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Age in My Way? Or Am I Just Crazy?
June 10, 2012 Ask Dr. Love Advice Column
My girlfriend and I met 5 months ago online, I was so excited and blissful with this new found relationship. We've kept the feeling of happiness between us the same for this long, then suddenly the other night t I decided to reveal a secret because I couldn't take it anymore, the secret being I am not infact her age I am younger, not by much, but younger none-the-less. My girlfriend told me that she had known for a long while and the guilt was lifted off my shoulders.
My problem lies in what she said next. She implied that I am two years younger and therefore I am naive, and that she must "take care of me".
I've always had a problem with older people, I feel like they always look down on you because maybe you don't have the golden life expierience they do. I respect the opinion of some older adults but my girlfriend and I are young adults only two years apart. I feel coddled, intimidated and that I failed her. My girlfriend always stated that she likes older women so the back of my head says she'd rather be with them. She told me that older women "take care of you".
What if I don't want her to take care of me? I want to take care of her. I enjoy my independence and the mind-set of being able to survive myself. I want to take care of her because she deserves a break from always bending-over-backwards for others.
I want her to view me as an equal instead of just someone younger to care for like a mother. She's been acting strange ever since that night, she assures me that her trustMutual trust is a shared belief that you can depend on each other to achieve a common purpose. More comprehensively trust defined as "the willingness of a party (trustor) to be vulnerable to the...(Click for full definition.) isn't broken and that she's not angry, but I feel like there is something there. She gets fed-up with me much easier than usual. She also hasn't talked to me recently, I wait by the phone but she doesn't call. I don't mean to sound clingy or desperate but it's un-like her not to call at the usual time she does.
Example of becoming "fed-up" with me: (We discussed her birthday, usually she would just blow it off if I mentioned it, she doesn't enjoy the day. I suggested a small cake just to celebrate her being in my life. She said that she does not want to be celebrated. When I try to talk her out of it she responds by questioning my support and loyalty in her decisions. I didn't push or anything, I just went along with it and told her she could do what she wanted. Normally we wouldn't get that heated over just a simple thing like a birthday.)
I feel like ever since I have let her know that she views me as a burden, a "child", she hates children and we both agreed not to have any. All the symptoms are there...I'm just wondering if it's true that I'm a child to her, a burden, or am I just over-reacting to simple little debates with her?
Please help, I'm going crazy, I've had little sleep, and I can't eat. ClassicParanoia
You and your girl are conflicting over a phantom issue. It’s not your age difference. The reason you can’t get back on track within yourself is because you haven’t identified and resolved what the real issue is for you. Now, your own upset with her and the relationship is sending out vibes that are pushing her away.
Let me breakdown what’s happened.
Your current struggle was set in motion when she told you that she must take care of you because you’re younger. Here’s what’s so interesting. You said that she knew all along that you were younger--even before you told her your actual age. But prior to this discussion, you were happy together and you didn’t say that you felt like she thought you were naïve, nor did you feel that she took care of you.
So what changed? Has she actually started to baby you? Or is she treating you the same as always? I’m thinking that she’s been nurturing and loving to you all along. For her, a component of her tenderness came from knowing that you are younger. But since she didn’t make her motivations explicit, for you, her love simply felt good, so you never questioned it.
You said that you feel coddled? It sounds like this is a new feeling. Or is it possible that the way she loves you now is the same as always. And is it possible that you liked the way she loves you UNTIL you had “the talk” when she stated explicitly what she had always been thinking, i.e. that you need to be taken care of BECAUSE you’re younger. The point is, I’m thinking that her way of being with you didn’t shift. But you shifted in response to hearing what she’d been thinking all along.
The real point is, you said that you’ve always had a problem with older people who look down on you because maybe you don't have the golden life experience they do. You also said that you feel intimidated and that you failed her.
I want to point out that your feeling intimidated and that you failed her isn’t a feeling that’s coming from her. She made it clear that she was fine with you and didn’t resent your not telling your age before now.
So what you need to see is that these feelings are coming from within you! There’s actually a name for the negative feelings you’re developing. It’s called transference. Funny you signed your question to me: classic paranoia. Your unconscious knows on some level that your struggle is, indeed, classic and universal!
Just so you know, transference is a normal and natural process that occurs in intimate relationships. Here’s what happens. After a couple bonds, they both unconsciously start to view their partners as a parent, especially the parent who they had the most difficulty with.
Next comes a deluge of negative feelings that are the leftover and unresolved negative feelings from the relationship with your parent. These feelings get dumped or transferred onto your partner. Now the fighting starts!
Believe it or not, most relationships fail because the partners can’t manage what’s called the “inevitable regression,” which is the technical term for the regression back to childhood and the intense feelings from way back when that the transference triggers.
Your transference is clearly connected to the way you felt looked down upon, judged, coddled, disrespected and intimidated by one or both of your parents or another significant other.
Your feelings of anger and resentmentResentment is anger that has ossified into resentment. When you find yourself holding on to a resentment it is generally because you have not felt properly heard and understood by your partner....(Click for full definition.) toward those who coddled you are now getting transferred onto her. She’s pulling away in response.
Keep in mind, we choose partners who will recreate our early relationships so that we can relive these Old Scars and heal them. It is said that the unconscious knows within five minutes of meeting someone everything that it needs to know about that other person’s unconscious mind! When we feel instantly drawn to and at home with someone, it’s because we know that person is our missing puzzle piece, someone who will perfectly recreate our most traumatic and troubled relationship from childhood. Notice, you chose an older woman who needs to hold her older age over your head. Clearly your unconscious knew she’d do this.
I should say that she has her own issuesIssues, in the words of the Serenity Prayer, are things you can change, either by making different personal choices and/or by finding ways to work with your partner more effectively. that are related to intimacyAn intimate relationship is a particularly close interpersonal relationship. It can be defined by these characteristics: enduring behavioral interdependence, repeated interactions, emotional...(Click for full definition.). By placing you in the “younger,” “needier” role, she arranges to stay in charge and in control. Clearly she is very good at giving love, but not as willing to receive it. So, perhaps this allows her to create some emotional space and distance that affords her protection from letting her guard down and getting hurt.
So now you understand what’s going on. The question is how to move forward.
What’s needed at this point is an honest soul-searching on your part where you make the direct link back to your own history and how this current power struggle is recreating the way you felt coddled, put-down and intimidated as a kid.
When you’re clear on the link, then you can talk to her about it. She’ll be much more open to discussing this because we are focusing on emotional insight and connection rather than fueling the battle.
In terms of fueling the battle, notice everything you’ve said to her to date on this topic has been to argue why she’s wrong and you’re right on this point. You’ve made a case for the fact that your age difference isn’t large, etc.
Because this problem is emotional in nature, for both of you, arguing on an intellectual level will not resolve and heal the original wound or its current expression. What’s more... Since she’s using the age difference as a rationalization that permits her to keep her protective defenses in tact, the more you try to force her to let go of her position, the more her defenses will come up. Then she will argue till the death that she’s right. This will create an intensification of the power struggle that will not provide you with the healing you need, which is to be heard and respected, not coddled and wiped out.
So once you understand your Old Scar and how your current issue serves to trigger the original wound, go and talk to her. The purpose of the talk is simply to have her understand you. With this focus, the power struggle will be broken.
In time, when it feels right, you should invite her to talk about how this issue connects to her history; what she gets out of being the older caretaker, how it maintains a role she’s used to playing and how it keeps her safe.
By listening to each other, you will heal your mutual Old Scars. Helping each other to do this healing is one of the most important tasks of an intimate relationship: You chose each other because you knew that your Old Scars dovetail, meaning that you would help each other to recreate your unfinished business; now that your business is full front and center stage, you are both being offered the divine task of helping each other to heal. When you heal your Old Scars, the power struggle will magically vaporize.
If you need help in navigating this complex and tricky issue, please contact me in my Private Consulting division.
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"Love Never Dies is guaranteed to give immense hope to those grieving the perceived loss of a loved one. Dr. Jamie Turndorf, together with her husband, Jean, now in spirit, provide stunning evidence of the continuity of love and life, along with the tools to help anyone connect with those in the unseen world."
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L.C.S.W. from "A Life-Changing Exercise for Anyone Who Has Lost a Loved One" published in Psychology Today
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