The Past Can Be Your Present Challenge

Are there some situations from long ago that still challenge you today? -Debbie Corso, Healing from Borderline Personality Disorder: My Journey Out of Hell Through Dialectical Behavior Therapy, pg. 226

The original post for the quote above can also be found here.

Potentially triggering content, overall discussion of triggers.

Potentially triggering content, overall discussion of triggers.

Since leaving the chaos of my last relationship, I have been able to pinpoint triggers with greater ease. It was difficult to identify triggers because everything was setting but having a generally calm life opens up the possibility of exploration.

I read the above question yesterday and immediately thought about a particular trigger that I didn’t realize was cutting my soul so deep until that moment. I am triggered by people (mostly intimate partners) who say that they/things are the way they are and will not change.Β 

From very early on, in friendships and intimate relationships, I was told to change who I was because people were
unhappy with me. Friends and boyfriends would leave when I failed to do so. I put a lot of effort into being the person they wanted me to be which sometimes meant compromising my own values. I was miserable. It was especially frustrating (and that’s a nice way of putting it) when I expressed the need for a change in their behaviour and they refused. I was always seen as the problem and if I wanted peace in the friendship or relationship then I needed to change.

B, my current partner, has said this triggering statement to me twice in the past 9 months of our relationship. One incident was in relation to his driving. He has no patience for most drivers and will make comments in the car and do other things to get out his frustration (some of which I feel are aggressive and include confronting the other driver in some way, ie: slowing down beside the offending car to look at them). While he was engaging in this behaviour I was Positive quote: You can’t change how people treat you or what they say about you. All you can do is change how you react to it. www.HealthyPlace.comtrying to ignore it but this process actually was building up my anxiety. When he uses this behaviour I begin to feel embarrassed and nervous about his driving which leads to an overall feeling of being unsafe. I eventually told him to stop what he was doing and leave the issue alone. I expressed that I didn’t like him driving the way he does and that I wanted it to change. B said that he wouldn’t change his driving, that there was nothing wrong it, and that was that. I became very overcome with anger and confusion. Because of my past I immediately prepared myself to fight which included many swear words and criticisms (I didn’t handle it well at first). I was upset because I felt like he was telling me that I had to accept feeling anxious and embarrassed. I felt like he was telling me that my feelings didn’t matter. I felt like I was going to have to compromise my need to feel safe so I could drive with him. I was not happy.

I have explained to B why I don’t like hearing phrases like, “I won’t change,” and I do believe he understands. I probably shouldn’t, but I will throw it back onto him when he tells me I shouldn’t get so angry. “That’s who I am so just accept it.” I am though working on changing my behaviour as it will improve my life. People need to change and do change in order to grow. B’s driving is not like it used to be and I do feel better driving with him.

The original incident happened a long time ago and I know my current partner wouldn’t actually require me to do the things that were required of me in the past, but, sometimes your past can seep into your present and I am working on developing the skills to learn how to cope with it. Β As the picture quote says, can’t change others but I can change myself. I can lead by example.


12 thoughts on “The Past Can Be Your Present Challenge

  1. In reading this, you made a statement that I think is incredibly profound: “I am though working on changing my behavior as it will improve my life.” BINGO!

    I can say, my wife and I have had numerous battles about who needs to change what about the other person. These conversations RARELY, get the desired results. I’ve long ago decided that there is only one person I can control in life – me. I began making decisions (in spite of) her desire to change or lack of desire to change. It sounds harsh, but the reality is that I have to be happy with what I do, even if I’m not happy about what she does. Actually, she began doing something similar with me. Granted, there are many things that are wrong with our relationship, but we are finally getting to a point where we are accepting of the other – I just wish it would have come about 15 years ago πŸ™‚

    • As much as we want to control others we can’t and if we are controlling them that is completely unfair and very unhealthy. Yes, we can only control ourselves. A social worker I spoke with today encouraged me to ask my partner to learn DBT skills with me, certain ones that could help us communicate as a couple. He’s agreed but now I just have to get the courage to actually teach him πŸ˜›

      My longest relationship was 5 years, but I ran into a similar issue, constant battles about who needs to change. In the end, I was changing and he was staying and it didn’t work. I’m really glad to hear that you and your wife are accepting each other. There must be something positive that has kept you together for 15 years! I do believe in the saying “Better late then never” if you’re both willing to keep at it πŸ™‚

      • i had an instructor say once, “the best way to learn something is by teaching others”. sounds really great that your bf may be willing to learn along with you. that’s awesome if he does!
        all but one man in my life, have never taken the time to learn anything about me, or how to help me. they just wanted me to be this barbie doll; be quiet and do what you are told, and all will be just fine. I did that for 20 years. it’s not worth staying in relationships when the other one is not willing to be a team player. you loose too much of yourself that way.

      • I learned that in my last relationship. It was all about what I had to change. I gave him my DBT workbook to read and he read the first 3 pages and then stopped. It was all on me. It’s really impossible. I’m still nervous to actually show my current partner some of the skills but I got the asking part out of the way.

  2. Interesting post. I can see myself on both sides of that discussion…frightening and embarrassing! It’s hard to think that I might actually behave like that. Thanks for depressing me, haha just kidding

    • I know!!! I used to say that to my ex partner all the time. He’d demand I change but claim that he had no control over his own actions….how can you ask me to do something that you aren’t willing to do!??!

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