Sunday, September 9, 2007

We teach people how to treat us

When I created my Vision Map a few weeks ago I included one small picture of a man and a woman walking on the beach. Under it, I pasted the words, Invite Intimacy.

It was the first time since being released from that relationship from hell four years ago that I consciously opened myself up to the possibility of relationship.

And the universe delivered. Now it's up to me to turn up, pay attention, speak my truth and stay unattached to the outcome -- easier said than done!

This is a busy weekend. Choices begins early, ends late, but yesterday afternoon I had a couple of hours so CC and I met up for a glass of wine -- his was wine, mine was cranberry juice as one of the commitments at Choices is to not consume any alcohol throughout the session.

One thing about being in relationship -- it really drives home the concept that we teach people how to treat us.

Earlier in the week, he had committed to calling me when he came back into town after being away for a business meeting. He got back late and didn't call until the next day.

Not a big deal -- except, for me, there's a hairpin trigger connected to a man in my life saying he'll call and not doing it.

Conrad -- the con artist from the past, used to say he'd call and then disappear for days on end. Because there was also an under-current of 'bad men pursuing him' and 'evil men out to hurt my daughters because of him' I lived with a continuous cycle of worry escalating to fear leaping into terror throughout the four years nine months of that relationship. I remember the fear vibrating through every cell of my body as I'd look at my cellphone and will it to ring. I'd promise myself not to call (he'd get angry if I called) and then breaking down having to call, having to know where he was because I was terrified he was dead or that something had gone catastrophically wrong and the evil men were within moments of abducting my daughters, drugging them and forcing them into the sex trade (it was something Conrad had told me they had threatened to do). I lived with that fear every moment of every day, and when Conrad would disappear it would rage throughout my body. It was a terrifying, debilitating and destroying time.

When CC didn't call last week, I knew my angst had nothing to do with him -- and everything to do with my triggers. CC couldn't have known what a missing call would do. In telling him about my anxiety, I also had an opportunity to open myself up and be vulnerable. I told him that my fear doesn't come from not hearing from him. It arises from my fear the past will repeat itself.

It is my responsibility what I do with a missing phone call -- his responsibility is to determine what he'll do with the information.

To calm my fears I had to remind myself that was then, this is now. And to breathe, breathe, breathe, so that I could stay focused on what is true for me today in this relationship. On who he is. On what I know to be true so that I didn't spiral into full-blown panic attack over a man not calling me when he said he would.

I also, however, had to lovingly give CC the opportunity to understand a boundary for me -- it is not acceptable to make a commitment and not follow through. I struggle with this one myself every day. "I'll give you a call," and then I forget, get busy, get involved, get consumed by whatever project I'm involved with. Not acceptable. I teach myself every day how to stay true to my commitments. Some days I pass with flying colours. Others, I need to brush up on my skills.

What was most interesting in the conversation with CC yesterday was -- he got it. As I told him about my angst and how I dealt with it, he acknowledged he could have called to tell me he would be back later than anticipated, and had forgotten. He apologized for not having called. He explained what had happened, and admitted that he struggles with the same thing I do -- a tendency to get consumed by whatever he's doing and losing track of time. In knowing my fears, however, he committed to working hard at ensuring he kept his commitments -- When I say I'll call, I will call.

In the process of talking about this situation, we had a chance to learn more about each other, and to build on trust. For me, being heard is huge. Really big. Trusting that I'm okay, and safe enough to tell a man how I feel about his actions and their affect on me, without fearing his anger, -- that's huge too! To know I have the right to state what I need to feel safe is a big step for me. I've come a long way baby!

We teach people how to treat us.

Yesterday, with CC, I was able to turn up, pay attention, speak my truth and stay unattached to the outcome. In being honest and vulnerable about my feelings and thoughts around what that missing phone call meant to me, I gave CC an opportunity to learn more about me -- and to be accountable for his actions too.

A win/win for both of us.

The question is: Where in your life do you teach people to treat you in ways that cause you pain? Where do you step back from your boundaries to give their bad behaviour room to take root in your life and grow into being treated in ways that are unacceptable?


jim said...

Louise, it's not just you. The feelings that go with waiting for someone to call are a very big deal for me too. It wasn't that long ago I waited for a phone call
that never came.

I suffered for a while and got over it. Here's what your blog did for me. It made me realize I could have channeled my unhappy energy much more positively. I decided it wasn't too late to act on the idea.

It can't be just the two of us who feel this way. What about everybody else in our circles of friends? I made a list of people who might be hoping to get a call from me. It seemed like a good thing to do and I surprised myself by what I discovered.

Today I worked myself down to the last person on the list. I noticed something. My list isn't
in random order at all. People are perfectly sorted with the person who's easiest to talk to at the top. Each step down is somebody I'm a little less comfortable with.

I took a second look and spotted something else. The list also seems to be in order in a different way. It looks like the people at the bottom are the people who need a call from me the most.

I made my last call. No need for details but my hunch was confirmed. My friend's last words before hanging up were "Thank you for calling".

M.L. Gallagher said...

wow Jim! Thanks for sharing your powerful story. That is wicked awesome -- as my girlfriends son would say.

What a wonderful gift you gave your friends -- and me.