Why do I punish others and how do I stop?
May 7, 2014 3:59 AM Subscribe
I recently had conflict with a friend and during our weepy make-up session, she said she felt like I was punishing her for her mistake. This really resonated with me because exes have said that to me in the past so I know I have tendencies to do this. I would like to understand more about this behavior, why I do it, and how to stop.
posted by nvly to Human Relations (21 answers total) 18 users marked this as a favorite
So this latest example, briefly: A went through a horrible breakup last year and I was really there for her during that time. It wasn't at the time intended as a quid pro quo thing but I ended up going through a breakup same time next year and felt that she wasn't there for me at all, because of various actions (which for the purposes of this question please accept that they were shitty things to do). It culminated in me instigating a weepy conversation in which I said how much I needed her etc.
Anyway, cut to two weeks later and A has forgotten my birthday. I am not normally weird about this (I get that birthdays are not a big deal) but I guess the combination of (a) being the first birthday on my own after a long term r/ship and her knowing how it felt because she went through the same thing (b) her usually making a massive deal about people's birthdays (c) me sending her flowers on her bday the year before and (d) having JUST had the conversation about me needing her - made me have a bit of a spaz. Cue weepy conversation 2 in which I tried to explain why I was hurt.
I completely get on a rational level that she was really busy at work and in the grand scheme of things this is absolutely nothing.
During the conversation she kept apologising and said how bad she felt, but she also said she felt like I was punishing her. She said she felt like it was now "two strikes against her". As I have had this said to me before, I would like to understand what this is about.
My initial thoughts are maybe:
(a) I have a tone problem
(b) I struggle to articulate when I'm feeling hurt so possibly harp on longer than I should
(c) I am making people feel attacked
(d) I often don't know how to react/feel overwhelmed and shut down communication. In this case A called/texted/emailed the next day and I didn't pick up because I didn't know how to have the conversation without crying - so I texted her saying "Sorry I don't know what to say" which I fully get sounds sassy but I didn't intend it to be. I am definitely guilty of silent treatment.
(e) I claim to forgive people but I don't???
I would like to learn how to express my feelings without people feeling like I am punishing them! I will bring this up with my therapist but thought I would get some preliminary ideas from you.