Relationship Advice Tips from Dr. Jeanette Raymond, Ph.D.
For the millionth time that day twenty-seven-year-old receptionist Camille yelled at sound engineer Mario, her boyfriend of eight months. He was never on time, drove carelessly and today he had forgotten the address for her urgent dental appointment after promising to get her there punctually.
What made it worse was his utter calmness in the face of her escalating outrage. It was as if she were a mere twig on the road that he could go around and continue on his merry way. Camille rejected his hug and concern for her when she came out of the dental office. She ignored his interest in what she could eat and drink after her tooth extraction. Camille avoided any eye contact and refused to talk to him on the way home. She chose loneliness and depression instead.
Two hours later Camille felt guilty and ashamed of her anger and rebuffs.
She wanted to soften and respond to his attention and concern. She wanted the hugs and reassurance but she just couldn’t pretend his lateness and forgetfulness didn’t hurt her deeply. When he turned on the charm and offered caring gestures it felt false. Responding to his care at those moments felt like a betrayal to herself and her needs. It would be like pretending she hadn’t been let down. In fact it would be like admitting that her bitter disappointment had been a fantasy.
Wrestling with her conflict was wearing and exhausting– depression and loneliness was safer
One part of her wanted to beat him up for not being there for her when he said he would, and another part of her wanted to beg his forgiveness for her punishing rage and coldness. Sometimes she wanted to hurt him like he hurt her, but at other time she wanted to be comforted and loved. Swinging from one side of the pendulum to the other was crazy making. The only way of numbing the tension between wanting to punish him and feeling guilty was to be depressed and lonely.
When Mario got pushed away and ignored as he drove Camille home from the dentist, he too experienced his own uncomfortable conflict.
One part of him felt furious at being treated like an unpaid taxi-driver with an ungrateful fare! He just wanted to stop the car, drop her off and never see her again. Another part of him knew that Camille was not used to be loved and didn’t really intend to be cruel. But that didn’t make him feel any better. He oscillated between rage at being treated as if he didn’t exist, and guilt for letting Camille down. He also felt that being depressed and lonely was the only way out of this awful mess.
As soon as Camille opened her front door she felt her throat constrict as if she were being choked.
The place looked a mess; her father and brother were in a drunken stupor, while her four year old nephew was screaming because his toys were broken. She wanted to kill her father and brother for making her responsible for her nephew, the upkeep of the house and their getting their meals ready. But she rushed to take care of her nephew and soothe his distress, while her feelings got thrown aside.
The moment that Camille’s nephew smiled back at her Camille felt suffocated. She wanted to run away with Mario, get married and live far away from her neglectful family. She wanted to go live her own life and have her own family, but her nephew’s smile was like a rope around her neck. She knew that if she left him she would be abandoning a helpless child, just like his mother had done two years ago.
So when Mario called her later that night to check on her, she cried with frustration and rage. She couldn’t let herself be tempted by his gentleness and care. She had to hang on to her disappointment at him to make sure she didn’t just walk out of the trap she was caught in. She had to sacrifice herself and her future for her nephew or else the guilt would plague her forever. It was just too much to bear. The only comforting place was to retreat back into her depression and loneliness.
Mario was hurt and upset that his thoughtfulness and concern went unappreciated. He wanted to hang up and find a new girlfriend. He just couldn’t take this constant beating even though he knew that Camille was a good, loyal and responsible person.
Just as Mario was about to end the call, Camille felt scared that she would lose him and be stuck in her trap depressed and lonely.
She let her fear bring out the parts of her that valued Mario and wanted him to stick with her. He was the only salvation she had from the suffocation of having to take care of a family who ignored her, broke promises and let her down.
Mario heard her need and her love. He too got in touch with his wish to care for her and be loved just as he loved her. They made room for each other by tuning into their need for care that went both ways.
They were motivated to make their relationship strong and nurturing so that both felt it worthwhile to continue growing together. They invested in therapy, and were able to see that Camille’s anger at Mateo was an expression of the suppressed rage she had towards her family that she took out on Mateo. Camille had to trust Mateo not to be like her family, and Mateo had to trust that Camille wanted a life with him but needed help to have it without abandoning her nephew.
Camille and Mario talked a lot about their anger and fear in therapy. They found a way to hold each other through the worst of the shame and guilt they felt when their rage got out of control.That helped Camille take the risk of attachment rather than use depression and loneliness as her only safe refuge.
You might also like:
copyright, Jeanette Raymond, Ph.D.
Disclaimer: this video 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