November 22, 2017

A Thanksgiving Wake-Up Call about Personal Responsibility.


Somewhere, in a quiet suburban neighborhood, in a four-bedroom house with a two-car garage and well maintained landscaping, is a family with 2.5 kids and a really adorable dog.

The parents work professional jobs and host all the holidays. They pack up the kids for a vacation once a year, maybe more, but it’s never quite enough.

The couple’s sex is pretty vanilla. He never feels like he gets enough of it and she is rarely in the mood. Although they really do love each other, they have no idea how to be in relationship without tearing each other apart. They are completely enmeshed and don’t have healthy boundaries, communicate clearly, or listen to each other with true compassion. Their hurt and resentment are tearing them apart.

A snippet from their bedroom the Wednesday night before Thanksgiving one year:

“If you don’t reconcile this with me right now I’m going to throw the turkey in the bay,” he told her.

She believed him.

Their marriage was in a downward spiral. They were completely spinning out of control and heading to rock bottom fast.

Her grandmother had gifted them a gorgeous cooked turkey from the butcher and they’d picked it up earlier that day. It was golden brown, smelled delicious, and barely fit in the fridge. When he threatened to throw it in the bay, her only thought was: I need to make this better—to fix it. How am I going to make him feel better?

In almost every argument, he’d expected her to manage him, to fix things, to wrap up arguments immediately so he could feel better. And each time, the sensations in her body were so uncomfortable that she complied. She wanted the fight to end, so she made it better; she apologized and said what was needed to smooth it over.

What she really needed was time and space to calm down and get clear. But he couldn’t give her that, and she was too codependent to create proper boundaries for herself. At that time in her life, she was looking for approval—from him. Her head was constantly spinning, wondering how she’d gotten here.

We show up at the highest consciousness we know. Maya Angelou said, “When we know better, we do better.” This suburban mom didn’t know any better. And neither did her husband. They were each desperate to feel better, exhausted from all the fighting, and scared of what was next.

From upstairs in their pretty home, he told her that if he did throw the turkey in the bay, she would have to tell her family the truth: that she refused to reconcile an argument with her husband and that’s why Thanksgiving was ruined for everyone.

She was the perfect enabler, and they were classic codependents.

She again resorted to the only thing she knew at the time: telling him what he wanted to hear. She ended the madness by putting on a sweet, loving mask of lies—it was the best trick she knew. She would change her tone of voice, shift her body language, and fake-apologize. They would “resolve” the issue, share some loving sentiments, and she would feel his body relax into hers when she hugged him. She’d feel safe and free again because he looked satisfied. She’d even offer a hint of the promise of sex…

But then she’d give him the finger behind his back. Her lies were a big “f*ck you” to feeling shut down, not heard, and shamed for her communication style. She felt simultaneously manipulated and like she was a master manipulator. Her resentment was an insidious toxin that shrouded their lives and eventually ripped them apart.

For the hundred-millionth time, she called a friend and relayed the events.

“Let him throw the turkey in the bay!” her friend said to her.

She was speechless. What?

“Let him throw the turkey in the bay!” Her friend was passionate and deliberate with her words. “It’s his action, his choice, not yours,” her friend repeated.

Something clicked inside the suburban mom and in that moment, she woke up. She got it. It was as if she’d been wearing a blindfold all these years and she could finally see.

She had no clue what to do with that insight, but she got it:

His action.

His responsibility.

Not hers. She was not responsible for his actions.

It always felt off to her that she was expected to fix these arguments, but she’d played along for so many years, in countless ways, having no tools or knowledge on how to handle it any differently. She just wanted to feel better, and so did he.

A few weeks later, they got into another disagreement. He threatened to show up at her job and cause a scene if she didn’t do what he asked in that moment. She was scared, but she decided to take a stand  Her insides were shaking when she told him, “Do it. Come to my job if that’s what you feel you need to do.” She was not playing this game anymore.

Come to work. Throw the turkey in the bay. It had nothing to do with her.

And he never did come to her job that day.


Author: Brenda Fredericks
Image: Jennie-o/Flickr 
Editor: Catherine Monkman
Copy Editor: Lieselle Davidson
Social Editor: Waylon Lewis

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