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Guy and I are planning our wedding
for July 1st, 2001. This is my third marriage. Marriage number one
has absolutely nothing to teach us about loving relationships.
Now I Am The Outrageous
Russell, Ph.D., MFT
January 30, 2001
Yesterday, I wrote and told you a little about my late husband,
David. Today, I'll tell you a little about Guy. But mostly, today's
article is about how I, as an adult who was abused in childhood,
make certain my relationship is a healthy one.
Guy is nothing like David. He is a completely different person.
He is calm, and easy to get along with. He's good with money and
not impulsive. His anger goes away in a second. And he looks nothing
like David. He looks like himself. He was not abused as a child.
Yet, everything I learned about healthy relating from my marriage
to David remains valid. I do not get to change Guy, or push him
around...even when I feel I am right. This is a very difficult idea
I live my life with my personal history of child abuse. I also live
this new life with my history of loving and being loved by David.
Then there is the fact that I am human, subject to all the faults,
difficulties and idiosyncrasies of all human beings. These lead
to many potential problems and pitfalls.
Sometimes I misunderstand him and interpret his actions through
eyes of abuse. I sometimes forget myself and expect Guy to act like
David. Sometimes I am selfish, impatient, greedy and thoughtless.
This is very difficult for those of us who were abused as children
to digest. Abusive behavior is such a horror to us that when
we behave badly, we are shocked and horrified. So, we block out
the idea that we are human and can mistakenly hurt the ones we love.
This does not, however make us bad and shameful.
Remember, when you make a mistake, you are not the mistake. Facing
yourself when you behave badly doesn't make you shameful. It actually
turns you into a courageous person who is capable of intimacy.
Like most of the people who come to my office, I am totally unaware
when I misbehave. When I am in flashback, grief or `human failings'
mode, I am defensive, angry, hurt and totally convinced I am correct
about what Guy has just done to me. During these episodes, I am
completely capable of unknowingly being abusive to the one I love.
And so are you.
This is true for everyone who has ever come through my office for
mental health counseling. It doesn't mean we are abusive people.
Nor can anything I am writing here be applied to dealing with abusive
people or abusive situations. This concept is only about our behavior
within a safe and loving relationship.
In the course of a flashback, I see and interpret the world and
the behavior of my loved ones as if they are my perpetrators. Well,
if someone is harming me deliberately, I have the right to defend
Only, this is not really happening. It did happen, just not now
this year with this person.
This same kind of process occurs with my grief mode. I spent two
weeks last month unknowingly pushing Guy away because he wasn't
David. When I finally realized what I was doing, I was quite ashamed.
That is a very mean thing to do to someone else. I had to apologize.
Then I had to self-examine to discover why I had been doing that.
I am glad I was married to David before I met Guy! David was such
a strong-willed and stubborn man, he would not allow me to behave
abusively to him. I didn't have to be quite so responsible for my
behavior with him. Not to worry, if I behaved badly, he'd tell me.
For sure! Then, I could self-examine.
Guy has his own temperament. I could hurt him and not even know
it. He is not as well defended against emotional injury. I have
to take responsibility for my history and my current behavior. Think
before I speak. Be aware of his feelings. Actually look at him when
we talk. Because he is subtle, I can only see the hurt in his eyes
or hear it when he speaks.
This does not mean I am supposed to be a yes person. We do argue.
I am an equal partner in this relationship. My thoughts, feelings,
wants, needs, hopes and dreams are as important as his. And his
are as important as mine.
Being responsible in a loving relationship means I have to self-examine.
This is so important for all of us. If I am going to be happy in
a loving relationship, I must look at myself. And so must you.
Here are examples of the kinds of questions you can ask yourself:
What am I thinking?
How am I feeling?
What just happened?
Am I overreacting?
Is my past intruding?
Did I misunderstand him?
Am I acting badly?
About this Contributor:
I am a Licensed Marriage
and Family Therapist in Torrance California and National Board Certified
Counselor with a Clinical Mental Health Specialization. I work most
often with the treatment of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder in adults
and children. On a personal note, I have had CFIDS and Fibromyalgia
for the past 10 years and have much to say on coping with these
conditions. Additionally, since the hospice care and death of my
husband, I also write about grief and loss.