Father’s day was probably harder than I was able to fully acknowledge within myself.
It’s the whole thing really. How I loved (still do) my Dad so much, but how much hurt there was in so many ways. One day maybe I’ll be healthy and strong enough to write more about my father. He’s been gone for twelve years now (how is that possible), and I’m still working through some things. So I don’t like the reminiscing about my father part of Father’s day, and I certainly don’t like sorting through the mixed bag of my husband being a really good father and a horrible father.
While the world seemed to be sharing hugs, cards, family picnics, photo ops, accolades for good men, and making new memories, I was just trying to keep my good attitude game face on and get through the day.
Pretty sure it’s come up in past posts, maybe quoting an article, or in your comments, on how perceptive passive aggressive men are regarding honing in, being aware o,f and in tune to your state of being. They know if you’re up or down, happy or sad, strong or vulnerable. It’s definitely some kind of empathy, and in my opinion it’s downright uncanny in an unnerving way at times. This kind of empathy seems to lack compassion (at least when you want him to show compassion), but it’s definitely some kind of unique radar that he possesses.
This is why when I’m hurting and he’s doing the withdrawal of relationship shtick part of the passive aggressive cycle, that I just don’t buy the clueless and confused stare-off in-space-and-through-me denial when I confront him about seeming to not care.
The subject of this post says ‘when positive reinforcement is toxic’. I’m thinking about this sad facet of the cycle of my relationship with my husband that happens when I finally get so squished in my soul and spirit that I start to go flat and grey inside. It could be called depression, but that isn’t entirely accurate for what I’m trying to convey.
Oh, I get and feel depressed, but it’s more like an ‘I give up’ or ‘I’m worn out’ kind of depressed patch of road. It’s a feeling of emotional weariness, and when hope seems to be hemorrhaging out faster than I can staunch the leaks.
When I get this down and out, I tend to also involuntarily detach from him. It just happens. My ‘caring’ detaches by default, and I think this is the part that pulls him around. Maybe it’s his survival instincts that sense my energy is at a new distance and not available as supply.
Once upon a time, I used to want to believe (and did believe) that it was him really feeling bad for hurting me, and that he was sorry for the impact it had on me. It was a soothing thing to believe, but like a puzzle piece that looks like it should fit into a jigsaw puzzle, but you discover it doesn’t exactly fit, I came to realize over time that not everything was adding up to support my belief in his remorse.
Maybe he did feel remorse that was real, but it couldn’t have been really deep remorse.
There I was, caught in this recurring pattern wherein I’d become so depleted that stepping over a cliff didn’t look that dangerous or frightening, and he would respond by being attentive, kind, tender, seemingly understanding… and normal.
He can seem so normal (or what I perceive as a normal, healthy, caring partner), that it all felt so real and right. In my depleted state of being, it would feel so comforting and safe that I’d want to cry.
Now wash, rinse, and repeat this over the years.
It means that I’m objectively examining how I’ve been taught and trained that pain can bring relief, that chaos can bring comfort, and that depression can bring his stepping up and behaving responsibly. It trains me to accept being diminished, being hurt, and being depressed, because once that happens to an unbearable peak in the cycle, then comfort and safety and relief must be around the corner. It means that even if temporarily, he’ll behave as if he loves me.
When it happens now, I can still feel much of the relieved and comforted feelings, but inject wariness and a kind of disembodied objective voice telling me to pay attention to my body’s reactions. He can rub my feet, and it relieves some of the pain in my feet, but somewhere my muscles are tightening, and my heart rate might accelerate the way it can when I’m startled. He can curl around me in the bed in a comforting pose, and the warmth of his body feels good, but my sleepy feeling dissipates, and I start to feel an on edge kind of wakefulness forcing me to think when I want to sleep.
My body has a mind of its own.