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 Post subject: LIstening
PostPosted: Tue Dec 01, 2015 8:08 pm 
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Joined: Tue Apr 15, 2014 5:45 pm
Posts: 45
Hi All, I was responding to a question about meaningful conversation when I realized it was not in partners recovery. It really sort of set me off so I wanted to put it here b/c I guess I just want to share this pain. It's been many years and it's still hard.

Active listening is such a critical topic. As I look back on my relationship with a SA (and I recall signs/symptoms), one thing I always noticed was that it really didn't seem like he was listening. All I could pin point it to was that he would say "uh huh" in an impatient way before I was done talking. He would retort that saying "uh huh" is listening but all I can say is that there was an urgency, an impatient quality, a feeling that my heart was not heard. He was often on his computer when I was trying to have conversations with him and the porn folders set up for easy access were always present.

After a while, I started to just think my reaction to the listening situation was "silly" and to cope I bought into stereotypes about women and how they are "so sensitive" (Think "Men are from Mars, Women from Venus") with this issue. I think it is far to easy to blow this off as if it is a light-hearted battle of the sexes issue when really it is so much deeper. My heart hurts when I know that I swallowed this responsibility while he was deep into his addiction and (in his own words) "not even thinking about me".


If you really want to learn to be a better listener I can really respect that because it really lies at the heart of intimacy. I don't think it's easy and it's not a matter of parroting back "I hear you saying….. blah, blah, blah". That kind of stuff makes me want to throw something across the room.

I also think there is a problem that when the trust is gone all that is left is small talk. It's not really a stage for the type of deeper communication that makes people closer. It's unfortunately, but just as the addict is ready/willing to communicate the partner has usually given and risked everything for communication/intimacy during daily (even seemingly mundane interactions). The thought of developing meaningful conversation is tough.


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 Post subject: Re: LIstening
PostPosted: Tue Dec 01, 2015 9:11 pm 
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Joined: Sun Sep 14, 2014 1:34 pm
Posts: 656
liveauthentic - Ah, I know what you mean. In my case, it felt like I was interrupting my husband so much of the time. And, well, I was interrupting his rituals, especially his scanning/ogling/staring/fantasizing; his porn use on the computer; his planning for the next ritual. And, I was just so darn inconvenient, what with my human needs and all. Fantasy and love addicted objects are so much better than a real woman. So much easier. I as well got "I wasn't thinking about you, I wasn't paying attention to you, you're so hard to talk to..." Lots and lots of painful stuff. And, I also made excuses and tried so hard to make it work. Lots of self forgiveness needed to recover from our trauma.

And, Jon says it somewhere....that addicts don't use words to communicate, they use words to hide, deflect, blame, control. I know my husband can't tolerate intimacy and conversation for him is so difficult. Jon says it really is a lack of skill and I have come to believe it. I think the origin of this deficiency is immaturity and fear of intimacy. And, of course, addiction makes it so much worse. My husband's ability to communicate become so degraded over the years of his addiction. I sometimes wonder if he was so inarticulate and so tedious when I married him, and I think he wasn't.

So, my husband as well stumbles over what it means to have a "meaningful conversation." It's hard for me to maintain compassion and empathy when he says this. It feels like more BS. But, I have come to believe there is some truth in what he is saying. But it's an incomplete truth. Here's what I think is the rest of the truth: to communicate in a meaningful way means you have to be willing to be authentic and vulnerable in revealing who you are, what you think, and how you feel. You must have integrity: that is, you must say what you mean and mean what you say. You also need to have the skills to listen, actively, without having a script running through your head about what you will say in response, how you will defend yourself, how you will control the other person. You have to be able to ... listen. My husband is so hair trigger defensive about everything (e.g., I'll say, "honey, the water is boiling" and he'll get PO'd about being nagged or criticized. This is nuts of course.) And, all the skills I listed above are skills my addict husband needs to develop.

So, I find that I can get some compassion but it is limited, since it is very, very tedious, annoying and frankly, lonely, to live with a partner who struggles so hard to use words and speech in an honest, considerate, meaningful way. I can't tell you how much I long for adult conversation in my house, and when I say I want this, my husband gives me this confused look.

I was going to post a "both sides" topic on this issue but realized that my motives were not pure since I was irritated by some, but not all, of a very important recovery forum issue. I assume, but don't know if this is true, that those in recovery probably don't get why this topic sets us off.

dnell


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 Post subject: Re: LIstening
PostPosted: Wed Dec 02, 2015 8:57 am 
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Joined: Tue Jul 01, 2014 1:38 pm
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Hah! I have ritually torn up my copy of 'Men are from Mars.....' I read this many years ago before I knew what was.going on, thinking I was being overcontrolling. I took on board about giving him 'space' and letting him have his 'mancave'. I followed that advice and look what he did with that freedom. I now feel like that book ruined my life. If a woman ever asked me about it again I would tell her never, ever to read it. It is a book written by a man giving all men permission to be unaccountable and selfish. What a pile of horse sh*t.

(You may have noticed that I'm not having a good day!!!)

Take care folks - ss.

_________________
'The only real failure in life is not to be true to the best one knows'. Buddha.


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 Post subject: Re: LIstening
PostPosted: Wed Dec 02, 2015 11:01 pm 
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Joined: Thu Apr 18, 2013 11:38 pm
Posts: 515
oh shell shocked, I'm with you about that book (and others!). I spent so many years trying to ensure I gave my husband enough space, wasn't controlling, wasn't too demanding. All in the hopes that in doing so, it would leave open a door for him to choose to come to me, and as most of us know here well, well, that just didn't happen.

One of the larger challenges I see in couples attempting to recove through this is the contrasting trajectories of healing of each person.

A partner may find herself initially deeply craving connection, but as she heals, strengthens her values and also gains more independence, may then find she lacks the desire and motivation to attempt meaningful conversations.

As dnell noted, we need to be willing to be vulnerable to have a deeper conversation and connection, and that's a tall order for us: to ask us to be vulnerable to a person who has repeatedly betrayed our trust and values.

I, for one, am not there, and I'm not sure if I will get there or want to. After so many years of pushing and attempting connection, I'm burned out. And so, connection does not happen because my husband still doesn't step up and attempt that kind of intimate conversation, and indeed, he still blocks me out (doesn't listen).

it's hard because we can get used to this status quo, and forget what it may have ever been like to even desire a deep, meaningful conversation with our partners. It is one of the many complicated -- and frankly, unfair -- issues we face.


Last edited by meepmeep on Thu Dec 03, 2015 10:31 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: Re: LIstening
PostPosted: Thu Dec 03, 2015 10:42 am 
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Joined: Sun Sep 14, 2014 1:34 pm
Posts: 656
As always, I found Meep Meep's post to be so spot on and helpful.

Quote:
A partner may find herself initially deeply craving connection, but as she heals, strengthens her values and also gains more independence, may then find she lacks the desire and motivation to attempt meaningful conversations.


This is exactly my situation. Here's what I know for my situation today, a bit after a year for my husband in recovery and for me in my healing. My husband is not yet capable of having an adult conversation about much of anything for more than a minute. Really. This is my reality.

Any conversation about emotions, mine or his, are especially difficult and something he can not tolerate for long. And, in order to feel safe again (he has tremendous fear and anxiety about talking about emotion which has NOTHING to do with me, but has everything to do with him and his trauma and all his stuff), he has to isolate himself and break any connection with me. Hard and lonely stuff since I at that point want connection.

He is not yet able to talk for very long about his past since he has not yet accepted it and has not yet fully separated his core identity from his addict identity.

He has very few skils to resolve conflict, or even difference in opinion. He has very little negotiating skills, even rudimentary ones (e.g., deciding on a movie).

He is more able to hear about my pain, but can not tolerate it for long.

I'm not being condescending when I say that I am dealing with a 3-4 year old. If I frame it that way, I would never approach him for any kind of conversation like those above. I would keep it very simple, very calm, very surface, and very quick. When I speak in that manner, things are calm. But why in the world would I want to live this way? The fact is I am not his mother and he is not a 4 year old.

It's exhausting living with an emotional toddler. It's lonely as well. My marriage counselor tells me over and over "don't work so hard." My individual therapist has told me at this point I can't connect with my husband since he just doesn't have the skills and ability to do so. He might develop these abilities, but it will take a long time.

That means I have to get my adult and healthy needs for connection and communication elsewhere; I have to figure out if I want to stay or go; and if I continue to stay, I have to figure out how to deal with my husband in a realistic manner that is compassionate to him given his abilities, but MORE IMPORTANTLY, takes care of me and doesn't drain me.

Tough stuff, all of this.

dnell


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 Post subject: Re: LIstening
PostPosted: Thu Dec 03, 2015 11:08 am 
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Joined: Fri Aug 14, 2015 10:30 am
Posts: 95
dnell, I think you're describing my husband!!

Loneliness is a huge issue when you feel constantly unsupported and unable to have real conversations about the consequences for you of your husband's actions. My husband and I are really struggling with communication at the moment, and I don't feel listened to.. he just does not seem able to deal with my feelings or my pain at the moment. He's perfectly capable of pouring out how hard he's finding things, and how bad he feels about causing pain to those around him, but he doesn't seem able - or willing - to really hear me. It's a very lonely place.


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 Post subject: Re: LIstening
PostPosted: Sun Dec 06, 2015 10:28 am 
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Joined: Tue Apr 15, 2014 5:45 pm
Posts: 45
Thank you so much for these replies. It need to feel that others understand my feelings. Even far away, I am so thankful that you connect with my experience and that you can share your experience. I feel much less alone. There is always that feeling "Am I going crazy?", "Why can't I get over this?", etc.

I also want to mention that my new distrust isn't just of my husband---The distrust is is of entire systems: For example, why is there so much literature telling women how to improve their marriages without the acknowledgement of the double lives men are leading, the huge porn industry, etc.?

I also believe that even the counseling industry is biased. For example, if addiction has to do with bonding with the primary caregiver aren't we essentially "blaming mommy" again???? Why is there always the assumption that somehow the woman is co-dependent???? I HATE THIS!!!!!!!

I guess I am just amazed at how much responsibility women are expected to take for men's actions within interpersonal relationships and as a culture.

On the other hand: I was on a PSTD website for vets and the symptom of distrust was mentioned in their symptoms so maybe this is just all part of it.


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 Post subject: Re: LIstening
PostPosted: Mon Jan 04, 2016 10:50 am 
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Joined: Tue Dec 30, 2014 12:20 am
Posts: 131
Liveauthentic said,
"If you really want to learn to be a better listener I can really respect that because it really lies at the heart of intimacy. I don't think it's easy and it's not a matter of parroting back "I hear you saying….. blah, blah, blah". That kind of stuff makes me want to throw something across the room. "
Yes, I feel like that as well! I know he is parroting what he read because he thinks that's what I want to hear....it has nothing at all to do with what he is really thinking or feeling. I see it as his effort to try being open and I empathize with him because it is so new to him. My H has always been a talker, is uncomfortable with silence, so it makes it more difficult for me to sort/find what is his 'new self in recovery'!!

We women have not 'come a long way, baby' after all, when I look around me all I see is a male dominated culture obsessed with sex and power ......and it is what women hand over to them willingly!!!!

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It is always OK in the end...if it's not OK, it's not the end!


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