Doormats give Up their Power to Manipulation and Control
Chuck wanted me on the doormat—not that he understood the situation that way. Recall in the previous post that he said he was already thinking of coming home and how we were handling it was working fine. Had I bought into his argument and agreed to back down on my boundary, I would have been placing myself on the doormat. Sometimes being a doormat has to do with communication and not following through. Had I said nothing—no boundary discussion, then maybe no doormat at that time. But I communicated a problem. Had I then allowed myself to back down out of fear, he would have learned a way he could manipulate and control me.
To get on the doormat you give up your power. You allow yourself to be swayed by arguments that are really about sitting down so the boat won’t rock, giving them what they want now because maybe that will lead to what you want someday, just shutting up and being passive and submissive… as you sweep the elephant in the room under the rug.
Anything Vs. What It Takes
Ask yourself this…
Are you willing to do anything to get your spouse back and reconcile?
Are you willing to do what it takes to get your spouse back and reconcile?
If you’re truly willing to do anything to get…whatever it is you’re wanting, then you’ll be willing to disrespect yourself, go against your values and discard your integrity—these are certain paths to the doormat. It also means you’re willing to break the law and commit the unthinkable… I don’t think most people who say they’ll do anything really mean all that. Do you?
Reconciliation doesn’t take you giving up your personal values and boundaries. It doesn’t mean you must agree to your MLCer’s demands. It does not require a foot-print patterned uniform!
Now not giving in to demands doesn’t mean refuse any and all requests. It means you get to decide your best course of action. Some of your MLCer’s requests and even demands may be based on valid complaints from the marriage. If they form them as demands, kindly respond that you’re listening, but the manner of their communication needs to change—that’s a boundary. Validate their feelings even when they’re expressing them like a bully; their manner of expression is stemming from their hurt. Be warned, MLCers will use threats:
Let me go live with her and we’ll have a better chance at reconciling later.
It’s imperative that you understand, most MLCers will have a physical affair and most of those will be emotionally-bonded. Infidelity may be a sin and betrayal, but it’s not something you get to control. Whether you demand they not see that person, make threats that infidelity is your line in the sand or give them permission, they’ll continue with the affair.
So what should you do about it?
Should you just give permission?
You know what, I think you should just go and get that person out of your system.
NOOOO! The general default for most marriages is monogamy—even when it’s unspoken. If you and your spouse have an open marriage—and that means both of you have agreed it’s open, your rules may be different. I’m speaking to the general default and not the unique circumstances of an open marriage. There is a difference between giving permission or suggesting your MLCer be with the alienator and saying You know what, you’re gona do what you’re gonna do and I can’t stop you.
That’s accepting what you can’t control. Your MLCer might interpret that as permission and you can add something about that not being permission, but in the end, you can’t control how your MLCer—or anyone—interprets your words or actions.
Doing What it Takes
What it takes is acceptance and the willingness to…
- Risk time
- Risk that your spouse might not choose to return to you.
- Risk not following the sheep.
- Risk Communicating–not going No Contact
- Risk going No Contact.
- Risk staying in contact.
- Risk changing and growing.
- Risk being you even though who you are being is the focus of complaint.
- Risk speaking your mind—Tough Love and Truth Darts!
- Risk continuing to love.
- Risk forgiving.
Doing what it takes means accepting cognitive dissonance and the presence of the double bind. It really is possible to love and hate your MLCer simultaneously. Of course, you can argue that you love the person and hate the behavior and I agree with that, but I also think it’s a bit of semantics as well. One week your MLCer may respond with interest and then react with Monster to the same thing a week later.
Doing what it takes means having the courage to turn your focus away from the presenting problem of your spouse and marriage—basically to not try to fix your marriage and to let your spouse go even if that means they have failures—some pretty serious like medical or financial and career or relationship with your children.
It means know the differences…when your MLCer really needs a hand to help them up versus when the best sort of helping hand is clapping hands and the I believe in you applause.
Doing what it takes is about accepting the process of midlife crisis and Standing anyway. It’s a faith in the unseen even when what you do see or hear makes it seem as though the direction of your MLCer’s journey is away from your goals.
It’s about setting boundaries even when you’re afraid you’ll fail or you’re afraid your spouse will Monster and stay away forever. And then it’s about sticking to those boundaries and then knowing when to change them.
Doing what it takes is about having the courage to trust that you’ll do the right thing and that when you fall off the tightrope onto the doormat, you’ll recover and get right back up.
Doormats are Cake-Feeders
It’s not precisely true that in all circumstances doormats are cake-feeders. There are times and circumstances where a taste of cake shows an MLCer what they’re missing, helps you build reassurance and provides a positive experience of being with you. The important element however is that as the spouse, you need to be aware of what you’re doing and what’s going on. In early midlife crisis, you may both benefit from your MLCers cake-eating—though make no mistake, there are detriments as well. Cake-eating in and of itself is not a positive condition, but you can use it to your advantage. If you’re aware that your MLCer’s behavior is cake-eating, but are taking advantage of it (in the beginning) to rebuild the foundation of your relationship, then it may be something that will work for you in your goal toward reconciliation. Tread carefully, there will be a point when you’ll need to remove the cake—you. Ignorant, rather than aware and intentioned cake-feeding is already on the doormat and you can end up on the doormat even when you’ve been aware if your MLCer crosses to reassurance.
How do I Stand in a way that doesn’t permit him to exploit me?
I wrote that in my journal notes in July 2008. Chuck was about to leave again and I was determined this would be the last time he left—and it was. I was in a double bind; he was reassured that I wouldn’t leave or divorce him and so he felt no risk in leaving to be with the alienator. What’s the motivation to stop cheating if there are no consequences? There were still consequences—I didn’t allow a physical relationship while he was cheating, but that wasn’t enough since he was getting that through the affair. Having me available was enough of a me-fix for him.
I really didn’t know what I was going to do, but I knew what I was not going to do. I was not going to accept his behaviors—as acceptable, thereby allowing him to have an affair and have a relationship with me. I also knew that I was going to continue to Stand for my marriage and was utterly confident that not only were we close to the end, but that I would reach the goal of reconciliation. My uncertainty was knowing that it could be close to the end, but if I didn’t handle it right, we could just continue the move in-move-out cycle; I was the only one in the triangle who was going to end it.
I had to be willing to risk. Doormats are afraid to take risks. I had to risk upsetting Chuck’s reassurance which I’d spent the last 3 years building.
You’re on the Doormat If…
- You don’t have boundaries—or don’t stick to your boundaries/
- You’re a rug-sweeper
You’re rug-sweeping if your MLCer is having an affair, you know they are having an affair and they know that you know… but you both pretend there isn’t an elephant in the room and instead go about your business.
- You’re an unaware or unintentional cake-feeder
- Your MLCer has told you the only way they’ll come back to you is if you let them have the affair and you go for that.
Remember, stepping off the doormat is accepting and even embracing risk. It takes courage and I know you have the courage because you are standing for what you want and what you believe is best even against your friends and family and society. You can do this!