I think you are totally right about this
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.
And I think that might even be part of the shame and guilt about needing therapy? That there's nothing big to pin it on? I mean, cheated on your wife, okay, therapy seems reasonable. Huge, dramatic nervous breakdown, sure, go to therapy. But unable to manage the mental stress of daily life? WHO goes to a doctor for THAT? :rolleyes:
Wrangler, I fear that this next is an "easy to ask, hard to answer" question. But I'll try.
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?
I think there are two needs here that work against each other. There is a need to feel capable and independent, and there is a need to have our fears and desires recognized by someone who will take care of us. At first it seems that one of these is something you do for yourself and the other is something others do for you, but it's not that easy. To feel capable and independent, we have to be given the opportunity... that means that we need to be given/trusted with tasks that are possible for us to complete. It also means that we need chances to make mistakes and to be taught, so that we can complete more tasks on our own. And often it means that someone else must validate our efforts. And before someone else can recognize our fears and desires, we have to a) find the Someone Else who we want to share with (for example an older child might choose NOT to give an abusive parent any extra info. about their fears/desires), and b) give that person the information they require to fulfill our need, and c) accept the recognition and efforts at caretaking if they are given.
I am much more focused on independence than my boyfriend. Part of this is our childhoods-- my family was neglectful and I had to do a lot of things for myself. I only got help for things that I COULDN'T do myself, and I was shamed and put down for needing the help. So for me, if I needed to get professional help, I would have to do it all myself because if my boyfriend tried to make appointments for me I would take that to mean that he thought I was incapable of doing it myself, and I would feel shamed and put down about it.
I can certainly see a lot of this unhealthy background in my reasons for not helping my boyfriend to get therapy. I want it to be HIS accomplishment. I want him to be able to own his recovery and feel proud of what he's done for himself. I know that it might be hard for him to make phone calls, etc., on his own, but after he's done it, won't it mean more to him than if I did it for him? Isn't he tired of being underestimated and put down by the people around him? My stepping back from this was an act of trust and an affirmation of his abilities, not a withdrawal of support.
Here's why my boyfriend might not have seen it that way. His family taught him dependence more than independence-- actually they sacrificed his need for independence because they needed him to make THEM feel needed. When he tried to do things on his own, he was made to feel guilty and ungrateful about "abandoning" and "rejecting" their help, or too stupid/lazy/etc. to do it in the first place, or both. So for him, allowing himself to be taken care of in a way that I (and probably he too) would find demeaning, was a way to show a willingness to meet someone else's need. He expected me to "take care" of things for him over and beyond the unhealthy line, because to him, that's what I would do if I wanted a relationship with him. For him, acknowledging the desire/ability to do it himself would be mutiny.
I think it's fairly obvious how this developed into a pattern of withdrawal over lots of issues, not just my boyfriend getting therapy. He neglected his own needs because he didn't want me to think he was ungrateful or abandoning me. I didn't jump in and take care of his needs because I didn't want him to feel ashamed. When I didn't take care of him, he felt that I wasn't living up to my end of the relationship. I felt the same way about him expecting me to care for him, because I didn't want a dependant, I wanted a partner....
Where's the unhealthy line? Well one place is in the confusion of what you need with what someone else needs you to need. If my boyfriend had asked me for help doing things (see "what we have to do to get someone to recognize our fears/desires"), I would have helped him. If he'd asked me, will you help me find a therapist, I would have made the phone calls. But he didn't know how to ask for these things because the "taking care of" he'd gotten as a child was never about what he needed. If there were needs of his that didn't correspond with what he was already being given, they conveniently disappeared. So he didn't understand that being taken care of requires give and take. He's so used to being told what he wants-- if I'd pushed him into therapy, would I have been giving him what he wanted or what I wanted?