Live chat: Dr. Andrea Bonior, a licensed clinical psychologist who has been helping readers with Baggage Check since 2005, now hosts a weekly live chat at washingtonpost.com on Tuesdays at 1 p.m. She’ll discuss her recent columns and answer any questions you may have about relationships, work, family, mental health and more. Join or read Dr. Andrea’s latest live chat here.
Q. When I express disappointment to my husband, his response leaves me feeling guilty and angry. After a recent visit with my family, I mentioned I was sad he didn’t spend time practicing their language beforehand. He said, “I’m sorry I’m such a disappointment to you.” I told him HE didn’t disappoint me, his inaction did, and what’s he going to do about it? He looked shocked that I didn’t accept his “apology,” and we had a tense few days. In most respects he’s a wonderful husband, but I need to call BS on this. —Manipulated?
Yup, the old “Woe is me, you don’t like me and I’m not good enough for you” generalization may not be deliberate manipulation, but at best it’s an unhelpful deflection that keeps the real problem from being solved. He needs to understand that when he does that, he chooses to invalidate your feelings, and loses his chance to target the behavior that is upsetting you. Instead, he frames it like you wronged him. (It’s like a second-cousin-once-removed from gaslighting.) Ask him whether you have a right to sometimes be disappointed, and how he would prefer that you express it. Get him to think about why it seems threatening for him to hear things like this — is he all-or-none in his thinking? Overly conflict-averse? A bit insecure in his ego? Start from scratch with how much you love his otherwise wonderful nature and go from there.
Reaching out, reaching a limit
Q. I have been “unfriended” by my daughter and she won’t tell me why. It has been six years since I’ve heard her voice. I try to keep the line of communication open by dropping an email every once in a while, but she has been steadily refusing to acknowledge the one-line “keep in touch” notes. How long must I go on trying and being rejected by my daughter before I give up? —Sad
I’m truly sorry. The possible causes are endless, from your not realizing her rightful need to escape a toxic behavior of yours, to her own disordered thinking or behavior that made her drop out of your life.
I suspect you know more than you wrote, and therein lies the key to whether this is fixable. Or perhaps there is something that you refuse to know or even see — and until you do, you won’t know what pathways could be a possibility to reconciliation. There’s no way around this without further exploration on your end; seeing a professional in person rather than one in newsprint could really help give you insight.
Send your questions for Baggage Check to Dr. Andrea Bonior at firstname.lastname@example.org. She may answer them in an upcoming column in Express or in a live chat on Tuesdays at 1 p.m. at washingtonpost.com.
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