By Bob Livingstone
Continued from part 1 of this article…..
Ron treats Melinda’s comments as an act of domestic terrorism. He doubles down and says, “You are sickening and have no idea what it is like to be me. I try so hard to always do the right thing, but you don’t care about me. You never really have. I have no idea why you want to be with someone who is as despicable as me. You are selfish and a terrible listener. I don’t know why I bother. My work is so hard and my boss is the biggest jerk that ever lived, but you never listen to my problems.”
There is a voice that Ron hears in the far corners of his being. It says, “None of these bad things you are saying about Melinda are close to being true. You are an asshole and don’t really deserve such a caring woman. You have tested this woman’s resolve and her commitment to staying since the very first day you met here. You truly believe that you don’t deserve her and believe that it is your destiny to be alone. You are so afraid of being abandoned by her, yet your words have the potential of pushing her away for good. How much sense does this make?”
This is a scenario that has played out over and over again during the course of Ron and Melinda’s relationship. This verbal and emotional abuse Ron has inflicted on Melinda has caused her to have low self-esteem and decreased self-confidence. It has made her anxious and led her to question if she is a decent person or not. She has continually walked on eggshells and scans Ron’s facial expressions and body language searching for signals that he is about to go off on her. She devotes much of her time taking care of Ron’s emotional needs while he selfishly ignores her. She is never clear if he really cherishes her or wants a substitute mother to wipe his butt.
She realizes that much of her energy is spent trying to calm him and help him get through his day. She is really tired of this routine and doesn’t know how much of this she will continue to put up with. He is a good provider and will do whatever she asks of him. He is funny and supports her work. When they are not arguing, they have a good time together, but his whole anger/victim routine has exhausted her.
Ron knows that he has hurt his wife deeply and is now searching for ways to fix this problem. He knows the first thing he needs to do is to take responsibility for these difficulties with his relationship. His lack of patience with Melinda and his hurtful comments are not her fault. No, she is not to blame for any of this. He is responsible for making her afraid and leery of him. He is at fault for unjustly and cruelly criticizing her. If he has a problem with her, he should tell her in a calm way and acknowledge that she has a right to her feelings. He needs to stop being defensive and attacking her. Being reactive has to end.
When he is enraged, he believes that Melinda has to take his emotional violence and that it is a woman’s job to sacrifice herself for her man’s needs. When he is not angry, he knows this is distorted thinking and that he is being narcissistic. When he is angry, he takes on values that he really doesn’t believe in. He is ashamed when he thinks about how much he has hurt her over the years and begins to cry. He says to himself, “I have no right to feel sorry for myself now. I need to focus on how I can make Melinda feel better about herself, me and our relationship.”
He knocks on the door to her study and asks if he can talk to her. She says that he can and he takes a deep breath and says, “Melinda, I know I have devastated you with my words over the years and I want to stop that behavior and do whatever it takes to make it up to you. I know that I have told you that I would try to do better before, but that was really only lip service. I am going to give this all I have to give. Please tell me how I have hurt you and I promise not to get angry or defensive. I want to be a better man and I want to show that I truly love you. While you are speaking, I promise not to interrupt. When you are finished, I will tell you what changes I will make for you, me and our future.”
To be continued………….
All identifying information has been altered to maintain confidentiality.
– Bob Livingstone is the author the critically acclaimed Unchain the Pain: How to be Your Own Therapist, Norlights Press 2011, The Body Mind Soul Solution: Healing Emotional Pain through Exercise, Pegasus Books, 2007 and Redemption of the Shattered: A Teenager’s Healing Journey through Sandtray Therapy, Booklocker 2002. He is a psychotherapist, licensed clinical social worker in private practice in The San Francisco Bay Area and has nearly twenty five years experience working with adults, adolescents and children.