Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Don't Act Out, Reach Out!

Paul used to go to porn when he was stressed, now he is opening up to Gretchen: "I have three days worth of programming still to do, and we're supposed to launch the product tomorrow." That may not sound like a huge revelation, but it is new for Paul to open up that way. He used to have lots of reasons to keep that kind of stuff to himself:
  • I'd rather leave at work all the stuff that's weighing on me.
  • My job is so specialized and technical, there's no way she'll be able to relate to it.
  • There's nothing she can do to make the stress go away, so why burden her with it?
The truth is, if Paul had been good at simply setting aside his stress and leaving it at work, he wouldn't have been so vulnerable to the pull of porn. Furthermore, Gretchen doesn't view it as a burden. Nor does she feel pressure to fix it. Not only that, but the more he talks about what goes on at work--and more importantly, how it impacts him inside--the more Gretchen understands what made her husband tick. She can relate to what he is going through, and it feels good to her that he is letting her in.
"Oh, my," she says when he brought up all the work he still had to do on the application the customer is expecting tomorrow.
"I start to worry about everyone waiting on me." Paul is getting more used to exploring what goes on inside. "I guess I've heard rumblings that mine might not be the only part that still needs work."
"What a relief," Gretchen says.
"Yes and no. I still have more work to do than I have time to do it in. It's so frustrating that they won't hire someone to help me. I am the entire department. Every time they talk about being able to afford a new hire, I get my hopes up. Then when I find out where they're going, I'm always disappointed. It makes me feel like they don't understand how much they lay on me. Maybe if I weren't so good at what I do, they'd actually find help for me sooner."
Even if the conversation doesn't go any further than that, it feels good to Paul that the most important person in his life now had a clearer window into what he is going through. Back when Paul kept struggles like this to himself, he was alone in it. That felt lousy. It left him feeling distinctly in need. He often misread his uneasiness as a craving for sex. Now that he reaches out to Gretchen when he feels bad, it surprises him how often he feels more settled afterward. Pornography is still at times a powerful craving that he needs to manage, but he is tempted less often and the compulsion is losing some of its potency.

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