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  1. #1
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    Default Disorders associated with severe lack of self-awareness

    It’s taken me this long to post this because it’s unfair -and just plain rude-to talk about someone behind their back.
    But I’m not looking to insult or even vent frustrations. I am looking for insight because I am at a total loss.

    I’m sure you’ve all heard me bitch about my husband ad-infinitum. I feel a little bad about that. I don’t mean to paint a poor picture of him. He has many,many,many good traits and I do love him very much. I know he loves me very much. Under .whatever psychological issues he has is a very generous, kind and caring man. I’ve often described him as someone who “goes above and beyond what a lot of other men would in so many ways yet seems to be a bit lacking in very basic concepts of human relationships.”

    Even he has admitted that he has some issues he desperately needs to work on...sometimes.

    Other times, he will do a complete 180 and declare that I am the one who needs help.
    This is pretty much his MO; his views, feelings and opinions on things will change completely from one day to the next.

    One of the hardest things about being with is making any decision. This is very strange for me. I an almost the one who has no trouble making decisions and do with no lack of confidence or certainty.

    With my husband, it is impossible to know what he really wants.

    I can ask “ Hey, do you want to-?” “ Is it alright if we-?“ and I can get any answer from “ I don’t want to but I guess we should.” to
    “Yeah! Let’s do it!”
    No matter what, it will inevitably come up as an example in his next rant about how I am selfish and force him to do things he doesn’t want to. When he’s in that mood, EVERYTHING we’ve done in the past year was what I wanted it do and he ‘ hated it’.
    Everytime I bring up a past game he ‘hated it’ he ‘didn’t enjoy it but kept doing it for me’.
    When he’s in a better mood the story is entirely different. It’s as if his very world view is shaped entirely by his current mood.

    I don’t mind comprise, I do not want to force him into things he doesn’t want to do, I do not want to responsible for his unhappiness
    (however, as I believe that we are all, in fact, masters if our universe, I don’t think that is my responsibility)

    Problem is that it is impossible to work with such radical inconstancies; one moment he’s enjoying his tine with me and ‘we should do it again’ and the next he’s secretly always hated it and resents me for forcing him into it.

    That is one of the two major issues from perspective.

    The second seems to be-as in the title-a complete lack of self awareness.

    There is NO criticizing him. He cannot handle it. He’ll Immediatly go on the attack, mentioning everything you’ve done in the past few years and attempt to tear your character to shreds for something as simple “ Hey, can you put that down? We’re going to be late.”

    Another example would be why I decided to write this post.

    He has a serious case of internet addiction. When he isn’t in his room reading something on the internet, he has his face in his phone, reading the internet. When we sit down at the dinner table he has his headphones in, listening to podcasts.
    When we go out, he has his headphones in.

    It used to tear me apart knowing that we could spend the rest our lives together and never really spend any time together at all.
    I decided that I’d just force myself to get used to be alone. I finally became okay with it and ever since he’s been complaining that I don’t spend anytime with him.

    He often comes to hang out with me at the hotel where he sits in the chair and reads stuff on the internet.
    About an hour ago he brought me home. I sat down to draw on my iPad and about 30 minutes later he was really upset that I was ‘ignoring’ him. That it felt like ‘ the internet is more important than him.’
    The lack of self-awareness is ...surprisingly to say the least.
    I don’t dare try to bring it up to him because he just wont hear it. He’ll get angry, he’ll go on the attack. He’ll say he’s ‘done with the relationship’. That’s his go to; when there is conflict he threatens to quit and it seems ...unhealthy to say the least.

    I used to chalk all of this up to poor communication. I’d tell him over and over “ If I suggest something you do not want to do tell me ‘no’. My feelings will not be hurt.”

    But the inconsistency and almost pathologically contrary nature of this behavior seems like something more.
    Friends who know him well have suggested some version of a manic personality disorder.

    I don’t know, I’m certainly not looking for a diagnosis by strangers who’ve never met him but I guess some advice from people who have maybe dealt similar behavior, some tips on how I could maybe bring it up to him, because nothing at all seems to work. Any insight would be appreciated.
    ( except thing like ‘ you should leave him’. That isn’t what I am asking about)
    " Do something, even if it's wrong."

    " I don't wanna have to but I will, if that's what I'm supposed to do
    We don't wanna set up for the kill, but that's what I'm 'bout to do."

  2. #2
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    Didn't you once mention that he has PTSD? If he does, it could explain some things but it doesn't 'solve' the issue of course.

    For how long has he been like this?/Since when? As in; when did the (sort of) 'moodswings' start to happen and when did he start getting addicted to the internet?

    "I don’t dare try to bring it up to him because he just wont hear it. He’ll get angry, he’ll go on the attack." How are you so sure of the last part? It sounds like it has happened before? How do you bring these things up? And by the last sentence I mean; what is the timing, how do you phrase your words. Does it include the "I know/understand why you are doing x, it makes me feel like x and I would like to talk about it," indicating the issue without making it seem like you're 'blaming' him.

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    Misguided by my own love stories,
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    ...Still falling.

  3. #3
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    I was beginning to think that maybe this was more about relationship issues than a disorder involving awareness/social comprehension until I read the bit about internet addiction.

    I do think that absent mindedness can be a bug bear of mine, seriously, I notice it quite a lot and see how much of the time a lot of behaviour does not seem to fit, has to be related to something else altogether or has got to correspond to some faulty logic pertaining to a different situation or context.

    A couple of simple examples of it that I can give include the guy who drives recklessly in traffic, weaving in and out of traffic, speeding up to over take but then when they reach an open road, ie have no cars or vehicles ahead of them they will slow aways down.

    There are pedestrian equivalents of this, the person who can not cope cuing for a till but when they get to the till they are not prepared to pay, seem confused by the teller's predictable requests, I see this a lot in airports too where they actually have to announce to people to have their passports, bordering passes etc. ready (although I would assume that supermarket tills/tellers are familiar whereas people could conceivably be in an airport for the first time or just that airport for the first time).

    What I personally dislike the most are the crowds of people, I mean literally crowds of them, who seem to gather in book stores who are not readers. Here in the UK one or two of the more popular bargain book stores have actually begun to stock more and more tat and childrens nick nacks as they recognize that this is actually a thing. It is something related to shopping I think that people behave like a herd and go where others are going, doing what others are doing and, worst of all, pay attention to what others are paying attention to, so I may be looking at books, searching for something, and simply because I appear to be doing this I'll find a couple of people pushing in front of me to look at the book shelf.

    This is actually a phenomenon that's been studied, behaviourist psychology has a lot to say about it but so do others, including some thinkers from philosophy and politics (would you believe?) and its linked to heuristics, or automatic thinking, one possible "neutral" example of it is how people drive from A) to B) each day and get so used to doing so that they may forget much of their journey or appear to be on "autopilot".

    The thing is that the more media orientated you are the less aware you're going to be unfortunately, the internet has a huge role to play in this, particularly some sorts of content and some sorts of mediums on the internet but TV follows the same patterns increasingly, its a long time since Neil Postman observed that "all news is entertainment now", in Amusing Ourselves To Death, or it got qualified to "all news needs to compete with entertainment now" but its a fact. Orwell complained about the radio causing an effect like this. I remember a lot of obsessing about TV when I was a kid, some of which has translated into concern about "screen time" (but that in itself can be a preoccupation or obsession all of its own). It can definitely be a predisposing issue, how distracted people are, how much information you may be trying to process or how the adaptive unconscious (which I've only read about lately) is being "primed" by this or that content (that isnt new, the faddish panics about mass marketed novels turn out to be an accurate precursor).

    In terms of any stress, or escalation to crisis/outbursts, there's also got to be precipitating and prepetuating factors too. Like most of the population has this internet addiction from what I can tell, some are more or less irritating in their absent mindedness, its not a pathology or disorder in the usual sense I think, though it is annoying and I have devoted a lot of time to reading about this and reflecting on it since I've noticed it is such a thing. Anyway, things can predispose you to behave a particular way but there's generally something that acts like a trigger, it may not be one thing, in reality, with stress mounting to outburst, its much more likely to be a string of things, like a "chain attack" in Street Fighter 2 resulting in a KO, and finally something makes a behaviour stick, it could be familiarity (most people prefer the familiar bad to the potentially better, even gamblers).

    I could be talking a bit wise here, and I dont mean to, sorry about that, but in my own experience a lot of the time people are difficult to change. Particularly when you're asking them to go against the grain of pretty much everyone else. Which awareness kind of is at the moment. It could be that you just need to examine your own irritability that is triggered by their absent mindedness. That could be the best you can hope for. Although that said its not a consolation prize or anything, if you manage that I bet others will want to follow your example. I havent mastered it. Anyone who talks about having control or not being easily triggered, especially online usually attracts trolls, a lot of which have NPD, BPD or EUPD or whatever whether they've ever been diagnosed or not, who go all out to test the claim.

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    There seems to be a lot of cognitive dissonance, self-doubt, fear, anxiety, and depression on his part. I wouldn't be surprised if your husband knows his issues on an intuitive level, but he doesn't want to face the gravity of the situation and his problems so he turns it back on you.

    In my personal life, I am blunt to a fault, and I have a tendency to tell people what I think they need to improve (somewhat like you). Oftentimes, they balk and argue but over time, they usually warm up to what I was trying to say all along. From experience, all you can do is help them "reframe" and/or expand upon their perspective to find the answers for themselves. They may or may not be receptive, but it's really up to the person to face their demons. Although, it's definitely painful to watch someone you care about be self-destructive especially when you can see the implications from a mile away.

    At that point, therapy is probably the most advisable and the best route.

  5. #5
    Scary old man OldFolksBoogie's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Yuu View Post
    It’s taken me this long to post this because it’s unfair -and just plain rude-to talk about someone behind their back.
    But I’m not looking to insult or even vent frustrations. I am looking for insight because I am at a total loss. [...snipped]
    IANAS (I am not a shrink.) But off the top of my head, based on a quick skim of your post, it doesn't sound like your husband necessarily has a personality disorder. It just sounds like he's very immature. He sounds like a snowflake: Whiny, self-centered, and tied up in knots by the slightest obstacle.

    A lot of the difference between maturity and immaturity comes down to how people handle their emotions. It sounds like your husband is ruled by whatever mood he is in at the moment. If you and he play a game with a game with friends, at the end of the game he only rates the evening based on one thing: Did he win or lose? His enjoyment of the evening will be affected by that one thing alone.

    And even if he wins and says he enjoyed the night, his evaluation of that evening will change once again when his mood changes. If he's in a bad mood a week later and the subject of that evening a week ago comes up, he'll say that he hated the night and is angry at you for making him play.

    Basically it's the emotional state of a 5-year-old: He is ruled by whatever mood he's currently in.

    Same with his arguments with you: He doesn't concern himself with whether his arguments are true or not. He's just ruled by the needs of the moment. He just says whatever will put you on the defensive and gain him some high ground.

    Anyway, I'll stop there and ask: Does that description seem about right? Or am I missing the main "essence" of your husband's issues? If my description sounds right, I can probably steer you toward some self-help stuff that might help out...at least as a starting point for discussion.
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  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by OldFolksBoogie View Post
    IANAS (I am not a shrink.) But off the top of my head, based on a quick skim of your post, it doesn't sound like your husband necessarily has a personality disorder. It just sounds like he's very immature. He sounds like a snowflake: Whiny, self-centered, and tied up in knots by the slightest obstacle.

    A lot of the difference between maturity and immaturity comes down to how people handle their emotions. It sounds like your husband is ruled by whatever mood he is in at the moment. If you and he play a game with a game with friends, at the end of the game he only rates the evening based on one thing: Did he win or lose? His enjoyment of the evening will be affected by that one thing alone.

    And even if he wins and says he enjoyed the night, his evaluation of that evening will change once again when his mood changes. If he's in a bad mood a week later and the subject of that evening a week ago comes up, he'll say that he hated the night and is angry at you for making him play.

    Basically it's the emotional state of a 5-year-old: He is ruled by whatever mood he's currently in.

    Anyway, I'll stop there and ask: Does that description seem about right? Or am I missing the main "essence" of your husband's issues? If my description sounds right, I can probably steer you toward some self-help stuff that might help out...at least as a starting point for discussion.
    Yeah, It actually does sound a lot like him.

    I wouldn’t say that he is “ whiny” or even “ selfish” ...in the context most would imagine. I mean that it isn’t -or doesn’t seem to be- that he doesn’t care if his moodinees affects ither people, rather, that it could affect others just doesn’t even cross his mind.

    I do know that it is emotionally immature behavior, I guess that considering other personality traits- he is very generous, he can be very thoughtful, he is very intelligent and certainly does lack the ability to reason-is why I keep thinking that there must be an underlying reason for this emotional maturity.
    I’ve brought up PSTD before because I have heard from a psychologist that “ People who suffer PTSD are stuck in time, trapped in the past when whatever the triggering event occurred.” It sounded a bit hard to believe but it seem to accurately describe some of my husband behavior.

    I would greatly appreciate any resources you’d be willing to share.
    " Do something, even if it's wrong."

    " I don't wanna have to but I will, if that's what I'm supposed to do
    We don't wanna set up for the kill, but that's what I'm 'bout to do."

  7. #7
    Scary old man OldFolksBoogie's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Yuu View Post
    Yeah, It actually does sound a lot like him.

    I wouldn’t say that he is “ whiny” or even “ selfish” ...in the context most would imagine. I mean that it isn’t -or doesn’t seem to be- that he doesn’t care if his moodinees affects ither people, rather, that it could affect others just doesn’t even cross his mind.

    I do know that it is emotionally immature behavior, I guess that considering other personality traits- he is very generous, he can be very thoughtful, he is very intelligent and certainly does lack the ability to reason-is why I keep thinking that there must be an underlying reason for this emotional maturity.
    I’ve brought up PSTD before because I have heard from a psychologist that “ People who suffer PTSD are stuck in time, trapped in the past when whatever the triggering event occurred.” It sounded a bit hard to believe but it seem to accurately describe some of my husband behavior.

    I would greatly appreciate any resources you’d be willing to share.
    Okay, sounds good. I'm probably making him sound worse than he is. Immature people can, in fact, be very well-meaning toward others; it's just that they get tripped up by their own moods and end up sabotaging the good efforts they've made previously.

    As for *why* they are that way: It's not necessarily a disorder or whatever. I think you said that his mother is a strong personality; and you're a strong personality. All the strong women around him may allow him to remain a child emotionally. Basically he's got to step up to the plate and start asserting himself more (aside from just lashing out when pissed off).

    Anyway:

    Stephen R. Covey wrote a self-help book titled "The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People" many years ago, and it's considered kind of a self-help classic. The first "habit" talks about immaturity vs maturity. But he doesn't use those terms. Instead he talks about REactive people vs. PROactive people.

    I read it many years ago, but I still have some notes I made from the book. The notes basically sum up that first "habit" in my own words:

    ***************

    Summary: PROactivity = have a good attitude and don’t let the little things get to you.
    --The author contrasts REactivity and PROactivity:
    --With REactive people, a certain stimulus results in a certain response. For example, REactive people are often affected by their physical environment. If the weather is good, they feel good. If it isn’t, they feel bad; it affects their attitude and their performance.
    --PROactive people, OTOH, recognize that between stimulus and response, man has the freedom to choose. We are responsible for our own lives. Our behavior is a function of our decisions, not our conditions. We can subordinate feelings to values. We have the initiative and the responsibility to make things happen. The author lists drivers that can be inserted between stimulus and response, such as self-awareness, imagination, conscience, and independent will. To return to the weather analogy, the author says that PROactive people carry their own weather with them. Whether it rains or shines makes no difference to them. They are value driven; and if their value is to produce good quality work, it isn’t a function of whether the weather is conducive to it or not.
    --REactive people are also affected by their social environment, by their “social weather.” When people treat them well, they feel well, and when people don’t, they become defensive or protective. REactive people build their emotional lives around the behavior of others, empowering the weaknesses of other people to control them.
    --REactive people are driven by feelings, by circumstances, by conditions, by their environment. PROactive people are driven by values--carefully thought about, selected, and internalized values.
    --It’s basically a question of maintaining a good attitude. Viktor Frankl suggests that there are three central values in life: The experiential, or that which happens to us; the creative, or that which we bring into existence; and the attitudinal, or our response in difficult circumstances. The author says that the highest of the three values is attitudinal: What matters most is how we respond to what we experience in life.
    --As one more contrast of REactivity vs. PROactivity, the author creates a Venn diagram composed of a Circle of Influence made up of the things we control (our own life, our REactions) inside of a larger Circle of Concern made of all things that concern us, both controllable and non-controllable (the outside world). He says that PROactive people will focus on the Circle of Influence, i.e., themselves and that portion of the world that they control, and seek to empower and expand it outward; ultimately they gain more control over the outside world in this manner. It’s an inside->out model of addressing the world, starting from one’s strongest point. REactive people, on the other hand, concern themselves most with what’s happening outside and around them, focusing on that part of the Circle of Concern over which they have least control. Their Circle of Influence shrinks as they cede control to things outside their control, and they practice an outside->in model, i.e., starting from one’s weakest point. (p. 81-85)

    Summary: PROactivity = have a good attitude and don’t let the little things get to you. PROactivity is essentially the end result that you want to achieve using Habits 2 and 3. But you have to go into 2 and 3 with an understanding and commitment to PROactivity. IOW, the PROactivity mentality comes first, meaning a commitment to the paradigm even before you practice the steps.

    ***********
    --Again, this all comes from Covey's chapter on "Habit 1." As mentioned in the last paragraph, subsequent "habits" go into ways to develop PROactivity.

    For example:

    Habit 2: Begin with the End in Mind
    Summary: Back up and get a dispassionate overview, write up a mission statement clarifying what principles/values should guide your actions, then visualize specific situations and develop scripts/reactions that incorporate those principles/values.

    Habit 3: Put First Things First
    Summary: Prioritize tasks on to-do lists according to 1) where they are on your mission statement; and 2) whether they are Q2 tasks (important but not urgent). IOW, make conscious decisions about how you want to spend your week, rather than chasing after crises or emergencies or just puttering your way through endless to-do lists of fix-it projects.

    And so on.

    So maybe you could check out that book and suggest it to your husband. Like I said, it's something of a classic in the self-help genre, and it's inspirational rather than trying to bully people into change. Maybe it will help get him on the bandwagon for self-change. Because, as they say, this stuff has to come from inside: Your husband has to *want* to change in order to change.

    As always, the standard disclaimer applies: I don't have any background or training in psychology. I'm just passing along what I've read in self-help and popular psychology books.

    By the way, good luck. I know you have a lot on your plate right now, and you have my sympathy given all that you're going through.
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  8. #8
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    Okay, I just wanted to say that your relationship sounds a LOT like mine. Except I am your husband in this situation. I just got recently diagnosed with cPTSD and I have a lot of the same issues as him. You have the exact same complaints my BF has about me. So this is awkward.

    You said he is lacking self awareness, but this might not entirely be true. He could be having emotional flashbacks, since emotional flashbacks do not usually have memories associated with it. He sees his emotions as a reaction to what is currently going on. They are often times inappropriate to the situation, or a small thing seems to cause a big reaction.

    Then the reason he has all sorts of issues taking criticism, is due to a cocktail of defense mechanisms. Often times the result of emotional abuse, and was never able to grow and mature in this aspect. He will also keep track of "leverage" for the attack, as you mentioned. This is a learned behavior. Somewhere in his life, he probably always had to compete to generate any sense of worth because he was without none. It is also a control and stability thing. Attacks are seen as a threat to their stability, when they are not capable of processing it constructively. Even if it makes sense, or is true.

    Another thing I noticed with your post, is how your BF seems to freeze in terms of sociability. He developed an "auto pilot" to make it easier for him, and goes along with you. Aka, he probably disassociates and everything is fine till he gets through it, and he thinks he does it for you. Then eventually processes the experience, and makes a conclusion a long time later. He also seems to have a lot of distractions set up, so he doesn't have to face reality. The internet addiction is one of them. It is probably his way of avoiding feeling anything. Then when he is ready to engage, it never aligns with when you want to. He gets upset, disassociates, and the cycle repeats.


    I may not be right though, this is just an observation and assumption. I cant give you any real advice as I haven't even fixed my own problems with my relationships, just letting you know you are not alone.
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    It doesn't read like a bona fide disorder (only having read the op), but here are some various thoughts that *might* be useful.

    1) One is that, by and large, it's actually far more common than not for people to be completely out of touch with their needs and the consequences for being out of touch with one's needs can lead to erratic behavior. Behavior that can be filed under "I don't want to be doing this, yet I find myself doing it" is often because there's an unsatisfied need that a person isn't even aware of/hasn't recognized fueling the behavior. As an example of how an unrecognized need (and consequent 'bad feeling') can cause havoc: practically everyone knows when they're hungry, and they know they 'need' food to feel better - but imagine if you had no idea that eating was a need, that *something* was making you feel really bad/weak/angry/whatever and you had no idea how to make that feeling go away. When the feeling gets overwhelming, it can cause people to behave erratically and/or lash out or blame others for how they feel - even if they consciously don't want to blame others, something just feels 'bad' and that feeling (so long as the need isn't satisfied) is going to bleed through. Of course, we all know about the 'need' to eat, we know what 'hangry' is, and we know we need some solid food to make the hangriness go away. But emotional needs are less clear, it's less well known that there are some emotional needs that are non-negotiable (we can't wish them away or ignore them) - there's a fuzzy line between 'want' and 'need', and it's far more common than not to conflate these things in ourselves and others - and we can't even begin to satisfy the needs if we don't even know they're there. We can't effectively manage our own emotions (to stop behaving erratically, lashing out at others or blaming them for how we feel, etc) without identifying what our needs are and figuring out how to take responsibility for making sure they're taken care of.

    A therapist is probably the best idea to work on this, as a sort of coach. (I honestly have yet to find a good therapist myself, but I hear there are some out there...) This past year I found this list/inventory of needs - it's supposed to work much like a list/inventory of feeling words (making a practice of looking at the words to identify what you're feeling or needing in any given moment builds the muscle to be more aware in general of what you're feeling or needing). I personally don't make as much use of it as I'd planned to, but it looks promising.

    2) From the way you describe the sensitivity to criticism, it sounds like he's already so critical of himself that he just can't handle anyone else adding to that plate. It's really frustrating to deal with this in other people - when the tiniest bit of incoming negative feedback is too much for them to handle. It's not fair to the people who have to deal with it. This is something that practically any therapist should be able to help with though - and frankly, this isn't something I'd try to describe without a therapist present.

    3) Internet addiction (or any kind of addiction) is about fleeing from unwanted emotions/not knowing how to manage emotions. It's one of those 'I don't want to be doing this, and yet I'm doing it' behaviors. We all kind of have our own cocktail of them (which interfere with our lives in varying degrees from mere inconvenience to complete devastation). I think the most you can do is express how it makes you feel - but this is another thing I wouldn't do without a therapist present, at least in the beginning.

    4) It does sound, from what you describe, like a lack of self awareness *but* I'd keep in mind that most people lack a lot of self-awareness (and it only becomes a serious issue for those closest to them, who have to deal with the worst of it) and I'd be careful about saying it's a personality disorder caliber lack of self-awareness. Because (I'm saying this as a reminder, not because I'm judging as harshly as this is going to sound) that can be kind of a shitty thing to do.

    Quote Originally Posted by Yuu View Post

    One of the hardest things about being with is making any decision. This is very strange for me. I an almost the one who has no trouble making decisions and do with no lack of confidence or certainty.

    With my husband, it is impossible to know what he really wants.

    I can ask “ Hey, do you want to-?” “ Is it alright if we-?“ and I can get any answer from “ I don’t want to but I guess we should.” to
    “Yeah! Let’s do it!”
    No matter what, it will inevitably come up as an example in his next rant about how I am selfish and force him to do things he doesn’t want to. When he’s in that mood, EVERYTHING we’ve done in the past year was what I wanted it do and he ‘ hated it’.
    Everytime I bring up a past game he ‘hated it’ he ‘didn’t enjoy it but kept doing it for me’.
    When he’s in a better mood the story is entirely different. It’s as if his very world view is shaped entirely by his current mood.

    I don’t mind comprise, I do not want to force him into things he doesn’t want to do, I do not want to responsible for his unhappiness
    (however, as I believe that we are all, in fact, masters if our universe, I don’t think that is my responsibility)

    Problem is that it is impossible to work with such radical inconstancies; one moment he’s enjoying his tine with me and ‘we should do it again’ and the next he’s secretly always hated it and resents me for forcing him into it.


    This part I'm only saying in the chance that it might prove useful at some point. This kinda made me bristle a bit, when reading it - TJs can have a 'steamrolling' effect on others without realizing it. I can't even begin to relate to the bolded, and if I can sense that my own indecisiveness is pissing someone off - I will back the fuck away from them and keep my distance. I'm okay with someone else being decisive, I'm just not okay with someone needing me to be anywhere near as decisive as they are. If I say I enjoyed something (like a particular game) - and then a week later, if something starts niggling at me, if I have to hide any reticence that surfaces for me about it, then I feel like I won't have a choice but to emotionally distance that person. I'm not even sure what my point is here, except just be careful about needing others to be as decisive as you are? Just something to think about.
    Reality is a collective hunch. -Lily Tomlin

    INFJ 5w4 sx/sp Johari / Nohari -or- disagree with my type?
    Likes Yuu, Lark, cascadeco liked this post

  10. #10
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    It sounds to me that there are several things all working in tandem:

    1) While he might have resented his mother making all the decisions, people tend to be most comfortable recreating the same dynamic unconsciously. So even if that's not the role you want to occupy, until he recognizes and addresses things in a more conscious way, he may kind of project that dynamic onto you. People rarely do things without there being some advantage to it for them. In this case, it takes off the pressure of taking responsibility to be proactive if he can leave the decisions up to you and react to that in various ways depending on how he's feeling right then.

    While I wouldn't say I have had the same thing, I do believe that for a long time I was attracted to more dominant people and also found it hard to express my preferences unless they aligned with the person. Most of the time it didn't really bother me, till enough small things piled. I experienced a number of different situations where I didn't make my needs or wants known or draw boundaries, and depending on how the other person interacted, it would be fine, or it would be the straw that broke the camel's back. I was accommodating not because I was a doormat person without opinions but because I was out of touch with my feelings in real time (so I couldn't tell someone right then why something was a problem), I could control my own reactions better than I could control the uncertainty of another person's reaction so I reflexively accommodated, and ultimately leaving decision making up to someone else put the responsibility on them instead of me, and they usually were more inclined towards wanting to steer. It was a weird way of controlling the outcome by trying to maintain a familiar dynamic that I knew how to work within.

    2) When I was reading about PTSD, one author described it more broadly than I'd seen it described before. He said that we experience a situation as traumatic when we feel helpless and without agency. He also talked about signs of disassociation which is common in PTSD, including something which made me take notice - having difficulty identifying what you are feeling (or facing it), or experiencing a significant lag in feelings catching up to experience is a form of disassociation. (Think of a firefighter - they become unaware of feelings of hunger or sleepiness or whatever else till after the fire is put out). I've discovered that as I've started expressing preferences more, risking what will happen if something comes up where I'm not on common ground with people I care about, I've become less secretive, felt less shame, and also experience my emotions much more in real time.

    Probably a big turning point for me was watching something that explained that emotions are there to move us to action and that if they are not paid attention to, they will start controlling us in an unconscious sense (think addictions, bad habits etc), or making us sick. It has been my experience that avoiding emotions as inconvenient, trying to talk myself out of them being legitimate, or just trying to distract myself from facing them leads to a more generalized kind of avoidance or anxiety. When you can name it and allow yourself to experience it, it's served its purpose and moves along. By finding out what's the worst thing that will happen when you're honest with someone about who you are or how you feel or what a situation is, then it makes the problem less terrifying and nebulous, and gives you a sense of of agency. As those skills are developed, and you build a sense of resilience from realizing that you can get through to the other side of self disclosure or conflict, it is empowering and I think less situations are trauma inducing.

    Re internet addiction - I think it can be a way of escaping facing uncomfortable feelings and self soothing. Most of us become more self indulgent in different ways under stress, or more prone to certain addictions. I notice when I'm totally drained, I go on my phone way more. When I've got reserves, I don't do that as often. I do think too that those coping mechanisms can also become habitual though and take on a life of their own separate from the initial reason they were "needed".

    3) With emotional maturation should come the ability to feel more than one thing at a time. One emotion tempers another. Ideally this happens as little kids, where as we attach on deeper and deeper levels with a strong adult, we become more able to temper our emotions as we add other ones to the mix which have a neutralizing effect. A three year old cannot do this, and so one minute feels pure anger and the next pure love etc. Without the rest that comes from an attachment where we don't have to work at being accepted and can disclose ourselves on deeper levels to, or without play as a form of activated rest which we enter into for a finite time and voluntarily, so we can experience emotions without being submerged by it, we often remain cycling between all kind of untempered emotion. I'd say that's part of what immaturity looks like.

    4) There is an element of will involved. Change, even when it's good, is uncomfortable because it requires adapting. I've found that people are the most uncomfortable in the process right before there's a breakthrough. Once they can learn to expect and embrace the uncomfortable feelings, they are more likely to stick with trying to keep progressing. But that requires recognizing what's not working, and wanting to make changes for one's own sake, not only someone else's. I think some rational perspective is needed, but emotions or the avoidance of one's we fear is more powerful than even what we believe or want to do. So maybe finding small ways of facing more manageable emotions where the stakes are lower helps build the agency and confidence to face more. Sometimes my mom has tried to drive home how important something is to deal with that I'm already terrified about, and it just immobilized me further. She's adding her own fears to the load.

    Also, developing a support system lends extra reserves when one's own are depleted, as well as different perspectives and voices. If one didn't inherit a start on a support system as a child, it can be easy to seem it unnecessary, but I think it is vital for all of us. No matter how much you love your husband and recognize the good in him, until he believes he can do it and wants to, your efforts will be for naught. All you can control is how you respond or what choices you make.

    5) I believe a lot changes with self disclosure, even if he were to just write things out and was them aloud to himself. Some prompts may be useful but really this is work that is not so much about you as a a couple but his own avoidance, depression, and inability to make change. It may feel very personal and it affects your relationship, but most of it isn't about you at all. I expect he also feels some guilt, which further complicates things.

    6) In the meantime, build your own support system, examine any areas where you have defense mechanisms covering up uncomfortable emotion, allow yourself to be vulnerable now and then, without taking responsibility for his response to that or having expectations.

    Sorry this is so long. Don't know if anything in here is useful , but I thought I'd throw a few things at the wall and see if any of it sticks, as you know him and the situation much better than we do.
    Likes Ravenetta liked this post

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