Locked in a Viscious Cycle
August 20, 2001 Ask Dr. Love Advice Column
i used to be a part time musician-i made some mistakes ie:drugs, cheating) -my wife has been with me all this time (18 yrs)the problem is i have a burning desire to perform. i am miserable without this outlet. i have an opportunity to perform at a local spot that has been a lifelong dream. my wife demands that i say no. what do i do?? it's tearing our marriage apart.
i know i cant be happy without playing music, yet i cant get her to trust me. (note: she has always been a very possessive and controlling person even when we were kids, and i believe that my infidelities were in some way caused by knowing deep inside that she will not allow my soul to be free) i love her, i trust her, . . but it seems like i'm here more for the children (3) than anything else. what do i do ??
I totally understand what's happening: the more your wife tries to hold you back, the more suffocated you feel, and the more you pull away. The more you pull away, the more she clings, and voila, you are locked in a vicious cycle. For you, being a musician is synonymous with freedom. Unfortunately, your wish to be be a performing musician has a completely different meaning for your wife: she associates your music with drug abuse and infidelity. When you tell her that you want to return to your musical career, she hears you saying that you want to become a druggie and cheat on her again.
To resolve this impasse, both of you are going to need to open your hearts and souls to each other, and honestly share your deepest wishes and fears. Before you talk with her, you need to understand that her possessive behavior is a symptom of a deep fear that you will abandon her. If you focus on her possessive behavior and try to stop that, you will only get her back up and make her more possessive; plus, you won't be talking about the real issue: the problem here is fear, which manifests itself in possessive actions. You need to see that your cheating ways actually deepened her fears and heightened her possessiveness.
You also need to know that her fear of being abandoned surely originates in her childhood. Resolving the childhood wounds that fuel her present day fear is only part of the work that needs to occur. You are also going to need to find out what it is that you are doing or not doing to fan the flames of her fear. If she were feeling loved by you, the way she needs to be loved, I am sure that she would feel less threatened and more able to give you room to play your music.
With all this understanding in hand, go to her and take responsibility for having damaged her trust. Invite her to tell you all about how her fear and insecurity. When she feels fully heard and understood, then it would be helpful for her to have an understanding of why your infidelities occurred (your infidelities were acts of rebellion against feeling fenced in). She needs to hear you say that cheating was the worst possible way for you to have handled your feelings of suffocation. She needs to know that you will promise from now on to talk about your issues, and not act out by cheating.
She needs to be assured that you are now willing to deal with her directly regarding your need for space and that you will never again 'capture' your space by cheating on her. This commitment on your part should help her to feel less threatened by your playing music again. She also needs to hear that she has a role in driving you away from her. This is not said to blame her; it is said so that she can understand that it takes two to tango; that an affair happens because something isn't working in the marriage. She needs to look at her role in driving you away (again, this isn't saying that you behaved properly or that it was her fault that you cheated). She needs to see that the more she clutches at you, the more you feel like running away from her. In other words, she needs to see that she is creating an insecure environment for herself, thereby keeping her own abandonment fears alive and kicking.
Meanwhile, you need to look into yourself. You need to find out why you have chosen to marry a woman who cramps your style. What aspect of your childhood are you replaying and trying to work through? Did your mother or father hold you back? Did you learn that if you want to be loved by another that you must choke off vital parts of your self, such as your musical side? It is vital that you understand how your wife recreates your own childhood wounds. She needs to see that her attempts to impede your self-expression are playing into your old wounds and thereby damaging you. With your understanding of how the unfinished business on both your parts is fueling your current impasse, you will be able to go to the next level and come up with a creative solution that respects the wounded children in both of you: the child inside you needs freedom and space, but not at your partner's expense; and she needs to feel that your love for her is like a rock that will never erode. When she gets the right feeling from you, she should be able to let you pursue your music.
When you talk with each other, you both need to make sure that you don't become polarized by fighting to win, which will only keep the power struggle alive. You want to speak with partial identification for the other person's feelings and come up with a solution that respects both your needs. For example, you might say, 'It is important to me that you know how much I love you and am devoted to you for the rest of my life. At the same time, it is important for me to be able to pursue my love of music. What can I do to make you feel secure in my love every minute that I'm away?' When you speak from your heart, she will feel that she is first in your life, and much of the fear and insecurity that she harbors should diminish. As you give her the love that she needs, you will be helping her to heal her abandonment fears. As she heals, she will feel less frightened of being dropped by you, and she will be able to give you the gift of healing that you need: the freedom to be yourself and pursue your heart's desires.
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