Monday, September 20, 2010

Talking Is Not the Only Way to Reach Out

Even after trying it for several weeks, Jay found that it was never a relief to come home at the end of the day and try to talk to his wife, Wendy. He often had a hard time putting into words why he was feeling off kilter or wound up. He came up with a blank most of the time. He just knew he wasn’t feeling at his best. He didn’t know what to talk about, but he kept trying. After he and Wendy had talked, he always seemed to feel just as stressed out as he had before.

I didn’t think Jay was just resisting something that was good for him. I encouraged him to honor his own experience and keep exploring options. Even though it didn’t seem to particularly help him to connect through words, I knew that connecting with Wendy in some way might provide what he needed at the end of the day, the very time he was the most vulnerable to the pull of pornography. But how could he let her know that he was in need when he was feeling off without talking about it? He decided that it would be easier for him to hold her longer when they hugged or give her the thumbs down about his day. He thought that when he was feeling particularly in need he might even put his head on her shoulder as they watched TV together. Then, what could they do together that would feel more natural and satisfying to him than trying to verbalize his uneasiness right when he had the least desire to talk? We came up with a short list of options:
  • Sit close to each other out on the back porch swing
  • Listen to music together
  • Take a walk together
  • Scratch each other’s backs while they watched TV
  • Leave the TV off and just spoon on the couch or bed
  • Turn off the phone and all other electronic devices and just sit together in a quiet, dimly lit room or out on the grass in the backyard.
I saw the faraway look in Jay’s eyes as he described this last option. It became apparent to me that he wasn’t trying to avoid Wendy. He wanted to be with her; he just didn’t want their time together to become one more situation that set him up to feel like he wasn’t doing things right. I knew that in the future, he’d need to talk to her some of the time in order to meet her need to communicate. However, if he was going to reach for her instead of reaching for his addiction, he needed to also be able to feel that, at least some of the time, he could be completely at ease with her in a way that was most comfortable for him. There didn’t have to be the requirement of and pressure to talk about things if he didn’t feel like talking.

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