Congratulations, your spouse is having a midlife crisis. Welcome to the circus; do you have any previous acrobatic experience? Here at the Stander's Circus we believe in always using a net; but we also have a great chance of needing it because our most popular stunt is blind-folded tightrope walking. While on the tightrope you can expect to jump through hoops, juggle children and their activities, a job, household chores, court appointments and some of you will do this while carrying around a moping MLCer as though he's dead weight; and yes, you will be doing this while walking on a narrow wire while blindfolded. But one of the greatest challenges of this tightrope is maintaining love and finding forgiveness amidst your own hurt and anger.
Look at the word validate, what does it mean? Basically the act of making something valid--don't you hate those circular definitions? What does valid mean? Validity is a form of truth and sense. Thus validation is a confirmation of the sense of truth within a given context. Behaviors are not something to be validated. Behaviors are more tangible products; we can label them good or bad and try to promote or prevent.
Validation is not synonymous with agreement. Validate feelings, not behaviors. Validating means you recognize he feels a certain way, not that you believe the feelings come from an accurate perception of life. Recognize the truth of how he feels. Validate that he feels his actions are right and necessary. That is not agreeing that you feel the action itself is necessary; it is acceptable to tell him that, but accept that he may become angry when confronted with active disagreement--such as contesting divorce action. That's the way it is. Accept the process.
The Magic Words
I'm sorry you feel that way
Though you cannot fix your MLCer, you are not incapable of providing help--by accepting and validating his choices. I'm sorry you feel...
- life is hopeless
- you do not love me
- I was an awful wife
- you deserve better
- you are not worthy
- this new person is your soul mate
- you are never coming home
- you hate me...
By not validating, your MLCer feels you are not listening or taking him seriously; to dismiss his feelings is to also be dismissive of him--and that is insulting.
I'm sorry you feel that way. I realize you must do what you feel is best and I understand. I must also do what I feel is best.
I'm sorry you feel that way will become your mantra or new catch-phrase. You will eventually feel like a broken record. But it is important. Consider alternative phrases that sound the same. I wish you didn't feel that way. This gives primary reference to your desires rather than his feelings; it is telling him what you want and in Midlife Crisis while operating on emotions, your desires do not matter to him. MLCers don't want to feel you're pushing your desires or agenda.
I'm never coming home.
I know, but if you change your mind; I'm here.
Validate that you are aware he is not coming back; he doesn't need the added guilt and pressure of thinking you're waiting. Telling him you are there is not meant as an implication of you being a lifeless being staring at the phone, waiting for it to ring, but rather that you are an available friend in need. He may not care; or rather he may not think he cares. Right now you might be the last person he wants to call when he needs help, but tomorrow is another day.
Emotions and Memory
MLCers operate on pure emotions--how they feel. They store memories in emotional files. Behavior is not real and thus not remembered if the MLCer has no present emotional affinity for the behavior. He will contradict his past emotions that contradict the foundation of present emotions, claiming the previous emotions must have been false. An MLCer who has returned multiple times may make the same claims each time, yet will deny the validity of the previous claims when the behavior is brought to his attention. In his mind, he cannot have felt this way previously when returning, because he would not have left, therefore he must have returned for a different reason--commonly he will blame guilt. He is incapable of understanding any emotional state other than the present.
Though the memories of behavior linked to emotions may be unreal, the emotions themselves are real. To validate something is to acknowledge its reality. Feelings are neither good not bad, they simply are; by validating them you are accepting the truth of your MLCer's emotions.
It has been said that when someone leaves another, the one thing they cannot take away is the memories. MLCers rewrite history. This is because in their new emotional state, the positive history is not accessible to them; they believe their edited version. Validation of their feelings is important, but it is no less important that you have faith in your memories; otherwise it is possible for your MLCer to steal your positive memories.