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Devil's Advocate: Doc's Comments to Tex

Dr. Irene's Devil's Advocate Comments to Tex

By "Tex,"  with comments by Dr. Irene.

If you haven't already read the first installments, go here first!

Dear Tex,

 You've come a long way. I realize that you are in the process of healing from this marriage, and all it represents, but I've been tough on you. Very tough. It may not sound like it, but I really do empathize with you. But, what good would it do you to tell you, "Yeah, she is a ..." (Which she is... Old news.) 

A better gift in exchange for writing your thoughtful account may be to point out the places where I think you have participated or are continuing to participate in your own victimization. That is where I poke at your account. Specifically, I ask you to look at your underlying irrational thinking, some of which you have already identified. Some more  assumptions kicking around are on the order of "people must play the game fairly", "you should get what you give", "I want her approval", and, "somehow it is up to me to mop up the mess."  Says who? While it would be nice if you could get this stuff from her, you haven't gotten it yet and it is unlikely you ever will. Yet, you react emotionally to frustrations you set yourself up for!

As long as these and similar assumptions remain active, you will find your Kali and look to fight her/him. You will raise your blood pressure needlessly and spend countless, fruitless hours engaged in some kind of victim-think. Worse, you renew your anger and victimization each and every day - and carry it with you everywhere you go. You've got better things to do. Like write. And show your kid how to deal with mom.

My warmest regards, and many thanks for your valuable contribution,  Dr. Irene

December 21, 1999

             One of the hardest parts of writing my story is in knowing where to begin any given chapter.  There’s so much raw material to choose from.

             So, why not start with one of the more recent examples of insanity (hers and mine).

             First, some background on this year:  Kali has a boyfriend; a long-distance relationship.  When he’s in town, he stays at her house…just down the hall from our son, actually.  (This of course, directly contradicts Kali’s earlier demands that I not have people I am romantically involved with stay at my house when my son is there.  According to Kali, it confuses a kid, and it’s not right to keep bringing people in and out of his life.  But, as so often is the case with Kali, it’s different when she does it.)  Tex, not that it makes it right, but, consider that the guy lives out of town... Still, note that she takes what she wants. Why not take what you want! And, if you don't like something she does, don't just complain; put your foot down! Also, several times, Kali has gone out of town for the weekend to visit her boyfriend, or go on trips with him.  Once, it was for a week, inclusive of my birthday, and that, of course, was no big deal. (Let us ponder just for a moment what her friends would have said had I scheduled a weeklong trip with a girlfriend that coincided with Kali’s birthday.) So what. They can yap all they want. Aren't you yapping too? Additionally, about a month ago, Kali went out-of-town to Washington DC.  A friend of hers was in a Senate hearing, and Kali wanted to be supportive of her.  I had about three days notice to plan to care for our son before Kali jetted off for what was, in essence, a social trip that lasted two and a half days - in the middle of the week. Don't you wish you could do this too?

             A consequence of all of these trips was that I had our son during those times.  This presents an interesting challenge for me.  I do not wish to treat my son like a burden…like some onerous sack of flour that gets passed back and forth between the two of us.  At the same time…we do split the time with him, and I have had him on more than a few prime adult recreational times (those weekends when Kali was frolicking with the boyfriend, for example, or during my birthday).  Nor do I want to pawn my son off on babysitters so I can attend to a social life in the evening:  he spends enough time without me. Then why, Tex, are you complaining? (Because she is free enough to take him when she wants and not take him when she wants? And you can't do what she does?)

            I asked Kali to take our son one full weekend this month, so I could attend two office Christmas parties.  I scheduled this with her at least a month in advance.  Unexpectedly, I was asked by my employers to fly out-of-town on a Friday and Saturday.   I told Kali about this on Tuesday, as soon as I knew.

             Devoted readers of these pages know where this is going.  First, Kali complained about the lack of notice she was given regarding my work weekend. Why do you get bent out of shape if she complains? So what? Why are you taking it as some sort of "criticism" and letting it bother you? Why does her judgment still matter to you? (Apparently, there is no comparison between my three days notice regarding work-related travel, and her three days notice about her social trip to Washington DC).  Then, she mentioned that having our son on both Friday and Saturday was an awful lot. So? Why does it bother you that she takes care of herself?

             I didn’t reply.  Kali told me she wanted me to “make a day” for herself, because she needed to get some things done for Christmas.  Could hire a baby sitter, just like she does, she told me. No problem. You could.  She needed a day to take care of things for Christmas. 

            I took a deep breath and tried hard not to respond as she left. The only reason you are taking a deep breath is because she is doing something you disapprove of or you wouldn't do. Maybe you could focus more on being concerned with what you want than with what she takes! I called my sponsor, who wisely suggested that I make other arrangements.  Yes. So I did.  Good. I called Kali’s sister, and made arrangements for my son to stay with them the following Friday.  Let’s keep in mind, I did precisely what Kali asked me to do.  I made a day for her to get something done for Christmas.

             The next morning, dropping off some of our son’s things, Kali wanted to talk to me.  She didn’t want me to do what I did.  It wasn’t appropriate.

                        What?”

         It turns out that Kali wanted Saturday night free. So you tell her, "You should have been specific earlier Kali. This sitter's on you."  Fighting my rapidly growing annoyance, I explained that I did exactly what she had asked of me. Don't waste your breath "explaining." You are annoyed because you want her to follow the rules. She had said nothing about Saturday night. Right. That's why she needs to find herself a sitter.  Kali, offended, tells me that she doesn’t have to explain or justify herself to me. Tell her that you did not ask her to justify or explain herself to you. Calmly leave and let her pick up the pieces. Once more, I try to speak to the facts, and explain that I only did what she said she wanted me to. And you are upset - again - that you didn't get it right. Why are you making this one yours? It's hers!  Kali then snarled, “You’re interfering in my life, you’re just interfering, I don’t have to tell you what I’m doing on Saturday night!”

             I think it was that particular lie which enraged me the most.  The accusation that I was “interfering” in her life! I had never asked a thing about what she was doing! That, plus the fact that - one more time – when I did precisely what Kali asked, she found reason to bitch and complain, and threw in an irrational accusation to boot.  You gave her the right to twist stuff by not recognizing right off the bat that you did your part. You don't need to do anything else, including take responsibility for her.         

            I was not pleased.  Even writing about it, I feel my anger and rage rising.  But, what else can I expect?  Kali is Kali, and this is what she does. So, why keep expecting her to play by your albeit fairer rules? She won't. This is your participation. The facts, either about what she has said or what she had done, the facts are irrelevant to her own need to make me wrong. Nobody needs to be wrong here at all. There was a stupid misunderstanding. She distorts; she lies. Who cares! You are making yourself the one who cannot please her. To make me the Great Satan. You will stop being the Great Satan when you stop expecting her to understand or to play fairly. You will stop being the Great Satan when you stop looking for her approval.

             It’s easy to write about them, about the drunks or druggies or the verbally and emotionally abusive people.  We have their wretched behavior at which to point.   But, what about me?  What about me?  You get me instead - being real tough on you - because I think you are a great guy! (Lucky you.)

            That’s harder.  To figure out how I volunteered to be part of this insanity. Are you seeing it a little more now? And even more difficult, is how to acknowledge that I stayed with this abusive woman without blaming or condemning myself. Don't you dare waste your precious breath blaming or condemning yourself! You've got too much other stuff that deserves your energy and attention!

             That answer is not easy.  Just as there isn’t an easy answer for why Kali is the way she is.  For me, freedom will come from not repeating the same mistakes again.  This means I have to be honest about my own motives.  And take a look at your mindset: You insist she play by the rules - because you do! Maybe its time to re-examine some of your rules. 

            Part of it was my own loneliness, I must admit. You're human. I had this idea of marriage that was based on the concept of reciprocity. It should be. Or, to put it in more basic terms, I figured the marriage would be like it was when I was a kid.  Maybe it was this way for you, too:  You’ve got a best buddy, the one you just love to hang out with.  You go over to his/her house.  Whoa, bummer, they’ve got to mow the lawn.  Okay, so you pitch in and do it together.  While they’re mowing, you rake up the leaves or edge the lawn or whatever else is required…because the sooner the chores are done, the sooner you can both go play.   And, along the same lines, I had this idea of “Sometimes we do what I want, sometimes we do what you want.”  Taking turns, that simple concept.  I wanted that in my life, and Kali talked as if that was what she believed as well.

 But I married her, anyway.  The marriage alone calls into question any perceived intelligence that people ascribe to me. Not at all. Stop with the put-downs. What it does illustrate is your lack of cognitive and verbal skills in defending your territory. That's all. One of the reasons I did not call off the marriage, even after it was amply clear that my feelings had no place in the relationship: fear of what people would say. If each person getting married who had thoughts of calling off the marriage called it off, no one would get married. I’d been married once before for a short time when I was in my early twenties.  (Just as an aside, what people would say is a minor inconvenience compared to the raging wreckage of a messed up marriage).

  Kali was a bully. Yes. Admittedly, I let her be a bully, for a while.  I realize that when I was a kid, I never stood up to the bullies in my life and you still have to work on it, and I have since judged myself harshly because of that. This part you need to stop doing immediately! Use your energy to learn the skills you need instead! With Kali,  on some level, I decided I was not going to run from another bully, I was going to stand up and fight back.  On the right track, just not there yet. So one reason I stayed was to fight against her bullying. But when you saw your battle strategy was failing, you didn't experiment with new methods.  Which, in one way, I think was good. Yes.

 But another reason, which was not good, and did not serve me, was this: At one point, during one of her diatribes about my failings, something inside me shifted.  The Terminator woke up.   Something in my mind sat up, complete with metal skull-face and red-glowing eyes.  It was a part of me, which I’d never realized I had before - but looking back - I now see “it” perfectly clearly.  It was the part of me that would never forget, would never forgive, and would never quit.  It was a part of me that said, “This b**ch will not win.”  She could tell me I was not as good as her friends, or her friends’ husbands.  She could compare me to her old boyfriends.  She could ignore my desires, she could insult and belittle me, but she could not tell me I was never going to make it as a writer.  She could denigrate my dreams.  She was not going to win! There is nothing to win or lose. When you are more skilled in defending yourself, you are more likely to distance from people who attack rather than engage in futile battle with them.

 That was one big reason I stayed so long.  To prove that miserable b**ch wrong.  And I did.  I did have some success as a writer.  But was it a victory?  I stayed five years…building up five years of anger and resentment.  We had a son.  Our son is beautiful and innocent.  He’s one of the reasons I left: I was so angry at Kali that our marriage was making me into a terrible, short-tempered father.  My son does not deserve to pay for my stupidity in marrying his mother. Your son deserves a father who can show him how to negotiate his mother!

 Because I was unwilling accept the reality of who Kali was, I rented a little corner of Hell for a while.  Ironically enough, there were some benefits from the tour.  I have my son, whom I love more than anything in the world. :) I learned I wasn’t an alcoholic. :) And I learned that nothing was going to keep me from being a writer. :)  

But the most important lesson was that there are some fights and games not worth winning, much less engaging in. :)    :)    :) 

Lately, I’ve been getting in touch with how much I, frankly, hate Kali.  I hate her for using me. You let her use you. Take your power. That's the neat part: you will be in control here as soon as you figure out where your "on" switch is! It’s pretty clear she married me only to have a child.  I doubt it was conscious on her part, I just don’t think she was honest about how much she wanted a baby.  She wasn’t honest with herself, nor was she honest with me. Probably not. It seems to me that if Kali loved me for me, rather than for my sperm-production capabilities, then she wouldn’t have decided after the wedding that everything about me (from my goddamned shoes up) was wrong. Right.

 I hate her lies, the way she twists what I’ve said (or never said) to portray me as something I am not. And you buy into it because you don't know how to stop her! I hate how she has one face for the world, and another for me.

 I’ve had to give up a lot of crazy expectations of my own, too.  Like wanting her to apologize for: all of it.  For marrying me almost solely because she wanted to have a baby.  It’s crazy for me to expect her to apologize. She’d have to be honest with herself, she’d have to take a really good look at herself - and that’s not going to happen.   She won’t even apologize for the times she falsely accuses me of actions or statements I’ve never made.  Now you're on the right track.

 C.S. Lewis’ line “Don’t pray for justice, pray for mercy” keeps coming to mind, even though I’m not sure I understand it (or more accurately, that I want to understand it). :) I have to give up my desire for justice, my desire that Kali should be punished for what she did to me. Yes. A therapist once told me that Kali and I couldn’t keep on hurting each other the way we were.  I’m not thrilled about that characterization. Kali took actions, she made choices of what she would say and how she would treat me.  True, in my more reactive moments, I wasn’t at my best.  My problem with Kali was her treatment of me. Yes. Kali’s problem with Tex was my very existence (my dreams, my hopes, my past, etc.).  Which leads to my other current difficulty:  How do I forgive someone who made those kinds of choices? You don't need to forgive her as much as you need to develop the skills to prevent her, and people like her, from victimizing you.  

Maybe in the spirit of the 12 steps, I have to give everything up.  Give up my desire (childish, no doubt) for someone to say, “Kali, you were wrong and cruel and unjust.” Yeah. Give it up. Quit hoping for the cosmic referee to blow Her whistle and give Kali a penalty. Yep. Quit hoping for her to apologize. Don't hope.  Give up wanting her to be treated by her boyfriend the same way she treated me. More likely she treats him the way she treated you.

             Only two things keep me in this City, near my son:  First, I love my son more than I hate his evil mother. Good for you! Second, I don’t want to be a father who abandons his child. Double good for you - and for him!

I don’t know how to let it go.  Not only my anger at the betrayal and emotional abandonment and the undeserved attacks, but my grief over the family and marriage I “should” have had. "Should, ought, must, etc. Good words to drop from your repertoire.  Let’s not forget my anger at her irrationality and lies in the present as well. And the fact that expecting an irrational person to behave rationally is in itself irrational!

 My hatred for her is poisonous, corrosive, and is hurting only me (and possibly my son a little). Yes. Probably hurting your son more than "a little".  I don’t run her down in front of him.  I dread the day he asks why we’re not married. What do I tell him that’s not hurtful, yet is the truth? The truth: You did not know how to negotiate his mom's ways. 

“The good news is:  There is a way out of Hell."

The bad news is:  You have to get up, and walk out on your own two feet.”      Tex

12/21 Email excerpts between Tex & Dr. Irene (over a period of hours):

 

Hey, I’m feeling a little defensive.  Sure, there is some victim-think…but d**n it, there are equally legitimate (rational) reasons for my reaction…okay, that’s badly phrased…but if it’s labeled as “victim-think”, then it just sounds like whining…when the facts of what she did are presented as accurately and honestly as I could…she did lie, she did blow up when I did what she asked, etc.  Every d**n word I’ve written you is true.  The facts of her behavior are true. Of course! There are rational reasons for your behavior. You are not crazy and you didn't make this up! I'm not arguing the facts or her craziness! I'm not suggesting any of this stuff didn't happen. All I'm arguing is the box you create for yourself when you regard her from a position of "VICTIM-THINK," for lack of a better word.

And a more common sense approach (what I'm asking you to look at). And it’s what I’m trying to do!  Really!  And I succeed for days at a time! I know!  And you are doing a great job! This is a process and I'm kicking you into the next level before you've mastered this one. Think of it as a map. This is where you were, here is where you are, this is where you are aiming for. Sorry, what am I aiming for?  Blanket disregard for her? Or the box I create when I forget I am dealing with an irrational, inconsistent person with a constantly shifting point of reference (“convenience-based reality”).  Seems to me that I would have to adopt an outlook that basically does not adjust for her at all.  Just do what I think is best, and automatically disregard what she has to say….(which seems, to me, to be very far from cooperative…)  but if she’s going to change what she has to say all the time… An attitude that adjusts less. That is more responsive to your inner stuff, which you get better at identifying with practice.

Still not sure, what am I aiming for?  Blanket disregard for her? NO. You are aiming to be your own person. You take her into consideration, but you don't bend over backwards. The example with Saturday night Xmas is what I'm talking about.

When you put it that way, it sounds much less draconian (and less punitive). When you put it that way. Exactly.  Nobody, including me, is arguing her position & I'm certainly not suggesting she's right! I just don't care about her position. As far as I'm concerned, its nuts. My goal is to help you not buy into her position - because it is nuts! This is not a draconian model at all!  (I know!  I meant that blanket disregard would be draconian and punitive.)   Its about running your life, without anger, without hate. Being responsible only for YOU! This stuff makes sense. And its all very do-able!  

You will get an idea of how a cognitive approach works looking here. Also, consider Albert Ellis (The "Father" of modern cognitive therapy)  and Lange's How To Keep People from Pushing Your Buttons; the title is self-explanatory. 

I want to read others' comments.

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