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Caring vs. Control
The Threatening Wife
Recently I have been talking to a woman who is worried about her husband's health. He is very overweight and doesn't exercise. She wants him to take better care of himself.
So she threatens him.
She tells him, "If you don't start walking and taking care of yourself, I am going to leave you and go move in with my mother."
This is her way of trying to change his behavior....because she cares about him.
So far, her efforts to change his behavior have failed. Instead of having more influence on him during their 25 years of marriage, he now lives mostly alone, working and sleeping in a clubhouse bar where he is surrounded by his friends who don't threaten him. Friends who accept him the way he is.
Who cares about him more? Probably she does. Yet her way of showing it, and her way of changing his behavior, isn't working.
She is an unhappy, lonely woman. But she is very sensitive. She loves nature and birds. She helps me take care of my partner, who has RSI, repetitive strain injury. She is very motherly in some ways. But unfortunately, for her, being motherly includes threatening those you care about. So far she hasn't threatened my partner, at least.
I feel very sad for this woman. She will cry when her husband dies. She will miss him.
I feel sad because she doesn't know another way to influence him. She was never taught another way, a better way.
If she would listen to me I would tell her to tell him how much she loves him, how sad she will be if he dies. But I have learned she doesn't listen to me. She has too big of an unmet need to talk and be listened to, and cared about, herself. One can guess that she was also cared about in a similar controlling way by her own mother.
But if she would listen to me I would tell her to cry as she explains how worried she is that he will die and how much she loves him and how much she would miss him. I would tell her to let herself feel her expected pain. To *show* him how much she cares.
Show him in a caring way, not a controlling way.
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