Troy came into the clinic to see if he could change his behaviour towards his wife. After 30 years together, he decided it was time to develop a more respectful rapport. “Why now?”, I asked.
The thing is, Troy loves his wife. He values her and doesn’t want to see her unhappy. He is scared now that she will leave because she has been feeling unsupported for too long. She is tired of his unpleasant habits of talking her down when they disagree, telling white lies, and not standing up for her when others are involved. Troy’s relationship behaviour doesn’t say “I love you, I respect you and I have your back”. It sounds more like “I don’t care about you or what you think and if others want to disrespect you too, that’s fine with me.” Troy was largely unaware of why he was demonstrating such bad relationship behaviour, let alone how to change.
There are some people who will behave badly, especially towards their partners, for as long as they can get away with it. It’s lazy, but Troy is not one of those. While it is now crunch time as she threatens to leave, Troy really does want to be happy, and he knows that she can make him feel that way. He genuinely wants the relationship to work, despite the last 30 years. Good on you Troy!
Bad Relationship Behaviour – Underlying Beliefs
Troy talked about his relationship behavior in some detail and I found out that when he allows others to talk down to his wife, it’s not so much that he feels that she deserves it, but more that he is pretending that the conflict is not happening. When he tells her lies, it’s more to avoid confrontation than to abuse his power. When he shuts her down verbally, he is actually afraid that she is right and so tries to stop her from making her point. In each instance, Troy’s behaviour is avoidance – avoiding confrontation and avoiding being wrong.
What is he afraid of here? When we traced this feeling of avoidance back to its source, we discovered that it started when Troy was five years old, when he was bullied at school. The other kid was twice his size and so he allowed the bully to take his lunch money and his sweets. He was literally compromised. He felt weak. Troy also had a very critical father who was not generous with his affections. This can automatically place a child in the mental state that they are not deserving, not lovable or not important.
While Troy has absolutely no trouble asserting himself at work, this feeling of being weak had stayed with him and showed itself most clearly at home, in the relative safety of his marriage.
I’m sure we all know someone who will use bullying tactics to avoid being wrong. But the intention here is hugely important. Troy is not a bully. Rather, he was afraid. That little boy inside him was still afraid, and needed to be brought up to speed, on the unconscious level. More importantly, Troy had the courage to seek assistance.
We re-framed Troy’s childhood experiences. He was then able to see how his relationship behaviour had been supporting the underlying belief that he was weak. Once we did some more work around that belief, Troy was ready for a fresh start to the marriage, 30 years in 🙂 Horizons Clinical Hypnotherapy Noosa.