Monday, February 5, 2024

How I'm dealing with shaming behaviors by trying something new

 Hello my friends. This blog is primarily about how I lost 100 pounds but it covers a lot of emotional and mental health territory that may not seem related to weight loss. That's because a large part of how I lost 100 pounds (without gastric bypass) had to do with losing chronic guilt and toxic shame. Earlier today I posted about some really painful memories of toxic shame and chronic guilt and how I am healing those. And just recently, I had an opportunity to put these into practice. 

My husband is a wonderful guy with some really annoying habits. One of which is to backpedal and "bait and switch" in conversations. I am a very compassionate person. An empath. When someone shares something with me that is upsetting to them, I dive in with my whole heart, to listen, comfort and help. 

His annoying habit, and it seems that he is playing on my empath nature when he does it, is to start a conversation, actually kind of a rant, about something at work, for example. I show care, by responding lovingly with affirmation of feeling, echoing and supporting his frustration, reflecting back what was said so he knows I'm hearing and empathizing. I do not do this in any kind of patronizing way. I know to avoid that because I'm an empathetic to how it feels when someone does it to me. 

But then, when I have responded, he will often backpedal and defend the person. Or he will say he doesn't get what I'm talking about when I affirm his frustration over an issue he has just been complaining about. I do this by rephrasing the problem, to show I understand his angst. Or I will wonder aloud why someone would act this way. Then he will, I feel purposely misunderstand me or play devil's advocate. Over something HE initiated a conversation (sic rant) over. 

He baits and switches by engaging my sympathies and then turning on me. This takes me back because I'm so wrapped up in feeling with him and for him. It thought we were on the same page. I was on the same page. It comes out of nowhere and feels a like a stab in the back. I'm confused and to find myself suddenly on the defensive. I didn't come prepared and am not wearing appropriate defensive armor for battle. 

Worst of all, he does it in an annoyed way, as I'm annoying him by being responsive!  It's so gaslighting. Being an empath plus having low self-esteem, I take it personally. I second guess myself, feel foolish, wondering what I'm misunderstanding or missing. I comb through everything I said, mentally, trying to find what I said to merit such a response. I'm vulnerable, being suddenly placed on the defensive with no explanation of why. 

In my anxiousness, I sometimes retort. Then he, being already irritable, snaps back at me. When I explain what I feel he says he did nothing wrong and can't understand why he's upset. He then, in an annoyed, patronizing way, apologizes for "upsetting me." But he's clearly angry and now, not just with the situation but with me. This "you statement" puts me even more on the defensive. I am not upset. I'm confused and frustrated. He's upsetting things by 1) starting a conversation while irritable 2) disrespecting me by not requesting, just expecting, me to listen 3) ranting  in the first place 4) backpedaling 5) devaluing my help and compassion 6) directing his anger with other situations, at me 6) being dismissive of my feelings 7) getting angry with me for being upset by his upsetting behavior and 8) making a passive-aggressive, shaming apology when he clearly feels I'm somehow in the wrong.

So today, when it happened again, I did make the mistake of showing my frustration. But then I added "don't talk to me about work anymore." I'm following it up by doing the hardest part of all, following through. When he sent me a pat on the head "sorry" text, I just said "okay" where normally I'd have swept it under the rug and accepted it as a real apology that it wasn't. 

When talk of frustrating situations comes up, I'm going to try staying cool and not getting involved. Hopefully this boundary will show that if he can't respect me for the good I give, I can respect myself. 

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