Sunday, August 24, 2008

Leave of Absence/Exerpts

Back from the 12-day road trip/family reunion and still playing catch-up. Feeling scattered and unconsolidated. Way behind in my blog list, since I was only rarely able to get online while gone. I'll post a proper post soon, but wondered if in the meantime I could post another early 2006 diary entry:


I wrote some more about this in a message to Valerie, so I’ll put it here:

Answering the question you asked me, at the start of your message ("What do

you think you can do about it?') was a good focusing point for me. I think
what I'm doing right now about it is having a conversation with myself (sort
of like the more pleasurable, but still rather stressful conversation I was
having with myself about x). In this conversation I'm clarifying the
dimensions of the situation I'm feeling stuck in. And I'm trying to find
the stamina to keep myself focused on this dilemma, because I think
sometimes if you hold 2 seemingly intractable ideas next to each other, that
an unforeseen way might open, just from the tension of those ideas. Make
any sense? Here's what I've come up with so far: The nature of my
dilemma--In order to be happy in a relationship, I need to have a means with
which to restore intimacy when there's a breach. I need to be able to name
my feelings about the breach, and I need to be able to discuss the breach
with the other person involved. I believe I have the skills to be able to
pull off this kind of intimacy + PROCESS for restoring intimacy. (For I am
being realistic in assuming that as long as there is more than one person
there will be potential for conflict, since we each have a blind spot about
what the other person is thinking, feeling, and wanting.)

Anyway, to get back to the Basic Situation: In order to be happy in
relationship I need to be able to communicate wants, needs, and feelings and
have a partner who does it too, as something *functional*, to keep things
cleaned up between us so intimacy can flow.

This is all very difficult when the other half of the partnership has no
skills at all in the area of communicating. I suppose I would say that I
need to have a partner who is able to cooperate with me in using words to
heal breaches in connection.

I don't have this in Gary. And it's very likely that I never will. So I'm
married to a man who not only doesn't have these skills, but reacts with
hostility when I use them.

That's the crux of this situation. I need something in a relationship that
is totally out of his nature and inclination to provide.

So it's an affront to him whenever I, no matter how respectfully, (And no
matter how reasonable the issue is, ask something of him, or point out
something to him. He also is passive aggressive and frequently acts or
speaks with hostility to get back at me for something that he's mad about
(but not saying)--and something that's not even related to the current

The by-product of that dynamic is that very often in our day-to-day moments,
out of the blue he will behave with animosity. It's often very quick--I
just know that all of a sudden I'm feeling kind of crummy, or a little angry
myself. And it comes down to being a result of something loaded in a moment
that Gary and I just participated in together.

There are 2 requirements for peace in that moment: one is that Gary simply
do whatever is required of him in that moment without slipping in a *zing*.
(That is, not behave with animosity in the first place.) The other thing
required is for me to not react.

This part has been, I think, the focus of counselors and the advice from
helping books--that is, that the only thing I can change in a partnership is
me, so I should be the one to change. That means that somehow I would have
to not feel the sting that he intends, and therefore be unaffected, and so
not feel that anger/hurt that comes as a response to an act of hostility.

And, I'm not sure that I can do that.

I can't see myself as being completely unaffected emotionally by this stuff
when he is just plain rude or disrespectful. I can't see myself being able
to let it pass, either, without insistence that I be treated well.

Anyway, this is all a long way of saying that what I want and what he is
able to give in a relationship seem to be mutually exclusive. For whatever
reasons, he's not up to what it would take to heal things between us. And
he is not able to maintain well-ness in a relationship through communication
and self-disclosure.

That's what I mean by the stuck place, and I'm trying to think of it as a
kind of crucible to see what comes of holding these contradictions next to
each other.

I sent that a little while ago and feel a bit vulnerable. Like maybe there’s some sort of fatal flaw in the way I view my situation that’s obvious to everyone but me.

I think I have a realistic handle on why Gary and I don’t get along. And what I’ve laid out here isn’t even the only deeply divisive issue that we have. It’s a big one, though: the fact that we as a couple are unable to communicate using words and use it functionally on even a basic level as a tool to maintain connection as well as heal rifts.

He seems to take the fact of a conflict very personally, and hold it against me when I’m open about a situation where there’s potentially conflict. Many people believe that it’s a deep affront to them if someone admits they’re less than happy with them. They believe that the right thing to do is to just put up with something someone’s doing that is having a less than positive impact on them. And that therefore there’s an agreement that neither of you will ever say anything that bothers you. Gary seems to come from that place—which means that any time I ask that something be different, that he takes it as an insult. And yet he feels constrained against talking about it with me and instead holds it against me. So he’s got years of resentment against me because I’ve always been honest about my feelings, even if they aren’t complimentary to him.

A little later—back from getting Scott:

I think what was worrying me, was a sense that maybe what I wrote to Valerie is over-dramatizing my situation, or being histrionic or something. That’s what I feel vulnerable to, being taken that way. That someone out side of me might see it that I’ve created this big drama and the intractable situation is just me being dramatic.


I'm painfully aware that 2 and a half years have passed since then and I basically could be saying the very same things now. With some variation in the level of hostility nothing has changed. I suppose it's time to make preparations , serious ones, for leaving this marriage. Looking over my financial assets, getting a handle on investments and that sort of thing. The biggest question mark for me is Scott's emotional state which I have an intuition is fragile.

That said, the vacation was largely positive and I'd like to post a few pictures once I put together a real post.


Mrs. Spit said...

You've unpacked some really profound things in there. I would say this, as I see how frustrated(?) that you are to still be in the same situation.

Many people would never be able to name the issue. They would never be able to look at the problem.

And I don't have any good answers about what to do. But I do know that our communication skills have gotten us through the time since Gabriel's death. The ability to be able to have a "do-over" when we didn't start out communicating and someone got hurt.

I can't imagine how frustrating and painful and lonely it must be to be the only one talking in a marriage. I'm sorry. That's not fair or right.

excavator said...

Thank you for seeing me.

Douglas W said...

I wonder what would happen if the person you have not been able to communicate with was able to read all of what you express through your blog posts. I wonder what they would think if they read them and didn't know it was you. If he knew it was you who was the author a barrier would surely go up and his response would be colored by prjudice. But if he didn't know it was you would he feel empathy for the anonymous person pouring out their concerns and feelings?

Just wondering.

excavator said...

Hi, Doug.

It was in the past few months that I had cause to revisit my old diaries. I was looking for something else, but in the course of that discovered how little important things had changed in my relationship.

Frequently I've reached out in my writing (emails), and frequently have a momentary success: that is, he has a glimpse into our situation and its unsustainability. Sadly, he can't sustain the illumination, the candle blows out and he goes back to sleep. And things go back to the usual.

I gave him the diary where I first discovered how long I'd been writing the things I've been considering in present time; he was initially interested, but that's gone by the wayside.

Maybe what you say is true, that it is the knowing the author that raises the barrier.

deb said...

"So it's an affront to him whenever I, no matter how respectfully, (And no
matter how reasonable the issue is, ask something of him, or point out
something to him. He also is passive aggressive and frequently acts or
speaks with hostility to get back at me for something that he's mad about
(but not saying)--and something that's not even related to the current

This reminded me of my husband and myself too. I know I am passive aggressive, something which I struggle with. But I find it so frustrating that he expects me to be able to read his mind, instead of just telling me what's wrong. And yet I do the same to him, expect him to be able to read my mind.

But what hit home was that you struggle with how to say something to him, you think about it before hand, often knowing that he will still take it the wrong way. I ended up feeling wrong for so many years because I have no idea of how to broach things with him. And I know I suck in this department as well, it truly is the blind leading the blind in our house.

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