Obsessive-Compulsive Personality Disorder Support Group

A support group for those with OCPD and their loved ones.
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 Post subject: Getting past the blank stare
PostPosted: Thu Sep 20, 2012 3:12 pm 
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Joined: Mon May 14, 2012 2:42 pm
Posts: 32
Don't really know how to phrase this. My husband is the quiet, turned-inward, passive-aggressive type of OCPD'er. He shows almost no emotion. How do I get past the blank stare/no emotion when I talk to him about something I need support for? I mean, from the way he acts he could be thinking anything from "Please go away so I can get back to my book" to "That's terrible news!" For instance, I've been dealing with a nagging health condition for over a year (btw very little of it has involved him). Nothing serious, but doctor visits, prescriptions, hassle, fatigue, I'm just worn out. Last night I was exhausted and telling him (briefly, I know he doesn't like long stories) about the latest little mess and got nothing from him except a frowny face. Went through something similar a few years ago when my dad died. We are middle aged, so health, parents, etc. are not going to get easier. How do I do this?


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 Post subject: Re: Getting past the blank stare
PostPosted: Thu Sep 20, 2012 6:10 pm 
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Posts: 1978
In my case, my inner world of swirling thoughts and beliefs about myself was so much louder than the outside world that I was largely oblivious to my own such non-responses. It's possible that your husband may likewise be largely unaware that he is offering you no response, coupled with possibly feeling overwhelmed at offering another person basic support. My SO would speak directly to me, "what do you think of this?" "what response do you have to this?" "You're not giving me any feedback. What do you think?" "I've been talking at you all day and you haven't been responding." It wasn't pretty - I had a hard time with all of these - they made me defensive and not wanting to deal with the fact that I was largely not present and being called out about it. That the thoughts and beliefs inside my head that I had about myself and the world just weren't reality. Even knowing and accepting OCPD I have to often remind myself to participate in the world.

This isn't easy or fun or fair in any way for the non-OCPD'r, especially so when you are tired and needing support, but I would suggest being straightforward about getting no response. If he's unaware of how he's acting maybe it will help break through. If he's aware and for whatever reason purposefully showing non-interest, it lets him know where you stand with that and are willing to acknowledge that this isn't ok. It's not even at the level of relationship or support or sharing - it's about basic conversation and engagement. As my SO often said to me, "hey, there's another person here." Unfortunately I did need reminding about such seemingly basic things.

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People do not change when they see the light. They change when they feel the heat.  ― Freda Lewis-Hall


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 Post subject: Re: Getting past the blank stare
PostPosted: Fri Sep 21, 2012 5:28 am 
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Joined: Mon Feb 09, 2009 9:25 am
Posts: 4874
I have NO expectation of getting any emotional support from my husband AT ALL.

I can't even have a conversation about MY day without him being dismissive.

Surround yourself with supportive people (friend, neighbor, mom, sis etc.) and call on them to get your thru a tough time, not your SO.

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Married 10+ years
Diagnosed 18 years ago
Fairly good marriage


“ When people show you who they are, believe them, the first time."
― Maya Angelou


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 Post subject: Re: Getting past the blank stare
PostPosted: Fri Sep 21, 2012 10:37 am 
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Joined: Mon May 14, 2012 2:42 pm
Posts: 32
Francie, that is very helpful. Thank you. It's what I suspect is going on in his head but if I ask questions he gets a deer-in-headlights look and leaves the room as fast as he can.

More, that's kind of been the plan but I am not geographically close to my sister and she's unreliable about responding to calls or e-mails, if I talk to mom everything becomes about her, and I'm a misfit at work, so no support there either. Not really trying to be all "poor me", but it's been tough to make close friends and I'm feeling the lack of that lately. So... trying again to be more open w/hubby, include him more, talk more, and then I get the same responses that led me to close off before. And I don't really want to talk myself into a divorce, we're pretty good roommates. :-\


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 Post subject: Re: Getting past the blank stare
PostPosted: Sat Sep 22, 2012 11:04 am 
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Joined: Tue Sep 18, 2012 8:00 pm
Posts: 40
I asked my husband about the blank stare he gives me when we are in a discussion about our marriage falling apart. He said it's because he wants me to know he is listening, has heard what I said but really, honestly doesn't know how to respond. He says he doesn't know what to say or do when we get like that.


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 Post subject: Re: Getting past the blank stare
PostPosted: Mon Sep 24, 2012 4:49 pm 
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Joined: Mon May 14, 2012 2:42 pm
Posts: 32
Well, if nothing else I am happy to hear I am not alone in getting that blank stare. But you would think after being married for 15 years, a conversation with your spouse would not be such a threatening situation.


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 Post subject: Re: Getting past the blank stare
PostPosted: Mon Sep 24, 2012 6:58 pm 
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Location: OBX, NC, 'Murica, Earth, Milky Way, Local Galactic Group
Keep in mind that many introverts are prone to having blank stares, especially Thinker (non-Feeler) types who don't relate well to emotions, even we Nons.

As More-Freedom said, if you lower your expectations, you'll be less disappointed. My OCPD DW (an Extroverted Feeler) provides nil in the way of emotional support, and she quickly turns any such (very rare) seeking that I have into how she feels (i.e., worse than I feel). That's when I call a sister for support.


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 Post subject: Re: Getting past the blank stare
PostPosted: Tue Sep 25, 2012 3:59 pm 
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I know, I'm an introvert, too! I've made it a point to tell people at work if I'm giving them "a look" it doesn't mean I can't or won't do something, I'm just running through things in my head to think it through. And I make the effort to realize how I might be coming across. And even at home, it's an effort for me to make sure I talk about things, include him in things, because I know it's an important part of having a relationship. I guess I'm just thinking out loud here - I appreciate the sounding board and the responses.


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 Post subject: Re: Getting past the blank stare
PostPosted: Wed Sep 26, 2012 12:11 am 
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Posts: 311
"As More-Freedom said, if you lower your expectations, you'll be less disappointed."

I'm sorry but it's quite sad to have no expectations whatsoever for ANY emotional support from your husband. Keep in mind that the issue is not your expectations. The problem is not your emotional needs. Your needs are perfectly reasonable - what is sadly unreasonable is to expect consistent emotional support of any kind from someone with OCPD (especially when you are in a time of great need). The fact that you have emotional needs for support from your partner is natural and normal. You will not be able to erase them, so please don't try. Why would you deny your needs?

The reason that he gives you a blank stare is that he cannot process his own negative emotions and he doubly can't deal with *your* negative emotions; or your challenging state; or with your stress. He most likely is subtly aware that he is short circuiting -- but he does not want to be called out on that. So he tries to obliterate your negative feelings by neutralizing them - the blank stare. He might as well have his fingers in his ears singing "lalalalala". He wants the situation to go away - so he can get back to work. That's why he stares at you -- he can't deal.

Francie's partner's saying "there's another person here" seems like the best idea to try in my opinion.

The behavior your describing is very damaging; very negating, and very demoralizing. Don't go along with it. Also (edit) do not tell yourself that it's because he's an introvert. This is not an issue of introversion -- neither yours nor his. There are plenty of compassionate, empathetic introverts out there in intimate relationships who are able to offer emotional support to their partner in times of need. This is something else. It's faulty emotional processing.

Don't dismiss your needs in times of trouble-- to do so is to put yourself at great risk. The fact that you're having health issues right now is a sign that your body is trying to get your attention to take care of yourself.

P.S.: I realized after writing the above that we talked about the blank stare you describe (meeting an emotional void) extensively in the thread "cold hearted and calculating"
viewtopic.php?f=2&t=3200&hilit=cold%20hearted%20calculating


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 Post subject: Re: Getting past the blank stare
PostPosted: Wed Sep 26, 2012 9:48 am 
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Location: OBX, NC, 'Murica, Earth, Milky Way, Local Galactic Group
mushroom wrote:
realitycheque wrote:
As More-Freedom said, if you lower your expectations, you'll be less disappointed.
I'm sorry but it's quite sad to have no expectations whatsoever for ANY emotional support from your husband. Keep in mind that the issue is not your expectations. The problem is not your emotional needs. Your needs are perfectly reasonable - what is sadly unreasonable is to expect consistent emotional support of any kind from someone with OCPD (especially when you are in a time of great need). The fact that you have emotional needs for support from your partner is natural and normal. You will not be able to erase them, so please don't try. Why would you deny your needs?
Fortunately, this was not at all what was suggested. Nons have practically no control over the difficulty that OCPDers have with empathy (emotional and/or intellectual), but we can regulate our dispiriting reactions to this by managing our expectations more effectively. As CBT techniques teach us, it is moving in degrees from a worse place to a better place. It's emerging from the FOG. It's looking from a position of entrenchment (our unreasonable expectations of the OCPDer) to re-grouping in a more advantageous location. It's not about denying/erasing your needs, it's about accepting the reality and determining more objectively how they can be met.

mushroom wrote:
I mean, from the way he acts he could be thinking anything from "Please go away so I can get back to my book" to "That's terrible news!" Last night I was exhausted and telling him (briefly, I know he doesn't like long stories) about the latest little mess and got nothing from him except a frowny face. How do I do this?
realitycheque wrote:
Keep in mind that many introverts are prone to having blank stares, especially Thinker (non-Feeler) types who don't relate well to emotions, even we Nons.
mushroom wrote:
The behavior your describing is very damaging; very negating, and very demoralizing. Don't go along with it. Also (edit) do not tell yourself that it's because he's an introvert. This is not an issue of introversion -- neither yours nor his.
Again, not at all what was suggested. It's understanding that we cannot know what the other person is thinking merely by their facial expression. What from this thread are you saying is damaging/negating/demoralizing that shouldn't go along with? We're talking about a blank stare which for us introverted thinkers is a bit of a default expression when processing complex (i.e., unplanned for OCPDers) news/information. It would be difficult (though not impossible) to "train" an OCPDer to feign an appropriate face. A furrowed brow? A hopeful smile? A quizzical look to the ceiling while stroking his imaginary goatee or Vulcan ears muttering "hmmm, vely intelesting" or "fascinating", respectively?

The concept I'm wanting to bring out, hopefully with humor, is that we Nons too can get caught up in the FOGgy Shoulds, Mind-Reading, and Emotional Reasoning. I know that I did, but once I emerged from FOG, partially by understanding the underlying personality types of me and DW, I obtained a much better handle on what I was willing and able to live with (or have augmented from others like friends/siblings) and what I am not. I agree with many (if not all) of the principles you're bringing out, and am offering my experience as insights that might help reactions to the Blank Stare (or the more emotionally triggering "Cold-Hearted and Calculating" descriptor). We INTJs are known for having the "Death Stare" which can mean anything from "Eat $#%+ and Die!" to "Are there any instances in real life where I've used the square root of minus one? Hey, I could I change the lyrics of Atlanta Rhythm Section's "Imaginary Lover" to "Imaginary Number" to help DS remember the algebraic rules for his test!" And, yes, I have done both using basically the same facial expression. DW used to speculate (negatively) on such looks, but we are communicating more openly now to avoid misconceptions.


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 Post subject: Re: Getting past the blank stare
PostPosted: Wed Sep 26, 2012 12:35 pm 
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Posts: 311
Gretchen wrote:
I've been dealing with a nagging health condition for over a year (btw very little of it has involved him). Nothing serious, but doctor visits, prescriptions, hassle, fatigue, I'm just worn out. Last night I was exhausted and telling him (briefly, I know he doesn't like long stories) about the latest little mess and got nothing from him except a frowny face. Went through something similar a few years ago when my dad died. We are middle aged, so health, parents, etc. are not going to get easier. How do I do this


What is described here is a woman experiencing a health condition who goes to her husband for emotional support. She is met with emotional withdrawal. She also describes the same thing happening when her father died -- a time of serious loss. Also - a time of difficulty that requires emotional support. To say, "hey we all give blank stares some times" is to miss the point. An OCPDr is threatened when their partner experiences times of difficulty -- it is specifically in times of great need that ocpders are most incapable of providing emotional support. At the same time they seem totally oblivious to a.)The fact that their partner needs emotional support and b.)The fact that they are freezing the partner out with emotional withdrawal. Instead of any kind of mirroring or empathy, the ocpdr meets the partner with an emotional void -- so the parter feel obliterated; as if their feelings do not matter at all. This is where the non parter's self image becomes damaged. The non partner is treated as if their very real needs are non-existent. There is nothing light hearted about this in my opinion. It is damaging; it is borderline abusive; it is hell of confusing for the non partner and a person begins to lose track of their needs -- when they are treated as if they don't exist and are totally unimportant compared to whatever task at hand.

As far as how to get past it -- the partner first needs to acknowledge that A: It really is happening. B. Their needs matter. C. Their ocpd partner is petrified or whatever, but D. They need to say "I"M HERE. I MATTER. I NEED EMOTIONAL SUPPORT. If I'm not going to get it from you -- I'm going to my friend's house.

Sorry, realitycheque. No matter how many rationalizations or mental leaps you want to make around it -- it's a very damaging scenario that's described. I don't think it's funny.

EDIT: I absolutely do not think it's appropriate to imply that Gretchen might be "in a fog"; trying to read his mind or whatever and might benefit from CBT "we all do that" , etc. That all of us introverts sometimes give blank stares, etc. etc... (i.e. don't worry about it; maybe it's you in a fog trying to read his mind...etc.) No. I'm afraid not. This is a classic situation of a non partner experiencing stress; physical illness and going to their partner for support. And the OCPDr being incapable of providing it -- and shutting down; and freezing their partner out. That very action is damaging to the non. To imply that somehow the issue is with the Non's thinking about it is absolutely ludicrous. I would also like to draw attention to the way Gretchen diminishes her health issue "a nagging health issue for over a year as "nothing serious", and "nothing to do with him"....etc.


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 Post subject: Re: Getting past the blank stare
PostPosted: Wed Sep 26, 2012 4:44 pm 
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mushroom wrote:
I would also like to draw attention to the way Gretchen diminishes her health issue "a nagging health issue for over a year as "nothing serious", and "nothing to do with him"....etc.


Well, by "nothing serious" I meant not life threatening, along those lines. I've been trying to get a handle on my GERD (probably somewhat stress-related, but also related to a pretty large hiatal hernia), so there have been dr visits, a few procedures he had to take me to and from, my frustration that things aren't working well... So nagging yes, emergency runs to the hospital or long periods of being bedridden, no. Still trying to process if I am downplaying it some to avoid causing more stress for him. If anything I am downplaying it to avoid any expectation on my part that he might show concern, empathy, TLC... I think the events of the last couple years have made me more aware of what kind of support I need, and whether or not I want to stick around if I can't get it from him.


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 Post subject: Re: Getting past the blank stare
PostPosted: Wed Sep 26, 2012 6:35 pm 
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Gretchen:

I am happy to hear that "the events of the last couple of years have made (you) more aware of what kind of support (you) need." What you're describing is a chronic health condition affecting your quality of life. It doesn't take "life threatening" or ambulances for it to be serious. Don't discount your body's messages to you. Your gut is key to your immune system and to your emotional system (your gut produces 95% of your serotonin as well as the rest of the same neurotransmitters in your head). It is part of your body's essential defense mechanism; the way of processing what comes "in" and getting rid of what needs to go. I am speaking to you here with a colostomy bag on my belly. I know what I'm talking about. You don't want to ignore what your gut is telling you.

OCPDr's tend to monopolize all of the emotional support supplies in a relationship--including your own supplies reserved for you! It's how they work. One-way. I hope you do read that other thread I mentioned, because there are other examples there. The non takes the brunt of the stress in the relationship and frequently ends up manifesting the stress in the form of physical illness. Please get yourself some emotional support.


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 Post subject: Re: Getting past the blank stare
PostPosted: Wed Sep 26, 2012 6:46 pm 
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Joined: Tue Feb 09, 2010 9:38 pm
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Gretchen wrote:
But you would think after being married for 15 years, a conversation with your spouse would not be such a threatening situation.
I've been in my relationship for 18 years, aware of OCPD for around 3, and such ideas have only recently begun to occur to me. The OCPD thought patterns that create fear and dread keep one in survival mode. It's not personal and it's not about you - it's how the world looks and it's totally invisible. These thoughts and responses feel right to us (egosyntonic.) He's literally trying to survive at the level of a tiger clawing right outside the front door. OCPD is a pretty incapacitating disorder in that sense - when it comes to relationship and intimacy. It's not that an OCPD'r can't learn these things - it's that we didn't develop them and that we've practiced behavioral patterns along survival lines. So first we have to understand and accept this - which is like tossing a lifetime's worth of work out the window after swallowing the idea that we've been walking on the ceiling when we thought it was the floor and it still looks like the floor. Then we have to crawl and become kindergartners at it. So it's not that we can't change - anyone can change. It's about accepting where we're at and being open and willing to change, while learning to continually dodge the same old thoughts that just keep coming. At least that's what it's been like for me.

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People do not change when they see the light. They change when they feel the heat.  ― Freda Lewis-Hall


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 Post subject: Re: Getting past the blank stare
PostPosted: Wed Sep 26, 2012 7:09 pm 
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mushroom wrote:
Sorry, realitycheque. No matter how many rationalizations or mental leaps you want to make around it -- it's a very damaging scenario that's described. I don't think it's funny.
hi mushroom. It's one thing to disagree with another person's points, but to flat out call them rationalizations & leaps in general I think begins to cross a line of decorum this forum benefits from. Just my own opinion and possibly no one else's, but this seems to really distract from what you have to say.

Also, the use of humor in approaching difficult and serious subjects in no way implies the subject itself is humorous. Dealing with OCPD is miserable for all involved and injecting some humor into a management approach can be helpful. I don't think anyone here thinks there's much funny about dealing with an OCPD partner or a health issue. The "crazy rules" thread is a great example of this - a way to vent on an exasperating issue.

mushroom wrote:
EDIT: I absolutely do not think it's appropriate to imply that Gretchen might be "in a fog"; trying to read his mind or whatever and might benefit from CBT "we all do that" , etc. That all of us introverts sometimes give blank stares, etc. etc... (i.e. don't worry about it; maybe it's you in a fog trying to read his mind...etc.) No. I'm afraid not. This is a classic situation of a non partner experiencing stress; physical illness and going to their partner for support. And the OCPDr being incapable of providing it -- and shutting down; and freezing their partner out. That very action is damaging to the non. To imply that somehow the issue is with the Non's thinking about it is absolutely ludicrous. I would also like to draw attention to the way Gretchen diminishes her health issue "a nagging health issue for over a year as "nothing serious", and "nothing to do with him"....etc.

A focus of the forum is learning how to be aware of what's going on and how to manage very difficult situations - as an OCPD'r or as a non. A non can't change the ocpd'r. But there's so much any person can do from inside by owning their experience & response. This isn't in any way taking responsibility for another person's behavior, it's taking responsibility for accepting reality and for our response. And a non can be in a fog - OCPD is mental disorder, and if that is not the underlying premise of approach to an OCPD partner (that is, by a non who is aware of OCPD,) then I believe the non could be living in a sort of fantasy fog. OCPD is not going to change or be affected by traditional methods for healing relationships. Further, dealing with our own thinking and behavior is the only thing any one of us can do.

Yes, partners of OCPD'r do need to adapt expectations for relationship, and especially be aware of their own health, as is the case for anyone in a relationship with a disordered partner, whether it be a physical or mental disorder. That means being realistic, it doesn't mean giving up expectations. An OCPD'r is a person, one capable of sharing and support and relationship. If the premise of the approach is that OCPD is a mental illness, from there the path is clearer. It in no way suggests the OCPD'r is off the hook for behaving (or, in many cases, learning to behave) like a rational, civil person in relationship, and it in no way suggests the non stop asking or expecting that of their partner. It just means the path to relationship and sharing and empathy is a very different one. A realistic approach also sets up the non to be able to better assess if this is something they can live with.

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People do not change when they see the light. They change when they feel the heat.  ― Freda Lewis-Hall


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