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Difficult Week (More S.O.C. Puppetry)

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Tesseract posted 8/11/2013 12:47 PM

I suppose it is fitting that just when we feel we've begun to conquer the maze we find we've been running in circles.

Before this past Thursday I felt I'd been interacting in a mature, human way. We got through a big school shopping trip without any large drama (which has been a rarity). I've historically been very leery of clothes shopping because it seemed that inevitably someone was going to be unhappy or difficult about something. I typically respond to that by detaching, being hypercritical, impatient, and nasty about what I viewed as unnecessary. This time it went more smoothly, though my wife did ask me if I was okay and mentioned that I seemed upset. I assumed that she was wary of me sinking into that behavior again. I should have smiled at her, squeezed her hand and told her that I understood. Done more to reassure her, but I just told her I was fine. I defaulted that it was something wrong with her expectations rather than something I was showing on the outside. This is a very bad habit of mine. I didn't realize it until I began writing this thread, but I should have seen the warning signs then that I was standing on uneven earth. I was even trying to watch for it, had been worrying about it for a while, because I tend to act out when there is a change in our schedule. At any rate, I thought I had successfully navigated a potentially treacherous area. But I didn't talk about it or go over it with my wife as I now realize I should have. I don't talk to her enough at all.

After that my wife read a thread on here that triggered one of her bigger fears. I gave her space for a bit and then we talked about it the next day. I was happy that I'd handled the situation better than I had in the past. I've tended to panic and demand attention when she's withdrawn from me. The height of hypocrisy considering I made it a lifestyle to withdraw from her whenever things got 'difficult.' It's flatly amazing that she can even look at me, I'm realizing more and more. I didn't follow up and continue to reassure her. I realize now that I never do, that I tend to treat each incident as an isolated event. Which is dumb and contrary to reality. Nothing happens in a vacuum. Compartmentalization, oi.

Through all this she's also been the primary one dealing with our youngest daughter's recovery from an eating disorder. Watching her take care of our baby girl has been nothing short of a revelation for me. Dealing with our daughter when she's refusing to eat is something akin to walking backwards on a tightrope while blindfolded, stricken with the flu, that F5 tornado from Twister throwing cows at your head and Bill Paxton screaming at you in the most overwrought southern accent this side of a Madea movie. And she makes it look easy.

I've learned a lot from watching both sides of the interaction. Few things in this life have been more painful to me than seeing my little girl in very serious jeopardy, and having removed myself from a position to help as much as I could had I not made the choices that I have that have so hurt my wife and children.

Meanwhile, I'd been spending more time playing video games with our younger sons. These are pretty inherently triggery, because online games were a medium through which I enacted the latest EA betrayals. I figured I was fine since it was something I was doing with/for the boys. My wife has encouraged it, but at the same time I know its a big trigger for her (because it triggers me as well even in all of my emotional midgetry). I bought access to more of the game's characters because I have much less time to unlock them as the boys have done, but didn't think to discuss it with my wife beforehand. I didn't think it was a big deal at the time because it isn't an unusual occurrence. When she found out I saw it trigger and instead of being understanding I was hurt. I know I gave her that stupid "Why are you making such a big deal out of this" face that I hide behind when I'm confronted. Again, instead of acting on these thoughts I brushed it aside. Our daughter also had a very difficult evening, though it'd started very well and she seemed to be adjusting wonderfully to her new school. I was happy that I'd been able to help her navigate the bureaucracy of transferring schools. I was beaming when she came and asked me to go in with her the day before to help her. I think my wife encouraged her to do so. I know she's having a hard time with our daughter attending this school, that the place has a lot of very loaded, very unhappy memories for her. I mentioned it to her, tried to show her I understood. But again I didn't talk to her about it. I'm a freaking idiot.

The attempts to get Daughter to eat resulted in yelling and frustration before she'd finally relent and eat. During some of this I was playing with one of the boys.

I'm sure you can see where this is going.

The next morning was another fight to get her to eat. It seemed to instantly flare up to shouting and frustration. I've been watching how she responds, trying to get a fix on the mental switch in her head that will unlock our baby girl. I ended up projecting my own issues with raised voices onto her when I saw how upset she was.

As I drove my wife in to work she asked me what I was thinking about. I said, "I don't like how you and Daughter are interacting about food." She's said very similar things to me multiple times when I've been especially oblivious or critical with the kids, though I didn't consider that at the time.

She got quiet then told me I'd hurt her feelings. In hindsight, duh. Then I said I'm sorry, and tried to rephrase it. Yeah, dumb. We texted over the course of the morning. I apologized repeatedly, then tried to rephrase what I'd said that morning, thinking that it wasn't what I'd said but how I said it. I became increasingly affronted and upset when nothing I seemed to say work and she accused me of being 'off' and insinuated that I was being obsessive. I routinely have nightmares about this. I felt like she was being unfair. Like she was telling me that I had no insight to offer into Daughter's situation and was unfairly accusing me of being in an addictive mindset when I was right on the edge of panic at the thought of there being distance between us again. When I'd been doing well Of course, I didn't say any of this. She told me to stop talking to her until I'd finished How to Help Your Spouse Heal from an Affair. I was stunned and hurt. How did this go from being about our daughter to being about us? I responded curtly. Instead of opening up I started to shut down and wallow in my hurt instead of trying to understand her's and reaching out to her.

As I was finishing dinner our second oldest came into the kitchen and told her she'd read the text interchange and that she was upset by it. That I'd been an accusative jerk. I'd assumed this would happen and was already closed off. I gave her bland, noncommittal responses, finished dinner, then finished the book.

After I read it I went to my wife and apologized for being accusatory. I was crying and frightened and pretty much a mess, which I was trying not to show. This was an idiotic decision. When she didn't respond and couldn't bear to look at me I SHOULD have tried harder. Instead, I left the room and went to apologize to our second oldest daughter for being so removed during our earlier talk. I said I hadn't meant to accuse her mother of anything, that I'd told her mother multiple times that I was amazed by how well she navigates dealing with our youngest's eating disorder. She told me she'd heard it all before and felt like I was backsliding into addictive behaviors. I didn't see it. I felt like I was being crushed and nothing I did mattered.

During this, our two oldest daughters were trying to get the youngest to eat dinner. They shoo'd me away when I lingered to try to help, rightfully worried that in my own diminished state I'd merely make things worse. I didn't see it that way at the time. I was too wrapped up in my own bloody hurt to step outside of myself and really look at what was going on. Much of what I'm seeing I'm only realizing as I type it out. I should probably start a journal or something.

Our second oldest boy came and asked me to play with him, which I did until bedtime an hour and a half later. My wife was already asleep when I came in the room. I found she'd sent me a text about ten minutes beforehand saying that I was being obsessive over videogames again, mean, a bully, and hypercritical. She said that it wasn't working with us and that she was done.

I should have woken her up. I should have done anything. Instead I nursed my angst and wounded pride. I still couldn't step outside of myself and see things from their perspective. The next morning I responded to her text after I woke up and found that she'd had our oldest daughter take her to work instead of me.

Again, I'm realizing a lot of this as I type it. I'm definitely starting a journal.

I sulked, basically, all of Friday and most of Saturday. My wife and I ignored each other. I was angry and upset and hurt. I kept justifying why I didn't have to go talk to her because I'd made the last two attempts and gotten zilch. Yeah, that's ridiculously screwy on my part, considering the massive debt of emotional equity I've run up. I couldn't get past the anger. Now that I think about it, I've seen our youngest daughter struggle with a similar mental block. Intellectually she knows, but the fear blocks her. Mine was just a different facet. Ugh.

Eventually my wife confronted me, asked if this was how I was going to handle things. I insisted that I wasn't being obsessive. That my playing games with the boys was similar to her playing games with our youngest daughter. She reiterated that things weren't working and that she was done. That she couldn't believe I'd say that to her.

Afterwards she talked to our oldest two. I'm assuming they went to ask her what was up and she told them. They came to confront me about it, eventually being joined by our third oldest. We talked for quite a while and no one felt understood. I was trying to explain and doing a poor job of it why I wasn't being an addict. Granted, by that time I was so wrapped up in myself that I effectively was, and I'm just now seeing that fully (perhaps).

The kids saw where I was. They saw the futility of trying to reason with me when I was in that state. My wife came out after they'd told her what was going on with me. We talked and yelled and I continued to be wrapped up in myself for much of it, perhaps all of it.

She put some of my clothes into a suitcase. Told me there was a flight in the morning to go stay with my mother. That we were done. She said she didn't see any benefit to me staying if I could still do this. That she wasn't sure how she'd ever come to think of me as a mate. That I was a liability and cost so much more than I give. That if I could be 'that guy' with the babies then there was no reason for me to be here. She's right. If I can be that guy then I can't be here. I can't hurt her or them anymore. The conversation petered off. I think we were both drained. If I feel this exhausted I can hardly imagine how tired she is. And I added to that burden because I couldn't just stop and look and listen. Because I was so sure. Because I insisted on playing the freaking victim. I'm rather sick of myself right now. I hate that I contemplated that it'd be better to not exist. That's so ungrateful and cowardly that I'm ashamed that I could think it.

I slept on the couch last night. Before I began this post I made an appointment for IC. I'm not sure where we are today. I'm not sure where I am today. I need to find out where she is. Where the kids are. And make amends. My own stuff can wait a bit. I've been happiest when I felt I was helping them. When I've felt a part of this beautiful family. I'm not content with what little progress I've made. I have more of a scale by which to judge it now and it isn't enough at all. Not for them or me.

Time to live in Reality.

20WrongsVs1 posted 8/11/2013 19:15 PM

Sorry to hear about YDD; I can't imagine.

I'm sensing that you're aware you have serious communication problems. Hopefully your therapist will help you with that, but I'm going to share what (for me) has been life-altering.

In this post you stated how much you admired your BW's handling of YDD. But then you said this to her:

I don't like how you and Daughter are interacting about food

What could you possibly hope to gain from this statement? You're making BW wrong, and giving her nothing to work with. Do you agree that almost anyone would get defensive and angry after a remark like that?

You're allowed to have feelings; suppressing them is one of the worst things you could do. But you have got to learn to express yourself in a way that doesn't make the other person wrong!

What do you feel when you see BW interact with YDD in that way? My therapist says if you have a hard time identifying your feelings, do a FLASH test, because most feelings boil down to these fundamentals:


So instead of saying "I don't like what you're doing/saying," start taking a moment to identify what you're feeling. Then express correlation, not causation, between the other person's words/actions and your feelings.

"I feel afraid when I hear you and YDD screaming at each other over food, because I worry that she's not going to get better, and I feel frustrated that I can't think of some magic word to say, to help you both."

I'm not saying that's perfect, I'm really new at this myself. Just get used to framing everything in "I feel...when you".

There's a book, Nonviolent Communication by Rosenberg, that I swear will be the best $9 you ever spent. It walks you through exactly how to develop empathy, a trait which (pot, meet kettle) you appear to be sorely lacking.

Tesseract posted 8/11/2013 22:02 PM

Thanks for the response, 20. You're right, there's no other reasonable response I should have expected after saying that. I think my response was more projection than actuality. She is amazing with our daughter. I think the high emotions and the rarity of my wife ever having to take such a hard stance made me uncomfortable, and I've spent a lot of time lashing out whenever events are outside of my comfort zone. I was blaming and punishing her for my discomfort rather than genuinely trying to help. Then made her pay for daring to have her feelings hurt.

I will certainly look into that book. Hopefully they have a copy at Barnes and Noble because the shipping cost from Amazon is higher than the cost of the book itself.

I don't think I have a hard time identifying emotions. I get frightened of the strength of them. But I think that FLASH test will at the very least jumpstart the processing of them.

My comfort zone isn't the safe place I've convinced myself it is. I forget that too easily and at the peril of those I love.

Thanks again.

StrongerOne posted 8/13/2013 09:46 AM


Since you know what your bad habits are, try to set up new habits to help you do the right thing.

In particular, it seems to me that you speak without reflecting *at the moment* -- later, you are able to see yourself. So perhaps try breaking that habit of speaking first, thinking later. Before you respond to questions from family members, say something like this: "You know how I always talk without thinking. Can I take a minute to make sure I'm saying what I really feel down deep?" Then do it. You will probably need to let your family members know ahead of time that you are working on this, and to ask for their help and patience.

Genuine humility goes a long way...

RE this most recent couple of days, I encourage you to print out this thread and give it to your wife, with a sincere and specific apology (not just, I'm sorry, but, I'm sorry that I did X Y Z and hurt you...)

Your efforts to figure out what you're doing and how you're coming across are admirable, Tesseract. Keep it up.

Tesseract posted 8/13/2013 13:04 PM

She's seen it. I showed it to her after I posted. She's a member here as well. I think that would be excellent advice for someone who isn't me. I have an amazing proclivity for getting wrapped up in my own head. My best moments have been when I've reached out, even if I don't do it well initially, at least they can see me.

Regarding the habits thing, holy gosh yes. I get immersed in things to the exclusion of all else with frightening ease. To combat that I am deliberately spreading myself out. If I feel comfortable right now it tends to be a bad sign.


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