I haven’t been here in almost a year. I pop on every once and a while to read posts, but that’s rare lately. I came back today to post, however, because maybe I can offer some insight that will help someone out there. Even though I didn’t post a lot, I got a lot of insight and comfort from the board and so maybe I can give some back now.
So, just a quick update…my OCPDH (diagnosed in Aug ’09) and I have been separated since Jan ’10. After we separated, I got a great job offer in another city that is about 200 miles away from where we lived. Because we have a DD, I discussed it with OCPDH and decided to take the job and move with DD to the new city. The plan was for OCPDH to move to the same city as us when he could. So, that’s how we’ve proceeded. DD and I moved here in August and OCPDH just came in January. We don’t live together, however. OCPDH is staying with some wonderful friends. According to the psychologist, OCPDH needs to start his own life, make and be responsible for his own choices, and set and achieve his own goals for there to be any improvement. So, in my mind that means we live separate lives for the foreseeable future. Getting him to be proactive about a job search was exhausting, but thankfully, the same friends who opened their home also worked on finding him a job. So, my OCPDH with a master’s degree and an, almost, Ph.d. is in an entry level job at a big company, but he is actually enjoying it thus far, and I’m proud of him. It’s not ideal, but it’s improvement. I have no idea if we’ll reconcile or divorce. With a new city and a new job and a new school for DD, I can’t make that decision right now. Ok, so that’s my quick update.
Now for some insight. When OCPDH was diagnosed, he fought it totally. He was so mad at me and at the psychologist. He picked it apart and analyzed all the reasons why the psychologist was wrong. I thought he’d never accept and internalize the diagnosis. Well, after living apart for 1 year, I think he’s had some major realizations and it seems like he’s actually trying to seek out more info on OCPD and understand himself better. Anyway, the other night we had probably the most honest, open conversation we’ve ever had. Of course, they are just words, and I need to see action before I change the status of our relationship at all. However, they were new words, and not the same old tired dribble. So, here’s his (and mine in some cases) insight into his OCPD that maybe you can see and apply in our own relationships:1-He told me about affection “rules” .
Apparently, not only did he have express rules for loading the dishwasher, but he also had secret rules about how I was to show him affection. For example, he would tell himself (who knows if it was conscious or subconscious??) that if I (his DW) hugged him at this defined point in time, then that meant that I loved him and if I didn’t hug him at the right time, then that meant that I didn’t love him. Even if I hugged him later on but not at that right time, I didn’t love him. Certainly, all or nothing thinking is at work here. To give another example he also said that he felt loved whenever I brought him lemonade while he was mowing the lawn. If I didn’t, then he would decide I didn’t love him and shut me out. Now, he never told me he wanted lemonade while mowing the lawn. So, this litmus test of my love was never communicated to me. Also, even if I brought him lemonade while cleaning the pool, that didn’t count. So, when I failed him, he would “put up walls” (his words) and then he’d say “well, I’ll take down the wall only if she does ‘y’.” When I wouldn’t do “y” (because I didn’t know to do “y”) he would put up more walls. So, we just got further and further apart. We didn’t really fight because we didn’t talk or address anything bad. If I dared raise a concern about the distance I felt between us, then he assumed that I didn’t love him. So, I was conditioned to just accept the miserable treatment and keep my mouth shut. He says he now recognizes that his way of thinking was messed up, but whether he can stop himself from that type of all or nothing thinking in the future is the real key. 2- He recognizes that he’s “a-motional” meaning unable/unwilling to express emotion.
When I would talk about any hurts I felt or any pain he caused, he would be (and still is) completely unaffected emotionally. His responses were so robotic and, frankly, cold. I can remember sitting in the marriage counselor’s office (months before we went to see the psychologist who diagnosed him), and I was crying and the counselor said to him, “You might want to put your arm around your wife and comfort her.” When he did, it was so forced and lacked feeling. Even his “happy” emotion was (is) almost fake…like an act. His “happy” emotion is a high-pitched, animated, voice with lots of body movement. It’s like quiet contentment doesn’t exist. Of course, the lack of shared emotion really ruins intimacy. He said that he feels emotion but “doesn’t have the words” to express it. He’s very well read and very intellectual, but when it comes to emotional intelligence, he’s at the bottom of the scale because he can’t tap into how he’s feeling or read other people’s feelings very well. It seems he feels things, but when he can’t identify and classify them, he tries to ignore them. I guess it’s like everything else OCPD. If the OCPDer can’t control it 100%, then it gets (in his words) “pushed so far to the back burner of life that it’s like that issue doesn’t even exist.” He’s loathe to attempt what he can’t control and do perfectly. Given that expressing emotions is something he’s not comfortable with, he doesn’t even try. Emotions, like other things he can’t control, are ignored. 3-He recognizes that he’s 100% conflict avoidant.
I know some OCPDers rage, rant, and yell. Mine is afraid of his own shadow. He is so adverse to open conflict that he is probably one of the most passive aggressive people I’ve ever met. If you upset him (break a rule or hurt his feelings) he won’t yell; rather, he will quietly shut you out, disapprove, and ignore you. He will also never tell you straight up what upset him. Conflict wasn’t allowed in his house growing up. His mom can’t stand it and she insists of not discussing anything that might provoke disagreement. She’s shut me down before when I’ve tried to disagree with his dad on something. Everything has to seem perfect in their house (more on that later). So, OCPDH can’t honestly express himself. I’m pretty sure I’ve never gotten an honest opinion from him (aside from his opinions on art and literature b/c he fancies himself an expert). I certainly have never gotten an honest opinion regarding our relationship. I’ve realized that it was always me going to him saying, “we have this issue and here’s how maybe we can solve it” or “here’s my thought on this potential move in life” and it seemed that no matter what I said, he just “yessed” me. His typical response was “uh-huh,” but he didn’t really believe it or act on it, and in some cases, he actively worked against me as I tried to solve our problems. So, he’s never been honest with me about his thoughts and opinions. Heck, all this “self realization” stuff may not be honest. He may have just figured out that it’s what I want to hear. I don’t expect that he’ll sit there and pour out his feelings every day. I don’t want that, but I do want to know his real thoughts and opinions,, which he is unlikely to give. In addition to being so conflict avoidant, he’s also incredibly emotionally fragile. I think this makes sense…he avoids conflict because he feels like he can’t emotionally handle it. Previously in our relationship if I said the slightest thing to upset him, he would shut down and not talk. I remember once we were going to eat and he was underdressed, so I suggested (before we left the house) that he put on slacks instead of jeans. You would’ve thought I called him horrible names. He was so upset that he barely spoke to me after that. I guess he was so devastated that he wasn’t perfectly dressed or that I saw him make a mistake (even though it wasn’t a mistake). Well, since I stopped allowing his disapproving silence to control me, he has gotten used to my saying things (pointing out the hurt he’s caused me). So, he says he recognizes now that he’s not comfortable giving opinions or talking about things that might cause conflict, and he claims he’s working on it. Also, he says he wants to be emotionally strong, but I just don’t see him ever being comfortable with even civilized conflict. Only time will tell.4- Here’s his funny realization…he says he’s scared of me!!
I’ve been trying to better understand where this fear comes from. From my discussions with him, it seem these are 3 options: 1-there is no fear, he’s just trying to manipulate me and make me feel guilty (i.e. “oh no. He’s scared of me, and I better try harder to be nice to him”); 2-that he’s scared of me because to be in relationship with me means we HAVE to talk about things that cause conflict (money, sex, family, etc). Given that he’s petrified of conflict, that fear translates to being afraid of me; or 3-he’s not really afraid of me; rather, he’s afraid I won’t love him anymore. This goes back to the perfect family issue. The Sunday Science thread talks about OCPDers not having (feeling?) unconditional love. I asked OCPDH if he felt loved unconditionally by his parents. He said “no.” He said he felt like he had to please them and, moreover, he could not take any risks or do anything that was outside the approved box his parents created for the family. He said it was implicitly communicated that to be a member of the family, he had to do “x” or behave “y” and if he didn’t, his parents would shut him out. So, he learned to do “x” and “y” perfectly, and he got it in his head that as long as he only attempted those things he could do perfectly, he would be ok. He says he didn’t feel perfect because he knew in the back of his mind that there were major parts of his life that he was ignoring, but he thought that focusing all his attention and energy on the things he did perfectly would make up for whatever he was ignoring (all or nothing thinking again). So, even though his professional life fell apart, he thought that cleaning the kitchen more would make up for it. So, we’ve discussed that maybe he’s afraid of me because he feels like if he can’t do what I want him to perfectly, then I won’t love him. He’s afraid of disappointing me because he’s afraid of losing love. Yet, he sabotages himself. Also, he said that b/c of the all or nothing thinking he ends up not even wanting to attempt any type of emotional growth. His thought is, “if he can’t grow perfectly in every area, then there’s no point in trying to progress in any areas.” Really fascinating.
So that’s it. Four nuggets (chunks??…I know I write a lot) of insight from some recent conversations. Maybe some of y’all see the same behaviors / reactions in your own lives.