You Make Me CRAZY!
If we haven’t said it to our partners, we’ve certainly felt it at one time or another. And at the moment we said it, we meant it. How can she think that way? How can he do that? Why does she keep doing that even though she’s agreed to stop doing it? What is wrong with him?
What we want is for our partners to change so that we won’t have to feel so frustrated. We want them to just get it! What’s so hard about that? And so we keep doing the same old dance hoping that one day, one glorious day, they’ll get it and we’ll stop feeling so frustrated.
How Bargaining Works
This approach is a bargain. Bargaining is a stage of grief—or a stage of acceptance—depending on the gravity of the issue. The stages, as most of us know, are: denial, anger, sorrow (or depression, depending on how we handle the sorrow), bargaining and finally acceptance. Bargaining is too often where we get stuck.
Bargains work like this: IF I give you this $3.00, THEN you will give me that loaf of bread. On the emotional and interactive plane they work like this: IF I keep nagging you to do it, THEN you’ll finally see how important it is to me that you do it, and you’ll do it. And, of course, if you don’t see how important it is and do it, then I’ll bargain the same bargain again tomorrow.
The Problem with Bargaining
The truth is that the only thing that bargains do is keep us from having to make the next step to acceptance. Wait. Breathe. Don’t panic. I’m not saying that we should learn to accept the unacceptable and tolerate the intolerable. I’m saying that we might need to reconsider our behaviors with this one simple question: How’s that workin’ for ya’?
Is the nagging bargain working? Yeah, I thought not. Is what she is doing unacceptable or intolerable—a deal breaker?
If so, then it might be time to break the deal. But if not, then we might need to rethink what we are doing.
Very often I find that the “you make me so crazy” issues, have to do with socks on the floor, dishes stacked the “wrong way” in the dish washer, toilet seats not closed, and cabinet doors left open. Sometimes they have to do with the way he changes the baby’s diaper, or the way she stand, sits or eats.
The truth is that for many couples, the patterns of behavior regarding these issues, becomes a dance in which both parties are participating. So, for example, let’s say he’s always late. You agree to meet for a nice lunch together and you can’t believe he’s late again. Really? He’s been late 4000 other times, and you can’t believe it?
You are in the denial phase of acceptance. And you’ll move from denial to bargaining when he finally comes in the door and sheepishly apologizes for being late yet again, by saying, something like “What is so hard about getting here on time?” To which he responds with, “Jerry stopped me just as I was walking out the door and I had to…”.
And then you stew for the next thirty minutes and then it’s time to go back to work. But he stops you on the parking lot and makes nice for a while, until you feel better. And then he’s late arriving back to work from his lunch break.
Getting Back in Control
There’s a great prayer—and whether you believe in prayer or not is irrelevant here, as it is the content of the prayer, not it’s spiritual value that I reference. It’s called the Serenity Prayer, and it’s used in AA meetings all over the world. It goes like this:
God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
the courage to change the things I can,
and the wisdom to know the difference.
If we are moving towards acceptance in our primary relationships—and if we are not, we are probably moving ever closer to divorce—then we might need to realize that the dance we are doing, is just a dance, and it has no greater value than that. We are not likely to change our partner’s little idiosyncrasies. And the fact that they do not change them for us is not a sign that they do not love us.
The biggest bargain of all is this: IF you loved me, THEN you would…! And it is based in complete fallacy, as are most of our emotional and interactive bargains. People change when what they are doing simply doesn’t work for them anymore. And they usually don’t know it doesn’t work until they’ve either knocked their heads against its brick wall often enough to get a concussion, or they’ve experienced a deep crisis or a series of crises that inform them that it’s not working. And generally, we save our energy for change for the really big stuff.
So, if we want to stop being driven crazy, we might need to stop giving the steering wheel to someone else. If s/he has the power to make you crazy, s/he has been given too much power. Taking back your power means finding a way to avoid having to wait around for someone else to change before you can get happy. Each of us is 100% responsible for our own happiness and our own peace of mind. Realizing that is how we get the serenity to accept the things we cannot change.
About the Author:
Andrea Mathews has almost 20 years as a licensed professional, the last 15 in a thriving private practice, and over 30 overall in the mental health field. She is the author of two books, and several national and internationally published magazine articles. She also writes a blog for Psychology Today online called Traversing the Inner Terrain. She hosts the internet talk-radio show called Authentic Living. Mathews is a Corporate Trainer and Motivational/ Inspirational Speaker with over 25 years’ experience (www.InnerWings.com). Learn more about her and her work at: www.AndreaMathewslpc.com.