Understanding where your spouse is coming from is key to being happier. Your spouse may have no interest at all in understanding him or herself, but by understanding his or her self-sabotage or psychological attachments you can keep him or her from driving you crazy.
I have a friend, Clare, whose husband drives her nuts. He’s a workaholic, has to do things his own way, thinks he has everything figured out and when he makes mistakes, he just makes excuses.
He refuses to accept help because “he’s the only one that can do the job right.” His behavior puts a lot of stress on their marriage because he’s not taking care of things in productive ways, which causes him to work long hours and not take care of basics such as his health.
Clare tries to be helpful and a good wife. She offers suggestions, only to be given an excuse of why that won’t work. She tries to manage his doctor appointments but he doesn’t keep them (because he doesn’t have time). She tries to arrange vacations so he can get away, but he refuses to go because he’s so needed at work. She lets him do everything his way at home, even when he’s doing it wrong, because she doesn’t want to make him feel bad.
Each time I talk to her she complains of how difficult he is. We think about what she may be doing wrong and she has looked at herself. Still, there is no denying that this man has issues and he is not looking at them, which was what was driving her nuts.
It is obvious from what she’s told me, and from personal experience with him, that he is The Rebel, one of the control attachment types in our A-H-A Solution program. I began to describe The Rebel to her and she found that it fit his personality like a glove! He delights in thinking of himself as a rebel, too. He even brings up stories from high school of how he was a “bad boy.”
So we started putting the pieces together of how his behaviors were related to his attachment to being controlled (yes, emotional rebels are attached to being controlled). Basically, he is doing things that require him to be managed, even though he thinks he is managing them himself. His poor choices like his inefficiency, refusal to delegate, stubborn behaviors, excuses, and overworking and not taking care of himself all require someone to manage or correct him.
Then he refuses to be corrected. He feels judged and wants to be left alone to do it “his way.” This would be fine if it didn’t impact others. But, his behavior does impact others. It impacts Clare. In response to the way he behaves, Clare walks on eggshells and tries not to correct him, since he works such long hours and is so stressed out. Clare knows he could work less and be happier if he were more efficient and less stubborn. But, because she loves him, she tries to let him do everything “his way” so he can feel good about himself.
She knows that it is up to her if she wants to be happier. She doesn’t want a divorce because she loves him. She just wants things to be better. I suggested that she simply be aware of his Rebel attachment.
When we can see someone’s attachments, we can see the person clearly. We now have a choice of how to respond. The benefits of seeing someone’s attachment is that we have compassion, don’t take their reactions personally, and we can make the choice not to feed the attachment.
We can have compassion towards them because we can now see their hurt. When we understand how the attachment was formed, we gain a new view of the person – that they are reacting as a hurt child. This leads to the next benefit, not taking their actions personally.
She can now see that he is not allowing her to help him because his Rebel attachment won’t allow it. Remember, a person with a control attachment is compelled to make choices that will keep him feeling and needing to be controlled.
Clare has to accept that, until he realizes his attachment, he will stay in his attachment cycle. But, at least she won’t take his behaviors personally any longer. She can now say, “Go ahead and do it your way. It doesn’t bother me any longer.” This leads to the next benefit, not feeding the attachment.
When Clare is detached from the Rebel’s behavior, she is no longer feeding it. He will not get his control attachment met by her. When Clare doesn’t walk on eggshells any longer and chooses to take care of herself instead of getting caught up in his Rebel attachment, she can be happier.
It does not mean that she doesn’t care any or pretend to not be bothered, but the mystery is finally solved. She now understands why he behaves the way he does. The tension is diffused. She knows what is really going on so she’s no longer frustrated by it.
She stopped waiting for her Rebel husband to take time off work and planned a vacation with her grandkids!
She stopped worrying she was going to offend him and started being herself. She got more of what she wanted without changing him.
How you choose to respond to another person’s attachments can dramatically change you.
If you are interested in learning more about attachments, read about our A-H-A Solution program. It describes 12 attachment types and gives custom solutions for moving out of each attachment. Or, if you would like coaching surrounding this topic, complete the form below for a free life coaching strategy session.