Here’s a conversation with Nancy, a client who’s already gone from a total doormat to a totally toxic, mean, controlling man she’s lived with for a long time, to an emerging goddess who can stand her ground…see what’s happening in Nancy’s process:
I’m managing to not go nuts over this one, because I’m not being faced with it head on. I have no idea what precipitated this tirade over chat…… but he’s blaming me for his crappy job, and his crappy life, and everything he has going wrong…
He’s told me he can’t take his job anymore, that he’s going to quit today. He blames me for the decision to take this job in the first place (I was already being a yes man then….. not good at pointing out the problems.) He is upset with me because I want to “recreate”… orchestra for instance. … that all I care about is my work, and my orchestra, and my family.
I said “oh, sweetheart, I would love to help you get out of that job. What can I do to help?”.
And he said, find me a job… quit wasting time in recreation… nothing but work until he gets another job, because I’ll have to support both of us until he finds one.
I said “we’ll figure it out how to make ends meet, whatever way we have to.”
And again, he blames me for his current position. He was better off before this job and being with me. He was “strong and sharp and now he can’t even walk or hold his head up anymore.” Apparently, I’m a person who took something good and turned it 2 shit.
Again I said, “sweetheart, I would love to help you get out of the crap you’re dealing with” and offered him some job listings to look at.
He then began screaming at me (Caps lock…) “I’M NOT @#$ING PAYING 4 ANYTHING. I’M QUITING MY JOB TODAY. AND YOU’RE GONNA HAVE 2 PAY 4 EVERYTHING.THAT’LL MAKE U FIND ME A F*CKING JOB. GUESS WHAT I AM ON VACATION UNTIL U FIND ANOTHER GIG. HOW’S THAT. YEAH THAT’S RIGHT. I’M WRITING MY QUITING LETTER NOW.”
I replied calmly, “Sweetheart, you have every right to scream at me, and yell at me, but I don’t like it… even over a chat window.” He’s continuing to blame he, as I write this email. Screaming through the chat window. I have continued calmly… “Darling, I would love to know what triggered you today”….
His answer: don’t @#$ing worry about what happened, worry about what _is_ happening, and don’t make work for me.
Again, I’m calm “Darling, I will help you get out of there, and find somewhere else to work.”
But he continues to rant and scream… I asked him to help me make a plan of action… and more screaming about him not wanting to do any more work. “NO GET ME A F*CKING INTERVIEW. ANY WORK, WORKING OF PLANS. DO IT YOURSELF. THE TIME 4 WORKING THINGS OUT ENDED YESTERDAY. NOT F*CKING ONCE HAVE U GOT ME AN INTERVIEW. NOT ONCE ON YOUR OWN HAVE 2 HELPED ME OUT. I HAVE 2 ASK AND ASK OVER AND OVER 4 U 2 EVEN DO THE SMALLEST F*CKING THINGS. SHOW ME THAT U CAN HELP ME SUCCEED. NOT JUST MAKE 2 INTO A F*CKING LOSER. WHY IS IT U HAVE THIS AFFECT ON ME. NOTHING HAS GONE WELL 4 ME SINCE U.”
We were… I thought,… in a good place yesterday and this morning… he was talking about getting a ring, he was thanking me for how nice I’d been to him, and everything I’d helped me with yesterday. I have absolutely no idea what happened to trigger this. and I’m just really glad I’m not facing this at home right now, because I don’t feel like I would handle it well.
I could really use some guidance here. My boy wants to take me far far far far away, cuz my girl is very confused and hurting.”
Nancy – I can’t stand this man – he sounds like a very immature and ill child. Surely you can do better?
If you still want to hang in – I’d stop the conversation the moment he starts using all caps….just say “…sorry, I love you and feel awful….”
I hope you don’t mind if I keep trying to use you to maintain my calibration.
Last night, I went home, shaking. I packed a bag and put it my car, and almost took everything and left. But it didn’t feel right, so I shut myself in a room and meditated. While I was meditating he came home. I came out, to assess the situation and found him napping. So I let him be. I wrote a note saying that I needed some space, and that I didn’t want to be a punching bag, and went back into the room with the door closed. He left me alone.
When I came out a while later, to eat dinner, he finally came up to me and said very meekly… but with lots of depression and emotion, “I’m sorry”. I gave him a hug. He didn’t resist but didn’t respond… and turned and walked away. I didn’t follow, it seemed to be that he didn’t want more. But this morning he tells me that I should have come and asked him what had happened, and what was wrong. and because I didn’t, it just drove home that I’m cold and unsympathetic and don’t care. And what have I done to help him?
I asked him again today what happened yesterday, but he still hasn’t told me. Told me that sometimes I might have to “pull teeth” to get it out of him. This doesn’t feel right, and yet I still care… I keep telling him that the day I’m not affected by his anger is the day that I stop caring about him as more than just another person in the world.
He tells me that I’m not doing what he’s asked me to do… that I’m not taking ownership of tasks he’s given me. That I haven’t taken ownership of him… caring about his health and well being, whether he’s getting enough rest, getting fed properly, whether he’s happy with his work, he’s as much as admitted that he’s high-maintenance. He says he’s a lamborghini, and I’m trying to maintain him like a ford escort… so he’s breaking down, because he’s given me more than he’s received.
I feel like he needs to be swaddled, like a fussy child… but he’s a grown man, and that’s nearly impossible to do without being a momma.
Okay, so I’m talking all about him… and I want to be working on me. But when I work on me, like I have been, I drift away from him, I lose touch with him…. he wants me to calibrate to him and doesn’t want to see that his calibration is off, and everything goes to hell. I feel like if I found a groove everything would just be easy…. but I can’t seem to find the groove.
Nancy. He’s asking you to be his mother. Is that what you want?
Here’s the crux of the issue:
…but with lots of depression and emotion, “I’m sorry.” I gave him a hug.
So – after all this, he comes to you, he says “I’m Sorry”…and YOU hug HIM?
What I want you to do is STAND THERE, smile, say “Thank you” – and see if HE moves to HUG YOU!
About all the other stuff he says – I’d just say:
“I love you, and I don’t want to be your mother. Relationship feels to me like we take care of each other, and I don’t want to be “maintaining” a man like a fine car. I need love, affection, tenderness, kindness, gentleness, and great sex. And acting like your mother, or being asked to do that just turns me off. This isn’t what I want in a relationship. I want something easier and more harmonious that feels like equality. I don’t want to take care of you the way you want. I have total faith in you as a person and as a man. Is there any way we can fix this so we can both get what we want?
It’s about being either the flower or the gardener.
Which do YOU want to be?
It will no longer do for you to try to “help” him.
No more saying “I’ll help you do this, I’ll help you fix that, we can do this together…” when he “rants.”
No more deflecting anything that smacks of you getting away from how awful it feels when you’re spoken to that way and turns you, once again, into his mother.