Friday, February 8, 2008

It's all about the drama

"Family quarrels have a total bitterness unmatched by others. Yet it sometimes happens that they also have a kind of tang, a pleasantness beneath the unpleasantness, based on the tacit understanding that this is not for keeps; that any limb you climb out on will still be there later for you to climb back." ~Mignon McLaughlin

Tensions have been high this week between oldest daughter and her father. I'm just going to put it out there that we are a family who cannot seem to have a discussion without it descending into a shouting-fest of some sort. It's disheartening and discouraging to know that nothing of importance can be discussed rationally here. I think I've been living this way for so long that I would spontaneously combust if we started acting like normal people for even 5 seconds.

So the other night I get three quick pings to my phone alerting me that I have some new text messages. It's my oldest daughter letting me know where she is and then she proceeds to leave this gem, "...and please tell Dad to stop calling me because I have nothing to say to him..."

I am, above all things, a very patient person. You can push me and push me and push me but I will remain calm in the presence of all this pushing. I will be giving the benefit of the doubt during the initial pushing and even when I'm up against the wall from the pushing, I will do my best and try to see things from the perspective of the person doing the pushing, knowing full well that they will not afford me the same courtesy unless I scream that no one ever looks at things from my point of view and then, begrudgingly, they might take a peek but not with any seriousness, not with anything that tells me that they value my point of view at all. I may be patient, but I am not stupid.

About six months ago, I read about the "Drama Triangle." Reading that article felt like I was finally seeing in print how my life is being played out. The drama triangle consists of a victim, a persecutor and a rescuer. We tend to rotate through these roles during our lives but I think that mostly, I am a rescuer and certainly, in my role in this family of mine, (husband, wife, 3 children) I am always the rescuer because I get dragged into it by the victim and the persecutor (which probably makes me a victim but for purposes of this post, I will maintain that I am the rescuer).

Here's how things work in my family. Daughter and/or son have problems with father because father is rigid and opinionated and loud and forceful (in a loving way). They start arguing and before I know what has hit me, I get dragged into their battles even when I don't belong there. Son or daughter will give me messages to give to their father and father will do the same thing. I never win in this position, not that I am looking to win anything. All I know is that I never feel anything but bad when I allow myself to be dragged into the triangle. If I side with my husband because I agree with his position, then I am the good wife but the bad mother. If I side with my children because I believe they are in the right, I get told I am being disloyal and I am asked to "just go along" even when my heart is telling me that going along is the wrong thing to do.

I spend a great deal of time being the middle man here. At least once a week this drama triangle plays out. Father will see daughter's messy room and tell me, "You need to sit her down and talk with her about her sloppiness." I'll reply, "Why can't you tell her this?" and he will say, "Because I'll lose my temper and things will get ugly." So the threat is made that a potential storm will erupt if I do not step in and tell our daughter what HE wants to tell her. To spare us all (rescuer that I am), I step in and deliver the message then I get to bear the brunt of our daughter's scorn for being asked to clean up her messy room that I didn't care about in the first place. This is a trivial example but I'm trying to prove a point. I wasn't concerned about her messy room, HE WAS, and yet I had to take his fight on as my own. I end up feeling resentful towards both of them. I crave peace and so I tell myself that my resentment is a small price to pay for that peace, but lately, I am not so sure.

I keep trying to break this dysfunctional cycle but mostly, I fail because disengaging from the drama triangle means that I am left to deal with all those uncomfortable feelings I'd rather just ignore. I have to prepare for everyone being angry with me and I am a people pleaser of the highest order. I have to be prepared to hear things about myself that are probably untrue. but are said to me as a way to get me to join the triangle.

When my daughter text messaged me to relay a message to her father, I had had enough of all their bullshit and so I replied, "I am not your messenger girl. Tell him yourself."

Guess what happened? He called her until she picked up her phone and they talked. Surprisingly, the world did not end.

I need to remember this...that they do not need me to rescue them even when they are begging me to do just that...that I do not need to rescue others to feel that I am important or loved in this family...that refusing to be manipulated by the people I love is letting them know that I deserve better, and more.

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