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Before you can make things better, you have to stop making them worse... Have you considered that being critical, judgmental, or invalidating toward the other parent, no matter what she or he just did will only make matters worse? Someone has to be do something. This means finding the motivation to stop making things worse, learning how to interrupt your own negative responses, body language, facial expressions, voice tone, and learning how to inhibit your urges to do things that you later realize are contributing to the tensions.
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Author Topic: I worked  (Read 403 times)
johnsang

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« on: May 12, 2022, 11:50:46 PM »

This is how this evening went:

I sat down with him while he was eating (the kids and I had already had food), and I asked “what did you do today” – his response “I worked”. There was a pause.  And then he asked “what did you do” and I filled in some details (I also work, full time) – and then I got up and left.  How does an adult think that is a civilized response?  How can I respond to that?  And then he went into a diatribe of “is that all it takes for you – one sentence, to leave” OMG – I can’t even.

Can someone help me flush out why this feels so insidious to me?  It's like asking your kid "what did you do today" - "I went to school"

How can I explain to him that this response is so inadequate - so offensive - so rude - so childish?  If I have to explain that to him, that makes it even more stupid.  But he knows this - I KNOW he knows this.  He is playing games about how that way of responding wasn't that offensive.  So, rather than trying to explain the courtesies of conversation with your life-long partner, I disengage. At this point, I could really give two PLEASE READs.

Blah, blah, blah.  
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Notwendy
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« Reply #1 on: May 13, 2022, 04:44:55 AM »

There was a book I read several years ago that I found interesting. It's not about BPD specifically. It's How to Improve Your Marriage Without Talking About It by Steven Stosny and Patricia Love.

What your H seems to be doing is different- Stonewalling, which is also a form of verbal abuse, but I think this book can be helpful in changing to non verbal responses from you. When words don't seem to work, then actions may be better.

I think it's good that you didn't react differently. He asked you what you did, and you recounted it. You didn't say something snarky back, so he tried again. Drama may be how he releases his feelings, so to continue to "bait" you to an argument or circular argument may actually work for him.

My own advice would be to not explain. He knows better. If this is all he wants to say, then that's it. I think what you did, walking away is good. You don't have to sit there while he gives you the silent treatment or a diatribe.

Just like a little kid might respond like he did, he also knows how to use his words if he chooses.

I think disengaging was the best action. If he doesn't want to talk, then you can do something else. You could  preface it with " I hope you enjoy your dinner honey, I need to fold some laundry" and go do something else. Mostly- don't add fuel to the drama. Be neutral. I've heard this kind of thing described as an "invitation to the crazy party" ( where the two of you are in a crazy discussion )but you don't have to attend, or drama bait- to get the two of you into a heated discussion- but don't participate. Don't stomp off either. Stay neutral.








« Last Edit: May 13, 2022, 04:50:05 AM by Notwendy » Logged
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« Reply #2 on: May 13, 2022, 06:33:21 AM »

every single week my mom asks me "how was church". every single time, i reply "fine". i dont know why she continues to ask.

this may be a communication style difference. you find his response inadequate. he may find your question banal.

try asking something more specific.
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« Reply #3 on: May 14, 2022, 02:14:33 AM »

try asking something more specific.

This is just great communication advice in general. I try to make it a rule to never ask these general questions to anyone. I think it stems from my mom always asking me "how was school" or "how was your day" - I hated those questions because they were so open ended and generic and boring and it drove me crazy to answer them. Still does. And my mom is a great mom - very well meaning.

To me, it just shows a lack of caring, listening, understanding, etc that you can't even be bothered to care about any specifics of my day - you're just going through the motions and I will too when I answer.

I've found that asking my friends even slightly more detailed questions can improve communication in a super noticeable way. Instead of asking a friend "do you have any plans for the weekend" (generic), try picking one tiny thing that you remember they've done before, or one tiny trait about them. For example "are you gonna take your dog to the park this weekend?" Use the dog's name for even better results. Regardless of whether they are or are not doing anything with the dog, you'll be surprised at how much more people will open up to you (and trust you, too). I find people opening up to me and often over-sharing (thinking I care more than I do) just because I put in a minor effort to know something about them.

My niece went to the zoo with her school a few months ago and I still use that - "did you go to the zoo today?" instead of asking "how was school?" I know she didn't go to the zoo, but it's a prompt that shows I remember she DID go to the zoo recently - and it leads to a much more open response of "no I didn't go to the zoo but here's what I DID do."

I don't know the exact psychology behind it, but somehow it's like a spark that starts conversation, rather than starting from a blank slate that requires the answerer to do all the work.

It also can't be demanding - "tell me about work" doesn't work but "did anyone burn popcorn in the office microwave?" might get better results - even if no one has burned popcorn for years. You'll also find that some people will respond to the SAME prompt enthusiastically, over and over again for days in a row. Even though my niece stonewalls "how was school", she has no problem with me repeatedly asking about the zoo - though I'll have to change it up eventually.

Anyway, that's a little off topic. pwBPD can certainly use their responses to bait you into drama. You did the right thing by staying neutral. And my little "trick" may not work well for you in this scenario - but try it with others too - you'll find some interesting results.
« Last Edit: May 14, 2022, 02:26:41 AM by ThanksForPlaying » Logged
johnsang

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« Reply #4 on: May 14, 2022, 09:56:38 AM »

Excerpt
every single week my mom asks me "how was church". every single time, i reply "fine". i dont know why she continues to ask.

this may be a communication style difference. you find his response inadequate. he may find your question banal.

try asking something more specific.

This is a good point and there might be some truth to this.  But context is important too - does your mom go out of her way to make sure you are in a place to talk, taking effort to meet you in a time when you are ready to talk - and then ask "how was church" or is it in passing as you are re-entering the sphere? This question was not in an off-handed I'm doing the dishes, "how was your day" dear question - it was during an intentional time of spending time together - and my husband knew it because then he said "I thought you wanted to spend time with me?" when I left. The purpose of the question was to crack open some common space of sharing how our separate days went.

But you are right - not asking about the work day, but another question "how are you doing?" might be better.  Sometimes, it feels like the target for the right thing for me to say or ask keeps changing - and I always have to readjust to attempt to get what I perceive as a kinder response.

Thoughts?  
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johnsang

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« Reply #5 on: May 14, 2022, 10:01:24 AM »

Excerpt
This is just great communication advice in general. I try to make it a rule to never ask these general questions to anyone.

Noted.  I will adjust my questions moving forward- he does get triggered because he feels like my family of origin always deals in the trite - so maybe this simply was a poor question. 

I appreciate these insights.
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« Reply #6 on: May 14, 2022, 11:36:35 AM »

Interesting that he dislikes "trite".

My BPDexw used to strongly dislike my family's trite "small-talk". I mentioned my mother in my comment above - admittedly she does have a sometimes annoying habit of asking insignificant, trite questions, and sometimes talking about the weather.

I think pwBPD feel uncomfortable with this small-talk because there is so much chaos in their head (and often in their own upbringing) that they can't understand how other people can be drama-free.

Like "how can you talk about the weather when I have life-or-death struggles going on in my head right now?"

That's part of CBT as a treatment for BPD - learning to handle those thoughts in a calmer and more controlled way.
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« Reply #7 on: May 14, 2022, 12:17:06 PM »

I think pwBPD feel uncomfortable with this small-talk because there is so much chaos in their head (and often in their own upbringing) that they can't understand how other people can be drama-free.

Like "how can you talk about the weather when I have life-or-death struggles going on in my head right now?"

THIS

Apropos of nothing, my husband will sometimes break the silence with a loud F-bomb such as when we are eating breakfast. I will ask him what’s going on, to bring his attention to his inner dialog becoming external. Typically he will answer “Just noise in my head.” Only rarely will he mention a tangible concern such as forgetting to pay a bill.
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johnsang

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« Reply #8 on: May 22, 2022, 03:19:21 AM »

Excerpt
I think pwBPD feel uncomfortable with this small-talk because there is so much chaos in their head (and often in their own upbringing) that they can't understand how other people can be drama-free.

Like "how can you talk about the weather when I have life-or-death struggles going on in my head right now?"

Probably 100% what is going on with my hubs. Again, this is great insight.

I also want to point out that after leaving this comment, reading other's experiences with their BPD partners made me feel almost silly getting worked up about this "I worked" comment.  I mean, people being stabbed, children being in danger - perspective is helpful.
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Notwendy
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« Reply #9 on: May 22, 2022, 06:27:49 AM »

I think pwBPD feel uncomfortable with this small-talk because there is so much chaos in their head (and often in their own upbringing) that they can't understand how other people can be drama-free.

Really good point. It also may be his personality style to dislike small talk.

I also want to point out that after leaving this comment, reading other's experiences with their BPD partners made me feel almost silly getting worked up about this "I worked" comment.

Just because it's not a severely abusive situation doesn't mean it need not concern you. For me, talking is a way to connect with people, and so, if I can not communicate with someone, it's hard to feel connected. However, if someone isn't inclined to talk, it's hard to change that.  He may have just wanted to be left alone while he eats. If your H doesn't want to engage while he's eating, you can also just leave the room and go do something else.

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« Reply #10 on: May 22, 2022, 09:06:50 AM »

Really good point. It also may be his personality style to dislike small talk.

I would consider this too. We don't want to pathologize normal unfavorable relationship behavior. As OneRemoved commented, he responds to this type of question with "fine". I respond to it by shifting back on my partner (What did you do today?). Mostly now, I ask her before she asks me because I know she likes to talk about her day and I don't want to talk about my day, especially if it was not very productive or something didn't go well.

Man are often different than women in this way.

She always ask me after a golf game, what did you guys talk about for four and a half hours. I tell that 90% of the discussion was about golf. She will then ask me if I inquired about the "new baby" or someone's daughter getting married, or a sick aunt.question. All good questions I could have asked, but didn't.  Being cool (click to insert in post)

If withholding is about self soothing, that is BPD-ish and probably best to respect.

Now if this is passive aggression or silent treatment, that is something more problematic to get to the root off.

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« Reply #11 on: May 22, 2022, 09:12:00 AM »

Also, I noticed that you are reading Stop Walking On Eggshells. We know Randi well and its worth noting that the perspective of that book is from the eyes of an adult child of a pwBPD. It's not really a relationship building/managing text.

There are two books here that might be better targeted to your need. Loving Soemone with BPD and The High Conflict Person.
https://bpdfamily.com/content/book-reviews
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johnsang

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« Reply #12 on: May 22, 2022, 09:12:14 PM »

Excerpt
There are two books here that might be better targeted to your need. Loving Soemone with BPD and The High Conflict Person.

Thanks Skip for these recommendations.  I'll be starting on the Loving Someone with BPD tonight!

My husband and I really are at what feels like a tipping point where we are very close to separation. I am having a difficult time not being hurt by him and do not want to have sex with him anymore, and he has verbalized that he can't be in a relationship without sex.  So, we're in a pretty awful place. 
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johnsang

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« Reply #13 on: May 22, 2022, 09:17:57 PM »

Skip, do you mean The High Conflict Couple?  I couldn't find the High Conflict person.
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« Reply #14 on: May 22, 2022, 09:21:29 PM »

Skip, do you mean The High Conflict Couple?  I couldn't find the High Conflict person.

Yes. Sorry.
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« Reply #15 on: May 23, 2022, 05:41:34 AM »

This is quite the dilemma: ( and I am generalizing here so I don't mean to stereotype anyone ) but I have read that women feel connected by talking. Men don't generally do that- they feel connected to their partner through sex.

It can be frustrating to not be able to feel connected in the way you are used to, and as a result, sex with someone you feel disconnected from isn't appealing. Yet, if your H connects through sex and not talking- he's also out there feeling disconnected. What can you do?

One decision to make is - where do you want this relationship to go? I agree that sex is a choice- and that needs to be respected. On the other hand, I think it's reasonable to not want to be in a marriage without sex. It puts that person in a bind- stay faithful without sex or not.

Doing anything you don't want to because you are fearful of the reaction if you don't ( walking on eggshells ) can result in resentment. Resentment doesn't leave room for wanting intimacy However, there's a distinction between absolutely not wanting to do something and choosing to be willing to do something and perhaps this can be discussed with your counselor.

Hopefully the books that were recommended will help you to arrive at which step you want to take. It's really your choice. It seems like a standoff right now. On your part- If he wants to have sex, he needs to change his behavior. His perspective is possibly as a victim "she won't have sex with me" and so he's angry and resentful but doesn't see his part in it.


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« Reply #16 on: May 23, 2022, 07:19:02 AM »

This is how this evening went:

I sat down with him while he was eating (the kids and I had already had food), and I asked “what did you do today” – his response “I worked”. There was a pause.  And then he asked “what did you do” and I filled in some details (I also work, full time) – and then I got up and left.  How does an adult think that is a civilized response?  How can I respond to that?  And then he went into a diatribe of “is that all it takes for you – one sentence, to leave” OMG – I can’t even.

Can someone help me flush out why this feels so insidious to me?  It's like asking your kid "what did you do today" - "I went to school"

How can I explain to him that this response is so inadequate - so offensive - so rude - so childish?  If I have to explain that to him, that makes it even more stupid.  But he knows this - I KNOW he knows this.  He is playing games about how that way of responding wasn't that offensive.  So, rather than trying to explain the courtesies of conversation with your life-long partner, I disengage. At this point, I could really give two PLEASE READs.

Blah, blah, blah.  

It is the sum of the small things, isn't it.
The awkward 'ignores' and silences. The tone of the voice, the avoidance of looking at you, the movements that become slow... I can see and feel it a mile away if my GF with BPD is in one of her moods. And almost always she mirrors it back to me. Asking me if something is wrong. And not in a way like she is worried about me. More in a attacking way. As if she knows for a fact that I will tell her something is wrong (read - having someone else, wanting to break up with her...).

My Gf would do exactly the same. I ask her how was your day, she will reply: 'Not ok,' and ask me directly after:  'How was your day.'  I would answer: 'Well my day was ok, but would you like to talk about what made your day so bad?' And than she will blame me of never telling her anything.

Don't know this helps, but you are not wrong. If someone answers you in that way, and you respond, the least they can do is apologize.
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johnsang

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« Reply #17 on: June 11, 2022, 07:20:44 PM »

Thank you Not Wendy - this comment has stuck with me and feels very validating

Excerpt
Just because it's not a severely abusive situation doesn't mean it need not concern you.

I appreciate everyone's insight here.
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« Reply #18 on: June 13, 2022, 03:16:43 PM »

every single week my mom asks me "how was church". every single time, i reply "fine". i dont know why she continues to ask.

this may be a communication style difference. you find his response inadequate. he may find your question banal.

try asking something more specific.

I agree here.  In my case I would take the hint that my W does not want to talk (even if she was rude), and then ENJOY THE SILENCE.  In my case, I would be happy that she didn't call me a name or curse at me for asking. 

I will say that on my end, many times I will give short answers to such questions out of fear.  I don't give her more information than she asks for specifically because I fear she will find something in my words to take issue with and argue about or try to make her business.  The less I say, the less she has to argue with.  So if she asks "how was work" and I say "It was fine," she may be a little put off.  If I say, "I sat in a pointless 1.5 hour meeting and I didn't get much done", W will then go on about how my job is pointless, people don't value my skills, how I am underpaid, how we live in a terrible state, and how I am unwilling to look for work in another state.  Yes, that has actually happened.  So now when she asks, I say "It was fine."
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