Your article hit home for me. Forgive the novel. Brevity is not one of my gifts.
It all boils down to leadership.
I have written about moral leadership and how the 50/50 relationship dynamic doesn’t work for me and part of that is for the exact reason you described with your wife’s anxiety.
I Want a Partner, Not an Adversary
Learning that a 50/50 relationship default doesn’t work for me.
I don’t want my own (sometimes really shitty) decision-making to be the final authority on what happens to me or my relationship. That hasn’t worked well for me in the past. I know that the traumatic experiences in my childhood have rendered me defective in ways that preclude me from acting in my own best interests when I am emotionally triggered. I can do it for my kids, but I can’t do it for myself.
I am working on two things in that respect:
- emotional self-regulation
- seeking out a relationship with a moral leader
I am seeking out someone better, stronger, wiser to be my partner and help me at times just like you have described. When my anxiety takes over and my amygdala is hijacked, I want someone by my side who will understand what I need and is strong enough to say so. Your story about the bath and the storytime was incredibly seductive. (Sorry, not sorry. ;)
It’s a tall order. Why would someone better want me? That’s part of what I am working on…to become the kind of woman that man like that would want. The kind of leader I am attracted to will be attracted to a moral follower. One that doesn’t take advantage of her leader. That doesn’t expect him to do everything for her or ask him to perform while she coasts and puts her feet up.
It sounds like, as you evolved into a moral leader. you were looking for a moral follower and didn’t find it in your wife.
You wanted a true partnership with both partners giving of themselves for the benefit of the other, without a power struggle. The leader must take on far more responsibility than in a 50/50 relationship, and the follower must shut down her own ego and be willing to defer when his decisions don’t align with what she would’ve chosen. Neither role is easy, but “easy” isn’t attractive to people who crave a relationship like this. They don’t want to be ‘right’, they want to be ‘successful’.
Sidebar: I noticed the women I commented back to in your responses has blocked me, too, which is kind of ironic. It feels like too easy of an example of how we make rash decisions when overcome with anxiety and emotion. Something you wrote triggered her anxiety response and I have to say that I think her responses were off-base and searching for content that you didn’t offer. Instead of listening, she declared herself “alarmed” and shut down.
I can understand that people who don’t understand the leadership dynamic in a relationship can default to the assumption that it must include an abusive component. There aren’t a ton of people who can access the part of themselves that will exercise control/leadership without dipping into the pool of selfishness which, in the case of a relationship, would be at the expense of the other party. I would imagine that admitting such a relationship exists could be threatening to someone who needs to believe that it does not.
But this is all post-script, off-hand speculation. I really just wanted to comment that I think your piece is right on. I think that a lot of people (definitely a lot of women I know) would love to be with a man whom they trust to take control, especially when they are emotionally friable. But that’s a tough thing to admit.
It sounds like it's been hard for you to admit that you want a divorce, likely due to your own moral code. You ultimately engaged in the immoral behavior of letting her make a decision when distraught because you were no longer loving her. Love is a verb. We act morally, against our own interests, when we act in love. Sounds like you knew that it was time for something new when you couldn’t access that love anymore. You chose to verb love yourself. (And I’ve read you argue against “self-love” being a thing, but I would contend that it is, indeed, self-love to make yourself emotionally uncomfortable, and behave counter to your own morality and self-image, to do what is right for you.) It was time for you to verb love yourself.
At least, I feel like that’s what I did. If my ex hadn’t had said the same thing to me that your wife did to you, I would’ve never been brave enough to do it. I would’ve never given up, because I couldn’t bring myself to act immorally — it ran counter to my identity and all the of ego that is wrapped up in how I see myself. I let him give up, which had the added benefit of letting me blame the divorce on him. That’s not exactly moral, either. Still, I’m grateful he did it for me and I, ultimately, see the acceptance of my immoral self to act in my own self-interest (choosing successful over right) as an act of self-love.
Jesus Christ…word vomit much, AJ?