31 May 2012

Role Reversal

Eating is definitely one of my compulsive behaviors.  If I had a dollar for every time I said to Pete

"Just don't do it.  Don't. do. it.  Just don't." 

Forget that, if I had a dollar for every time I THOUGHT those words...

Anyway, the best situation I could muster to help me relate was when it comes to food. 

"Just don't eat a brownie for breakfast.  Just don't."

So why do I? Because I either totally ignore the voice telling me not to, with complete apathy and utter disregard.  Or I let the justifcations flow.  I'll run later, I'll only eat half, etc. 

I'm going to do a little role reversal.  I'll make my point in another post tomorrow. Well my point should be obvious but I'll elaborate on it tomorrow.  I know that there are flaws in my analogy, but bear with me for the sake of the point. 

A little hypothetical backround for my hypothetical situation:

Suppose overeating began to have consequences in my marriage and family.  Suppose I became grossly overweight and was unable to adequately function as an active wife and mother.  Then financial obligations mounted as health issues arose.  Pete and I decide I have an addiction and it's time for help.  I begin seeing a counselor, attending meetings, dieting, etc.  Here is a hypothetical day. 

Pete comes home from work.  I'm crashed on the couch with my laptop perusing Pinterest.  Immediately his demeanor changes and I can sense his frustration.  I immediately get defensive.

"How was your day?" he asks.

Hmm.  I'm thinking.  My day was crappy.  It got off to a bad start because I skipped my workout because the kids were cranky and wouldn't leave me alone on the treadmill.  So then I felt unmotivated and I ate three bowls of cocoa puffs for breakfast.  But I really don't want to admit to any of that.

"It was okay."

He's trying to be delicate, he's learning about co-dependency too, but he can't resist. 

"Did you exercise?"

I know he's trying to be helpful, to make me accountable.  I know he loves me and cares about my best interest.  But sometimes it feels like all he really wants is for me to be skinny.  Well I'm just NOT going to be skinny again.  That's unfair

"No."  I get up off the couch and stomp around the kitchen making dinner.  He is definitely irriated.  Irritated that I'm not doing my part, that I'm not "recovering."  He doesn't see any progress.  He feels discouraged and hopeless. 

So that makes ME irritated.  Why does he have to worry about me so much?  Why can't he back off? 

"So how about the diet? What did you eat today?"

UGH. This is soooo annoying.  I can't even stand to be around him.  I'm embarrassed. I feel like I suck.  I can't do anything right. He'll never be happy.  Why doesn't he just hug me, and tell me that maybe tomorrow will be better. Why can't he accept me? Forgive me? 

We spend the evening in totally awkward silence.  I can tell he's keeping an eye on me. Staying close,  trying to be inconspicuous as he observes my every move in the kitchen.

"Do you want to go on a walk?" He asks.

Ahhh! Quit it! Quit trying to fix me! Quit taking ownership of my life! QUIT IT!!! I don't feel like walking.  One stupid walk isn't going make me lose 100 pounds.  This is a bigger problem than that. He really doesn't get it. 

Deep down I'm feeling hopeless myself.  Feeling like I'll never get better.  I can't change. 

I finally lash out. 

"Just leave me alone.  It's not like you're perfect.  It's not like you ever exercise or have to watch what you eat.  Maybe if you didn't put so much pressure on me I could change.  Not to mention the fact that you don't really help me much with the kids.  If you did a little more around the house I might have more time for exercise."

Change the subject, blame it on him, show him how frustrated I am. 

It works.  He fights back. He tells me I'm messed up for blaming him.  He tells me I'll never get better if I don't live differently.  He doesn't hold back.  His words hurt.  A lot.  I feel like he doesn't even love me. 

We go to bed, both of us angry and hurt.  Both of us devastated about the situation we find ourselves in.  Both of us hopeless.  


  1. Jane, I love your insights. I have the same sort of issue with food so I can totally get this. I am tying this comment just after eating a yummy but unnecessary Little Debbie Nutty Bar. This post really makes me think about how I handle (or at least used to) his addiction. I really do need to try to be more understanding & extend hi some compassion. I guess I just struggle with that since he won't open up - but still - I need to do so.

  2. I've thought about this so much -- I think this is one of the greatest blessings of my OWN recovery, has been a growing empathy. I"m so much more able to put myself in his position and realize how horrible it must feel to be stuck in something you want out of (and even when you don't WANT out, you know you should be), how it must feel to let people down, hurt people you love -- I am so much better able to be there for him, to put my arms around him and tell him I KNOW he loves me, I know what a wonderful man he is, I know how incredible he is and how worthwhile and loved by all who know him -- because I've been able to detach a little and be more empathetic and not just think of how this feels to me.
    I also have a whole new understanding in my relationships with food and shopping . . . gulp, I'm gonna have to tackle those sooner or later!!

  3. I have compared my eating to his addiction as well, but I've never taken the analogy so far. It was powerful to get a glimpse of what he feels like! This was so spot on. I can't wait for the next post!!

  4. Role reversal gives SO much insight into how we are both affecting each other. (PS--I totally eat brownies for breakfast...)

  5. While I appreciate the attempt to enlighten spouses on what life might be like as a sexual addict, I feel this example it is missing a very obvious point, and worry it would lead to more codependent and dysfunctional thinking patterns, that have already been ingrained in spouses of abuse (and having a sexually addicted spouse, IS an emotionally abusive relationship).

    Unless they have a medical condition, the person choosing to eat themselves to a grossly obese weight, got to that point somehow... I'm guessing through self pity and self centeredness. That is really the core reason why I personally had an issue with my spouses sexual addiction- not the porn itself, but the attitude that accompanied it. Then again, that attitude was put on display in your example, looking over the response to being held accountable. When asked about your hypothetical progress, the attitude of selfishness and self centeredness, rather than the humility and patience it would take to accept and admit "No, I didn't do my best today, but I will try again tomorrow"- was a pretty spot on for most addicts.

    In short, what's being missed is the self centeredness, and boatload of self pitying excuses they feed themselves, that perpetuated the entire cycle, for the example you gave and for sex addicts. People can have low self esteem and be self centered. It doesn't have to positive thoughts they dwell on, what matters is they dwell on themselves, leaving no room for compassion or understanding with others.

    However, I applaud your attempts to opening spouses eyes in this emotional time, to the fact that people usually don't like to be held accountable when it comes to giving up their vices, and it will only end up in a power struggle if you try to force it. A power struggle the spouses will never win, since they can not (and should not) control their addicted spouse.

  6. I forgot to add, addicts are master manipulators. Being around one for too long can have devastating effects on our thinking patterns. Thinking they we should be nice to our own detriment, compassionate to others but not ourselves, wanting to be seen as a "good", seeking approval even when it leads us away from our core values, assuming other people and circumstances have near total control of our lives, are all "side effects" of being closely involved with manipulative people. I strongly suggest anyone involved with an addicted spouse of any kind, read

    "Who's pulling your strings".

    This book helped open my eyes, more than any other website, article, book or person COMBINED. It opened my eyes not only to what my spouse was doing, but also the effect it had on my thinking and how I viewed the world. Our manipulators WANT us to be their personal martyrs, because it makes their life easier. When you learn not only how some people are manipulating you, but also how to defend yourself against people like this, is when the true healing can begin to take place.

    You can not heal, while you are still being harmed.
    You can not stop yourself from being harmed, until you know how to "mentally" defend yourself.

    Again, the book is called "Who's Pulling Your Strings" and can be found on amazon.com. There are PDF versions online if you want to keep your reading list private from your spouse, but don't have separate finances yet. I strongly recommend getting this one for your bookshelf though, when possible.