Posted by fxckfeelings on January 28, 2016
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Everybody knows that they should think before they act, but most people ponder whether they should act or not, not why they want to act in the first place. If, like our reader from earlier this week, you’re someone with a natural inclination to keep the peace at any cost, thinking before you act may still tell you that it’s best to placate an aggrieved party, even if doing so causes harm in the long run. So, before you think yourself out of doing anything at all, here are five good, non-feelings reasons for standing up for yourself and taking responsible action.
1) Constant Criticism
Since there will always be nasty, negative people out there (or not-normally- nasty people being negative due to stress or depression), it’s often not worth trying to stop someone from criticizing you, even if when you’ve done nothing wrong. On the other hand, it’s not good to listen to undeserved, repeated criticism indefinitely without giving yourself the right to calmly speak up, declare your self-acquittal, and refuse further discussion.
2) Rampant Risk to Self
When someone’s abusing drugs or alcohol or generally determined to endanger themselves, there isn’t a lot you can do, short of hog-tying them or freezing them in carbonite, to keep them safe. What you can do, however, is coolly voice your concern to them and offer your help. If they refuse it, you’ll know that you’ve tried, at least once, to stop them, and at this point you need to step back and protecting yourself from their destructive impact.
3) Serious Slack
If someone at home or work isn’t doing her share, there’s usually no amount of nudging, nagging, or passive aggressive notes that will get them to step up or even admit they’re not pulling their weight. What you can do, however, is have a reasonable discussion with them about what constitutes a fair contribution, ask them to examine their own actions, and then take whatever protective action you can if they’re still obstinate, e.g., reducing your share or finding someone else to share with, period.
4) Anger and Abuse
Obviously, if you have good reason to believe that someone is abusing their kids, you have a moral (and sometimes legal) obligation to take action. Instead of holding yourself responsible for personally stopping the abusive behavior, however, specify to the abuser what’s intolerable, what you’ll do about it if it continues, and what the repercussions will be for everyone involved.
5) Committing Crime
As a civilian, stopping someone you know from doing bad things and breaking the law isn’t something you should attempt on your own. What you can do is inform the offender what you can and can’t accept and then what you can do to stop being an accomplice or a victim.
Taking a stand doesn’t mean telling someone off, but calmly telling them where you stand, what you’re willing to tolerate, and what the possible consequences are for their bad behavior. You can’t make them stop, but you can make them see where you’re coming from and make things right with your own conscience.
Posted by fxckfeelings on January 26, 2016
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Avoiding conflict is an important part of making a long-term relationship work, but going too far to placate your spouse in order to avoid arguments doesn’t diffuse the conflict so much as internalize it. Not surprisingly, if you keep eating shit in order to keep your partner happy, that’s how you’re going to feel, and it’s what your marriage is going to turn into. It’s important then to know when and how to draw the line on agreeableness without being disagreeable; if you can avoid a big fight without compromising your integrity in order to do it, you can make your relationship last.
Early on in my relationship with my wife I fell into a pattern where almost every time we got into a big fight, I’d end up apologizing and admitting total fault, even if I didn’t feel that it was all my fault, basically because I didn’t want to continue the argument. She can be a dirty fighter who is great at playing on my guilt, but also, I’m not very good at being assertive and dealing with conflict. And now, as we have had more complex problems to sort through in our life, and the stakes have gotten higher (kids, in-laws issues, mortgage, etc.), it’s even harder to break this habit, which has resulted in me feeling resentful towards her and emotionally withdrawing at times, which is not something I want to continue. I do get her to “compromise” at times but often those compromises are still tilted strongly in her favor. I’m not a total doormat, but I’d like to stand a little more upright. My goal is to be more assertive, and not fear the outcome of being more assertive with her, which I imagine (based on many past experiences) is her losing her temper (rage, blame, etc.), sometimes making threats (divorce) and making me the bad guy, until I play by her rules.
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Posted by fxckfeelings on January 14, 2016
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If, like our reader from earlier this week, you’re having a tough time getting along with your teenaged kid, there are ways to keep things more civil, even if you can’t keep your kid from acting out. Here are five typical things a teenaged kid says to provoke a parent, and five responses that won’t feel as satisfying but will minimize conflict and make a tough situation easier to deal with.
1) “I’ll do [this chore] later. I’m not your slave.”
“I don’t want you to feel like a slave, though we both have to do lots of shit that everybody hates doing. I’ll put together your share of the shit list and make sure it’s fair and necessary, and we’ll discuss it. Meanwhile, I really appreciate what you do and think it’s making you independent.”
2) “You never listen to me and I always listen to you.”
“You’re right, [my illness/schedule/obligation to your siblings] doesn’t let me listen to you as well as I’d like, and I hate it, too, because you’re one of the most important people for me to listen to. But if we are both patient and persistent, I’m sure I’ll get the message.”
3) “You’re lucky I don’t tell anyone how abusive you are.”
“Anger can get both of us to do things we really regret, and I’m sorry I lost it. I’m the parent, and I’m supposed to have the experience and maturity to keep it together. I’m determined to learn from what went wrong and try to do better.”
4) “You’re lucky I didn’t hurt you because I’m stronger than you.”
“You’re right, which is why I’m glad you restrained yourself. For that matter, though you may not believe me, so did I. And that’s what we both need to get better at doing: keeping it together when we really want to kill one another.”
5) “You’re really psycho.”
“So, who’s perfect? But seriously, it’s not nice to be nasty about mental illness, especially because, if I do have a crazy, terrible temper, then you inherited it. So yes, it’s my fault, but here we are, so we both have to learn how to manage our inner genetic psycho.”
Posted by fxckfeelings on December 3, 2015
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If, like our reader from earlier this week, you have to rely on someone who’s reliably unpleasant, that doesn’t mean you should count on your whole life becoming just as miserable. Here are five ways to build an independent life while dependent on someone you don’t get along with.
1. Inventory Your Incentives
At least once every day, review the good reasons you have for staying together, e.g., for the kids, your health, the wish to avoid bankruptcy and living beneath a bridge, etc. Remind yourself that life is hard and you’re making the best choice you can in a tough situation. Go one step further and take pride in the fact that you’re not a victim; you’re managing what life has given you, at least until something better comes along.
2. Gather Your Goals
Draw up a list of everything you would like to have in your life, aside from a better spouse/live-in caretaker, a clean bill of health, and/or your independence. Include what you think is good for you, like, exercise and education, as well as what gives you pleasure, like seeing friends and going to the movies. Don’t dwell on what you can’t afford or can’t physically accomplish.
3. Seize a Schedule…
Translate those priorities into actual, frequent, regularly scheduled activities, getting coaching from a friend or therapist to help you, if necessary. Don’t shy away from challenging goals (i.e., ones that may be physically demanding), but if they turn out to be too difficult, don’t be ashamed of having to step back and adjust your expectations. Never let feelings of helplessness or failure slow you down or scrap your plans.
4. …And Stick to It
To overcome fatigue and procrastination, put your scheduled activities into an appointment book, app, helper monkey—whatever it takes to put a daily schedule and to-do list on your body in a device that can’t be ignored, lost or forgotten, whether it’s electronic or pre-industrial.
5. Amass New Allies
Look for potential close friends, but don’t get close by sharing woes about your husband or medical problems; don’t confuse becoming someone’s friend with becoming a victim that someone feels compelled to save. Instead, get close by sharing good times and mutual interests. With time, you can have a full life and not see yourself as stuck in a failed marriage, but rather in a highly functional and prosperous partnership, whether your partner appreciates (or just realizes) it or not.
Posted by fxckfeelings on December 1, 2015
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Regardless of whether a marriage is happy or not, it takes work to maintain your own priorities and point of view. In a happy marriage, pleasing your partner may interfere with your agenda as an individual. In a less happy marriage, feelings of failure may deprive you of energy and confidence, but it’s all the more important for you to remember who you are and what you value. As long as you do, an unhappy marriage need never prevent you from being successful as a person.
I have a chronic illness that may or may not go away. For now I am disabled to the point that I cannot take care of myself and I have to depend on my husband. We have been married for over 20 years, the first decades of which were spent raising two children who now live away from home. It seems the children were and are all we had in common, because as soon as child #2 left home, all hell broke loose and it’s been pretty bad since then. I know he will never change and become the person I want him to be, and why should he? He should be with someone who appreciates him just as he is, but I am the one stuck with him and I need to have a better attitude towards living with him because I have no choice. He still drives me crazy, even if It’s a little better since I figured out he cannot change. I am as kind and nice as I can be and I don’t think he really knows that I am staying with him because I have to. My goal is to find a better attitude for myself to make this unavoidable situation less unbearable.
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Posted by fxckfeelings on November 19, 2015
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Sometimes, when you add up everything good about your spouse and subtract the stuff that drives you nuts, the marital math shows you that they’re not equal to (e)X, i.e., that they’re worth keeping around, despite their less attractive behavior. If, like our reader from earlier this week, you’re trying to stay together despite some behavior you can’t stand, here are five ways to positively address the issue without going positively nuts.
1. Be Calm and Clarify
With as much clinical distance as possible, identify a grouch-related behavior that is simple, easily defined, and well worth reducing. Possible examples include a raised voice (that can be heard clearly in the next room, or next town), swearing, or personal criticism that is more cruel than part of a constructive conversation.
2. Frank but Fair
Before beginning the discussion, announce your intentions by first describing your pleasure in your spouse’s company when he’s being nice/not doing that one jerky thing. Assert your belief that it hurts your relationship for you to hang out and engage in conversation when he’s not being his normal, nice self. Then define the behavior you don’t like without sounding critical or arguing about whether or not it’s bad; slinging insults is objectively bad, no matter who’s slinging them.
3. Brace Yourself
Even if your spouse agrees with your goals, he or she may complain that your new rules are destroying his spontaneity and causing him to second-guess himself and feel perpetually self-conscious. Don’t argue, but express confidence in your observations and the long-term benefits of change. Show no guilt and offer no explanation when you implement your plan, just support and assurance that this transition period will soon pass.
4. Extend the Experiment
Whether you try withdrawing in response to negative behaviors or lavishing praise on ones that are positive or both, refine your methods as you observe how they work. Don’t expect to get your husband to see what he’s doing wrong or agree to change. Remember, your goal is to protect yourself, even if you can’t reduce his inappropriate behavior.
5. Embrace an Exit Strategy
If you’ve done your best to alert your spouse to his bad habits and he still can’t reign them in, then your next best strategy is to avoid being in the presence of that behavior altogether. Put together an escape plan that will protect you from having to listen to further grouchiness while also discouraging it. For example, you can leave the room, put in ear plugs, or go for a walk. Because if s/he can’t keep bad behavior under wraps, you can always keep up good methods for getting around it or, if you really can’t take it, getting a good lawyer to get out of the marriage entirely.
Posted by fxckfeelings on October 21, 2015
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While it feels good to let someone “know how you really feel,” especially when that person is making you feel really bad, the long-term effect on your relationships can be really awful. Earlier this week, we explained to a reader why venting is dangerous, so here are five things to consider before letting loose and doing permanent damage.
- Think Beyond The Catharsis
Don’t ask yourself whether your statement will make you feel better, introduce more honesty into the world, or punish those who deserve it. All of those outcomes, while glorious, are fleeting, while the resentment, bitterness, and anger that follow can last a lifetime.
- “Nobody’s Ever Died From Bottling Up Feelings…
…but plenty of people have died from unbottling them,” is another saying we use even more frequently than the fart metaphor. Don’t think for a moment that suppressing your feelings will harm your health or fill your life with pointless frustration; venting your feelings, on the other hand, is a good way to get punched, evicted, and generally put in harm’s way.
- Review The Record
Remember what happened the last time you shared your feelings (or the last few times), and, frustrating as it may be, admit that you can’t find a single reason why things won’t happen the same way this time. Or find the non-military circumstances under which berating someone could possibly be a positive motivator, period.
- Get A Second Opinion
Before addressing an issue with someone, try to persuade a neutral party that the issue is important, something might be gained from talking about it, and there’s something constructive you can do about it. If you can’t convince them, then it’s probably best to keep the issue to yourself. If you can, prepare a statement that begins with respect and optimism, describes the mutual benefits that could be achieved with change, and encourages the other party to do what he thinks best.
- Spell It Out, Don’t Shame It Up
If your husband’s sexual unresponsiveness would force you to take actions he might not like—finding intimacy outside of your marriage, seeking a sperm donor, etc.—then spell it out to him as a necessity that you want to avoid, but, if necessary, are determined to pursue. Make it clear that you’re not telling him this as a threat, punishment, or expression of anger or disrespect; you’re not venting your feelings, you’re explaining the facts, and it’s the difference between doing damage and seeking a constructive compromise.
Posted by fxckfeelings on October 19, 2015
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The anger people feel when a relationship makes them feel helpless, whether it’s from disappointment or abuse, is often so painful letting the feels out seems like the only form of relief. Unfortunately, angrily releasing those feelings doesn’t make them go away; instead, it gives them life outside of your head, where they can do even more damage. So don’t vent anger before first thinking carefully about the impact it’s likely to have on relationships you may continue to need and/or value. Then, if you decide it’s worth taking a stand, compose a positive way to negotiate for what you want (elaborated upon later this week). The relief won’t be as immediate, but the possible fall-out won’t make the pain worse.
I guess you’d tell me I shouldn’t focus on the sexlessness of my nine years of marriage and instead focus on the positive experiences we have had and learn to keep my mouth shut—not release the “verbal farts” you talk about—but if letting people get away with mistreating me is what you think I’m supposed to do, then I’d rather have chronic verbal gas. I tell my friends when they are fake and shallow, my husband that our sexless marriage is emotionally corrosive and my parents that I will despise them for physically abusing me when I was a child. In other words, I tell the truth, but according to you, I should “man up” and move on and keep my feelings to myself. I don’t see how that’s better or fair. My goal is to see your point.
If your marriage turns out to be sexless, you’ve been the victim of child abuse, or you’ve generally had and unlucky and unhappy life, then you certainly have the right to feelings of resentment. There’s no benefit from telling yourself that you should feel good about experiencing so many bad things.
On the other hand, as you’ve already guessed, we wouldn’t tell you to express those angry feelings unless they can do you some good in the long run, and, usually, they can’t. As we say in our fart metaphor, beyond the immediate relief, venting ugly feelings then poisons the air for you and everyone around you.
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Posted by fxckfeelings on September 18, 2015
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As shown by our post earlier this week, “Empty Mess: Distant Daughter,” being rejected by your adult kids can make you feel like a failed parent. If you do the recommend assessment of your own parenting and fulfill your own guidelines, however, you can continue to act like a good parent no matter how badly you’re treated. You just have to do the following:
- Assess Your Parental Job Performance
Ask yourself whether you’ve done a reasonable job as parent—not perfect, just reasonable, because doing your best, not the best, is any good parents’ goal. You can’t control whether your kids like you, just whether you do the job as best you can.
- Put On A Positive Face
When your kid finally graces you with his or her company, don’t share anger or hurt. Keep it friendly while showing interest and confidence in your own role. If you know you’ve done your best to parent him or her, then you have nothing to be angry about or ashamed of.
- Don’t Appear Naggy or Overeager.
It’s hard to be around somebody cloying, whether they’re a parent or not, so keep the pressure off. And if they want to burden you with guilt, blame, or undeserved demands or obligations, stop the conversation as quickly as possible.
- Accept Distance
If you can’t keep your cool around your kid during the few visits they do allow, use media that allow you to edit out anger, hurt and over-eagerness, such as text and email. Just make sure not to overdo it.
- Don’t Ask Why
Instead of obsessing about went wrong with your relationship with your child, remind yourself that many things you don’t control can damage that relationship, no matter how good a parent you are, and that it takes a super-parent to remain positive and firm in the face of heartbreak. You may not always be close, but you will always be there for your child as his or her parent.
Posted by fxckfeelings on August 27, 2015
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Whether you’re an independent adult or stuck living with your family due to age or poor finances, your techniques for avoiding conflict begin with the same premise; you can’t change family and you’ll make things worse if you try. Once you can accept that, you can take these steps to make a bad situation/gene pool more bearable. It’s not an easy process, but if you want to keep your family intact/alive, it’s worth it.
Step 1: Learn to keep your mouth shut
Remind yourself that further communication and efforts to change your family are not only useless, but harmful. After all, you’ve probably tried many times to argue your point, and all it’s done is create resentment and excuses to slam doors and break plates. Try once more if you’d like, just to drive the message home, but then it’s time to step out of the ring and stay silent.
Step 2: Don’t be a jerk
You may have reason to feel hurt, wounded, and even abused, but acting like a jerk will undermine your confidence and give your enemies an even more solid opportunity to claim victimhood themselves. So try to act according to your own standards of decency, even if your feelings are screaming for revenge, or at least a loud tantrum or protest. You might share their genes, but you don’t have to share their attitude.
Step 3: Focus on your own goals
Get busy doing whatever it is that advances your own priorities, like making money, seeing friends, and building your own independence. The more you do, the less opportunity there is for family interactions, and the less important they’ll be when they occur. This is obviously harder if you’re still living at home and your family is on your case, but when they try to accuse you of being distant, self-important, etc., remember Step 1 and don’t take the bait.
Step 4: Memorize your lines
If you’re challenged by questions or accusations that stir you up, prepare scripts for answering briefly and without anger or defensiveness. For example, if your mother is always on you for being uncaring or your brother constantly makes nasty remarks about your supposed attitude, say some variation of, “I understand you feel worried/angry/devastated/ill-treated and I’ve thought it through carefully, because your opinion is very important to me. I really disagree however, and, without getting into it, think we should just leave that subject alone.” Then the subject is closed.
Step 5: Set limits and stick to them
The best way to keep visits and phone calls pleasant is by keeping them short; either set an amount of time that you think is long enough to fulfill your obligation but short enough to avoid conflict, or have an excuse lined up to peaceably end a call or visit if things start to take a bad turn. Even if you’re living together, never let yourself be trapped for very long; if all else fails, physical escape is a surefire way to escape an argument, so keep your exit open, whether it’s to the next room, a locked bathroom, or the coffee shop down the street.