Thursday, October 16, 2008

Getting Approval

Day before yesterday, my soon to be ex-wife and I were supposedly talking about finances - actually taxes.

She began blaming me for the divorce and actually started accusing me of making her drink. She went on to citing an example of me trying to create stress that would cause her to drink.

I listened and my defensiveness started to rise. But another part of my disease, the desire to seek approval and be deemed as "worthy" and "nice" and "good" also kicked in.

In my disease - I want to be "accepted" and deemed "a good person." In my heart, most of the time, I know I am a nice/good guy. I know intellectually that I do not need to be "accepted." But old habits are hard to break.

As my wife went on a rage on the phone with me, I was pretty calm - a surprising thing as I type this to you. In the past, I would have raged back - I think. But still, I tried to interrupt and tell her she was putting perceptions of what occurred and making them facts in her mind. I tried several times to tell her that I did not do those specific things and certainly did not do them with the intention to drive her to drink. (This is the first thing I did that I didn't have to do)

I told her - then and there - that this is part of the disease, blaming someone else and not accepting responsibility. (This is the second thing I did that I didn't have to do).

She hung up the phone.

In my disease, I was now hooked. So I called her back. I was getting obsessed with fixing this wrong perception and trying to show that I am OK (not right - I am 99% sure I wasn't trying to be right).

We spoke briefly and she hung up. It was like she knew she had me.

I - of course - redialed. She did not pick up and I left a message on the answering machine.

I started to call her cell phone, when the program kicked in. It said, "You are obsessed. Stop. You are trying to gain acceptance from someone who can't give it. Second and more importantly, you don't need it - you are already accepted and okay."

But there was an anger underneath the surface too. So the program kicked in again and said, "Call your sponsor."

So I called my sponsor. As soon as I started telling him what had happened, I was laughing at my behavior.

I get hooked each time by not getting some one's approval. Maybe not always. But it is there - right under the surface.

Damn. I want to be liked by everyone and thought highly of. Well, at least I recognize it and I have a program!

7 comments:

Cat said...

Wow - something just occured to me while reading this post - that need for approval and acceptance is what is eating at me with my damaged relationships due to my husband's drinking... Thank you for posting this - Thank you!Cat

Progress, Not Perfection said...

Thanks for your posting. I too have the same problem with wanting to be accepted all of the time. I constantly make boundaries and then break them because I am afraid that person won't like me anymore. I suppose I am making progress... at least I recognize I am doing it now.

Peace and Serenity.

Anonymous said...

Funny, my response to that accusation would have been, "Wow, I am a really powerful person! I can cause you to drink?!" But my therapist says that's not a very good way to respond...

IMHO, you cannot convince her you are a good person, nor that her reasoning is flawed, any more than you could make her stop drinking--you may as well beat your head against a brick wall.

Not that you asked for advice, but as a codependent, I feel compelled to offer it... :) Perhaps finding some kind of neutral phrase to repeat, like, "I'm sorry you see things that way." Some kind of wet-blanket type of phrase that will be an easy fall-back when you feel yourself reacting, and something vague enough that you aren't giving her something to react to either.

But I completely understand your disease, as I share the same one. I always want the record to show when I am right or when it wasn't my fault, and I want to be approved of and accepted. But I find that it's gotten me into such uncomfortable places, I have to outgrow it.

Anonymous said...

Wow from me too. I always try to be "nice" because I am a "nice" person....and I am. But when dealing with my recovering alkie hubby, I have to bite my tongue from making remarks that may be sarcastic, or rude, or caustic, or too in his face. And I wonder why I bite my tongue. Why do I care what he thinks? I want him to like me, but I also want me to like me. Am I doing it for me? or for him?

I want to do it for me and not worry about what he thinks. I also want to be approved and accepted and how can he approve of me and accept me unless I let him know how I feel about things? It does put me into uncomfortable situations with myself.

mermaidgirl said...

I couldn't agree with Anonymous more...I had a similar argument with my alcoholic spouse on Sunday. It went on and on and on...I'm sure you all know the the scene. He is unemployed-my career is truly realizing the fruits of many years of hard work.

He said I would be better off if he left..I would be happier. I almost took the bait-but instead I said I'm sorry you feel that way, but the truth is you don't have the power to make me happy. I am the only one that can make me happy. You can influence me, but you don't have the power to make a decision like that that affects me. If you leave, leave because it will make YOU happy-but don't do it because you think you have power over my happiness.

I was so proud of that...

Thanks for the post and for listening.

mermaidgirl said...

I couldn't agree with Anonymous more...I had a similar argument with my alcoholic spouse on Sunday. It went on and on and on...I'm sure you all know the the scene. He is unemployed-my career is truly realizing the fruits of many years of hard work.

He said I would be better off if he left..I would be happier. I almost took the bait-but instead I said I'm sorry you feel that way, but the truth is you don't have the power to make me happy. I am the only one that can make me happy. You can influence me, but you don't have the power to make a decision like that that affects me. If you leave, leave because it will make YOU happy-but don't do it because you think you have power over my happiness.

I was so proud of that...

Thanks for the post and for listening.

Catherine said...

It is truly maddening to feel like someone else doesn't like me, that they have the "wrong" impression of me. Lately I'm focused on my boyfriend's friends. I'm thinking, "they must really think I'm a bitch if he talks about me to them like he talks to me at home."

For a few minutes I was actually contriving to call one of his friends and tell "my side" of the story. HELLO?!?

Let's skate gingerly back to thicker ice. The reality is that my bf (like Joe's wife) sees the world through denial-colored glasses. As a person close to him, I'm the easiest target. It hurts, and I'm ashamed of how immature it feels to get wrapped up in it (high school). But it's really out of my hands what people think.