the therapist and the airing cupboard

I commented to my counsellor that it is really nice to be able to take charge of my own home, possessions and finances and that it helps me to feel calmer. ‘Oh’ she said, ‘so he was really untidy?’ Surprised, I replied ‘no, he was obsessively neat with his own possessions!’. He actually polishes his tools in his toolbox and his desk is always completely clear. I realised that he loves to keep his own life in order but actively worked to promote confusion and disorder in mine- this was the first time I had clued into this. He always blamed me for being very untidy and not keeping on top of things and I accepted this as I was always very busy with virtually sole care of two children, a fair-sized home and garden. Oh, of course I worked full-time too.

One day I noticed some odd behaviour- it was one of those lightbulb moments that you get. We had a large airing cupboard (in the UK an airing cupboard is a closet where the hot-water tank is situated and so it’s good for storing sheets, towels and blankets and keeping them warm and dry). Every time he took something out of the cupboard, as it was crammed full, invariably something else would fall out and I would hear loud cursing ‘this f***ing cupboard, I’m sick to death of this blah blah blah’. I pointed out to him that I was very busy, and that if this bothered him so much, maybe he could take the time to tidy it up?’ I felt very pressured by his aggressive cursing every time and eventually confronted him with the this- that I felt it was designed to pressure me into sorting out the problem. ‘Oh no, no, I wasn’t trying to get you to do it, I just find it irritating’ yeah yeah.

Anyway, one day he was doing a job in the loft (attic) and I was helping and ended up spending time hanging about at the bottom of the loft ladder next to the airing cupboard. Always multi-tasking, I decided to clear it out, tidy and sort. It took me half a day (even after he had finished working in the loft!) but the result was a work of art. Neat piles of single sheets, double sheets, and coloured towels clearly showing where they were used i.e. kitchen towels always white, bathroom green etc. I excitedly showed him and said that the reason the cupboard got in a mess was because we had to rummage through- now we could simply put everything in the right pile in seconds and it would easily just stay tidy, we’d just take stuff off the top.
Well he never, ever, put anything away correctly after that even though a two-year-old could see the system. Towels, sheets, pillowcases all put away at random. Even when I suggested he dumped the clean laundry by the door and I’d do it, he wouldn’t cooperate. Every time innocently ‘forgetting’, me increasingly sounding like a wife nagging over petty details. Sounds trivial doesn’t it? Except that it’s a situation whereby you don’t have any control but are blamed for the consequences. If you look it up, that is the main factor of suffering from stress. Good news to me was, that I began to realise how deliberate and spiteful his behaviour was.

3 thoughts on “the therapist and the airing cupboard

  1. Hi Cathy 😀

    As I read the part about how your husband wouldn’t put anything away correctly I got triggered and remembered how I tried to put myself in Norman’s shoes so many times- trying to imagine what it would be like to be him/Norman and what would cause him to behave as he did. I tried desperately to find some plausible explanation for his lack of respect and attention to detail for things that would make our life so much easier and pleasant. I’m not insensitive to others’ circumstances and I know that everyone makes mistakes and has those brain fogs every now and then. But Norman’s counter-productive behavior was just way too predictable and my intuition always warned me that it was deliberate- subconscious or otherwise.

    I couldn’t rely on Norman to do anything completely or properly. Just yesterday, I was fertilizing my garden with my Haas watering can. If you know anything about them, they are very expensive. I splurged this year and bought myself a large one and a small copper one for indoors and I intend to keep them for the rest of my life- so, a good investment. Norman offered to fertilize the veggies while I was watering with the hose. When I returned to put the hose away, I noticed the watering can tossed in the corner of a dirt pile, lying on its side and the rose attachment was knocked off and lying next to it about 2 feet away. I was once again stunned ( stupid me) that Norman would mistreat and devalue his property in such a way. I had to run inside to get my tea pot on the stove and I called to Norman to please rinse off the can and put the can back in the same place where I keep it and once again explained to him that I don’t want the can destroyed/trashed and that his hard earned money paid for that can ( I love reminding him that it was HIS money). Norman , standing right next to the can, acknowledged me by saying that he would get the can and he was mostly pleasant. However, he walked right past the can and came inside. I didn’t say a word but as soon as he saw me, he became extremely defensive and yelled, ‘ I’m getting the can!” Obviously, he knew what he had done and had deliberately ignored the can to upset me.

    I’ve spent so many years being so compassionate and empathic and always in a state of seeking solutions that even the Dalai lama would be impressed. But, every time I put myself in Norman’s position, in any given circumstance, I can’t come up with any reasonable explanation as to how he can always blatantly disregard logic and good manners. I know perfectly well that if Norman were at anyone else’s house he would behave differently. So, the only explanation I can come up with is that Norman is a very angry, spiteful, vengeful, resentful, bitter and evil man whose only goal in life is to disrupt my peace, disrupt harmony, thwart happiness and success and good health and create drama and chaos that align with the devil inside.

    The aggressive cursing…….I told Norman yesterday that I was sick of his negative attitude about everything and his lewd and vulgar language and that I have always felt offended, insulted and hurt by his constant, F this, sh** that, F’n Sh**. He can’t make a simple statement about anything without adding some lewd word. I pointed out that he only talks to me this way- not our customers or around his family. Why? Why does he respect them more than me? I asked him what he would think of a man who talked to his wife that way and he just stared at me with his usual blank stare. Anytime he has to think , I believe it burns up so many neurons- similar to shock treatment in a psych hospital. Finally he said, ‘ You’re right, I should be better’. Oh boy, that broken record again 😦

    ” Sure you will Norman. Sure you will” and life goes on.

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    • Hi thank you for your insight. I came to the eventual conclusion that his behaviour was designed deliberately to make me angry. This has several advantages for him- it avoids intimacy as he is frightened of it and he gets to have power over my emotional responses. If he offered to do something nice, he put me in a predicament. If I rejected his offer I was ungrateful after I was always asking him to help and he got to play the victim. If I fell into the trap of accepting his offer, he had an opportunity to neglect to do it and cause me inconvenience or hurt- as in your watering-can story. When I got angry about it- he is again a ‘victim’ of a raging woman. So they get to be the innocents whilst we are the crazies. You might be interested in the Karpman Drama Triangle, which describes the theory behind this pattern. These guys aren’t as clever as they think they are!

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  2. I agree about the deliberate attempts to make us angry. That’s what it’s all about! They are avoiders and have negativistic personality. They are always working to satisfy their own self fulfilling prophecy. People tend to think that narcissists are very secure people with over-inflated egos but in actuality they are not. They are like the bullies on the playground that are really cowards. They puff themselves up to make themselves appear large in life but on the inside they are weak. If were not so vulnerable to their charm, had more confidence in ourselves and realized what we were actually dealing with, we could really do a number on them by turning the tables. Like you say, they aren’t as smart, as sharp and cunning as they would like to believe. The problem is that people like us don’t like operating the way they do and we don’t like using people and manipulating them and they know that- that’s why they chose us.

    What you describe is what I describe as being between a rock and a hard place. I’m never going to be able to relate to Norman on any level- civil, nice, courteous or angry because anything I do is perceived through his angry lens. This is also characteristic of living with a borderline personality.

    Norman can be one of the most hateful and psycho men. Sometimes he baits ( or rather Bates ie..Norman Bates) me into complete emotional turmoil and then just stands there with a sly and sleezy evil look and says, ‘ What’s wrong? Look at yourself. Look at how angry and upset you are. The true you is coming out’
    When he says that to me, the evil glares at me and there’s no mistaking it for anything else. It’s the worst feeling in the world to be around such a person.

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