The first important point in a growing argument might be the most important one that gets glossed over.
When that happens, the person trying to express what they’re feeling or experiencing might feel invalidated. From that moment on, the point is lost and the conversation can spiral into anger and upset with no closure in sight.
If that’s happening to you, this episode may help you stop the glossing over so that you don’t get left behind in what could turn into a productive conversation.
(The following podcast transcript has been modified for easier readability and to benefit the Deaf and hard of hearing)
We talk about all kinds of things on this show. The content really comes down to manipulation, emotional abuse, control, verbal abuse, psychological abuse, and all of the bad behaviors that a lot of people can do to us in our lives. Anyone from friends, family, and especially romantic partners.
This the majority of what I hear from people. It’s their romantic partners. And of course, sometimes mother-in-laws, father-in-laws, and other people in the family. I’ve already mentioned family, but those specific people, sometimes they stand out. Sometimes the more prominent people in your significant other’s family will stand out and cause problems. But anyone is capable of this.
We are all capable of all the behavior I mention above, and some of us more than others. Some of us are certifiable. Maybe not you, maybe not me, but some of us are diagnosable, certifiable, capable of doing behaviors and not stopping.
Sometimes we figure out we’re doing a behavior and we want to stop. This something that I would hope anyone listening to the show would want to do in their lives: Figure out a behavior they’re doing that turns out to be something that is not very healthy and more along the lines of toxic, and realize they should probably stop. Not only for the other people, but for themselves.
During my entire life, when I was dealing with my own emotionally abusive ways, I carried around emotional triggers that, when activated, I became a jerk. I was sneaky. I was coercive. I was manipulative. I was judgmental, I was controlling, but all in a very subtle and covert way. I had a lot of tendencies of covert narcissism, and I didn’t know I was doing these things. I just thought this what you’re supposed to do.
That sounds silly. It sounds like an excuse, but I look back at myself from this more healed and healthier place today, and I can see those behaviors. I freely, and with all transparency, admit that’s what I was doing. And that’s who I was.
I think that’s important to do when you discover something about yourself, and you go through a healing process. It’s also a good indicator that when someone has healed, they can look back and say, “Yeah, that’s who I was.”
This for anyone, not just me. This for anyone listening or anyone in your life, when they have healed from something that they did that hurt others (emotional abuse, manipulation, control, etc), they can look back and say, “Yeah, I was a real jerk back then.”
I think that’s a very healthy perspective to put yourself down. Only back then! Only after you’ve healed. It’s not healthy to put yourself down today, so let me just make that clear. But I look back at my past and I can put myself down because, damn it, I was a jerk back then. Those people didn’t deserve me. Those women that I loved in an unhealthy way didn’t deserve that behavior.
I can’t think of anyone in my life that ever deserved the behavior that I was doing around them or doing toward them. They didn’t deserve it. I now can say that feeling bad that I did it, because I do, but because I have healed, and I have actually been in touch with one or two of those women, and we have reconnected in a healthier way where I’m in this new space. And of course, I have a new relationship so I’m not trying to rekindle anything but it’s reconnecting in a healthier way to let them know that I am not that person anymore. Not that I’m trying to convince them, but just showing up as a healthier me.
There’s a distinct difference between showing up in someone’s life as the person that you used to be, who may not have gone through all the healing you needed, and trying to convince them that you went through healing, there’s that person.
Then there’s the other person who has healed, realizes who they were, and also realizes that if the other person never wants to talk to them again, they totally get it. I get that. There are people in my life that probably don’t want to talk to me again I totally get it. Why would they? If all they knew was that person that I was back then, of course they’re not going to want to talk to me again.
And I’m not going to try to reach out and say, “Hey, I’m not that person anymore.” That will be something that if they really need to pursue that, they can. But just like if you are the victim of any type of emotional abuse, and you’ve gotten out of that relationship, it’s probably best that you moved on and wish the person that you were with the best. In the sense that you don’t have to say it out loud but in your own mind, you can say “I wish you the best, I hope you find healing. I hope you can find solace in your chaotic mind.”
That’s where my mind was, it was chaotic. It was always on alert. I had to watch her behavior all the time. I had to observe it and make sure that she was doing things the “right” way. It was that micromanager that I was making sure that she was doing all the right things to make us happy and healthy, and make the relationship better.
Of course, I’m describing some of my emotionally abusive behavior back then. Because I was watching her. I was keeping tabs. I was counting all the time she did things that hurt me, even though they weren’t really things that hurt me at all. I just took it that way. I interpreted things that way.
I’ve talked about that in other episodes, so I don’t want to get into that now but I share this with you because it’s important to understand that the person you are after you heal from something like this, whether you’re the victim or the perpetrator, is a different person. You’re going to feel different. It’s going to be a relief from who you were.
If you were the victim, you’re going to be so relieved that you’re not that person that gets victimized by those people. Not that it’s your fault, not that there’s something wrong with you or there’s something broken. It’s just that you get to a point where you draw the line and you say “Never again. I will never take that behavior ever again.”
When you get into that space, you are a different person. The perpetrator of abuse, they get into that same space. That’s where I got. After my divorce, I promised myself that I would never behave that way again. I don’t care if they broke all my former rules and all my former standards, if my partner or anyone in my life, did something that I disagreed with, that I was no longer going to focus on them, wanting them to change, and wanting to control them, and micromanage them. I was going to take that out of the equation.
That was my promise to myself. My follow up promise to that was, if I see something happening that used to trigger me or is triggering me now, then I’m going to focus on myself. I’m going to focus on what I am judging, what I want to control, and why I want to do that, why it’s important to me, why I want to change the person I’m with. I’m going to focus on all of these things in myself and figure out why can’t I just be accepting? Why can’t I just be more unconditionally loving?
I may not be able to reach that ever – a full, unconditional love – I don’t know if any of us can, but why can’t I at least take a step toward being more unconditionally loving and take a step away from being controlling and manipulative and just a jerk? Why can’t I take a step away from that and toward the loving person that I want to be?
That was another promise I made to myself: I wanted to be a better person. I believe this what we all want. I think we all want to be a better person. Some of us define better in different ways, so we have to be really careful how we define better in ourselves. If your definition of better is “I don’t want to attract jerks,” you might need to refine it and adjust that a little bit because you may get to a point where you’re no longer attracting jerks, but what are you attracting instead?
“Okay, I’m no longer attracting jerks, but now I’m attracting greedy people. They’re not a jerk to me but he or she is so greedy.” Or something like that. I like to maybe define it a little bit further than that. This kind of what you do when you’re writing out your wants in a relationship.
I have a really simple three-column worksheet in The M.E.A.N. Workbook. The first column says “What I don’t want in a partner”. The second column is “What I do want in a partner” (this worksheet is really about a romantic relationship, but you can do this with other relationships as well). The third column is “What would be nice in a partner.”
When you fill this out, you start defining the boundaries of your next relationship. You also define what you value in your next or even current relationship.
Write those three columns out on a piece of paper and see what you come up with. What don’t you want in a partner? Or, what would you rather not have exist in the relationship?
How about writing down what would be nice in a partner? You can write anything you want here. You can say “I want them to be an intelligent supermodel with a hot body who’s also rich.”
That may not be everybody’s desire, I’m just putting that out there because sometimes we have these fantasies that we think “Wouldn’t it be great if…” Yeah sure, it would be nice! But some people may not want to reach for the stars like that, looking for that perfect person who ends up on a cover of a magazine. Sometimes we just want something better than we had! That can be nice too.
But I wouldn’t just stop at defining what you don’t want. This one of those things where one might say, “I don’t want to attract jerks anymore.”
Okay, you don’t want that, but what do you want?
“I want this.” This is when you define what “this” is in your life so that when someone comes along, you have something to compare their qualities to. You’ll be able to tell pretty quickly if they are what you want or not. You’ll know if you’re going to be compatible with them because of your list. You’ll know if you’re even going to like them, let alone love them because you’ll have written out a structure or foundation of what you do want, what you don’t want, and what would be nice. This exercise helps you understand your own wants and needs better.
But I’m not here to get into this particular subject today. I’m actually here to talk about an email I received to help us analyze a relationship situation that occurred for this person for several years. He wanted to figure out how conversations with his wife kept going in a bad direction. I’m going to read this email and may make comments throughout. We’ll see where we get.
He writes, “I admitted to being the abusive one in my relationship but the more I listened to your show, the more I’m starting to realize that in fact, I have been the victim, not the abuser. My partner always had a problem with me eventually losing my temper and raising my voice when we had a fight or a disagreement about something.
“But after consensually making voice notes (recordings) of our arguments then listening back to them, I’ve picked up on something that I’ve never picked up on before. Every time we had a fight that descended into me raising my voice, swearing, and sometimes name-calling, which I fully accept as being verbally abusive and recognize that I need to work through, it has always followed this sequence of events.”
So he’s about to describe what this sequence of events is. And I’m going to comment on this right now. This is something that, if you have a partner or someone else in your life that wants to work through the challenging conversation and figure out how it keeps going wrong, if you both agree to record it and listen to it later to help you break it down and try to figure out where the problems are, it can be very helpful. It can also drum up some old emotional triggers from the argument, but it can be very helpful.
Or perhaps you can listen to it separately to pinpoint when the communication breaks down. This what he did. It’s fascinating that he actually did this getting consent from his partner to do it.
I’ll continue reading. He goes on, “I would express something she said or did that hurt my feelings. She would then say that what she said or did shouldn’t hurt my feelings, or that I’m just being too overly sensitive about it. Or it’s not a big deal, and so on.”
So we already see one thing happening here. It’s the invalidation. This is definitely, invalidation and dismissive, showing that his words, his expressions, his feelings, simply aren’t important to her. This how he’s interpreting it. She may really think his feelings are important but her words to him that he shouldn’t be hurt is a complete invalidation.
It’s like saying, “It doesn’t matter how you feel.” That’s basically what he hears in that moment: “It doesn’t matter how you feel. This is what’s more important. Let’s talk about this instead.”
So we’re already glossing over something that is super vital in this conversation, and he’s noticing it. He’s finally getting this from the recording. I’m going to move on and we’ll talk about this some more.
“Her first step was to deny me my feelings and make me question whether I should be feeling these things or not.” Alright, so he goes on, but before he does I’m going to say this: When somebody makes you question whether you should be feeling something or not, that is not healthy. That is a toxic way to divert the conversation into a better outcome for the person that’s doing that to you.
In this case, he says “…her first step was to deny me my feelings and make me question whether I should be feeling these things or not.” I want you to get used to saying this following statement, and it’s this:
My feelings are valid, and they matter.
That’s it. And that doesn’t mean you have to say it to that person but it may be helpful to do that. But the reason I want you to ingrain that, to really burn it into your brain, is because when you are told that your feelings don’t matter, or you shouldn’t feel that way (that’s typically how it’s stated, “You shouldn’t feel that way. That’s not what I meant. You’re just too sensitive.”) When you hear that, you repeat to yourself: My feelings are valid, and they matter.
That’s what you do. So when somebody tells you that your feelings don’t matter, or they’re not important, or your feelings are wrong (as in this case), there’s no denying your feelings are valid. They’re inside you. They’re happening! It doesn’t matter if they’re valid to the context of what’s happening, you’re still having feelings.
Any thoughts that come up, any of the emotions, all of the physical sensations, they’re all valid. So when someone says “You’re being overly sensitive,” or “You shouldn’t feel that way.” It doesn’t matter because your feelings are still valid. They’re still real. They’re still happening. So you need to own that. You need to own that inside you that what you’re experiencing is reality. You don’t need anyone else twisting your reality.
So yes, it can come out in the conversation. If they say, “You shouldn’t feel that.” You can say “No, it’s not a matter of should or shouldn’t. It just is. This how I feel. Whether you think I should feel this way or not isn’t the issue. The issue is I feel this way. It’s a fact. It’s reality. Reality can’t be denied. This is how I feel.”
It’d be like someone getting a cut on their hand and you looking at them saying, “You shouldn’t be cut. You shouldn’t have that wound on your hand. You shouldn’! You’re just overly sensitive to that knife.” The person with the cut is going to be confused.
I want you to be confused in this case. I rarely want you to be confused. You don’t want to be confused, typically. It happens, but I want you to be confused when they say you shouldn’t feel something because your confusion will come from a place of “But I do. I do feel something. It’s reality, so I’m not sure what you’re saying You can say that I shouldn’t feel that way but I do so it’s really a non-issue.”
Just like the person with the cut: “You can say I shouldn’t be cut, but I am! I am cut. There’s really nothing more to say about that. It’s an open wound. It’s on my hand. It’s bleeding. It’s reality. So let’s just accept that and move on to the next subject.”
This might not go well. I’m not saying this going to turn into a much better conversation. But I do want you to have that feeling of self -validation, knowing that your feelings are real, and there are no ifs, ands, or buts about it that what you’re experiencing is reality.
Let’s continue with this email: “Her first step was to deny me the feelings and make me question whether I should be feeling these things or not” (Which we just talked about). “We would then continue down a completely misguided path focusing on the things that she did or said that caused my hurt feelings, rather than the fact that she was dismissing my feelings.”
Okay, so this kind of confirms what I just said about the invalidation is that instead of going back to those feelings, and saying, “Oh, no, those are real, these feelings are happening so I just want to let you know that this what I feel.” You can have a conversation about that. You absolutely can and probably should because at that moment, there’s an opportunity to connect and there’s an opportunity to, again, validate, and there’s an opportunity to explore this together and figure out how we got there and how we can get out of it and what I said that brought you to the point where you felt that way… There are all kinds of things to talk about there.
What he’s noticing from this recording is that as soon as I expressed my feelings, it was invalidated and moved on to the next thing. When that happens, what happens inside you? Practice this for a second. Let’s just say that I’m coaching you and you say, “Paul, I feel really sad. I feel really sad that it happened. I don’t know what to do about it.”
If I said, “Well, you shouldn’t feel sad. Don’t worry about that. You shouldn’t feel sad so let’s talk about this instead.” What happens inside you when I say that? “You shouldn’t feel sad. Let’s just talk about the next thing.”
It feels like I’m letting you linger out there. This what happens to me when I try it on. I feel like I’m just lingering out there. Like, “Okay, I’m not sure what to do now because I just expressed something that was true to me, so now I’m having this cognitive dissonance and I don’t know where to go with this. I feel like I’m in this voidy state. I can’t even express what I’m expressing. And if I can’t tell you what I’m feeling because it’s not valid or not worth talking about, then how am I going to get to the next place with you because you just lost me.”
That’s where I go with this when I try it on myself. If somebody invalidates your feelings, you’re going to be lost. You’re going to feel like you can’t even get to the next step with this conversation because you haven’t even talked about what you just mentioned.
Once you’re in that first place where you feel lost, it can go downhill from there. Because you don’t have any stable footing anymore. The foundation’s gone. If you can’t even have a solid base to land on, you may not be able to get through the rest of the conversation or argument. This what can happen and what does happen a lot. As soon as that foundation is jostled enough so that it’s too shaky to stand on, and you’re told that it’s not even real or worth talking about, then you have no starting point. Your starting point has been taken away and suddenly you are in this empty space, you’re just lingering.
This is why things can go south pretty quickly. As you talk about things further, since the first feeling was invalidated, you have no stepping stones to get to the next place that you need to get to, which might be the conversation that ensues after the invalidation so that you can actually get somewhere in the conversation. This can go all kinds of wrong after you’ve been left lingering like that.
So let’s continue, “We were usually always both at fault because she was unaware that the real issue was that she was dismissing my feelings and making me question myself. My fault was that I was never able to communicate properly, because as soon as I would say something and get her defensive response, I would find it very difficult to go deeper into why I was feeling that way.”
Again, this is confirming exactly what I just said is that once you’re left lingering, you have no solid base to stand on to form any coherent sentences really. You feel like, “I didn’t get that first point across, so now I feel like I’m talking to a salesman who’s trying to talk me into paying a lot of money and wanting me to buy the extended warranty. I feel like I really can’t keep up and I’m nervous about signing the contract.”
This is where I go. It may not be the best analogy for you but once you’re past that first invalidation, then the rest of it is very hard to be on board with and have a legitimate conversation about. The first part of it wasn’t solidified. This exactly what he’s saying or at least this how I interpret it, is that he said he was never able to communicate it properly because as soon as he said something and got her defensive response, now he’s dealing with her defensiveness. Now he is probably having an emotionally triggered reaction inside of him. Her defensiveness kicks in his defensiveness, and now it’s an entirely different heated conversation.
When your fear and defensiveness takes over, you’re in fight or flight, you’re in survival mode, and now you’re just in this other space. Now you’re getting farther and farther away from what’s really important. And that could be, “We need to talk about our feelings. We need to talk about how this hurt me and how I hurt you.” Let’s talk about that stuff! But instead of that, we’re defending ourselves from immediate danger. When we do that, our blood pressure goes up, our stress level goes up, we’re not thinking clearly, we’re very myopically focused on what’s in front of us and how to avoid this danger asking ourselves what do we do next? It’s just a very different mindset
He goes on, “She would drag things up from the past and say things like ‘You shout at me, which is much worse’ or something similar like that. He said I would feel wronged and I would need an apology but without fully understanding why. I just needed her to acknowledge what she had done and to address it, but she never would. She always believed that I was just too sensitive and that I shouldn’t have felt the way I did.
“The communication tools that we both have are broken but I’ve made a conscious and determined effort to fix them by reading a book and dissecting our past arguments, and I thought that I had solved our relationship problems. I thought the problem was communication so I worked really hard to improve my toolset.
“I suggested that she read the book that I had read, but she didn’t as she saw and still sees the main problem being the fact that I lose my temper eventually. She told me a few months ago that I’m an abusive person, and I couldn’t accept that I was. I didn’t want to be an abuser. And for her to tell me that I had been for all these years broke my heart, and I couldn’t accept it.
“Our final fight was this year and she moved out. I suggested that we have a breakup and work on our issues, and I’ve been obsessing over the fact that she has told me a few times that I’m abusive. I accepted this as 100% truth. But as I said I’m starting to question this after listening back in detail to those voice recordings of our arguments and listening to your podcast.
“I love this woman to pieces, and I want nothing more for her to address her tendency to dismiss and deny my feelings so that we can have a healthy relationship together. I had so much hope that we could work things out based on the fact that I had accepted her and I’ve been abusive, but now after realizing that I’m fitting in with the victim side, I’m starting to lose hope.
“We’re on our break now, but I’m really struggling with this because I miss her so much. She also mentioned that she couldn’t really put a time limit on our break because she has to stand up for herself. But she has recognized all the work that I put in and has said that she’s not sure if she does want this break to be forever. I just want to thank you for making the podcast has been absolutely intrinsic in getting me through the darkest time of my life.”
Thank you for sharing that. Thank you for the journey that you’re on, the journey of not wanting to be abusive.
Let’s talk about this. There were a couple of things that you mentioned. One of them was you get mad or you have a temper when you are trying to get your point across and trying to communicate, but she’s invalidating and making you feel a certain way, or she’s saying things that are causing some sort of emotional response in you, and that temper builds up and you get to that survival mode, where you just go into fight or flight and then you suddenly lose it… I’m not going to give you a free pass on that one. I’m not. At the same time, I completely understand, and I can totally relate. I think a lot of us can.
So, you don’t get the free pass. You don’t get to call her names. And losing your temper, it can happen to the best of us. We can all lose our temper. If I drop a hammer on my toe, I’m losing my damn temper. It’s going to happen. I might yell things and say things.
Now let’s talk about the other side of this. You’re feeling backed against the wall. You didn’t get that first validation that you needed, so now you can’t even talk about that anymore because she quickly dismissed it. Then you get to the point where you simply can’t convey what you need to convey because she’s diverting the conversation to either suit her needs (or whatever she thinks is more important, whatever it is).
I’m making some guesses here. I’m making some interpretations. And I’m not telling you you’re more right or she’s more right. I don’t have any experience with you two so bear with me as I make some guesses and try to interpret this stuff.
The reason I’m not giving you a free pass is because yes, if you start calling somebody else names then it does become reciprocal emotional abuse. It does become verbal abuse. It does become part of the abuse cycle that often happens.
I’ve had episodes where I talk about when the abuser abuses the victim and the victim has to become abusive back, not only to be heard, but to also get their needs met.
This is probably what’s happening to you. There’s a point where you get where she’s crossed the line because she’s not listening to you, so you have to become verbally, emotionally or psychologically abusive back, and now she’s focused on that as you being the abuser because she may have dismissed all that stuff in the beginning as not being abusive.
I don’t know if you’re going to get back together or not but I think you’re onto something when you say that the very first step when you start talking about this stuff like your feelings being invalidated. If you don’t discuss that, then the conversation falls apart.
I think it’s important that you say, “We need to talk about this first. I can’t go further with this until we talk about this. What you said made me feel this way.”
She may say, “I can’t make you feel anything. That’s in you.” She may say that. Other people listening to this right now may believe that. I believe it’s true, but I also believe that other people can make you feel a certain way. Some people have a way to do that. It’s very manipulative, and a lot of them don’t even know they’re doing it.
Some people just believe that everyone has their own emotions that they deal with inside themselves and there’s no way that somebody else can make anyone feel a certain way.
I disagree. I think you can make someone feel a certain way and people can make you feel a certain way. You don’t want to feel that way so it’s not like you’re doing it to yourself. I don’t want to feel invalidated. I don’t want to feel unloved or disrespected, but this how I feel.
Your feelings are valid, they are real. Remember that. And also remember that when the communication starts, whether it’s an argument or just a heated conversation, you have to address each and every item that comes up. This probably one of the main points I want you to remember from this episode. Instead of glossing over things and moving past them to get to the next topic, when you have someone that’s willing to work with you and improve the communication between you, it’s important that you do not gloss over or generalize anything. Because there’s a big difference in saying to someone something like this: “I hate it when you yell at me. It makes me feel unloved and hurt” (that is a very personal thing) and saying, “I hate it when you yell.”
The first one is very specific. You’re not glossing over it, you’re not generalizing it. You are bringing up a specific detail and how it makes you feel. If you say, “I hate it when you yell,” then what you’re doing is saying, “Every time this person yells, whether they’re yelling at me or not,” (and I know you, the author of the email, didn’t mean that but let’s just say that this was how it was interpreted; “Every time you yell, whether it’s toward me or not, is bad. It’s hurtful to me. Every time you raise your voice. Every time you scream at the TV, it’s hurtful to me.”
That’s what a generalization is. You’re just saying “It doesn’t matter when you yell. It’s a bad thing.” This why it’s important to be very specific, as opposed to very generic. You both may know what you’re talking about, but in order to talk about that stuff and not skip over to the next subject, you have to break it down and say “No, this what we need to talk about. When you yell at me. It hurts me. It feels like you don’t love me, it feels like you’re disrespecting me. I don’t like that. I don’t feel like your wife. I feel like a little child being disciplined. I don’t like that feeling. I want to be in an equal relationship with someone who can talk about things, not yell at me when things happen.”
That may not go well with certain people. You may get someone who responds, “Well, I wouldn’t have to yell at you if…” fill in the blank. But you want to be able to stop the conversation and talk about that very specific thing and not gloss over it.
Glossing over might look like this:
You: “I hate it when you yell at me.”
Them: “Well, I hate it when you do this.”
You: “What? When I do that? What are you talking about?”
And suddenly you’re off on a different topic. Suddenly you’ve gone past what might be the most important point, and once you’ve passed that point, there’s probably no return. Because what are you going to say? “Let’s go back to that yelling thing”? You can say that but you may be so beyond that and in another frame of mind, that it’s hard to get back to that.
This is vital when you are having any type of heated debate or conversation, or you know the argument is starting, the first thing that comes up, just like this person did, break it down. This person analyzed it and figured out that it starts to go bad “when she invalidates my feelings.”
I’m not saying that he’s right and she’s wrong, I don’t know, this his analysis, but let’s just take at face value what he wrote and say okay, let’s just say that’s what happens: She invalidates his feelings. This puts him in a space. We need to focus on that space: “Honey, I’m in this space.” (He probably won’t call her honey at that moment, but…) “I’m in this space is when you do that. When you say that, I get into this space. I feel sad. I feel hurt. I feel disrespected. I feel unloved. I feel unworthy.”
She may say, “Well, you shouldn’t feel that.”
And he can reply, “But I do.This is what I feel.”
Her next question should be, “Why do you feel?” I would hope that would be her next question. If this is something you’re going to work on together, that should be your next question: “Why do you feel that?” If you skip past this part of the conversation, this is where things can fall apart.
This is something you want to keep in mind when an argument starts, when a conversation might have an opportunity to go the wrong way, is focusing on the component that comes up. You have to do this in you. You have to figure out, “Did that just get glossed over? And if it did, I need to bring it back.”
That’s what you have to do. You have to keep it in your own mind. They have to keep theirs in their mind, and you have to keep the conversation in your mind to figure out if the subject that you just brought up got glossed over because you’re not going to be able to address or fix anything if you gloss over things. When you gloss over things, the invalidation of his feelings, for example, they never get resolved and they will always be a point of stress, hurt, and anger or sadness, or whatever it is inside of him, always. Every time. And that gets carried over into every next argument.
If you’re with someone who has the ability to dismiss what you’re carrying over, then you’ll never feel a resolve. You’ll never get a resolve. You’ll never close the loop on the emotional stuff that you’re holding on to. It will just always be there.
If you want to know what crazy-making feels like, that is somewhat on the outskirts of defining what that’s like. There’s always some sort of unresolved thing going. Crazy-making is much bigger than that, but that is part of it. You just feel so unresolved all the time, like you just can’t reach a resolution because it was never resolved before. You may have had a conversation about something that did get resolved, but what component was unresolved in that conversation?
That’s where you might have to do what this person did, start breaking down exactly the point the important stuff got glossed over. I’m not saying you have to record your conversations. If you do, you have to do that with consent and certain states have laws, but if you want to do that, certainly talk about it with the person that you’re with. If it’s agreeable, then you can figure it out. Hopefully, you have someone you can figure things out with together.
The people that listen to this show, some do have those partners that will work together and some don’t. Some people have partners or other people in their life that just want to be right. They just want to control. They just want to manipulate. They just want to make sure they’re always in power and that you don’t have power.
If somebody is taking away your power or making you feel bad, making you feel down on yourself, making you feel unworthy, unloved, all of that is part of emotional abuse. I don’t want you to be in that space, which is why I give you tools like this, making sure that you don’t let the other person gloss over things. And if they do gloss over the important things, you bring them back.
It’s very, very similar to something I talked about in another episode, which is the question that you ask the person, “Do you realize what you just said hurt me?”
If they don’t realize they hurt you, you can bring them back to it and have a talk about it. If they do realize they hurt you, then you have another issue.
“Yeah, I realize I hurt you.” Wow! What do you do with that? That might be another direction you have to take in your life and your thought process. Again, I talked about that in another show. I think it’s an effective question. It doesn’t always work with certain people.
In fact, I just heard recently that somebody asked that question and the response they got was, “What you did hurt me!” So that happens too. You’re going to get these rebuttals. I always come back with the answer to that, which is “Okay. You might be right about that,” or “This your experience, I absolutely think we need to talk about that, too. So let’s go in order and talk about what I just said first, and then we’ll talk about what you just said.”
I make that sound so easy. I know and I’m so sorry. Because sometimes this isn’t easy. Often, it’s not easy. And in the heat of the moment, you’re like, “How am I going to remember this question? When can I throw that question in?”
This is one step at a time. Remember one thing from this episode. Listen to it again, and remember another thing from this episode, and then take it with you into the next conversation. Then maybe you’ll have a more productive conversation. Or maybe you’ll discover that there’s absolutely no way to have a productive conversation, in which case, you may not be able to get what you want from the relationship.
For this person who wrote to me, you may not be able to get what you want from this relationship. She may be apart from, and she may never be able to get past herself and the way she thinks and what she believes about you. And you just have to support her path no matter where you go with this because what’s most important is that she sees that you’re supporting her no matter what direction she takes, which shows her that you do not want to control her, you do not want to coerce her, and you don’t want to convince her of anything. As much as it hurts, if she doesn’t want the relationship anymore, you’re going to support her decision anyway.
That’s easy for me to say, it’s very hard to do. I wasn’t able to do it in my past, but I’m able to think that way and do this today because I’ve realized I would rather be with someone who absolutely, without a doubt wants to be with me, without question without fear, feeling completely secure and trusting in the relationship, then be with someone who has all these doubts and has all these fears and thinks that I’m abusive, and just isn’t sure about me, I don’t want that at all.
I don’t want you to feel like you have to be in a relationship with somebody like that, who is constantly making you walk on eggshells, or making you think that you’re wrong or abusive. You deserve respect and kindness. You deserve someone who sees you for who you are, not someone that you have to convince them who you are.
If you have to convince them that you’re better, you’re not abusive, or any of that stuff, then they may always have doubt. That may always be in there. They have to come to that conclusion on their own. This is why that saying sometimes, often works: “If you love someone, set them free.” If they come back, then it’ll probably stick. If they don’t, then they still have those doubts, fears and insecurities.
If they have those, they’ll creep into the relationship, and then they’ll come out in different ways. And you’ll have what you had. I’m not saying you won’t get back into this relationship, there’s a good chance you might because she hasn’t closed the door. It’s just important for you to give her that space, which you’re doing, which is amazing. And also let her know, “I do lose my temper, it’s true. And I’m working on that,” instead of saying, “I lose my temper because you do this to me.”
This is practicing non-volatile communication. “I lose my temper. It’s true. And I need to work on that.” You do need to work on that. You have a right to lose your temper, I’m not saying that you shouldn’t, I’m just saying that when you focus on these specific issues without glossing over them, then the temper buildup doesn’t happen. But if you’re never able to convince her to go back to that topic and talk about that first thing, then you’re probably going to feel like you’ve lost. You’re going to feel that lingering effect, that unresolved feeling, and you’re going to bring it with you to the end of the argument where you finally lose your temper because you just can’t get your point across. The build-up happens because you probably aren’t able to express yourself fully, nor get acknowledgment from the other person.
You have to catch the build-up process as it happens. The build-up is probably based on that first invalidation, so as soon as you feel that happening, you have to step back and say, “You know what? This when my temper builds. It’s happening right now.”
You can do this. If you have a conversation with her again, and you feel that temper building, you can say, “Whoa, it’s happening right now. My temper is building. Let’s talk about that.”
Maybe she’ll say, “Your temper shouldn’t be building, this isn’t a big deal.”
If that’s the case, if you can’t even talk about that because you’re being vulnerable when you say “My temper is building,” then you may not be able to have healthy communication with her. She has to come to that realization that she has to stop on those specific topics, and discuss those specific items so that you can make the next stepping stone to talk about the next thing that hopefully you can get to a better place with all of this so that it doesn’t go into the temper and the name-calling, and all of that. Because if you’re reaching that over and over again, then you are not catching yourself in that temper. You are not telling her, “I’m having this build-up, we need to stop.” And you haven’t addressed the first thing that was glossed over.
If you can’t get it back to that first thing, you might have to exit the argument, you might just have to say, “This going to build into my temper, because we never talked about this first thing. If you’re not willing to talk about this first thing, then I don’t know how else to convey to you how I keep losing my temper.”
You just may have to get to that point, and she still may not understand she’s still may just think it’s all you. If that’s the case, do you really want to be with someone who’s just blaming you all the time and putting you on the spot and making you think that you’re the bad person?
This your choice. This your call, of course, and maybe all of this work that you’re doing and all this space that she has to reflect and think about things… give it at least two months. Four is even better. You can still start connecting after two months. Maybe you can go on a date night. Maybe you can talk about things. But give her that space because that might be the best hope for reconciling.