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.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Too Perfect Tuesdays - Chap 5 The Ruination of Leisure &
The Ruination of Relationships

We probably don't want to knit this sweater for the hubs.
Even if he'd look cute in it.
This post continues with The Ruination of Leisure and The Ruination of Relationships from Chapter Five.

This series looks at a small snippet of The book on the Perfectionist Personality, aka The Obsessive Compulsive disordered Personality, aka OCPD, each week. Please follow along, leave your comments, engage more on the FaceBook website... whatever your heart calls you to do.

Too Perfect, When Being in Control Gets Out of Control by Allan E. Mallinger, M.D. and Jeanette DeWyze was published by Random House in 1992.  If you believe you are dealing with OCPD or someone who is "Too Perfect," whether that's you or a loved one, please buy a copy of the book and read it for additional insights that will not all be covered in these excerpts.

Perhaps even sadder than its impact on his work is the damage demand-resistance can inflict on the obsessive's experience of his leisure-time activities.  One painful conversion of "wants" into "shoulds" is that at some point the obsessive comes to regards even potentially joyful activities as burdens.  An obsessive may take up up a project or hobby with a pleasant sense of anticipation.  But somehow "I'd like to knit my husband a sweater" becomes "I really ought to work on that sweater" - something that should be done, exactly like an external demand.  The person begins to slog through the project, rather than relaxing and enjoying the chance to be creative.  Sometimes this unconscious resistance doesn't affect the actual performance of the task, but often it does.  For instance, the person may begin procrastinating.  In extreme case it can lead to the abandonment of one hobby or personal goal after another.  <snip>

Besides work and spare-time activities, relationships can also suffer from the quirky pressures of demand-resistance.  These pressures can interfere with everything from the start of a relationship to the maintenance of an ongoing one.
For instance, Judy happened to mention that she really liked another woman at the hospital where she worked.  Yet she reported feeling "scared" by the other woman's obvious friendliness.  "I don't want to make a commitment of friendship to her right now.  I don't want to set up expectations - I don't want her to come to expect my time or energy.  I don't like to feel that people have claims on my time," Judy said.  Even the thought of such demands made her feel panicky.  "I just want out.  I feel in danger of being smothered.  To be around people, I have to do it on my terms instead of shared terms or their terms."
<snip> Demand-resistance may plague even established relationships.  It can sabotage isolated interpersonal exchanges, as it did for the patient who told me about a trip he had just taken with his wife.  Even though he had liked their hotel, "When my wife raved about our room, I felt her statement as a demand that I agree with with her.  And I couldn't bring myself to say, 'Yes, I like it too.'"

<snip> Sheila felt a lingering hurt and anger when she underwent major surgery and her husband, Gary, acted cool and distant.  Why did he behave that way?  Not because he didn't love her or was insensitive to her need for nurturance, but because he recoiled from the expectation that he give such nurturance.  <snip>

Often they will harbor resentment towards the people, institutions, or rules they feel demand them to behave a certain way.


If you're seeing light bulbs and hearing bells go off - BUY THIS BOOK.  There are lots more good snippets here to illustrate this point that I can't fully type out, but I suspect you will refer to, over and over again.

I tend to convert too many of my own "wants" into "shoulds," when it comes to crafting, or even keeping up this blog.  I am learning to let go and not overwhelm myself with expectations, to enjoy and share when I am in a position to learn and grow with you, my readers.  :-)

However, when I first read this book, this chapter rang bells and flashed lights like a fire truck for me.  My ex found a way to ruin almost all his leisure activities (and assume a martyr attitude about them).  If I indicated I liked something too much, he had to take the opposite position (see the story of the teriyaki chicken in a previous Too Perfect post).  Somehow, he couldn't let me "win," or even share as part of a win-win scenario, as in the example of the hotel room.

I have heard so many stories where the partner of an OCPDr becomes ill or injured, and the person with OCPD is angry and resentful about taking him/her to the emergency room with a broken arm.  Almost an attitude of "How dare you put me through this!" so that the person who has broken a bone, suffered appendicitis, lost a parent, etc., is not only dealing with his/her own pain and fear, but tantrums and attitude from the partner.

It is distorted thinking that does not allow for equality in a relationship, that cannot allow for give-and-take.  For Judy to resist a possible friendship with someone she liked because (horrors!) the other woman was friendly.  For a man to not ask a woman out, even though he likes her, because they've been introduced by mutual friends and he feels the need to resist.

Yes, it does destroy a romantic relationship.  I truly believe that, as much as a partner can work on him or herself in other areas, set good boundaries, learn not to take attacks personally, etc. that unaddressed demand-resistance is one of the poisons that will eventually kill the relationship.  The person who has it must come to be mindful of it and stop the knee jerk reaction of, "If that's what you want, I want something different," every single time.  It's that drip of water, wearing away even the strongest rock over time, as even the most patient, loving person grows weary of always being met with mindless opposition and lack of support.

Does demand-resistance affect your play-time
or that of someone you love?
Has demand-resistance damaged a friendship or love relationship?