Target fixation

Three days, three arguments.
Or rather …
Three days, one argument:
When I ask Do you want …?, what I am often trying to convey, in a non-confrontational way, is I do want … To me the only difference is a single pronoun and respectful deference. My Wife thinks this is to expect Her to be a mind reader, and She shows little willingness to consider that a) it is reasonable, or b) that Her inability to recognise the cues says something about Her.

First argument: It was discussed in our last Skype session with our counsellor, Kirsty, and my Wife was visibly aggressive in response. And She picked up that exact topic immediately after the session finished.
Second argument: The next morning, We spoke briefly, and again She got angry about exactly the same thing.
Third argument: The morning after that, pretty much exactly the same. My Wife’s tone of voice quickly became aggressive, I called Her out for it, She recognised that and apologised, but as We continued to chase the same conversational tail, We both got audibly agitated. I had already said that Her getting visibly aggressive in front of Kirsty damaged the notion of counselling as being a safe space, and now She turned that round on Me – She felt She was being attacked in the counselling session and it had not felt like a safe space for Her. [Ed: And this sort of behaviour, amongst other things, is why AM has found himself resorting to the notion of his Wife’s gas-lighting.] I ended up going for a 4hr walk on my own, and not wanting to come home.

Three days, one argument.

Before I left the house after the last argument, I told my Wife I intended to try to speak to Kirsty individually before Our next joint session. I feel deeply conflicted by my Wife’s seemingly positive interest in Kirsty’s thoughts on the need for curiosity and simultaneously troubled by Her apparently increasing anger at the suggestion She should make changes. The latter pushes Me so much closer to divorce. I need to talk to someone impartial and objective to figure out whether divorce is actually the goal, or target fixation.

Whilst on my walk, I had a long phone conversation with an old friend. There was inevitably talk of the personal effects of the COVID-19 global shut-down, which inevitably spiralled into much about what feels like the increasing likelihood of my divorce. And the more I talked about it, the more real it became.

Long before I got home from the walk, emails had been exchanged and I had a Skype session booked with Kirsty for the next morning.

On arriving home, my Wife apologised for lashing out. Parenting commitment made immediate demands of Me, and Work commitment made immediate demands of Her, so little more was said.

A couple of times later in the day, we had tentative conversations.
I asked what She feels I am getting wrong, other than being angry and frustrated that I have been wronged by Her. She didn’t disagree. It seems She is angry at me because I am angry at Her.
She is also apparently frustrated by my assertion that nothing is changing. I suspect that means Shes feels I don’t recognise the changes She thinks She has been making. There have indeed been a small number of occasions when She has pulled Herself up and (albeit retrospectively) asked had She been controlling? But for Me, Her inner Control Freak* is driving so many other problems. It is still a terrible beast that still needs to be confronted, and until it is, maybe there is no way forward.
And because I say nothing is changing, because the problems are so big and amorphous, unless I can give Her small, manageable ideas about what I’m angry about, it is hard for Her to consider making changes. Yet where I run into a wall is that I can’t say things like You need to address that fact that you’re a control freak, or You need to talk to someone about sex because I am afraid of Her reaction. Not for the first time this year, I had to tell Her that I can’t even tell Her why I can’t talk to Her about some things (which is because I’m afraid of Her reaction) because … well … I’m afraid of Her reaction … except I can’t even finish that sentence … because I’m afraid of Her reaction.

So what do I do?
Well, that depends on what I really want. What I think is realistic. And what I think is best, primarily for me.
And that is the conversation I shall have with Kirsty in the next few hours.


*Until I met my Wife, I had never heard the phrase Control Freak. She used it to describe Herself, I think possibly even on our first date. For many years, there was enough good in our relationship that any manifestation of that was tolerable, but as all the positives of the relationship have disintegrated, it has probably become harder to see past that beast.

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