Relationship AdviceTips from Dr. Jeanette Raymond, Ph.D.
Do you get upset when your loved one wants to spend time with a friend or a relative? Does it feel like you are being discarded or abandoned?
Are you also angry and ashamed of your feelings since you “know” that there is nothing disloyal or sinister in their motives? You don’t know whether to give into the feelings and have it out with your loved one or tell yourself to suck it up, grow up and step up!
You find that if you ignore your feelings, then you take the risk of nursing the pain indefinitely and that isn’t appealing. If you show your hurt and anger then you risk feeling ashamed of your childish behavior and that doesn’t make you feel good in the relationship.
This is exactly the dilemma that faced thirty-six year old office manager Sophie when Damien her thirty-nine year old husband told her he was going away for the weekend with his sister and grandparents whom he hadn’t seen in a while. As soon as she heard the news she felt a sharp pang of anxiety that grew stronger with every beat of her heart. Her mind started racing with thoughts of Damien needing to get away from her and get the comfort and enjoyment of family members. Sophie imagined that he wouldn’t want to come back and that she would lose him. Even though she knew that Damien loved her and was affectionate and caring, her whole being was emotionally charged with fury and protest, threatening to make a fool out of her.
At first Sophie tried to keep her feelings of anger and fear in check by engaging in helping Damien pack, making sure he had everything he needed for the journey, and making out as if it was a well-deserved family get together. It made her feel less ashamed of emotions by acting like a practical and dutiful wife.
But the feelings of fury and terror persisted as the countdown towards Damien’s departure began.
On the outside Sophie alternated between being snappy and irritable to being cold, over-polite and mechanical. However inside she battled the extremes of feeling like a bowl of jelly one minute and a lighted stick of dynamite the next.
Hiding her true feelings from Damien created a gigantic wall between Sophie and Damien. It was the only way to prove that she didn’t need him, wasn’t bothered by his choices and had plenty going on for herself that she could get lost in.
In effect Sophie abandoned Damien.
Sophie felt a little bit more in control when she became the one pushing Damien away with her wall of coldness cloaked by false words of acceptance regarding his weekend trip. But in the process she froze Damien out, making him feel her pain. Sophie wanted him to feel guilty for messing with her sense of security. She wanted him to suffer the same unsettled feeling that she was experiencing.
Damien didn’t understand Sophie’s strange reaction. On the one hand she was being amiable and going with his plan. One the other hand her distance felt like a hostile act of aggression. He was being forced to detach from his wife against his will with no reprieve from the sharpness of her axe.
Sophie and Damien are trapped in an impasse, unable to talk and or understand one another.
There is a way out for them if Sophie addresses the conflict that has her emotions protesting and her intellect creating a pretense of acceptance. Initially Sophie needs to know that it’s perfectly normal for her to feel torn about her dual experiences. Next she needs to try bridging the gap between the warring parts of her that can’t find a peaceful compromise.
Here is how Sophie can begin to resolve her conflict:
- Acknowledge without judgment or shame that she is scared and angry about Damien leaving her to spend time with family and friends.
- Share the feelings with Damien once the judgment and shame have been removed.
- Discuss the distress she feels even though her logical side knows she isn’t being abandoned.
- Get understanding and acceptance from Damien so that they stay connected.
- Keep the connection going while he is away so that Sophie never feels forgotten or abandoned.
After Sophie gives voice to both sides of her and hangs onto the connection with her husband, she won’t feel so bad about herself or have to go to such lengths to damp down her fears of abandonment. She won’t have to abandon Damien emotionally to feel strong and in control, nor will she ever have to feel disconnected or fear the loss of togetherness again.
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Copyright, Jeanette Raymond, Ph.D.
Disclaimer: this article is for informational and educative purposes only. There is no liability on the part of Dr. Raymond for any reactions you may have while reading the article or implementing the suggestions therein. Interacting with this material does not constitute a therapeutic relationship with Dr. Raymond.