I feel quite overwhelmed today. It’s hard to even explain. It’s partly a shame-shower, partly a sense of the world as being hostile, like no matter what I do, I won’t be allowed to do it. I am sure it has something to do with C, and the support I am trying to give her, and the feeling that gives me in doing it.

I was thinking partly about my 9-year, horrible relationship. We went to couples therapy. We both had individual therapy. We worked really hard, or I worked hard or at least we both put on a show.

Bits and pieces come back from that time period, mostly such an enormous sense of being at fault. I don’t know why that happened. But there are these bits I am trying to make sense of—maybe I shouldn’t be thinking about it now. Maybe I have enough on my plate. However, I do sometimes wonder—who was I? Who am I now? What would people think of me if they really knew me? What did they think of me then?

One thing I remember is just my confusion. Why does she want to hurt me? I don’t think that question ever got addressed in any venue, in any way, but for me that was the key question. Towards the end, my then-partner did say, sometimes I do want to hurt you. At the time, I thought, “Well, that settles it. I’m out.” Now, I don’t know what I would think, but that was Punishing Parent. It happens to me sometimes. The question is what do you do with it when it surfaces? You don’t need to act on it. You can be angry and want to hurt someone, and then not hurt them.

I think now both of us had attachment issues, both of us had these modes going on, but my ex presented a better front somehow. She appeared more vulnerable in therapy, more malleable, and I was more resistant. But outside of therapy, she was more angry, more attacking. Of course, I seemed needy and clingy, and yet she continually interrupted my work if my attention was elsewhere. We had a two-bedroom apartment, and I did art and writing in a room we didn’t sleep in. So she would come into the room just to attack me over something. I would flee to that room during arguments, and she would follow me. I felt I couldn’t get away from her. This never got mentioned in therapy that I recall. I never mentioned this.

I think she was concealing her vulnerability from everyone, while trying to appease the authority figure by talking about her past in a vulnerable way. I didn’t talk about my past. It was never addressed sensitively. The therapist would expect I could just drag really heavy shit out for 50 minutes, let it get examined in a fairly judgmental way—as in, this is why you behave like such a maniac in the present—and then be fine later. I wasn’t fine. So I didn’t talk about it. Which made me seem untrusting and defended, but I hadn’t found the world to be a trustworthy place. I still don’t. People are generally idiots about responding to traumatic narratives.

Meanwhile, she had this attachment issue which made her want to check on me—am I still there? Without wanting to reveal any need. The safest way to do that is to bring a complaint. It’s not vulnerable.

At the same time, I was always being told I needed to express my anger. The assumption was that I was passive aggressive.

My individual therapist told me I needed to set boundaries, but I kept wondering, Why does she want to cross them all of the time? Why is this a battle? I don’t get it. It was as though someone constantly at odds with you is normal, and I just had to learn to deal with it. But I can’t live like that. If that is how people are, I don’t want much to do with them. I’ll stay where I am. Distant. Why wasn’t this named?