Post

Selfish Versus Self Care

Working out whether you are being selfish or merely self caring can be confusing and something that causes many some angst.  This is a challenge for all of us but especially those in a marriage or relationship.  And that is made even more difficult if there are dependent children in the mix.

“Selfishness” is acting in my own self-interest, believing that I am entitled to behave in a certain way —and who cares about others?   Self-care” is recognizing my self- worth enough to take care of my personal needs while considering and respecting the needs of those around me.

It seems when I was a child I was never taught about self care or to want things. Whenever I wanted something, I was accused of being selfish.  It didn’t matter if I was tired or just not wanting to do chores. I heard it so much and so often and didn’t want to think I was anything bad like that, I stopped taking care of myself in many different ways. If taking care of me was selfish , than taking care of and pleasing others was unselfish . And I’d much rather be unselfish. I suspect many people . . . are taught this self-defeating, unloving attitude.   (From: Empowering women to be the star of their own story)

When I think of how to take better care of myself, one of the things I think of is the mindfulness that I bring to my relationships, both with myself and with others.

But how does that kind of self-care reflect back to the others in our lives? What’s the quality of the relationship we’re building with ourselves going to reflect back to them?  How will they see and find themselves, if we’re so busy taking care of them and not tending to ourselves?

When we step back and pause to reflect on our self-care, instead of thinking of it as a selfish act, instead consider the notion that it is an act of love. It’s love towards ourselves and therefore, it becomes what we reflect onto others in our relationships with them.  (From: Nourishing Thoughts: Self-Care Isn’t Selfish  By: Jeanette Bronee, Path for Life)

We can’t expect others to respect us and help us if we don’t respect our selves. Part of self respect is self care.

Many people on ILIASM struggle mightily with the feeling that they are "selfish" if their needs conflict with those of their spouse.   For all of us there will be times in our lives when our own needs must come second, because at that time, someone else's needs must take priority.   But when one spouse's needs to trump those of the other long term, then it is the one whose needs are being met who is selfish.  And it is certainly NOT selfish for the other spouse to believe that she/he has a right to having his/her needs met as well.

If your self image is bound up in being "unselfish", then taking care of yourself does not come naturally.  It goes against the grain of what you believe to be "true" about yourself (i.e. that you are an unselfish person).  But in fact, caring for yourself does NOT make you "selfish" - these are two separate concepts.   If taking care of yourself results in another person feeling disadvantaged, then it is important to see that your behaviour is NOT unreasonable.  In a healthy and strong relationship, both people can take care of themselves without detracting from the needs of the other spouse.  If your spouse needs you to give up your needs in order that his/her needs are met, then that is an unhealthy dynamic.

Children are the innocents here.  And this is not the place to discuss the many issues that are connected with "staying for the kids".  (Endless hours and millions of words have been expended on this topic here on ILIASM.)  But in essence, this sums up the value of self care:
"To love yourself and maintain healthy boundaries is the most selfless thing that you can do. It means you have more to give, sustainably."  (Linked-In Authenticity Forum)

For those of you struggling to decide if you are being "selfish" I encourage you to read about "self care" and become quite clear about the distinction between the two concepts.  
 


 

 

 


 


 

enna30 enna30 56-60, F 10 Responses Feb 5, 2013

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Thank you for the post! Some things to ponder -

I go at this from the other side - keywords: egotistic and egocentric and, thrown in as 'my term' although I certainly didn't think of it first: enlightened egotism.

The egotist always puts themselves first, other people's needs, wants, desires are second.
The egocentric can't even perceive that others' needs, wants and desires have any kind of validity. The others are the spear carriers, the red-shirts in the movie they direct in their head.
The enlightened egotist knows intuitively that they can only be really happy and content if those around them are happy and content as well, and so they take others' needs, wants and desires under advisement without sacrificing their own except out of consideration.

That is the scale that I measure myself on, and how I evaluate other people in my life.
Nothing wrong in my book with being selfish so long as it's moderated by compassion, consideration of others and a sense of proportion (and justice, and fairness if you want to include those; I consider them implicit) - in fact that's what I would consider a healthy state of being.

People who make self-sacrifice their number one priority are highly suspect and red flag material as far as I am concerned.
If you have no concern for yourself in a relationship, then you have issues that need working on. Ditto for the inverse.

One may suspend caring for oneself in certain situations, for a time ... but, as we discussed here variously a long time ago - at some point we have to draw the line in the sand when our own minimum requirements aren't met. The point where self preservation does kick in.

"People who make self-sacrifice their number one priority are highly suspect and red flag material as far as I am concerned.
If you have no concern for yourself in a relationship, then you have issues that need working on. Ditto for the inverse."

Casnnot LIKE this enough!!

What a fantastic post! Thank you for this.

thinking some more about emotionally fused couples, and doing the hard, uncomfortable and at times downright ugly work of re-drawing boundaries, finding ways to re-establish some "me" inside the relationship, and whether there's hope for the relationship--a la apocrypha's and enna's comments, below.

assume your spouse works *with* you--at least *some* of the time--towards re-drawing boundaries, "differentiating" (e.g. Finding some thing(s) besides your spouse that interests you)? then there is some hope.

assume your spouse throws up every conceivable obstacle, and invents some new ones, to ev.e.ry.thing you try to do that doesn't directly involve them? Quite possibly there is emotional abuse happening.

it shouldn't take an act of congress (or the like) to have a movie nite with a friend; or work out; or pick up groceries; or get a haircut...and so on. you get the drift. if it doesn't happen during working hours, or on the way home (but don't take longer than acceptable or you'll get phone calls--even when checking in to say heavy traffic) then it ain't acceptable and be prepared for an almighty row just to be able to do it.

there were actually weekends he told me not to do the grocery shopping on a given day because I *should* have "been able to do it on the way home" on friday night

there's dysfunctional/unhealthy...and there's dysfunctional/abusive. i am working to emerge from the latter.

It is the CONTROL element at work in these situations that is the most concerning. That control is something your husband (and my EX, and many other spouses) need to have because of their own emotional issues. I am not blaming them for needing to have control, but it is NOT a workable element in a good relationship.

In your case Smithy, I believe your husband's need to control is severe. . . maybe not critical, but who knows if (or when!) it might reach that point?? Especially if he feels thwarted . . . .

My Ex would exercise control over me in anything that concerned us both. For example: If we were going out to dinner, we would go where HE wanted to. But for those things that were ntirely about "me", he did not feel the need to control me. So my level of being controlled was FAR less than your's, yet it was till untenable in the long term . . . .

In my experience, we sometimes do this to ourselves as well.
In my dysfunctional marriage, I gave up certain things once we had kids, because parenting needs had to replace some recreational activities (like say playing golf which is a half day out of a weekend).
However, I found that in my "why" chasing days, I'd be thinking stuff like "I wonder if the "why" is because I have a drink with work colleagues of a Friday night ?" - and I'd drop that to see if it made any difference (it didn't). "I wonder if the "why" is because I work too much ?" - so I'd cut my hours back a bit to see if it made any difference (it didn't).
Soon, I found I had cut loose all manner of things in my "why" chasing (it made no difference) to the extent that I had plenty of time to "why" chase.

Thing is, I did this WILLINGLY all by myself, not because I felt overt pressure to do so. I was an active participant in helping me lose myself.

I agree very much with this, bazzar. I did the same, and later, discovered my wife had also been doing this too, and I did not see it at the time. I also found that I resisted some of her attempts to engage in that part of herself (a part that I used to enjoy), or to engage in communities she used to engage with.

"I am not blaming them for needing to have control, but it is NOT a workable element in a good relationship."
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I certainly agree with this. Smithy, I see that you are still trying to qualify a case of "abuse" (whatever that means), though it's well established that whatever is going on, it is something that needs to change, and that you need to protect yourself and carry on along your path of growth, regardless of objection.

When I did the same, a while back, it was important to me to do so because I felt guilty. I felt that if I had some external reference to support my status as "abused" that this would absolve me somehow of the uncomfortable consequences of the choices I was contemplating. I had, in mind, a script or recipe card to follow on how to conduct myself and insulate myself from such feelings, like I might at a funeral, or pressing charges, or recovering from an injury or illness, where my sense of "normal" could be suspended for a while while I went about doing necessary business.

If I can offer a bad metaphor, your child may cry because you don't buy them an expensive toy. It's "normal" to express disappointment, expected. And it's also important in a child's growth to learn the lesson that they can't get everything they want, and that they need to learn to manage such disappointments.

apocrypha, i totally get that you're against labels because you feel it obscures the issues, or allows people to stereotype, lump, etc--and accordingly either excuse dismiss or skate on problematic issues & behaviours. yes, i do--i think we all do.

fine.

that doesn't however make me a child who is crying (or my husband for that matter) in this situation. it's clear to me and to others who've been privy to a lot more detail than i share here on a public forum that there IS abuse going on.

"that doesn't however make me a child who is crying (or my husband for that matter) in this situation"
------
In my bad metaphor, I was referring to you as a parent who who doesn't cave to manipulation when you understand the greater good.

If there is other material that you've shared in private, but are referencing as if you've shared it publicly, then please grant that this places me at a disadvantage.
I'm not actually disputing your claim, but rather commenting on whether the label is significant or not in terms of what must be done.

I will share that domestic abuse and the advocacy for it, is an area of considerable personal and academic investment for me, and so I would not wish to be miscontrued as insensetive to anyone discussing the topic.

thanks for the clarification apocrypha--yes, i get the analogy and appreciate the distinction.

some of what's gone on is just for the attorneys to know. lord knows enough has been aired here! and yes i understood your point.

we see things much the same.

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What do all the airlines tell us in case of emergency? Put on our own oxygen masks first and then assist those in our care.

yet another gem--thank you enna.

i have found myself contemplating all manner of philosophies and having been accused of selfishness and a lack of thoughtfulness (both extremely effective painful arrows) by my h in the past, i see clearly that no, it was just me trying to begin some self care.

example: taking a yoga class 1x per week for 6 weeks with a mom-friend. you wouldn't (or maybe you would!) believe the arguments that ensued. and my daughter inserted herself and basically told my h *we* were going to do it. when your child tells you what's what, wouldn't you think you'd take a step back & re-evaluate? not my h.

another example: while my daughter is at her weekly lesson, she also volunteers & helps for a couple extra hours. i run a couple errands then work out at a ridiculously inexpensive gym. then i pick her up & we head home. my h objects. anything that takes me outside the home, that doesn't also involve him, is seen as selfish. or somehow a threat, or not true to his family ideals. leaving aside the blatant hypocrisy he displays: being married does NOT mean being a prisoner. and that's how i have felt for some time now. re asserting myself & drawing new boundaries, instituting new routines which include self care---have all been an at times excruciatingly painful process.

now-not everyone will experience that level of resistance, attempts to sabotage, self care efforts. it's a good indicator, IMO, of whether there's anything *worth* salvaging in your marriage: your spouse's reaction both short and long term to self care efforts.

Smithy, this attempt to isolate you is a characteristic of abusers. The fact that you can and do resist shows you ave great strength - welldone you!!

I could not agree more with this statement of your's:
"it's a good indicator, IMO, of whether there's anything *worth* salvaging in your marriage: your spouse's reaction both short and long term to self care efforts."

In a positive relationship both pasrtners support the other's attempts to self care IMO. {{{hugs}}}

"Smithy, this attempt to isolate you is a characteristic of abusers."
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Whoa!
It is a very *normal* impetus within emotionally fused couples (read, anyone about 10 years into a relationship) to see the potential for growth in one partner, as threatening to the other. It is NOT an indication that a divorce is mandatory.

It is an indication that one or both of you DO need to stick to your guns and differentiate, with the full knowledge that your partner will feel uncomfortable and likely react, and that that reaction is part of the process you both need to endure.

So much of our OWN part of the dysfunction within our groups lies in the avoidance of that conflict, and the fear of the reaction of our partner. Either self censoring (through either "staying home" or lying to our partner about what we do). We anticipate the negative reaction to what we want to do, and then never raise it with them, and then we blame them for the reaction we we anticipated.

This conflict - having that conflict out - and hanging on to yourself within it - is the SELF WORK, that couples who are pulling themselves out of the ditch have to do, and it usually has to be done not only alone, but while taking fire from a spouse for doing it.

THIS is the thing that either triggers the spouse to grow as well, and let go what isn't working, and define him or herself again as well. When that happens, YOU will also be fighting THEIR attempts at differentiation, and if you aren't, then your spouse probably is not trying hard enough.

"The Talk" is a wonderful excercise to give shape to one's thoughts. It will never, ever, compel action on the part of the spouse though. The only thing that will, is this, and it's going to be a bumpy ride.

apocrypha, i totally get what you are saying here and agree with your point. in most cases, these things CAN be worked out. and yes i DID "allow" him to isolate me.

however in my case, it *is* abuse and taken to an entirely different level. who argues with their spouse, AND drags their young child in to the arguments, to "guilt" them in to keeping the prisoner/slave status quo?

thankfully, our child is smart enough, and yes, still feisty enough (thank all the powers that be!) to tell him what's what. (and tells me too when the occasion warrants).

difference between how he handles it and how i do: he refuses to budge. i take it all under advisement, discuss logically with her, and we figure it out together.

"It is a very *normal* impetus within emotionally fused couples (read, anyone about 10 years into a relationship) to see the potential for growth in one partner, as threatening to the other. "

An emotionally fused couple is one which is essentially dysfunctional. And this dysfunction can operate at any point on the continuum.

The two parties within the couple however can be at vastly DIFFERENT points within the continuum. IMO Smithy's husband IS at the abusive level.

"Fusion and closeness are ultimately incompatible. Fusion requires a lack of awareness of differences while true closeness demands acknowledgment, tolerance and even appreciation of them." (Dr. Hugh R Leavall)

10 signs you may be in an emotionally abusive relationship:
Number ONE!
"iStock
Emotionally abusive spouses want you all to themselves and make an effort to have it that way. They do not understand that you have a life outside of the relationship - one that includes family and friends. It is healthy and normal for you to hang out with other people as well, so if your partner prevents you from doing so, this may be a sign of an emotionally abusive relationship."

Smithy, you both are in in the MOST emotionally challenging aspect of the separation process, which is something your husband does not support. Your intention to separate has been made clear to him and you have begun executing that plan.

From a practical standpoint, any attempt to make your own way, whether through separation or not, is going to MEAN something to him that threatens him. It would likely be threatening even if you were not separating (it would at least provide an opportunity for a mutual project at some point for each of you), but, given that's the context, it's going to be extra fraught.

So, it's not about you going to yoga. It's about what you going to yoga MEANS. It's about seeing you going out and making the kinds of connections and support that will help you grow, without him. He's feeling left behind, and that is because it's true. Given that there's nothing for him to gain at this point by also joining in, he will likely try to keep you in the nest.

The nature of the scenario means that this is going to be played out in front of your daughter to some extent. It's just not realistic to expect otherwise. And you probably are both going to feel an urge to use that impact as a further example of what the other is doing, in causing this to happen.

Money and sexual intimacy are both sticking points in your story, so I'd expect to see those coming up as further points of conflict --sources of insecurity, as you continue to differentiate.

These are predictable expressions to expect from this kind of situation, whether you are separating or not. It is important that you hold course and stick to what matters to you. It might be helpful to offer things that HE might be able to do as well, and at least until the money situation is worked out - establish accountable guidelines and budgets with each other as to what is reasonable for individual pursuits.

thanks apocrypha, again, I get what you're saying and generally agree.

however, my h has been relentlessly isolating me since nearly the beginning of our relationship and the yoga class i spoke of was many months ago, well before i had made the final decision to divorce. his totally unreasonable expectations and reactions in this case were one of the reasons behind my decision.

a very good friend of mine said to me (3 years ago): "smithy" it's like you're not only his slave, you're also his prisoner. (she had come to visit for the weekend and we went to the mall, my daughter on a play date, and less than an hour in to the shopping trip, the phone calls started.)

there's unhealthy, and there's beyond unhealthy. it's taken me some time to get even a fraction of differentiation back.

while i would expect she will certainly be impacted by and witness to *some* of our struggles? i don't expect, nor is it healthy, for him to involve her in discussions that are totally inappropriate for a little girl to be party to. and that's what he does, and has done, for some time. it's clear he has no clues what healthy boundaries should be -- that doesn't mean i will allow him to continue to drag her in to the middle of it.

after all, this is about him. and me.

NOT about her. she should NOT have a role, at all, in mediating, or being support, for one or other of two "grown ups" negotiating tricky relationships.

and him dragging her in to arguments is another of the reasons behind my decision. she needs healthier role modeling and in this dynamic she won't ever see it. because i will constantly be fighting -- for HER rights as well as my own.

Enna, the relationship is dysfunctional. That much is not in dispute. This is a kind of dysfunction that appears to be something that nearly any long term relationship will eventually encounter. Each of you either makes it through to the other side of it, or you split, and reset the counter. I've seen more than a few folks in here, and met a few myself in person, where they have ended up walking into *multiple* scenarios where the passion dropped out after a certain point in the relationship, and it went dysfunctional. Smart folks who KNEW what they were doing and trying to avoid because they had been there before. The numbers for this group alone suggest this isn't a rare thing. It's normal. It MUST be dealt with, but it is a normal part of a maturing relationship.

When a relationship is dysfunctional, debates about whether something meets someone's criteria for "abuse" are *often* beside the point. Generally speaking, both sides will feel justified in their positions, if not their actions. We can get totally sidetracked in pasting on nomenclature and ticking off all kinds of things on checklists.

Example: Is a relationship "sexless" if I have sex 10 times a year? According to some magazine article expert, 10 times a year is the threshold. Like blowing .08 on a Canadian breathylizer test. But it makes little difference to the woman who gets it 11 times a year and feels the same. We could spend our time debating whether something hits that criteria, but to what end?

A guy checks on **** constantly and jerks off. Many of us jump on him and say he's "addicted", end of story. Somehow the label becomes the end in itself, without context as to why that is happening, and what the response is.

A woman cheats on her husband. For most folks, she's now "a cheater" - kick her to the curb. Again, we realize in ILIASM, these things tend to be more complicated, and the label applied becomes its own justification for knee jerk action, rather than digging into any insight that might be useful, if the parties receive sufficient pressure to choose to apply it.

It is NORMAL, for people to feel threatened when a partner appears to be leaving them. It is normal to express that threat in various ways. What's clear is that, smithy's husband does not want her to leave him, and he is using excuses about yoga and money as a chaffe to hide the real issue, which is his insecurity around seeing her materialize as an independent woman with her own life.

For the folks reading this who have not reached the point where they are leaving their spouses, and who might still hold a ray of hope of working it out - THIS is where I suggest focusing efforts, rather than talking about it all the time. Figure out what you'd do as a divorced person to rehabilitate yourself and your life, and start doing it NOW. And get ready to fight, because it's going to rock the boat.

"It is important that you hold course and stick to what matters to you."
Agree 100%!!

Apocrypha, I'm having difficulty following your argument. I "think" you are saying that these things are peripheral to the core issue and thus do not warrant time or attention. . . Is that correct? (Sort of like "the why doesn't matter"??)

My point about the abuse and control is, IMO, valid. Because many of us in these situations become habituated to the behaviour of spouses (or others in our lives - including parents) who behave in these ways. This habituation means we no longer recognise that such behaviour IS abusive, IS dysfunctional, IS destructive to relationships.

If you (the generic you, that is!) do not recognise that this behaviour is unacceptable and instead feel guilty for provoking your partner's anger, you are likely to surrender more and more of yourself to the situation. You know you "feel" bad when she/he does these things, but eventually you confuse your genuine disgust with being treated in this way with guilt about your OWN behaviour that provokes these responses in your spouse.

As you have wisely pointed out elsewhere, the differentiation has then broken down completely.

In order for a person (that generic "you"!) to re-establish his/her self as an individual, it IS necessary IMO for the dysfunctional nature of the spouse's behaviour to be made quite clear. (Take for example the recent posts by Zsusilwinger about her husband's hoarding. She had become so acclimatised to his behaviour that she wasn't sure if her distaste for his hoarding was reasonable or not. She posts some photographs and he majority of us confirm fr her that this IS unaccptable. This allows her affirmation that her own beliefs are reasonable and that she is not "over reacting".)

Apocrypha said:
"It is NORMAL, for people to feel threatened when a partner appears to be leaving them. It is normal to express that threat in various ways. What's clear is that, smithy's husband does not want her to leave him, and he is using excuses about yoga and money as a chaffe to hide the real issue, which is his insecurity around seeing her materialize as an independent woman with her own life.

For the folks reading this who have not reached the point where they are leaving their spouses, and who might still hold a ray of hope of working it out - THIS is where I suggest focusing efforts, rather than talking about it all the time. Figure out what you'd do as a divorced person to rehabilitate yourself and your life, and start doing it NOW. And get ready to fight, because it's going to rock the boat."

If I understand you correctly, you suggest that by addressing the insecurities of the other person you may save your marriage . . . And also that a person in this situation needs to rehabilitate herself /himself and start living authentically within the marriage.

Does this "translation" make sense to you??

If so, then I entirely agree with you! But I fail to see HOW it might rescue the marriage . . . If Smithy (or anyone else in this situation) was to point out to her/his controlling spouse that their control was a response to the feeling that he (she) was losing their spouse, it would be correct IMO. But do you think a spouse who does this can truly "hear" this information and act objectively on it?
IMO there would be one in a million spouses with that degree of objectivity - given that LACK of objectivity is what drives this behaviour to start with!

I do not believe we (as a whole, on ILIASM) are caught up with box ticking or trying to classify people. I for one talk a LOT about behaviour being on a continuum. And that being so, it is HARD to distinguish where acceptable (or healthy) behaviour deteriorates into unacceptable (unhealthy) behaviour. I certainly do NOT think there are definite points along the line that separate such behaviours - more a gradually "graying" that takes place.

My excellent therapist would say (for example): "If it helps you to relax to drink a glass or two of wine, that is fine. If you need to drink two bottles at a time, you are getting into dangerous territory." At what point exactly does one cross the threshhold - at two and a half glasses? Or at one and seven eighths bottles? Of course this is ridiculous! The point is that behaviour trends downwards from acceptable and healthy to non-acceptable and unhealthy.

"Figure out what you'd do as a divorced person to rehabilitate yourself and your life, and start doing it NOW. And get ready to fight, because it's going to rock the boat."

Now, if you propose that the person NOT confront/discuss this with his her partner, but simply begin acting in this way, that makes a lot of sense - but only up to a point. If a spouse (or partner) commences a journey of self differentiation and becoming their "authentic self" within the marriage, after years (decades?) of behaviing differently,their spouse will very underastandably feel threatened, as you have pointed out.

Now to allay this feeling of threat, it is imperative IMO to explain "why" the new behaviour is occurring. There may be a very few spouses who can "hear"this information and process it in a way that is pro-active for their relationship. I suggest such spouses are very few and far between!

MOST spouses, on being told by their significant other that the SO is undertaking a wholy new and different path to self actualisation will simply REDOUBLE their efforts to control.

So you have the "damned if you do, damned if you don't" scenario. If you undertake your self actualisation journey without telling the spouse "what and wy" you are changing as a person, their threat level will sky-rocket and they will increase their efforts to control. If you DO tell them, you can expect the same reaction.

So, any possibility that you can realistically hope to save your relationship by acting in this way seems HIGHLY unlikely to me. But it is ESSENTIAL for saving the individual. As such it is IMO most likely to precipitate divorce.

excellent discussion apocrypha & enna. excellent.

yes in most cases the person who "gives up and gives in" does so, so gradually that at first it seems innocent. And it's really hard to *see* as it is happening, in real time, not only that it IS happening, but also when it crosses from wanting to please the other, into outright being controlled and also isolated, cut off from everything and everyone that used to be sources of support, comfort, joy.

in most cases, it's not till we look around and think: hm. i haven't seen my "old" friends in ages. i am never really outside the house unless its work, chores, or child related. i don't have any control over money because my money is all tied up with monthly expenses, and then some. i have gradually given up everything (!!!) that used to be important to me. who AM i?!???

or something to that effect.

this is NOT to say, people don't or shouldn't compromise and that there won't or shouldn't be natural shifts in the rhythm of life and what we can continue to do. life does change and our activities and preferences need to change, evolve, too.

what gets to the heart though is apocrypha's assessment that BOTH partners need to learn, evolve, GROW. and to my mind; it's not fixable *if* one spouse is determined to control the other to such an extent that growth isn't possible. such has been my experience. there's fear of change and controlling tendencies in all of us, that's not unique in human nature. but there's taking it to an extreme which is undesirable and unhealthy. and i believe that's what enna is talking about.

The issue of labels and how to use them cuts across many topics. It plays out in my life with special education,and I think will make a useful parallel.

My offspring's first school system did not want us to go through the formal diagnosis process. A diagnosis made no difference in what the offspring needed and would actually limit the services they could provide. Many state systems require a diagnosis to access services, however, so when we moved, we armed ourselves and the offspring with thorough testing, which just formalized what we all knew. As offspring has gotten older, offspring has questioned what the diagnosis means. The explanation is that, first, nothing is wrong with him. The word is a short-hand for how offspring's brain works and helps others understand him better in a quicker period of time. It's a tool, used to gain access to necessary services and as a starting point for discussions with teachers. The label doesn't change what the offspring needs; what it changes is the framework for communication.

The label is not an excuse, nor is it a limit. The ultimate goal has always been to give offspring the highest quality of life and make offspring a fully functional member of society. If offspring needs a label to get there, so be it.

So, too, in this ILIASM thread. The labels used on the board--abusive, passive aggressive, refuser/refused,etc. are ways to frame useful discussion and foster action that will lead towards healthier relationships and a higher quality of life for the individual. If the many stories of the board are any indication, a higher quality of life for the Xs is usually a by-product. The labels are tools to help us understand our situations, lenses to help us focus our thoughts--insert your own metaphor. What I love about this discussion board is the overall tendency towards useful action, healthy thinking, and better relationships. So I'd say, in general, the labels are doing their jobs.

"it's not fixable *if* one spouse is determined to control the other to such an extent that growth isn't possible."
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I agree with that. Growth must happen, one way or another.
And it is certainly possible that a partner can block another to such an extent that growth is blocked. It's one thing to groan about it and throw out a cloud of excuses around it, as you rush out the door.

It's quite another to lock down finances and stop doling out money, or to block the front door, or hit someone, or change the locks on the door.

“for a person to establish his/her self as an individual, it IS necessary IMO for the dysfunctional nature of the spouse's behaviour to be made quite clear.”
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For a person to establish his or herself as an individual, it is necessary to establish oneself *irrespective* of the spouse’s reaction to it, and quite likely, in spite of it.

It needn’t be about dysfunction. It could simply be about the dilemma of one person wanting kids and the other, not. When we get past the veneers of “I’m a person who likes kids” and “he’s a person who doesn’t”, then we start to get into the WHY we like kids, and WHY we don’t , and start confronting within ourselves the things that hold us back.

Part of that process of differentiation might necessarily include the decision to leave, and the preparations to do so, should a partner choose differently. The separation process and the differentiation process are well aligned for most of the journey. That generally gives people TIME to grow.

“If I understand you correctly, you suggest that by addressing the insecurities of the other person you may save your marriage . . . And also that a person in this situation needs to rehabilitate herself /himself and start living authentically within the marriage.”
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Close, yes. I’m saying that by addressing one’s own fear of the repercussions of personal growth, and moving forward with that in spite of a partner’s resistance, you might save your marriage. “The talk” without a plan of personal development for oneself, will result in a partner thinking they can carry on as usual. We all know that it is self-defeating to rationalize that a partner SHOULD want to have intimate sexual expression with a spouse (the partner will lose further respect for accepting the passionless offering). The only thing that will work is the partner CHOOSING, for himself. If the meaning of sex is a battleground, the more external direct pressure applied, the worse it gets.

The proposal I’m offering here is to begin differentiation early, with actions aimed at restoring a sense of individuality, without necessarily putting things to ultimatum yet. A partner will react negatively at first, and then will have to choose what happens next. Get on the bus, or get under it and left behind.

“Do you think a spouse who does this can truly "hear" this information and act objectively on it?”
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I did. And my wife is learning to as well.
I saw a lawyer, and I advised her to do so as well, and helped her out with that.
I started learning her chores and doing them, getting over my own fear of what my doing them “meant” for us.
I was self conscious about my appearance, and considered that as a dating man, I did not want to be. That meant I went shopping, and learned a bit of fashion advice, and worked to find an exercise program that I enjoyed enough to sustain indefinitely. I also allowed myself to spend our money on this (she already was doing the same).
I started saying “yes” to my wife’s ideas that challenged me, instead of always saying “no”. I considered, if I’d received an offer, as a single man to do the same from someone like her, I’d jump in that pool in a second!
I said “yes” to my wife joining various communities of interest, and I started scheduling time to see my own friends.
I stopped insulating myself from social communities where I might be tempted to stray.
I started seeing my friends again. Together and apart.
I went out nightclubbing. By myself. With friends, with my wife, and took a breath and tolerated her doing the same. I used to really enjoy that.
I had sex, and I had it the way I wanted to have it.
I stopped seeking sex from my wife when she didn’t want it, and then had a good long talk about that – that I did not expect her at all to have sex she didn’t want. This shifted the pressure from my tyranny, to now land squarely in her own lap – because I’m in a situation, where there are people who DO want to explore a relationship with me.
I took a more active role with the kids than I had had previously. Where before, I was mainly in a practical support role, I focused on ENJOYING them, just like I’d hope to do if I only saw them on alternative weekends.

“Now to allay this feeling of threat, it is imperative IMO to explain "why" the new behaviour is occurring.”
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I’m not sure it’s helpful to allay the feeling of threat. Or rather, the pressure. The difference is that it’s self-motivated pressure, and (at first), not an imposed ultimatum. Here’s the thing: when most folks start this journey, they aren’t at a place where they can imagine being without their spouse. By the time they are done, they certainly can, and it’s likely obvious to both– and so it comes down to choice, on both parts, and not guilt or obligation. And, a self actualized individual offers something to be desired.

“MOST spouses, on being told by their significant other that the SO is undertaking a wholy new and different path to self actualisation will simply REDOUBLE their efforts to control.”
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Yes. Likely to be casualties. If a spouse simply does not allow growth or differentiation, then it’s time to separate. If a spouse is given a reasonable amount of time and explanation and refuses to get on board on principal, then there’s not much that can be done. You can frame such a talk to help them to their own path, or to invite them into yours. I kind of like the “miracle question” used in brief therapy, as a way of framing it. Forget about restoring anything as before – it’s about creating a new destination in the future. If a miracle happened and overnight the problem the two of you are facing didn’t exist, what would your lives be like, with respect to the things that problem affected. There’s a lot that can come from such a discussion.

We often talk about "the hard work", just as we talk about "communication", but this constant challenging of ourselves and each other - that's what the work entails, specifically.

“So, any possibility that you can realistically hope to save your relationship by acting in this way seems HIGHLY unlikely to me.”
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Well, Enna, what are the possibilities of saving your relationship by leaving it? Zero.
The focus on the self is really an act of faith, and in letting go our “control” of the spouse’s reaction, which is what we do when we censor ourselves or lie to them, or leave the relationship rather than let them own their choice within it and see how it feels to them.

"It became necessary to destroy the village in order to save it."

-- An American major after the destruction of the Vietnamese Village Ben Tre

"The proposal I’m offering here is to begin differentiation early, with actions aimed at restoring a sense of individuality, without necessarily putting things to ultimatum yet."

Still processing your excellent and illuminating comments! But want to say that without even doing that, the statement above is one tht I whole-heartedly endorse. My only problem with this is that I believe it takes a highly evolved thinker to recognise and deal with this without first becoming embroiled in the usual ILIASM morass!

Interestingly, you and Baz have both taken this path, and I would suggest mvc has too. But many of us have (or do, or will) need the murky, messy process before we actually "get" that this is what we need to do . . .

Hopefully, from reading here, some people may be able to recognise and understand the value of what you say AND put it into action before undergoing the demise of their marriages.

Thank you Enna, and all, for persevering through this as we sort our thoughts and positions. I'd add that ModLulu and hl42, have both influenced me significantly toward this path, or a version of it.

As you can see, the tactics and execution vary, but the essence is similar.

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My bestie thinks I would have ended up killing myself had I remained in my marriage.
I take a buttload of happy pills, and when things are going well I STILL think about offing myself at least once or twice a week... so he's likely right.
She also helped re-wreck my self-esteem, controlled me, bullied me...

...All that does not change the fact that I feel selfish for divorcing. Really selfish, and shallow, and...worthless and weak.
At the end of the day I'm turning my back on an obligation that I agreed to undertake, and there's simply no real justification for it.

hylie, i think you logically know that feeling selfish shallow etc are not attributes you should be assigning to yourself, and are more a reflection of your STBX's offensive "defense" machinations & manipulations to make you feel that way.

i know you've talked about having been in therapy but suggest that some short term counseling might be helpful for you.

Hylie, please listen to Smithy - she makes a world of good sense.

Thank you for this, Enna. It fits well with my newer way of looking at this, which is kind of the Siamese Twin of Baz. My theory is that it's only "we" thinking, on the part of one or both spouses, and no me thinking at all.

For example: A spouse's identity is defined as husband and father, but any further elements of individuality have been sacrificed in support of a greater "mutual" endeavor. For someone in this situation (I'd warrant most of us in this group), the notion of seeing a lawyer is paralyzing. One might as well make an appointment to erase ones entire sense of being, when it depends on the marriage.

Self care and differentiation become a pre-requisite to embarking on any external change, unless such change is foisted externally by crossing a sacred line.

This is a full brother to the necessary "me" thinking that needs to replace the "we" thinking engaged in when in a dysfunctional relationship where there actually is no "we".

"Me" thinking is NOT a ticket to just blast off and do whatever you like whenever you like. Far from it.
"Me" thinking in this context is making choices that are in your longer term best interests. This may well involve you making a choice today that is unpleasant (and a choice you'd rather not have to make) on the basis of a future pay off.

Example.
It may be that your longer term best interests are going to be served by getting out of a shithole marriage. But that is going to mean that you need to go and see a lawyer today to get the process started.

So a "me" thinker makes the choice to go with the unpleasant option (going to see the lawyer) on the basis of their longer term benefit.
In the same circumstance, a selfish person makes the choice that is going to give the most immediate pay off - not going to see the lawyer, thus avoiding this unpleasant experience.

"Me" thinking, is most definitely NOT all sweetness and light. It is ******* hard work actually, especially to get started on it.

"Selfish" thinking carries with it negative connotations of hurting other people unecessarily - and that is true to a large extent - but of more import, is when selfish thinking hurts YOU, when the short term choice works at odds with your longer term best interests.

Tread your own path.

Having an emotional response to this story, Enna. Grateful for the clarity you give to those of us in the mire.