Leading Authority in Treatment of Narcissism and Emotional Abuse

Detaching Instead of Reacting

I promised to talk a bit about detaching in this episode.  I know detaching sounds counter-intuitive to building a relationship.  But, I don’t necessarily mean it from the context of giving up, getting out, and being done with that man.  I mean that you detach from letting his harmful ick land in your heart.  He’s a mess.  You’re a mess.  You can’t heal your mess while his mess is distracting you.

Boundaries do come into play here.  There will be times you will have to physically get away from the destructive behavior.  But, there is also a lot you can do emotionally to create space where you simply don’t react to their stuff, and you don’t let it ruin your inner peace, your sense of self-worth, or your ability to think wisely about who you are trying to be.

For example, if your husband is sarcastic and critical, or grumpy and negative, or just plain surly, you don’t have to take that on as a prognosis for your life.  His attitude is his choice, and it is not about you.

Did you hear that? His attitude is not about you! It is his own choice.  Don’t let it land in your heart.

In a lot of ways, reacting to him is about controlling him, which we all know doesn’t really work out well.  But, we try! Our reactions are often about making him change because he isn’t being who we want him to be.  It creates the dynamic of a power-struggle, and the more you seek to make him change, the more he digs in his heels.  When you detach from the power-struggle, you become more effective at bringing about change. It frees up your emotional energy to care for yourself, be yourself, and establish the healthy boundaries you need for a great relationship.

Does that make sense?  How do you see this dynamic playing out in your own marriage? What have you seen change in you as you’ve learned to detach in this way?

This Week’s Question:

Today’s question is actually a parenting question, but the context is within a broken family in which Mom is torn between the guilt and grief of the separation and showing some tough-love to her daughter, without further damaging that relationship as well.

Q: Maybe I just need to vent.  But I’m open to advice. My daughter is living here after her recent break up and I offered to let her stay for free because I want to help her get on her feet.  She’s a flight attendant which means she has more hours free than money.  She has plenty of free time, and she spends it mostly watching tv or shopping, or visiting friends.  I love her dearly and have been trying to be there for her.  However, there were a couple of times when I’m vacuuming or have come home from a shopping trip where I would love if she’d get off her computer and come help me.  So I said as much.  Tonight I said, “Honey, I’d appreciate it if when you hear that I’m putting the groceries away that you come and help”.  I had already asked her help me with something several minutes before and she had continued to watch her movie.

She was livid.  She feels that she shouldn’t have to apologize for enjoying her week off, that she helps me out (and she has, by picking up some things at the store and doing some baking for me).  So she now has said she’s going to move out as soon as she can because I’m “always on her case”.   Of course, now I’m sad because I really wanted it to work out for her to be here.  So should I just not say anything?  Am I expecting too much?

Sharmen’s Answer:

My words of wisdom would be this: If she would rather move out because you ask her to be helpful, let her.  A child doesn’t learn to be an adult until they get to adult.   Funny that her solution is to create an exponentially greater amount of work for herself to move… but so be it.  That’s how they grow up.
And no, you are NOT asking too much.  Keep asking.  Keep telling her it’s not okay to treat other people like that, especially her mom.  Keep expecting common courtesy and helpfulness.  Don’t let a child push you around by her immaturity and self-centeredness.

That’s my two-cents…  I know it doesn’t feel good!  She is actually going to learn a very valuable lesson through this, but only if you continue to expect better from her.  Maybe, in your own words, let her know you are happy to give her a hand up out of the pit she’s in, but that this wasn’t a hand-out. You aren’t here to make her life a vacation from the real world, and that means there is still expectation for her to be grateful and willing to help… which, by the way, are huge character qualities we want in our kids!!

What has your experience been regarding your relationship with your children (even if they are adults) post separation or divorce? What has worked for you to sustain a good relationship with them? What are you still struggling with?


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