I want to write a few posts—or maybe many—about some of the later stages of MLC when some MLCers seem to be more interested in returning and yet because of this they start to increase their degree of cycling again. I think I will create a basic series, but unlike most series, these will not be like a single article split into multiple posts due to length. This is something I’ve been thinking about and keeping notes on for a few months as I have been seeing some issues come up in recent coaching sessions, but it some of the concepts I’m mulling over are advanced. I think it’s time I just start writing rather than trying to make things into an organized and neat series—because so far that has meant that I have not been posting these thoughts to you and I think we all need to work through them.
So this first post is about reassurance.
When you have established reassurance and your MLCer finally feels so secure that they start to take advantage and cake-eat abusively it is time to pull back and let them feel some more fear of losing you. But what about reassurance, can you do both at once: Instill some fear and continue to offer them reassurance?
Yes! This is subtle and it may not be appropriate for all MLCers, but I did this with Chuck.
I’ve mentioned several times about an incident where he felt so reassured that I felt he needed to have his hope destroyed; this was not because I wanted him to have no hope, but because he was using it as a crutch and an excuse. This helped me to understand when an MLCer feels that they must destroy their left behind spouse’s hope; I felt this from the same point of view as the MLCer. I even fabricated a situation in which I publicly told Chuck that he was a disappointment and I was disgusted. It was an act on my part, but he wasn’t supposed to know that. His face lit up when he saw me coming and then faltered when he saw that I was wearing angry face. I yelled at him, telling him things like he deserved the trash (alienator), he was a disappointment to me and his parents, I was disgusted… And then I walked away. This was not meant to be an argument. I turned and left without looking back.
At the time and even up until recently, I have always wondered if reassuring him during this period was indicative of my weakness, but I am now thinking of it differently.
Chuck was not living at home—which means he was living with the alienator. I bought some small heart stickers—each sticker was about the size of a pinky fingernail. Occasionally I would go to his work and put a sticker on the inside door handle of his vehicle or the underside of the steering wheel at the top or bottom where his hands might not automatically go. These were tiny and I didn’t know if he would notice or not. He did; he told me he noticed and that it felt good.
In addition I had small rose quartz heart beads that I used when I made Sweetheart Prayer Dolls—Chuck saw these beads all the time because I usually carried one with me in my pocket and he saw me working on the Prayer Dolls to give to others and he had one of his own. I left a bead in the cubby of his vehicle beneath the radio. He noticed this as well. I think he sometimes carried one of those beads in his pocket and at one time he even mentioned not letting them out of the car—so they were safe from the alienator.
I might have even done this on the day I fabricated the angry face to publicly destroy his hope. What I was doing was a Push-Pull. I explain the Push-Pull here. The concept is a way of giving feedback—it’s something used in writing critique groups. Start with praise, then offer some advice regarding something needing improvement and end with praise. The Push is the pushing away—places needing improvement—and the Pull is meant to pull them toward you again, the praise.
I did not want to leave Chuck feeling that I was only pushing him away, but I also did not want to rescue him. During this period my pulls were meant to be covert from even him. They were wordless and there was no guarantee he would even notice, but because they were heart-shaped I think it was clear that their meaning was positive.
Sometimes your depressed MLCer wants you—or someone—to rescue them. You may be their first choice, but if you refuse, they will find someone else—like the alienator. This is most common when they have started to realize the damage of their actions and it overwhelms them so they withdraw—more escape and avoid, but with a different motive. Had I communicated my reassurances with words—whether audio or written—I would have been taking a more active role in rescuing Chuck. By offering covert reassurances instead, it was like offering a helping hand by applauding rather than giving him my hand to literally lift him up and simply reminding him that when he did not see or hear me, I was still there.