Stephanie from Louisiana called and asked how she can “get over” her spouses previous poor financial decisions that they finally are recovering from. Stephanie can’t “let go” of her spouses mistake and admits she constantly monitors his every move and reminds him of his prior poor judgment. How can she move forward?
When one partner makes a big mistake in the relationship either via finances, drugs or alcohol, infidelity, or some other infraction – then the innocent partner possesses a golden opportunity to hold the other emotional hostage. What is an emotional hostage? It’s when one partner emphasizes their alleged victimization towards the person behind the violation. The result is the “violator” yields to the “victim’s” every demand.
So, in your case, your husband made poor financial decisions which sounds like it resulted in monetary devastation for you both. You say you’re slowly pulling yourselves out of the hole and achieved relative financial stability. But you have difficulty not holding his past mistake over his head and “watching everything he does.” Your level of trust in the relationship has been damaged. I hear that. It’s normal for a partner to feel apprehensive after the other has used poor judgment. However, it sounds like you may regard yourself as the “victim” and your husband as the “violator.”
The scenario then, plays out in a classic victim-violator dance. The victim insists they have no culpability and constantly reminds the violator: “This is your fault!” The violator often racked with guilt and remorse, acquiesces to the demands of the victim. Now the cycle for emotional hostage is firmly established.
It may feel temporarily good to play out the victim role, and keep the violator in a place of submission, but this dynamic eventually backfires. Why? Because the distribution of power in the relationship is unbalanced and skewed. The violator will tire of always getting cast as the bad guy. He will ultimately rebel, either overtly or passive-aggressively. Either way, it will be ugly.
- Ask yourself if it’s possible you’re holding your partner emotional hostage.
- If you answer “yes” to question 1, ask yourself what you get from this place of power and control by keeping him submissive.
- Talk with your spouse and openly discuss your difficulty in “letting go.” Name the number one thing you need to heal. Be concrete, be specific.
- After identifying what you need to help yourself heal, ask him what he needs to move forward. You may be pleasantly surprised.
- Agree to stop checking on everything he does, shaming him, and reminding him of the past so you can begin to break the cycle of holding him emotional hostage.
- If you still have difficulty “letting go” get into therapy to help you address what this situation triggers for you. Your trigger (most likely) stems from a childhood wounding when someone in authority violated your trust. Now as an adulthood, you seek to regain power that you did not have as a wounded child.
Remember, awareness of a dysfunctional relationship dynamic is truly the first step in dismantling it. You can do it! Good luck.