Frank and Georgia are both in their mid-fifties and have been married thirty years. They have four grown children. They’ve argued with each other for thirty years: (1) they’re both Controllers, so (2) they both think they’re right. But, in this example it’s Frank we’re focusing on.
One of the major sources of this chronic squabbling is Frank’s passion for Civil War history. Since 7th grade in middle school, he has loved reading about the Civil War.
As a grownup he has loved visiting Civil War sites all over the country. For a while before he and Georgia were married, he was stationed in Washington D.C. During those six months, Georgia and he were engaged and she lived there with him.
The point here is that during that time Georgia saw everything D.C. had to offer about the Civil War because she went with him all the time. And, through their married years, she’s visited many other sites with him. They’ve taken their kids on plenty of Civil War sightseeing trips. She’s been very accommodating.
On the other hand, she really isn’t interested. She’s told him this many times so it isn’t like he doesn’t know how she feels. She likes it that he has a hobby to enjoy and she encourages him to go visit the sites either by himself or with a friend. So, she’s as supportive now as she has always been.
None of Georgia’s support is enough for Frank. He’s been angry since they were married that she isn’t that interested. He hasn’t let go of the idea that: she should(a) be very interested because he is, and (b) be as passionate as he is about it. Pretty often his anger, rage actually, boils over and he does something really manipulative.
Georgia was at the stove cooking their dinner when Frank burst into the room and stuck a picture in her face. (He collects pictures and histories of soldiers who have died in the Civil War. He enjoys learning about their lives. So, he routinely gets pictures in the mail.) It scared her and she spilled some hot water on her hands. She yelled at him, “What are you doing?”
Once she had caught her breath, she yelled again, “What were you doing? I could have been burned!” Frank yelled back, “That’s right; blame me because you’re the one who isn’t interested in me or what I like; we’ve got a terrible marriage. There’s nothing that we have in common!” Now, this exchange or a very similar one has played out over and over through the years. So, Georgia’s really sick of it.
First, it isn’t true. They’re both still working but when they can, they travel together. Yes, Georgia goes to some Civil War sites with him and they’ve done other trips that she’s more interested in, too. He likes golf so she’s taken it up. They enjoy some movies together and they eat out frequently.
So, let’s get to why he does this.
- He’s a Control personality. He has a strong belief that “he’s right.” Here, he’s sure he’s right about wives should always be totally interested in what their husbands like. Georgia’s the one who’s wrong.
- When he can’t get her agreement, he “sets up” a situation where he knows, consciously or UNconsciously, she’ll react. Then he can focus on her reaction and dramatize it (“our marriage is terrible; we don’t have anything in common”).
In other words, Frank makes the whole exchange her fault; he never gets back to: he started the incident when he did something (a) he knew would upset Georgia, and (b) that was really disrespectful.
Are there solutions for this couple? Yes.
- Frank needs to give up his belief that: “he’s right.” This history quarrel is a relationship difference; not an argument over a “fact.’ When you think about it, manipulative Control is not only silly, unnecessary and unproductive but it’s also irrational. And, this is a guy who prides himself on his rationality.
- Frank needs to get himself a life; in other words, take responsibility for himself. There are Civil War clubs around town that he could join; actually, for a while he belonged to one, but it wasn’t run according to how he thought it should be, so he quit. Now with the internet, there are many ways to find others who live close or don’t who share our interests. He has other passions, too, like fishing and hunting but he doesn’t pursue those either. He doesn’t want to be responsible for himself.
- Frank should appreciate the support he gets from Georgia. Instead, he chooses to criticize and blame her. And, after this many years, she’s really tired of it.
- Georgia should work on appreciating herself as a person and as Frank’s partner. She reacts to what Frank says about her and always feels “down” after one of these incidents. Of course, we understand that when exchanges like these occur, they’d bother anyone. But, it’s more than that with Georgia. She really lets it get to her because what she “hears” is Frank saying she’s “not enough” in the marriage. She needs to take a long look at herself and get acquainted with what she does bring to the marriage.
- Georgia should work on her “self-esteem.” She shouldn’t let anyone decide for her how much value she has as a person. But, every time one of these things occurs, it shakes her beliefs in herself as a wife and a mother.
Having positive self-esteem means that:
We know our qualities, both good and bad. We know our values. We know ourselves well enough to know what we have to offer our loved ones and the world. That’s enough.
Are we perfect? No; we’re working on improving ourselves and our life process. But, decisions about our process belongs to us. It isn’t for others to place irrational demands on us and then, blame us when we don’t measure up to their standards. We should measure up to our own standards. And, if we don’t, it’s our decision what to do about it
I want Georgia to retain her sense of self-respect when these things happen. I want her to react less and be more proactive. These processes will help her feel better through these incidents and, as a bonus, usually it encourages people like Frank to stop playing games.
Anything Like This Happening in Your Life?
Hope this article helps you in some way.
Until next time,