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#59768 - 05/13/04 02:09 PM Re: How long can silence from spouse go on?
SAR Offline
Administrator Emeritus
MaleSurvivor

Registered: 12/07/03
Posts: 3310
Loc: USA
Kathy

Everything you've described feels familiar to me-- it sounds a lot like the way things were in my house three or four years ago. I would come out of the kids' bedroom from putting them to sleep and if I said the "wrong thing" he would get up and walk out of the house with no goodbye or anything. And nothing when he came back either--and I wouldn't press it because I didn't want him to walk out again. I used to write him letters and letters--then I'd find them tossed in the back of the car unread, or lying open on the kitchen table while he was in the other room with his friends.

I understand the pain and abandonment and helplessness of getting shut out like this. These are hard memories for me, in some ways they're the hardest because I feel sort of responsible for them. But in retrospect I can see that HE needed to, and was going to, walk out of the house, and that was all about him. Waiting for me to do some little thing so that he could blame his need on whatever he'd decided was wrong that day, was about shifting responsibility off of himself and it tricked me because it played off my own insecurities.

I thought for a long time that silence and postitive reinforcement no matter what was the best bet, that it would seem accepting and supportive. Actually my boyfriend read my silence as very negative--as MikeNY said, he knew already that he was hurting us and being unhealthy and he thought that I said nothing because I expected no better from him. When I accepted his half-hearted apologies and attempts to change, he saw that as me not really being invested in the health of the relationship and just saying "yes" to everything because I didn't really care. (He never would have said any of this to me at the time--I didn't hear any of this until just recently and most of these behaviors stopped two or three years ago)

I think that knowing that I will be holding him accountable for his actions, forgiving and supporting within reason but NOT standing idly by while he self-destructs, is a help to him, not a hindrance, and makes him feel more comfortable taking emotional risks, including the risk of trusting me. It's hard to appear trustworthy to others when you're not trusting your own best instincts.

But at the same time I don't take any credit for bringing about the changes in his behavior. I think that events in his own life, his disintegrating relationship among them, brought some things into focus for him and made him decide to change himself, and our relationship evolved as a result. It easily could have ended a different way. And honestly I don't know how much longer I could have lasted if it had stayed the way it was.

take care Kathy,
SAR


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#59769 - 05/13/04 02:09 PM Re: How long can silence from spouse go on?
PAS Offline
Member

Registered: 06/12/02
Posts: 577
Loc: Canada
Quote:
Originally posted by MikeNY:
The only elaboration that I am comfortable giving right now is that you and the children are important too. He needs to work WITH you on this. He needs to respect you and what you want and need also. You do have a right to speak. He does not have a right to use his SA against you. The two of you NEED to communicate. You need to know that you can't "fix" him. You can help him "fix" himself. He already knows that what he is doing is hurting you. It is making him feel worse already. Something should be done about it. As for the reinforcement stuff that I was talking about, you are being emotionally blackmailed and becoming addicted to it and accepting it as normal. You have to be careful with all of this. I caution you on any move that you take. But, can you stand on pins and needles for the rest of your life?
I tend to agree.. its a tough place to be but you cannot live in fear for too long either.. its no way to live.

I grew up with a father who used to do this.. he would withdraw more and more and become depressed and lethargic and despondent to the point of attempting suicide at least 3 times (he is currently threatening it again) so I know this is a very very difficult situation to be in. It is hard because it really is a manifestation of depression, and he really did need help (he never got good medical care on this but then again he never was an active participant in his own recovery either).

I dont know what was worse - saying NOTHING out of fear and feeling like I was constantly holding my breath and walking on eggshells, or saying SOMETHING and then worrying about the consequences. It truly is a choice between two shitty outcomes.. I tell ya but I usually prefered the latter - at least I didnt feel hostage and helpless. I could at least exhale. There was only so long I could go sacrificing my own emotional well being to "protect" the emotional frailties of another. I thought I was going insane.

All in all this is your decision to make and I for one know as well as anyone that you may well run the risk of making it worse by saying something, but the previous poster is right this is holding you and your family hostage. I am sure the kids are already asking a lot of questions at minimum and maybe even showing some emotional or behavioural reactions - if not yet they may start sooner or later.

Remember, you have the right to a responsive, available partner and your kids have the right to a responsive, responsible, and available father. And always remember that NOBODY can save someone from themselves if that is where they are going.

What he is doing is understandable, yes.

Acceptable? No. He's a parent and a spouse and needs to take some action here to ensure that he starts acting like one.

P


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#59770 - 05/13/04 03:22 PM Re: How long can silence from spouse go on?
wifenneed Offline
Member
MaleSurvivor

Registered: 12/20/02
Posts: 90
Loc: Michigan
Oh man you guys, I'm getting more and more sick to my stomach as 5:00 rolls around, and I'll be home again. I don't want to reinforce this behavior, to have him think it's okay that he does this by my not giving him any flack about it, and with my pitiful attempts at communication (giving him notes, asking him about only pressing issues). And I also don't want to beat him down further, to have him spiral down because I'm telling him this is unacceptable coping behavior. Years ago before we were married, when he was married to someone else, he said he would leave for long periods of time, just pack up and leave, live in his car, shower at work, etc. So he has made significant progress in his behaviors.

I do feel emotionally blackmailed. For me this sort of treatment is not healthy for me, but it is for him so that perhaps he doesn't do something even worse. (he was suicidal over a decade ago, prior to going to counseling, long before we were married)

I feel like I'm being punished. I know I shouldn't turn this back on myself, but I do. Wish I had a magic phrase to say to him....that woul at least break he silence.

"This is not fair, what you are doing. It is unhealthy for us as a family. We need to communicate."

How do you tell someone who is trying to cope with all this (SA, PTSD) that it's not fair to his wife/kids? That makes me feel like I'm the one not coping, and not accepting him for what he needs to do to get beyond this funk, as he calls it.

I think I've just crossed in to the realm of pscycho-babble. Just worried about toninght, and tomorrow, and who knows until when..........


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#59771 - 05/13/04 03:45 PM Re: How long can silence from spouse go on?
kolisha54 Offline
Member
MaleSurvivor

Registered: 12/02/03
Posts: 475
Loc: Brooklyn, NY
You know what is also so frustrating? It's that often our Loved Ones go about the REST of their lives, to all outward appearances, acting 100% "normal!" The childish behavior gets deposited in our laps & no one else in our Loved One's social or work sphere would ever guess at the way he is feeling or acting or acting out.

I always used to find myself thinking "Wow! If he's so good at pretending to everyone else, couldn't he just 'pretend' for me????"

It seems that there comes a point for many men that we become (to use Groucho Marx's de>
_________________________
If I am not for myself, who will be for me? If I am only for myself, what am I? If not now... when? --Hillel

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#59772 - 05/14/04 09:11 AM Re: How long can silence from spouse go on?
wifenneed Offline
Member
MaleSurvivor

Registered: 12/20/02
Posts: 90
Loc: Michigan
Yes I wish he could pretend for me, as you put it Kolisha. I don't know what he's doing at work, I could call a co-worker but I don't want to seem like weirdo checking up on my husband. It is now 4 1/2 days of this. I can't stand it. I did try to gently talk with him last night, apologized if I hurt him in any way, and asked if we could work through this so another day wouldn't pass with this going on, whatever it is. My tears came on of course without my controlling them, and he wouldn't talk. He even kind of insulted me at one point, though. The black looks I get from him are indescribable. There's not a damn thing I can do. Not one damn thing.

I feel lost, I feel like just giving up.


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#59773 - 05/14/04 10:52 AM Re: How long can silence from spouse go on?
PAS Offline
Member

Registered: 06/12/02
Posts: 577
Loc: Canada
Quote:
"This is not fair, what you are doing. It is unhealthy for us as a family. We need to communicate."
This sounds like something that I'd consider trying sooner or later. You never know - maybe laying this down in a firm but non accusatory way may help. Sometimes people do need to have their "chains yanked". The "hard cold slap of reality" approach may just work. You may be surprised.

As far as your husband crossing over from ignoring you to insulting, THAT is inexcusable. I dont care if someone's been through a total crap day at work, had their car stolen, been beaten, robbed, whatever, unless they are out of their right mind and not aware of what they are saying, insults and crap like that is ALWAYS AND COMPLETELY unacceptable.

He may just be testing you with this - may be testing to see if you WILL stand up for yourself....

I know how scary it is to stand up and say somethign about this. I have been there with my partner and with my family (my dad used to verbally abuse me every time Id stand up and try to defend myself against his ridiculous behaviour). Believe you me I know FULL WELL how scary the prospect of doing this is. Dont be surprised, or put off of doing something about this because of the fear. This is a TERRIFYING thing to try and consider, let alone doing. But nobody should have to live in this kind of fear.. its an awful way to live. Feel the fear.. and try something different????

In the end the decision is up to you but remember, if what you are currenlty doing is not working, try something else.

Also - say what you will about Dr. Phil but these are some tips that he has from his article "Stop Excusing Inexcusable Behavior" that are definitely relevant here.

For you:

* Remember that you teach people how to treat you. Your partner is doing what he/she is doing because they can. If you're allowing the behavior to continue by making excuses for your partner and blaming yourself, stop. If you want to be treated with dignity and respect, stand up and require it.

* You can't change what you don't acknowledge. First, acknowledge that there is something wrong. If what is happening isn't normal, admit it. You need to set some new standards of acceptable behavior and your partner needs to know what those standards are.

* If you truly want the relationship to work, be real with yourself and your partner. Be completely honest and truthful with your partner about your wants and needs.

RE: your husband's behaviour...

* Understand that any time you turn away from your partner to fill your needs instead of toward him/her, it's a betrayal. It's not just what you do it's what you don't do. You can violate someone by withholding affection.

* If you need professional help, get it not for one week or two but until you have a clear direction.




P


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#59774 - 05/16/04 02:48 PM Re: How long can silence from spouse go on?
SAR Offline
Administrator Emeritus
MaleSurvivor

Registered: 12/07/03
Posts: 3310
Loc: USA
Kathy, Kolisha, & all,

Don't take this the wrong way.

Quote:
I always used to find myself thinking "Wow! If he's so good at pretending to everyone else, couldn't he just 'pretend' for me????"
The unhealthiest part of the unhealthy dynamic during the unhealthiest time in my relationship, was the pretending.

I wished that my boyfriend would "act" invested in the house, kids, relationship, because I believed that he truly wasn't. I should have been honest with myself about this belief of mine-- why did I think that? If I thought that, why was I tolerating it, what was I doing about it?

Directly or indirectly asking my boyfriend to "at least pretend to care" gave him the message that I didn't really believe that he cared. Which was hurtful to him because it invalidated his actual caring that just wasn't coming through. If I'd said "I believe that you do care about this, but it's hard for me to see that you care when you do X and Y" then maybe he'd have wanted to resolve the disparity between his actions and his feelings. But if you tell someone how THEY feel, they're not going to waste a lot of time trying to get you to believe differently.

Also, the real reason that I wished he could pretend, is because *I* was pretending. I wasn't happy in that relationship. I didn't want to walk on eggshells; I didn't want to speak to him gently anymore; I didn't want to swallow my pride and suppress my own hurt anymore. I was NOT thinking, "If he can pretend for everyone else why can't he pretend for me..." I was thinking, "If I can pretend for him, why can't he pretend for me?"

We're working on honesty now, and if I thought even for a minute that he was "pretending" to listen, feel, care, apologize, whatever, it would feel like a slap in the face. I'd rather have him honestly leave me than pretend to love me. And I can say that because I know what Hell it is to "act" in opposition to my emotions.

SAR


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#59775 - 05/16/04 06:17 PM Re: How long can silence from spouse go on?
wrangler Offline
Member

Registered: 09/06/03
Posts: 84
Loc: Northern Virginia
I hope you guys won't mind my inturding in this thread, but it strikes a resonance with some of the things that went on in my marriage, and I wanted to throw what was going on for me during these spells... My behavior was similar, but not quite that same. I would get very detached, so that my thoughts/feelings had hardly any connection to my statements/actions. I may as well have been completely silent because everything I said or did was basically a lie, much like SAR describes.

So, why was I doing this? Ha! Because I was overhelmed with fear and anger to the point that I could not even put words on it. Occasionally this resulted from some recent trigger, but most of the time it sprang up because I had started to neglect myself and let the "mental trash" pile up. After all, it does get very exhausting trying to manage all this crap all the time... so breaks of the unhealthy variety are to be expected.

The main trouble with the situation is that is was a black hole. Not possible to pull myself out of because lots of irrationally thinking went on there. Feelings of inadequacy, shame, hate, anger, fear, emptiness, brokenness, etc just swirl around, all aggrevating each other and escalating the whole situation.

Indeed, it was usually something pretty dramatic that would break the trance... failed test at school, catching my wife looking at another guy and realizing she could leave... that sort of thing. Then I would kinda snap out of it with a burst of engergy and enthusiasm. Patching things up, being the "good" husband, attending to the house, my wife, school with a zeal that oooed and ahhed the people around me.

If you think you see the cycle of the perfectionist at work in some of this... well, good work.

My own thoughts about the specific question here are that this behavior is a big indicator of the survivors need for some proffsional help learning how to take care himself in a healthy and day-to-day sort of way. Probalby a lot of irrational thinking going on in his mind, and it is nearly impossible for those closest to him to get though that minefield.

Kathy... you mentioned that he did not want to "start over" with therapy. I was in the same boat last year, and although I did eventually start over, I remain bitter even now that I had to do it on my own. I don't know how much help my wife should have given me... when do you cross that unhealthy line? Not sure. But if it is something you believe would help and he is having trouble getting started, jump in and kick start the process. Make phone calls, interview therapists, make appointments. Just get him in the room and then hope that he uses the opportunity. If you do decide to get involved this way, just keep in the back of your mind that he is probably experiencing a lot of anxiety and fear... may help to explain some of the behavior you see.

PAS, SAR... does this sound resonable to you, or am I over the line? How much help is too much help when it comes to "starting over"?

W

_________________________
"Don't waste your time on jealousy. Sometimes you're ahead, sometimes you're behind. The race is long and, in the end, it's only with yourself." -Mary Schmich

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#59776 - 05/17/04 10:05 AM Re: How long can silence from spouse go on?
wifenneed Offline
Member
MaleSurvivor

Registered: 12/20/02
Posts: 90
Loc: Michigan
Wrangler-
Thank you for your post, as well as everybody else. I think I will ask him about counseling again, ever so gently, and maybe we can strike up some conversation about what happened last week. He did snap out of it on Saturday, as you said Wrangler. What you mentioned sounds a lot like what he does. He is back to the caring, attentive, loving man that he usually is. He apologized, and I didn't press for anything more than that yet. I will talk to him later this week, to let him settle even more.

I was not serious about the "pretend" issue as we discussed above. I think at times I wish he could just "act" like he cared, but I know he does, deep down under all the swirling junk that must be going on inside for him. I think it takes tremendous strength on both our parts during these times, and seeing it through another one makes the bond stronger. But during them, good lord, it's not a pleasant place, to say the least.

It is still hard for me to comprehend what he is afraid of, in trying to go to counseling again. In all other areas of our lives he is rational and clear thinknig, a bit of a perfectionist too, just like me. So, in this one area where he knows it is not serving him or us to do these things, and counseling would help, he does not want to go. What is the fear, or is it just feeling shame? I support him all the way. In all things. I wish I could give him a shot of assurance that it's okay, whatever he's feeling or thinking, and take away the guilt and the shame and the silence he has to endure, and the toppling effect that this has like dominoes on our lives.

Wrangler I think I'll print this whole thing so I have it the next time around. To see in print what he's possibly feeling, as you described, really helps. Thank you again-

Kathy


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#59777 - 05/17/04 10:47 AM Re: How long can silence from spouse go on?
PAS Offline
Member

Registered: 06/12/02
Posts: 577
Loc: Canada
>>>>most of the time it sprang up because I had started to neglect myself and let the "mental trash" pile up. After all, it does get very exhausting trying to manage all this crap all the time... so breaks of the unhealthy variety are to be expected.

>>>>The main trouble with the situation is that is was a black hole. Not possible to pull myself out of because lots of irrationally thinking went on there. Feelings of inadequacy, shame, hate, anger, fear, emptiness, brokenness, etc just swirl around, all aggrevating each other and escalating the whole situation.

>>>Indeed, it was usually something pretty dramatic that would break the trance... failed test at school, catching my wife looking at another guy and realizing she could leave... that sort of thing. Then I would kinda snap out of it with a burst of engergy and enthusiasm. Patching things up, being the "good" husband, attending to the house, my wife, school with a zeal that oooed and ahhed the people around me.

Thanks so much for this. I'm in fact in a "black hole" for over a week now with my partner. We're living together now in a house we just bought and the first week was utter bliss, then its been hell ever since. I even threatened to call the real estate agent yesterday and put the house back up for sale. I am just HATING living with him - its been so unbearable. He is swinging between "total control freak" (he got mad at me for not organizing the dirty dishes in the dishwasher neatly, while at the same time leaving dirty socks all over the house - does that smell like neat freak, or control freak to you??) and "shut down cold unemotional robot wall" just like the original post for this thread.

Control-check out, control-check out. This ugly swing of relationship death has to end soon.

Now I find myself in the midst of trying to put (sorry but I'm gonna curse in this post) my fucking money where my mouth is and I'm finding it really hard. I guess there's just an overwhelming feeling of loneliness that I've never had before - I used to be able to retreat to the safety of my own apartment, my own world, and leave him out, but now we're kind of joined, and the misery and pain and emotional shutdown just kind of permeates the place like a bad smell sometimes. I swear you can FEEL his bad moods.

But I know I've gotta toughen myself up to ride this out - but am having a hard time doing so. There's a few other things in my life that I gotta take care of - including a no-show employee that just doesnt have a clue, overwork, and seeing too much of my parents.

I think I just need some more self-care and less busy-ness for awhile. Maybe then I'll be able to stand strong against what I think is some pretty crappy treatment from my partner lately.

>>If you think you see the cycle of the perfectionist at work in some of this... well, good work.

Sarcasm like this makes me smile \:\)

>>>>My own thoughts about the specific question here are that this behavior is a big indicator of the survivors need for some proffsional help learning how to take care himself in a healthy and day-to-day sort of way. Probalby a lot of irrational thinking going on in his mind, and it is nearly impossible for those closest to him to get though that minefield.


I think this is what must be happening. What is hard for my partner is that he seems to carry on in a really normal way - he looks like the happiest, coolest, most fun, laid back kind of guy, but all the while this shit is percolating inside of him. And then BLAM he's acting all weird and we're in a giant fight, right out of the blue. I haven't seen 'em coming lately.

He's learned to lie to himself for so long, no thanks to his mom who embedded the phrase "if you cant say anythign nice dont say anyting at all" - gee thanks, lady. Now you have a son who lies to himself and to me all the time.


>>>Kathy... you mentioned that he did not want to "start over" with therapy. I was in the same boat last year, and although I did eventually start over, I remain bitter even now that I had to do it on my own. I don't know how much help my wife should have given me... when do you cross that unhealthy line? Not sure. But if it is something you believe would help and he is having trouble getting started, jump in and kick start the process. Make phone calls, interview therapists, make appointments. Just get him in the room and then hope that he uses the opportunity. If you do decide to get involved this way, just keep in the back of your mind that he is probably experiencing a lot of anxiety and fear... may help to explain some of the behavior you see.

I wish this was the case for us. My partner goes to about 3-4 hours of therapy a week, as well as a daily meditation practice, church, exercise, journalling, all the friggin self care you can get. Do you ever think that there is a line when someone can get TOO MUCH therapy and instead of processing things, they start to use it as a place to ruminate and fester, instead of moving forward and healing?? I'm starting to think that too much therapy is NOT allowing him to move on - he has a really tough time just letting things drop and moving forwards.

>>>PAS, SAR... does this sound resonable to you, or am I over the line? How much help is too much help when it comes to "starting over"?

I dont think this is too unreasonable - but there is always the risk that you can "lead a horse to water".. and he may not drink. Also - sometimes trying to help just leaves us vulnerable to having our partners take out their emotions on us - sometimes when things are REALLY bad for us and I think he needs something or other, and I try to be helpful, I get dealt things like "dont meddle in my business" or "stop fucking naggin me". HOwever, in the case of Wifeinneed - I think maybe getting some of the ducks in order so to speak may help. At least then he wont have to do the calling, and settign up appointments.

Ha.. I recall when I was in my low depressive/anxiety points, trying to call and set up appointments, I remember a receptionist getting really mad at me for a) forgetting my appointments b) not having patience when I was put on a waiting list and c) being too overanxious to get in to see the therapist.. seeing as how forgetfulness/anxiety/impatince are hallmarks of depression/anxiety, the irony of it just made me wanna hurl. I coulda used some help from someone a bit more healthy during those times in my life.

P


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