Thank you for all the kind words and support you’ve offered. I’ve had a lot to think about since the last episode of Seven Year Switch, and of course like you, I’m anxious to see how things play out next week.
The thing that breaks my heart the most about the most recent episode is the way CW spoke to me at our reunion dinner and cut me off. How he didn’t listen to me and allow me to express my feelings. It pains me to watch him discount my feelings and try to silence me. After being away from controlling behavior for two weeks, it was even more shocking to experience it. This got me thinking about how controlling behaviors can creep into a relationship slowly and subtly so that over time you’re tolerating more and more.
Have you been in a relationship that was built on mutuality with equal power only to find out later that subtle forms of control started to creep in? I have definitely dated guys who from the start were controlling, and I ran the other way immediately. I hadn’t experienced the subtle form of control that isn’t so obvious. It’s just as dangerous to the psyche though, and causes emotional anguish. What starts as subtle control, disguised as strength and leadership qualities, and an endearing dislike for being wrong, will escalate over time and turn into overt controlling behavior and an unwillingness to be wrong.
When you don’t know about an established control connection that is subtle, it seems more like confrontations or arguments that you can’t ever resolve. Over time in my marriage, I had learned that those “confrontations” happened mostly when I expressed feelings. As a natural instinct to avoid so many confrontations, I tried to keep my feelings inside. Unmuting myself during my time with Eric was the best therapy I could have had. I got to remember what it’s like to not be concerned that what is expressed can be received as an attack and could end in deep pain. How would you respond to someone who feels attacked by your very presence and authentic voice?
Controlling People by one of my favorite authors Patricia Evans has some interesting ideas on how to respond. She suggests asking, “What did you say?” until the “spell” of control is broken. This is effective and also keeps the person on the receiving end from falling into the trap of explaining how he or she didn’t mean it as an attack. Evans points out that explaining yourself only tells the controller that you accept their behavior and his or her anger toward you is rational.
It’s hard to trust your own perceptions when you think of your partner as so rational, and so able to see you for who you really are, probably better than yourself. When they continually tell you they love you, you believe what they tell you about yourself and believe that they are on your team.
I’m learning and growing even more while I view our switch therapy experiment play back on TV. It’s far more enlightening to watch our relational dynamics as a “third party.” It’s a rare and close look that only Seven Year Switch could provide.