Author Topic: The Relationship Thread  (Read 2271 times)

smallcleanrat

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Re: The Relationship Thread
« Reply #15 on: October 19, 2020, 06:55:24 AM »
Been on a bit of a reading binge through books of the "personal development" variety. I'm noticing distinct differences in style between the ones written by academics (psychologists, social scientists, etc...) and the ones written by professional "life coaches" or "motivational speakers." The latter type tend more towards simplistically grand claims (with no citations), like the following:

"What percentage of shared responsibility do you have in making a relationship work? ... You have to be willing to give 100 percent with zero expectation of receiving anything in return. Only when you're willing to take 100 percent responsibility for making the relationship work will it work...If I *always* [take] 100 percent responsibility for everything I experience - completely owning all of my choices and all the ways I [respond] to whatever [happens] to me - I [hold] the power."

I've seen this advice in various forms. The main point seems to be that it's pointless to blame other people for hurting you or otherwise causing negative emotions, thoughts or behavior. You are the person ultimately in control of your own responses; you can choose not to feel hurt or not to feel angry, otherwise you are adopting a "victim mentality." Don't ask or expect anyone else to change their behavior because that is ultimately out of your control.

I'm not sure why I so often see this written in such an extreme form (i.e. you are *100%* responsible for your own thoughts and emotions; no one can *make* you think or feel a certain way). I mean, there's a lot to be said for taking ownership of how you respond to the events in your life, but making yourself 100% responsible...how realistic is that? What would that even look like?

Anyone else have opinions on this?

Yeah. It's a very liberating thing to hear, for about 30 minutes. by the time you try to put it into practice you realize is not something you can use. Your emotions are the most powerful thing in your life. More powerful than any enemy you're likely to have (unless the enemy is  a murderer.)

Yeah, what I don't think is warranted is rolling up emotions, thoughts, and actions all up in a single ball of "response you choose." Deciding your actions is not on the same level of difficulty as deciding your thoughts or your emotions. Emotions and thoughts have an automatic component, more directly than is the case with chosen behaviors.

There is a form of psychotherapy called Acceptance and Commitment Therapy which I've come to appreciate as actually acknowledging that some thoughts and emotions are just going to happen. Attempting to control them or force them to change by sheer willpower often won't work and is likely to increase your distress rather than alleviate it. The kind of skills to focus on involve observing your thoughts and emotions so you can decide what actions to take.

Walking away from a relationship is an action taken to prevent being hurt again. It doesn't change the fact you were hurt in the first place. And feelings like hurt and anger can serve an important purpose; they can tell you something isn't right.

And, no, control of another person's behavior isn't in your power, but influence very well could be. There are other ways to communicate outside of nagging, begging, or scolding.

The author used an example of a friend frequently complaining of the ways his wife made him unhappy. Author's advice to friend was to make a list of things he *appreciates* about his wife instead of focusing on the negatives. And of course the book example has as a happy ending. But the magnitude of those negatives isn't even hinted at; I suppose the reader is meant to imagine relatively minor annoyances like "takes too long getting ready" rather than something more serious like "She's extremely paranoid that I will cheat on her, so she's sending me messages every half hour demanding to know where I am and what I'm doing."

If the negatives are minor, then the message "Don't sweat the small stuff" can apply. But the effects of something major probably won't be alleviated simply by choosing to stop dwelling on it.
« Last Edit: October 19, 2020, 07:00:16 AM by smallcleanrat »

marshwiggle

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Re: The Relationship Thread
« Reply #16 on: October 19, 2020, 07:23:23 AM »
What I was getting at was that your emotions are not like a faucet that you can turn on and off at will or regulate through choice. They run too deep for that. Sometimes, in spite of your best calculation, the emotion you have after experiencing something is not what you expected.

Absolutely.


The author used an example of a friend frequently complaining of the ways his wife made him unhappy. Author's advice to friend was to make a list of things he *appreciates* about his wife instead of focusing on the negatives. And of course the book example has as a happy ending. But the magnitude of those negatives isn't even hinted at; I suppose the reader is meant to imagine relatively minor annoyances like "takes too long getting ready" rather than something more serious like "She's extremely paranoid that I will cheat on her, so she's sending me messages every half hour demanding to know where I am and what I'm doing."

If the negatives are minor, then the message "Don't sweat the small stuff" can apply. But the effects of something major probably won't be alleviated simply by choosing to stop dwelling on it.

I would say this is what defines the difference between "minor" and "major" conflicts. The question to ask is whether you could endure this situation indefinitely; if so, it's minor. If, on the other hand, you could not put up with this indefinitely, (with the real possibility of it never changing), then it is major, and walking away has to be seriously considered.

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smallcleanrat

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Re: The Relationship Thread
« Reply #17 on: October 19, 2020, 07:30:17 AM »
What I was getting at was that your emotions are not like a faucet that you can turn on and off at will or regulate through choice. They run too deep for that. Sometimes, in spite of your best calculation, the emotion you have after experiencing something is not what you expected.

Absolutely.


The author used an example of a friend frequently complaining of the ways his wife made him unhappy. Author's advice to friend was to make a list of things he *appreciates* about his wife instead of focusing on the negatives. And of course the book example has as a happy ending. But the magnitude of those negatives isn't even hinted at; I suppose the reader is meant to imagine relatively minor annoyances like "takes too long getting ready" rather than something more serious like "She's extremely paranoid that I will cheat on her, so she's sending me messages every half hour demanding to know where I am and what I'm doing."

If the negatives are minor, then the message "Don't sweat the small stuff" can apply. But the effects of something major probably won't be alleviated simply by choosing to stop dwelling on it.

I would say this is what defines the difference between "minor" and "major" conflicts. The question to ask is whether you could endure this situation indefinitely; if so, it's minor. If, on the other hand, you could not put up with this indefinitely, (with the real possibility of it never changing), then it is major, and walking away has to be seriously considered.

Agreed. Major and minor problems are in the eye of the beholder.

I meant from the perspective of beholder: minor things are irritations/annoyances/gripes, major things are causing high degrees of stress.

But walking away is an action taken to change your situation. It's not necessarily changing how you feel about whatever it was that motivated you to walk away.
« Last Edit: October 19, 2020, 07:43:30 AM by smallcleanrat »

polly_mer

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Re: The Relationship Thread
« Reply #18 on: October 20, 2020, 06:42:48 AM »
I guess my question on the feelings topic is: And?

Yes, feelings are like sensors: one should pay attention to the information and take appropriate action, even if that action is mostly monitoring the situation to see what happens next.  Sometimes, sensors get out of whack and need to be recalibrated before they are again trustworthy, which in the feelings world translates to getting outside perspective and possibly medication/medical treatment to help recalibrate.

Years ago, someone likened being trapped as an adjunct to having sprained an ankle and then refusing to do anything except lie on the ground, clutching the ankle and crying.  While that's a perfectly fine response in the moment, continuing to do that for weeks and even years only hurts the person who refuses to move beyond the immediate feelings. 

Similar situations occur frequently with people who get lost in their feelings and don't make the effort to get help to recalibrate.  Just like physical therapy for the ankle, it's likely that getting to a better place eventually can involve additional pain now.  People who focus only on avoiding all pain tend to get trapped while those who acknowledge the pain and take actions that will help (including medical treatment as necessary to recalibrate) tend to get better, but it is a painful process.

Yes, being hurt is being hurt.  However, focusing on the hurt instead of the lessons learned and the process to get to a non-hurt place tends to trap people, especially if the feelings are very strong.
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mahagonny

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Re: The Relationship Thread
« Reply #19 on: October 20, 2020, 06:52:36 AM »
I guess my question on the feelings topic is: And?

Yes, feelings are like sensors: one should pay attention to the information and take appropriate action, even if that action is mostly monitoring the situation to see what happens next.  Sometimes, sensors get out of whack and need to be recalibrated before they are again trustworthy, which in the feelings world translates to getting outside perspective and possibly medication/medical treatment to help recalibrate.

Years ago, someone likened being trapped as an adjunct to having sprained an ankle and then refusing to do anything except lie on the ground, clutching the ankle and crying.  While that's a perfectly fine response in the moment, continuing to do that for weeks and even years only hurts the person who refuses to move beyond the immediate feelings. 

Similar situations occur frequently with people who get lost in their feelings and don't make the effort to get help to recalibrate.  Just like physical therapy for the ankle, it's likely that getting to a better place eventually can involve additional pain now.  People who focus only on avoiding all pain tend to get trapped while those who acknowledge the pain and take actions that will help (including medical treatment as necessary to recalibrate) tend to get better, but it is a painful process.

Yes, being hurt is being hurt.  However, focusing on the hurt instead of the lessons learned and the process to get to a non-hurt place tends to trap people, especially if the feelings are very strong.

We know all this already. The problem with the adjunct discussion was people's complicity in the widespread act of giving up on making college teaching jobs attractive enough to be recommendable.

marshwiggle

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Re: The Relationship Thread
« Reply #20 on: October 20, 2020, 07:26:18 AM »
Years ago, someone likened being trapped as an adjunct to having sprained an ankle and then refusing to do anything except lie on the ground, clutching the ankle and crying.  While that's a perfectly fine response in the moment, continuing to do that for weeks and even years only hurts the person who refuses to move beyond the immediate feelings. 


We know all this already. The problem with the adjunct discussion was people's complicity in the widespread act of giving up on making college teaching jobs attractive enough to be recommendable.

But surely there is much more chance of changing one person in a difficult relationship than changing the policies (and attitudes) of an entire institution. If staying and fighting in a terrible adjunct situation is always a reasonable choice, then staying and fighting in a bad relationship with one person has got to be at least as reasonable a choice.

There are two different "problems" to be considered, (or two facets of a single problem). How institutions treat adjuncts is related but distinct from how a frustrated adjunct can respond. If refusing to admit that some institutions treat adjuncts badly is wrong, then so is refusing to advise adjuncts to consider leaving when the situation is intolerable.

(I realize this is getting off-topic, but the similarity of many life situations to relationship situations reflects the fact that  they ultimately are governed by human nature, with the same limitations and consequences.)
« Last Edit: October 20, 2020, 07:29:02 AM by marshwiggle »
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smallcleanrat

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Re: The Relationship Thread
« Reply #21 on: October 20, 2020, 07:36:47 AM »
I guess my question on the feelings topic is: And?

...........................................................................

Yes, being hurt is being hurt.  However, focusing on the hurt instead of the lessons learned and the process to get to a non-hurt place tends to trap people, especially if the feelings are very strong.

I guess my answer to "And?" wouldn't have much to do with the points you make in your post. You're talking about not dwelling in hurt feelings indefinitely.

What I was saying is more in response to people who insist that you not have certain feelings in the first place. It's the difference between someone advising you to consider why you're afraid of something and to think of how to face and overcome your fear vs. someone who's oh-so-helpful advice is "You're afraid? Well, don't be!"

It's the difference between advising someone on how to manage their emotions vs. someone who insists on "controlling" emotions (shutting it on-and-off at will as in mahagonny's analogy).

There's a therapeutic model for trauma recovery which includes a stage of "mourning" that precedes intensive work on developing effective coping skills so a person can move forward with their life. It involves acknowledging how trauma has affected you; it can help you understand why you have been struggling in the way that you have. The point is not to wallow in hurt, the point is to process what has happened to you. Too many people are told to just "get over it" and are accused of wallowing if they spend any time at all in a "mourning" stage.

Similar situations occur frequently with people who get lost in their feelings and don't make the effort to get help to recalibrate.  Just like physical therapy for the ankle, it's likely that getting to a better place eventually can involve additional pain now.  People who focus only on avoiding all pain tend to get trapped while those who acknowledge the pain and take actions that will help (including medical treatment as necessary to recalibrate) tend to get better, but it is a painful process.

I completely agree with this; I think we are making the same point.

I think the people who advocate "control" are the ones trying to avoid uncomfortable emotions.

What point did you think I was trying to make?




marshwiggle

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Re: The Relationship Thread
« Reply #22 on: October 20, 2020, 08:24:50 AM »

There's a therapeutic model for trauma recovery which includes a stage of "mourning" that precedes intensive work on developing effective coping skills so a person can move forward with their life. It involves acknowledging how trauma has affected you; it can help you understand why you have been struggling in the way that you have. The point is not to wallow in hurt, the point is to process what has happened to you. Too many people are told to just "get over it" and are accused of wallowing if they spend any time at all in a "mourning" stage.


I'm not sure if I'm getting this correctly, but "moving forward" often has to happen before the stage of mourning is complete.  A parent whose spouse has died who has small children to raise needs to keep functioning for them, regardless of how long it takes to get over the grief.

I would imagine sometimes people will, perhaps insensitively, speak of "wallowing" to refer to the need to get on with practical aspects of life, rather than dealing with the longer term emotional pain explicitly.
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smallcleanrat

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Re: The Relationship Thread
« Reply #23 on: October 20, 2020, 08:41:42 AM »

There's a therapeutic model for trauma recovery which includes a stage of "mourning" that precedes intensive work on developing effective coping skills so a person can move forward with their life. It involves acknowledging how trauma has affected you; it can help you understand why you have been struggling in the way that you have. The point is not to wallow in hurt, the point is to process what has happened to you. Too many people are told to just "get over it" and are accused of wallowing if they spend any time at all in a "mourning" stage.


I'm not sure if I'm getting this correctly, but "moving forward" often has to happen before the stage of mourning is complete.  A parent whose spouse has died who has small children to raise needs to keep functioning for them, regardless of how long it takes to get over the grief.

I would imagine sometimes people will, perhaps insensitively, speak of "wallowing" to refer to the need to get on with practical aspects of life, rather than dealing with the longer term emotional pain explicitly.

Ok, maybe I didn't describe it well. No, the expectation is not that you *completely* process all your emotions before participating in the day-to-day activities and responsibilities of your life. I don't think the stages are meant to be as discrete as that.

But getting through whatever actions you need to take to fulfill your responsibilities isn't necessarily the same as "moving forward" in the mental/emotional/spiritual sense. I think it's more akin to the "fake it 'til you make it" approach; you're going through the motions so things get done, but a life of simply going through the motions is not your ultimate goal.

And, even if people are talking about the *practical* aspects of life when they say "stop wallowing," whether or not their input is actually helpful seems iffy. Maybe you're talking to someone who will benefit from a swift kick in the pants; but if someone is already doing their best while struggling to function, words like these can be more like pouring salt in a wound.

the_geneticist

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Re: The Relationship Thread
« Reply #24 on: October 20, 2020, 10:30:07 AM »
I love an article I read once about "training a spouse like a wild animal.  You can't force an elephant to hold still and lift it's foot, but you can reward behaviors that are close to that skill until it will lift it's foot when asked.  Yelling at the elephant or scolding it won't help.  Being mad if the first attempt isn't perfect won't help either.  Reward the steps towards the goal, not just the final skill.
Similarly, if your spouse/child/friend is learning to cook and burns the rice you should say "thank you for cooking dinner".  They know it's burned.  If you get upset and decide the best solution is to NEVER trust them to cook rice again, well you've just trained them that you'll take over that task.

I'm also a fan of the "what are you willing to tolerate as part of living together?".  I know it drives Mr. Dr. Geneticist bonkers that I leave tea mugs and books all over the house, but he really appreciates that I vacuum & mow the lawn.  Similarly, I know he hates to fold laundry.  I'm happy to do more of the laundry since he does more of the cooking & cleaning the kitchen.  Our house doesn't look like a magazine, but we are quite happy.

mahagonny

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Re: The Relationship Thread
« Reply #25 on: October 20, 2020, 04:57:38 PM »

And, even if people are talking about the *practical* aspects of life when they say "stop wallowing," whether or not their input is actually helpful seems iffy. Maybe you're talking to someone who will benefit from a swift kick in the pants; but if someone is already doing their best while struggling to function, words like these can be more like pouring salt in a wound.

The person giving you advice has needs too.

smallcleanrat

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Re: The Relationship Thread
« Reply #26 on: October 20, 2020, 06:48:27 PM »

And, even if people are talking about the *practical* aspects of life when they say "stop wallowing," whether or not their input is actually helpful seems iffy. Maybe you're talking to someone who will benefit from a swift kick in the pants; but if someone is already doing their best while struggling to function, words like these can be more like pouring salt in a wound.

The person giving you advice has needs too.

That doesn't really change the fact that if someone is already doing the best they know how, simply telling them to "choose to do better" isn't going to help very much.

More effective to have a discussion about *how* to change things for the better.

Although, in my personal experience, I hear this kind of thing much more from people who have very little to do with my life.

smallcleanrat

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Re: The Relationship Thread
« Reply #27 on: October 22, 2020, 08:38:42 PM »
Well, here's a situation I'm not sure how to respond to.

I have a hand injury and my boyfriend has an unconscious habit of grabbing my hand to hold whenever we are in close proximity. I asked him to stop doing that until my hand is healed, because when he does this I get sharp, shooting pains. He said that he would, but...still does it. A lot. And it's been months.

It happens multiple times a day, every day. It doesn't seem to matter how many times I say "Ow! Please don't!" He will say he's sorry, but nothing changes.

I wasn't really upset by it at first, because I know reaching for my hand is a habit he doesn't always realize he is doing. But after several months it doesn't seem to be happening any less frequently at all (so it's not like he forgets once in a while; it's every day).

I know it's pretty common for one partner to have a habit the other doesn't like, and at some point it becomes clear that habit isn't likely to ever stop. The other partner either learns to live with it or continues nagging. If this were something like leaving the cap off the toothpaste or forgetting to put laundry in the hamper, I could learn to live with it. But this is something that causes me physical pain.

I started keeping some distance between us during times he is most likely to reach for my hand (e.g. sitting on the couch together), but he felt hurt by this. So, I started tucking the bad hand behind my back, but he will reach behind my back to get to it. Another possible solution (at least for the couch) is to swap sides, so my good hand will be the closest to him. But he likes routine too much and doesn't want to sit in a different spot.

I guess I could just put up with it until the hand is better, but I think incidents like this are slowing down the healing. I do feel hurt that this doesn't seem important enough to remember after I've pleaded with him so many times.

Would this bother anyone else?

Hegemony

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Re: The Relationship Thread
« Reply #28 on: October 23, 2020, 12:12:37 AM »
I think you are perhaps less bothered by this than you should be. Every time your boyfriend forgets and hurts you, he should be abject with a regret and apologies. And he should be saying, both out loud and to himself, "I have to figure out a way not to do this any more!  I am going to try a variety of strategies to try to remember."

By contrast, what he is doing is sulking and trying to control you through manipulation and emotion so that you can't even protect yourself by sitting further away.

And he reaches behind your back to grab your hand?  What rational human being wouldn't say to himself, "Why is she holding her hand behind her back? Oh! I remember! Her hand is injured! I really need to demonstrate to her that I will remember, so she doesn't feel the need to protect herself so adamantly."

What is his reaction to all this?  A kind of "Well, I try to remember, but you know how I am" type excuse?  Or even a "It can't be that bad" response?  Because he ought to be a lot sorrier than he is.  Because it looks very much like he values his demand to have a hand to hold way above your need to protect yourself from pain. And if he's gaslighting you into believing it's just Ol' Bumbling Forgetful Boyfriend, even more so. A good guy would man up and take responsibility here.

My reaction, which would not be optimum, but at least would be sub-optimum in a different way, would be to bite his head off next time he tried it. " WILL YOU %$^&$ing STOP HURTING ME? You'll have to leave now. No, I mean it. I cannot take this one more time. You can come back tomorrow and try again. Right, goodnight. I mean it, goodnight."  Because, basically, he is training you to behave as if it doesn't really matter.  The only consequence he experiences for violating your boundaries and causing you physical pain is a little chiding and nagging from him. And that doesn't bother him much. We know it doesn't bother him much, because he prefers to let it happen as long as he gets to take your hand whenever he wants to.  Therefore the consequences need to escalate.  They need to escalate until he'd rather show some consideration for you than suffer the consequences any longer.

But I wonder if there's a lot in this guy who can't stop causing you pain. What would you think of a guy who did this to a child? Who kept hurting her despite her continuing to feel pain and pleading with him not to?  Would that be a guy whose sense of consideration you could respect?

polly_mer

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Re: The Relationship Thread
« Reply #29 on: October 23, 2020, 06:40:59 AM »
1)  Why has your hand been hurt for months?  What kind of care are you getting?

2) Why is it OK for him to be repeatedly hurt by the cat per the post on another thread?

3) Why are you even together if neither of you cares enough about the other to make minor adjustments that would result in less physical pain all around?

Again, I have to wonder why feelings seem to be important and yet nothing changes.

You may not want to be told to make better choices, but, damn, it seems so easy to fix some of these things. 

Someone who won't sit on the other side of the couch for a while doesn't care enough to matter.

Someone who won't deal with the cat to either get it to stop attacking everyone who lives in the household or send the cat to a new home also doesn't care enough.
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