An Update

Lately I have taken all my time to write and put it toward reading about fixing my marriage. A book my counselor recommended. It has worksheets in it that my wife and I will start doing together on our Thursday discussions. 

We will see where it goes. I have high hopes for our friendship. I’m less certain about sex. As I was discussing with someone just yesterday how much can you expect a person to change from who they are at their core? Is it even fair of me to ask that much of her?

Flooding

Reading a marriage book at the behest of my counselor, and page 40 really nailed it! The concept of flooding. I had been trying to tell my wife how her reactions to things overwhelm me and shut me down. It frustrates her as well as me. I mean I’m in a conversation, and then I’m just done. She went a certain direction, and BAM my body shuts down and my brain turns off. 

It’s called flooding. It’s a real thing, and affects us in a very physical way. Blood pressure and heart rate changes are significant. It forces your brain back into primitive mode. I can completely relate to that. All my humor and creative solutions are gone. It’s just me trying to survive the situation and make it stop. 

I love finding new information. This is great! I have a name for something that has been plaguing my marriage. Can we change it? Only time will tell, but it is no longer a mystery which means we are closer to resolution of one kind or another. 

Thursday discussion 

These conversations between my wife and I are still awkward, but they are making a difference. Last night we started off easy about stuff that went well and progressed into talking about our kids. Always a joy for us both. 

After a while I turned toward my notes from counseling. I had a really good session. Earlier in the week I was actually wondering if I was getting anything from the counseling, and then I had a really good session. Last night I pulled up my notes and started with the first of many points. We never made it past the first point because it brought out so many things for both of us. 

My first note was that we need to figure out a communication plan that works for us. That term is just something I struggle with. It sounds so fake to me. As if we are going to learn inauthentic ways of dealing with each other that will make the other person think we understand them. Either way my wife liked the idea. She started bringing up examples of where it could help. 

Then she told about how she was so happy she had covered for me last week when I had a work outing. She was able to get the kids and put them to bed. She dropped the line “I was even able to take them to the grocery store and do grocery shopping!” And my panic buzzer went off. She hadn’t told me that before. I stopped her because I wanted to let her know how that made me feel, and apparently it didn’t come across very well. I told her that when she does those extra things when I’m depending on her, that is when things go wrong and it ends up backfiring on me. I told her I was glad it didn’t, but when she mentioned it I started to panic. She became very upset because she thought it was just a positive story, but she couldn’t see it from my perspective. 

Later in our conversation that led us to talk about how she reacts to the things I say. She will often get upset with me for the way that I say things. I do not always have the luxury of coming up with the perfect wife approved statement, and I said she needs to cut me some slack. Then I told her how I often feel that she puts me in the “jerk” box unfairly. Which makes her perceive that everything I say is from a jerk when it couldn’t be further from the truth. She has read The Rosie Project and I said “if instead you put me in the Don box I don’t think you’d have such a reaction to what I say.”

She got very contemplative and had to really consider. She admitted that I am not a jerk; she does often box me in as a jerk when she is stressed. She doesn’t know why, and she’s never thought about it before. We talked about when we were younger and we would joke about me being the kindest sweetest most loving jerk she knows. But it was only a joke. She has somehow made it part of her view of me. I told her that we can’t treat each other based on who we were in 2003. We are not those people. That was something else that came up during my counseling. She knows she struggles with bringing up the past as if nothing has changed. Everything comes from the past for her. She doesn’t let go. 

Later she brought up that she often feels that I’m selfish. That I make everything about me. That was interesting for me to hear, but I listened. She said I often turn conversations around in a way that she becomes the bad guy, and make her do more of the work around the house. We talked about it, and I don’t turn the conversation to me but I do change the conversations quite often to a level she is either uncomfortable with or doesn’t understand. We think differently. She even had to admit most of the time I’m putting her needs first, but it’s hard for her to see it when it’s happening. As to the work, I readily admitted I’m lazy, but I never make or expect her to do more. She just never sits down and does it anyway. I said I’ve been working for 18 years on being a better person to live with but it is not easy. 

Then I reminded her of all the times I asked her NOT to do something until I could get to it and she didn’t wait. She never does. Last night before our talk she actually took time out to watch a cooking YouTube video while I was putting the kids to bed. She knew it was garbage night and there was work to do, but she finally realized that if she didn’t wait for me to help, and just did it while I was busy with the kids, then it wasn’t fair to me that she feels overburdened. And she also resents that I take time out for myself – like watching a video of something that interests me – and she won’t until every last thing is done. That’s her issue to deal with not mine. She admitted as such last night. She saw that everything went very smoothly once I came downstairs, and we started doing the garbage together. No resentment. I even asked her about the video she watched. 

Things got a little emotional too when we started talking about all I’ve done for her over the years. We went into detail on how I was always there to support her career. Even the little things. Both pushing her and pulling her when needed. Showing her how to stand up to a horrible boss, and giving her the courage to take a giant leap for her career at my own expense. She knows all this.

Then we talked about friendships and all I’ve done for her to be able to maintain friendships. She even brought up how I stood up for her against her horrible off-campus roommates when we were in college. All the way up till now I’m still helping her setup times to see her friends so they stay close friends. She was extremely appreciative and realized that I do all these things for her quietly and in between chores getting done. One thing we didn’t talk about is that she does none of it for me.

Next we talked about the way we tell stories and how different we are personality-wise. She likes to tell every little detail from A to B to C to D. It’s too much. When I tell stories I jump around and highlight areas. I focus on what would be interesting to my audience. Those styles are completely opposed, and we often are angry at each other for it. I’m constantly telling her to summarize and skip to the point while she is flustered that I skipped points, and tries to insert them while I’m talking. It was just one very clear example of where we are very very different personalities in a way that angers both of us. 

Overall my wife is trying through. She even brought up that yesterday when we were discussing some area of our house we needed to address she thought about how to approach it with me. Instead of whatever she would have said, which most likely wouldn’t have worked, she said “ok, what do we do next?” The planning side of my brain took off and I launched into our possible options. She was floored at how well it worked because she had just wanted to give me her opinion which would’ve probably led to an argument. Instead she got a complete analysis and an animated husband. It was an eye opener for her. She was finally using and relying on my intuition and planning skills instead of fighting them. 

Finally she wanted to bring up how thankful she was that I am a great dad and the time I spend with the kids. She knows it’s important to me and she feels very lucky to have such an involved husband. She even mentioned that she listened to me and makes more of an effort herself to spend time with the kids over work and cleaning. It was an acknowledgment that I really do know what l doing and she learned from me. For some reason I think that is hard for her. She’s too proud to admit that I can teach her things. She says it makes her feel dumb. The only dumb people I know are those who stop trying to learn. 

Anyway that was our talk. It was good.

Introverted Intuition

My personality type falls into the Introverted Intuitives group. I’m an INTJ. It’s a way of thinking that I’ve had all my life, and influences how I see the world. My mind rather easily pieces together patterns and impressions which help me to predict what will happen in the future. The future is sometimes just the next 10 seconds and other times decades down the road. 

When I share my thoughts with others it can often seem outlandish or even mystical.  If you are not an introverted intuitive then it can be hard to understand how those connections are being made. I get a lot of skeptical looks. Especially from my wife. 

Here is a great description from psychologyjunkie:

Introverted Intuitives (INFJs, INTJs, ENFJs, ENTJs) form long-term conclusions and strategies for how things will most likely play out. They think visually, using many abstract symbols to make sense of their perceptions. Their future insights are often uncannily accurate. Their ideas often come to them “out of the blue” and are usually internalized, unlike Ne which is stimulated by the outer world and is more externalized. Introverted Intuition has less breadth than Extraverted Intuition, but more depth.

Out of the blue is a good way to describe it. Most of the time I have a vague idea of why the conclusion is reached, but it’s not always in a way I can put into words. Other times I’m really not sure where the idea came from. Much like waking with a song stuck in your head. Where did that come from? Who knows. I really don’t think too much about where it came from and just appreciate the new idea. 

However I am regularly grilled by introverted sensors over how the idea came to be. They require a solid historical example of how something could’ve happened, and they have a keen memory to debate every point which I can’t fully articulate. I know this because my wife does this to me so often I have stopped engaging her with big ideas unless I can fully explain it. 

Generally, I walk around in a world of probability. I even talk this way to myself when making decisions. In every action there is a probability of any number of reactions. My intuition often guides me to see those next steps, and even the next several steps, ranking them by likely probability. Often there are many forks to consider and then reconsider at lower levels. 

I love going through the process, and frankly I can’t turn it off. I can only choose if I share. With any project I end up with plans, backup plans, and backup backup plans. Most of which never occur, but cover all the top probable outcomes.  There are times when I appear to adapt quite quickly to complex changing situations, but usually those adaptations were preplanned in my mind. 

Take driving for example. As I’m driving down the road I am constantly analyzing other drivers to predict their next move. Not just the drivers around me, but those 5 cars ahead of me, too. Honestly I can’t tell you all the data that goes into these decisions. But there are times when I know that a driver will be soon trying to merge this way or that. A driver will be heading in a particular direction or maybe driving faster or slower than average. I will then adjust myself accordingly. I do the same mental excercise when my wife is driving, but she argues with me about it constantly! Even though I’m right most of the time. She reacts to what she sees in the moment, and I react to what I predict will be the next moment. 

Again it’s a probability. I’m not always right, but it’s rare that I’m massively wrong. Usually it’s just a level of detail I get wrong. 

Another way to think of it is with the game of pool. If most people can see a straight shot or even a simple bank shot, I can often see a double bank shot to sink three balls. It’s just part of introverted intuition, and I’m sure many other INTJs know what I’m talking about. 

The hardest part can be describing how you reached those conclusions to people who doubt you. My wife is my biggest doubter. I’m always finding these connections between things and explaining them to her. Things about why people act a certain way, and the little things that could make a big difference. She argues with me about every one of them. Often I’m using this skill to help her, but it doesn’t matter. 

The thing is, I’m very good at it, and have used it successfully to help people many times. I love helping people. My wife will often say that she doesn’t know anyone who looks at the world and sees things the way I do. But when I try to use that skill to help her she rejects it. 

The main reason she rejects it is because she does not understand it. My wife is a very literal person, and she must see things directly. She does not see the double bank shot. Therefore it cannot exist. Regardless of how I try to explain it, and to be honest I’m not always great at explaining it. That doesn’t make what I’m saying incorrect through. 

My wife also has a very naive view of human behavior. Essentially everyone is like her, and has the same drivers she has. She can’t really fathom all the ways different people react to things. I am constantly explaining to her other explanations of why people might be acting the way they are. It frustrates her to no end. 

With my friends, and with Meredith especially, they love this skill and we can often talk for hours about theories and different probable future events. There is no animosity over what I propose as a solution nor a need for detailed analysis on how I got there. They accept that I am smart, and know what I’m talking about. Then we can talk about the results rather than the process. 

Meredith was such a breath of fresh air in that regard. She was struggling with many varied things over the years, and she loved talking it out with me and hearing what crazy ideas I had about it. Though she knew they would be unique she also knew they would be pretty accurate – usually. 

Thursday Talk

Last night my wife and I had a good discussion. We each had a glass of wine and settled down to discuss personal things. We did not address the elephant in the room (sex), but we did talk about many of the things that are impacting our communication.

We started by acknowledging the positives. Then we looked at what could’ve gone better. Then looked at specific things we need  from each other. The positives were nice. The negatives were harder, as most of our negatives are really a lack of positives in certain areas. The specific things were also hard as I don’t know what those are specifically. My brain works more in theories and philosophies. But we mustered through it.

She is listening. She is actually listening to me on a deeper level without arguing with every point. This is a first, and she acknowledged it was work for her. This was  a different way of acting for her; to really listen to me tell her how I’m feeling. I need to be able to talk those feelings even if she doesn’t find them pleasant.

She is controlling her anger and reactions. This is a big one for me. Normally her intense negative reaction shuts me right down. For years this has been the case, where now I am just trained to avoid that which brings the reaction. Her newfound control allowed me to really tell her what she needs to hear. I’m sure I still wasn’t super open. Baby steps.

She is focused on us and loves me. This was clear and we acknowledged it. She isn’t going to attack me for how I feel. She is going to work on our marriage because she loves me. And I love her.

She needs me to tell her when I notice her improvement. She said she often can’t tell anymore whether she is doing anything right. Her world has shifted. I need to be extra appreciative when I notice a positive change. Fair enough.

She wants to change both for me and for herself. Much of the change we discussed was for me and our relationship, but there are also things she does that upset me that she does with others. She knows what they are – her mother does them. It bothers her to think she makes people feel invalidated the way her mother does. She knows that pain well. Part of this will help her in all relationships.

We talked about our communication styles. We are very different people, and we need to know that about each other. She knows now that she can’t wait for me to tell her things in the same extroverted style she would use. I also need to know that she is going to overwhelm me with her own feelings at times, and I need to discuss that with her. She also isn’t going to intuit my needs well. She wants help on how to navigate that. I will help, but I also explained that I don’t always know the answer. She’s going to have to work on figuring some of it out.

I told her that there is a whole world to me she knows nothing about. I’m not hiding it from her intentionally. It is just how my mind works. She can crack into it, but I’m not going to just deliver it to her. She will need to learn how to navigate and learn more about me. It’s up to her if she wants. I want her to know about me. That there is a lot under the hood. But I can’t force her to find it and I’m not sure she even can. It takes a type of mental connection we’ve never had.

We will keep doing these talks, and it seems to be getting easier for her. The more we have these hard talks the easier they get. That is good news. She was less anxious this time. She isn’t as scared of what is to come.

I told her that I need to know that she is interested in me. It’s important to me. After spending so much energy on her I need to feel her interest in my future and me as a person. It’s hard feeling invisible in your own marriage. She said she never ever meant to make me feel that way. And it’s true. She never meant any harm, but it happened anyway.

I don’t need a scheduled set of checking in. I need an organic interest from her. She often wanted some sort of action plan or checklist. I kept saying, no. That’s too much. We just need to talk about it now. I just need you to show interest. From the interest things will come. A checklist does not show me you care about me. It only shows you can follow directions. I need it from the heart. Genuine interest.

We both need some time to ourselves to work on ourselves. This we acknowledged together. I need her full support to be able to work on things for me, and she needs my support to do things for her. To be honest she has my full support already.

I need to be me again. I’ve been on hold so long. That is the essence of what I need in all its forms. She wants a list of what that is, but I need it to be a conversation, and an ability to know me. We will see how well this lasts. Perhaps I’m asking too much.

I think she could see that the equality she thought we had was not so. I feel very much like our relationship is focused on her and my role is to support her. She hadn’t ever paused to think about that.

She said she often feels like she is failing in every aspect of her life. She can’t spend enough time at work; or with the kids; or with me; or on herself. She is not failing, but she feels that way. As long as she has kids and a job she will always feel that way. I will help her look at ways to lessen that feeling. That may mean cutting back at work.

In the end will this be enough? I don’t know. It’s hard to say. At least we will give it a try. At minimum this will improve things. It will open us up to be able to communicate about sex.

Excercise Update

Lately I’ve been hitting the elliptical trainer. I strained my knee many weeks ago lifting weights, and have started running and stretching to heal it. So far so good. All the excercise has improved my mood. Right now, for instance, I’m feeling pretty good. 

It’s interesting to me how emotions, and thoughts are tied together. Today I don’t feel down, and my thoughts feel different. Honestly the conclusions are still the same, but I feel more positive about it. In fact knowing that when I’m having a good day I’m still very concerned about the future of my marriage is good! It confirms that my moods are not driving my decisions on something so life changing. One of my biggest worries is to make a life changing decision, and then regret it later when I’m not as depressed. 

Anyway, that’s an update for you. Spring is here. I’m excercising which is helping. My thought process remains the same. 

Counseling Update

Met with my counselor again today. Overall gist was a rather business like focus on me not enabling my wife when she overwhelms herself. She does this frequently, and the fallout is that I take on a bunch of work to make her feel better at my own expense. It’s so bad now I don’t feel I can even ask for things I need. We need to talk about it. 

Thursday nights we are going to talk about us. Our relationship. With a glass of wine. It will be our regular check in on how we are doing. 

My counselor asked how the communication was with Meredith. Well, it was amazing. Incredible even. Over three years she was always there for me. She understood my intentions. 

Personality types. My wife and I are so different, but we get along well at planning things. We just don’t communicate well otherwise. She is extroverted sensing and I’m introverted intuitive. Our communication methods couldn’t be more different. It seems to me that I spend much of my time adapting to her way of being. Which has left me out in the cold. 

Then there is grief. I’m really in the doldrums today. He honestly didn’t have much to say about that which was a little frustrating. He acknowledged it. That it feels much like the death of a marriage. But we didn’t go into great detail. I’m proud of myself for bringing it up though. It’s not easy to talk about.