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#156204 - 05/14/07 11:47 PM when women assert ourselves
indygal Offline
Member

Registered: 06/22/06
Posts: 439
this is sort of a follow thru from a different post but it's been on my mind for a while, i just couldn't narrow down how to talk about it

it's abundantly clear now at least one of the triggers for my bf is when i assert myself in our relationship. sometimes it's during a telephone discussion but can also be in person, can even be in an email. please understand something - i am *not* talking about being aggressive - which a lot of people confuse with assertion, especially in regards to women - i'm talking about assertion of something i feel strongly about; it might even be something that has absolutely nothing to do with the two of us (at least in my mind) but later he'll make a remark that seems he might think it did or does

asserting my needs, my opinion, just in general saying something in a way that clearly states this is what i think or feel or believe; maybe using the words in what is termed "active voice" as opposed to "passive voice" - those of you who know what i mean - thank you - if you don't i'm not going to bother explaining, and that's an assertion right there.

i could tell from the beginning when we first met he isn't a sexist, doesn't use that condescending patronizing, "i know better than you cause i'm a guy" tone - so i knew this wasn't about gender politics

**maybe triggers**
yet it started creeping up slowly whenever the sex issue raised its head - he'd back off dramatically and become so defensive i'd let it drop. over time, i see now how if i approached him physically in a gentle and very subtle way it was totally ok with him but to try and discuss sex in a general, matter-of-fact way, duh, like 2 adults, well that just would set him off.
*end triggers*

ok, now i know about the control issue and how maybe he feels so vulnerable around me because he does have feelings and that's what scares him so; the question is what can i do about this short of becoming a soppy sponge of a human being that never raises her head to speak her mind or make a motion to what she'd like or need etc.? i can't do that obviously not that i think he'd even want me to -

it's just i see this is part of what attracted me to him in the first place - he obviously doesn't mind this part of me or we wouldn't have gone on as long as we have - but - it's also what seems to be a major factor in our relationship right now

if, as other survivors have asserted (and he has not confirmed or denied this) he was abused by a female, obviously she would have been someone who was aggressive as well as assertive, and these traits certainly would be something he'd be fearful of on at least a subconscious level, if not conscious.

i'd like to hear from other survivors on this more so than fnf, i think mostly i'm sounding all this out so i can discuss this with my bf.

no, he's not seeing a T at the moment.

whew, this is difficult so i hope you'll be patient w/me. i do know what i want to say but am not sure i said it in a way that's clear...?

indy

_________________________
my avatar is one of the Battle Angel characters, fighting the good fight.

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#156230 - 05/15/07 08:48 AM Re: when women assert ourselves [Re: indygal]
indygal Offline
Member

Registered: 06/22/06
Posts: 439
ok why are people looking at this and no one responding?

if i need to clarify a point i can do that...?

i'm not going to believe this situation is hopeless because i know it's not...

indy

_________________________
my avatar is one of the Battle Angel characters, fighting the good fight.

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#156236 - 05/15/07 09:56 AM Re: when women assert ourselves [Re: indygal]
GWsurvives Offline
Member
MaleSurvivor

Registered: 01/10/07
Posts: 251
Loc: Atlanta, and here, among othe...
Hi Indy..

The control issue is huge for survivors. Whether or not we have control over a given situation, we have to believe we do. You've answered your own question, in a way. If your boyfriend is not in therapy, is he dealing with his abuse issues? One of those issues is control.

Maybe one of the more eloquent guys will reply to your post.. but I hope this helps.

GW

_________________________
"Some times there just aren't enough rocks" Forrest Gump

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#156254 - 05/15/07 11:55 AM Re: when women assert ourselves [Re: GWsurvives]
soapy bubbles Offline
Member

Registered: 09/05/06
Posts: 332
Loc: london
Hello Indy,

I looked at your post this morning, took a deep breath and started to type a reply. Then the enormity of the subject overwhelmed me and I decided I simply didn't have the words to continue.

This issue is a massive one in my relationship with my b/f, but not quite in the same way as it is in yours.

I need to sleep on this and think about how I'm going to respond to you without re-writing War and Peace.

Til tomorrow .......

SB x

_________________________
"Though we travel the world over to find the beautiful, we must carry it with us or we find it not.” ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

“Nobody can make you feel inferior without your permission.” --- Eleanor Roosevelt

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#156281 - 05/15/07 01:56 PM Re: when women assert ourselves [Re: soapy bubbles]
Chain Breaker Offline
Member
MaleSurvivor

Registered: 04/21/07
Posts: 376
Loc: Michigan
Hi Indy,

I obviously don't know the answer for you and your bf, but I can share several ideas from my own experience.

I think it may not be about you being a woman at all. It may just be that he trusts you more than he trusts other people and worries that if you wound him, however accidentally, he will experience the wound as a betrayal of trust. In this case, he would want to shut you down so as to protect himself from this perceived risk of betrayal.

The second idea I had was the one that you suggested, and that GW affirmed: the idea of lack of control. Survivors want as nearly complete control of their environment as possible. If you speak very gently, that is non-threatening to that sense of control. Your bf may just be trying to shield himself from the sense of helplessness that all survivors feel. In other words, he wants to control the flow of the conversation by giving you "permission" to say what's on your mind -- much like if he waves someone into his lane when he's driving. In that case, he's o.k. with their movement into his lane, because he gave them "permission" and was in control of whether the person entered the lane in front of him. On the other hand, I'll bet he fumes when someone abruptly cuts into the lane in front of him, because he didn't give them permission. This means he did not have control of that part of his environment. This is, indeed, a very hard thing for csa survivors. Any perceived transgression into the survivor's little controlled world comes off as an invasion, or yet more abuse.

The third explanation might be that it really is about gender. This would be especially likely if he was abused by a female or if his mother was authoritarian and excessively controlling. In this case, he might have a deep-seated fear of women, especially strong women. When you assert yourself, you might be triggering that fear inside him.

In none of these cases would his reaction to you be your fault, even if he insinuates or says that it is. He's just trying to pick the object of his fear, which would happen to be you (because you are there). An intimate partner is, of all people, in the best position to hurt us emotionally. It's because we have to extend trust, which is always a scary thing. We often express our fear as anger or even rage. When he can't handle the conversation, that's because the little abused boy that he was has taken control of his mind and his emotions. The age he was when he was first abused is probably his emotional age now. So if he was abused at age six, then you should consider that you are speaking to a six year-old. The biggest thing we survivors lack is emotional maturity.

The result of this is very hard, even painful, for our intimate partners. My wife has, on many occasions, complained that I make her "walk on eggshells". This is part of dealing with my fragile male ego. (I am doing better now, but it took a long time.) As survivors, we need to know how hard this is for you, our partners. We also need to learn a little tolerance for people who have a more normal range of emotions. Finally, we need to learn that our partners are not our parents. This is a hard task for the survivor, but it's well worth the effort.

_________________________
My name is Joe. I am a survivor and a good man. You can count on me.

CB

"[Insert your name here], I am [Chain Breaker]. Do you see that I am your friend? Can you see that you will always be my friend?"
--Wind In His Hair, Dances With Wolves

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#156370 - 05/16/07 01:00 AM Re: when women assert ourselves [Re: indygal]
lostcowboy Offline
Member

Registered: 11/10/04
Posts: 797
Loc: North Texas
Hi indy,
Quote:
**maybe triggers**
yet it started creeping up slowly whenever the sex issue raised its head - he'd back off dramatically and become so defensive i'd let it drop. over time, i see now how if i approached him physically in a gentle and very subtle way it was totally ok with him but to try and discuss sex in a general, matter-of-fact way, duh, like 2 adults, well that just would set him off.
*end triggers*

Could this be that he is just very unused to talking about sex with a girl/woman? In my family sex was a taboo subject. The only time my mom talked about it, she wanted to know if I had started to have "wet dreams" yet.
Also, I don't think you should try to narrow down what type of abuse or who by at this time. Just accept that he likely had some type of abuse in his past.

Take care,
Clifford

_________________________
"Don't walk in front of me, I may not follow. Don't walk behind me, I may not lead. Just walk beside me and be my friend." - Albert Camus
Pretty much my life as I have posted so far. Triggers!

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#156373 - 05/16/07 01:13 AM Re: when women assert ourselves [Re: lostcowboy]
EGL Offline
Moderator Emeritus
MaleSurvivor
Registered: 06/19/04
Posts: 7821
Indy,

Speaking from my own experience, being controlled by a woman is very triggering to me. I wasn't sexually abused by a woman, but my first wife was unfaithful (with my perp brother), so to me that was the ultimate emasculation. My current wife and I have been married almost 19 years now, and to an extent she can be assertive at times. And it is triggering to me, although I don't tell her that. I think the key for you would be to be assertive when you need to be, but it's all in how you do it -- it shouldn't seem threatening, and it shouldn't make him feel like he has to go on the defensive. For example, if you choose to show your assertiveness by making a decision that affects the both of you, then the message he may get from that is that you don't think he's capable of making a decision so you had to do it. Instead, you can try to convey the message that you made the decision for the benefit of both of you. I guess what I'm really trying to say is that you should be assertive, but not in a way that makes him feel clubbed over the head with it.

_________________________
Eddie

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#156379 - 05/16/07 02:16 AM Re: when women assert ourselves [Re: Chain Breaker]
indygal Offline
Member

Registered: 06/22/06
Posts: 439



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#156410 - 05/16/07 09:08 AM Re: when women assert ourselves [Re: EGL]
indygal Offline
Member

Registered: 06/22/06
Posts: 439
Quote:
but my first wife was unfaithful (with my perp brother), so to me that was the ultimate emasculation. My current wife and I have been married almost 19 years now, and to an extent she can be assertive at times. And it is triggering to me, although I don't tell her that. I think the key for you would be to be assertive when you need to be, but it's all in how you do it -- it shouldn't seem threatening, and it shouldn't make him feel like he has to go on the defensive. For example, if you choose to show your assertiveness by making a decision that affects the both of you, then the message he may get from that is that you don't think he's capable of making a decision so you had to do it. Instead, you can try to convey the message that you made the decision for the benefit of both of you.



eddie, your post came thru when i was responding to the other one - so i didn't see it before - what you say is very sensible and wise; yes, i can see how i have asserted things that did effect the 2 of us and it probably would have bothered me if he'd done the same thing

it's interesting you use the term 'emasculating' because as a feminist i've heard this so often in the past as to how some men refer to feminists - and i can't help but wonder if a lot of the miscommunication and misunderstandings between the sexes has to do with so many male survivors out there as well as females, except society has brushed you all aside - ? that is, a lot of men may have difficulty w/women not just as part of our culture being so patriarchal but also because of the trauma and prevalence of csa, part of which it's just not being discussed as much as with females; and forget about the female perp end of it - i can appreciate now how rare that is supposed to be as opposed to apparently how real it actually is.


Quote:
I guess what I'm really trying to say is that you should be assertive, but not in a way that makes him feel clubbed over the head with it.


judging by some of his reactions apparently he *did* feel clubbed over the head - the problem was for the life of me i never could figure out why until learning about the differences in how survivors 'see' things, or interpretations of personal writings. i still don't see some of my actions in the same light as he has but am willing to trust him now that it's what he says it is as opposed to thinking he's lost his marbles \:o

the problem in this however is how to convince him i didn't mean what he thinks it means...this is when we get into the no win debates because he will absolutely insist on something being the way he sees it.

maybe this is more of the control issue? that if he's wrong about something it's another possibility he's lost control there and that's just not 'allowed' in his mind?

donno, got a lot to think about and a lot to process before talking with him about all this.

thanks again guys for sharing.

indy

_________________________
my avatar is one of the Battle Angel characters, fighting the good fight.

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#156516 - 05/16/07 03:19 PM Re: when women assert ourselves [Re: indygal]
Chain Breaker Offline
Member
MaleSurvivor

Registered: 04/21/07
Posts: 376
Loc: Michigan
Hi Indy,

You said,

Originally Posted By: indygal
Quote:
"Finally, we need to learn that our partners are not our parents."

you are the first survivor i've read or heard that has said this - i didn't know it was/is an issue? jees there is so much, i hope i don't have this to deal with also!!

You may very well have to. This is a phenomenon known as "transference." In your case, this would be called a "negative maternal transference." It's where he transfers his skill set or paradigm for interacting with women from his mother to you. It is negative because it is associated with bad feelings. I think most men experience this to a degree, abused or not. The reason I mentioned this is because we survivors often imagine our partner's behavior to stem from the same things that motivated our parent (in this case, our mother). This tends not to be the case, by and large, but it is still a really, really big obstacle to our developing healthy relationships.

_________________________
My name is Joe. I am a survivor and a good man. You can count on me.

CB

"[Insert your name here], I am [Chain Breaker]. Do you see that I am your friend? Can you see that you will always be my friend?"
--Wind In His Hair, Dances With Wolves

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