In this episode, Rhiannon talks about a realization she had about love.
Announcer: Welcome to Tricky Fish, a conversation between a millennial daughter and her Gen X dad. Here’s your host, Rhiannon and Ian.
R: So I had a realization about love that I thought I could share with the internet, even though I’m not a love expert by any means, but…
I: I’m certainly not a love expert either, but hopefully this will help somebody.
R: Yeah, so I have to give a lot of context first. Yesterday was my boyfriend’s, his name is Gus; he passed away April 1st of this year with liver failure, I believe. And his birthday was this last Thursday, on the 27th of May. And then yesterday on Friday, we had a memorial concert for him.
R: And I’ve always been a very introspective person but especially with this. I just- I was comparing my experience of losing a loved one, where I learned a lesson from losing someone before of how I want to love people more efficiently and more thoroughly, you know?
R: So I’m comparing this situation of what I felt like when I lost Walker; he was my best friend’s little brother, he passed away when he was 15. And we were 18 had just graduated high school kind of thing.
R: And with that situation, I was full of regret, and so many things that I wish I could have done differently, or thoughts that I could have stopped or changed anything. And with the Gus situation, I don’t have any of that. I don’t think I could have loved him any better than I did or there’s nothing that I wish I’d done that I didn’t, or vice versa. Things I did that I wish I hadn’t like I- for all intents and purposes, I ‘did everything right this time’. And while I’m grateful for that, it doesn’t make the pain any easier to deal with.
I: Well, when you love and care for somebody deeply, I don’t think it matters how the person passes away because the person has passed away.
I: So I don’t think there’s a right or wrong way.
R: Well, I just had this expectation that if I, for example with Walker, because we were so close in age, I didn’t want to overstep any kind of boundaries. So we don’t have any photos together, even though I was basically adopted by this family and was there all the time over their house. And I still don’t have any photos with him at all. And I never gave him hugs. I never told him how much I loved him. Because again, I didn’t want to make anyone uncomfortable. Because I’m a teenage girl, he’s a teenage boy, I just didn’t want to risk losing the family by having any kind of weird relationship with him. And so because of that, I
I: Wait, just for giving a regular hug?
R: He was 15, I was 18. You know, teenagers are weird. I’m demi, so I personally don’t feel romantic or sexual attraction to anyone until I get to know them first. But I realize most people are not like that, and most people only talk to another human if they are interested in a relationship.
I: Which I feel is kind of a bad way to go about it, you should just be able to talk to somebody without having to necessarily mean that you’re wanting to date or-
R: I agree, but-
I: -smash or whatever.
R: -realizing that that is the way most people work, I just don’t even get near those lines.
I: Right, I feel you.
R: And also because he was younger than me too so at a certain part, I was worried that he was going to have a crush on me and something could happen. I don’t know, teenager Rhiannon just really needed to get her shit together. But in this, I still- like the grief didn’t really change at all, despite the fact that I did everything that I would have liked to have done with how I handled our relationship. But the thing that originally made me want to bring this up in the first place was he and I started talking online in like October/November of 2019.
R: And I had been kind of creeping on his dating profile for months. And every time that I looked at that- I like saw his picture come up in my feed. I was like, “Oh, he’s way too cute. He is way too interesting, there’s no way he’d be interested in me.”
I: Oh, so not just men stalk.
R: No. All genders, man. But months go by that I am just creeping at him through the internet and I’m thinking he’s too good for me. And then one day I finally click on his profile. Now remember, you asked me if he had a way of knowing?
R: If you look at the photo in the feed, there’s no notification but if you click on the profile, then a notification comes through that so and so has viewed you. And one day I accidentally clicked on his profile so he got the alert, and then he messaged me like ten minutes later.
I: Real quick. What app was this through?
R: Uhm… it’s…. I… haha… I don’t know if I’m ready to talk about this facet of myself yet.
I: Okay, that’s fair. We can just leave it, you can tell me later.
R: Yeah, I’ll tell you later. I’m just not ready to talk about it on the internet. -laughs-
R: But it was just a dating site, like I didn’t pay any memberships or anything for it. And he got the notification, he messaged me so fast and was like “hey,” it was very straight to the point too. It was like, “Hey, you seem like my type, I would like to get to know you. Here’s my number. Let’s talk if you’re interested.” And so we started texting and lo and behold, I find out that he- I’m almost apologizing for looking alternative because on dating sites, I was noticing that there weren’t really other people that look like me. And so I wasn’t really expecting-
I: Well that’s good because then that means there’s no clones.
R: Well, yeah, but if, if you’re on a dating site, looking for a Barbie doll, and then this goth weirdo just shows up in your feed, that’s very clearly not what you’re looking for. You know?
I: You want to have something that’s funny about that? So I don’t particularly really do dating apps because I prefer to meet people where I’m at.
I: But I do occasionally look through the dating apps; mostly it’s because the dating apps have sent me some alert on my phone and then it was like ‘Oh, that’s right. I have dating apps on my phone. Let’s go look to see what they’re recommending.’
I: And it’s funny because the Barbie doll looking types-
R: Which no offense to them.
I: No offense to them.
R: That’s totally my type; I love feminine energy like that, like no dissing whatsoever.
I: I think you can be fem- you can have feminine energy regardless. I don’t think you have to necessarily be the Barbie doll archetype-
R: Well yeah.
I: -for it to be feminine, but those are the ones that usually swipe left or whatever the one that’s like not not interested. I don’t know which way to swipe. So I’m sure I’ve probably swiped yes on things I should have swiped and swipe no on things I probably should have swiped yes on, but I tend to look for- Okay, so nothing against the Barbie doll archetype.
I: Like if that makes you happy, you do you boo. Whatever makes your-
R: Heck yeah.
I: -whatever helps you live your best life. Those are not the people I’m attracted to. Partly because in my experience, those people are generally… not fun people. It’s- no, I should take that back. It’s not that they’re not fun, but they’re- what they would more than likely find funny-
R: You’re just incompatible. Your senses of humor are off.
I: Yeah, I don’t feel like they would be compatible with my dark humor.
I: Which is a total judgment thing by the way. Because I could totally be swiping yes on the type of people I feel would get my sense of humor, and it turned out that they’re like-
I: they hate my sense of humor.
R: That’s why I hate dating sites. -laughs-
I: Yeah, it’s just like “here”
R: I’ve given up on all of them. I’ve deleted all my accounts and uninstalled everything. I’ve just given up but…
I: I definitely think we should do an episode on dating.
R: Okay… -laughs-
I: Apps and stuff just because I feel like there’s like an entertaining conversation to be had and I don’t want to take this too far from what we were originally talking about.
I: Because I feel this is important.
R: I appreciate that.
I: And I’m sure that there are people who will listen to this episode, whether the day it comes out or whether six months from now or whatever, that may be they’re grieving and maybe this is just something that they hear and they feel a little less…
R: That’s the goal.
I: -awkward…or a little less… They hurt a little less or whatever to know that there’s people out there that have gone through the same thing. So just not talk about that but we’ll…
R: Come back-
I: Come back in a different episode.
R: So um… where was I…?
I: So you were clicking on
R: Oh yeah, now I remember, okay.
I: And Gus got the alert saying-
R: Yeah, so he messaged me-
I: -you were stalking him.
R: -we start texting, and I never know… because I definitely have a taste for older men; I just- I can’t help myself. But that being said, I don’t know what texting etiquette is like for older men. Because men my age, I’m in my 20’s and-
I: Do you have daddy issues?
R: *whispering* I mean, this whole podcast we’ve talked about that. *speaking normally again* But I’ve addressed a lot of them!
I: I’m sorry.
R: It’s okay, here we are! We’re working on it!
I: On a side note. Growing up and hearing like ‘oh, well they have daddy issues.’ I never really understood it. Then I got a little older, began to understand it.
R: Because you have your own daddy issues?
I: Well, yes. But at the time that I started really understanding what it meant to have daddy issues, I didn’t have kids at the time. So I was like, ‘I’m never gonna do that to my kids.’
R: Yeah, but life had other plans. -laughs-
I: Apparently. So I mean, I apologize. Probably won’t be the last. -laughs-
R: You live and you learn.
R: Here we are. But we’re getting distracted again.
R: So, I didn’t know what texting etiquette was like so I’m just trying to match his energy. Which has kind of been my go to thing; I just match how people approach me and call it good.
I: It’s funny that you say that, because you are so into texting and social media whereas I’m not. So it seems like out of the two of us, you would have a better chance with that than me.
R: I feel like out of the two of us, maybe. But I am not that big into social media. Like I get weird head spaces where I just kind of spiral I’m like, ‘I’m gonna delete everything about me on the internet.’ And then I’m like ‘that’s, that’s your mania talking Rhiannon, we’re not gonna do that.’
R: I don’t know, I have a love/hate relationship with the internet. But most importantly, getting back to this. So originally, with Gus, we started talking in October/November. But because of Paul’s custody agreements with his three children and his two exes that he has kids with-
R: Holidays- so from-
I: His baby mama’s.
R: Because there’s Halloween, November, Chris- or not November. Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s, three of our four children’s birthdays are the first week of January,
R: And then my birthday is in the end of January. So from mid-October to mid-January, I am so busy. So like I’m just driving everywhere, worrying about parties and holidays and like making sure grandparents get to see the grandbabies, all that junk.
R: So at that time in 2019, that was before COVID started and things were still normal. So at that point, we were texting casually, but I made it clear I’m not available until after these birthday parties are over. So we can talk, but I’m not available until January. And he’s like, ‘That’s fine. So just check in with me periodically. And we can just meet in January.’ So at this point, we had technically known each other since like November, I could have known him sooner. Like if it was simply just me coming up in his feed and him seeing my page-
R: If I had just clicked on his profile in any time in those months before, I could have met him sooner.
I: Is that something you regret?
R: Yes and no, I’ll come back to that.
R: So we got the holiday season over with. I came up to Seattle, is where he lived, and met up with him the second weekend of January. And because I was driving from several hours away, my original plan was to come up for the day, and then drive back home after our date was over.
R: But then he offered to get me a hotel room so that if I didn’t feel comfortable, if I wanted my own space, etc, etc, then I had somewhere to go and I didn’t have to rely on him. But I also didn’t have to worry about driving home in the middle of the night.
I: That’s pretty sweet, actually.
R: Yeah, he’s an incredible man. And then shortly after, I went to Vegas for my birthday with my now ex girlfriend. And shortly after that, I lost my job at the growery. And then right after that, I started my job at Starbucks. And because of Gus, I was able to move up to where we are now which is much closer to him and also like several other people.
R: And so like so many things in my life, were only able to fall into place because I met him and at that exact time. So while yes, I- part of me wishes that I had just not been a coward. And that I had reached out sooner because then I would have had a little bit longer-
R: -that I could have loved him. But, and this is the point of today’s episode, is I was talking to somebody else about it. And knowing what I know now, if I had a choice between never reaching out to him at all, never meeting him and completely avoiding this pain and heartache and sadness, and all of this stuff that is really hard for me to deal with. If I could choose between avoiding all of it by never meeting him or the path that I took, I would still choose the path that I took because this pain and bullshit is worth all the good things that I had with him. And when I had that realization, I was talking to a friend of mine who said that he was jealous because he’s never experienced a love that he felt was worth losing.
I: I have never experienced that either. So I feel ‘em.
R: And that’s why I wanted to bring this up. Because Gus is the kind of person that will help anyone, regardless. Like you reach out, you ask, ‘Hey, I need this’. Boom, he’s there helping. He’s finding a way to be helpful. He’s always connecting people in all these different industries to helping like network and stuff like that. And something he used to do all the time is- because words of affirmation are a thing for me. I would say like, ‘thank you so much for doing this for me, thank you so much for blah, blah, blah.’ And he would look at me and be like ‘Kitten, what’s the point of having a Kitten if you’re not going to pamper her?’
I: That’s a good point.
R: That was his pet name. He was my Tiger because you know, he had tiger tattoos and a cat paw on his hand, and he really loved cats. So it was very obvious, very stereotypical, but I was Kitten.
R: Like, I’m not mad about it at all, but but he would say things like that to me. And every time he said things like that, I’d be like, ‘but I don’t feel like I deserve this. I feel like you’re just being too kind to me. I feel like you’re like I’ve tricked you somehow’, or something came up and I always didn’t believe that I was worthy of the relationship that he was giving me.
R: And I feel like that’s our biggest hang up because I would ask him all the time. ‘Are you sure you’re happy with me? Are you sure there’s nothing I can do for you? Are you sure that like we’re okay, we’re solid?” all the time. And he would be like ‘you don’t have to thank me for loving you. I’m just treating you the way that you should be treated.’ But for so much of our relationship, I didn’t think I deserved it. So the thing I do regret is that I argued with him so much. And not an argue of like, angry it was ‘Are you sure? Are you sure? Are you sure though? Like for real? Like I know you’ve reassured me 20 times but are you certain about this?” and he never once got upset with me or anything. He would just constantly pour love into me and because I had a situation, where like one time I came over and I was shake literally a shaking mess with anxiety.
R: And I hate money. I have grown up poor, money gives me stress. And I came to him one day because you know COVID, all of our hours are gotten cut and
R: I was having a hard time paying rent and so I’m stressing out because I’m about to ask my boyfriend for money to pay rent. And he puts his arm around me and he’s like ‘we can take as long as you need to talk about this whatever it is, I’m not doing anything else. I’m right here for you.’ He gave me his undivided attention. He was supportive; only ever came to me with compassion, patience and understanding. And younger Rhiannon would have self sabotaged.
I: What do you mean?
R: Like the fact that I- it took me months before I accidentally clicked on his profile. I didn’t even read his profile, just looking at him I was like ‘eh, he’s too good for me. He would never be interested in me.’ I was exactly his type.
I: Wait, wait, wait. So two things I want to address about this: the first thing is just real quick. So when you’re looking at his dating profile, you were just looking at pictures, you’re not reading the profile at all?
R: So like you know when you’re on- when you’re scrolling and you can just scroll through and it has like a feed of photos and then you can click on the photo to pull up the profile and like read through it?
R: That was kind of what I was doing. I was just going through being like I’m not really interested in this body type or what have you.
I: Oh, ahallow as a mofo.
R: Yeah, well, that’s the other thing too is my idea with polyamory, which may be garbage. And I’m so sorry if the polyamory community hates me for it. But with- my mentality is: with polyamory, you have more options, yes. But you have to be extremely selective because you have all these options. So if you’re going to invest time and energy into a new partner, they should be specifically what you’re looking for. Not just ‘eh, good enough.’ So-
I: I think there’s no one way to-
R: Well, here’s the thing,
I: -practice polyamory, as long as you’re being ethical about it.
I: You’re doing it right.
R: But a lot of the people I was seeing were just outside of my age, preferred age bracket, so that automatically I was like, I’m just not doing that. And then I hate it. I can’t change it. Gus was literally an inch shorter than me. And that is the shortest I can possibly do. Because I’m so tall. And sex is made weird with people that are shorter than me, unless they’re female or like female anatomy frame kind of thing, like petite. You either have to be smaller than me or bigger than me, I cannot be comfortable with someone that’s the same height as me. And so that was the other thing too.
I: You would think that would make it easier, to be the same height. Yeah.
R: No, because like leverage and momentum and things like that. And depending on what positions you’re getting into. *phone starts going off* Sorry, everyone, my phone just started ringing. I didn’t know the volume was on.
I: As someone who’s tall and has dated and had sexy fun times with short people.
I: I love short people, don’t get me wrong.
R: Yeah, cuz it’s the height difference.
I: It is.
R: It does, it makes it easier!
I: No, it actually makes it a little bit harder. In some instances. I don’t want to get…
I: explicit… but I don’t know. I just found that regardless of height, if you’re wanting to, you know…
R: If you want to do the thing, you’ll do the thing.
I: If you want to do the thing, you’ll figure- you’ll figure out a way.
R: Well, but again; I was looking at it as if I’m going to find another partner, I’m allowed to be a little bit particular and selective because I already have one.
I: I think it’s okay to have preferences. As long as when you’re exercising the preferences, you’re not being cruel about it.
I: There’s certain people I won’t date.
R: But hold on, we’ll come back to this because that actually rewrites to what I was trying to say, though. For months, I just assumed that I wasn’t what he was looking for. Or that for whatever reason, I wasn’t gonna be- like, it was all me. 100% it was ‘I don’t think I’m good enough for this man. I don’t think I’m smart or clever or pretty or gothy enough’ or what have you.
I: Right, because he doesn’t even know you exist at this point.
R: Yeah. And then once I looked through his page, I was like, ‘Oh, hell no, I sure as fuck am not in this man’s realm in any way’. And then he ended up messaging me and so the whole time-
I: After he sees that you…
R: So like, so once I’m like, reading through his page, I’m like, ‘Oh my God, he’s so sweet and funny and clever and witty, and I just would love to talk to him. And he’s super cute and loves cats.’ I’m like, ‘how can I go wrong?’ But again, I’m like, I don’t think I’m cool enough for this.
R: Turns out, he thought otherwise, obviously. And he invested the last year and a half of his life into loving me, in addition to everything else he was doing. And I was thinking about it and like while yes, I kind of kicked myself now because I wish I could have gotten those extra few months with him. And I almost wonder what my life would have looked like if I had met him in the summer of 2019 versus the winter of 2020.
R: So part of me is like, yeah, that really fucking sucks and like, I don’t like that. But the other part of me though, is if I had to choose, I’m grateful, I got to know him at all. But the difference between those two outcomes was, I didn’t believe I was worthy of it.
I: Well, first off, somebody told me something a long time ago, that they believe that people come into our lives, and they’re in our lives for as long as they need to be. And sometimes that reason is because you’re meant to learn something from them. Or maybe you’re meant to teach them something.
I: And that however long you and the other person are together in this life, that’s how long you’re supposed to…
I: …to be.
R: Like just trusting your divine timing kind of thing?
I: Right. And that we have the problems that we have, are when we try to hold on longer than they’re meant to be there. And so that’s something that’s always kind of been in the back of my mind. And it’s just something I try to keep in mind. And it feels like while you can say that, yes, you should have been a little less stalkerish and a little bit more communicative. If you go by what I just was saying, then you and Gus, were not meant to be in each other’s life until that happened.
I: So it’s easy for you to like, look at what- you know, the months of stalking that you did-
R: It was not stalking, it was just fondly looking at display photo in the feed on a dating site, and just being like, ‘wow, I wish I could make out with this guy.’
I: Whatever helps you sleep, when you’re stalking this guy. So know at the time that you’re doing this, like if what I was told was true, then even though you’re sitting there looking at and go, ‘I’m not this guy’s type, he would never like me’ or whatever maybe at that point, even if you had just tossed it out there made yourself known, messaged him. You may not have gotten together until later, or you may have gotten together and it just would have been a bad time in his life or your life. That would have-
R: I mean, he did have a girlfriend that he met through the same site that I’m told was… I don’t think she’ll ever listen to this. I don’t, I can’t imagine this person would ever listen to this. And I myself am only paraphrasing. I have no personal opinion. But I’m told that she was a terrible person and kind of crazy, and she had a small dog. And-
I: Well, there it is, right there.
R: Yeah, like I don’t want to be that guy but like-
I: If you own a small dog, you’re crazy.
R: I mean, he said it.
I: There’s a lot of people that are gonna be angry that ‘I’m not crazy. I own several small dogs.’ -laughs-
R: I mean, that kind of would prove my point. But during the months that I was creeping on him, he was dating this other girl who was taking up his time and energy and was very… I’ve heard from several different sources, was just not a good match. They were not good together.
R: So you’re right. Athat point in time, like in those few months, he was already distracted with another person. So it’s possible. But the reason I wanted to bring this up to really emphasize the point though, is that I could have easily missed it if I didn’t believe I was worthy of having that kind of connection. And that’s what I think keeps happening where with you, the other friend I was talking to last night with a lot of people; they ask like ‘what’s so unlovable about me? What’s so wrong about me? Why haven’t I felt this love that other people talk about in movies and books?’ And I’m like, it wasn’t like a storybook situation but I felt that love and I accepted it, instead of constantly rejecting it and being like ‘I’m unworthy of this love and attention.’
R: Because that’s what we all do.
I: So the second thing that I was gonna bring up was- because you’re talking about the not feeling worthy not you know, whatever. That is something that echoes my trajectory when I was younger and dating, there was a lot of that ‘Are you sure, why are you dating me? Like what do you find attractive?’ Needing that validation and that’s a trauma response. And it’s actually a generational trauma response because I had all the crap that was thrown on me growing up that led to that. Then of course, I’m broken and don’t realize it. I don’t want anybody to listen to this. If you have mental health issues or whatever, I don’t want you to go away from this thinking you’re broken. It’s just you have additional difficulties that you have to deal with in living your life.
R: That weren’t your fault.
R: Like that’s the big thing is with depression and-
R: -mental disorders. It’s always ‘what’s wrong with me?’ No honey, there could be chemical imbalances. I will absolutely give you that. But-
I: Right, but in our case-
R: The trauma that’s given to you is not your fault.
I: -but in our case, as we’ve talked about outside of the podcast is for me, the long time of not having that even though I was going to therapists, I never had it diagnosed. So here I am. I’m living with this and trying to cope and do whatever, but I’m also trying to be a father. So my messing you up was never intentional.
I: Like I wanted to be the better father. I wanted to, you know, give you a childhood I never had. But because I was fighting demons that I wasn’t even aware were there, it just made it more difficult. So just something to keep in mind that if you have this in your family, there’s a good chance you don’t have a good relationship with your parents because while yes, your parents might have messed up and they need to own it, there could be things there that made it difficult for them to be a better parent. But anyway, going back to this, so you come into this with this generational trauma of not feeling good enough, not feeling loved enough. So you have that trauma. So at the time he’s dating-
R: Somebody else, I don’t even know what her name is.
I: I’ll call her Miss Incompatible.
I: Because you don’t know that she’s actually crazy or whatever. A lot of these things, when we talk-
R: We get secondhand stories.
I: -it is secondhand stories, but what I’m seeing is like in a lot of cases with relationships. I know a lot of my relationships were not the best because, again, I had mental illnesses that had not been diagnosed that was certainly informing my own behaviors. There was also the fact that I wasn’t setting proper boundaries.
I: That fed to it. So I don’t necessarily want to say the people that I’ve dated are crazy. And it always makes me cringe when I hear, ‘Oh, yeah, the crazy ex-girlfriend’’. You know,
R: She may actually be crazy.
I: She could be a bad person. But she could have also had her own things. And maybe the two of you dealing with that just didn’t-
R: Weren’t compatible.
I: Weren’t compatible. And it was like what we were talking about in the other love language episode that it just could be the love languages. Just you’re speaking one love language, the other person speaking another love language, and you never figured it out.
I: And so you have those, those interfering. So I would-
R: And that really comes down to just having the language. Because with mental illnesses, for example, like you knew you had depression. If you have depression, you know, you have depression.
R: You just might not know the name for it is depression or executive dysfunction is a term for one of the symptoms. Like if you’re not aware and educated on the language around that situation, it makes it even harder to try to address because then you don’t know what you’re fighting.
R: But I actually- I made a tech talk about the next point I’m going to make, I don’t even remember how long ago now. But essentially, it came up with somebody asking like angrily about from the self love community, how we can say the saying, “no one will love you until you love yourself.” And then like the rest of the tiktok, which justifiably that saying is garbage, I will put that out there that ‘no one will love you until you learn to love yourself.’
I: I feel like that is true that that’s a garbage saying, I just want to ask why you feel it’s a garbage saying.
R: Because for one, self love is really fucking hard. It’s really hard.
R: Because part of self love is looking at all the flaws and things that you have with a realistic lens and accepting them. And that’s really, really difficult to do. And I feel like setting the expectation that you’re only worthy of love from another person after you’ve done all this intense Shadow Work, intense like healing mentally with a therapist maybe. You’re worthy of love, even if that is still in progress. Now, the tiktok that I made was explaining the sentiment itself is garbage, but I understand why it’s a thing that people say. Because until I learned to love myself better, and I’m going to use Gus as a perfect example. Because he single handedly came into my life and changed so many things just by being an example of healthy communication, honest and open communication and like just learning how to do these things from a partner. And-
I: I’ll say that my biggest regret on all this is I never got to meet him to thank him for that, because I’ve seen the change in you since dating him.
R: Mhm. And it was- our relationship was all condensed essentially to his little apartment because it was all through 2020. So like we didn’t even get to really do much in the world together and he still had that profound of an effect on me that it has changed.
I: I think COVID has had the effect for some people that it’s allowed them to get to know each other better and get closer that way.
I: And then there are also people that have gotten to know each other a little bit more, and have decided like, ‘ooh, I didn’t like you as much as I thought.’
R: Yeah. Well, and I feel- I worry about people in abusive households that are stuck in a… but we’ll come back to that.
I: For reals.
R: So the saying, ‘no one will love you until you love yourself’ is garbage. But I get why because once I had a relationship where boundaries were something I was allowed to have, much less clearly communicate and have respected, that changed everything.
R: So just having a partner where I could come to him and be like, ‘I really don’t appreciate when you do this, I would really it would be better for me if we can modify this behavior, do this blah, blah blah’ and he was receptive to it. It wasn’t an argument. It wasn’t a fight. It was a ‘I see what you’re saying, I will modify that behavior’, regardless of what it was. And because we were able to have that kind of communication, we literally never had a fight.
I: Well, when you were bringing this up to him was the things that you were wanting reasonable-
I: -or were they like, way out of whack?
R: So I’ll give an example. He, like I said, died from liver failure because of an adulthood of drinking, essentially.
R: And if you’re in the tech industry, pleaaase drink more water. Please drink more water. But-
I: I think everyone should drink more water regardless.
R: Well, yeah, but like I’ve heard about the parties and whatnot, and I just as a mom, I need you to drink more water.
R: But because of his drinking, what would happen is- he was not a mean or a violent drunk by any means. What would happen is he would just be casually just drinking with his normal routine and then middle of the night, I would get a phone call where he’s crying and just needs extra, like extra love and reassurance. And I am all for that; words of affirmation or my love language so that is not a problem for me at all. However, at a certain point, because of COVID, isolating him so much, and things shutting down and like his primary things for self care, were concerts and traveling international, and those are all taken away. And-
I: Was he an extrovert?
I: Because I feel like COVID really hit extroverts a lot harder.
R: Really hard, yep.
I: As an introvert, it’s like when they were like, ‘Okay, you got to stay home and work from home.’ I was like, ‘I have been training for this my entire life.’
R: Yeah, Scar too. Scar and Paul are both like, ‘I’m happy just being at home forever’. And I’m like, I miss a dance floor so fucking much.
I: I mean, I miss concerts. I miss being able to go out and do stuff like that. But-
R: No, he was very much the life of the party, liked to tell stories…
I: Okay, yeah.
R: He’s very much one of those people. So isolation was really fucking bad for him. And it got to the point that he would- at this point, I was opening at work. So I was getting up for work at like, 2:30 in the morning, and he would call me at like 11pm/midnight, and then need to talk to me for like, an hour and a half, two hours where-
I: That’s rude.
R: Because his drinking got him into such a bad loop brain that he like, needed reassurance. But once it got to like a certain point, I was arguing with his mental health at that point and it didn’t do anything. And so-
I: Yeah, that’s hard.
R: -and so I sat down and I was like, ‘I want to be there for you, I want to be supportive, I want to be helpful and give you that love when you need it. However, I work at 2:30 in the morning. I really need you to not call me at 11pm when I should be sleeping, and then demanding my attention for an hour and a half. And like needing a lot of emotional output when I have to go to work in a couple hours, like I can’t have that.’
R: And he was like, ‘I hear you loud and clear. I’m so sorry, I’ll stop doing that.’ And then he stopped doing it. So that’s the whole thing is like I had a boundary, but I knew I was in a relationship that it was okay to have that boundary for one. And that if I came to him, and I was like, ‘honey, I want to be there, I want to support you, I want to love you. But I also, I need this to take care of myself, I need more sleep.’
I: Which is totally legit. So he obviously felt safe enough to come to you with this and talk about whatever was rolling around in his head. For me, it’s hard to talk because once I hit that thing, it shuts for me. It’s like being locked in a room that has no door and no windows. Like I could have all the desire to talk to somebody about it. But it’s just not going to happen because I basically shut down. And I actually have somebody that I can talk to about this stuff, maybe not right when it’s happening and I’m kind of shut down. I do have somebody that I can go to and say like I’m feeling this way and feel safe in that. But in this case, he obviously felt safe to talk to you about that, which was excellent. But he’s doing it at like midnight, when you gotta get up in a few hours. So you gave the boundary, said ‘Look, I need sleep.’ I’m gonna guess he still needed to be able to vent that. So how did you work that to where he was able to have that need met and you were able to have your needs met?
R: So while I could, because right after my birthday, he went into treatment and so he wasn’t as easily accessible via phone call or text or anything like that.
R: So pretty much all of 2021 I’ve had extremely limited contact with him. That was before he went into treatment.
R: But when I set that boundary conversation I pointed out, because he’s told me stories of people in his life who have always had his back, he’s always felt safe and comfortable with them. And a lot of them do live in different time zones also. So the system that we ended up coming up with was every night before bed, whether one of us- it was usually me going to bed early because you know work at 2:30 in the morning.
R: We would have a good night call where we would just talk to each other on the phone for however long you want. Because at this point, it’s like I’m going to go to bed after this so we can talk as long as you like-
R: kind of thing. And so he and I would just be able to connect that way but then he also, I reminded him all the time that he had those other people in his his support network, and so he would reach out to them. Because with the different time zones, like he has a friend named Fred that lives in Ireland. And so they’re eight hours ahead of us.
R: So the middle of the night for us, is Fred’s getting up in the morning.
I: Sure. So okay, so because of that eight hour difference, he’s in that horrible zone at midnight, he reaches out to Fred because Fred’s getting up.
I: So Fred’s already gotten sleep. He’s getting his needs met by just being able to talk and get it out. And then you’re getting your needs met by-
R: And then we connected before I went to bed so that he already got that extra encouragement and affirmation and love for me first.
I: That’s pretty good. Did you find that that helped, by switching into that talking to him before going to bed?
R: I thought so. But also, we need to take into consideration that the drinking was the biggest problem with his emotional lows, because generally speaking like yes, he has depression and things like that. But
I: Well, alcohol is a depressant.
R: Yeah, like that is naturally going to make it worse. So the problem that we were really having is that he was by himself and just drinking all day. And so progressively as the day went on, he was getting more and more drunk by himself.
R: Thinking more and more negatively. And so I feel like if he wasn’t drinking, he might not have needed as much support as intensely.
I: As somebody who used to be an alcoholic, or as a recovering alcoholic depending on how you look at it. I can tell you that yeah, alcohol definitely does not help-
R: So like, that’s just an example of a boundary that I set. But because I felt safe in our relationship to do it, I was able to set that boundary, he honored it, we were able to modify our relationship and go forward with a healthier mindset, right. But if you yourself don’t, this is where the whole ‘if you don’t love yourself, no one will love you’; If you don’t love yourself enough to demand those boundaries, you’re going to allow bullshit treatment. So it’s not-
R: -it’s not that if you don’t love yourself, no one will love you. It’s that if you don’t love yourself, enough to have boundaries, limitations, expectations; like if you’re not aware of your needs, and yourself enough to be aware of like, ‘this is something I’ll never tolerate in a relationship. This is what I am looking for. This is what makes me the happiest.’ Like, if you don’t already know that information, you’re just gonna slap whatever band aid you can find. And then it might not be the band aid you need.
I: And part of the problem with that is something called new relationship energy. We all have that; you first meet somebody, everything seems to be going good-
R: Your envisioning your life together, and you’ve only been talking for a week.
I: I used to do that, then I grew up.
R: That’s something I’m working on now.
I: So when you’re doing that you’re on your best behavior, you’re not displaying any of the ridiculous crap, so you don’t see who that person might actually be for reals. Until you know, eventually you’ve got along and then now it’s a little less new and you feel a little bit more comfortable being around that person that you can just kind of-
I: -let the person see other sides of you. And sometimes that’s just a matter of just kind of relaxing and then maybe you’re joking a little bit more than you normally would.
R: Just feeling more comfortable.
I: Or if you’re a narcissistic piece of shit, the mask falls off and you reveal yourself to be a fucking demon.
R: Yeah, I mean, if only you had somebody in your life to tell you not to do that, if only.
I: Really, is that where we’re gonna go with this?
R: -laughs- I’m sorry.
I: You did warn me but to be fair, she did not come across as narcissistic.
R: And it’s funny because my reason for like when you told me I was like ‘her? of all people?’ and you’re like, ‘What’s wrong with her?’ I’m like, ‘She’s so stupid. Like, how do you- how do you have conversations with her? She’s so fucking stupid.’ Turns out she’s a narcissist, and just very good at playing dumb.
I: Yes. So for people listening, like, ‘what?’
R: So good, so good I was like, ‘She’s too stupid for you. Stop.’
I: I didn’t do a lot of dating when you were younger, mostly because like I kept that away. Whatever I was doing, I kept that separate from you because kids form a bond way quicker. And I didn’t want to have a parade of people in and out and then you’re like, ‘Oh, hey’, and you form a bond with that person and then that person’s out. And then you’re just like, ‘oh, where’d that person go?’ Because that could be damaging.
R: I’m selective with who I introduced to Scar too, like she never officially met Gus. They talked on the phone and video chat a couple times. And he sent her a bunch of books because she’s bored out of her mind in school.
R: Like even she hasn’t met him, we were together a year and a half.
I: I feel like part of that. It’s also the COVID
R: COVID 100%. Yeah,
I: But no, what I’m saying is in that case, like yes, she was very good at hiding who she was. And one of the big things about narcissist is they will pretend to be what you need. So when I was I thought that the person I was getting with was somebody who mirrored my values, believed the things that I believed in. I really thought like, ‘Okay, this is somebody who’s really compatible’ and very rarely do you get lucky and have the narcissist just pull down the mask and go “PSYCH” you know? It’s very gradual.
R: Paul’s ex wife essentially did that. -laughs-
I: Well, I didn’t figure out she was a narcissist until the end of our relationship. So I didn’t even put two and two together until I was looking at something for divorce. And, you know, on the Internet at the bottom of the page is always like additional articles?
I: That may or may not have anything to do with what you were just reading. And there was something about narcissism out remember what it was, I was like, ‘oh, I’ll click on it.’ And I read it. And it was a checklist. It’s like did this person know my wife at the time? Because like she checked off every single box on it. And then that’s how I figured out.
R: But I wonder how much of that could have been avoided if you had had self respect enough to be knowledgeable of like, what you needed, what to look out for, what to avoid. If you had a boundary setting conversation, and it didn’t go well, that would have told you that you needed to end the relationship. But if it would turn into a fight, would you have left? Or would you have stayed because he didn’t think you deserved any better?
I: It’s the latter.
I: And I’ll tell you why. Because all my life, even when I was a child and would try to set boundaries, I would be made to feel like I was being selfish. Like,
I: Ugh, I have a PhD in being gaslit. I don’t gaslight people.
R: -laughs lightly- It’s not funny but I get the sentiment.
I: I can laugh at it now. But yeah, no, I mean, I was gas lit by my mom.
R: And that’s part of addressing your childhood trauma; is that you have to reparent it yourself and you have to unlearn that mindset.
R: And that is what happened with Gus, is where I had that same mindset where asking for things was never okay. Clearly directly communicating what I wanted or needed never went well. So I didn’t know how to really do that, until I was with a partner that gave me that safety in that environment. But I could have very easily missed him and who knows where I’d still be right now. So the point I ultimately wanted to make with this episode was if you look at all of the relationships you’ve had so far, and none of them were worth the pain that- like none of the love and the good memories were worth the pain that you had, it might not have been the love that you’re really looking for yet.
R: And you’re going to have a hard time experiencing that love until you love yourself enough to be aware of your boundaries, and your needs and make sure that you have space to communicate them. And if you’re with a partner who does not allow you communicate with that: fucking leave.
I: No, I agree.
R: If you’re in a relationship where this person doesn’t make you feel safe and you can’t come and talk to them about anything that’s deep and core to you; fucking leave.
I: I absolutely agree with that. When I got divorced from my narcissistic ex, I was like in a really bad place. I mean-
R: But look at you now.
I: -to be honest, the only thing that kept me alive during that time frame was Vader. Because I had made a promise to take care of him his entire life. And there were times I was thinking like ‘who can I find a home-’
R: Even that was almost a challenge too because she stole him.
R: Like kidnapped him from you.
I: She did.
R: So even, for like- for how long? Was it like two months?
I: Like about two three months? Yeah.
R: That you had no idea where your service dog was?
I: Yeah, I mean, well, to be fair, he was not a service dog at the point because he was still a puppy.
R: Because he was still in training.
I: Yeah, he was training, although it was hard initially because she kept undermining. But that’s because like the whole getting the service dog was to make her look good. ‘Oh, I don’t know what’s wrong with my husband, but we’re getting a service dog to help’ and people would be like, ‘Oh, you’re such a good wife’, whatever.
I: But meanwhile, she was-
R: Actively gaslighting.
I: Yeah, she’s undermining. So I will be teaching him how to sit, for example. And instead of doing exactly what I teach him to do, she would just teach them different things. Like one day it would be sit and she flap her hand, and then another day, it’d be sit like she was sign language. It was never consistent. And I think my training- not to get too far off. But in training a dog,
R: Consistency is important in any training.
I: -consistency is important, right. If you tell them sit and you flap your hand like a bird, and then the next day, you’re like, ‘let’s have a tea party, old chap’. And then you’re acting like you’re doing sign language; the dog doesn’t know what you’re doing,they don’t get it. So-
I: Yeah, she’s definitely undermining it to keep it from being an actual service dog. But-
R: And you never left. You stayed in that bullshit relationship for so long, because you didn’t think you deserve better. And a lot of people, I myself included, have reached moments in our lives where we think to ourselves, ‘it’s better to be miserable with this person I know, than to risk being alone forever.’
I: I’m gonna say-
R: And I don’t know why being alone is so bad.
I: Yeah, no. I’m gonna say, not really on this one. In previous relationships, absolutely. In this one, she physically assaulted me so bad in October of 2015 that I was trying to figure out a way to- how it’s gonna get divorced, where I was gonna go, and then we just kind of-
R: Proud of you for that.
I: Yeah, well, I ended up staying like an additional year. But the thing with abuse is that very rarely do you get lucky and get the abuse up front.
I: Part of what narcissists do-
R: Air quotes on lucky.
I: Yeah, for sure. Part of what narcissists do is called love bombing; they make you feel really, really loved, like you’re really valued. And that’s what she did. So like the first year was just there was like some argue- there was some arguments that went down that looking back, clearly were red flags. But I’m dumb sometimes. -laughs-
R: No, it’s you didn’t think you deserve better. So you’re like, this is just how love is I thought the expectation you’d had.
I: Well, I thought it was just two people learning to live together, and you’re going to have those things. But abuse is usually very…
I: By the time I realized, like, what a horrible situation I was in it took a much more physically violent altercation. And by altercation I mean, she was being violent to me. I was trying not to do anything because-
R: You know, justice system and men against women.
I: Yes. And yes, I realize that there are women who get unfairly arrested for domestic violence, because the guy claims it or whatever. But more often than not, it’s men that get nailed for this. And she was very good about doing things like grabbing my car keys and my wallet to keep me from going and she would insert herself between me and the door, I could never leave.
I: And the only way I’d be able to leave is if I physically grabbed her and moved her. But I knew what that would end up, because I knew the kind of person she was. She would have called the cops and claimed I beat her or something, and then I’d be going to jail. That’s like, I’m not going to jail for this person.
R: Exactly what you said. ‘I thought these were just things of living together.’
I: Yeah, initially.
R: Paul and I have been together almost seven years, we have had maybe two big fights. One of them was about a hypothetical situation that we’ve literally never had to worry about. It was more of a ‘what would you do in this situation?’ And I didn’t like his answer. And, he didn’t like mine.
R: And it has literally never come up. It’s never- never been a thing.
R: But that was like our big fight. But in that situation normally, like, I’ll use you, for example. When we got into a big fight, there was yelling, it was loud, it was a lot of energy. When Paul and I got in this fight, he looked at me and he said ‘Rhiannon and I need space. I need you to leave this house. I need you to go somewhere else and just give me some space to decompress.’ So I went and hung out at my mom’s house for like three hours and just watched TV, and then I texted him and I was like, ‘Is it okay for me to come home? Like, can we talk about this?’ I came home, we had a conversation about it have not had a problem since.
I: I feel like that’s how it should be but that’s not how it is. It’s like-
I: In most cases, it’s like it’s-
R: That’s because you’re settling with someone that is not compatible-
I: For sure.
R: -because you’re not aware of your own personal needs. You’re not setting and maintaining your own boundaries, and you’re not willing to walk away if it’s not enough.
I: The thing is, is that when I left the relationship; now, I figured we got a divorce and I figured out she was narcissist. But there was still a thing I was like, well, what’s wrong with me that I didn’t catch that?
I: And trauma plays a part of it. But another part is being empathic, people who are empathic are huge targets for narcissists.
R: I’ve learned.
I: And I did go through therapy, and trying to figure out put all this stuff and I learned a lot. And I won’t really go into the details but to tie it into ‘you have to love yourself before you can for anyone else can love you’. I agree that just that on its face is just horribly damaging.
I: But you do have- it’s not necessarily love yourself, you do have to do the work to get yourself to a point to recognize the signs to be able to communicate, I’m having this issue.
I: If I’m in the middle of a suicidal ideation episode, which a week or two ago, I went through almost an entire week of that.
R: I feel bad that I don’t feel like I was as supportive through that as I could have been, I just didn’t know.
I: You didn’t know because I didn’t tell you because again, like I shut down. And I just-
R: You know, Gus had this system where he said that he had a two to three business days processing time.
R: So like he told me that when we first got together, and I saw it in motion, where he went to therapy one day, and they addressed something really big for him and like mother issues are definitely a big thing for him. And in that session after it was over, he was like talking to me about it and telling me like ‘yeah, this is what we discussed, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah.’ And then the next day after work I called him to check in and he’s like, ‘yeah, so therapy finally hit me and I’m like, I’m just adjusting to everything’ and-
I: That’s how it be sometimes.
R: Yeah, but the fact that he recognized himself that it takes time for news to land, and he actively communicated that to me very early in our relationship. It gave me the heads up so that all of the sudden this like drop that I wasn’t anticipating, I know exactly what’s going on and I know how to help. Because he recognized this was his need, this was because of whatever issue and how I can react.
R: So he’s doing exactly like the work that you were just talking about. But I’ve had other partners where they don’t know shit about themselves. So when I’m like, ‘Okay, so in a panic attack, what can I do for you?’ ‘Oh, I don’t know.’ Okay, well, I also don’t know; like, I’m not you.
R: I’m very much a personal like, if I’m having an anxiety attack just giving me like a gigantic hug. Don’t say anything to me, don’t ask me any questions, just hug me and like, hold me there for a solid minute, and I’ll be fine.
R: But I know other people are very much a ‘talk me through it, distract me from the process, don’t touch me.’ So like, if you don’t know what kind of person you are for, like what kind of needs you have, and you don’t articulate those, then of course, people aren’t going to be there to support you the way that you need, because they don’t know.
I: Right, and you have to know those things. So that’s one of the things for me, like doing the work. That’s why I learned that boundaries was something that I never had learned to have.
I: So then from that point, it was doing the work. And I’ll tell you, when you’re just learning how to set boundaries, that is a scary thing to set a boundary with someone and just kind of inwardly ‘Oh my god, what are they gonna do?’ But I had to get to a point where like, ‘Okay, this is the boundary, and I’m not going to, I’m not gonna allow it to be crossed.’ And if they decide to just push past it, and disregard; that’s my sign.
I: Okay, we’re done.
R: 100%. Because if they don’t respect you enough to respect your boundaries, and that right there tells you that they’re not worth the time and energy you’re investing.
I: Correct. So that’s where I feel that loving yourself is not so much loving yourself, because there are days I don’t love myself.
I: That week where I had that suicidal ideation, it was just going through my head, like, I have no worth, nobody’s gonna find anything worthy of me. Now I know that’s ideation, because I’ve done the work to recognize when it’s an ideation episode.
R: The loop brain, yeah.
I: Right. And I do you have tools to help deal with it, that don’t always work, though.
I: So in this case, the thing that saved me from this week long suicidal ideation loop was actually a full on PTSD episode, which stopped the suicidal ideation but now I’ve got to deal with this.
R: Don’t you love how that works? Actually. So two things, I have a meme I’m going to bring up next. But a piece of advice I found from some therapists on tik tok was that when you are establishing your boundaries, you- I’m trying to think of how to explain it. So generally, people think of boundaries as in like, ‘I will accept all the behavior up until this point, and then after this point, it’ll be a discussion and we have to talk and establish whatever.’ When you’re establishing your boundaries, those are not the hard limits like ‘I will break up with you if you do this’, this is a I would feel really uncomfortable if you do this so this is a behavior that we should discuss.
R: So your boundaries are not something that is like a make or break. It’s how to feel comfortable and loved in the dynamic that you’re in. For example, we’ll use like domestic violence, right. Some people can have the hard boundary of like, I don’t want you to leave any bruises or anything on me. For me personally, if you touch me in any capacity that I am not consenting of in that moment, that is a boundary that we would have to address.
R: It doesn’t have to get to this really shitty point before I’m finally like, ‘oh, you’re not respecting my boundaries.’
R: Like, I know that in the beginning of the process of setting boundaries, you don’t feel like you deserve them. And so you’re like, I’ll stretch these boundaries as far as I can. No, they’re there to make you feel comfortable and safe.
R: And if your partner can’t do that, then they’re not the partner for you.
I: And we will definitely devote a whole episode to setting boundaries because this is a very important thing. I think there’s a lot of people out there that don’t know what it means to set boundaries, or know about setting boundaries but have been taught that it’s wrong to set boundaries.
I: You know that if you love someone, you won’t have those boundaries, or whatever, because we’re getting towards the end of this. And I think we should wrap it up but we will definitely do future episodes all about boundaries and setting them and why it’s important.
R: We should. So since you mentioned what snapped you out of your ideation episode. Couple weeks ago, I was starting the spiral of negative thinking and kind of going down that loop. I remembered this meme that said something along the lines of like “Coffee would be cold by the time I got to a giraffe’s neck. But do you ever think of anyone but yourself? No.”
R: That meme snatched me right out of it because I thought about it. I’m like: you know what, if a giraffe did drink hot coffee, it would be like room temperature by the time it got to its stomach. But if you drink iced coffee, it would still be like room temperature by the time I got to the stomach. So no matter what this giraffe is just having a terrible time with coffee. And here I am feeling sad.
I: I think that’s why they don’t drink coffee.
R: I know but like this crazy meme is what snapped me out of a depressive episode. I’m like: you know what, I gotta think of the giraffe.
I: I’m just thinking the giraffes have set their boundary. We’re not gonna deal with coffee.
R: I mean, that’s fair.
I: That’s bs. -laughs-
R: I respect that. I respect that. So the main takeaways from today’s episode, I guess: make sure you hug people that you care about, if they’re comfortable with it. Set personal boundaries because you deserve them. And if a partner you’re with does not respect them, then they’re not the one for you. Other people will love you before you love yourself, but it does, it still helps.
R: Also, giraffes don’t drink coffee because it’s just a waste of time.
I: They’ve set the boundary. All right, well that brings this episode to a close so… have a week!
I: This has been another episode of tricky fish. If you enjoyed what you heard and want more of it. You can follow us at Apple podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, or wherever you get your podcasts from. Please leave us a review as that really helps us out. You can find this at tricky fish podcast calm, as well as on twitter at tricky fish pod.
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