December 1, 2011

Hopelessly Entangled

If you’ve had a relationship like Sally’s or Sarah’s, you know how conflicted it makes you feel. You love but you hate. You trust but you suspect. You enjoy but you want to get away. You understand but you just can’t excuse. You embrace but you want to push back. You know you are needed but you feel abused.

You can’t put your finger on the problem. You know there is one, but if you ever bring it up with the other person, very quickly it is turned into something that is all about you and what you’ve done. You are told in so many words, “If you were different, there wouldn’t be a problem.” Your accuser works to produce guilt in you and evoke pity for himself. You are left to ponder, What can I do to make this better? I must be doing something very wrong.

Over the years, I have talked to so many people entangled in this kind of relationship. Usually they are quite candid about their own faults. They chew their fingernails or tap their feet while telling me, “I am willing to correct what I can, but for the life of me, I don’t know what to do.” They remain baffled because no matter what they do to alter their shortcomings, the relationship stays chaotic and tense. Often they assume they’re the only one in the world with a relationship that is so insane! They feel like a wart growing on the face of a smooth-complected society. They don’t want to talk about the pain because they have been told so often that they are the reason for it. They have almost come to believe it. Since they care about the difficult individual, they feel like a betrayer to mention the problem to anyone. So they keep on keeping on in hopeful desperation, always believing thing will be better tomorrow. But when their tomorrow comes, they are usually disappointed.

My heart hurts for you if you are in this kind of situation. I know how it leaves you crushed in spirit although you look intact on the outside. These things I know about you because the symptoms of a person entangled with a fool are fairly universal:

  • You can’t figure out why this relationship just can’t work.
  • You fear losing what you think you have with this person, whatever that might be (you may not be able to define it!).
  • You feel guilty for failing to find a solution to the ongoing pain.
  • You are afraid to face the truth and possible consequences. The unknown is very threatening to you.
  • You know you have to do something to change the destructive dynamics, but you don’t know what you need to do.

The reason you remain in turmoil is that you are trying to relate to someone who has some wonderful qualities mixed with a perplexing set of destructive characteristics. In the beginning you may have admired this person, but soon you found yourself mired in the chaos that seems to characterize the relationship. One minute you hear your own laughter, and you hope against hope that all is well. The next minute you’re on the defensive in response to some inane comment or emotional jab made at you by this one to whom you are trying to relate. If you protest, invariably the person denies he has said or done anything inappropriate. In a few twists of the facts, he tries to convince you that you’re a bitter person or just “oversensitive.” When you have been labeled with all other conceivable insults, there sometimes comes the appellation you hate more than any other: “crazy.” It leaves you bleeding. What can you possibly do or say to counter that one? By the time the encounter is over, you are kicking yourself for even mentioning that you have feelings.

Hat Tip: FOOL Proofing Your Life

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