Direct Interactions Cont’d
What is Cake-Eating?
Cake-Eating is trying to live and maintain two separate worlds (you and the alienator) while taking advantage of those in each world and without committing to either. It is thought that it is having the best of both worlds, but this is false. A cake-eater lives a half-life in each world. To have the best implies fulfillment; there is nothing fulfilling in a half-life existence; he is incapable of making a commitment to either world.
If you are doing fun things with your MLCer or doing things for them—helping them with housework, doing their laundry, automobile maintenance… isn’t that cake eating? And isn’t cake eating bad?
In later MLC, cake-eating may hit a high point and is definitely negative and it needs to stop. Clinging Boomerang may not stop trying to do stuff together or get you to do stuff for them; instead, ending cake-eating is about what you do in setting and maintaining boundaries. What can be confusing is that in the beginning when you may still be building up a foundation of friendship, safety and reassurance, doing stuff is part of constructing that foundation. You will need to determine the tipping point when it becomes cake-eating–and it will.
Does Paving the Way require that you do things with or for your spouse?
The most common assumption about Paving the Way is that it is about doing things with or for your MLCer. This is only one component of Paving the Way and you need an MLCer who is receptive. Doing stuff can include things like shared activities, acts of kindness such as making dinner or doing chores, making or going out to meals, time together with the children, attending events for your children together…
Not all MLCers will be receptive to your doing kindnesses for them or to the two of you doing things together and even those who are or would be might be held back by an alienator. Those who are most receptive are Clinging Boomerangs. I had a Clinging Boomerang and doing stuff together was invaluable to me because it allowed us both to maintain a positive connection and remember who we were to each other while seeing that we could be that again in the future; I was still his friend—though I always set that in the context of being his wife.
Being receptive is about being interested and welcoming regarding doing stuff together, not simply allowing or accepting. If there is no reciprocity or acknowledgement for what you are doing for your MLCer, they are not being receptive and you may be S-Mothering, clinging, or even seen as nagging by your MLCer. This will take a toll on you, and you may begin to feel used, abused and it will change how you feel about your MLCer and reconciling your marriage. When you put so much into caring without something in return, you are more likely to lose the feeling that you care as well. You are not benefitting your Stand if your MLCer is not receptive. If this is your situation, this does not mean to stop completely, first reduce what you are doing and see if that makes a difference.
Follow your MLCer’s lead by mirroring them. Give them space when they do not contact you, but be responsive when they do—without being eager. Communicate with them to the same depth they do with you; do not take a conversation further. I didn’t initiate our shared activities, Chuck called me and asked me to do things with him.
What stuff did we do?
Chuck’s new MLC activity was mountain biking—he’d been interested before, but it became one of his MLC obsessions. Before MLC he had already been a cyclist and runner and we had started cross-country skiing a few years before Bomb Drop. His degree was in Physical Education and he had a second job as a personal trainer, so fitness activities which are often an MLC symptom, were normal. I took up mountain biking—it was awesome, skied, ran with him and biked with him. I also helped him build a walking trail at the retirement home where he worked. I did not make myself available at all times, but in the beginning was accessible and willing to do things together.
Weren’t You Allowing Cake Eating?
Reader Question: Does Paving the Way Enable Cake-Eating?
Yes. He was not using it to cake eat in the beginning; at that time, we were both trying to figure out how to be together while he was also feeling the pull to leave. Later, I had to stop doing activities with him, not because he was unwilling—which may be what happens with some—but because it was cake-eating and thus abusive when he was living with an alienator. He bought me a brand-new mountain bike and when he left home again, he borrowed my bike and took the alienator mountain biking. This was early in his crisis and I think I was more confused than angry. That was cake-eating. So yes, doing stuff can become cake eating. It was important for us in the beginning and I continued it into the second summer after Bomb Drop before finally telling myself it had become inappropriate and I had to put a stop to it. Then I went back on that with some lame excuse! I was not a perfect Stander.