When anger rears its ugly head

Our therapy appointment on Friday began with the therapist asking how I was getting along since my dad’s passing. I told her it had only been a few days since his funeral, which had been overwhelming, but that I was doing pretty well as long as I don’t watch the video someone took of all the grandchildren, one by one, putting daffodils on their Papa’s casket. When it was The Peacemaker’s turn, my younger son, 26 now, so not so young, but still my baby and my dad’s second grandchild (of 17), carefully picked his daffodil and then gently brought the flower to his lips, kissed it, and slowly, with tears rolling down his cheeks, placed it on his grandfather’s coffin.

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I cannot watch the video without bursting into tears. The therapist seemed a little taken aback by someone videotaping a funeral, but I didn’t think it so odd, in 2020, and I am pretty grateful for it because I didn’t see it when it happened. I’m sure one day I’ll be able to watch the video without collapsing.

Continuing on, we did a little more processing of the death, both Blue Eyes and I, then set about focusing on our communication as a couple. We are, at this point, mostly talking about how we interact with each other and how we can both do better. As mentioned about a bazillion times here on the blog, I am the aggressor, he is the avoider. I want to talk and process, and he doesn’t. I know I can’t fix him, or do the work for him, or even help him organize himself. It’s frustrating, but the nice thing is neither of us is in trauma anymore. He’s processed the most devastating of buried childhood wounds, and I’ve metabolized the lion’s share of his betrayal. There’s no talk of his acting out behaviors, or other women, or cutting, or dissociation, or running away from home. We’re both squarely in this partnership and doing our best. Sure, I want more action on his part and he wants less talking about it on my part. I’m hoping that soon he will realize those two things go hand in hand.

We had four full hours with the therapist and as per usual, it flew by. I had been collecting in my head some happenings over the past couple weeks that I wanted to discuss in couple’s therapy but I didn’t want to just blurt them out. I’m glad I didn’t because the process by which the therapy played out worked nicely with the things I wanted to discuss.

First, the therapist constantly reminds us to talk to each other, face to face, not talk to her. She observes everything, then helps us work through issues and better ways to discuss what matters to us. Instead of a bitch session, I really want to know what is going on inside Blue Eyes. I want to know he is processing his emotions in a positive way and especially not being resentful and using me as a scapegoat because I know those feelings over time can build up and eventually burst. I want a pathway for connecting better as a couple. When Blue Eyes displays a difficult emotion but refuses to discuss where the emotion is coming from, I do one of two things. I pursue hard or I retreat. Neither gets me what I want. I know I can be impatient and unkind sometimes and I don’t want to be. I want to be understanding, but he’s got to be able to share instead of emote.

To get things going, the therapist asked if there was anything specific to our relationship that either of us wanted to discuss. I went first. 🙂 I said that a few times over the past weeks since we had been in her office, Blue Eyes had appeared to be angry, but would not discuss why. I had asked him why he was angry, at the time(s), and he had refused to talk about it. My concern is not only that he is refusing to communicate with me, for whatever reason, but that I also realize that in the past he was able to use his addiction to medicate and I know he doesn’t have that anymore. It concerns me that he doesn’t seem to have an obvious solution for these angry times. It concerns me a lot. I know Blue Eyes feels more comfortable talking with safe friends about his emotions, and I am all for that. But in the end, I need him to come full circle with me, acknowledge the emotions, and discuss the cause and his process for dealing with them. To me, it seems pretty basic to a kind, healthy, and loving relationship.

Typical Blue Eyes, when the therapist asked him to discuss what I had said (no interruptions from me, just intent listening to what he had to say) he acknowledged his angry moods, and then proceeded to talk a lot about what he SHOULD be doing to deal with it, as if he was actually doing these things, but NOT what he is actually doing. He talked about the resources that he has to go to when he is feeling ungrounded and emotionally vulnerable. A lot of his emotions and feelings eventually turn to anger and resentment… like loneliness, hunger, fatigue, anxiety, restlessness, and frustration. Likewise for me. But when I am angry, everyone knows what it is about, and if Blue Eyes asks if I am angry with him, I answer him, honestly. He does not do that for me, whether his anger is actually caused by me or not, he refuses to engage. He won’t even tell me when he is not angry with me.

When it was my turn to speak again, I expressed my concern for him not doing what he calls “the deep dive.” Blue Eyes has many different personalities and a lot of them are driven by that neglected child who needed love and nurturing and didn’t receive it. That child turned into a self-indulgent teenager who pretended to be easy going and fun, but who deep inside felt resentment towards his family and shame around his porn habits. That teenager turned into a man who rationalized destructive addictive behaviors. We know from six years of recovery, that Blue Eyes did not evaluate the why’s for how he behaved. Now, I am asking him, for the sake of our relationship, to acknowledge where his emotions are coming from, and deal with them. Blue Eyes is aware of all the different personalities inside him. I asked him which personality was driving him during these emotional times, and also who he thought was the strongest personality inside him… he narrowed the personalities to two: the belligerent child, and the wise grown man. He said the wise grown man was driving him now. Well, you could have knocked me over with a feather folks. I wanted to shout out LIAR, LIAR, PANTS ON FIRE. But I didn’t. I just said, really? You actually believe that?

From there, the therapist worked with Blue Eyes for a bit in getting him to be honest regarding what he was saying. Did he actually believe what he was saying… that the wise and recovering adult Blue Eyes was now in the driver’s seat most of the time. Could he even acknowledge that the child is still there, and very strong. This took quite a bit of one on one time between Blue Eyes and the therapist, but it was worth it. He admitted what he does most often and that is talk about his behaviors in terms of what he should be doing versus what he is actually doing. He frankly just does not want to admit how much work still needs to be done for him to live an honest life. I’m pretty convinced for years he rationalized his addictive behavior by believing he would make better choices next time. Well, next time is now, and next time is every day from here forward. He finally broke down and admitted he doesn’t know much of the time what part of his personality is driving his behaviors. He knows he is not doing any of the prescribed sexual addiction behaviors, but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t partake in self sabotage. He admitted that he lacks focus much of the time and is still scrambling to get things done because of this, and that makes him angry.

It’s quite obvious to me that the vast majority of the time Blue Eyes is not angry with me. Unfortunately, it’s easier for him to blame someone or something else for his behavior because he has done it, albeit subconsciously, most of his life. It’s just not healthy or productive. I’m not looking for him to blame himself or anyone or anything. I merely want him to admit that what he is doing isn’t healthy, for him and in turn for me, and actually deal with the root causes of his anger. This is work to be done in his individual therapy back home.

To be continued…

 

 

7 thoughts on “When anger rears its ugly head

  1. Pingback: A Friday in February | try not to cry on my rainbow

  2. What a beautiful image of your son at the funeral. I don’t think I’d have been able to watching that without crying either. It’s so very moving.
    And your therapist sounds amazing Really clued in. I’m glad you found her. Thanks for sharing your journey here. Sometimes these men can be so frustrating. They say they want to change and yet, at times, there is such a reluctance to really examine themselves. It’s so draining …

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thank you, Don’t Lose Hope. Grief has been a beast. I’m so thankful for this therapist. She’s amazing. Regarding the wanting to change and actually changing, all I can gather is that they trained themselves so desperately away from deep feelings for so many years, that getting to that place is very difficult and they have to work harder than they ever have at honesty, integrity, etc… It takes time and for all the times they don’t go that deep, or pretend, it is all that more draining for us. xoxo

      Liked by 1 person

  3. This is spot-on with our coupleship as well: “Sure, I want more action on his part and he wants less talking about it on my part. I’m hoping that soon he will realize those two things go hand in hand.”

    YES – they go together. In my situation, even when my husband makes small moves toward opening up and when he chooses more healthy, connected relational behaviors toward me, it helps me settle and talk less.

    Do you know about Dr. Sue Johnson’s work and _Hold Me Tight_? She based her therapy approach (Emotionally Focused Therapy) on the dynamics between people and there are counselors trained to help couples work on those patterns. We probably do more than one of the dances, but for for we do “The Protest Polka” – and partly this is our attachment bond – I pursue and he retreats. It’s not 100% of the time, and this is improving. Thought I’d share that book. She has a great website too.

    You both are doing great work. My heart goes out to these wounded guys. Of course my hurt and anger get in the way, sometimes, of having empathy for my husband, but the childhood stuff that still travels with them. Sigh. So sad. One of the 1st things I did when I left home to be on my own (and when I moved to a city), was to find a therapist. I was 20. I knew it was a healthy thing to do, to work through family stuff. It’s been bits of work over time, but I think that has helped me be healthier. So – why in the world did I tolerate the ‘little by little’ withholding and emotional distancing over all those years? It’s like water on a rock. Drip, drip. I always asked for more, often and boldly, but I always knew there was only so m much he could give with his insane work schedule. So I rationalized.

    Bottom line – we have now and hopefully I can focus on NOW and we can enjoy ourselves together as much as we can. Sorry so long-winded. You know me! LOL XOXOXO to you, Kat.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thank you, beleeme, for your always thoughtful comments. I’m the same. It’s good to get it all out. I have heard of Sue Johnson and her work, but have not read it or worked with it. I’ll look it up. Now is where it’s at! For sure! We keep working towards better, better communication, better relationship, better habits. Our marriage is fine, but that day to day sharing of the deep thoughts, I need it from him. I’m learning patience. Therapy is a good thing! ❤️

      Liked by 1 person

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