Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Coming up for Air

No couple can maintain a marriage solely in the growth cycle -- those who try burn out quickly. True, highly differentiated people don't see the outer circle as being terrifying, as do emotionally fused couples, and they enter it more readily. But even they need time for reflection and grounding.

-- Dr. David Schnarch, Passionate Marriage, p. 358

This space has been quiet. A mixture of time demands has deprived me of quiet interludes that foster in-depth analysis. The process of self-confrontation continues, but it has been in the background.

Updating the Job Search

A few weeks ago, I sent out two more resumes for local leads, positions that seemed promising. I got a reply from one of the businesses, a recruiter who said my resume looked interesting and said that she would forward it to the hiring manager. I haven't heard anything since then.

In the next couple weeks, I will make two trips to the West Coast for interviews. The first will be early next week, up in the Pacific Northwest. The second will be two weeks thereafter, deep in the Silicon Valley. For the latter, the Drunken Housewife has kindly provided me with useful information on local public transportation, so that I can get from my interview to the airport swiftly, safely, and with a modicum of environmental sensitivity.

Another lead, located in a southern city known for its music scene, has surfaced after about a month of no replies. It is a contract-to-hire position for a subsidiary of one of the organizations that shepherds royalties to songwriters.

They have some technology that is used to identify song for radio airplay tracking, and they are in need of a developer who is penguin friendly, and indeed I maintained a dual boot development system for my work at my former employer. I may be doing a phone interview with them late next week. The job is about a five hour drive from my home.

There is one other lead, a small web company located in New England, but I'm not fully sold on that company. The guy I interviewed with had one of the geekiest (in the most socially inept sense of the word) phone presences I have encountered in a long time.

They have requested some sample code, which presents me with a quandry because it has been a long time since I wrote any sizable amount of code that wasn't protected by a non-disclosure agreement. I took this as a motivation to put together a small software project that could demonstrate some coding prowess.

It's taken me about a week so far, and there's quite a bit of work left to go, but it has been a good exercise because it is completely original code, untainted by any licensing or intellectual property baggage. A lot of time that would have spent blogging has gone into it, and it has kept me from stressing and obsessing over where the rest of my life is headed.

Today, I talked with my wife about the possible availability of relocation assistance for the job in the South. She got tense, almost teary eyed, and restated her position that she will not move. She said she understood that I needed to pursue these leads, but she said that she "wasn't strong enough" to make the move to anywhere.

The Circus that is Work

The past month or so has been coding intensive, and we're almost at the point where we can test to see if two sides of a network infrastructure can actually communicate. If that wasn't a big enough drain, the CTO conscripted me into the drudgery of standards group work.

This is stuff that he should have completed last fall, but he's overscheduled himself and dropped the work on me with about a week and a half before a meeting that he would present the findings to. I worked on it like a trooper, and sent the finished product to him a day before he wanted the draft materials. I have no idea whether he's even taken a look at it, and the technical meeting wrapped up yesterday.

I've managed to pinpoint what bugs the hell out of me about him. He is a textbook example of what software developer Joel Spolsky calls a hit-and-run micromanager. Quoting the author's own blog essay:
That’s where you micromanage one developer in a spurt of activity and then suddenly disappear from that developer’s life for a couple of weeks while you run around micromanaging other developers. The problem with hit and run micromanagement is that you don’t stick around long enough to see why your decisions are not working or to correct course. Effectively, all you accomplish is to knock your poor programmers off the train track every once in a while, so they spend the next week finding all their train cars and putting them back on the tracks and lining everything up again, a little bit battered from the experience.

In this case, it's not that he's busy managing other developers, because there is only one other developer besides me. It's that he is busy with too many things.

A lot of it is flying around the country, trying to do a sales pitch to potential customers for a software product that largely doesn't exist. I didn't realize the sheer extent of the vaporware aspect of their marketing until a few weeks ago when I heard him do the pitch on a conference call. He spoke of nonexistent features as if they were, things that he said he was going to implement months ago but still hasn't.

Today he IMed me saying that he needed a status report on my work by the end of the afternoon because he said they needed to do a dry run on Friday for code that they were going to drop out at a possible client next week. He has been out of the office all week this week because of that technical meeting and another meeting regarding intellectual property. Last week, he was on vacation with his family in Europe. Later in the day, I learned that there is a good chance that the meeting will not happen at all because there is disagreement within the customer's organization over whether this is a pre-sales visit that they will not reimburse us for or a consultation that is part of a still unsigned agreement.

I need to get out of this house of cards, lest I get paper cuts from the collapse.

A Rock Makes a Lousy Pillow, No Matter How Much You Complain

My wife and I have been coexisting, but there is no closeness. I hurt from the lack of closeness, but I don't desire closeness from her. When I described the situation to my therapist this week, she said it sounded like our relationship is in a holding pattern until more certainty emerges over the job search.

The last sexual interaction between my wife and me was six and a half weeks ago. The more I have thought about her remark about being more comfortable about touching me with my clothes still on, the more resigned I have become about any sexual reawakening ever happening.

This past weekend, she made mention of maybe having sex later on this week since it had been so long. I responded with a neutral "OK", expressing neither enthusiastic anticipation nor sarcastic skepticism. I knew better than to get my hopes up, and it was pointless to get indignant.

A week and a half ago, my sister-in-law called to vent about my mother. A week prior, my mother had told my sister-in-law that she was on vacation that week and would be available to help watch the kids if necessary. My sister-in-law took her up on the offer and scheduled two days with her. On both instances, my mother called back out of both appointments, leaving my sister-in-law scrambling at the last minute to find someone to look after the kids.

When my sister-in-law shared her frustration with her husband (my brother), he told her, "You know, that was pretty much the way she did things all the time when we were growing up." She would make a lot of promises upon which she did not deliver. I'm not talking about material things, either. I'm talking about time commitments, like coming down to visit after she and our dad divorced.

I affirmed what my brother said, using an ad hoc analogy. People would call you crazy for decrying the fact that a rock makes a lousy pillow. Yet, we find ourselves so many times getting insulted and injured because our expectations do not match the limitations of others. The solution sometimes, is to stop expecting.

A few days later, it hit me that this is true also for my wife. The low sex drive isn't hormones, and it certainly isn't because I don't help enough around the house or whatever other excuse she wants to offer. She goes out of her way to fill her life with things that crowd out intimacy.

A while back, my therapist said that it almost sounds like my wife has lost respect for me in some sense. She said that she's seen it in other couples, especially in cases where there has been some sense of breached trust. Perhaps she's refuses to let go of the phone sex stuff, even though that's over a decade ago. Or perhaps she can't bring herself to hide that she's repulsed by me in some way.

Her unwillingness to read up on the subject or even have a meaningful conversation about it says that she refuses to self confront, and the fact that she quietly quit her therapy gives additional credence. Contrary to what I foolishly believed last summer, there isn't anything I can do to force her to self confront. Any effort to do so will just make her more resistant. I can't make her have feelings she doesn't have.

The crux of Schnarch's teachings is that we have to let go of that desire to control our spouse. The best one can hope for is that the other person will reevaluate his or her position once we start to make unilateral changes that make the status quo unsustainable. And in the case of people like me who have been historically passive personalities, we have to ask, "How much value do we put on ourselves?"

For me, that involves looking myself in the mirror and asking, "You grew up with an unreliable mother, do you really want to spend the rest of your life married to a woman who is just as unreliable with respect to intimacy? Or do you plan to gripe about the pillow being too hard?"

My answer is, "No, I don't want that, and if I am to develop any self respect, I can't continue doing that." I realize that by trying to love my wife through one-sided self sacrifice, I am continuing a pattern of self loathing that was cast in my relationship with my mother. The problem is how I break that pattern without being vengeful or hurting my children. It's a puzzle that will become the focus of future thought.

My therapist said that my wife probably senses the changes in my outlook on things. The willingness to reach out further for jobs elsewhere is a definite break from the catering she's come to enjoy throughout the course of our relationship. That catering is why we live in an area where it's so hard for me to find a job in the first place.

This process of differentiating probably had its beginnings in isolated instances years ago. My therapist speculates that rather than becoming more differentiated, my wife has chosen to transfer her emotional fusion to her best friends, and that might be why she senses so much anxiety when I bring up the idea of relocating. The thought of breaking that bond with physical distance is so troubling to her that she's willing to tolerate the idea of me working someplace far away during the weekdays as long as she gets to stay here with the so-called support network.

When the time comes that I tell her that I can no longer continue in this marriage, I am certain that it will not play well with the relatives. In a more fused era, that alone was a strong enough deterrent for me to make leaving simply unthinkable. But the bottom line is this: her choice to redirect her fusion rather than break free of it tells me that she doesn't place much value upon the marriage other than the material security it provides her.
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