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Fail with pride.

Thursday, December 14, 2017

The Fault Setting

Posted by fxckfeelings on November 17, 2014

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No matter what the talking heads say, a bleeding heart is not a partisan trait, nor is it always a negative one. You don’t even have to be a registered voter to be a good, caring person, and party affiliation doesn’t determine whether you’ll care too much and take responsibility for problems that you can’t really help. Learn how to assess your responsibilities realistically, whether you embrace or reject the problem at hand. Then, when a problem comes within range of your heart, you’ll be able to decide what to do without having to blindly follow any party line.
Dr. Lastname

My girlfriend’s father is a widower in his mid-eighties who is still physically fit and able to drive. He is a difficult man, socially awkward and uneasy in company. He fills his days by going round thrift shops and yard sales buying old books and large quantities of stuff which he does not need or use. He used to sell it, but the dealers he supplied have died or long been retired so it just mounts up, particularly since his wife died. Now his house is a mess and a lot of living space is now uninhabitable. He cannot bathe or shower as the tubs are used to store stuff. My girlfriend feels guilty and stressed, but is too busy to do anything about it. I wonder whether I can move in with her if this is a family trait. I find this sort of lifestyle depressing and off putting. She is a kind and reliable person with many good qualities. My goal is to work out a coping strategy.

Caring about other people’s problems is a good trait if you can do something to help them, but otherwise it’s a good way to cause yourself trouble you don’t need. It’s just like hoarding, except with anxiety instead of expired food and dead cats.

Before taking on responsibility for an unsolvable problem, ask yourself whether that problem is likely to cause you trouble, or whether there’s anything that really needs to be done about it. Unless your girlfriend’s father wants to use your house as a storage unit, living with his hoarder status might not be too much for you to bear.

Ask yourself whether, from what you know about your girlfriend and her father, there’s any way his hoarding will become a problem for you if the two of you start living together. Without letting anxiety distort your predictions, consider the worst case scenario and how you and she would manage it together.

If your girlfriend’s dining room is already unusable because of piles of old tax returns and broken furniture fragments, you’ve got a problem. From what you’ve said, however, her place isn’t terribly cluttered, and she’s not about to ask her father to move in with her. She doesn’t spend much time thinking about or trying to change him, although she might should he one day get tired of bathing with a garden hose and ask for help.

Until such a day arrives (and if you’ve ever seen Hoarders, you know it’s unlikely), reassure yourself and think about other things. Respect the way your girlfriend accepts him and allows him to live his own life, and be grateful that you never have to visit him or even attempt to cross his threshold.

You have no reason to think your girlfriend is a hoarder or to make her father’s hoarding your concern. Which means it’s time to reorganize your thoughts, because the only hoarding you need to worry about is your own.

“It makes me nervous to see how helpless my girlfriend is to stop her father from turning his house into a public health hazard, but I know it won’t affect me or prevent her from sharing her life with me. I will learn how to ignore problems that don’t concern me.”

My wife is a really nice person and I always admired her kindness, but recently she’s been bending over backwards to help her younger sister, and it’s driving me crazy. Her sister is bipolar, went off of her medication, and got kicked out of her apartment because she hadn’t paid rent in three months. My wife said she could stay with us because it would help her get back on medication, so now she’s sleeping on our living room couch, still talking a mile a minute, begging for handouts (which my wife gives her) and scaring the kids. Of course, she hasn’t resumed her medication and it’s unlikely that she will. My wife says I’m mean when I say she’s got to go, because if we aren’t there for her, she’ll never get back on track. My goal is to save my family from my sister-in-law’s crazy behavior.

If you sound angry when you tell your wife to limit her involvement with her crazy sister, you’ll seem mean and bring out her protectiveness. Of course, you can’t stop feeling angry, but, unlike your sister-in-law, you can temper your emotions and present a reasonable, calm explanation for how your home isn’t a half-way house. So put aside your feelings before you ask your wife to consider the real consequences of her actions.

Tell her how much you share her worry for her sister and how willing you are to make any legitimate sacrifice that might help her. Then, without blaming your sister-in-law, tell your wife that, as much as you want to help, it’s not unusual for her sister’s illness to create an impossible situation that, for a short time at least, makes helping her impossible, no matter where she lays her head.

List the major pros and cons of your wife’s current course of action. Providing her sister with a home makes her safer in the short run, but hasn’t persuaded her to take medication and doesn’t seem to make her better. It’s also spooking the kids and making it harder for you to help them do their homework and carry on with the usual family routine.

Money-on-demand may make her sister feel loved and valued, but it hasn’t changed her mind or improved her condition, and it’s hurting family finances. It may relieve your wife’s sense of responsibility, but it’s not doing any good and it is doing lots of harm.

Propose a better course. Urge your wife to give her sister a choice of treatment or leaving for a shelter. Guarantee her vouchers for food and help finding good professional care. Yes, there will be a higher risk that she’ll be exposed to danger but there’s also a greater chance that danger will make her eligible for commitment and involuntary treatment.

Insist that your method is more likely to help. Then, even if your wife doesn’t agree, you still have to keep your anger under wraps while you allow nature to take its course and confirm your predictions. You may suffer more chaos, but the chances are that chaos will lead to a constructive solution that will benefit everyone involved and make your house whole again.

“I hate coming home and seeing my sister-in-law act crazy, but I’ve got a good plan for helping her while protecting my family and I’m sure events will prove I’m right.”

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