When the boys arrived from Cairns in January we all crammed into our small flat for a few days before moving into our new home to start work on doing the place up and getting it ready to open. It was a nineteen-thirties house with intricate plaster ceilings. One side was to be completely opened up as a coffee lounge. Our living quarters comprised three bedrooms in the centre and there was a room on the other side for a private sitting room. I was able to use one end of this for my Healing room.
Richard was finding his part-time job very boring. He was torn between helping do up the house or carrying on with his job. He felt left out when I related to him what had been happening during
our day. This was supposed to be ‘his thing’ and already I was taking over. When I called the project his baby he snarled back at me, “Don’t you dare call it my baby when you keep interfering!” Once again I made excuses for his behaviour, blaming myself. However, generally he was more careful about how he spoke to me now as my sons were often around. Richard saw my enthusiastic help as interfering. The gaps in the varnished wooden floor had to be filled and the only way we could find to do this was on hands and knees with gap filler. A job that took forever, broke your back, hurt your knees, and made every other part of your body ache. I was working away on my own. Richard arrived home from work, “How’s it going?” he asked.
I gave him a welcoming smile. “Really well, look how much I’ve done today, a couple of more hours and I’ll have this part finished.” Richard picked up some tools and started to help. Two minutes later he threw them on the floor and roared at me. “Why can’t you at least be human enough to admit that it is a shit of a job and that you have a sore back or something instead of making out you’re a bloody Super Woman!”
Once again his explosion shattered me. I thought the fact that I ached all over would be obvious, though I could see little point in complaining. It was tedious, slow work, but it had to be done. I thought that I might as well do it as cheerfully as possible. It would not go on forever, and besides the finished job did look really good. This was mainly Richard’s project. We had purchased this home to provide a lunch bar for him and as a Healing Centre for myself. However, my Healing business did not require major alterations to the house. All the hard yacka was to establish the lunch bar and fulfilling Council requirements for it.
Richard had his part-time job and the boys and I were more than happy to pitch in and do the hard work to help Richard attain his goal. Despite this, all our loving input and backbreaking effort, everything was met with jealousy. This was so sad, as he could not see it was done out of love and support for him and not competition as he chose to believe.
Richard was quietly slipping back into his old behaviour patterns. Obviously the ‘wonderful relationship’ was not real. This became painfully clear when he started throwing my conditions back in my face and saying he only agreed to them under duress and hadn’t had a choice. It was me who was the problem, but I would never see that, after all it took two to make things right, what was I doing about changing myself?
Amongst all of this, Jess particularly, began to form a firm friendship with Richard. He had the ability to make Richard laugh; this sound was joy to my ears. Jess’s brothers, Grant and Jim, had such a close relationship that they often did not include Jess. In this way Richard and Jess were really good for each other, both needing a friend. They saw Richard as a person who would do anything for anyone, a clever knowledgeable man who had all the ideas, but was afraid to put them into practice. They were totally unaware of how resentment festered in him towards them, for that which he felt was their lack of appreciation of things he did for them. Their expression of thanks when he cooked and cared for them never seemed to be enough or weren’t heard. I know that the boys never expected to be cooked and cared for in the domestic sense, as they were adults and quite capable of doing it for themselves.
With the shop close to opening, Richard chose to leave his job and concentrate on the shop, feeling he was the only one who had the ability to make it work. Opening day arrived and we were under way. Facing some of our greatest fears challenged us all – could we do this? We were overrun at lunchtime, adrenalin rushed through us as we made huge mistakes being slow and unfamiliar with the new job. The line extended out the door onto the footpath, something for which we were not prepared. Gradually we all became more competent. My self-confidence was at a low ebb so I did not learn to manage very well. I thought I could not cook as well as Richard, and even lacked the confidence to learn to use the till. Richard felt I was always in the way and did nothing but make a mess. He wanted to be the boss and I did my best not to interfere with his authority, and show him the respect I had for him. After all, by this time I really did believe that he was the only one who could run this business efficiently.
The boys and he often ganged up on me. They were unconsciously copying Richard’s behaviour as he was the dominant male, behaving as their father had conditioned them in childhood. This disempowerment pushed me into being more submissive, the way I had been conditioned to respond since my childhood, which had also been reinforced by every relationship I had been in since. The boys saw Richard and I as unable to come to an agreement on anything. They just saw a man and a woman arguing and did not understand the complexities behind the relationship. They knew me as the strong person who had raised them for years on my own and thought I had to be dominating him, when in reality it was the other way around. The boys did not understand that I was being manipulated emotionally and psychologically, especially behind closed doors.
Once again I begged Richard to go to counselling with me to see if we could sort this out. We had met Nancy before and we both liked her. She was happy to do her best to help us.
Nancy, who has since deceased, helped us to make a list of what we wanted from each other.
These were my needs:
- To hear and feel that he loves me and to find some good things about me and to be happy in himself.
- To accept that I can be happy to laugh and play with him.
- To be touched and have the intimacy of a loving relationship.
- For him to take some of the responsibility to initiate that fun and intimacy.
- To find the real direction of his anger and rage instead of attacking me.
- I needed to be heard.
Richard’s requests for me were:
- To respect and recognise who he was and allow him the freedom to be that person.
- I want her to own her problems and do something about her control issues.
To help keep work time separate from our private lives Nancy suggested we have a happy hour once a week after closing. This was to be a time when we would all be equal and be able to freely have our say with no war and no blame. It was a time to say anything that we felt needed saying and to discuss the business. We had all invested a lot of time so were all entitled to an input.
I would write down anything that I wanted to say and bring it up at our weekly meetings. Curiously Richard never had anything to say at these times. I asked Nancy about this, as it didn’t make sense. He must have had things to say about what was happening in the shop and things that he would like to have done differently, after all it was a new business and we were all still learning. She pointed out to me that ‘not saying anything’ was another method of showing me up, so that even the boys could see how controlling I was. Children often use the same tactics.
Nancy also made up a list of what she considered to be basic human rights for us to follow:
- The right to ask for what we want (other person can say no).
- The right to have an opinion, feelings and emotion, and to express them appropriately.
- The right to make statements which have no logical basis and which we do not have to justify (initial ideas and comments).
- The right to make our own decisions and cope with the consequences.
- The right to choose whether to get involved with the other persons problems. (And accept the consequences).
- The right not to know about something and not to understand. (As long as you don’t make a career out of being ignorant).
- The right to make mistakes.
- The right to be successful.
- The right to change our mind.
- The right to privacy.
- The right to be alone and independent.
- The right to change yourself and to be assertive.
She also asked us to visualise ourselves as children again and to sort out how we felt about our fathers and mothers. To get out how we really felt about the way we perceived our parents had treated us, then to forgive them. She suggested that we could do it by talking to them or writing a letter. If a letter was written it could then be dated signed and burnt as a release. The parent involved need never be aware of how we felt, as it was our own healing that was important. I felt this to be all good basic advice, and I would do my best to comply with Nancy and Richard’s requests.
This is how Nancy found us both:
I found that when I stroked Richard’s ego he thought I was wonderful, but as soon as I confronted him and asked him to look at who he was, he turned on me. He didn’t want to accept the fact that he was to blame for part of anything in the relationship. He wanted Marion to change to be what he wanted, but kept moving the goal posts.
It seemed that all the personality traits, which had once attracted him to Marion, he now despised. For example he would tell her he would be happy if she stopped touching him when working in the lunch bar. She would comply with this and he would immediately find some other reason not to be happy with her. His love for her was totally conditional and used as a weapon to control. It was her fear of him withdrawing it that kept her under control. She made it clear to me that it didn’t matter what he did he was unhappy: He was unhappy in New Zealand, with whatever work he had, with any relationship he had, with anything Marion organised for him. No matter what it was or whom he met he continually found reason to be unhappy and to blame everyone and everything except himself. He had never developed the capacity to love or respect himself or anyone else. To keep Marion in her place he would hit her with anything in her past that he could twist to hurt her, and he kept this gunny sack (an itemised list of past misdemeanors) well loaded and used it frequently. Nothing was ever forgiven or forgotten.
Marion was needy in the relationship playing his game to keep him happy. This was fear based, thinking she couldn’t cope without him, in her emotional life and later on in the business life, and therefore allowed him to victimise her. No matter what Marion tried to change within herself, the next time it would be a different set of rules. After counseling, when Nancy focused on Richard more than me, doing her best to get him to find the basis for some of his problems, he was really upset, angry and filled with rage. He rounded on me when I tried to talk about the session, ripping holes in Nancy’s counseling abilities and proclaiming: She shouldn’t have left me in this state; I thought she was meant to make me feel better about myself. All she did was build on my resentment, I thought things were going well, she should have built on that! Why is it always me that she picks on, this is a two way street, and you get my goat when you sit there agreeing with everything Nancy says. Don’t they all see that it is the way you react that’s the problem? Not me! Don’t they (counselors) know that they shouldn’t ask me what I want to do, because I don’t know what it is, and that only makes it worse. I can’t get rid of the resentment now because I’m trapped in the coffee shop!
He was so angry that I was afraid to ask him to go back for another session. I rang Nancy in tears and told her what had happened. She said to ride it out, and if he was that angry then he may do something about sorting himself out. She had obviously touched on a sore spot. However his anger at her was serving an ulterior goal. It was merely the excuse providing the energy to carry out a decision that had already been made.
When I was feeling good he could not feed off my energy. When he had me in a state of submission, he could do what he liked with it. That was also why he felt empowered when I was down, and could afford to display a little of the love I craved. When I had a good look at myself I could not believe the extent to which I craved his love. This really came home to me one day when I found myself just about on hands and knees begging for him to say he still loved me. His scathing reply went something like this “I might be able to if you stop being a bad girl.” I can’t remember his exact words but that was the meaning. I was horrified with myself. Once again I had broken an unwritten promise to myself after my first marriage, a promise to never beg for any man’s love again. I knew I had to change and stop the roller coaster ride I was on or end up right back to where I had once been. I made some promises to myself:
No longer would I beg for his love, if it was given freely then that was fine otherwise I did not want it.
When he used his ‘gunny sack’, I would recognise it for what it was and remain calm and in control of myself and ignore his caustic whipping.
I would take control of my emotional state and be responsible for my own happiness.
When I felt the need for emotional support I would go out with my friends, go to a spa, or get a massage or reflexology from my sons if they had the time. I stop letting him sap my energy and stop making requests for his time and support. If he wanted to be with me I was only too happy to be with him, but I was no longer going to sacrifice myself to get his favour.
He blamed me for having ‘ forced’ him into giving up the job at the Agricultural department, which he now claimed that he had really enjoyed, and for causing him to be stuck in the Coffee Lounge, where he didn’t want to be. I knew this was a load of nonsense and recognised it for the controlling behaviour it was.