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An Interview Series — 7 Comments

  1. Ah, well you are into some advanced stuff.
    Along the way to Vintage Love this will happen – things get confusing. And I think you need time and thoughtfulness from both to work through this into getting clear what is going on, what did go on, and what you want to have go on, and (of course) what to do next.
    Let me focus on one issue. Is your partner’s stuff your problem? The answer is yes and no. You do not cause their stuff. They do not cause your stuff. Those are just two boundary statements.
    But their stuff is somehow your stuff too. Think of this analogy. If you were both riding on a snowmobile at 60 miles an hour, and you have to sneeze, that means closing your eyes for second. If you’re the driver and the forest is close, both are gonna crash and burn. Your sneeze is their problem, too.
    The challenge is to noodle your way through to finding out your differing roles. What does the sneezer do to help this situation? What does the sneeze do?
    Same is true with learning how to handle your needs to withdraw for your sanity, by letting your partner know how long you will be gone – giving them structure so at least they don’t have to feel abandoned.
    Another point is that “the way to improve is to cheerfully make mistakes.” All living systems have to have repair processes built into them. You have to good at grieving when loss happens, be good at appropriate forgiveness, be good at making Amends, be great at embracing effort and reminding each of little steps made.
    Glad you like my stuff.

  2. Hi Al,
    Thank you so much for all the wisdom you've shared throughout this site. Your essay on the Passive-Master is especially hitting home for me, and listening to your radio interviews is also really helpful– it's nice not just to read the information, but to hear how you deliver it. I can hear why your partner enjoys talking to you, and it makes me want to learn to communicate so that others relax more in my presence.
    I have a question about giving someone space when the Clinger and Avoider have switched roles. I had a work/life situation outside my relationship this summer that ended in me getting panicked and depressed for quite some time. Communicating with my partner about it (which I may have been doing quite ineffectively, I now see after reading about Passive-Masters and emotions) was leaving me feeling even worse, because I left our conversations thinking he never understood how I felt. I started to pull away in obvious ways first– not calling much, etc.– and when he was upset by that I shifted to several months of unproductive numbing out via overwork and exhaustion. I stopped being supportive of him, and I let lots of anxieties about us manifest in unpleasant ways instead of working through them because I was too tired and numbed out to care. Of course I didn't see any of that at the time…
    So he finally got sick of it and now he's in the act of physically leaving, maybe wanting a break from the relationship, and there goes my lizard, wanting to cling. When I start feeling clingy, I know that's my signal to make sure there's space for both of us to calm down immediately. I was doing pretty well with it for the first week and a half, and things were very slowly turning around, but I think I got too enthusiastic that things were getting better and the space shrank a bit. The overstimulated deer has now hopped back into the forest. I won't make that mistake again (hopefully)!
    The tricky thing is that what upset him in the first place was my absence, physically, mentally and emotionally. I heard in your interview what you said about it being best to take time-outs for one's self and not to instead tell your partner that they need a time out and you're doing it for them. But if he's already decided that I'm someone who takes off, and if when he asks for connection I say, “Yes, but only a quick chat before my counseling appt,” might he not just decide I'm being manic about self-help like I was about work? Or might time-outs just look like me running again and make it worse? I'm just not sure how to frame giving him space so that it doesn't look like my same old avoiding tricks. I'm seeing myself as sort of stuck between where he is and what he needs, and what I was doing and don't want him to think I'm doing anymore. Any insights would be very much appreciated. BTW, he's leaving the region for two months for work in a couple of days, so some degree of space is about to be built in.
    Best wishes,
    Work in Progress

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