Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Avoiders Anonymous (AA)

Nag coiled himself down, coil by coil, round the bulge at the bottom of the water jar, and Rikki-tikki stayed still as death. After an hour he began to move, muscle by muscle, toward the jar. Nag was asleep, and Rikki-tikki looked at his big back, wondering which would be the best place for a good hold. "If I don't break his back at the first jump," said Rikki, "he can still fight. And if he fights--O Rikki!" He looked at the thickness of the neck below the hood, but that was too much for him; and a bite near the tail would only make Nag savage. "It must be the head"' he said at last; "the head above the hood. And, when I am once there, I must not let go." Then he jumped.

Rudyard Kippling

FTN's post about being an avoider for a day was quite the interesting read. His writing shows how a normally confrontational person tries to tone it down. He tries to not let Autumn in on every, single thing that is annoying him. Finally, he can stand it no longer and nearly explodes.

I am happy that FTN is able to be that confrontational with Autumn. Honestly, I'm a little jealous. Being an avoider is no fun. Although confronting the person, who wrongs you, is the best course of action, that can lead to unexpected results. Both Sybil and my mother were (are) emotionally labile.

Although I don't want to turn this post into one about my mother (I'm saving that for later for all of you followers of Freud), I learned from an early age to avoid her temper at all costs. She was not an easy woman to live with. My father could seek refuge from her at work, but I had to wait until school to have my refuge. Sybil is a little like my mother. Whenever I confront her on an issue, I find myself being flailed around the room, metaphorically speaking. By changing the subject or bringing up my faults, she makes confrontation very difficult. In an effort to maintain peace and tranquility, I find myself swallowing my issues.

That was it means to be an avoider. By being non-confrontational, one tries to maintain the peace at any costs. Kind of like France. Intellectually, I know this will only lead to an invasion of Poland, but in the short run that seems easier. It's only Poland. Because I know what eventually happened in Europe by not confronting an aggressor until it was too late, I have worked very hard on improving my communication skills and confrontational skills.

AA people tend to become passive-aggressive. That is the pitfall of trying to maintain peace "in our time." The irritations are still there, but we don't deal well with them. Instead, we circumvent the confrontation process and use sneaky methods. I am ashamed to admit that I have caught myself doing that, rarely. That is something that I always guard against.

As hard it was for FTN to avoid all of his issues for a day, it is just as hard for a non-confrontational person to be confrontational for a day. It means we have to expect an unpleasant reaction. We must go against our conditioning. It is hard work for us too.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Law of Unintended Consequences

Things have calmed down to certain peace. Sybil apologized for her actions; I apologized for mine. Yet, there seems to be a lingering after effect. I'm not sure Sybil feels the same as me, but I feel a loss of connection. After all of the arguments and fights we've had, each one has left me feeling battered and bruised. I'm not sure I feel resentment towards her, but I feel trepidation about what to do or say. I feel that the reaction I'll get is more than I can handle.

Grabbing the tiger by its tail is a dangerous situation. To keep from grabbing the tail, I feel that I must act differently. I must watch each and every word and weigh its potential meanings carefully. I know that we all must do that in polite society; it is difficult to manage in the privacy of my own home. I cannot speak freely; I cannot act freely. Since I have not been one deal well with authority, this is a burden.

If one is in a truly intimate relationship, shouldn't that person be, relatively, free to speak and act? I could understand, if I were abusive. Am I this horrible person, or am I stuck in a hopeless situation? No one likes to think of themselves in a negative light. Am I in denial, or am I a selfish, unthinking bastard? Is Sybil right or am I?

Confrontation is a good thing, but over time constant confrontation over everything can lead to a feeling of despair. When something really important needs to be addressed, it can be lost in the noise of all of the other issues. The person being confronted begins to feel like a failure. I believe in carrot and stick approach can work, but what if there is no carrot?

Tuesday, April 17, 2007


Thank you to those that commented on my last post.

Well, it was the calm before the storm.

Yesterday, Sybil and I had a huge fight. She was cursing (something she rarely does) and crying, and I was cursing (something I rarely do in front of her) and yelling. Nothing was resolved. I hope to smooth things over better today. I have come realize that I was wrong to reveal how I felt in public. I should have waited until we were alone and confronted her. Unfortunately, she never admitted to any wrong doing.

On the baseball bag incident, Sybil merely said that she misspoke, when she said "we". If she saw my point of view, she never indicated that to me. She could only see it as me blowing up for a comment that she made about "me" moving the bags. Towards the end of the argument, Sybil wondered why the kids and I think she is snapping at us, when she knows that she isn't. I thought that was telling, but I will wait until things are a little quieter to broach that subject. Anyway, I was wrong to show public irritation with her; I should have bit my tongue and confronted her later. However, she has indicated no wrongdoing.

As for the store incident, Sybil was stressing out because my parents about to pay for the items being purchased. She said what she said out of frustration. She really did not want my parents paying for anything, since they were our guests. I did get an apology of sorts. She did say she was sorry, but she yelled it at me with no remorse. Again, I should have not shown my irritation in public but waited until later. Again, she has indicated no remorse.

Lastly, Sybil did not wear her ring all day yesterday. Is it that easy to take off? I have not taken mine off for more than five minutes in nearly fourteen years. Sybil has always maintained that, although she may angry with me, she never stops loving me. Am I supposed to believe that? What I believe is that this supposed to make me be scared for our future. Even though I made mistakes in this, I do not feel the normal amount of remorse. If Sybil showed a little more responsibility for her part of the problem, I might be a little more contrite. Maybe I feel this is a bit of a tempest in a teapot? Maybe I feel that her behavior goes beyond the pale? I could understand if I was out all night and came home smelling of cheap perfume and cheaper booze (or versa visa), but reacting to how she was treating me? I feel as though my feelings are not taken seriously. When I tell that, I get excuses and other rhetoric. I do not get "you might be right. I'm sorry." After telling her that all I wanted was some acknowledgment of how she made me feel, I did not get that. I got excuses. I'm a forgiving person. "I'm sorry" would have sufficed.


Monday, April 16, 2007

Silence is Golden?

Well, this weekend was almost fun with Sybil. My parents spent the weekend with us. Since the drive is about 6 to 7 hours, we don't see them too often. Son#2 had a baseball tournament, and it rained.

We had managed to play two games before the rain started to come down. Between games the players and parents were standing under an awning trying to keep dry. Sybil sees this and says,"We should move their baseball bags out of the rain and put them under this awning." I grab my son's bag first and put it under the awning. I turn to Sybil, and she was sitting in a folding chair. She sees me standing there and says something to the effect of "Well, aren't you going to bring the other bags in?" There was no mention nor any indication that she was going to get off her duff and help. I give my patented "Eat S@#t and Die" look and mumble a smart remark. I grab the bags and place them under the awning. Whatever.

Driving home from the game, we decide to stop at the grocery store to pick up some essentials. We are in the check out lane, and Sybil realizes that she doesn't have her grocery store member card with her. I know that this important because she loves the fact that she gets an extra few cents off per gallon of gas, if she puts so much on the card. I, happily, go out into the cold rain and get her other purse from the car. I bring the purse to the checkout lane and hand it to her. She says, "You didn't have to bring the whole purse. All I needed was the card." No expression of gratitude. I give her another look. Whatever.

When we get home, I notice that I'm getting the silent treatment. With my parents still there, I do not want to make a big fuss over anything. I wait until I know everyone is asleep, and I ask her what is wrong. Sybil is "disappointed" with me because of how I acted in front of friends and my parents. She makes no mention of her actions, which created my reaction. When I point out her actions and her rudeness, there is no apology, there isn't even a coherent excuse. Sybil is focused on how I acted in front others. Granted I could have acted better. I could have waited until no one was around and point out the error of her ways, but couldn't she have treated me better in front of others, too? Couldn't she have been nicer (or at least polite)?

We are at a stalemate. Sybil will not admit any wrong doing. Since my reactions were a response to her rudeness, I cannot admit any wrong doing. Also, I know that if I had done the same thing to her, I would have been chewed out. Although I could have handled myself better, Sybil has to realize that she not innocent either. So now she is not talking to me. I initiated conversation last night, which went nowhere. Silence is golden? Or, is silence the calm before the storm?

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Dealing with Anger

so gone over you made an astute observation:
But seriously, if Sybil acts this way, somewhere along the line, YOU allowed it. People only treat you the way you allow them to.

I would agree that I enabled Sybil's bad behavior. When her vitriol is directed at me, I seem to have my shields down. After 14 years of marriage I, her verbal body blows seem to catch unprepared. I find myself reacting to her. My past mistake was not calling her on how she shows her anger. That was then.

I still have a lot of work to do in the arena of marital combat. However, I have started calling Sybil on her behavior. By doing this, I hope to be able to "nip it in the bud." I am not always successful. Being from a long line of avoiders, confrontation is not my strong suit. Confronting a volatile personality is even more difficult.

Sybil has started being more in control of her reactions. That is not to say that she is perfect, but it does mean that our conflicts are more of a small conflagration rather than a full blown smack down. I have also learned methods to help diffuse the situation. If she makes a coherent case for being angry with me, I'll apologize quicker than before. If she is just angry to be angry, then I do not respond.