Possible Indicators of Reassurance and Readiness for Phase 2
- Premature Return(s)
- Compliments and Recognition of the Greener Grass
- Touch-n-Goes: brief or random contacts (texts, v-mails, emails…)
It’s not the return, but how you handle the failure of the return that reassures. If the first return is a few weeks or months after Bomb Drop and lasts only a couple weeks or months, you are still building; it’s not yet established. But a failed return at a more advanced place within the crisis may work.
I am only speculating, so the time range I am about to give may be inaccurate or perhaps it is accurate, but it’s still subjective and if it applies to most, it may not apply in your situation. I think on average it may take 12-24 months for reassurance to set in.
Whether the failed return ends because you kick your MLCer out or they leave, reassurance is based on how you handle the aftermath. Are you still applying the Unconditionals? Monstering at them with character assassinations degrades reassurance; MLCers already feel they are unworthy and bad all the way to their core, help them to believe in the goodness of their core even while disapproving of their behaviors.
A failed return may lead to cake-eating, which is why some feel reassured so much sooner than others. This cake-eating may manifest as an increase in Charming Monster which will become Mean Monster if it doesn’t get its way. When you allowed your MLCer to come home while they were still in MLC, this helped them feel safe and secure in their relationship with you. They may have had genuine intentions of ending their affair and coming home to reconcile and rebuild, but most likely they did not end their affair—or it resumed with little break. They may not consciously verbalize it, but from their perspective you allowed an abuser to take advantage of you; they abused your good will and turned your Stand against you. What else will you allow? They test you to find out; first by being charming and trying to get in your good graces and if or when that fails, by being mean and threatening—often it’s a bluff.
When Sweetheart’s charm failed he would turn in a second and say he was going to call his lawyer—a divorce threat. On one occasion I handed him the phone and told him to do it. The air came out of his argument as suddenly as that Monster had risen because the threat was a bluff and he said so when I tried to give him the phone. Had I said I would make the call, I would have been bluffing, but if he were to make the call I also knew it would be temporary and I was prepared to handle the consequences of a continuing action that I knew was a bluff.
Compliments and Recognition of the Greener Grass
Failed returns and Paving the Way treatment along with your personal improvements are lush green grass on your side of the fence and your MLCer is noticing. When they are away, they realize how much they liked being home and what they are missing when they are gone. This leads to…
Touch-n-Goes: brief or random contacts (texts, v-mails, emails…)
You may notice an increase in superficial touch-n-goes, an increase with less superficiality would be indicative of Reconnection. This increase is indicative of the MLCer’s insecurity and attachment to their spouse. Touch-n-goes are attempts to gain reassurance.
In my situation I noticed it at around 10 months after Bomb Drop. Sweetheart had already come and gone a few times. He started sending random texts about how he was missing me. Sometimes they were direct: missing you and sometimes he said it indirectly by referring to things that had special meaning to us. Your MLCer may contact electronically or these may be physical visits—dropping by your work, or stopping at the house without warning for no reason and hanging out—sometimes for hours.
Your MLCer may acknowledge that the alienator is not their soul mate and that the relationship is flawed. But at the same time they realize—and may verbalize—their continuing feelings of fear, uncertainty and the urge to escape and avoid. They are aware of the damage they are doing and yet unable to control themselves and escape their feelings of unhappiness. They may even fear their sanity since they can tell that the best choice would be to come home and commit to you.
There is a difference between having the insight and having the ability to act on it. Reflection isn’t action and it may manifest as self- pity. They must burn through the self-pity to get to action. Some resistance may manifest as self-pity or martyrdom: You should find someone else; you would be better of without me.
Your MLCer may display feelings of increasing duty or responsibility as a spouse and parent. In the beginning they ran away from such pressure, but now their self-guilt for failing at their duties takes over. They are not yet ready to resume the full role of a spouse and parent, but you may notice an increase in attempts to help with chores or offers of food or other random acts of kindness.
These indicators are all clues that the situation is ready for Rule-Boundaries. But please do not set timeline or MLC stage expectations. Sweetheart was indicating some reassurance at 10 months, but neither of us had enough practice to be ready. I was not yet good enough at setting and maintaining strict boundaries and he was still early in the tunnel. Had I been better at Rule-Boundaries could this have shortened the crisis? Perhaps. If I had set and maintained the final boundary where we did not live together full time for a year after he left me—and 9 months after he left the alienator—maybe I could have broken the cycle earlier. Who knows, that didn’t happen. Accept your abilities as they are now and continue to learn and practice.
In the next post I will discuss Phase 2: Fear of Loss, Boundary Setting and Enforcement.