Posted by: Marie | August 12, 2010

(377) He leads the way – Part 1 of 3

Post #377
[Private journal entry written on Thursday, March 4, 2010 – noon]

Well, another therapy session day today . . .

We didn’t discuss the prior conflicts. I’m done broaching the subject and Mark didn’t bring it up.

I was hoping he would bring it up. I was hoping he would surprise me with a new awareness.

But, no.

I guess that means he is not going to shift his position on the matter. I guess he still feels right and justified. I guess everything I said and wrote to him didn’t inspire him to consider another possibility.

So be it. I got my part of it processed and sorted out. I can move on.

We spent the session getting clear about what issues we need to work on first – we haven’t had an opportunity to get clear on that because we’ve been too busy fighting. So, my decision to be finished with the fight creates space for us to work together to find solutions.

He had me take a personality test . . . the results were rather unclear as I didn’t score significantly high in any one area. However, I scored moderately high on the obsessive-compulsive, avoidant and paranoid characteristics – which makes sense to me.

We looked at the two ways I tend to handle conflict:

1) Become passive and withdraw (avoidant) in order to preserve a relationship I believe I can’t afford to lose (i.e.; family), which means I don’t share who I am;

2) Get riled up, defensive, angry, etc. and leave – not just leave, but burn bridges behind me because I feel profoundly disrespected – because I feel I didn’t get what I believe I deserved. In other words, I share who I am, but in an explosively angry, defensive way.

I said to Mark I think I am being reasonable when I ask for what I believe I deserve. I give and give – and accommodate – but then I don’t get the same in return. I think my feelings of being disrespected are reasonable.

I think I am often disrespected in relationships. In those cases, I ask for change. The situations don’t change, so I leave.

I’m weary of always leaving, but I don’t yet know a better way.

Photo by Martin Chen

Mark pointed out that true giving doesn’t expect anything in return. I understand that. But, I’m talking about “give and take” relationships . . . which should not consist of one person giving and giving and not expecting reciprocation of some type . . . at least, that is what I believe.

So, I guess that begs the question . . . is it ever appropriate to expect something in return in ongoing relationships? Does “true giving” (giving without expecting anything in return) play a part in relationships? I can see where the giving and taking shouldn’t be meticulously tracked and compared on a day-by-day basis. But, it seems reasonable to expect an equal sharing of the giving and the taking over a longer period of time. Right?

When I am cohabitating, for example, I go to great lengths to ensure I am carrying my weight – that I’m doing my fair share of the giving. When the giving/taking is not equitable, I feel disrespected and “ran over”.

Mark pointed out I often feel disrespected when there is conflict. He said, for example, my feeling disrespected has been getting in the way of my progress in therapy . . . I have been so combative that most therapists would have referred me to another therapist by now. But, he feels he still can work with me, so he has not yet referred me out.

I bristled, but I didn’t say anything . . . just let it slip by . . . he moved on to a new topic . . .

He asked me to describe my current relationship with my parents (yes, he used “current” and “parents” – as in the plural form of the latter word – in the same sentence). I looked at him in disbelief.

Again? He wants me to tell him yet again? We have gone over this many, many times.

I said something like, “Well, the fact my dad has been dead for almost two decades kind of puts a damper on my current relationship with him . . . but my current relationship with my mom is good.”

He didn’t miss a beat . . . just slid over my answer to the next question . . .

He asked if I had any close relationships with people outside my family. . . . I told him, yes, with my best friend, Melodie.

He started asking questions about her as if he had never heard of her before. I have talked about her many times, but he can’t seem to remember she exists.

Grrrrrr . . .

I was thinking, “This is not good . . . he still isn’t keeping track of my key information. How can he help me if he can’t remember anything about me? This is a waste of my time and money.”

Anyway, we then looked at how I am avoidant with my family because my family does not tolerate differences. In the past, when I have presented my position/beliefs/etc., the conversation has come to a tense halt. Then, someone changes the subject. They handle it that way because it is the “polite” way to show a lack of agreement and support.

He noted my family has disrespected “who I am” over and over again; yet, I maintain a relationship with them. Why? I answered that I maintain the relationship because breaking ties with my family is not an option; it is not what “we” do – it is not what our family does.

He said, “At least you know you have the ability to choose to maintain relationships even if doing so has required you to withhold who you are.” True; but, at what cost?

[Continued in the next post . . . ]


  1. “I bristled, but I didn’t say anything . . . just let it slip by . . . he moved on to a new topic . . .”

    I’m amazed he didn’t pick this up. The behaviour you were discussing happening right there!

    On giving. Shoulds are all very well. I found that I may want to only give but that I just ran out of energy. (Goodbye Superevan hello to fragility and limitations.)

    I think it is better for a couple (or the people in any relationship) to talk about what they need and how they can get it (or not) in the relationship. I think the idea that a couple can be everything to each other is a delusion that causes much suffering (though there seem to be many who disagree).

    • Hey, Evan –

      Very true . . . I think he is very blind to many things because allowing himself to see would mean he would have to take responsibility for his part.

      I hear what you are saying about the giving/receiving — sometimes a person may want to give but can’t. But, a person committed to carrying his or her own weight would maybe take on a bit extra of the load once he or she got rested up . . . true? I think it makes sense that sometimes one partner carries more of the load and then later the other partner carries more . . . part of the give and take over longer periods of time.

      What I don’t agree with is what seems to happen with me . . . I want to be a “good” partner so I carry my share and step up to the challenge of carrying extra whenever I can. I look for my partners to do the same, but they are content to sit back and allow me to always carry the responsibility.

      For example, with Mark . . . I am taking responsibility for my part, but he is sitting back and not taking any responsibility. He thinks it is all my fault. He won’t examine his own behavior; he won’t even discuss it with me. He won’t expend the energy required to remember the details of my case. I’m working so hard and he is not, and he is okay with that.

      And, with my housemates . . . I work very hard to make sure I keep my stuff in my suite of rooms, that I use the hot water only when it doesn’t negatively impact their schedule, that I keep my noise levels down . . . but, they don’t extend the same courtesy.

      I learned my behavior can be labeled “overfunctioning” from Dr. Harriet Lerner (“The Dance of . . . ” books). I’m still learning how to shift that behavior.

      Oh . . and, I agree with you that two people cannot meet every need of the other . . . that would be a tough job that I would not want to apply for!

      – Marie

  2. I tend to think there may be a difference between love in a relationship, and procedural boundaries in that same relationship. I love my mother genuinely — seeing her faults and choosing to accept them and cherish who she is. But I sure as hell couldn’t live in the same space with her.

    • Hey, David –

      In support of what you wrote, I think the “success” of a relationship is impacted by the reasons each person has for being in the relationship. I tend to be in relationships because of what I can contribute to the other . . . contributing makes me feel good.

      But, I also tend to be in those same relationships because I want the other to contribute to me. The breakdown occurs because I tend to choose people who are in the relationship to get their needs met . . . not to contribute to others. So, they are content to receive and content to not give.

      I continue to be in relationship with my family because of what I contribute to them — especially to my mom. She lives alone and near to me . . . I don’t have family and I live the closest, so it falls on my shoulders to be her support.

      I’m very glad to be available to her; I’d have it no other way. She asks for very little and it is a joy to spend time with her and take care of her simple needs (replace a light fixture, help her figure out which internet service is best, etc.)

      And, she meets some of my needs, as well. She provides a level of friendship, or at least a level of companionship. She has helped me financially when I couldn’t find employment and became homeless several years back.

      We just don’t get into discussions about anything sensitive or too personal.

      My relationship with my siblings is civil . . . sometimes fun. We get along mostly because we don’t talk about anything sensitive or too personal. I don’t have reason to tear apart the family, so I stick around. But, I really don’t get any needs met by my siblings other than a sense of having familial roots.

      My best friend, Melodie, provides that “sister” bond for me. We talk like one would hope sisters could. I consider her as much a family member as any of my siblings.

      The reason for the relationship with Mark is for a sense of acceptance and approval from a pseudo-father. To him, I was just another client — a means for income. That makes for an expectation mismatch, to say the least.

      Okay . . . well, I guess I’ll quit typing now . . . LOL. Not sure how relevant this all is to your comment, but you sure inspired me.

      – Marie

  3. Marie,

    You’re doing great work here, wish I could say the same for your therapist…

    My take on it: First of all, has it occurred to you that Mark may in fact have some kind of memory issue? The kinds of things he is forgetting seem almost out of the ordinary, given the amount of time you have spent in conversation with one another. I guess it ultimately doesn’t matter, but I do tend to wonder if his memory issue stems from a biological cause. Either way, it’s not good.

    As for the “give and take” question…it’s a tricky one. I think in terms of friendships and romantic relationships, it’s important, essential to have a real give and take. To feel heard, understood and supported. To have a 50/50 kind of attitude. Yes at times there may be points where one person takes on more of a burden, for various reasons. But ultimately you always come back to your gut. How you feel in the pit of your stomach on the matter. If you feel taken advantage of, you must correct it. Sometimes with a conversation, sometimes by walking away.

    Family is obviously more difficult. As you know I’ve had tremendous struggles with family recently. A lot of people run into these issues because we don’t choose our family. Here it must be about walking the line, maintaining respect and giving respect and sometimes you might need to let a family member know to back off. Sometimes you might need to take a break from them for a bit. Stand your ground. Sometimes you just keep quiet and let things go, where possible.

    But I think choosing friends and romantic relationships (and even therapists, doctors or a mechanic!) is where you have real control so it is in the initial choosing phase that you must learn to spot the good ones and avoid the bad.

    • Hey, Aaron –

      Good thought about Mark potentially having a memory issue . . .

      I did consider that . . . and I also considered that he might have an issue with collecting information. So, I would take “minutes” of our sessions and email them to him after the fact to help counteract those possibilities — he never takes notes, so I did it for him.

      But, I quit doing that because he wouldn’t print them or keep them on file. I got the impression he didn’t even read them.

      I know some therapists don’t like to take notes during the session because it might interfer with the interaction. In that case, they usually make some notes immediately after the session. Mark did neither. He couldn’t be bothered.

      So, I don’t think it is learning/memory disability, I think it is a matter of laziness. Doing paperwork requires too much effort.

      Or, maybe notetaking would expose to him the extent to which the time was spent on him pontificating rather than on the client doing healing work.


      I hear what you are saying about not being able to choose family and about having the responsibility to choose non-family wisely. I think my “picker” has been broken for many years because I routinely chose people who underfunctioned as a way to balance my overfunctioning. The good news: I’m learning a better way . . .

      Thanks for your input!

      – Marie

  4. Hey Marie, you’ve made reference to the “faultiness” of your instincts a few times, as it pertains to choosing healthy relationships.

    But as you can see, your instincts improve as you start to treat yourself better and move in a healthy direction…and that’s all i’m trying to say. That as you become more comfortable with how you like to treat yourself and others, you will naturally recognize someone who does not wish to treat you in a respectful way.

    The disrespectful, cruel, manipulative, selfish people will stand out like a flashing neon sign…that’s my guess anyway.

    Great blogging as always!

    • Thank you, Aaron, for the encouraging words . . . I am finding truth in what you say!

      – Marie

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