When J was seeing his counselor for the first time, her only concern about his open relationship was that the relationship style could be used to “check out” from his relationship with me. She commented that people can check out of their relationships in many ways, and that monogamous people do it, too. People zone out in front of their TVs, computers, phones. People obsessively check Facebook (I’m guilty of this) or the news or put a random TV show on to avoid talking about something difficult. People use work to check out, or exercise. What’s the line between a healthy coping strategy and checking out (negative avoidance)?
My realization this week, facilitated by counseling:
I have used relationships to check out of my relationship with myself.
This goes along with the same story of putting others’ needs and desires before addressing my own, but also is more damaging in that this checking out process has operated at a more sub-conscious/unconscious level.
Focusing on the highs of relationships (sexual intimacy, fantasy, fast heart beat, flush, butterflies in my stomach, frequency of communication, content of communication, etc.) takes me away from the more painful things going on in my head. As my counselor said to me this week: the brain is fabulous at using coping strategies to keep it from feeling pain.
Truth be told, my body image issues have become a total mind suck the past couple of months, and the past few weeks in a terrible way. Focusing on my relationship and fantasies have been a distraction. Something this could be a healthy coping mechanism, but when the relationship with myself with my body and my heart and mind fall to the wayside, I do myself a deep disservice.
Here’s to getting back online with myself and to having the reminder to practice self-love and self-compassion.