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The critical parent versus the rebellious child: overcoming marital games.

I see a couple in therapy who fight about orange juice. Here’s the way the scenario goes. He says, “Will you stop and get some orange juice for tomorrow morning?” She says, “Sure.”

That night as they are getting into bed, he says, “Did you get my orange juice?” She says, “I forgot. I got too busy. Besides, if it is so important, pick up your own juice.” His response, “I would if you hadn’t told me you were going to get it.”

She then turns the light out in the bedroom and the two of them lie there feeling frustrated and misunderstood. He thinks to himself, “After all I do for her, and I can’t even count on her for juice.” She thinks to herself, “Why can’t he get his own juice if it’s so important?” How often does this type of situation occur? About once or twice a month.

How can they get out of this game? He could decide that he will always be responsible for getting his own juice or she could decide to keep him supplied with juice.

Why won’t they stop playing? Because each of them gets a payoff from this game. Long ago they established a relationship in which he takes the role of the Critical Parent and she plays the role of the Rebellious Child. The juice is simply the excuse for him to act indignant.

In adolescence, this fellow made a decision that most people are incompetent. The juice script allows him to play out his original decision about people: she’s so incompetent she can’t even remember my orange juice.

She, on the other hand, made a decision that men are fools based on the fact that her father was usually drunk and acted foolish. To prove out her decision, she “forgets” the juice and watches her husband act like a fool over a little juice.

Another couple that I see played the same game around vacations, although in there situation she plays the Critical Parent and he plays the Rebellious Child.

Each year about January, he starts talking up a vacation. She responds to his enthusiasm by going to the internet, reading up on vacation spots, and making plans. Come May, he announces that they don’t have enough money for a vacation. She responds with indignation and outrage.

They both operate from the old script that men are supposed to financially take care of women. Neither question the availability of money until feelings are riding high about the upcoming vacation.

The other thing that supports this game is that as a young child this man lost his father. For years he walked around feeling gypped and inadequate. Not being able to provide a vacation for his family helps him re-experience these old familiar feelings.

Here are a few more examples of how one spouse plays Critical Parent and the other plays Rebellious Child:
• When he’s late she gives him lectures on discounting her feelings about being on time.
• She uses his car and leaves the gas tank empty. He writes her nasty notes on the bathroom mirror.
• He wants to keep a running balance in the check book and she doesn’t write down the amounts.
If you recognize yourself, well . . . you’re halfway to giving up your part of the game. The other half is changing your behavior.

Check out Doris’ latest books, “The Boy Whose Idea Could Feed the World” (a middle grade read) as well as, “The Parent Teacher Guide.” www.doriswildhelmering.com.

 

 

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A Passive Taker is a person who floats along in life with seemingly little purpose and few goals. He does not focus on what he wants, likes or dislikes. Nor does he focus on his mate’s wants, likes or dislikes. His lot in life is to accept what’s happening to him at the time.

Most people see the Passive Taker as a nice guy. He rarely gets angry. He can pretty much be counted on to go along with anything. He makes few decisions for himself.

For example, Passive Taker and his wife are at a restaurant. As they are ordering, the waiter asks Passive Taker what kind of salad dressing he would like. Passive Taker looks at his wife to choose his salad dressing. I use the pronoun he because most Passive Takers are men, although occasionally a woman will fall into this category.

As children, Passive Takers were taught to expect others to take care of them. They in turn were expected to do what they were told. With their wants and needs consistently being met, they didn’t learn to plan ahead or think about what they wanted, nor did they learn to focus on anyone else’s needs. Like the Caretaker, they are a product of their upbringing.

Passive Takers do not initiate or organize in their relationship. They complacently go along with the program, but they rarely take charge or plan it. They are willing to help out, but chores must be assigned. They do not compliment their mate, nor do they criticize.

I want to emphasize that a Passive Taker does not think in the same way that other people think. He does not come home and think, “I’m going to watch a football game tonight.” He simply comes home, switches on the television, sees that a football game is in progress, and settles in to watch it.

What his wife and children happen to be doing at the time does not cross his mind. He simply does not think about what other people are doing or how others are feeling.

Now let’s take the Passive Taker test. For every yes answer, give yourself one point. If you know you’re not a Passive Taker but you have a suspicion that the person you are living with is, take the test with him or her in mind.

You will help out if assigned a task, like setting the table or putting away the suitcases, but you rarely take the initiative and do these things yourself, or start a project on your own.

You are content doing almost anything, spend a good deal of your free time alone, live in your own world and do not have a need to interact with others.

You rarely ask your mate to do something for you. You make few demands.

You do not think in advance or plan ahead in your marriage. You do not shop more than a day or two ahead for birthdays, or call ahead for reservations, or think in terms of the future.

You are not attuned to the wants or feelings of your mate.

You rarely give compliments or pats on the back, nor do you “see” what your mate has done for you.

You are rarely critical of yourself or your mate.

You are viewed by the outside world as nice, easygoing and content.

You are often accused by your mate of being selfish and lazy and are told, “You just don’t care.”

You are non-competitive and prefer to let others take the lead.

If you have 8 or more yeses, you are definitely a Passive Taker. If you have 5, 6 or 7 yeses, you sometimes exhibit Passive Taker behaviors, but you do not operate from a Passive Taker frame of reference.

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The Corrector is a person whose main focus in life is to find the flaw and then point it out. Correctors think and know that there is a right way to fold socks, a right way to put dishes in the dishwasher, a right way to cut the grass, and a right way to catch a fish. And they are more than happy to tell you how to do it. Usually their advice is given with a lot of “shoulds” and “oughts”. They also have a habit of wagging their pointer finger as they give you this advice.

Most Correctors make between 20 and 30 critical comments a day. If you don’t believe me, and you suspect you’re a Corrector, count your critical comments. And if you’re living with someone else you suspect falls into this category, secretly count his or her negative comments.

If you tell Correctors you don’t like their advice, they defend themselves with, “I’m only trying to help you,” or “I’m only trying to make it easier for you”.

“How do people become Correctors?”
Usually one or both parents of Correctors were overly critical. Consequently, these children came to expect perfection not only of themselves but also of others.

Rarely are they satisfied with anyone’s performance. If they do 10 things right and one thing wrong, it’s what they do wrong that becomes the focus of their attention.

If you are a Corrector, you may have already recognized yourself. If you have any doubt, take the following test. Give yourself one point for every yes answer.

You are overly critical of yourself for things you did or didn’t do.

You are overly critical of your mate and quick to point out his or her flaws. Off the top of your head, you could easily name a number of tasks your mate does wrong.

You continually strive to be perfect and consider yourself a perfectionist.

You tend to define the world in terms of black and white, right and wrong, good and bad. Your thinking is often polarized. Once you have made a decision, you have trouble understanding or accepting the other person’s point of view.

You are selfish in giving compliments and often are accused of being sexually selfish.

You use anger, and various forms of anger such as put-downs, sarcasm, guilt or pouting, to intimidate and control your mate and to get your own way.

You enjoy telling your mate what to do, and you get a feeling of satisfaction when you explain how to do it.

You schedule “free-time” activities carefully to get the most out of your time and you rarely engage in spontaneous play.

You are well organized, efficient, and accomplish a good deal both at work and at home.

You think of yourself as someone who can be counted on, is loyal, and keeps his word.
If you have 8, 9 or 10 yeses, you are a Corrector. If you have 5, 6 or 7 yeses, you frequently nag and complain, but you do not operate from the Corrector frame of reference. However, you might consider knocking off those critical comments because criticism only invites others to pull away from you.

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Are you the passive agressive one in your relationship? Take the test below to find out!

The Passive Aggressive’s main focus in life is himself or herself. For convenience, I’ll use “he.” However, there are also many women who are Passive Aggressive. The Passive Aggressive does what he wants to do, when he wants to do it. He’s often late, he procrastinates, he tells you he will do something and then he doesn’t. He could get the job done faster and better, but he doesn’t.

Often a person will ask me, “How can someone be passive and aggressive at the same time?” Here’s an example.

Suppose I tell you I’ll meet you at 11:00, and I don’t show up until 11:30 because I decided to watch the end of the ball game. In addition, I don’t even bother to call, nor do I apologize when I see you. My behavior is angry. It discounts you. I’m not jumping up and down having a temper tantrum, but my behavior is certainly aggressive toward you. However, I am expressing the aggression passively. That’s why it’s called passive aggressive behavior.

In addition to being passively aggressive, many Passive Aggressives have very nasty tempers. Remember: it’s standard operating procedure for Passive Aggressives to do as they please. So if you confront them about their behavior, they often turn the confrontation around, and confront you on your behavior. Except their confrontation is usually more angry. As a result, it is you who backs down. And once again, they get their way. What is confusing at first about this personality type is that Passive Aggressives are often very caring and sensitive people. In fact, many of them will go out of their way to do nice things for you. The catch is, they take care of you when it’s convenient for them, and in their own way.

For example, Passive Aggressive buys you a beautiful wool sweater for your birthday. You’re allergic to wool. Or Passive Aggressive knows that you hate cats. He brings one home for the kids. Perhaps the best description of a Passive Aggressive is that he does what he damn well pleases. Take the following test, check off each item that applies to you or your mate.

You do what you want to do, when you want to do it, and how you want to do it. You set your own standards of behavior as opposed to following the standards of others.

You resist expectations of others by dawdling and forgetting. You hate it when others set deadlines for you, and often you do not meet them.

You get angry when crossed. You have a nasty temper and frequently use it to try to make your point, intimidate, and get your own way.

You think others have no right to tell you what to do, and often when you are told what to do, you respond in a defensive and hostile manner.

You rarely find yourself in a position where you think you have made a mistake and you need to apologize.

You often do not do what you have promised, and your mate is always on you about what you haven’t done.

You are unsure of yourself, and internally you feel powerless, and dependent and lack self-confidence.

You defend your behavior with such excuses as “I forgot,” “It never occurred to me,” or “I’m sorry you think that of me.” You feel innocent when you offer these excuses, and when you apologize it is usually a maneuver to get your mate off your case. Your apologies do not contain a promise to change.

You don’t think about how your behavior affects others. You simply do not take others’ wants and feelings into account if you want to do something.

You see yourself as basically a nice person and can’t understand why others often feel irritated and angry with you.
If you have checked off 8 or more items, you are definitely a Passive Aggressive. If you have checked off 5, 6, or 7 items, you sometimes have passive aggressive behavior, but you are not a passive aggressive personality.

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Dear Doris,

My wife continually badmouths my parents who we hardly ever see and live 500 miles away. Needless to say I don’t feel very close to my wife when she does this. How can I get her to stop?

Tell her you love her but you also love your folks. Each time she badmouths them, she chips away at your good feelings for her. In other words, she’s killing your love for her by badmouthing your folks. Or as the saying goes, “Death by a thousand duck bites.”

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Any relationship should support equity between partners: give and take.
A man told me in therapy the other day that he was bad  because he was too good. He has a bad habit of doing too much in a relationship. Consequently, his relationships end because the women feel smothered and eventually pull away.

What does he do that ultimately causes every relationship to terminate? Here’s a partial list he made for me entitled “How to Smother.”

Make sure you hug her the minute you see her.
No matter what she’s doing, come up behind her and rub her back.
When she’s fixing dinner or doing a project around the house, offer to do it for her.
Just before you leave from work, call her to say good morning. When you leave for lunch, call and tell her where you’re going. When you leave work at night, check to see if she wants to get together even though you know she planned to be with her sister that evening.
Offer to pick up lumber to fix her deck and buy shrubs for the front of her house.
Tell her you forgive her for being late even before she apologizes.
Be available to anytime she wants to get together and always drop your plans.
Arrange to bring all your bills and paper work to her house so you can both work in the same room.
Encourage her to pursue exercising and reading while you clean her house.
Keep hanging around her house even though she has a date with her girlfriends hoping they’ll invite you to go to dinner with them.
While she’s using the bathroom, make the bed and lay out her clothes. Press her skirt and blouse if it’s wrinkled.
Get up when eating to get all the unexpected little extras during the meal.
Insist that she choose the restaurant, movie or activity of her liking.
If this is you, stop. Remember, if a relationship is going to make it, one essential ingredient is equity between the partners; that is, a give and take in the relationship.

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When you look your partner in the eye while you communicate, you are less likely to spark a negative discussion.
Think about the last conversation you had with your partner. What do you recall about the way he or she looked? Did your partner raise his eyebrows, puff out his cheeks, look disbelieving and smile incredulously? Did his hair lie a bit differently than usual? Did your eyes ever meet? Did she have on lipstick? Was she wearing earrings? Were her eyes twinkling, or did she appear tired?

I see a lot of couples for marriage counseling, and one of the things I’m continually made aware of is that couples frequently do not look at each other when they are talking. In fact, they spend more time looking away and avoiding eye contact than actually looking at each other.

When I point this out to the couple, the partner who is not looking often becomes defensive and says, “I was thinking and that’s why I was looking away.” What he doesn’t realize, however, is how seldom he looks at his partner.

One reason a partner does not look at his mate when talking is that he is paying attention to something else. The radio or television is on, and he is half listening to a program. Or the children are fighting, and she is trying to hear what’s going on with the kids. Also, people speak only about 120 words a minute while we think at light speed in comparison. So it’s easy to become distracted, think of something else, half listen and not look.

In one study, a group of college students in a classroom purposely looked away from a visiting professor as he lectured. His speech soon became monotone, and he lost almost all facial expression. Then, at a predetermined time, all the students sat up and started looking at the lecturer. Within 30 seconds, his face became animated, his body posture changed, he started moving his arms about and his voice became stronger.

At another prearranged time, the students again stopped looking at the professor. Within minutes, he again lost his enthusiasm and started to drone.

When partners look at each other, they are less sarcastic and less likely to respond negatively. In addition, partners who learn to look at each other report feeling less annoyed and more concerned for their mate.

Why not look at your partner today when he or she is talking? Find out how much you’ve been missing.

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