a few weeks/months, sleep on the beach for a few weeks/months (sometimes entirely off grid, days walk from civ, other times just one more sun worshipper no way to tell I was actually living on the beach as I was still very much engaged with society except for refusing to have an address.)
- Trying to be more stable/less nomadic… I’d check into hotels or stay with friends in between jobs.
- Even more stable I’d lease my own place, & pay in advance (so my leaving whenever wouldn’t be problematic, or even noticed for some time) as well as attempt the whole “normal” thing

^^^ Which is where we’re entering this story. When I’d be TRYING to ‘make a life’ and just bolt from it, whenever the impulse struck.

I was very… feral… during those years. My instincts kept me alive and I followed them without question. If I wanted to do it? I did it. Fight, f*ck, f*ck off? Done. Eat, sleep, not eat, not sleep? Ditto. To be fair I had some absolutely brilliant times during those years, that I’d never have gotten to experience otherwise. But living in the moment? Isn’t exactly sustainable. Absolutely fantastic for staying alive, but not for living, or living well.

It took me a loooooooong time to learn that there’s a difference between listening to my instincts, and being a slave to them.

And I made some monumental catastrophic seeeeerious no way to overestimate the disaster level f*ck ups during the time I was learning to tell the difference. Staying when I should have left, leaving when I should have stayed, trusting myself over others, trusting others over myself. Blargh. Learning. Useful/necessary… but still so. damn. MESSY. sometimes, ya know? And, unfortunately, not usually me that paid the price… but the people I love, &/or have a duty to protect. Which makes that learning process really f*cking painfully hard.

The key points to even kicking off that learning process?

1 - Realizing that most of the time my “I’m DONE” moments? Were moments. Most of the time? I’d unf*cked myself in about 6 weeks or less, sometimes as long as 6mo (longer than 6 months I just get too damn bored), but far more often in 6 weeks or less.

2 - The realization that 6 weeks? Is. A. Vacation. Not forever. So rather than simply walking away from my life I could arrange things in such a way as to leave…. AND …come back, again.

3. Putting taking a “vacation” (instead of f*cking off) into practice taught me I don’t even need 6 weeks, when I’m taking breaks on a regular basis. A week here, a week there, a few days here, or there, & voila. Minding my stress before it got EXPLOSIVE? Stopped the explosions. (Go figure, right?)

Don’t get me wrong… I still walk away from all kinds of things (including jobs I love, people I could love, etc.) just to prove to myself I can. The darker my headspace? The more of a likelihood of that happening. But even that? Can be managed. By building my life in such a way as to support that. So my natural tendencies are bonuses/ strengths, rather than weaknesses and problems. It’s not 100%. I still f*ck up. But predicitble is preventable. I know I do XYZ… So how do I work around that? Put it to use? Minimize the weaknesses & accentuate the strengths?
 

Athill

Policy Enforcement
Sounds like we run a similar operating system. I've done my share of running. These days my thing is isolating myself, which is definitely a kind of running.

I liked something you said in particular:

I was very… feral… during those years. My instincts kept me alive and I followed them without question. If I wanted to do it? I did it. Fight, f*ck, f*ck off? Done. Eat, sleep, not eat, not sleep? Ditto. To be fair I had some absolutely brilliant times during those years, that I’d never have gotten to experience otherwise. But living in the moment? Isn’t exactly sustainable. Absolutely fantastic for staying alive, but not for living, or living well.

The push-pull of impulse, which can be justified as, say, living in the moment, and the idea of what is good for you, and how hard it is to know the difference. I'm a mega over thinker, so I usually end up isolating myself and having entire days spent in a fugue of rumination. Also like the word 'feral' to describe that experience. My 20s were pretty feral. My 30s so far have been a blur.

Grateful for the thoughtful response.
 
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arfie

MyPTSD Pro
my fear of entrapment remains at phobic levels, despite all the psychotherapy and the 41st wedding anniversary we celebrated last august. i believe the only reason my marriage has survived 41 years is that neither of us likes lawyers. we have lived apart quite a few of those 41 years. we figure family is bigger than a single address.

it helps me allot to keep my relationship with Cleithrophobia separate from my relationships with people. i don't need to burn other relationship bridges when i go off to psychotherapute my phobias. hubby and i often joke that between us there is balance. he suffers "autophobia." while i am off theraputing my fear of entrapment, he is getting exposure therapy for his fear of abandonment. healing happens for both of us.
 

Movingforward10

MyPTSD Pro
There are many many many ways to be in a relationship. It doesn't have to be all or nothing.

Been with my partner 17 years. Was adamant when we started dating that *this was not a relationship*. Only told her my surname after 3 months as she was booking a flight for us, otherwise no idea when I would have shared that with her.
In those 17 years: we have committed: moved in together and had a civil partnership.
But we have a lot of freedom in the relationship.
We have time apart (we are in a fortunate position that we both own a property so we can have space at times). And she lets me be me.
I enjoy missing her. I enjoy meeting up again and hearing about what she did. I also love the time on my own.


So maybe it is about negotiating how to be in a relationship?
What works for you?
 

Athill

Policy Enforcement
Oh these are lovely, good responses for me to read. I particularly like how they work against my propensity for 'all or nothing' thinking: blood oath to death, or I will be alone forever, and life and all relationships therein, of all lengths, is meaningless.
 

grit

Not Active
Fear of entrapment took me to my 40s to finally get married.

The way I see it is "now" that I have been married for a while is this:
Wanting a relationship and having fear of it is itself a problem of the mind, energy and honestly waste of one's ultimate potential. That wanting, yearning, and then freaking, running, one can spend all their lives and reach old age and see it as what was the f*cking fear then?

The fear is your past. This woman, or any woman or man you find will never ever be your mother (however the chances of you turning into your mother or father is much higher but we do not want to hear that often).

I was hurting wanting love and denying love all my life until my mid 30s when I realized, the ultimate fear itself was I did not know what love was or how to give it (I knew somewhat what it was given to me).

I took a risk. I married a wonderful man. I still feel occasionally the fear of engulfment. I see it as a feeling, an experience, a body memory and I use it as some other listed here a way to see the society, a way to relate to others, and a way to appreciate that I reached a space in my own mind where I can have certain fears, but live in the realty.

There is no certainty in relationship. We all die for sure at minimum or break up many times over. Now you have the inner power to allow your fears as part of you, and yet take a chance in others. After all, interestingly enough, you survived your mother and you were a child with a developing mind - still you survived. That is it. A woman or man or another person may hurt your feelings but in all honest, they cannot reprogram you any lower than your own mother did. Just think about that for a second. but yet the fear is real. It took me mid life to see it at face value though.
Good luck.
 
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