I really suck at relationships. All kinds. Work relationships. Family relationships. Platonic relationships. Romantic relationships. Even my relationship with my dog is tumultuous. I don’t usually consider how the other person feels. I think this may be one of the main problems I have. I also have a hard time interacting with people in general. I tend to not know how to act. I’m not sure what is appropriate to say, and what isn’t. I feel uncomfortable and awkward talking to people which makes them feel awkward and uncomfortable.
Growing up I didn’t have much experience with people. I was pretty shy and didn’t talk much in school. I didn’t interact during the classroom discussion time, and I spent a lot of lunch hours sitting by myself, completely absorbed in a book. I just never had any practice speaking to people. I had a few close friends, but that ended shortly after middle school began I got used to being by myself and keeping my mouth closed.
I didn’t really date once I got older. I was told that I wasn’t allowed to date until 16, but didn’t have my first “real” boyfriend until I was 18, and that relationship didn’t last long. The only real romantic relationship I have had is with my husband. I did not really have any experience before we began dating, and the only example I had of a male/female relationship was my parents, who were clearly only tolerating each other.
Growing up and as a young adult, I learned that a relationship with your partner is all about control. Getting them to do what you want in the way that you want. I learned that the way to make this happen was through emotional manipulation. Cry and pout if you don’t get your way. Make the other person feel guilty for letting you down. Or yell and demean. Make them think twice before telling you “no”.
What I did not learn about male/female relationships was how to show affection. I rarely heard my parents tell each other “I love you”. I rarely saw any physical attention. I didn’t hear many compliments from one to the other. I don’t know what their relationship was like when us kids were not around, but I know that when we were around, if they weren’t being underhandedly nasty to each other, they were crisp and cordial, acting more like neighbors than a married couple.
So, I didn’t have much experience on my own with relationships, either platonic or romantic, and the only example I had of any relationships were with my birth family.
Coming up soon in my DBT group we will be learning about interpersonal effectiveness skills. I know nothing about this. It is my understanding that this will teach me how to properly interact with other people. Now that I’m a little more in control of my emotions, I am very much looking forward to this section. I am hoping it will help me feel more confident and less awkward.
While I wait for this part of my therapy, I am just thankful that I have the husband that I do. There have been many times that I’ve apologized to him for not behaving quite the way I should or for saying the wrong thing. He keeps saying, “It’s okay. You don’t know.” I’m so glad that he understands that I have not learned how to deal with people. I just don’t know how to. I will learn, though. I am 100% committed to making my life better with the help of Dialectical Behavioral Therapy. The distress tolerance section helped me to keep from killing myself. The emotion regulation section is helping me better understand and control my emotions. I have no doubt that the interpersonal effectiveness section is going to help me, too.