In the previous post, we described Rhoda’s predicament. She moved from the “prison” of living with her mother, to the “prison” of her marriage. Obviously, her leaving home did not break the cycle–it typically never does. There is some important internal work she needed to do, and then some things she needs to do with the love-hate person in her life.
Let’s begin our recovery from a love-hate relationship by looking at the inadequacy of what we typically do–we cope! Coping never works, for eventually we will run out of “cope.” Over time, whatever we do to help us cope will become less and less effective. It will eventually not be effective in covering up the pain we are experiencing, or did experience in that relationship.
Secondly, we have to be brutally honest with ourselves about the problem. Jesus told us in John 10:10 that we are to live lives that are characterized by joy and abundance. That’s the opposite of coping. When we are trying to cope with the problem, we are really in denial about the pain we are experiencing. So where do we being? Find someone who will encourage you to be honest about what you have experienced, and may still be experiencing.
Thirdly, we have to stop isolating by simply withdrawing from the love-hate relationship. We need to own the guilt, the anxiety, and the fear we experienced when we failed to cope with the problem. Rhoda, whom we met in Part 1 of this topic, struggled with feelings of guilt–why couldn’t she just accept her mother’s way of loving her? She felt anxious whenever the phone rang, thinking it might be her mother. She has to acknowledge those emotions and learn they are what she is really experiencing.
She may need to take a break from talking and meeting with her mother while she talks with a counselor or trusted friend. Then she has to face the reality that she will have to have a “gentle confrontation” with her mother.
How might that go? For one, she wouldn’t talk about blame–it’s not important. But she does need to express what she had needed from her mother over the years. She can use words like “I wish . . .” and “I want . . . “ And then she needs to request changes. Matt did this with his mother. He had always felt he was invisible around his mother, and as a 40 year-old man, he wanted things to be different. He had a “gentle confrontation” with her where he described how he had experienced the past, stated what he wished, or what he wanted, and then asked his mother if they could work on that. She agreed and things have really changed.
But what does Rhoda do about Larry? That’s what’s really interesting. When we deal with the parental love-hate figure, the other relationships in our lives begin to change as well. Rhoda first needed to work on her relationship with her mother, and then she would find that in her relationship with Larry, she would have found her voice. And then she could begin to deal with that love-hate relationship.
What’s the most difficult step in working on the a “gentle confrontation” with your love-hate relationship?