Nothing Finer than Living in North Caroliner

Nothing Finer than Living in North Caroliner
Blue Ridge Smoky Mountains

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Day 96 - The Line of Entitlement - Forfeit

I have a tendency to be too nice.  This is my nature but there always comes a point when people cross the line if they are that kind of user.  Through the years, family has been the biggest  perpetrator.  While trying to cope with my divorce, I sought therapy.  This is the right thing to do when you need a perspective that is totally objective.  It also helps when emotions are riding high.  In diversity training we had been shown a balloon that had a black line drawn around it's circumference in the horizontal middle.  The top half represented Logic and the bottom half represented Emotion in the average brain. They gave us a point of reference with this balloon as they squeezed the top.  This caused all the air to go below the line into the emotion half.  This we were taught, was the way our brain reacts to situations that are highly emotional, we literally squeeze the logic out of our thinking.

So knowing that my emotions were not in balance with my logic, the therapy helped tremendously.  I had a hard time articulating why I felt the need after twenty years to get a divorce to people who knew me.  Fran, my therapist helped me.  She said it is sort of like asking your partner if you can go to Disney World for vacation this year.  The partner says, "No, we don't have the money."  The second year comes and you ask your partner again to go to Disney World and they answer, "No, I don't have enough time at work."  The third year comes and you ask your partner again and they answer, "No, there are too many things to do around the house this year.  So the fourth year, you save all your money and make plans and announce to your partner that you are going to Disney World to which they respond, "Can I come?"

That was it.  That was EXACTLY how I felt.  She has also helped me articulate other areas of emotional pain caused by my family.  I have spoiled my children by giving them opportunities to make money.  Remember when our parents told us to do it and we just had to do it because they said to do it? We always second guess ourselves but I thought I was teaching them how to "earn" their allowance. I also showed them ways to earn money on their own.  Trying to teach them to fish.  I'm certainly not Jesus and there is no Feast of Cana Bank to which I deposit my money.  My children however periodically stop talking to me (teenagers) when I tell them what they don't want to hear.  The biggest word that causes this is the word "No."  I tell Fran how hurtful this is and she as usual comes up with the right words to articulate my feelings so that they are more logical to me.  BJ, she says, "Your kindness is not a valid reason for their sense of entitlement."  That's it again. Exactly.  Because we are kind over and over again, does NOT give another human ANY reason to feel ENTITLED to our money.  The right thing to do is to draw the line, state that you want a relationship free of the money strings attached. 

I tried to warn my own Mother of this about my children and one year begged her not to send my kids money in their traditional Christmas Card.   She didn't respond.  She was silent during my request.  As Christmas approached, they called and gave her their time.  "We love you Grandma." they exclaimed. The kids told me later that she had indeed sent them money. I called my Mom and told her that this was not the way friends have relationships let alone mothers and daughters. I was drawing the line.  "Mom, in the future, if I ask you to do or not to do something as it relates to my boys, please either honor my request or tell me you are outright NOT going to do what I've requested.  You knew at the time of my request that you  were going to send them the money and did it without telling me."  And then she wondered why they haven't talked to her until Christmas time or Birthday time again. So I have been in situations where both my kids and my Mother have been dishonest with me by "omission of the truth." 

The entitlement lines have been drawn and I have stood my ground on these occasions.  Kindness and trust are now given in moderation to the new people I meet.  If there is a situation that sheds a light that someone has crossed the line now, I have the hard conversation with them.  I find it is easier than the whole "avoidance" issue and it is the right thing to do.  Most of the time they become aware immediately that I'm no push over and make the adjustment.  In other times they leave, which must mean that they weren't in my life for the right reasons to start.

I have a classmate, Robert, that has a story similar to mine with different specifics.  He was 16, living in a hotel room with his mother and brother.  His father shot himself and committed suicide.  Robert left the room and lived on the streets for two years, got his GED, joined the Army and is now married with kids and a great job. His oldest is a teenager now and giving him similar "silent treatments."  He too has drawn the line of entitlement with his oldest daughter.  Robert also won the Outstanding Achievement Award in his field at the awards ceremony last week. After the ceremony, he asked me if I would mind answering a few questions about my divorce.

I told him the Readers Digest version of my story.  I prefaced it with I believe it is a 50/50 reason as to why our marriage didn't work. He listened intently and said, "BJ, for a marriage to work, it takes 50/50.  I don't agree with your assessment that you were 50% at fault.  After hearing what you said, you gave your 50% and then some.  Then of the 50% that was not yours to give, you are beating yourself up over the 10% of ending the pain.  This is unreasonable."  This was an epiphany.  The balloon of emotional guilt had clouded my logic and there it was in numerical format.  I had drawn the line FINALLY after 90% of kindness that came with a feeling of "entitlement" from my life partner.  It just simply wasn't the life I could continue living.  I wasn't keeping score but if I had, I would have called the game a forfeit.  A referee can deem the game a forfeit when the game becomes a travesty. He had nailed it.  I had some how under extreme emotional duress, recognized this was not a true partnership anymore and was in a sense a travesty.

One of the reasons for the failure of feminism to dislodge deeply held perceptions of male and female behavior was its insistence that women were victims, and men powerful patriarchs, which made a travesty of ordinary people's experience of the mutual interdependence of men and women.  ~Rosalind Coward

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