September 1st, 2003

Conflicting patterns

Deb and I talked for a long time yesterday (Joel eventually joined us when he got up) about the ways that our patterns set each other off. The really short version is that we both tend to withdraw at bad times. If I'm feeling upset or really tired or hurting, I tend to withdraw because that is what I've always done. I learned it very early from a mother who lashed out frequently and viciously. Deb does the same thing.

I've figured out that I do it and try not to when I feel like Deb is pushing me away because usually that's an indication that she's withdrawing and one of us needs to be able to initiate taking care of her since she won't generally ask for it. Sometimes this shoots me in the foot because I'm fighting my own desire to withdraw from someone pushing me away, and I end up just frustrating the hell out of both of us.

Deb tends to still withdraw when I get upset and this means that we get into perception loops where we both feel abandoned and ignored because we don't think the other one wants to be around us, when I start out being the one that is emotionally fragile in some fashion. Deb has a hair-trigger reflex to withdraw and assume that people are hostile to her because she believes that is all she deserves. She reads in tone where I really don't think there is any, or it exists for an entirely other reason that she won't notice because her default is to assume negative tone is at her.

Neither one seem to work very well for the two of us. And we had a long conversation about changing things about yourself. I change things constantly because I came out of my experience with my mother knowing that she was stark raving mad and that I would have to change a lot of things and just take on faith that I would succeed at them eventually if I demanded of myself that I change it. Deb doesn't have that. She sees the last three hundred failures and doesn't have the capacity for faith that she will overcome it. Each "win" over the monster she's afraid she is seems like it was won by only a hair and she doesn't know how to trust herself.

I have trouble understanding this because to me, this is like the statement that you will always find your keys in the last place that you look. It's the last place you a looked because you had no cause to keep looking. She or I have no cause to keep drawing desperately on strength to keep the monsters at bay if we have defeated them, even just barely.

We sort of talked in circles for a while yesterday on the subject. Eventually we got into a conversation of the weighting of information. I feel like sometimes she weights the "bad stuff"TM so heavily that it is a self fulfilling prophecy that she will never feel like she succeeds. She asks why she should believe she will change with no evidence to that effect.

She has changed a lot in the time that I've known her, but some of her most deeply rooted struggles haven't really budged. Maybe that is that none of us deal with things before the trigger that makes us understand that we need to. I just wish I could give her that trigger without giving her the pain that many of those triggers carry with them.

That and I wish I understood better ways to interact with her patterns and how to solve the fact that when I'm upset it tends to go pretty badly as often as not. I don't think this is all hers to solve, but I'm being stumped about where to go from here. I don't know. Maybe I'm blind to it. Maybe the ball in in her court for the next step and there is nothing I can do yet.

The whole thing is pretty frustrating, though. It adds to all of Deb's perceptions that I don't want her in my life, don't like to play with her, etc, etc, etc. Somewhere in her head she thinks she's a convenient source of money or something and that I really want to be with Joel. That's not at all true but I can't figure out what to do to fix it because a large part of it is that Deb feels like that is what she deserves and thus what she assumes is going on. *sigh*

While I struggle with sticking to my own philosophy on the subject with regard to myself, I do believe that no one is born "bad" and that if they are bad, their environment and understanding of their world and the behaviors of themselves and the people around them have made them so, and at any point they chose, they can unmake that and make something else. This is how I've managed to turn children's lives around. I refused to believe that was all their was. Why is it that I can't make the same thing work in my own life with my spouse. I believe she can remake herself and not be the monster she's afraid of, but I can't figure out what to do with it when it's not about whether you're out of control when you participate in sports in the gym.

I feel... lost.