Victim mentality and how to hold firm and allow my loved one to experience consequences?

wife
alcohol

#1

My wife is an alcoholic and there is a very clear pattern of behavior that I would like to get myself out of. What usually happens is she will drink, I will get angry, and we will go a few days or weeks with limited communication between each other. During this time, she acts like the victim. There are no efforts to try to redeem herself or apologize for her behavior. Instead, she’s withdrawn, quiet, sad, etc. Any opportunity that presents itself where she can act like she has been done wrong or she is being treated poorly, she will take advantage of (just an example, if I suggested to the kids that we go out for ice cream, and we were getting ready to go, she would ask “oh, am I allowed to go?”). Anyway, the long term impact of this is I wind up feeling badly and I will break the ice and open up to her again and begin communicating more. We then go back to exactly where we were, and nothing changes. And then in the next month or so, the pattern repeats.

I would like to hold firm and not “give in”, because I don’t think this is doing her any good. I guess it comes down to her experiencing consequences for her behavior. I just have a really hard time sticking to that. Any tips would be appreciated, thanks.


#2

@aloneikeepthewolves thanks for sharing <3
I wonder, in sober times between slips are you able to communicate about things and how her behavior makes you feel? Maybe that’s the place to start, working on how to communicate your experience in a way she can receive it. We have a module on that. And a couple topics that may be relevant to you:
Knowing & living in our limits, Communicating to connect, Conversations 2.0.

Let me know if any of that is helpful at all?


#3

When I ready your topic it reminded me of things with my husband. The punishment and consequences, the guilt and shutting down.
A couple of things caught my eye, remember that you all are a partnership. Breaking the ice should be done ASAP…you all are fighting to be right, you’re fighting to save the marriage. Also, you mentioned her being withdrawn and sad…I’m sure she is ashamed. That’s how my husband feels and gets. If she is staying sober for a month, celebrate that with her. Or any amount of time. Be supportive, don’t try and punish her. Encourage her to try meetings, rehab, medicated treatment-there seems to be quite a few types of medicines out there for alcoholics that maybe she would be willing to look into WITH your help and support.
Hopefully this helps. I had to gain a new perspective when dealing with my husbands addiction and it has seemed to help.


#4

I could have written this-word for word. No exceptions. I have tried being encouraging during the in between times but obviously it doesnt work if it continues to happen. Sometimes she goes to meetings but usually after already drinking not before starting again. We can’t stop them if they dont want to stop.


#5

@aloneikeepthewolves this is not an easy place to be. I hear you feel stuck in a cycle and that it’s not working for you. I agree with what the others said but I also can relate to how you feel. I remember wanting to punish my partner for his drunken nights in order to make him feel the pain that his behaviour caused. I would make him sleep on the couch and not talk to him for a week. I guess now I realize it wasn’t helpful to either of us. It just built a rift between us because as someone else said he felt shame and guilt and was so upset with himself and I just fed into that. What I have learned is that it’s really about setting your boundaries. Maybe you need to communicate that after she has a slip that you need some space to process your feelings about it. Make it clear you’re not punishing her but taking care of you. So doing something that really feeds your spirit and taking a time out. I have said that to my partner and also told him that when we are both ready we can talk about it. The reality is she’s not going to be in a place to process her slip when she’s hungover anyways. We also found couples counseling was super helpful. I am not sure what stage of change your wife is in right now but also acknowleding that part may also help. If she’s considering a change but you want her to be sober it will likely cause conflict because she’s not where you want her to be. Get vulnerable with each other open your heart to her and share your feelings. My guess is this will create some safety for her to do the same. Right now the way she asks “am I allowed” makes me feel like she’s feeling like a child who’s been punished and I am guessing that’s not the dynamic you want in your marriage. But truely this is a tough place to be and you’re doing the best you can.


#6

Thanks all, I appreciate the responses so far. Just a couple of additional points that popped into my head reading everyone’s thoughts:

  1. Sadly, this has been a long journey, she’s been drinking for 10+ years now and has tried multiple different methods of treatment, medication, counseling, etc. So a lot of the talking/encouraging/counseling has already been done. Not that it isn’t worth continuing to try, but it’s hard to look at these options as things I feel optimistic about unfortunately.
  2. In terms of feeling angry towards her, one thing I wanted to point out is the anger isn’t really related to the drinking, because I understand that is what they do and it shouldn’t really be a surprise. The anger is related to repeated and multiple violations of my boundaries, specifically–I told her she needed to try some kind of treatment, whether it was rehab or meetings, or whatever. She went to a couple of meetings but that didn’t last. And, I have told her repeatedly that she is not to interact with our children when she’s drunk, and she blatantly does that right in front of me.

Anyway, I’d love to hear thoughts from anyone else. Thank you again.


#7

Hi @aloneikeepthewolves,

About the boundaries, when she violates the boundary, what is the consequence? Boundaries only work when you have a planned action in response to the boundary being violated. It requires follow through on your part. So for example, a consequence to her interacting with your children when she’s drunk is that she needs to stay somewhere else when she’s drunk. Or, she needs to find another place to live. Or, you and the children will leave the situation, etc. So, it doesn’t work to “count on her” not to violate your boundaries. You have them for a reason, because it’s something she does. The power of boundaries is in you upholding them on YOUR end. Consequences are essential. :two_hearts:


#8

Hi @aloneikeepthewolves
Thank you so much for sharing your journey right now–it is not easy to go through it, and it’s especially not easy to sit down when you are in an exasperated state and type it all out!

My fiance is currently in active addiction with alcohol, and (I believe) moving towards seeking recovery. It is a slow and painful process for all involved for sure. We are only a year into him “coming out” as having a problematic relationship with alcohol, so I’m fairly new to all this, but I can hopefully share what has and hasn’t worked for us so far.

Almost every time he drinks, I find myself immediately fall into a panic attack, so my first order of business is to take care of me and get that under control. (I think it’s my body’s way of reminding me!) When I’m in this state, the urge to punish him is almost overwhelming. I want to shame him, shut him out, call him out, or leave him… or all of the above. I have to take some quiet time to sit and think, why is he acting this way? Why is he lying, and why has his behaviour not changed? The answer is always because of his own pain and shame, which has nothing to do with me. I remind myself that adding shame to his existing shame only feeds the Addiction (sometimes it helps to think of it as a literal monster), and puts the addiction between us rather than in front of both of us as a common enemy. So in that moment I do what I need to do to create connection and remind him I’m on his side. Usually grabbing his hands, making eye contact, breathing evenly, and not letting him let go. I know he is feeling shame because he has such a hard time keeping eye contact, so I just allow him to take his time, but keep the connection. (this is just what works for us, fyi.)

Once he is sober (as soon as possible), we always have a conversation. I tell him that I’m ready to talk when he is, and we do, and we go over boundaries and next steps. I tell him honestly how his actions made me feel and I try to use facts only.

I’ve only really be doing this since I’ve found the Village, and it has helped more than I can even say. These days, my constant mantra is “connection is the opposite of addiction.” I remind myself that if I really want THIS relationship to work, I need to make connection the priority. We are choking out the addiction monster, one connection at a time. And this past weekend, he told me that he is ready to make a change, and to get help to fight this thing too.

My point is that removing the connection as a consequence is likely only feeding and validating the addiction, rather than teaching any lessons. For the people we love, we have to be their foresight. We have to be the reminder that love and worthiness exists on the other side of the addiction. And remind yourself that if you can’t bear that responsibility right now, and you need to remove yourself from the situation, that’s okay too. Take care of you first so that you can be there when she needs you.