Episode 114: Creeping Paranoia

A partner who reacts to a little bit of paranoia by accusing you of calling them a liar isn’t the best sign of moving forward in conflict in a relationship.

A partner who reacts to a little bit of paranoia by accusing you of calling them a liar isn’t the best sign of moving forward in conflict in a relationship.

That’s what’s on this week’s episode of Non-Monogamy Help.

Discussion Topic: What are the signs of you beginning to get too upset?

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Thank you to Chris Albery-Jones at albery-jones.com for the theme music and a big thanks for the podcast art to Dom Duong at domduong.com.

Podcast transcript

I think I'm suffering from the element of control about not knowing something and I'm damaging myself and those around me.

I have it in my head that my boyfriend of 8 years (we don't live together, see each other weekly) is involved with a person but he insists he is monogamous to me (his choice, not something I have asked for). In between seeing each other recently we don't talk that much (for the last 8 years we've spoken every night however his circumstances have been difficult the last couple of months and it has only usually been a goodnight message after I have gone to bed).

My issue has arisen as on occasion when we have texted I have received messages back from him that seem 'out of context' as if they were meant for someone else. An example of this is him not being present in a text conversation and when I've commented that it seems he is otherwise occupied I had a response of 'i thought you might need a decent night's sleep too ;) xxx' which I recognise as a playful comment he has made to me many times in the past after we have spent time together having sex.

I am making myself feel terrible having these doubts. I broached the topic the first time something like this happened : I had a text 'just wanted to say love you' in the morning which he would sometimes send when we were first together but I've not received something like that out of the blue for a couple of years. We had plans to see each other that evening and I later received a text telling me he was on his way.

When I asked him about any texts he had sent to me that day he replied that he had texted me to say he was on his way, when I asked if he had texted me that morning he looked blank. When I raised my concern he was seeing someone else he was quick to deny it and say he only wanted me and how could I say I love him if I am accusing him of that.

This type of thing happened again recently and when I asked what the text exchange meant, and again raised that it was okay if he was seeing someone else but it was only fair to let me know and if he was did the other person know about me and he became very upset, said that I can't love him if I am calling him a liar and went no contact for 2 weeks with the statement that 'perhaps' we can catch up in a couple of weeks time.

This was recently and I took that as having being broken up with. After 2 weeks he was in touch and arranged to stay in my area (he moved and hour and a half away about 8 months ago) and said maybe we could do something and when I said that would be good as I thought we needed to clear the air (I didn't know if we had split up, were we going to work on being together etc) his response was :

If by 'clear the air' you mean rehash the same stuff again and again that never gets resolved I think I'll pass. I was hoping that we could do something anything and have fun together and remind me why I love you. I'm not giving you another forum to continue more of your baseless, nasty insinuations as 'discussions'. I have conceded that I am willing to overlook all of it (again) and start fresh. It is impossible to do that if you keep dragging up again and again. So, maybe this isn't a good idea after all.

We did meet up, I texted beforehand to say that I considered myself broken up with and he didn't respond to that and we hung out and it was lovely to be together and I didn't ask to discuss it at all.

So I suppose I'm looking for some guidance; am I seeking some control to know that he is/has been seeing someone else and I've ruined everything trying to find out? He's said how can he let me know about something that isn't happening but the need to definitely know one way or the other is consuming me. Logically I know that there is nothing I can do except take what he says, it's just that something has felt 'off'.

Thank you if you have read this far, I could really do with some feedback.


So the problem really is not the texts. It's his behaviour. Firstly, it's absolutely acceptable in situations like this. And actually this happened in the previous podcast as well. For people to be like, “Oh, this seems kind of weird texting behaviour. And you know, I just want you to know that if you are interested in someone else, if you're seeing someone else that's fine, but I want to know about these texts because it seems weird”. That is an okay thing to ask.

And obviously I'm not there to see how you have broached the subject but it doesn't sound to me like you are accusing him of anything. You're simply bringing up like, “This is weird texting behaviour”, or “You don't remember that you've texted me and I just like to understand a little bit more about this and like obviously have these feelings”. Blah, Blah. Blah. That's okay.

It should always be okay to ask someone. And it's okay also if he feels hurt by that. That's also okay. But what's not acceptable is creating a situation where when you ask a reasonable question about a situation, he decides to go literally — and if he's literally saying this, this is the problem — “How can you say you love me and call me a liar?” And the way he's behaving around this is like taking a situation where you're asking a fair question and then constructing that you are calling him a liar, which it doesn't sound like you actually ever did call him a liar.

So he's putting words in your mouth. And then also creating a situation of guilt and blame instead of actually addressing the problem. He's not trying to understand why it is that you might feel this way. He's not trying to soothe your feelings in any way, shape, or form. He's simply completely diverting the victim status onto himself and then accusing you of being the problem. And that is a huge issue. And this is very, very evident especially in like the text that you just sent.

So literally you— the whole paragraph that you sent if like — “if by clear the air you mean rehash the same stuff again”, blah, blah, blah. “I was hoping that we could do something anything have fun together— remind me of why I love you”. What!? What?? He needs to be reminded, like? This creates a situation where again, like you're the problem.

You're always the problem here. You're the one making baseless nasty insinuations, when actually you're just asking questions about something and you're allowed to ask questions about something . Obviously, yes, if our partner is suspicious of us, maybe that definitely does hurt. I'm not trying to say that it doesn't hurt. But the way that you deal with that is not by creating a situation where you're questioning not only like how much your partner loves you, but then every time then you meet up, it's about like, “No, I need to be reminded of why I love you”.

“And you need to not ruin this time by bringing up bad things”. No, I'm sorry, but we don't have the good stuff in relationships without the bad. We don't have fun times — like this is not how any relationship works. I don't care if it's a romantic relationship or friendship, it doesn't matter. We don't have the good times by ignoring all the bad times and you have to go through and discuss the difficult things in relationships. And not put them off and ignore them. You have to go through that stuff.

That's part of relational being. It's not just all good stuff. Happy fun. Let's have a good time. That's not what it is. Conflict is inevitable in every single type of human relationship and it's actually how you deal with that conflict and heal and grow together that actually makes a stronger intimate bond. It's not avoiding this type of stuff.

So yeah, this behaviour of creating this situation where you are the problem is a problem to me. Because it doesn't even matter if he's actually cheating on you or not. Like I mean obviously your feelings about it matter. I'm not trying to say that the feelings don't matter, but there are ways to handle this situation. Like maybe he has a bad memory. I have such a shit memory. I have been— literally I have been in situations where I have said to my partner, “We should go see this movie together” or “We should rent this movie.”

And they've literally been like, “We saw that in the theatre. We saw that together”. And I had I did not remember. Like he could just have a really shit memory. And that's absolutely fine. But you respond to that situation like you know by going “Oh, I've completely forgot that I texted you. I’m sorry”. If he's like cheating on you, he’s really bad at it as well because like that's an easy cover. Like an easy thing to say.

It doesn't even have to be a whole big argument. It can be like, “Oh, yeah, I did text you that sorry. I'm just like== really bad memory”. So like even if he is hiding an affair, he's like bad at it as well. There are ways to handle the situation without creating guilt on your behalf and that's the issue here. And then like then when you ask again because you're confused and you're trying to understand he punishes you with no contact.

And it's not a situation like— if you're upset and as I said in the previous podcast — we had a very similar situation in the previous podcast — if you need to take time away because you're stressed out and unhappy. That is absolutely 100% acceptable. I understand people who are super anxious, and I've been in relationships where the other person responded to their upset by shutting down and that just made me more anxious.

And I absolutely understand being in a situation where when your partner needs space from you while they're stressed out or while they're angry, that can cause you to go into an anxiety tailspin. I absolutely understand that. However, people have a right when they're upset and when they're angry to take a step away and say— and they don't have to, you know, make it a big deal.

They don't have to punish you with that. There is a difference and like I know if you especially if you've grown up in a household where silent treatment was like the way that your parents punished you. It might be difficult to deal with this sort of thing. But I think there's an easy way and sometimes people don't always know to do this and I have sympathy for that. And I have understanding for that. People don't always know to say, “Listen, I really need to take a step away. I really need a day or two to collect my thoughts. I really need some time away. And I understand that you're upset and we will address this when I get back”.

That is how you take space and not everyone knows how to do that. And that's fine. Sometimes— also people like they want to feel like they matter to their partner. And so sometimes doing the silent treatment thing, and then having their partner reach out kind of is a weird reassurance to them, that their partner does really care about them.

And it's complicated, right? But the thing about this is, especially with the text that he gave you in response and especially with this response of like punishing you— It doesn't seem like going no contact for the sake of “I need some space away”. It seems like he's going no contact and then he is attempting to control your interactions when you get back. Like not only— like he's punishing you like— Okay two weeks timeout that's what you get.

And then when you try to discuss it again. I'm gonna guilt trip you and say like, “No, you're gonna ruin the time we have together by bringing this up” and like “your baseless accusations and you're lying about me and you're the evil one and I'm the victim” and blah blah blah. Like there's no recognition of the fact that you have a reason to be worried. No recognition of even trying to understand where you're coming from.

There's no effort whatsoever from what I've seen, to understand where you're coming from so of course something has felt off. And especially the little thing he said about like “Perhaps we can catch up in two weeks time”. That's what you say to — and like and I don't even agree with this when it comes to a child and disciplining a child this way — but when you ground a child this is what— this is how you say “You can't go out for two weeks. And maybe we'll think about it. Maybe we'll think about whether or not you can go to the dance”.

And I don't even agree with that kind of way of treating children necessarily. I don't think that actually works for children. But it is not, in my opinion, the way that someone is going to speak to me. I don't respond to that very well at all. I had a friend once that was like, “I’m gonna block you for two weeks. And then you know, I'll see if I want to ke—“ and I was like, “Bitch, I'll block you”. Like, I'm not— I don't respond to that really well, but I feel like especially if he said “perhaps we can catch up in two weeks”.

And especially when he accused you of calling him a liar which it doesn't sound like you did. Like did you actually call him a liar? Or did you say like, “Hey, these are weird texts. And I just want you to know that like if you're seeing someone…” Because sometimes that happens within non-monogamy. Sometimes people actually are scared to have that conversation that they're interested in somebody else and they're scared to like broach the subject so they kind of avoid it and then they kind of end up accidentally cheating.

Like that can happen and you did the right thing which is going like “Hey look like, there's some weird stuff going on. Just want to let you know like if you're interested in somebody else, that's totally cool with me. I'm not bothered by that”. And then his response is “No, you don't get to talk to me for two weeks and maybe we'll talk again”. Like… Absolutely not. Absolutely not. No. So, even if he wasn't lying and he was just a weirdo texter or had a bad memory or maybe was headspace he sometimes, it's really the behaviour around the texting that is the biggest problem for me.

If he hadn't behaved like this if he was just like, “Oh, you know, I'm sorry. I spaced and I completely forgot that I texted you” or if you just like— I don't know some people are weird and that's fine. Some people are random. Some people are weird. Some people will like used to send you texts and then maybe he just thought out of the blue like “Hey, you know, I haven't done this for a while. I'll send her a text.” There could be all sorts of explanations. But if he was a lot more easygoing about it, if he tried to understand where you're coming from, if he tried to soothe your fears and tried to like make an attempt to understand, you know, where you're coming from, that would be different.

Then I would maybe have been like, “Hey, maybe you should—“. Same thing I recommended for the previous podcast — if you haven't listened to 113 I definitely recommend listening to 113. It was a similar issue to this, but I would have been like — just stop texting each other. Clearly he's a bad texter or a weird texter or just send each other voice notes on WhatsApp or something,  Just change your way of communicating if the way that you're communicating is not working out for you, but the fact that he decides to respond to these situations by creating you as a villain, by punishing you with no contact is something that I don't really like.

And in my opinion, I would never ever accept someone who in any way responds to my questions or concerns — and not accusations. Questions. It's not an accusation — by accusing me of not really loving them. That is a huge— I don't like to use the word red flags. I feel like that's kind of overused a little bit and like eehhh… there are different contexts, whatever. But someone who is like “You don't really love me”. No, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no. No one is going to tell me how I feel about them. It's fine if they say, “I don't really feel loved right now” or “This really hurt me”. That's fine. But you don't get— no.

No, no. “You don't really love me”. And then “I want to be reminded of why I love you”. I will remind you of— what? Excuse me? No. I'm sorry. But my point is that someone who who decides to respond to a situation— even if like— I get that you're emotionally distressed. I get that maybe this is hard for you. Fine, but you don't get to tell me how I feel. You don't get to do that. Absolutely not. Under any circumstances. So I think that you need to ask yourself, is this the way that you want to interact with someone?

Is this a sort of thing that you're willing to accept? Someone who responds to reasonable questions that you have? Or even concerns— even if they weren't reasonable? Like to be honest, sometimes we have just random shit that comes up in our minds. It doesn't make any sense. You should be allowed to come to your partner with that.

You should be allowed to say like, “Look, I know this doesn't make any sense, but I'm having this feeling” and they should be able to be like, “Oh, it's okay. Like, I understand. What can I do to help?” They should respond to your distress with compassion and care and not with “How could you ever say that? You're supposed to love me!”

Like what? No. So that's for you to think about. You are not seeking control here. Nervous? What are you trying to control? What is? What? No, there is— No, you would like to know what is up. He's a weird ass texter. What's going on like that? Is he just a weirdo? That's fine. But you want an explanation. That's not control. It's not like— you're asking— It's not like you demanded him to open up his phone and show you his messages.

It's not like you actually called him a liar. It's not like you are like following him around to figure out if he's actually seeing someone else. You were literally just like, “Hey, you're texting behaviour’s a little weird. What's up with that?” That's not “seeking control”. Lets just a reasonable question about another adult humans behaviour. If you two were friends and he was sending you weird ass texts, you would ask him about that too. If you had a friend that was like randomly one day, just was like, “Oh my god, I love you”.

And then you you met up with them. And you were like, “What's up with that text this morning you sent me?” and they just looked at you all blank — you'd be just as weirded— You just you'd want to know the answers in that situation too. This doesn't even have anything to do with like, necessarily romantic behaviour.

Sometimes this is just about like, “This is a weird ass thing you're doing. What's up with that?” Like, there's nothing about that that's about wanting control. And he's making you think that because he's, well, he's not making you think— but like his response to it is like “your accusations and you're questioning me and you're—“ he's creating this picture of you with his words that you're like this interrogator.

And maybe like I don't know I'm not physically there when this is happening. Maybe you're kind of playing it a little light. Maybe you're a little bit more intense, but even so he doesn't have to respond by like, especially that bit that really gets under my skin obviously. Is like the like, “you don't really love me”. Whatever, dude. Nah uh.

So I think the reason that's consuming you is because there's clearly something going on, whether it's he's a weirdo, and that's fine. We're all weirdos in our own little ways. Or there's something going on. And he's not giving you any answers. He's not even saying like, “Oh, dude, I totally just spaced”. Like, that's such an easy answer. That's the thing is like if he is cheating on you, he's also really bad at it.

Like really that— like, there's just so many explanations that he could give you are so many things he could like walk you through and instead of trying to even remotely console you, he's just going, “Oh, you're accusing me? I'm not dealing with all of these things. And we're not speaking for two weeks and maybe we’ll—“ Absolutely not. So, of course, this is consuming you because you don't have an answer for it. And it's not a fun way to be treated. So your brain is going “Uh…What's this about? No.”  So yeah, there's nothing about this. That's about you seeking control at all.

And at the end of the day to sum, up the problem here, is not really the texting. It's the response. It's the constructing you into this evil monster who's accusing him. He's a victim. And the especially the bits about love. That is the bigger thing for me because like obviously people can feel super defensive and they can feel like they're being questioned and judged and all that. I'm not denying that. Like that can happen and it can be hard especially, you know, in a situation like this where you're monogamous to a non-monogamous person for the person to be like, “Oh, I think you're cheating”.

Like that can hurt. I'm not denying that at all. But the specific response of being like, “How can you say you love me and say this?” That is manipulative as fuck. I don’t— no. No. No, no, no, I. No, no. And then on top of that, when you're trying to have a discussion when you're like, “Okay, I don't even know if I'm being broken up with or not. I think we need to clear the air. There's still a lot—” and then he's like, “I need to be reminded of why I love you”.

What?! What? Ask yourself, is this really what you want to deal with? When it comes to solving problems? And I don't know how— if you've had any other conflicts in your relationship, how he's dealt with these conflicts, but this isn't a very good way of dealing with these conflicts.

And that is the problem. And I don't know especially if he basically punishes you. And guilt trips you every single time you want to try and talk about this stuff if there's going to be a way to resolve this. Like you can try. You can say “Hey, look clearly we have an issue here. I would like to see a couples therapist because I've spent eight years in this relationship.”

I believe you said eight years? “So I would like for us to be able to resolve some of this and if you feel like you are feeling attacked. Okay, I respect that. Why don't we go to a couples therapist? And then we can have a discussion about this.” But I would definitely be a little bit wary. Like see a therapist on your own for a little bit first, because there are times and there's a great book I recommend everyone read this book. It's called “Why Does He Do That” by Lundy Bancroft, please read that book.

Sometimes when you have a manipulative partner — and I'm not— I don't know your partner. I'm not going to diagnose. I’m not going to judge. I’m not going to decide whether or not this person is “abusive” or not. But the thing is, is that when a partner is abusive, sometimes going to a couples therapist can make the situation worse as the book kind of explains. So I would see a therapist on your own for a little bit. Talk this through with a therapist. You can even like have the therapists listen to what I've said.

And then I would consider seeing a mediator, seeing a couples therapist. I kind of feel like maybe if you suggest that he's gonna like absolutely, like threaten to dump you and blah, blah, blah. And then in which case, I feel like you know, think about this. Every relationship has conflicts. Every romantic situation is going to have things that need to be worked out. That is not unique to your relationship. That's not unique to the situation. That's not unique to humankind, and no relationship of any kind, whether it's friendship, whether it's anything in my opinion, can actually thrive if the people within them are unwilling to work on conflict or unwilling to see the humanity and unwilling to be compassionate with the person that's in in the relationship with them.

And I certainly in many points in my life, and now don't tolerate and step— completely step out of situations, whether it's romance, whether it's friendship— The other day, I had a situation with someone who I was friends with, and I felt frustrated by the way that they spoke to me and their response was “I’m not apologising because I'm not wrong”. And my feelings around that were like, “Okay, so your barrier for apology within a relationship, within a friendship is right or wrong — is whether or not you judge yourself to be in the right or in the wrong and not whether or not you've hurt somebody”.

And I don't think that's acceptable, I think, and I have in my friendship with them apologised even when I didn't feel like I was “in the wrong” because I cared about their emotions and feelings. So it wasn't about being wrong or right. And when I realised that they were a person who was stubborn and was unwilling to see my emotions and my humanity, even if I wasn't “right” in how I felt they weren't willing to be compassionate towards me. I nope-d the fuck out of that situation because I was like, “Nah, I don't deserve to be around people who refuse to see my humanity”.

Even if I am you know, a little bit upset and acting a little silly. I deserve to have people around me who go like “Hey, you know, like, I'm sorry that I upset you”. Even if I wasn't wrong or whatever. You know, I'm saying like, ask yourself, is this a situation that you want to be in in terms of someone who responds to your concerns by doing this? Whether or not they intentionally are trying to be manipulative or not, doesn't really matter? Because at the end of the day, you're still stuck here thinking that you're trying to get control over something when you're really not.

You're just asking for some basic answers to a question which isn't even that hard to answer. So yeah, I hope this helps and good luck.

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