Using writing, and meditation, and ice cream, and reading, and dreams,

and a whole lot of other tools to rediscover who I am,

after six years living with a man with OCPD.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

What's That Giant Sucking Sound?

No, it's not a funny phrase in a speech by a little guy
with big ears and a squeaky voice.
Photo via Andy Kelly 

It's the sound of hoovering.... 
(as the Brits call vacuuming.  They're so funny!)

But as (Wo)Man's Best Friend knows,
hoovering can be eeeeeeeevvvvvvvvvvvviiiiillllll!

Hoovering the floor, as needed, can be an excellent thing.  Being hoovered - having the disordered person in your life pour on the charm, the apologies, the sudden flash of insight, the promise of working on himself - can feel wonderful.  The relief, the oddly weird sense of connection (after perhaps days, weeks, even years of feeling like you're with a hostile stranger,) the hope.

At last, he gets it!  At last, he understands why things have gone so badly between us.  Maybe I don't have to leave (or stay away.)  Maybe I don't have to pour sand on the last little ember still burning in my heart for this man after all.

Maybe we can get back together.... and it will be different this time.

Hoovering generally happens when you Have Had It.  When there has been a huge, blow-out fight, or you have left, or thrown him out.  Perhaps you're standing in the hallway, bags packed.  And he's not necessarily insincere - he may honestly intend to fulfill all his promises.

But it is really, really difficult to break a pattern of behavior - whether it is of being abusive, or perfectionistic, or of being a co-dependent, caregiver type.  Even of eating too much chocolate (which pattern of mine I am not going to change right now, so there!)  The longer a pattern has gone on, the longer the changed behavior needs to go on, to really make sure it is  truly "sticking."

But if there is some progress made, some apparent meeting of the minds... shouldn't you encourage that?  He says he's changed, you want him to have changed, there are some signs he's made an effort...  That's the slippery slope - and that's why, for some people, hoovering is not a one time event, but something that happens over and over again.

Everybody's "buttons" are different, but your partner knows 'em all, and will not hesitate to push every single one of them like a five year old in an elevator.  And if you've succumbed to hoovering in the past - he's going to do it again.

Some of my buttons:

Pity/Caregiving - so I get "I'm not feeling real well right now, having those chest pains again.  If something happens to me, I want you to know that I always loved you."  and "I'm so lonely without you.  You were my only family, now I don't have anyone."
Flattery - "You're so beautiful."  "You make me feel so good."
Nostalgia - "We had such a good time at such-and-such place."  "Do you remember when we did this and such?"
Sex & Romance - this is why many sites advise going No Contact.  You can't be hoovered by make-up sex if you're not having any.
And, of course, hints of insight: "I don't blame you for leaving.  I was really horrible to you, and I am so very sorry."  "You're right that I need to X,Y, Z"  (no actual signs of him making it happen, though!)

When I write it all down, it all sounds so schmaltzy and ridiculous.  So why, when I hear it, does my heart melt like soft butter on toast?

Wow, thinking of toast helps.  While "Remember the Alamo!" might be big in Texas, for us OCPD Significant Others, it's more like, "Remember the Toaster!!"  (in memory of the Toaster Plug Wars.)

So, while the sucking sound in my life gets louder and louder, I'm bolstering my resolve with these hoovering Do's and Don'ts from Out of the Fog.

What NOT to do:
  • Don't change any of your boundaries or allow them to be broken during a hoover.
  • Don't relax or give up on any consequences of previous poor decisions for the abuser.
  • Don't stop any healthy activities or relationships you may be engaged in elsewhere.
  • Don't assume the hoover will last forever.
  • Don't use a hoover to bargain for a better life. You are setting up the abuser to break a promise and setting yourself up for a disappointment.
What TO do:
  • Remember that mood swings are a normal part of a number of personality disorders and that what goes up must come down.
  • Accept that highs and lows are a part of a everyone's emotional life and that, for a personality-disordered person, those may be more intense and lead swings in behavior.
  • Maintain all your healthy lifestyle habits and relationships with others.
  • Take the long-term view. Wait a year.
  • Get yourself off the roller coaster. Position yourself so that your safety and happiness isn't dependent on a personality-disordered person's mood.
Okay, I'm feeling more back to myself again.  But I plan to keep Remembering the Toaster.

For more good advice on hoovering, read these great articles on Out of the Fog and Abuse Sanctuary and Baggage Reclaim.