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Nobody's ever died from bottling up their feelings, but plenty of people have died from unbottling them.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Clash of the Frightened

Posted by fxckfeelings on April 25, 2013

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The difference between conversation and confrontation is much more than those middle syllables; conversations exchange information, and confrontations either resolve or create issues, which is why most people wish to avoid them. Doing so can keep the peace, but can also keep those issues at a standstill. On the other hand, taking on a confrontation without careful management can trigger war that makes real discussion impossible. So don’t assume that your choice is between confrontation or silence. In actuality, if you decide it’s necessary, bring up difficult issues in a peaceful, conversational context, and, when war is unavoidable, don’t let anger interfere with your constructive goals.
Dr. Lastname

My husband isn’t perfect, but we’ve had a good marriage, he’s been a steady guy, and together we’ve achieved financial security. I know he loves me, but he’s fond of spending time with video games and, over the years, sex just stopped happening. I’m not crazy about sex either, so in some ways we’re very compatible, but I was really hoping we’d start a family—I love kids—and it’s clear now that, as things stand, nothing is going to happen and that that’s the way he wants it. I wish we could talk about it, but he hates confrontations as much as I do and I’m afraid that forcing the topic would just push him away. Besides, being confrontational isn’t my nature. I feel stuck and my goal is to figure out some way to proceed, if possible, without ruining our marriage.

Although you hate confrontation, you’re not your typical passive type, stewing in a corner, bemoaning your loser husband who prefers video games to your vagina; you’ve clearly decided that your life is better with the marriage than without it, even though it contains sad disappointments, and are able to acknowledge your own shortcomings (like being uncomfortable with the word vagina).

While saying nothing might appear passive and self-defeating, it actually reflects much thought, love, and acceptance, both of yourself and your husband. The only question remaining is whether you’ve done your best to manage and negotiate these marital disappointments, because, as much as you’ve accepted a number of sacrifices to stay in the marriage, giving up on a family might be one too many.

One reason you’re well equipped to negotiate is that, even though you’re sad, your ability to see the big picture and appreciate your husband for who is he will protect you from exploding with anger or mistrust. Even if he gets angry, you can respond calmly and positively, because there are no hidden resentments among your unspoken issues.

Before starting, however, ask yourself how important it is to bring up issues he really doesn’t want to address. You care a great deal about having kids, but not about the act of making them; ask yourself, then, how much having children was part of your husband’s commitment to you in the first place, and what effect kids are likely to have on him, your relationship, and your life together.

Don’t pursue this issue just because you deserve and want kids, but only if you think having children could work out well for your family, in spite of your husband’s reluctance and un-fatherly habits. Consider how much responsibility for childcare you’d be willing to agree to in negotiations, and, if he’ll only agree to having a baby if you do all the work, think about whether you’re really up to it, or whether carrying the load alone will cause the kind of resentment you’ve been so good at avoiding up to this point.

Negotiating, if you decide it’s worth doing, requires no conflict other than the unpleasantness of presenting your husband with a topic he’d like to avoid. Let him know you do so only because it would be helpful for both of you, and, using your familiarity with his character, propose ways that having a family might work out for him. While the beginning stage of fatherhood would destroy his WOW status and turn his life into a living hell, he could grow to love having a kid since he might gain someone to play with.

Yes, getting away from computer games would frustrate him, but it’s never good to have your life controlled by whatever calms you down. If he wants his life to be driven by values rather than fantasy, you have the answer. However he and you decide, you’ll know neither a passive nature nor the fear of conflict has stifled you or prevented you from giving parenthood your best shot.

You have nothing to lose because your love is not being tested and your marital priorities are already set. Either he accepts the wisdom of your leadership or he opts for an endless childhood of his own.

STATEMENT:
“I hate the frightened, angry look my husband gets when I try to bring up something important, but having kids is an issue that’s more important than his feelings. I will do my best to persuade him that we should go ahead. If not, nothing is lost that I haven’t lost already.”

I thought I’d never have to see my ex-wife in court again, but somehow, after what I thought was our final court date, she managed to claim I was in contempt for not doing something she prevented me from doing, and here we go again. I’ve moved on and I’m happy with my new life and a new wife, but I haven’t been able to stop my ex from draining me of time and money by forcing me to defend myself from outrageous accusations. So far, the judge doesn’t realize what an asshole she is and my lawyer hasn’t been very good at defending me. My new wife claims that my anger for my ex- makes me hard to live with. It’s as if my ex has forced her way into my new marriage and spoiled things. My goal is to figure out a way to stop my ex from ruining my new life.

It’s not unusual for someone in a divorce to come to court looking for closure and instead find himself legally stalked without apparent end or limit by his ex. Initially, the judge may be more swayed by the passionate outrage of the divorcee-victim than by the defensive explanations of the partner trying to escape, and facts may be too poorly documented to speak for themselves. It might be small comfort, but you’re far from the first divorcing person to feel trapped by a court-mandated process that seems out of control.

The main danger of this process, however, is not that you wind up helpless, fined, or jailed, but that your feelings of helplessness, which have been transmitted to you by your spouse, will get you to do something stupid, like yelling at your new wife, your poor dog, or the judge. In the end, she can’t trap you, but court-rage can.

By all means do what’s necessary to mount a proper defense, knowing that any battle you win will probably be followed by one more. After you’ve finished, however, try to stop yourself from reviewing your mistakes, thinking of better things you should have said, or scripting pleas to the court that will set you free from the torment of repeated command appearances. Even if you read from god’s personal private divorce script, your ex would find a way to get you back in court again, so quit obsessing and shift your focus to enjoying this new life you’ve got. Spend time with your wife doing anything but thinking or talking about your case.

You can’t help the fact that an angry victim who truly, truly believes a former friend/lover/spouse deserves punishment has an amazing ability to transmit negative feelings to others, even when the angry victim is an actor in a soap opera or someone you used to share a bed with. Being attacked by an Asshole™ is like being bitten by a zombie; there’s no way to escape the undeserved pain of such an attack, but if you can cut off the part of you that’s infected and not focus too much on the nagging itch in your phantom limb, you can prevent that pain from turning you into a zomb-hole, go about your business, and do what you think is right.

In the end, the contradictions and errors in your wife’s story will become more apparent as time goes by and the judge will gradually become aware that there’s no settling her sense of grievance. Until then, don’t ask yourself how you let this happen, because it is never within your control. Take her actions as evidence of your wisdom in leaving her in the first place and give yourself respect for sucking up the anger without letting it make you crazy, regardless of how crazy you feel. There’s no closure, just the judge eventually closing the case, but until then, leave the drama in the courtroom and go on with your new life.

STATEMENT:
“I can’t believe I’m still spending money on lawyers and leaving work to go to court, long after I thought my divorce was over, and I see no end in sight. I understand, however, that my wife can’t let go and that I and the court may not be able to stop her for some time. I’ll suck up the burden and try to keep life as normal as possible until the day of freedom arrives.”

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