What follows includes details of a conversation and interactions between my qualifier and myself. I include them not as an effort to target or have my qualifier’s words, thoughts, choices or actions identified to blame. I am well aware of what Evron is responsible and accountable for. However, this is about me learning to apply new actions and new processes in working through my co-dependency.
After being out of work and having no income for a month, Evron accepted the first “permanent” job offered. As is his pattern, almost immediately he’s questioning it, finding fault with the co-workers, the company processes, and details of the job itself.
His dad died of a brain aneurism this year. Evron’s auto response to stress is anger and, as most of us do, he creates and increases his stress with his thoughts and inability to pull back in the moment. So, as he’s been dealing with this new job, his anger responses get triggered and he feels his blood pressure rising and pulsing in his head, and he gets scared and thinks about his dad.
In conversation this morning he says he doesn’t know if he can work for this company. I tell him that if he wants to keep looking for another job to go to, I would support him in this.
Silently, I think that I hope he doesn’t quit before lining something else up with a firm offer. Other thoughts start circling around about what I think his chances are based on all the different factors and what I think I know about the job market and current HR screening and recruiting processes.
Running underneath all these things are feelings of anxiety, dread, and fear.
He says something about wanting to go in and find a way to calmly or gracefully “back out.” I ask, “You mean quit?”
I work to keep the extra thoughts and fears tamped down and just listen and validate his thoughts and feelings. Internally, I start feeling rising pressure in my stomach, chest, throat, and head. I try to control my breathing and keep listening.
He tells me he wants to go in and tell his new boss the things he doesn’t want to do, tell him the conditions he wants to work in.
I go still and silent because I get overwhelmed with fear and don’t want to just go off verbalizing all the swirling thoughts and fears. I also don’t want to start rationalizing and reasoning away what either of us are going through.
I’ve spent over sixteen years doing each of those things. I do those things believing, thinking, and hoping I can change Evron’s feelings and behaviors. I have placed my faith in a man with fears, faults, and failings as deep and overwhelming as my own.
If I act out worse than he is, maybe it will wake him up and he will see what he’s doing to me, us, our family. No, that doesn’t work, it just fuels and feeds his stuff and we do and say stupid and hurtful things and the emotional fallout affects and damages all who are around, the children. That’s partly why my relationships with my adult children is so damaged.
If I gloss over the very real fears and feelings, that we are both experiencing, and try to reason and rationalize them away to get him to come to the same understanding and realizations I have about the situation, he feels discounted, ignored, diminished and invalidated. All of which cause him to shut down in silent, seething anger and I wind up feeling everything I was already feeling AND I feel rage building from my own feelings of being shut out, invalidated and ignored.
So, none of that works, for either of us.
All I can do is change what I do and say in response to those reactions. So, I did. At least I made the effort.
I tried to explain that I didn’t want to say anything to invalidate his feelings or thoughts. I attempted to explain that I was being overwhelmed with feelings of fear. I let him know that I was trying to not say or do anything on the basis if the feelings, that they were my feelings, and I wasn’t blaming, accusing, or criticizing him.
He didn’t get it and felt that my feelings rising up somehow meant I wasn’t listening or understanding him. That wasn’t true and I explained that. He couldn’t receive that.
The thing is, he didn’t have to. I wasn’t responsible for making him understand or accept my feelings.
The reality is I can’t change, fix, or control him and his feelings. At this point I can’t even change my own instant emotional reactions. As I have been writing this and accepting the reality that my fears and anxiety were already there, waiting to rise up, I realize they have been present for more than 20 years. Closer to 30 years really.
Feelings of uncertainty about the security of our . . . my future.
Our housing is secure and we have made it through tough times worse than this. I know and believe that there is a power greater than us that provides and has always carried us through. So, the fear and anxiety is from somewhere, somewhen else.
If I had chosen the same path, actions and words as in the past, I wouldn’t be able to recognize and understand this truth.