Sunday, December 24, 2006

Resolving a Paradox

Tom Allen comments:
And here's where I disagree with the Schnarch-ness of what you're doing: Yes, on one level you do not want to violate her integrity by making her do things for you. OTOH, a relationship implies mutual accomodation; it seems that you're secretly hoping that she just gives you more ammunition in order to justify your leaving.

To my way of thinking, the more honest approach would be to tell her your own feelings on the situation ("It makes me unhappy that you would stop therapy, because I don't think that we'll be able to fix things on our own. Or because it makes me feel like fixing our relationship is not as important to you as it is to me, and that makes me feel nervous and vulnerable."), because without some resonable expectation of accomodation, then neither of you are playing the same game.

Tom brings up a good point, and upon first glance, it would seem that Schnarch's approach is either insane or sneakily manipulative. I'm going to pull out a couple of excerpts from Passionate Marriage that I think illustrate the motivation for not applying pressure on my wife.
Fusion fantasies and indirect self-acceptance make intimacy -- meaning other-validated intimacy -- the contemporary Holy Grail. In truth, we've embraced a Siamese twin model of intimacy. The image of two people fused at the hip captures the essence of emotional fusion, as well as our common approach to intimacy. Think about how you would treat a Siamese twin. Every single movement would require consensus. If you didn't have your own twin's validation and acceptance, you'd be in deep... well, let's just say you wouldn't want to frighten or anger your twin. Reciprocity would be the Golden Rule. Empathy wouldn't be a choice. You'd be constantly aware of the tremendous impact your partner could have on you, even by doing self-destructive things
The same emotional fusion that underlies our Siamese twin model of intimacy shows up in the familiar "we're in the same boat" notion of marriage. This idea gives a false sense of security because once you believe you're in the same boat, the next question is who's going to steer?! When you think you're cast adrift with a lunatic -- because your partner sees things differently than you -- your likely to try pummeling him/her into steering the direction you want to go. But when you realize spouses are always in two separate boats -- and could sail in opposite directions (unless one grabs all the "supplies") -- you're more likely to be kind and friendly to your fellow captain. (Schnarch, pp. 108 - 109)

and later on when he talks about two-choice dilemmas:
Such dilemmas arise from our human nature: we are fundamentally separate life forms who value both attachment and autonomy. In Chapter 4, we unmasked the illusionary notion of "being in the same boat." Once you realize you and your partner are in two separate "boats," you understand the nature of your dilemma: you want to steer your own boat and your partner's, too. We call this "togetherness" -- as long as you are steering for both of you. When your partner does the same thing, however, it's called "control." If you want both absolute certainty of your partner's course and certainty that you're not controlling him or her. You've just run into a two-choice dilemma. (Schnarch, p. 297)

By making it very clear that the ball is in her court without issuing warnings of consequences, I am choosing the latter option of the two boat dilemma. I am acknowledging the separateness of her boat and giving her the option of steering it in the direction that aligns with her true self. From that, I must decide whether I will go the same course under free will or go my own way altogether.

A cynic might call that "loading up on ammunition", but it is not my goal to seek war against her. I want a peaceful parting should it happen. I will not make a mad dash for the "supplies", and even if she decides to make war on me, I will not retaliate in kind.

Schnarch says that fusion within a marriage leads to a state of emotional gridlock, where couples aren't able to disclose themselves. At that point, Schnarch says one of the four things will happen (Schnarch, pp. 118 - 119):

  1. Push your parnter to violate himself/herself by accommodating you.

  2. Turn yourself over to your partner by accommodating him or her.

  3. Separate emotionally or physically.

  4. Confront yourself and become more differentiated.

If I were to state my potential reaction to what I would consider an unfavorable outcome, I would be following option (1). By taking the Dr. Laura route of playing sports and waiting until the kids are grown, I would be following option (2). Going straight to divorce or an EMR, I would be choosing option (3). My therapy and this blog are an attempt to choose (4), and the fruit of those labors was the differentiated thoughts posting.

Why do I put so much weight on Schnarch's writings? There are two good ones:

  1. Nothing else I've tried has worked.

  2. I've seen strong echoes of the dysfunctions he describes in my own marriage.

Pulling another paragraph from Schnarch:
Expecting trust, validation, and shared reality only encourages fights about "what really happened." If you and your partner are constantly fighting about "reality", you're probably dependent on other-validated intimacy and you're really arguing about whose reality will become the dominant reality and whose anxieties will prevail.

You can see this kind of reality clash occurring as recently as the mercy fuck conflict from a couple weeks ago. She's used to fighting the reality dominance war and has become quite adept at using both table turning and emotional fragility as weapons. Audrey, the woman in Chapter 12 of Schnarch, used a lot of the same kinds of techniques to bludgeon her husband Peter into accepting her reality.

By refusing to fight the reality war any more and by stating my beliefs without expectation of validation, I am becoming more differentiated.

That's the basis for my actions. If I have misunderstood the nature of your comment, please let me know.
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