Choking on gratitude (article concluson)

After helping me to understand why he struggles with such an inability to apologize,  the article goes on to discuss gratitude, or the narcissistically driven person’s lack of it.

Substitutes for simple gratitude are listed as conferring approval, reversing roles, protesting, and converse manifestations.

Hm.  First of all, I’d like to say that in the areas and the times it matters most to me, I don’t get compliments or validation.  So when the rare compliments are given by him, I think I’ve gobbled at it because I was starved for it.  He’s said that I did a “great job with the girls” because their grades and test scores are high, and they’re both self-regulated, self-disciplined etc.  He doesn’t express gratitude that I’m their mother, or gratitude for who I am really.  If he said (quoting the article), “I’m grateful for what you’ve done”, I wouldn’t know what to think really.  I’m not sure I’ve ever heard him express anything quite like that.

One of my unfavorite memories was a Thanksgiving many years ago.  Naturally undomestic, I’d worked hard over the years to learn to cook and ‘keep house’.  (Yes, I came out of that generation.)  I struggled at these things because when I was young, I wasn’t interested in homemaking… at all.  This particular Thanksgiving, I was about thirty’ish years old.  I’d had about a decade of learning the skillsets needed, and had three kids, the youngest was a baby at the time.

I’d been looking at the pictures covering all the magazines for weeks, all showing scrumptious and lavish Thanksgiving tables, laden with food and decor.  Some wild domestic bug temporarily bit me, and I decided to go all out that year.  This included pre-baking yams, scooping out oranges to use as little yam baking bowls, actually stuffing the turkey with made from scratch dressing (glazed to perfection and displayed on a platter), baking desserts (vs buying frozen pies), and making decor from mini gourds and pumpkins, dried leaves, and candles.  The whole kaboozle was attempted, and let me say that it came out completely  a-mazing!  I was so impressed with myself at the time, but most of all, I was as excited as a kid to give my husband and kids this awesome feast as my gift.

I called everyone to the table (miraculously the timing of everything was perfect), and stood with smiling eyes because I expected… yes, I expected… them to give a ‘wow!’ response.  After all, I was a bit wowed myself!  The kids’ faces and eyes lit up and they broke into grins.  My husband didn’t even smile.  He had a serious face, unmoved, unchanging.  He kind of nodded his head and said, “You know what would be great?  It would be great next year if you invited people over for Thanksgiving.”

So he managed to find the one thing I’d ‘failed’ to do.

I took off my apron, ran down the hall to the bedroom, shut the door, cried alone, and skipped dinner that day.

I learned from that to only put in effort for holiday dinners in a mindful, intentional way.  Any time I’ve deviated (unconsciously) from that, it’s been a mini-repeat reminder lesson.  Including last Christmas when at the last minute, our two oldest sons called to say they were coming home for Christmas, and did I have the tree up and pie baked?

Up until that point, I was going extremely the laidback approach, because we took a vote and used any Christmas funds to pay for a surgery our old dog needed instead.  I kicked into high gear and decided that we would have a tree and traditional dinner, even if no gifts.  Out came more decorations, a last minute discount marked down tree, and I worked a couple days on a big turkey dinner with various dishes.

On Christmas Eve afternoon, my husband and I dashed out to get haircuts.  On the way home, he decided to comment, “I don’t think the kids appreciate all the time you’ve taken to work at this dinner.  They’d rather relax and have time with you.”

I turned and asked, “Why did you say that?  I didn’t ask for help from you or anyone… and the dinner is almost completely done at this point.  WHY did you say that?”

My question only elicited angry words in response, and the fight commenced.  I felt angry and crushed.  He always seems to find a way and a time when I’m vulnerable.

I’ve actually tried talking to him about this in the past.  I asked him why he couldn’t at times just say, “Thank you.”  Since then, I’ve had him say it a few times, but I watched him pause, struggle, and say it with seeming difficulty.  Kudos for trying, but I wish… oh how I wish… that I wasn’t married to someone who struggles so hard to say thank you, and struggles so hard to behave like he loves me.  I’m guessing this is not at all exclusive to passive aggressive men, but shared by abusive men with hardwired entitlement brains.

This part I definitely related to:

“A woman can exhaust herself trying to anticipate and meet the needs of a narcissistically preoccupied man, in the hope of gaining some evidence of his gratitude (hence, his acknowledgement of her importance to him). What she is likely to get instead is a communication whose meaning translates into, “I am willing, because I’m so virtuous, to defer to your wishes.” For instance, the husband is sulking around the kitchen looking hungry. The wife asks, “Would you like to eat early?” The husband replies, “Sure,” or “Okay,” or even “If that’s what’s convenient for you,” rather than “Yes, I’m hungry,” with the implication of “Thank you for noticing.  The assumed position is, “You’re the one with the needs here, not me; but I’m such a good person I’ll humor you.””

Yeah. Okay.  Definitely have experienced this.  I make and bring him a nice lunch and hear as he pushes it away on the desk, “I’m not really hungry yet, I ate breakfast a bit late.”  or something like… “I planned to eat lunch later today.” or… “I’m not sure I’m going to have lunch today.  I might work out first.

This happened just about every time I attempted a gesture like this.  Coincidence?  I also experienced him using my not making him lunch as a ‘reason’ for his hurtful behavior in the past.  Ya can’t win for losing.

One conclusion of the authors was that victims who experience “prolonged substitution of other behaviors for expressions of sorrow and thanks includes confusion, self-criticism, loneliness, and diffuse irritation – an overall sense of having been, as one of our patients put it. “mind-clucked.””

Confusion, self-criticism, loneliness, diffuse irritation, and mind-clucked.  Check.

The authors describe Gratitude and Remorse as the glue people need to make a life together.  No wonder we’ve been falling apart since the beginning.

In their closing comments, the authors state: “Appreciation nurtures self-esteem, and genuine regret elicits genuine forgiveness. If one is defensively unable to connect in these ways, life is essentially loveless.”

Loveless.  Check.

And in all the discussion on this article on what happens when a narcissistically driven person has a denial of remorse and gratitude, can’t feel and express sorrow when he hurts you, and has an inability to apologize, we didn’t even touch on trust and respect.

A book could be written on the passive aggressive man’s inability to trust, be trusted, or give value and respect to his partner.

Ugh.

 

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22 Responses to Choking on gratitude (article concluson)

  1. Seeing the Light says:

    Hi, PJ’s. I’m sorry both of your holiday situations had to be used against you that way. It sounds like that Thanksgiving was amazing! What a punch in the gut. Not only can he not compliment you, he can’t leave it silent/neutral either.

    This article has been so enlightening. I have read much in the last year or two and each new article or resource adds another piece to the puzzle. Confusion, self-criticism, loneliness, diffuse irritation, and “mind-clucked.” No kidding! The constant search for what must be wrong with me because he is such a good person. I’m the bad person so it must be me. It feels like the rape of the mind and soul. I’m not trying to be overly dramatic either. I can’t afford to let him near my soul again. The loneliness after having had friends and a social life and ending up stuck in this prison that people looking in from the outside think is a marriage. I ache for singleness just so I don’t have to be lonely!

    I happen to suspect mine may be a sociopath. He is passive aggressive and has narcissistic tendencies, but the leaning toward sociopathy is too much to ignore. From an earlier section of the article – the section on criticism – the closing statement of the paragraph was: “It is thus destructive to both the object and the initiator of the criticizing defense, since anyone except possibly the most sociopathic of narcissists would accumulate unconscious guilt, and defenses against it, over misusing another person.” This is the part that really grabbed me. I think it applies to all of this really – all the ways they use and misuse another person. This only adds to my sociopath suspicions. How much guilt – unconscious or otherwise – is he really accumulating? I don’t see it. This whole business of some of these guys out there – including mine – professing Christianity…How in the world does any of this wash with salvation and a changed heart? Just what was he saved from? Something does not add up. Where is his conscience? I don’t buy it. I think there is genuine evil in it.

    I commented on another blog a couple of days ago. The last bit of what I said was, “This isn’t marriage. This isn’t love. It never was. It was a pathological melodrama being played out from day one.” That’s it for me. That’s how I see it. This is not relationship. It is pathology. I have lost my health in a big way, but I can’t give up trying to get it back. I want to have a life before I die. However long I have to be under the same roof, I am finished pretending this is a relationship. This is abuse, and I don’t have to cooperate with it. I can’t seem to shake the effects of that initial shock of what has happened to my life here. I wonder sometimes if I ever will and if that will keep holding me back, but I do know I don’t even want his crumbs anymore. I don’t want his approval. I don’t desire his good opinion. I don’t care if he likes me or dislikes me. As far as dealing with him is concerned, my greatest frustrations are those moments I can’t avoid when we have to try to make household and parenting decisions, as well as his effect on our children and similar issues. Other than that, he can have his life and I will try to re-build mine. I long for all the ladies out here to get wherever each one of us needs to get to really break whatever power our abusers hold over us. I know each of us is different – though we have so much in common – and the path to peace in our situations might be different. I just don’t want them sucking any more life out of any of us. I know I have gone on a bit, but I just couldn’t help it.

    You are so right. Ugh.

    Liked by 1 person

    • lonelywife07 says:

      “This whole business of some of these guys out there – including mine – professing Christianity…How in the world does any of this wash with salvation and a changed heart? Just what was he saved from? Something does not add up. Where is his conscience?”
      OH MY WORD!!! I have thought this for a LONG time!! Where is his guilt?? Does it bother him when he sees me crying? When he KNOWS he’s hurt me so deeply, and yet he says NOTHING!!!! WHERE IS HIS CONSCIENCE??
      After I’ve tried talking to him, to get an emotional connection, and he rebuffs me…PA Man walks around the house, whistling, happy as he can be….when I’m curled up in a fetal position, sobbing my heart out!!
      How can a TRUE man of God act this way??? I just don’t get it…..I feel soooo guilty when I do wrong…How can they live like that???

      Liked by 1 person

      • seriously says:

        That’s because he’s transferred all of his negative energy over to you. I’ve just commented on another blog about this. it’s one of their tactics, they are upset, tell you about it negatively, you take it personally and then he’s perfectly happy because he’s realeased what he had and he’s given it off to you, and now you’re a mess. It’s awful and then they walk around like nothing happened and you wake up with puffy eyes, red cheeks and dry nose because you fell asleep crying and upset. Been there done that.

        Like

        • lonelywife07 says:

          What you say is so very true! I can’t tell you how many times I’ve let PA Man draw me into his negativity! UGH! But no more!! I’m older and wiser now!
          PA Man actually walks around HUMMING a little song….he only does that when he’s wanting to insinuate that HE’S perfectly fine….that I’m the one who’s a mess!!

          Like

        • Seeing the Light says:

          seriously,
          This is a terrific description of the negative energy transfer. It reminds me of a Star Trek episode I saw years ago where a man could literally transfer his negative emotions and energy to another person that he called his “receptacle.” This kept him calm and at peace, while the receptacle – and surprise, his receptacles were women – became increasingly emotionally unstable and aged rapidly, leading to madness and premature death. They say that art imitates life.

          Like

    • Exodus says:

      Seeing,
      You sound so strong and so wise and I’m quite proud of you for having the courage to examine your relationship and yourself and actively choose a safer and happier life. You deserve that!

      You mentioned the raping of the mind and spirit and soul. I have felt this way for many years and yes, we must not allow them to infect us with their evil any longer. I DO believe that it’s evil in the literal sense of the word. I have even wondered if my husband is not possessed by some evil force. Seriously. When evil is present and directing someone’s actions, we do feel very violated and possessed. It is indeed a rape of the soul. When we are being manipulated, it is a violation.

      As far as religions go…..all religions are a buffet for abusers, sociopaths, narcissists and other demented evil doers. There’s no better way to disguise evil than to cloak it in religion. Do you know an agnostic or atheist politician that would openly admit to being so? Of course not. I have told my husband many times that he should have been a politician since he has no spine- no sincere moral or ethical or spiritual conviction. Being in business for myself, I will tell you that one of the very first lessons I ever learned was to never work for anyone who tells me they are Christian. It’s not that I have anything against Christianity, it’s the customer’s declaration that indicates to me that they are somehow expecting me to provide special treatment ( different from everyone else) because G-d is one their side. These are the customers who want something for free and don’t want to pay right away & they are always full of excuses and lies without any conscience. No thanks!! Just imagine how many perverts and pedophiles and abusers are on those Christian dating sites. Scary! A truly spiritual person will exude good spiritual character in all they do and there will feel no need to advertise their religion.

      Evil begets evil. Seriously wrote, ” That’s because he’s transferred all of his negative energy over to you.” She’s very wise. The PA narcissist feeds off our good spirit and replaces it with evil energy. This is why they end up looking so charming and kind and we end up looking like the villain.. We become the mirror of their evil angry soul when we lose our temper or we become frustrated, depressed and confused/weak. This is not a coincidence. This is the law of nature when anger begets anger, war begets war, love begets love, etc… We must not react to them because then we become them. If that isn’t bad enough, their evil energy will attract other evil into your life whether it’s work related or personal. Before you know it, you’ll be living an evil neighborhood, working a job with evil supervisors, etc.. It’s not that they deliberately conspire to bring evil into your life, it’s that when we allow their evil to alter our good nature and our perception, we end up losing all that is good for us ( good friends and family) and making choices that are not well-suited to our good nature and well-being. We end up lowering the bar for ourselves because we feel so tainted with negativity. We end up feeling ashamed and unworthy of having anything truly good in our lives.

      I’ve lost everything that was good for me whether it was my good job or my good friends or my animals. Every source of love, goodness and joy has been destroyed or eliminated from my life. I truly believe that evil is at work through my husband.

      Like

      • Seeing the Light says:

        Exodus,

        Thank you so much for your kind words. You’re so encouraging.

        I have wondered about the demonic thing, too. It felt like such an oppressive force was let loose in my life when he came into it. He even used to use spiritual warfare talk, and I naively believed he was one of God’s special warriors fighting against evil. Creepy.

        I’ve personally learned a lot the last few years, too, about the reality of abusers of different degrees hiding in churches as leaders! When I think of the people in church that I sought help from over the years, as I was falling apart, I feel sick. I learned more about a few of them and I don’t even want to go near them. They are dangerous. Covert narcissists, I suspect. Gives me the shivers.

        So much loss. In an earlier post you wrote about not being willing to bring another dog into your home for the dog’s sake. You are so right. They are sensitive to the spirit of the home. I had an experience once with getting a dog. It didn’t last long before I sent him on to greener pastures before he was completely ruined. A very difficult decision, but one I do not doubt. The poor thing was falling apart. It was so revealing of the toxicity of the environment here.

        My hope now is as I stand firm and change my approach to this whole mess that my children and I can begin to develop some immunity and little by little the environment and the energy in the house can reflect health, and his dysfunction can stop taking center-stage and setting the tone.

        Like

  2. WritesinPJ's says:

    You didn’t go on. Your entire response is good. I’d like to quote my favorite parts:

    “How in the world does any of this wash with salvation and a changed heart? Just what was he saved from? Something does not add up. Where is his conscience? I don’t buy it. I think there is genuine evil in it.”

    ” I long for all the ladies out here to get wherever each one of us needs to get to really break whatever power our abusers hold over us. I know each of us is different – though we have so much in common – and the path to peace in our situations might be different. I just don’t want them sucking any more life out of any of us.”

    I wholeheartedly agree.

    Like

  3. GainingStrength says:

    I truly believe my husband believes that when he lies that God understands that he didn’t mean it! I know when he’s reached the end of the “conversation” because he brings in religion and it ends with me not being a good Christian! He’s telling me what a good Christian is? Oh, and of course everything is my fault, too. I too see evil in these cruel men. No conscience, no empathy, just pure cruelty. What person can smile so happily when their wife is so upset? Who stares blankly at their wife when she’s emotionally discussing their marriage. Who destroys a person’s vitality without even a care? Count my husband as one of these pillars of evil.

    He’s going to make sure I do not get maintenance (alimony) in the divorce. He’s not working right now and will probably not take a job until the divorce is final, making sure I get none of his precious future earnings. It’s always been money for him. Money over family, money over God, money, money, money.

    I just want it over. The covert brainwashing is horrible going through this divorce. Should I go with him? Is divorce the right thing to do? Second guessing myself, doubting my gut…it’s pure insanity. Some days I feel like an emotional breakdown is eminent, but so far I’m holding somewhat strong. I have no one here near me…no friends or family…just him. I talk on the phone to family, but…this may sound sadly pathetic, but I need a hug. And a good cry would help, too.

    Liked by 1 person

    • lonelywife07 says:

      Gaining Strength…hang in there! You can do this!! You’re almost free! And when he gets a job, after the divorce….take his butt back to court!! And what about retirement savings? 401K?? Bonds? Look into all of that…you should be able to get half! Don’t give up! Get away from his evilness, look forward, not back!

      Like

      • GainingStrength says:

        LW – Thank you for your support, it helps. Oh he’s resigned (bitterly) that I get half of his (notice it’s his) savings, but he’ll be darned if I get any of his future earnings. The look that comes over his face when he “talks” to me about maintenance. I see pure hatred on his face and I feel a shiver of fear? run down my spine and I leave his presence. Luckily he will be moving to another state after the divorce and I won’t have to see or hear him again.

        Like

        • lonelywife07 says:

          GS…yes, I’ve seen that anger a few times now in the last year…and it is scary! I think it’s because they hide it so well, that we doubt what our eyes have seen, even though we KNOW want we saw!
          I just saw PA Mans anger last night when I caught him eavesdropping at the door, when I was talking to my sister! It was only about 2 seconds but I saw it!
          How do they live with it buried so deep??
          Gaining….you are soooo much better off without him! I can’t wait for you to be totally free! 😀

          Like

    • seriously says:

      HUGS to you (as many as you need) and I know it’s not a real one but we’re all with you here. And trust me I understand you. I second guess myself every single day as to why I’m still there hanging on for dear life when I know that he’ll never change. And he’s good at twisting things around so that it ends up my fault and I’m the guilty person for wanting soemthing better. “I try” no longer fits. Hang in there. We’re rooting for you dear. xo

      Like

    • Exodus says:

      Gaining,
      You are on the path of freedom my dear friend. Count your blessings and know that good things are ahead. As far as alimony goes, I know how tough the economy is but there is no better way to prove to yourself and your evil loser husband that you don’t need him or his damn money. Seriously!! Wash your hands of this man and his money and focus on your new safe and happy life. Imagine what your new life will look like and what it will feel like and stay focused on that. Alimony will only keep you hinged to him. Even if you must eat crumbs for a month, at least they are your crumbs and not the ones he’s been tossing you. Keep your thoughts clean and pure and focused on being happy and healthy. Don’t waste time in draining and exhausting negative thoughts of resentment or guilt or doubt. Those the thoughts that will prevent you from drawing abundance into your life. If you must, place positive affirmations on sticky notes throughout your house and your car. ” I’m going to create my happy life today”

      ((( Hugs ))))

      Like

    • WritesinPJ's says:

      Gaining, I wish you strength and courage to get through this. I think you’re doing the right thing. Hang on until you reach peace and haven. It hasn’t been with him, and you deserve to find it.

      Like

    • Seeing the Light says:

      GainingStrength – Sending one more virtual hug your way. I’m so happy for you that he is moving to another state. May the peace of “no contact” be yours soon!

      Like

  4. marsocmom says:

    Not pathetic at all, everyone needs a hug sometimes! More often than not. I can’t remember a time when my PAH ever said “I’m sorry” or “Thank you,” whether or not there was any degree of sincerity attached. And we do, I do for sure, keep wondering, Should I have done something differently? Was it a failure on my part? Then I realize that I did everything I could have done. I refuse, from this point on, to feel guilty for not living up to his expectations of me, because that would threaten his self-esteem if he couldn’t keep me down.

    He doesn’t really love me, in that “you mean the world to me and I want to make you happy” way, but he definitely needs me, in that “don’t ever go because I don’t know how to live on my own” kind of way. Not healthy, no love there, just a self-absorbed dependency that is kind of scary. Sometimes I wish he would find someone else and want a divorce, but that will never happen.

    PJs, you said “Appreciation nurtures self-esteem, and genuine regret elicits genuine forgiveness. If one is defensively unable to connect in these ways, life is essentially loveless.” So true. That is basic to just being human, being yourself with each other. If you have to hide who you are from your most significant other for fear of belittling abuse, that is the opposite of love, not just the absence of it. I sometimes wonder if men in general, PA men in particular, are just not capable of being open with their wives. What a lonely way to live. I guess that’s why we girls have to stick together.

    Like

    • GainingStrength says:

      marsocmom – Thank you for your support. I truly do not believe my husband ever loved me. It is a very lonely existence with no affection. And when the kids leave, it’s unbearable.

      Like

      • Exodus says:

        Gaining, I know what you feel when the kids leave. I don’t have my dogs and I am just one on one with my nothing husband. I never realized just how lonely I am until my last dog died. I have been in such a state of lonely grief that I could not bear it anymore. I couldn’t stand another minute!!! I think I would have preferred if someone would have cut off my foot. So, I decided to replace the time I spent with my dogs with other things. I’ve been working on starting my own Etsy store of collectibles and also looking into renting a space in a local antiques & collectibles consignment shop. Whether I do it or not, I’m learning in the meantime and meeting other people and I’ve got some glimmer of hope for my very own income.
        Don’t give up!!!

        Like

    • Exodus says:

      Marcsmom, Even though I’ve said that all men are scum when I’m frustrated and fed up, I know that there really ARE men out there who know how to love and who are craving it just as much as we are. I was married to a man like that once. He was my first husband- the one that my N mother hated. We were only married for three years when I divorced him because I felt he didn’t deserve me. Long story- but, it all had to do with my N mother. Anyway, he and I had been together since college and all through our relationship he was the most wonderful thoughtful husband and provider.

      My brother is another man who is a wonderful husband and father and he married a PA wife who he divorced two years ago. She put him and the kids through hell.

      Like

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