Learning to listen instead of talk was probably the hardest step I ever took. I only did it after I picked up a book, Parent Effectiveness Training, because I thought it would teach me how to effectively train my son, then 14, to quit arguing with me... Hahaha! It suggested learning to listen and let him find his own solutions, which was good. It also had a section on listening to pre-verbal babies, which I used with Bob because by this time he would not talk to me. I realize, today, that it wasn't safe to talk to me, because I corrected him all the time, "You shouldn't feel/think/act that way."
I had to let Bob have feelings I didn't like and that scared
me. I had to work on myself which took up all the time I'd spent
obsessing about him and Jack. This gave Bob space to find things that
helped him recover. It was a really painful time for me. Change is
scary. Bob hated it when I started going to recovery meetings. I
developed a broken record in response to the unspoken question, "Will
you still love me if you change?" which guys never actually say. It
comes out more often as "Why the F. are you going to that
meeting/therapist/group, etc?" I translated that and said, "I am going
to the meeting because it helps me feel good about myself and I love you
and I'll be back at 9." After 6 months of that, said in a loving
manner, he stopped asking.
One of the things I hated about the
program I went to was that they suggested acceptance as a good strategy
for dealing with people you love (or anyone else). I thought this was so
wimpy. You're supposed to try to improve people. NOT.
So I learned
acceptance. Bob is who he is and I can't change that. I also learned to
ask for changes and let go of the result. I don't have to hang around
and be yelled at. I also can't expect to ask for a change and have it
instantly happen. When I try to change, it isn't instant and I recycle
old behaviors a lot! So will he. Now in the times of year that are
difficult for Bob, I try to listen and let him be where he's at.
Compassion and kindness are more effective than nagging and getting
huffy and self-righteous. The bad times pass sooner. I remind myself
"Would you rather be right or happy?" At one time I would rather have
been right (no kidding!! I never admitted I was wrong in the first 25
years of our now 50 year marriage). Now I would rather be happy.
Many family members have been through hell and are extremely angry at
the veteran. They don't see how what they may be doing can be keeping
him or her stuck. I have a lot more suggestions at my web page http://www.patiencepress.com/patience_press/PTSD_Help-For_Spouses.html. More tomorrow.