WE ARE STUCK IN THIS DANCE:
I feel let down, isolated, and lonely.
If I confront you to get you to see what
It Just Drives You Away,
If I despair, you retreat even more
And I Lose My Faith in You
Looking at you being down gets me
Did I Do That To You?
Is better to see you angry with me
If I explain my reasons, it drives you mad…
I’m Terrified By
What are we doing? We are repeating a performance where we hide our sore spots from each other:
You hurting and lonely, and me feeling like a kind of idiot…
I need, says her, to be able to ask for company and don’t feel rejected or ridiculed.
I need, says him, to be able to use my usual responses in a way that you don’t label them as negative, so I feel accepted and can replace them with better others.
He could say: “I know I have neglected you, worried about work issues. When I hear that you are sad and angry, I don’t know what to do and escape… and I have to deny my needs of being near you. If you give me a chance and stop evaluating my behavior, I can get together and appreciate your needs better.”
She could say: “I now know that when I panic and imagine that I’m left alone, is because it hurts so much remembering that my family left me alone too many times… If I give you a chance, and don’t compare you with them, probably then you can get near me without conflict? Because I really need your attention!”
What are they doing? The exchanges you see above demonstrate what we call the basic passive aggressive dance. Each person “dances” around in a passive aggressive way because neither really knows how to get what they want from the other. (Of course, without asking for it: this is the passive aggressive piece of the behavior)
What is needed is a different kind of conversation, where we can invite the parties to acknowledge their basic needs…. She has to say how lonely she is, he has to say how terrified he is of losing her, and how impotent both are of fulfilling simple needs, because they are so wrapped up in their own perception that they can’t see the other’s perspective.
The dance finishes when both sides can acknowledge the other side’s basic human needs…. and accept that the marriage deal is exactly that: I will take care of identifying and solving your needs… and you will do the same for me.
Turning Conflicts into True Love