Dear Fellow Doormats - A Nag is an old horse...

I haven't posted a lot in the forum, but have been reading and being helped a lot. One thing I keep seeing over and over is that many of us "non" partners are what I would call co-dependent. (And I am not really totally Non, I was just under the qualifying level on Barkley's adult ADD instrument years ago. I have my own organizational challenges.)  As I look back at my own behavior and how my 20 year relationship with my husband has evolved, I sure wish I could have been more powerful and confident and positive in believing in the value of me and my own experience years ago. Instead I have been molded and distorted into a less and less confident and positive person.

My husband and his whole life (not to mention me and my life) would be in a lot better shape if I had been able to see things for what they were and not cooperate with a bunch of bs years ago. But I dismissed red flags (loved him so much, didn't want to lose him) and ignored my own sad/trampled on feelings (because most of the time it was great) early on... and then we had little kids and the stakes were way higher.  He told me early on that I would "have to nag him to get things done" and I said, "but I hate being nagged and I don't want to be a nag." But he was right!!!!! And I became the thing I hate.  I was not strong enough to resist it. His whirlwind of disorganization and playfulness and hyperfocus is a powerful force. 

I still do love him. He's a really nice guy with a great heart.  He loves his kids and he is well liked by lots of people. He's not "that bad" compared to many of the stories I read here. He doesn't drink. He doesn't yell or hit. He's never actually been fired. More than ten years ago, he completely dismissed the possibility he could benefit from an evaluation and treatment... he skimmed through some of Hallowell's Driven to Distraction and he wasn't as bad as any of the stories in there. So he doesn't have a problem. End of story. But let me tell you, he does have some problems. He is hugely disorganized and impulsive, spends hours on video games, makes many commitments he does not keep and can dismiss and minimize his way out of anything. He misreads social interactions frequently, tends to seem aloof to people unless he puts his strong focus on them for a specific time, and has no close friends, only a lot of acquaintances. He lives in a fog. Surprised over and over that he messed up on something, but so gifted and sweet that he brings a lot of value anyway and people forgive him over and over. The absent-minded professor that people give a pass to. 

But who is picking up the pieces? 

The doormat. The nag. The person who I have had a hard time even recognizing is me.

Years ago my husband was kicked out of an apartment by his roommates for going into their rooms when they weren't around and using their things. He tells this story and he conveys how surprised he was (and maybe still is) that this would even matter so much and how picky people can be? But he got the point. That's what it took. 

I have had a hard time being this self-protective and firm. I have let so much slide. I have picked up so much slack. I have resented and nagged and begged. But being firm and positive and not so emotional would have been much better. It is the disempowered who yell and scream. 

In our house, a miracle occurred. I had a health crisis a few years ago and all the balls dropped. The kids were older and somehow we all survived a bunch of dropped balls. The pressure to keep it all going came off of me because I literally couldn't. I had been so angry for years, by that point, but not willing to leave. And my husband stepped up (I know some of you have had the opposite happen) and I saw that he could really do more, with effort. Not because I asked or we negotiated - because I literally couldn't do basic physical things - could barely walk.  This is what it took for him to step up and do a few more things around the house. (Not that he picked up ALL the balls... nope.. just a few that he could really see.) And not carrying the impossible load while resenting the hell out of everyone helped me feel less angry over time. This was a miracle. To go from SuperBitch to tired out defeated puddle on the floor was a positive change. So, when my health crisis was easing... I made a conscious decision not to pick up all the balls again, even though there are balls still dropping. 

My husband started asking... "so, um when are you going to be able to start doing x, y and z again?" and the old me would have sat down at the table and drawn up lists and negotiated agreements which would never be honored. And trouble shooted and renegotiated etc.. Believe me we have years of this, but the agreements are NEVER honored. He cannot look realistically at his past and make honest humble assessments of what's realistic to tackle. He wants so much to get the "problem-solving" conversation over (and to avoid a negative assessment of himself) that he will try to figure out what I want, and then overcommit by saying "yes" (but not really commit).  These are really useless conversations. 

The powerful just do. But we have to be willing to take the consequences. When my kids were little, I felt I just had to pick up the slack. If I was afraid he might leave me if I really told him how unhappy I was? Then I wasn't really telling him, was I? I read The Dance of Anger a long time ago, but I wasn't confident enough and ready enough to take the consequences. 

The new me? I am letting a lot of balls drop. And it is my husband now looking around and seeing that things need to be done, and asking me if I will do such and such. I am trying to figure out how much I can pick back up without becoming SuperBitch again. I just want to be me. I am not anyone's nag. A nag is an old horse. A doormat is something you step on.