Bob Livingstone is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCS 11087) in private practice for 22 years in San Francisco, California. He holds a Masters Degree
At the end of Part One, Ron asked Melinda to share with him how he hurts her with his words and how she would like him to change.
Melinda states, “Ron you have said cruel things to me over the years. Whenever you feel I am not moving the mouse cursor fast enough, you become unglued. You try to force me to speed up with your impatient and disrespectful attitude. I am nervous when you stand behind me while I am on the computer. It seems whatever I do isn’t good enough. I know that I am not as fast as you in the world of cyber, but I don’t belittle you when you put the wrong ingredients in a dinner recipe. I try to help you. You may think you are assisting me, but believe me, your actions are very upsetting. Your yelling has caused me to question my competence in all facets of life and now I don’t feel good about who I have become.”
Ron bites his tongue until it almost bleeds. He longs to explain and defend himself so badly. His excuse, which he keeps to himself, is that he doesn’t mean to get angry at her. He is really tired at night and this causes him to be super impatient. When she is working on the computer, he knows he could complete the tasks much faster than her. For some reason, her slow speed makes him anxious. He hates to see her struggle and waste her time. He feels and thinks all this, but he keeps his mouth shut. He realizes these internal words are all about him and have nothing to do with her. It is hard to keep listening without responding, but he is determined to do so.
Ron also has a memory of his mother always being disappointed in him as a child; never feeling that he measures up. He is always working to be perfect and sometimes he can’t separate himself from Melinda. He treats her as harshly as he treats himself. Ok, this did happen, but he knows he cannot use this as an excuse to lash out at the love of his life.
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Melinda takes a sip of water and continues. “You expect me to show interest, no let me change that; you want me to give you my undivided attention when you talk to me about your work or the latest song you like so much. However, if I talk to you about something I have a passion for like painting, your eyes glaze over. I am tired of making believe that you are really listening to me. It hurts me to my heart that you show no interest in things I really love. Why is it ok for you to get upset with me if you feel I am not paying attention? You get irate when you think my focus is not on you for one second. You say hurtful things like, ‘You don’t care about anything I like; you don’t care about me.’ I am so sick of this double standard and your toxic language.”
She starts crying and says, “I know you are there for me if I have a crisis. When my dad was dying, you did everything I asked and more. I love you for this. I know I can count on you to come through when things are tough. However, this daily barrage of hateful words and then trying to escape accountability for your actions by blaming your dysfunctional child hood has to end.”
Ron notices that he is aware of what he is feeling and thinking. He realizes maybe for the first time in his life that he is actually able to step inside Melinda’s shoes. He is sad that he makes her feel that she has to walk on egg shells. His words have also disturbed her sense of well-being. Her self-esteem is shattered and faith in herself is now a distant memory. He starts to cry, but it is not out of self-pity, it is out of the acknowledgement that he is responsible for all this strife.
He wants to reach out and hold her in his arms, but is unsure if she would welcome this embrace, so he does not act on impulse. He says to her, “Melinda, I am so sorry that I hurt you. I will either stay out of the room when you are working on the computer or offer assistance in a patient, helpful way. What you have just said about me is not only your perception, it is also the truth. I will not debate this point. I accept that what you say is the truth about me and our marriage.
I will make a genuine effort to join you in activities that you have an interest in and I don’t. I love you and will do anything to make you feel closer to me. I am so ashamed about what I have done to you and our relationship. Who knows-I may find that I really enjoy painting as well. I will try to make our relationship more equal. What would you like me to do?”
Melinda replies, “I want you to stop being impatient and not hurt me with your words anymore. I want you to prove to me that you can do this over the long haul. Stopping this crap for a day or two and then returning to insulting me doesn’t cut it. I have to tell you Ron that I am going to leave this marriage if you don’t change.”
Ron feels like he was just punched in the stomach. His urge to react with loud, ignorant verbiage halts when he realizes all that is at stake. He takes an emotional step back and says, “Ok, I understand. I will do whatever it takes to make you feel safe and loved by me. I am so sorry. Will it be Ok if we talk about our feelings on a regular basis? I can’t stand the thought of you leaving. My mother told me before she died that you were the best thing that ever happened to me and I shouldn’t let you slip away. My mother was right.”
To be continued……
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