We had two visits with therapists today. First to see my husband’s therapist, then to see my therapist. They both gently affirmed that the change we’re working on is necessary and needs to be continued – in such a way that it didn’t even come to an argument or discussion.
After our latest fight, we had discussed the need to schedule talks that were likely to be intense or that could result in a fight, so that they would not be occurring spontaneously or late at night. Both therapists suggested scheduling communication – affirming that we were on the right track, there, too.
Both also agreed that my coping methods weren’t an indication of health, but not in a way that shamed me or suggested that I should give up those methods of coping – my therapist advocated for patience on his part and looking at them as a temporary measure that was helping see me through.
I decided, after hearing what my husband had said about the ways I’ve communicated with him in the past that it was quite possible giving him rational, researched reasons why one option wasn’t good, or another was good, was probably not an optimal tactic to take. Being handed a rational reason why he shouldn’t do something seems to invite him to respond with his rationalization for why he should.
Instead, I’ll tell him I want X, or I don’t want X, and then present what makes me feel or react that way when needed. That way instead of an argument to rebut, he’s faced with me, his partner, and my feelings and happiness. Which seem to be harder for him to dismiss. (This might seem like one of those ‘well, duh’ realizations, but I was not raised to see my emotions, likes and dislikes as a valid reason for choosing anything, and I’ve rather got in the habit of ignoring them as part of discussions about decisions.)
My husband handled the day much more smoothly and less defensively than I had feared, and I realized that perhaps what had come out in our fights, previously, was not the shape of me that he believed, but the shape of his fears about me. With that in mind, I’ve decided to use a psychological trick that might help me in future fights – to think of myself as being confronted not by the man I love but by his shadow self, made up of his insecurities and fears – things he can’t even name as insecurities and fears because to give them those labels is admitting vulnerability.
No one is expected to like a shadow self, and a shadow self is seldom permanently in control. That way I can worry less that I’m staring down a permanent, negative change and hang on to hope that we’ll navigate the roughness of this transition.
(Oops. Had to edit because I forgot a title for the post. Again.)