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Wondering If It's Really Me

by Message in a Bottle
(Japan)

I've got problems maintaining relationships. Important ones. I used to feel confident that some were not my fault, that those people do not know how to deal with their own anger and decided to end their relationship with me. Let me list these:

1. My mother, when my dad won custody of me and my brother when I was 15- I have not heard from her or that entire side of the family since.

2. A few best friends: One got mad at me for not telling her that I lost my virginity to someone until a week after it happened, and another, well, there didn't seem to be a cause, it just turned so sour we threatened each other socially and financially. Lost touch with the first, and successfully avoid the second.

3. Boyfriends: Not important relationships in the scheme of things, but primary during university years. I was cheated on twice, and started doing the same thing myself to good people- I apologized, gave him all my furniture before leaving the country- stuff I would have liked to keep but he had nothing.

4. Love of my life: Left me puking in a red light district of a foreign city with a mutual friend who tried to rape me. Due to language barriers, I never was able to express my feelings about that, or ask why, even through an off and on pseudo friendship over the next 5 years.

5. My previous homestay family: After returning to them to settle in this foreign country, they asked to borrow a large sum of money from my (now) husband. He said yes but changed his mind at his parents' advice, and they thought I had influenced him. They entered my new apartment, got money from him anyway, and physically sent me packing.

Which brings me to my current pending loss:

6. My father.

All of my contact is through email because I am overseas. Dad asked me to help him set up a company for my brother, since they both feel I have the brains in the family (seriously, he said that's why he approached me). Said he would not try it without me. I took it on, and after making a business plan and being excited that I could go home half a year earlier if this worked for me and my husband, found out that Dad and brother decided without me to cut me out pay wise, raise my brother's salary, and replace "guaranteed" job for my husband with "if/when he's needed".

Two weeks went by and I asked my uncle (by marriage, my father's family by blood often react to conflict with pack-like behavior and I think it's genetic) for advice, in confidence. I even forwarded all the emails including the ones that showed the worst of me. His advice a couple weeks later was quite sound--"Don't try to help again, even if they ask you. Both of you were wrong in some way, but the best you can do is apologize for your end. In the future, remember that you (and your family) have a tendency to speak before thinking, and it's usually to your own demise, so be careful.

I swallowed my pride, and apologized specifically for name calling.

He lets me know he gets a tax letter and continues to advise me to use his new CPA that he found for "the" business. I lost it. More harsh words (but no name calling this time), reminding him of some points from the problem (that he hurt me) and the apology (that business nearly lost him his grandkids). It was a spike and it was over a few minutes after I sent the reply. His own reply was simply "We're done."

Since it was the next morning for me, I had calmed considerably, so I sent him a very calm and collected, short email reminding him that I had asked him to never allude to the whole thing. I did mention that he had not apologized (had he, it would have opened a less hostile dialogue to talk about what happened and I don't think I would have snapped). I BCC'd uncle and brother. Brother answered for dad saying to change my mailing address and have a friend come clear my belongings from my Dad's place. He said "family is king," and that we have only "a few chips left between us". I know that means I'm on probation, but I'm already sick of being the apologizer, of not being understood by him or my father.

Now, a bit about my father: He's vindictive and prideful. I think I hurt his pride when I tried to veto his version of the business plan (up to that point I was upbeat and polite, but insisting on my model with examples and justifying support- none from him, just "I want my son to be happy). Anyway, in general, he and he alone knows how to push my buttons. My brother used to, but he is far too grown up to scream like a girl and is not creative enough to find my other buttons.

But my dad is. My dad knows that I have a mean streak and a temper, and that I bottle things up. I think he's like a cat torturing a mouse. He enjoys seeing a person who made him mad, get angry too. I realized this during the first email moment of this fight, so I skipped the fun part and went straight to "attack rat" (not a mouse, not me).

For years, he told me how my mom had betrayed him (this started when I was 7 and continued till I was 12, when he got remarried). Then he got a second divorce and told me of all the fantasies he had of making my ex-stepmother suffer (understandable that he'd be upset but I knew he'd never act on any of it). After another 7 years or so, he's moving on (I can't say if he's over it, that's not for me to say). So, if this is genetic or I learned it, I think I got it from him. Not to blame him genetically, because that's not fair. I do blame him for the way he deals with his anger, especially when it involved pulling me down in the pit with him, and them pretending it was all me to start with.

So I am wondering if it's really me. Do I need help? Do WE need help? Does he need help? I do not want to bring my family to the US, and let my kids watch me and my dad go at it like this, or realize that me and their grandpa are on bad terms. I don't want to lose the rest of my family either. Honestly, I think I am destined to die alone- who's next? My husband? My own kids? My current best friend? The other half of my blood relatives? Do I mouse up, do I attempt to grovel and seal up the damage all alone? Do I deal with it alone, as I was before this aftershock? Is it my anger problems exclusively? Can I fix myself without the aid of the other party every single time?



Response from Dr. DeFoore

Hello, and thanks for telling your story here. It is clear that you're an intellectually bright person, and that you've thought carefully about your situation. I know this has been a source of a lot of pain for you, for many years. I will try to help.

By the way, you have good reasons for your anger--the point is how you express and manage it.

Your freedom and responsibility rest entirely with you. Your freedom to change, and your responsibility for your problems are what I'm referring to. You ask if it's all you. Your emotions, your reactions, your behavior--that is all you, and no one is responsible but you. What others do, how they react, and how they feel, that is not your responsibility at all. So, the answer is, yes and no.

With that in mind, I'm going to recommend some things that will help you take more responsibility for your emotions and therefore you will have more freedom going forward in your relationships.

You will find all of the help me on this FAQ page.

Your focus needs to be on yourself, your healing, and how you can make your life as wonderful as possible. Focus only on the positive aspects of others--you can't fix what's wrong with them anyway.

Believe in yourself. Love yourself. Create a beautiful life for you, and the relationships you want will naturally follow.

You can do this. Trust your good heart.

My very best to you,

Dr. DeFoore

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