The Two Phases of Standing When Dealing with a Clinging Boomerang

  1. Establishing Reassurance
  2. Fear of Loss: Boundary Setting and Enforcement

I am going to start by pasting something Jim Conway repeated regularly to newcomers to his midlife chat group Since the group is made up mostly of women, he assumes that the LBS is female, so sorry for the gender specifics.

Tough & Tender

Working with a MLC man requires both toughness and tenderness. At the beginning be soft, conciliatory, flexible, and focus mostly on your changes. [Phase 1] After he starts saying he wants to come back that is the time to be tough by asking that you get counseling to make sure that the problem doesn’t reoccur. [Phase 2]
Most of the time when a woman is tough at the beginning it will guarantee that the husband will run – but because women are so hurt they often find it easy to be tough and angry. Most women also have trouble being tough as the relationship comes back together – because they’re so happy that he is wanting to move back – but now is the time to be tough and go to counseling to make sure that the problem won’t reoccur. Summary – flexible, soft, growing and changing at the beginning- firm and tough at the end.
~Jim Conway

Basically he was talking about two opposing methods for interacting and responding. The first serves to set up the situation so there is less resistance to the second. Jim’s words give no hint of how long to do the first before transitioning, other than to discuss to transition when the MLCer wants to come back. But what happens when they want to do that only a month or a few months after leaving? What about when they go away again? Jim’s words are spot on, but we need more guidance in how to know when to transition. And his words make it sound so simple—as though an MLCer’s attempt to return means they will agree to and be ready for counseling. His focus is on preventing another leave, but that distills down to attempting to prevent the continuation of MLC or it implies that the MLC is close to the end. Well that would be nice, but MLC is not that neat and simple; since in MLC a person must go all the way through, there is no stopping it early and MLCers—especially Clinging Boomerangs—may return (or attempt to return) multiple times.

Paving the Way is often thought of as the nice stuff—the reassurance and being cordial and conciliatory, working on your changes… Well, it’s that and it’s the strict boundary stuff that MLCer’s resist too. So let’s be clear, all of this is Paving the Way.

Phase 1
Establishing Reassurance

This phase is where you are in your newbies days as you go through the panic and anxiety and eventually learn to detach. Maybe that is why it takes a while to even get to the point where you can start reassuring.

Clinging Boomerangs maintain an emotional attachment and connection to their spouse. They may seek greater physical contact or show more needy behaviors and they may be quicker to exit Monster and more eager to make-up with you. This may include apologies, but their promises are often words without actions.

How do you establish reassurance?
Well sure, all that nicey-nice tenderness stuff may help, but then an MLCer may infer you are a Doormat if there’s too much of it while they are being abusive. So please understand, it does not mean that you forget about Respect-Boundaries and allow anything! It just means you are more flexible as you initiate the Paving of the Way. Establish reassurance by validating them and applying the Unconditionals.

Your MLCer has to test you. They test your reactions versus responses—can they bait you into going into your own Monster? When you respond rather than react and handle interactions with detachment, you are building reassurance. It will take time because you need practice learning how to respond and what works with your specific situation. Then you both need to process what you have learned.

Reassurance is something you do for your MLCer—part of Standing Actions. But your priority needs to be on your own healing and Mirror-Work. Your strength (detachment, confidence boundaries…) in conjunction with the Unconditionals are what enables Reassurance. Without focusing on you, it will not happen.

 

In the next post I will discuss how you know when you have established reassurance.

Series NavigationHow Do You Know When You Have Established Reassurance?

Comments

Establishing Reassurance11 Comments

  1. I suppose this is a good approach that Conway speaks of..but extremely difficult to be understanding and detached when your spouse walk out and was deceptive about having an affair in the first place. Mine seems to have settled in with the alienator, they don't live together, but he is certainly enjoying his freedom, isn't very communicative and when he is it's often selfish and somewhat rude, even with our daughter, who he only sees sporadically..This is more bothersome to me than how he treats me, and something I have really had to overcome, it comes in steps. After not hearing from him for weeks he texted me multiple texts at work wanting to get my car serviced, re-apply for passports and he wanted to do my taxes! I make my own money and take care of everything without him, so I just politely declined..after his being gone for 17 months now I found this all very confusing, and I will never be part of a triangle, so on it goes for now. He has never expressed any kind of remorse over his affair, sudden departure or lies. I am far better than I was a year ago. But I am not healed by any means, and still find myself having many conflicting feelings..

    • Yes, to say it is difficult is certainly an understatement!
      That's one of those things I get concerned about as I write. It's easy to type out a few instructions or pieces of advice and it's easy to look back and make something sound so much simpler than it was to actually do it. Implementing all of this stuff is HARD. Sweetheart got to reassurance pretty early I think, but so early that I was not yet practiced and skilled at setting and maintaining boundaries. He was probably at reassurance 10 months after Bomb Drop–I think I say that in Part II or III. But it was another 2+ years before I held fast to the boundary and he really started to fear losing me.
      I also do not full agree with Conway regarding Tough Love–that it should not be applied in the beginning. I think there are pieces of it that are necessary in all phases–Respect Boundaries.

  2. Thank you for your work. I'm sure you help many people.__It's just past three years now since I found out about his affair (he left at the end of April 2010, moved in with her, cheated on her, left her, and is living with a new one now) but my husband never even tried to talk with me. He burst into tears several times on seeing me

    • Apologies for the previous cut-off post!

      He burst into tears several times on seeing me; once, after MONTHS of asking him to please talk with me, he told me he wished he’d never done it, that I’d been a good wife, that we’d been happy lovers, he cried…. and unbeknownst to me he was already cheating on the first bimbo with the second one and moved in with the second one while still married to me. (What kind of woman is SHE? He’s married AND cheating on his affair partner and she has him move in with her?) We didn’t fight while we were married, we didn’t fight when we talked after I found out about the affair, but I only had a few hours of conversation with him since he left – he seems to (after 12 years of marriage) completely forgotten me – I must have never mattered to him. He shows no regret, no remorse, and now is living with this latest bimbo. I was kind, patient to/with him but it didn’t help (althoigh he kept saying he’d forgotten how nice it was to be with me, how interesting our conersations were – I think he’d made up a fake, strife-filled, dead marriage as an excuse for his affair.)

      I still miss him, still dream about him, wish I didn’t love him but I do. I’ve been on two dates with good-looking, intelligent, successful interesting men in December and January and discovered to my horror that I still can’t talk about him with a stranger without crying. I read your site thoroughly in the hopes that I could apply what you taught, but he never even tries to talk with me, though he told me up to the day before he left that the best part of his day was coming home to me and how much he loved me. DO they every wake up at this late stage?

      Thank you, RCR. You’re helping many, I’m sure.

      • Juanita,
        It sounds as though he is a Distant Contacter, though I can't tell if this is due to boundaries set by you or his own choice. You set some pretty strong boundaries in the beginning–good and strong. You were right that when living with an alienator there is nothing to discuss–unless he's discussing leaving her I guess. Did you file for divorce back in 2011, or did you decide to wait on that?

        There may be nothing to discuss, but that doesn't mean there is nothing to say–discussion implies a two-way conversation. From the types of alienators he has chosen I am surprised that his contact has been distant–those women are typical alienator types for Clinging Boomerangs which is why I wonder if the contact is more due to your boundaries. And I don't want you to think your boundaries are wrong–they were strong and impressive! But they were so strong that they may have worked against reassurance–not enough balance on the other side.
        What does he know about Standing and what you want? You say he has shown neither remorse nor regret. Well, perhaps not remorse, that comes later, but you described regret: he burst into tears and told you that he wished he had never done it! That is clear regret, but having regrets does not mean a person is acting on them–that is when remorse may come in. Maybe it is time to open some lines of communication.
        You started posting at the forum before we had the mentor program. If you'd like, I can move your old story thread back from the archives and you can post some more and I can assign you a mentor.
        If you don't remember your forum name, I can send it to you and get you set up for posting again. Just let me know.

  3. Thanks so much for writing back to me! I find your counsel so wise. You also see things we don’t: of course you’re right when you said, “described regret: he burst into tears and told you that he wished he had never done it! That is clear regret.”
    You’re also right when you say that having regrets doesn’t mean he’s acting on them. It’s gotten back to me via his work colleagues that he (literally) cries in his beer on business trips, saying (and this was hard for me to hear as it seems to me to be more self-comforting and an effort for reputation rehabilitation in our tiny town than sincere remorse), “I’ll never forgive myself for what I did to Juanita.”
    You’re also right that I did try to set boundaries – and probably right when you said I might have set them too hard. (I really – no exaggeration – felt like I was going to die; I was so heartbroken – I didn’t know such pain existed or that surviving it was possible.) When he cried on the several occasions we accidentally ran into one another (after his refusing to even speak with me for months), I told him I would be open to talking and open to trying again once he left the (AWFUL) woman he was living with. Later I found out that he had already started cheating on her and was embarking on a new relationship with this latest bimbo.
    I would be grateful for more info about the mentor program (do you ever mentor? I really find your insights especially wise) because I am still in such pain over this. I don’t know why I still miss him so much but I do. My friends think I’m insane because he was so awful to me but I remember the way he was for so many years and really can’t figure this out. I am torn between wondering if this is classic MLC or if he is some kind of narcissistic sociopath who completely used and played me for more than a decade, in which case I am the one who needs serious psychological intervention because I could not live through this again – and have been turning away attractive, interesting men for over two years now and can’t even imagine starting over with a new one.

    Re: your question on divorce
    Yes, I filed after he tried to submit a fraudulent taxclaim that would have involved me, making me a accomplice, according to my lawyer. The man he was before (I thought) would nevr have done this. He lnew he would also be putting me at risk (one of our neighbors went to jail for tax fraud!) but he still tried to get me to go along with him after I told him what my laeyer said. As he refused to even talk with me and was living with the next woman, it seemed hopeless. I (wrongly) thought I would recover if I accepted that he didn’t love me and had obviously moved on. Unfortunately, I don’t know if I am any better off now. I still don’t know what happened: MLC or was I used and manipulated from the beginning? How could he have been so cruel for so long (since he started cheating/lying in – when? – 3009?)? But could he have fooled me so for our whole marriage? Am at such a loss.

    Thank you, RCR.

  4. I just realized my response was incomplete. I love what you say here: “There may be nothing to discuss, but that doesn’t mean there is nothing to say.”

    That’s how I feel but it seems he has forgotten, moved on, thst I am of no value to him and he doesn’t care what I think or feel. Still, I sometimes want to contact him. I sometimes want to write to ask if this true, did I really matter ao little that he feels he owes me nothing, not even the truth about our marriage. Shouldn’t I know more about our marriage than the mechanics he works with, who smirked at me, knowing he was cheating on me? Sometimes I wonder how it feels to be him, someone who was once loved and admired for his decency and honesty, now seen by many as cruel and out only for himself, having used me and thrown me adide without a thought. (That view in our community is hsrd on me because people seem to think – as I fear – that he never loved me, just used me .) I am sometimes so hurt and upset that I write letters in my head to him – or sometimes to her. She grills my friends about me, asking questions about me and trying to tell people how terrible I was to my husband (she likes to say I humiiliated him in front of his friends and screamed and yelled at him, which is patently untrue – our friends find funny, as I was so clearly NOT cruel to him.) i never do any of these things, though.

    Do you think i should contact him? He still lives with this latest woman, though, and didn’t even wish me a nice Christmas or ask after me when I was recently hospitalized (and in pur tiny town, he would have heard about my surgery.)

    He doesn’t know about standing. He doesn’t know from me on so many words I still love him but begging him to talk, saying I would try again if he left her is pretty clear, isn’t it? He is living with this latest woman and works with her. (By this point in our relationship wewere married, at his insistence – he pursued me for over a year before I’d date him and he told me he loved me the first time he kissed me and propsed after a year of dating, wanting a quick marriage.) Would you recommend contacting him?

    Thanks again, RCR.

    • Juanita,

      Here is the post I wrote to introduce the Mentor Program: http://loveanyway.theherosspouse.com/?p=330
      You have not accessed your forum account for 2 years–and so maybe you forgot your password or both your forum name and password! I can email you the name–I'd rather not put it here in the public comments. You can then try to login and I if you can't I can change your password for you–and then you can change it again once you login.
      I am not one of the mentors. That is because this is what I do for income and so my coaching is not free. Here's a link to information: http://www.midlifecrisismarriageadvocate.com/coac
      I also am not a mentor because so many would want to have me as their mentor and I would get so overwhelmed! I don't read threads regularly like those who are LBSs now–I did when I was going through it. I focus my time researching and writing articles for the site. And hopefully this week I will start the next revision on the manuscript when it arrives in the mail from the paid assessor and after that I will be submitting it to agents!!! I check the forum through out the day, but I really only skim and so I usually am only familiar with the situations I am coaching because I read those in detail.

      Do I think you should contact him?
      Ugh. Yes, I have to admit that I do. But I think doing that needs to be well-thought out, so don't just send something now because I answered yes! There are so many ways to do the contact thing. You could sent him a letter/email telling him how sorry you are for how things have been going so far and that you miss him–include reasons/boundaries for why the no contact with how you wish it did not have to be that way and include some hopes or wishes. Or you could arrange to accidentally-on-purpose bump into him…and make it a bit of a habit.
      Basically what you would be doing is teasing him with cake and seeing if he tries to eat it. But the balance is that you have to keep up the respect-boundaries at the same time. I think this is all something you should discuss on a thread where you can get input from others before taking action.

  5. Thank you so much! Yes, would like to get back on to your site; would you please send me the info? I will write back re: paid coaching, too. Am on cell but will read link and if I can afford it, I will sign up (if you have openings.) Many, many thanks!!! j

  6. Pingback: No Contact: Clearing Up the Confusion - Love AnyWay

  7. Pingback: Do People in Midlife Crisis Twist the Situation and the Blame? - Love AnyWay

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

CommentLuv badge