Tuesday, September 21, 2010

I Can Take Up for Myself

I can take up for myself. This makes me so happy.

That's one of the positive truths about myself that has been strengthened by EMDR therapy. I have to tell you, this EMDR therapy is amazing! I am so glad I started therapy. It is one of the smartest moves I have made in a long time.

I made another smart move yesterday. It was not my original idea. I first heard of this concept at Joel and Kathy Davisson's Marriage Intensive two years ago. It seemed harsh to me at the time, and I quickly decided it wasn't for me. But, I have a girlfriend (don't you LOVE your girlfriends?) who has used this technique to great effect, and when I called her yesterday about what had happened Sunday evening, she reminded me how well it had worked for her.

Since I had been reading all morning off and on in Kantor's book, I better understood the how and why of her solution, and for the first time it seemed like a smart plan. Her plan was that I demand an apology, in writing, or kick my husband out of our bedroom until I got one.

In my husband's family, they just never talk about anything. Apologies are rare and weak. Someone might mumble an apology but without ever mentioning what they are apologizing for. Mostly they say nothing. They just carry on with the attitude that nothing is wrong or ever was wrong and the family just plays along. Of course then there is no real resolution, and there is sure to be a repeat offense.

My husband did call me from work the next day and offered a blanket apology like that, but when I wanted to talk details he quickly became offended and rude again. This was not satisfactory to me at all. I had no closure and no reassurance that it would not happen again. He said we had talked about it already for hours and he didn't want to talk anymore.

My girlfriend suggested that since he did not want to talk, I should write him a note, read it out loud to him twice, and then let him respond. This technique of reading twice and then responding is from Marriage Encounter. (Yes, we've been to pretty much all the Christian marriage seminars.)

From the Joel and Kathy books came the content of what I should write. I should write exactly what I wanted from him- a detailed apology. His apology should include what he did that was cruel, not leaving out a single one of my points. It should show that he understands how that made me feel, why it was wrong and a commitment to stop treating me that way.

The consequences, straight out of Joel and Kathy's advice, was that if he chose not to apologize, he could move into the guest bedroom. I would not accept being treated poorly and if he chose to behave in ways that hurt me then he could not sleep in my bed.

Now in the past I was so used to subjugating myself ("submitting" in Christian parlance) that this consequence sounded over the top, cruel even. In Kantor's book I read, "Since passive-aggressives select mostly dependent victims as their targets, many victims of passive-aggressives, taking their own dependency and neediness into account, think twice about removal and vengeance and go on to depressive forgiving and accommodating...Victims who deal with passive-aggressives not by fight or flight, but by forbearance, may avoid viscous cycling- but NOT A REPEAT OF THE ORIGINAL ABUSE (p. 97, Passive-Aggresion, Kantor." (I added the caps.)

Since going to EMDR, I am really starting to believe that I can take up for myself. I always thought of myself as a very confidant, strong woman. But in reality, I am always yielding to others, even when it is unnecessary or even counter-productive. It was time to say "no more". If I didn't demand accountability, I was just perpetuating a repeat of the original abuse. I had to take a stand.

He came home, and told him that I knew he didn't want to talk which was why I wrote him a letter. I told him that I would like to read it to him twice, then he can respond and I will not say anything more. I asked him if he wanted to take a nap or anything before I read this letter to him.

He took a few minutes to relax, and then said he was ready to listen. I read the letter through twice, my voice cracking in a few places but mostly I stayed strong. He said nothing. I asked him if he had chosen how he was going to respond. He started a tangential argument, but I called him on it and brought him back to the point. His face remained expressionless and his voice flat, but he said he would write the apology.

I was enthusiastically appreciative, left him with my letter, a notebook and a pen and went for a walk. I walked for about an hour. I was not stewing or hurt but I really enjoyed my time with God. I felt strong.

When I got back, typical of PAPD, he was sitting in the easy chair with his eyes closed. As soon as I realized he had not written an apology, I said that it was obvious he had made his choice then and he needed to move into the guest bedroom.

"Alright, I will." He defiantly stared me down, but said nothing further and didn't get out of the chair.

I am so proud of this part- I turned and went downstairs and made dinner. I was mad, but not surprised and not hurt. I was not in any kind of emotional turmoil. When dinner was ready I went up to get him, and he said he was coming but then murmured a rude comment as I was leaving the room. "Then you're NOT welcome." I answered.

He told me that was fine with him, grabbed a few things and headed to the guest room. I did not chase after him or speak to him. I finished dinner, and then left to pick up my son.

It was about an hour there and back to pick up my son. When my son got in the van, I explained what was going on and asked him to help me stay strong. I knew that my emotions usually compelled me to be reconciled, and I would go back for more abuse in an effort to make peace. But this time, I was not going to accommodate abuse any more. I asked my son to stop me if he saw me starting to beg for understanding or anything weak like that. My son promised to look out for me and help me stay strong.

When we get home, I knocked on the guest bed room door. To my happy surprise, when my husband opened the door he had a letter in his hand. It was a sincere apology. He read it out loud to me, all emotional, and I thanked him, embraced him and told him that I forgave him.

I took up for myself and it worked! 0.0

You'd think I'd be thrilled right then, but that night I was too surprised to be happy. I was happy that my husband had turned around, but stunned that I had taken up for myself and it actually worked.

However this morning I am very happy. n_n

In Kantor's book, victims of PAPD are said to cycle through six responses: 1) denial; 2) getting emotionally ill (blaming themselves, depressed); 3) mounting ange;r 4)overt anger; 5)forbearance (forgiving and accommodating); 6)repetition.

This time I managed to stop the cycle at four, take a step back, and try something completely different. I know I wouldn't have been able to do this without the weeks of therapy I have been through. I am so happy with this turn of events. EMDR is worth every penny.


  1. Hooray! In a painfully ironic sort of way, you learned something about yourself and about spiritual realities that you couldn't have learned in nearly the deep visceral way you understand it now if you and your husband had not gone through this "abuse relapse" (in quotes because there is no good way to describe the experience without trivializing some important facet of it).

    The rhythm of healing is a dance of three-steps forward and two back. Sometimes that backstep can be so debilitating as to feel like stagnation or even more pathology. How fabulous that you were able to find another step forward directly from the energy of the backstep. If only everyone in the healing dance could move so gracefully!

    Love to you and yours.

  2. Thanks Sandra! And L., were you thinking it might have turned out badly?

    I don't think so, though it may have taken longer to turn out so well. The dynamics have to be changed, and I can only change my end of it and not my husbands.

    The two ways I would react in the past- a cycle of anger and forgiveness/accommodation turning to repetition- had to be the two ways I COULD NOT react if I wanted to break the cycle.

    Calm instead of anger, accountability and consequence instead of forgiveness/accommodation- those are really the only viable options on my part for change.

    Oh yes, it also help to replace denial with awareness of reality too! n_n I think I've been doing that for awhile.

    This was the next step towards permanent change in our relationship dynamics.

    (I'm still happy. =)

  3. Shadowspring, I was just worried b/c your previous post was so sad and I really, really wanted you guys to be able to figure out the way to break out of the cycle again - and you did!


  4. Aw! Thank you for caring L. You are a real friend. n_n