The Pay/Owe Syndrome

Old 01-28-2007, 09:19 AM
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The Pay/Owe Syndrome

So, Im really working my recovery program lately. Im pressing through the shiest that I hate doing and getting it. I wanted to share something that I have read before but I see alot differently that in the past.

The Owe/Pay Syndrome from Friel and Friels's AC Guide to Whats Normal and also Friel and Friel Secrets of Dysfunctional Families.
Im paraphrasing.

The Owe/Pay Syndrome is when we let our intimate relationships become like a financial transaction at out local bank. Yet it is a extremely destructive trasnsaction.

It goes like this:
Ill paint your house, fix your plumbing, sew your jacket, cook you a meal, babysit your children, counsel you about a painful love affair, and then you will owe me something. I wont be clear about what that something is, but it will be soething like love, sex, friendship with you, and so on. I will unconsciously look for ways to help you. Like a heat seeking missle or a metal detector in an airport, am alarm will go off inside me every time I spot a chance to help you and Ill rarely miss the mark.

What happens with you is similar. You will be vulnerable and needy like me. There will be things you would just as soon have someone else do anyway. At first it will feel great to have the help. It will feel like all these shortages from childhood are being filled up at once. But that part about having to pay, will be a pain. In fact, it will get downright abusive. I might demand to have sex with you, threatening to leave you with a broken toilet or furnace, or no meals at all. In which case you give in and decide that occasional sex when you dont want it is better than having no one around at all. Then you do it to me too. You ask for too much help, then you do too many things for me. I start to feel as if yo uare trying to buy my love, friendship, loyalty, or long-term commitment. I begin to feel used and manipulated, but I also feel horribly guilty. You begin to feel used and manipulated, and horribly guilty.
Pretty soon we have areal mess on our hands.

YIKES! Ive been under the impression that the only reason I overextend and pay, so to speak is that I was conditioned to believe I was only loveable or valuable to others if I was earning the attention or doing something for another person. Ive just realized its not JUST that. This is how I get my needs met, I pay awaiting the IOU...which I rarely get, causing all the anger, guilt, and manipulation. This is how things went in my family of origin when I was growing up and still how my parents behave with each other. I will do x and then you will have to do y bc YOU OWE ME. This is how I behave with friends still. Not to the extreme I used to, but oh, I still do it, unconsciously. This is the exact outline of the dynamic bt my ex and I. Exact.

This is why I feel my parents owe me. I still feel they owe me things (monetarily mostly) and couldnt figure out why I felt that as an adult woman, my parents owed me. I thought it was bc of the pain I was caused as a child. But now, I think its bc Im just trying to get my needs met and how Ive learned to get them met.

Wow. What a breakthrough for me!!
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Old 01-28-2007, 11:31 AM
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I still have to talk to myself to avoid doing exactly that Elizabeth. What a great post.

My talks with myself usually go something like this:

Would I do the same thing if this was a different person? (eg not someone I'm intimately involved with, be it sexual, familial or friendship)

Would I do this thing for myself (fix my own furnace, cook meals for me)?

Am I expecting anything in exchage, or is this thing I'm doing done free of all expectations of obligation?

Do I WANT to do this thing, or am I doing it out of some sense of obligation?

These questions I have to ask myself on a regular basis.
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Old 01-29-2007, 06:14 PM
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Yeah I still get stuck in that "pay-owe" cycle. I never learned that I am worthy as a person just cuz. My childhood was definetly on the "barter system" the way you describe.

'tis really cool that you can see those unhealthy patterns in your life. Now you can get rid of 'em. So have a just cuz and don't you dare even thank me for it

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Old 01-30-2007, 02:49 PM
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This post is just great! I am so happy it is on the forum. I was just experiencing this syndrome myself.

Where i was experiencing it was, I found myself giving to my boyfriend by writing a small paper for him (because he asked) and it was in my educational specialty so i could help. But afterwards, i felt resentful and just pulled away abruptly and suddenly withdrew from him and rushed off to do my own stuff (like a sudden boundary was drawn).

A part of me me feels like I am a nice person for doing it and just thinks "Wow, you are awesome for doing that for the other person!." And then a selfish little "snit" in me (that sounds awfully judgmental) is secretlve and saying, he didn't give me anything in return. It is a really annoying little voice of a child.

I guess in giving it is a balancing test within ourselves...

Thanks to all!
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Old 01-31-2007, 11:03 PM
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i found the feeling that i felt i was owed was partly to the fact of this, i had emotional needs as a child that were not met by my parents for whatvever reason. i looked so long, tried so long to be loved (as a child). the most painful thing i accept in recovery every day at the moment is that i can never be loved, as a child, because i am now an adult, (physically). the most i can do is parent myself, but i can only ever receive love as an adult, never as a child. my rebellious demand for payment came from self-respect. because i love myself i was angry that i had been NEGLECTED. i tried to find my "parents" so i could emotionally develop. god has been a great halp in that and so have i myself, reparenting myself.

a really good book called "i could do anything if only i knew what it was" i think by barbara sher is fantastic for this stuff, esp the chapter "A rage against the ordinary."

when im stuck in childhood, i cant be present in my adult self and thus cant have adult relationships with other ADULT adult humans. i had to let go of my inner child, whilst honouring him in safety, respect and love SO THAT my adult self could grow.
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Old 02-05-2007, 06:46 AM
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Well, this reply to elizabeth's awesome pay/owe syndrome post turns out to be longer, perhaps than it should've, but i was in need of sharing and did not want to risk starting a new thread...sorry to other users for this long one.

I'm having the chance to see a corollary to the pay/owe syndrome is the rescue syndrome - A part of me is playing out some need for attention (?) by offering "help" to people, that I shouldn't be offering, or not without "warnings" to myself! I'm stressed out/overwhelmed by my own problems yet I have this super-duper need to rescue others.

I think it comes from this underlying belief that if I take care of them, that somehow it will help take care of my own problems. And that's never true, exactly. My problems are separate and apart from the other person's. I might gain something by talking with them about their problem, but not if I feel responsible for the other person afterwards, which I invariably do and it is frustrating!

After I share with them, or they with me, I have trouble seeing the boundary between them and me.

Also afterward, I start to think about how much I helped this person, how much time I spent on the phone with them, and regret it especially if the person was too much (?). I wonder, how much time will i have to spend with this person if they call again? When their next call will come? It becomes this scary thing.

I am just not good at setting boundaries and this fear is beginning to play out...

Thanks for letting me share...
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Old 02-06-2007, 04:44 PM
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Wow, this thread really hits home with me. It's something I have been talking with my therapist about. I have this need to earn love. Because I was never made to feel that I was loved simply for who I am, somewhere along the way I decided that to be loved I had to do something. And it is very much tied into the rescuing urge, and who I choose to have relationships with. I find someone who is needy, rescue them, and then they will love me. And when it turns out that they don't, I'm angry because I feel like I earned their love and they didn't keep their end of the bargain. Sick and sad, for sure.

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Old 02-06-2007, 07:06 PM
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I wanted to type out the steps on breaking free of the pay/owe cycle, but its rather lengthy for my tired brain!

One of the steps is to Be Aware and be careful how I get myself indebted to others.
"Start to be painfully honest with yourself. Dont do things for others on a regular basis unless they are doing things for you on a regular basis, and then only if you are both doing them without expectation. The safest way to handle this in the beginning is to keep the relationship free of favors and gifts and transactoins such as these. Notice how you may seduce others into helping you by whining, acting helpless, or just by the mere mention that you are having a problem with the buttons on your coat or faucet on your sink."

This is hard for me. Im not so good at being realistic about my motives or others yet. Im better, but not real terrific!

Ive started really trying to do things for people that have zero ability to owe me. Such as helping at an animal shelter. Those animals are incapable of doing anything for me. Its helping me as I am getting a clearer picture of acting without expectations of return.
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Old 02-07-2007, 02:20 PM
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Thanks so much for posting. Boy a a light just went off. I am sooooo guilty.

I have been doing this for a long time so I should have a lot of favors in my bank ya would think. A while a go I had a BIG crisis. Huz in jail. Being sued. Long story. Time to collect on my deposits. All our "friends" didnt just walk away . They ran. And the worst was my husbands family.

At first I was puzzled. Then I was hurt. And then I got pissed. To tell you the truth Im still a little peevsh. LOL. I realize now that I did feel like I was "owed" something for all the times I had done stuff. But truthfully most times I do offer without them having to ask.

Im an only too. But I dont think Ive ever been a child. Too busy being responsible . LOL.
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Old 02-07-2007, 09:25 PM
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"I have this need to earn love."

This is great! I myself went to SUCH extremes. Seeking love. (I'm sure we all did..) When we are deprived of love, as children, we think it's because something inside of us is wrong, and we are unworthy.

Unworthy of Receiving Love.... This is soo sad.

It is so painful to receive this message. And, to see how FAR we went to receive love. The people we pursued who, in the end, were not responding with equal love.

To the neglect of developing and strengthening our own bonds within us, our inner strength.

This is sooo sad..

This has been a great, great thread and posts...
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Old 02-07-2007, 10:05 PM
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Thank you Elizabeth for starting this thread. I read the book a few months ago, guess I want to dig it back out and reread parts. I suppose I put myself in check with three tools I am practicing saying these days. They are simple lessons.
#1) "No"
If I can learn to say no when I need to I won't feel like I got short changed.
#2) "I Need"
This is real scary for me to say, because I get anxious that I will feel rejection, but I am practicing and so far it's easier than I thought.

#3) "My soul is perfect and lovable in every way. My higher power loves me and so do I. Everyone is unique and made perfect and lovable. Therefore none of us deserve judgement, critisism or competition. I don't have to earn love, and neither does anyone else.

I have done soo many things that have demeaned my soul over the years trying to validate my existence and find the love that I deserve only to wake up and find it inside myself.

Thank you all for sharing.
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