LIVING WITH WOMEN
 

PATHOLOGY IN MARRIAGE


OR

WHEN A MATE'S BAGGAGE IS UNPACKED

WHEN GHOSTS FROM THE PAST SHOW UP

WHEN YOU BECOME THE DEVIL

WHEN A SPOUSE GETS CRAZY



REVERSE COMPLIMENTS


When a wife is not in therapy

a husband is often the safest place

to project shadows of inward stress

yet to be recognized as rooted within


But as long as he takes them personally

as though her criticisms are actually about him

she is set up to continue in denial

and he to fall victim of bitching


If, however, he comes to see her problems

as hers, not his, and to appreciate

her blind confidence in his stand-ability

then silently he may be affirmed

by her cloaked compliments


********


PREFACE


Be alert for the worse side of your spouse.


Later if not sooner a spouse's resident pathology may predictably appear in the midst of marriage, often to be projected onto you. Unless alert, you will, with equal predictability, take it personally rather than recognizing it as cloaked confession, deeper level revelation of a loved one's actual self, which may actually be a back-handed compliment to security and safety you have provided in your relationship. What you do, how you respond, is critically important for the future of the marriage.

Intellectually, we all know that "nobody's perfect." And in psychological language, this means that we all have degrees of resident pathology ("emotional immaturity")--some, of course, more than others. But we commonly forget–or don't want to believe, that our spouse is also one of "them," let alone that the label probably fits ourselves to some extent also.

Theoretically, as in courtship before marriage, we would all bring our "best self" to our spouse, the one we love the most. And in the beginning of a relationship, this seems to commonly be the case. But, paradoxically, the deeper nature of a love relationship, especially one surrounded by structures of a legal marriage, is that in time, inherent security of "love and marriage (which, we are told, 'go together like a horse and carriage...')" naturally invites deeper revelations of parts of ourselves commonly hidden, even unconsciously, during courtship.


DEFINITIONS


Before explaining, understanding my terms will be relevant. By pathology I refer to what in familiar terminology may be seen as "having problems," "being upset," "having a fit," "feeling bad," being "emotionally disturbed," "having a difficult time," or, in immediate situations, "being mad at you," or, "hateful" and "unloving." It may also be seen, borrowing medical terms, as an "illness" or "sickness." Or, in religious terms, as "being possessed by a demon."


INTRODUCTION


– Everyone has a bit of personal pathology, some more, others less, but "nobody's perfect."


– We all carry a load of baggage from the past, subject to being unpacked in varying degrees during the course of an extended relationship.


– No matter how sophisticated one's intellectual thinking may be, resident ghosts from past fears may predictably re-appear in the course of an extended marriage.


– No matter now sane a spouse may often be, we all have varying degrees of resident craziness apt to be encountered at stressful times in a relationship–if not our spouse's, then predictably our own.


– If religious, no matter how "saved" one may often appear, deep un-faced and/or unforgiven  sin is likely to remain, subject to resurrection in the presence of a spouse.


– No matter how adored, loved, or even worshiped a husband may be in the conscious thinking of a wife, at one time or another he may be transformed in her eyes into a Devil who is seen as the major cause of her unhappiness (or current craziness).


– In everyday language, synonyms for these times include: When a spouse reveals  "Troubles," "Blues," "Problems," "Unhappiness," "Depression," or "Mental Disturbances."


Hank Williams lamented in song: Another love before my time made your heart sad and blue; and now my heart is paying for things I didn't do...Why can't I free your doubtful mind and melt your cold cold heart?


At some critical times in every extended relationship, one or more versions of these various ways of recognizing limitations (pathology) of a loved one is highly likely to appear.


The question I raise here is: What is the best way to act when a spouse's demons appear? What should a man do when a woman gets crazy? What to do when ghosts from the past appear in the present? Or, personally, what have I learned so far about the best way to respond to a woman's pathology.


DEMONIZING


First of all, expect to be demonized at one time or another, that is, seen as the Fall Guy, the one at fault, the source and cause of a wife's unhappiness. Total projection of debilitating powers onto a husband is highly predictable, especially in the early phases of long term problems emerging into consciousness.

Paradoxically, a reverse compliment may be hidden in a wife's overt demonizing of her husband. She may even remain outwardly "nice" and civil with others, while privately degrading the husband she "loves." As a once popular song voiced it: You always hurt the one you love, the one you wouldn't hurt at all. Perhaps this paradox was being confronted in song.

The cloaked compliment may lie in the experienced safety a wife sometimes feels with her husband, more than with all others, allowing her to risk bringing out her deeper troubles. Because it is also the nature of beginning stages of unrepression to see projections first–that is, to look at images or mirrors which may reflect denied aspects of oneself, and, in effect, to blame "them," to imagine them to be the source and cause of one's personal problems (much like a child blames a ghost for "scaring me").

In time, if healing continues, such a projecting wife may eventually stop projecting onto her husband (or other outside "mirrors") as she comes to accept personal responsibility. But in the meantime, a husband is better advised to look for a hidden compliment in the implied trust she may deeply feel in her relationship with him before she risks "trotting out her demons" before him, than to take her projections at face value.

Just because she "blames you" for her emotional ills, you are not obligated to either fall for her projections or to take blame yourself.


UNDERSTANDING "DEMONS"


The nature of beginning phases of any unrepression includes a tendency to exaggerate personal denials and indulge in consequent projections–that is, to resist seeing pathology as one's own and hence to look for, even to create, an outside cause. In broadest perspectives, this is the psychic phenomenon of demonizing or "devil making," imagining an outside evil source (in this case, you) to be causing discomfort she feels when her "problems" are nearing awareness.

Facing personal responsibility for one's difficulties is notably difficult to do. It is always easier, and perhaps even natural, to view oneself as innocent (not at fault) and to seek some outside cause bearing the guilt for "making me feel this way." In religions, this is commonly seen as the Devil. In marriage, the guilty party is typically a spouse.

The psychic phenomenon is an exaggeration of typical repression/projection which commonly lies at the source of pathology. When one begins to un-repress ("face oneself"), for whatever reasons, the first step is usually an escalation of initial psychic events, namely, increasingly personal denials ("not my fault"), and magnifying the size of the projection object (in this case, you).

Personal innocence may be staunchly maintained as the projected guilt cause is increased proportionally to keep balance. The deeper the pathology, the greater the degree of exaggeration of both personal innocency and guilt of whatever source one has chosen to blame the problem on.

In practice, a wife at this initial phase of potential unrepression will typically focus on the "faults"–either real or imagined, of her husband on which to place blame for her "problems," e.g., something he has said or done, or failed to, or even "just the way he is."

A second reason for ease of projected cause of a wife's un-faced pathology is a husband's need to maintain illusions of her perfection, as first imagined in the blinded eyes of romantic love–that is, her magical powers (as though she were a goddess) to "make me happy (if only she will)."

To see a wife's difficulties (her pathology) as actually her own, requires also facing her limitations in previously imagined powers to "take care of" her husband's psychic needs (to "save him" or "make him whole" by supplying his "missing half").

When she is "upset"–that is, appearing to "not love me" at the time, then any threat I feel outside the circle of her "love (good graces)" will be predictably resurrected. Rather than facing her limitations ("problems") as her own, and consequently her inability to "make me happy," a husband may be tempted to accept her projections onto him as cause of her difficulties. This is easier than confronting one's own irresponsibility in the relationship, as reflected in secret adoration of her.

Which leads to a third reason for not seeing personal denials and projections onto oneself. If I "take the blame," that is, accept the notion that I am causing her to be upset, then, irrationally, I may also maintain deeper illusions of my own powers to possibly "make her okay," that is, to personally change the situation by something I can say and/or do, to, in effect, "heal her sickness."

If I am the cause of her problems, then theoretically I have the power to somehow correct them ("heal" her) and return her to goddess status again–that is, with magical powers to "make me happy." This illusion commonly begins, I surmise, with boys and our mothers in early life.

Unless a husband remains carefully conscious at times when a wife's pathology is resurrected, for these and many other possible reasons, he will "fall for" her typical projections onto him–or even to imagine them to be so when they are not. It will be far easier to simply not see her difficulties as her own–that is, as caused by him (as she may indeed state to be the case), than to confront the real situation.

If he simply reacts emotionally rather than remaining conscious and reasonable, that is, responding based on facts rather than feelings, then an inherently difficult situation will predictably be exaggerated, later if not sooner.

In practice, this involves resisting irrational temptations, such as: to counter attack, as though she is truly attacking you when she "confesses" her discomforts in your presence, often blaming her problems on you; to play Tit For Tat, that is, counter with a recitation of her faults which likewise "bother" you; to defend yourself by justifying or explaining your "good motives" and/or other reasons for "not meaning to hurt" her; to run away in mind if not body, as in, "tuning her out" or simply "not listening"; to judge her as being bad or mean, or belittle the situation by labeling it as "just bitching," "having her period," or "being like a woman."

Before exploring positive responses to times when a wife "gets crazy," here are a few counter-productive reactions:


WHAT NOT TO DO


DON'T RUN AWAY: First, and most important of all, don't exit the premises or otherwise try to hide and avoid confrontation at the time.


DON'T FREEZE UP: That is. don't "run away" emotionally or otherwise brace yourself as though preparing for a fight.


DON'T TAKE IT ON: Avoid any temptation to blame yourself, as though her discomfort is your fault and as if you have the power to heal her–that is, "make everything all right" by something you might do.


DON'T GET DEFENSIVE: Avoid instinctive urges to "fight back" as though her problems are an attack on you rather than a revelation of herself, calling for either defense or counter-attack. Face and resist resurrecting demons of your own, even though they may be sorely tempted to emerge for countering hers. Don't borrow the occasion of her negative revelations to trot out your own dissatisfactions.


AVOID ARGUING: This warning is generally applicable throughout a marriage, but is especially relevant when a wife "gets crazy" with her husband.

Verbal arguments between males and females are generally non-productive for boys and men, as reflected in the convention male wisdom: "You can never win an argument with a woman...." But if this is true under ordinary circumstances, it is 1000 times more so when a woman's pathology is becoming conscious.


DON'T TRY TO BE REASONABLE: Never try to "be logical," to "make sense," or resort to using reason at such a time. By definition, or at least by the nature of itself, pathology ("craziness") exists and functions in one's deeper, unconscious mind, which operates below or outside the lofty realms of conscious reasoning. Therefore, it is not sensible to try to use reason for confronting what is inherently irrational.

No matter how sincere or well intended attempts to deal with a spouse's ghosts via "being reasonable," all such efforts will be relatively impotent; in fact, more likely to backfire or make matters worse rather than better.

For example, left brain thinking, commonly revealed in such verbal expressions as: "Don't worry; it will be alright," "Things will get better," or attempts to help by saying "I love you," are all likely to fall on deaf ears, even if they are true.


DON'T PLAY TIT FOR TAT: This advice is almost always valid in a marriage, but is especially relevant when a wife is getting honest about dissatisfactions in the presence of her husband. For example, trying to match her criticism of you with your's for her, is predictably counter-productive.

Even if you can match, or exceed, her stated troubles–that is, have even greater problems of our own, or find more faults in her than she points out in you, now is not a functional time to do so. If you wish to confess your own troubles to her, this will be the worst of all possible times to do so. Just then, in the presence of her projections onto you (her blaming or criticisms), far better to simply remain silently present, hearing her out without taking on what she says, as though it were truly about you.


DON'T TRY TO "TALK IT OUT": Forget "talking it out." The healing values of communication in a troubled marriage are, I think, vastly overrated at all levels; but nowhere is this more true than when a spouse's demons begin to surface in the relationship.

Although "talk therapy" may be beneficial with a professional counselor, the same "in-house" procedures in a marriage are predictably ineffective, more likely to backfire than to help. Stated negatively: If "doing business with family members" is dangerous, as often proves to be so, "doing therapy" with a spouse is far more so.

No matter how skillful one may be in "playing doctor (counselor)" with friends and relatives, the same attempts are likely to be non-productive within a marriage. Not that many useful therapeutic techniques, such as, non-judgmental listening, aren't also functional with a spouse; but "becoming a mate's counselor" dangerously risks removing oneself as a loving mate, which, especially during troubling times, may be even more needed than quasi-professional counseling.


DON'T EXPLAIN YOURSELF: Certainly there are significant times for sincere apologies, including revealed reasons for disturbing actions, as when one has truly been offensive or irresponsible in a relationship; but such events of properly assuming responsibility for real shortcomings are to be carefully distinguished from the dangerous habit of "raising ass" via automatically "explaining yourself" or living apologetically, always assuming blame for causing a spouse's dissatisfactions.

Learning to wisely say, "Yes, Dear," in a variety of ever-changing words, to many of a wife's requested services is no doubt feasible; but crossing the line into becoming an automatic "Yes Man"–one who habitually says, in effect, "Yes, you are right," and blindly blames himself, rushing to take responsibility for all a wife's irritations, is quite another thing.


WHAT TO DO


TRY TO UNDERSTAND PATHOLOGY: Even before it erupts in your presence and any responses are made in an immediate situation, try to get a mental handle on the phenomenon of emotional disturbances, in this case, a wife's "craziness."

In a nutshell: Self-repression typically lies at the source of negative outward expressions. And repression commonly reflects in projection, often onto others, in this case, you. What sounds and may "feel like" it is about you, may in fact be a cloaked personal revelation, that it, literally "about her" or "her problems," projected onto you. Even when a wife consciously believes that her husband is "driving me crazy,"–that is, my unhappiness is his fault, a man may do well to understand the phenomenon of repression/projection ahead of time.


STAY PRESENT: Most importantly of all, as noted before, avoid "running away" in any form; stay present, in the company of a wife who is acting crazy at the time, both physically and emotionally. Literally, be or remain yourself with her when she is revealing her dissatisfactions, especially when she is "blaming you."


REMAIN CONSCIOUS: "Remember, Wart, to think....." (Merlin's advice to young Prince Arthur's puzzlement about females, as related in Lerner and Lowe's version of Camelot.)

I know of no other time in a marriage when remaining conscious is more important or difficult than when a spouse begins to become conscious of resident pathology. The temptation to simply react emotionally rather than responding reasonably may be hard to resist.

On the feeling level, a spouse's "problems"–when she encounters her pathology in her spouse's presence, may always seems-as-though they are about him rather than her. When he doesn't remain carefully conscious, he will predictably take them personally, as though "I am at fault," that is, the cause of her discomfort, one who has made her "feel bad," and hence the one to blame for her current state.

This is so easy to do, I think, for several reasons. First, when a spouse is beginning to become conscious of her pathology, when she begins to un-repress, she is indeed likely to project it onto her spouse, seeing and sometimes saying, in effect, if not literally, "It's your fault," that you–something you have done (or not done), said (or not said), or even "the way you are," is the cause of her "feeling this way."


LISTEN WITH A THIRD EAR: That is, listen through rather than to what she says at times of greater disturbance. Use your proverbial "third ear" to detect cloaked emotional (personal) messages concealed in the content of her expressions–all of which may be directed at you at the time.

For example, listen for possible fear behind angry words about you (or any other life circumstances); or, listen for anger behind verbal criticism of you or others.


SUMMARY ADVICE


Negative: Don't fall for a wife's problems, even when she openly projects them onto you, that is, "take them on" or "blame yourself" for causing them. Chances are, the underlying basis and true cause of her problems lies in deeper, un-faced pathology which she brought into the relationship and you failed to recognize at the time.

Rather, try to see the current revelation of her "problems" in your presence as being with you, rather than at or to you. Even if she is blind to the fact, as is commonly the case, that she is, in effect, confessing her troubles to you, as though you were a priest, try to recognize them as such, instead of "taking them on" or "blaming yourself."

Try to see her as being upset or troubled with you instead of at you–that is, daring, for whatever reason, to take the chance of revealing her deeper self to you as invited by securities inherent in her relationship with you (the marriage and/or your love for her).

If you can remain truly conscious and reasonable at such critical times, you may even see the "reverse compliment" inherent in her "confession" to you. Chances are, she will diligently hide her problems while with others, "acting like nothing is wrong," pretending that "everything is fine"; but the very fact that she takes the chance of revealing her troubled self to you is a compliment to deeper security which she feels, even if unconsciously, in your presence.

Certainly you may prefer open and "direct compliments"; but with reason, you may be able to decode what is more easily taken as criticism, and see the darker affirmation inherent in revelations of her problems with you.


Positive: Instead of falling for or taking on a wife's projected troubles, better to stay with her while they are revealed in your presence, even when they are consciously being blamed on you. Instead of running away or, in effect "closing your ears," try to remain consciously present with her during these troubled times. Openly accept her negativism without trying to "do something about it," or "make her feel better." Allow her emotional space to even escalate her revelations with you without taking them on.

Nor is it smart to try to "make up" too speedily, that is, to heal or erase an apparent rift or emotional distance between you while she is "confessing" her problems with you. Stay on your "Green Spot," that is, within your centered self, all the while openly present with her, accepting–as a good priest might, her present condition without condemnation or apparent effect on yourself. "Don't," as a wise saying puts it, "just do something; stand there," lovingly, as she continues to reveal her deeper self in your presence.


********


WHAT TO DO WHEN CRAZINESS APPEARS


Respond non-verbally. Keep words to a bare minimum. The most powerful "messages" you can send and those less likely to be misunderstood, are more physical and emotional than mental and reasonable. Appropriate non-verbal "messages," conveyed via bodily stance, appearance, and actions, rather than words, include:

"I can see/hear your distress, and can stand present with you being honest with me (revealing your unhappiness) without being done in myself or otherwise hurting you."

"I recognize your pain (discomfort, anger, fear, resentment, or whatever), and believe it to be bearable, even if it seems overwhelming just now."

"I accept you as a person in your current state, without judgment, condemnation, or rejection." (As Jesus said to one being condemned by others, "Neither do I condemn thee.")

"I believe you have whatever it takes to endure this difficult time and eventually become whole and happy again."

"I recognize that right now you may believe the source of your discomfort to be outside yourself, properly blamed on some external cause, even me; but I also believe that you are inherently capable of "working out your own salvation"–that is, becoming completely responsible for your own well being."


These and other relevant "messages" are best "said" and become more "hearable" with a minimum number of words and a maximum amount of appropriate physical responses.

Even a minimum use of words will rarely be intended to be literal, as in, an attempt to convey some reasonable and/or relevant information. Instead, they only aim at conveying "emotional" messages, as outlined before.

For example, even if a husband says, "I understand," he will be attempting to convey his presence-with-her, as in, "I'm standing-under your troubles with you," rather than implying an intellectual grasp of her personal experience at the time–while she is apt to believe, "No one could possibly understand how I feel now (since I can't)."

This appropriate use of minimal verbal language is more about avoiding possibly negative messages being read into silent presence, e.g., "You're not listening to me," or, "You're being condescending," or, "You're putting down on me."

Such word's summary use is only to let a suffering person know you are closely present, but not "trying to tell her something." Because even the most carefully chosen words may be taken negatively, a "good listening" husband only speaks to his wife as necessary to let her know he is acceptingly present with her. When she seems to "know he is there" accepting her as revealed, no words are better than even the simplest ones.

For example, a simple warm hug may "say" more than a dozen "I love you's." Or an empathetic face may "say" "I'm with you" far better than a host of re-assuring words, such as, "Don't worry; things will be alright." Finally, staying physically present without judgment is perhaps the clearest of all non-verbal messages.

In combination, un-moved bodily presence confirmed by open, non-judgmental facial expressions and an occasional rare but carefully voiced, "I see," or, "I hear you," may be the most functional form of non-verbal communication when a wife is "acting crazy." And even these brief verbal "I'm still here's" may best be conveyed with pre-verbal sounds, such as, timely grunts, sympathetic sighs, and warm hugs.


APPROPRIATE FEEDBACK


In general, telling a wife anything about herself, such as, what you think about her actions, feelings, ideas, or motives is apt to be unwise. Except for periodic affirming compliments, e.g., about her looks and deeds, opinions about herself are best kept to yourself, for two main reasons:

First, you invite personal dependency on yourself for supplying insights best recognized by herself. In principle, insights into dark aspects of oneself are only productive when one sees them for herself, rather than being told about who-she-is by someone else. If a husband, in effect, "does her thinking for her" and she accepts what he says about her, an unstable dependency relationship may be established.

Secondly, and more commonly, there is a serious risk of backfiring–that is, a husband's observations being taken negatively. Dangers are twofold. First, a self-protective wife may take any statements about her as being against her–that is, as an attack, put down, or a devious attempt to change her. Consequently, her negative reaction may be to become defensive and move toward even deeper denial of what is said, especially when a husband's observation is more accurate.

Or, conversely, feeling attacked or put-down-on, she may react with a counter-attack, that is, begin criticizing, threatening, or otherwise rebelling against what is said. Even if a husband is able to hear-through such denials and projections of cause, he may still be excluded from a warm relationship with her at the time.

Bottom line: attempted, even well intended, observations about a wife concerning traits or habits she does not recognize herself may easily backfire, leaving any personal "dark side" traits even more repressed, and occasioning a break in the relationship at the time.

Also, of course, there is always the possibility (likelihood?) that you may be wrong, that a husband's observations are inaccurate, that other factors you have not seen or considered may be at work in what you see.


Even so, there are rare times for appropriate feedback–that is, for conveying a husband's observations about his wife, especially when the subject affects the marital relationship and/or her personal well being elsewhere. Key word, however, is appropriate, meaning "fitting" when all known facts are taken into consideration, including, timing, a wife's hear-ability, and relevance to current circumstances.

And feedback is intended literally, that is, feed being given back to a hearer. Feed is a food metaphor, implying nutrient for positive growth, in distinction from something said as a psychic device, such as, a criticism or emotional attack.

The principle in appropriate feedback is about higher degrees of love, an attempt to affirm a wife on deeper levels, below, for example, her current view of herself or her attention to her effects on others. It is not about expressing anger, getting even, or "trying to change her." Appropriate feedback is more like a gift than a weapon, like pointing out an unseen approaching car at a street crossing, or offering a prescription aimed at relieving pain.

Always, however, these guidelines for such rare telling will be applicable:


– Choose a comfortable time for "bringing up the subject" when things are going well between you. Never, for example, speak of some potentially threatening or divisive subject in the heat of an argument, or when a wife is "feeling down" or negative about herself.


– Clearly distinguish between "what I see" and "facts about you," that is, "This is my observation which may or may not be true," not an attempt to define or even say who-you-are.


– Don't try to "make her see" anything not already visible to her or acceptable to consider without personal threat.


– Back off at first signs of defensiveness, resistence, rebellion, or any negative reaction. Unless what you have to say is obviously being received without personal threat, stop immediately. Any further comments, such as, an attempt to explain yourself or justify your observation, may only make matters worse.


ADVANCED INTIMACY


RESPECTING EDGES


Eventually, latent insecurities of each partner will predictably appear under illusions of safety created by any extended relationship. The issue confronted here is: what is one to do, how best might one react, when deeper darknesses of another emerge into the light of an encounter, especially a verbal conversation.

Unfortunately open conversation with repressed, unrecognized, and hence unconscious parts of another person is relatively impossible, especially so when what-they-don't see (their unconscious attributes) is clearly visible to oneself–e.g., repressed anger, disappointment, and/or aggression.

Attempting to talk over the line of embraced awareness in another person (what they consciously recognize about themselves) will inevitably backfire in time, even if it is not immediately disastrous. Dangers are twofold at best:


1) Invitation to even deeper repression in reaction to uninvited information, especially when the data is correct. The greater the uninvited light (more truthful an observation) the more deeply into darkness a repression is apt to become.


2) Invitation to personal self-righteousness, as in, "See how smart I am." This doesn't mean that talk must cease in the presence of unconscious boundaries, indeed the more relevant conversation may become; but it must be done carefully, respecting the darkness of another, versus trying to force light ("to make them see"), and skirting confrontation without appearing to run away or "be avoiding the subject."

Artistry involves accepting projected insecurities cloaked with overt hostility and/or verbal abuse (blaming you) rather than falling for and/or engaging in retaliation, such as, playing serious Tit For Tat. This is especially important when a woman is emotionally disturbed.


********