For your listening pleasure, today’s featured song is “Loser,” by Beck on the album, Mellow Gold. Like my life, it makes no sense and all of the sense in the world.
Since I last wrote, my life has been…interesting. I sit pretty and somehow drama finds me: my boyfriend and friend tried to cheat on me, together. I saw spliced evidence (broken up pieces of Facebook messages, putting my friend in a good light). Or maybe they succeeded in cheating? Who knows?
Then, to quote The Big Lebowski, “New shit has come to light.”
And it keeps coming in waves of half-assed apologies and broken promises.
Needless to say they are no longer in my life. Though I am tempted to forgive my ex, I can’t forget what happened. As our blogger Vanessa Leigh encourages us to forgive, but forgiveness doesn’t make me feel any better. It actually makes me feel worse, like throwing up. I have been trying to make sense of our seemingly great relationship and where it went wrong. As for my friend, I should have listened to the crazy things people said about her. I think my problem was that I forgave too much.
How do we prevent ourselves from being manipulated?:
1. Stop putting too much faith in people.
In spite of sounding like a Negative Nancy (by the way, why are examples of alliteration referring to depression always about women?), I need to stop believing people can and will achieve their positive goals. As a former therapist and teacher, I have faith that people can learn and do anything, but a lot of times people just don’t care, have psychological concerns, or other roadblocks. People make New Year’s Resolutions constantly and how often do they actually go to the gym or stop cheating? Probably not often. I hear people complain about how their lives suck, yet they do nothing to fix it, if they can. There is research that says when people say they are going to do something, they are less likely to do it. For example, I somehow cursed myself by telling people repeatedly I was going to finish my masters degree (the first one). I eventually did, but it took twice as long as it probably should have, most likely because I found complacency in saying it was going to be finished. It’s one thing with students, which I can get to know their interests, reward them, motivate them, and hold them accountable. As for adults, we should not have to be their mommies and daddies, which we have to nag, find ways to give them gold stars, or treat them like they are children, because they won’t own up to being responsible. Yet we do this, because we care. We have to remember there is a difference in being supportive versus being someone’s parent.
2. Hold people accountable and stay true to your values.
When someone you care about in your life is doing something detrimental to themselves or others (including yourself), we should hold them accountable. I am not saying fighting or throwing a tantrum helps (though we might feel better at first), but you can talk to whomever it is in a calm fashion. Sometimes it is hard not to get upset, but maybe save your concerns for a later conversation: write it down. Or if you can control your mood at the moment, try to tell them right away. If we wait until later, the person might not understand or forget what they did, like punishing a toddler hours after you caught them drawing all over the walls. A lot of times, people are not even aware of what they are doing and why they are doing it.
What you can also do is set contingencies or ultimatums for serious infractions, such as saying something like “If we both don’t get the jobs we want, we can’t get married” (that was not my contingency by the way). Unfortunately, people may use their lack of accomplishing goals or fixing their flaws as an excuse why they can’t progress in a relationship or as a person. If you find yourself constantly making ultimatums, something is wrong. You are reinforcing their behavior in not making progress if you keep letting it slide. If not, maybe your expectations are too high. That was my mistake—hoping for a change that was never going to happen.
3. Lower your expectations or raise them.
People who have depression tend to have higher expectations. High expectations are often unfulfilled, so this makes us more depressed. My problem with relationships was that I had too high expectations of them as a whole. I thought they were a lot more meaningful than they were, because “I feel deeply” or some nonsense like that. When things didn’t go right, I blamed myself (maybe I’m not pretty enough, maybe I am always sad because he says so). I had too high of expectations for myself (and I still do with good reason), but I had lower expectations for my significant other. It’s okay if they don’t have a full-time job and still live at home. It’s okay if they don’t change their behavior, because it’s ruining the relationship. Or is it? It’s okay to have high expectations of yourself and others as long as they are not too high. Though, when you allow crap, you get crap.
4. Start reading the signs and trust your intuition.
When I look back, there were signs everywhere smacking me in the face that my boyfriend was cheater material. He ogled women when we went out, compared me to other women (“you almost weren’t the best-looking woman in the bar tonight” is my favorite), flirted with my female friends, hovered over his phone while constantly texting (towards the end of our relationship), and ignored me when he was around certain people (probably good-looking women) in public. Instead of dumping him, I blamed myself or ignored his behavior. When I didn’t ignore it and brought it to his attention, he threw a tantrum. There would be long stretches where things were good and then it would just return to its unhappy state again. I would talk to people about it, and it would just fall flat, because “he seems like such a good person” or “it’s probably is not as bad you think.” I know people are trying to be positive when they say these things, but if you have a gut feeling something is wrong, address it.
5. Stop listening to terrible suggestions.
On that note, people often give terrible advice. They may have good intentions in mind or maybe not. If I talked to my friend (the one who screwed me over) about problems, she would give negatively geared advice and occasionally laugh, which was infuriating. Stay away from these people if you can. They are soul suckers and want nothing, but people to soak in their misery with them. Even if they are not trying to ruin your life, people’s experiences don’t necessarily resonate with everything you are going through. If you are finding no solace in talking to others, even therapists (there are some awful ones out there), follow step #4.
6. Stop taking everything personal.
I know I am not a special snowflake. I am not the most beautiful woman in the world, the most understanding, intelligent, or charming every moment. We are what we are. We get moody, sad, angry, envious, or illogical. As long as those feelings are infrequent, we can focus on being positive. After every relationship I had, I learned a lesson. My ex was a kind person a lot of the times, but there were major flaws that he did not fix. I was so glad to find someone that I thought was my friend and demonstrated such kindness, except for when he didn’t. As time progressed, the kindness faded, and the negative behavior emerged more often. Few incidences became more of a regular practice. After the fact, he told me he “got scared” and felt he was holding me back. I knew some things were my fault (I ignored the signs sometimes, didn’t hold him accountable enough or emphasize the importance of my values, and was too patient and understanding), but I believe I had good intentions. It is not my fault that he is the type of person who decided to avoid responsibility and owning up to the truth. Don’t be so hard on yourself when people act like assholes.
How do you deal with the aftermath?
Did you ever have a moment when you felt you were one with your universe? You are right in the moment, not thinking of anything at all? You are happy to be lucky enough to be where you are doing what you are doing with other people? You feel you are star among billions of other stars, but that is okay? Did you ever feel that way without copious amounts of alcohol or drugs? This is an exercise of mindfulness—being aware in the moment without thinking of anything else.
These moments are few, but have been increasing over the years. I care a lot less what people think, I have a lot less expectations than I used to have as to what I “should be doing” and what my life should be. I feel we could bring about these moments by not dwelling on what people have done to us. I will leave you with this piece of advice:
If you’d like to listen to our playlist, you can find it here: