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Life is unfair.

Friday, September 19, 2014

Kindness Blindness

Posted by fxckfeelings on February 16, 2012

More often than not, being nice isn’t. It can get you focused on doing good for other not-quite-so-nice people who will never be able to return the favor, or on cleaning up impossible messes, instead of focusing on the larger, more important goals that go beyond good gestures towards common sense. Be nice if you must, but remember that you have other goals, one of which is knowing when you have to be cruel to be kind.
-Dr. Lastname

I can’t stop thinking about my wife’s lack of support. I’ve supported her in everything she wanted to do, whether it was getting a professional degree or going away for a week to study photography, but now I’m the one who wants to go back to school part-time to get a special ed certificate, and she’s hemming and hawing about how we don’t have the money. I’ve done the budget, and we can get by while I’m in school, and the degree will pay off, but she’s very cool to the idea. I want her to see how unreasonable she’s being and how unfair this is after all I’ve done for her.

There’s nothing wrong with being a giving, loving partner, as long as you don’t expect the world to treat you fairly. And the world includes your wife.

Few people are nice and giving all the time. Even worse, no matter how nice you are to those around you, there are lots of people who don’t give a shit about your generosity, are teflon when it comes to good will, and are never going to be nice, period.

If you married someone just as nice as you, you’d be in big trouble, because there’d be no one to keep you from wasting kindness on Assholes (who are notorious for sapping others dry), in-laws, or run-of-the-mill needy jerks.

On the other hand, if you marry someone who’s not as nice as you, there are bound to be moments when she will not treat you as well as you treat her. The part of her personality that protects you, alas, is a two-edged sword.

Before blaming her for not giving her total approval, ask whether you really need it; you currently feel like you need it, but your own values should be more important. It you can’t allow yourself to move forward without her approval, then that’s your problem, not hers.

You’ve done your homework and you believe your plan is affordable and will pay off in the long run, so stand by your belief. After all, you’re not saying she wants to block your plan, just that she can’t express confidence or support. You have a real opportunity then, as long as you don’t pay too much attention to her feelings or your own.

Let her know you intend to go forward, and assure her that it’s going to work out well. If she seems nervous, doubtful, or critical, tell her you’ll give your plan a try, but if it’s not working out, you’ll stop.

And since the world’s not fair, your plan might not work out, but be proud of your ability to do without her total support, give her credit for giving you a chance, and ready a plan B.

STATEMENT:
“It’s painful and unfair to be faced with the fact that my wife can never support me emotionally the way I support her, but that’s a sad fact of life and doesn’t detract from the good things in our partnership. I will draw on the courage of my own convictions and not be deterred by her lack of support. The challenge I’ve created for myself is do-able. Changing her is not.”

I love kids and normally don’t get too upset about their ups and downs. My wife and I have been happy to raise my brother’s 3 kids after their mother died and my brother got caught up in drug addiction. What’s got me going, however, is that my 7-year-old niece flipped out about 4 months ago, becoming agitated and violent towards everybody, and no one at any of the hospitals or residential treatment programs she’s been attending since has been able to calm her down. She was always a little difficult, particularly after visits with her dad, but never like this. I’ve never felt so helpless. I just want to help this kid.

Helping young kids who’ve come from disturbed backgrounds can be very hard. According to the movies, and more than a few shrinks, good parenting will always win the day (good parenting being some combination of saintly tolerance and firm limits). According to us, of course, that’s bullshit.

Alas, when the Beatles said, “all you need is love,” there’s a reason they didn’t continue on to say “as a cure for behavioral issues.” Some kids just have a terrible problem with emotional regulation. It doesn’t matter, in a way, whether it comes from genes or trauma. What you’ve got is what you’ve got.

Naturally, you want to find the cause and an effective treatment, and, despite what you might infer by your niece’s lack of progress, the clinical staff feel the same way. Unfortunately, short-term treatment sometimes doesn’t make a kid safe and ready to return home.

That feels, of course, like your efforts have failed, everything’s fallen apart, and you don’t know what to do. In reality, however, you’ve provided her with just the right care and made sure that, if there was some treatment that could rapidly return her to good mental health, she would have it. Unfortunately, the professionals couldn’t do it any better than you did, and now it’s time to change your tactics and plan for the long run.

If she needs a longer stretch of residential care, she’ll benefit from being on Medicaid (most private insurance benefits don’t cover long-term care, not because insurers are greedy, but because your fellow citizens consider it too expensive to mandate) (until they’re unlucky enough to need it themselves).

If her school feels that they can’t manage her aggressiveness, they also may be willing to fund an alternative. In addition, many states provide residential programs for kids who are too aggressive to live in foster care. If she’s safe to come home, yours is probably the best home for her. If, on the other hand, you feel she’s really not safe, you’ll have to be tough and sure about not taking her back. Otherwise, no residential treatment program will put her on its waiting list.

So feel disappointed, yes, but prepare yourself for the next phase. There’s much good you can do once you accept the severity of her illness and educate yourself about the interventions that can keep her safe while she grows and recovers. She would return your kindness right now if she could, and maybe one day, she will.

STATEMENT:
“My niece’s persistent, inexplicable, violent behavior has left me feeling totally helpless. I know, however, that this has happened to other kids, that short-term treatment doesn’t always work, and that I’ve done a good job so far. Now, if I learn a little more about long term treatment, I can do what’s necessary.”

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