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Dr. Michael
Dr. Michael, Psychologist
Category: Mental Health
Satisfied Customers: 2177
Experience:  Licensed Ph.D. Clinical Health Psychology with 30 years of experience in private practive and as a clinical psychology university professor.
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I have been talking via email and cell for a couple of years

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I have been talking via email and cell for a couple of years to a guy I dated back in high school 35 years ago. He and I both married other people. He looked me up on Facebook and basically said hey and wondered if I remembered him...of course I did, and we began exchanging mail of what was going on in our lives. My marriage ended 12 years ago after 18 years of marriage to an alcoholic. His wife asked for a divorce in feb after 20 years of marriage and one 19 year old son...shortly after, she began living in a lesbian relationship. I don't know if that makes her bisexual or gay, it doesn't really matter other than its confusing after being in a heterosexual relationship for 20 years.(?) My relationship with this man has been strickly platonic as he was not available for anything beyond friendship, and I don't want a relationship with someone who is married or involved otherwise, which I also told him and we agreed on that. He was not thinking of leaving his wife for me or anyone else.....but it was nice to reconnect and stay in touch with each other. Over the years, his wife went back to school, gained computer skills that allowed her to make $125K a year to his $35K..when they married, he made more money than she. The disparity of income seems to have given her a feeling of immense superiority. Very similiar thing happened in my marriage...as my husband gained computer skills and when we divorced he was making 4X times more than me, and he also judged my worth by my paycheck, so I can relate. My friend is a very agreeable, somewhat passive person, and has been very polite and courteous to his wife, even after her divorce demand. He moved out into a 1 bedroom apartment and has tried to comply with any of her requests. They agreed on a verbal settlement. He did ask for a date for her to make an appointment between them and their attorneys, she agreed to july 1st...last night he called her when he had not heard from her concerning this meeting and she replied..."oh, I haven't done anything about that...you can take care of it and let me know". I am wondering if she has passive-aggressive disorder...I have read about it online. As much as I would like to give my friend advise, I know better. This is between them, but I am concerned for his emotional health. We had plans to visit later in the year and see old friends together. I'm not sure if that is wise now either. I don't want to give her any potential ammunition to use against him, even though she is the one who has already entered into an adulterous relationship, as they are still married. So right now, for my own peace of mind, I'm just trying to gain some understanding....my friend has bent over backwards to be accomodating, not something I would have done, but he is not me. It just seems like the more he trys to comply and be accommodating, the more he is going to be damaged in this ongoing soap opera. So...my question is, do you think this woman has passive-aggressive behavior, and do you have any advise for me as his friend. By the way, he recently told me that over the years of their marriage, she has told him numerous times that she distrusts men, and felt like he has lied to her on numerous occassions, even though he has insisted that he doesn't lie to her.
Submitted: 3 years ago.
Category: Mental Health
Expert:  Dr. Michael replied 3 years ago.
Hello. I believe I can be of help to you with this issue.

Not only passive aggressive personality features, but more importantly, she devalues him completely. She is disrespectful and dismissive of him. Her failure to follow through on things she claims she will do is not merely passive aggressive behavior, it reflects her belief that she can do and should do whatever she wants, WHENever she wants to do it and he must accept it. So I would frame her behavior more in terms of narcissism and entitlement, than passive aggressive---though the two go hand in hand, usually. What do you think?

Another aspect of this issue with your friend is the fact that unconsciously, HE has bought in to adopting and accepting this position in this relationship. That is, on some level, he does feel that she is more competent or entitled than he is; he harbors fears that 'she might be right about me'. So long has he accepts the role in the relationship she has created for him, and embraces her beliefs about him as his own 'core' beliefs about himself, he will continue to be treated like he is a 'doormat'. What do you think?
Customer: replied 3 years ago.

I agree with you that I believe he has bought into this submissive role in their relationship, and he has often told me that over the past 5+ years or so, he has

felt like nothing more than a "house boy" as she would leave him daily notes of things has was to accomplish (tasks) around the house, etc. He has also revealed that she

has withheld sex for the past 3 years. His explanation of why he accepted this was that although he continued to make advances, she was not interested and he thought perhaps this was just how things went as a marriage and folks get older. I could relate as my husband and I didn't have sex for 3 years towards the end of our marriage, we were both apathetic as the love had really left. We stayed together out of some committment to the "commitment". When we did become intimate again, it was very unsatisfying and contrived. Anyway, I agree that she appears to devalue and be dismissive of him completely and I think over the years, he has just come to accept this behavior. He IS being treated like a doormat and I feel somewhat helpless to be of any help to him. I HAVE suggested that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different result, pop psych I know, but it does seem to apply. He will say that he is going to now do such and such, and ultimately he will end up doing something that once again puts the ball back in her court and hands all the power back over to her. I don't understand not only WHY he continues to do this, but also have no clue how to help him see other ways of dealing with the situation. When he told me a few months ago that he was going to ask her to tell him when she was

going to file, he asked thru email, she wrote back and said, "I don't know, what do you think:"...he read this email to me over the phone as he received her reply while we were talking. He then said he was going to respond by saying.."whatever is convenient for you"..at which I replied NO! You will just be back in this same "waiting" boat...tell her what you want. I finally convinced him to give her a date and so he said July 1st. This gave her over a month to secure an attorney and make arrangements. Last week he wrote her and reminded her of the upcoming date...last night when he called because he had not heard from her, she said.."oh, I haven't done anything about that"...she wanted HIM to take care of it. He refused and told me he was going to write her an email and tell her the options... I suppose he will be doing that sometime today. But I fear when he copies me on the email (as he said he would do), it will be very watered down and he will once again be sitting with his life on "hold" while he politely waits for her to do something...which may be never. She was so adamant about wanting the divorce and him to move out..which he did, yet now all she is doing is not communicating at all, and not taking any action. That's why I thought possibly passive aggressive. And most importantly, I don't know if there is anything I can or should do to get involved...I just feel very sorry for him. And of course, IF there is any potential for us to have a relationship that grows from our friendship into anything else, it may be impossible or in the very VERY distant future if this continues in this direction. Ultimately, I care about this person as a person, whether we ever see if there is anything more for us beyond our current friendship. Having been thru divorce, I don't wish it on anyone, and especially not like this...and I feel completely helpless to be of any help to him...and maybe that is just how it has to be as I don't know if my telling him anything, even if it were truth, would actually get thru the way he thinks about things.

I do know that when she asked for the divorce, he was completely taken off guard, did not want it and would have done anything to keep the marriage. Because she has been so mean to him since, it HAS helped him disconnect and not want the marriage anymore and he has finally come to realize that she is no longer his friend...gee...I am inundating you...sorry...hard to get everything said in a concise way...

Expert:  Dr. Michael replied 3 years ago.
You are doing the right thing in terms of providing him with a reality check e.g., interrupting his intention to defer to her and telling him 'NO', for instance. All you can do is be a good listener and when he complains or presents a problem to you, frame it in terms of how he is enabling the treatment. Reiterate your frame of reference e.g., 'you are acting as if you believe that she [(fill in the blank) 'is wiser than you; OR shows better judgment than you; is better at solving this problem than you; is more capable of getting the paperwork filed than you] In many ways, you can be a source of emotional support and a reality check, but he needs to work his way out of this passive-helpless position with his wife. If he does not, he isn't going to be very functional in any future relationship. Your position ultimately, must be, "I can't take you on a river raft trip with me if you don't know how to swim; so go learn how to swim".

I hope this information is helpful to you. Please let me know if I have overlooked any aspect of your original question. Please click on the green Accept button at the bottom of the screen. Thanks.
Customer: replied 3 years ago.

Do you think I am correct in my conclusion that I cannot offer up any advice and I need to stay out of this unless he asks me for it? I do find this stance to be a very frustrating positi but I can comply if it is the best thing to do...I guess my concern is that he won't "be able to learn how to swim" without some input from me or others because he doesn't actually understand what he is in the middle of... ironically, he doesn't seem to be hurt by the fact that she has entered into a lesbian relationship, and just says that he wishes her happiness with whoever she chooses to be with...man, woman, elephant...

To me, it would seem that some anger at how he is being treated and ignored would be a healthy requirement for healing, but maybe I am wrong about that and anger is just a petty response at this point, and his stance of still, after everything, of wishing her well is noble in some way. Or maybe it is a perpetuation of his belief that he is in someone inferior to her and should just accept things without questioning. It just breaks me heart that he is being treated this way, and seems so quick to give her another chance to do the decent thing, or actually follow up on her word. He does admit that he thinks she hates him now and is doing her best to avoid him. So, as you can see, it all gets to be a little overwhelming to me as well when I try to put all these pieces together and understand his motivations, hers, and what the heck can be done, if anything, to help him move beyond this point in the hopes of having a happy future with anyone, whether it be me or someone else. I guess I need you to hit me over the head with the

reality...i.e., should I not bring up anything about this and act like it is not going on unless he does? Or should I try to get him to talk about it? a little of both, none... I know he is relying on me for support, reality checks, although a lot of times what I tell him he seems to disregard or not act upon even though he says its a good idea and he will. Since he is agreeable by nature (and a really nice person I might add), I think he is uncomfortable being asked to take the lead in a divorce proceeding of which he never wanted in the first place...and of course, even if he does, he can no longer trust anything his wife says. One thing he has said over and over and over since this happened in February is that "he is a nice person and has never done anything to hurt her so why is she treating him this way"...and also, "I don't wish myself on anybody"...the later statement I do not understand at all. As you can tell, I'm a caregiver by nature, probably why I stayed with an alcoholic for 18 years...so if you can tell me anything I can do that will help, or what to avoid to hurt the situation..in any more detail than your previous response (which I did appreciate btw), that would be great. If you have given me all the advice you can, I can accept that as well.

Expert:  Dr. Michael replied 3 years ago.
Yes, yes, yes. You need to stay out of this situation unless he asks for advice directly or indirectly. As I hinted in the last post, the 'measure' of the quality of him as a person lies in how well he can figure this out and emerge from it with a stronger sense of self. You have no idea for example, whether, if, he makes some strong changes and develops a 'backbone' with her, she might actually turn 180 degrees and realize she's been an idiot. Probably won't happen, but it could, so you need to stay out of it and let it play its course. I'm VERY glad you realize you are a rescuer, a 'mothering' person and are good at 'fixing' things with people, and that you also realize that this can enable others to maintain their weak behaviors or unhealthy dependencies. So you are doing a good job of 'stepping back', trying to maintain an objective, rational position in this friendship. Don't rescue this guy, but be emotionally supportive, only.

The other thing you can remind yourself is that IF your friend takes the initiative and pursues the divorce, so he can move on with his life, it will take about 1-2 years for him to 'find himself' again, recoup some lost self-esteem, correct the negative core beliefs that he's developed about himself. He has some recovery and healing to do and you need to be patient and not interfere with his self-discovery. Again, you would keep doing what you are doing as a friend, simply being supportive. You do not want to fix him or shape or mold him because YOU see he could use some changing here or there or (?). This is more of your alcoholic-husband-tending behavior in action if this happens. Your role is thus, quite easy----just primarily listen, listen, listen, and only give advice when asked or prompted. He largely has to find his own way.

Please let me know if I have overlooked any aspect of your original question. Please click on the green Accept button at the bottom of the screen. Thanks.
Customer: replied 3 years ago.
Awesome. I appreciate your directness. Sometimes I need to hear things that bluntly as I do want to "fix" things...LASTLY, I PROMISE...do I suggest to him that he look up "entitlement behavior" or "narcism" whether he asks or not as it is my suggestion that it might be going on....or do I not say anything about these insights you have presented to me today. I'm certainly guessing that I should not divulge that I sought advice from you about this situation..right? So just want to know about, other than listening ad nauseum and trying to be supportive, can I try to "lead" him to researching these behavior characteristics as a suggestion? Thank you so much for all your assistance.
Expert:  Dr. Michael replied 3 years ago.
You can assume personal ownership of all that we've discussed here today, as your personal insights and dole the information, advice etc., AS HE SEEMS TO ASK FOR INPUT from you. This stuff is best shared at critical "teaching moments' e.g., when person is in a bit of crisis or high stress---they can absorb it and put it to use best. So timing in sharing any educational info is important; the sharing of our 'stuff' here might occur slowly over the course of several weeks or months. It is up to you to identify the proper crisis moments in which to share it. So you can feel free to lead him and directly suggest topics for him to research or share articles you might find. But share them ONLY in response to his request for input or help. Don't volunteer the stuff outright.

Best of luck to you.

Please let me know if I have overlooked any aspect of your original question. Please click on the green Accept button at the bottom of the screen. Thanks.
Dr. Michael, Psychologist
Category: Mental Health
Satisfied Customers: 2177
Experience: Licensed Ph.D. Clinical Health Psychology with 30 years of experience in private practive and as a clinical psychology university professor.
Dr. Michael and other Mental Health Specialists are ready to help you
Customer: replied 3 years ago.

 

I guess I lied...I do have another question. My friend walks his dog with his best friend

early each morning. His friend is older, late 50's - early 60's...former vietnam test pilot, retired pharmaceutical sales rep...although somewhat irreverent at times, I do know he talks pretty candidly to my friend about all of this stuff. Would you recommend that I email his friend, and alert him to suggest that he might do research on narcists

and entitlement behavior as well...or not involve him...

Expert:  Dr. Michael replied 3 years ago.
Do not involve his friend, please......different friends serve different purposes and needs. Let him talk guy stuff with this male friend, walk the dog, etc. You keep having these urges to get in and 'help', I realize. You are probably very good at it, but.......
Dr. Michael, Psychologist
Category: Mental Health
Satisfied Customers: 2177
Experience: Licensed Ph.D. Clinical Health Psychology with 30 years of experience in private practive and as a clinical psychology university professor.
Dr. Michael and other Mental Health Specialists are ready to help you

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