Thursday, April 2, 2009

heartbreak and stereotypes

One of my nurse friends, who is going through a divorce, is relying heavily on appointments with her therapist at the moment. She's the one initiating the divorce, the one totally upsetting the apple cart, the one who is feeling the wrath of virtually every family member she and her (soon to be ex) husband have. She is a woman outnumbered, and it's starting to take its toll. Never mind that her husband actively started this process with his wandering eye (soon followed by other parts)...he's playing the innocent victim.

It all starts with the way he's behaving. In a word, he's behaving quite badly. He's thrown major fits in front of the kids, begged and pleaded with her for hours on end, called everyone he could think of (including her mother) in an attempt to get her to change her mind, attached himself to her with velcro and cried to anyone who would listen for months. When none of that worked, he escalated it, threatening to hurt himself if she left him. Well, she did leave him and he didn't hurt himself, but it was pretty stressful there for a while.

Another casual friend, married longer than the FX and I, actually attempted suicide recently when her husband said he was leaving her. Coincidentally, she's a nurse too, and her stability (both in job and temperament) has enabled her husband to do the Peter Pan routine for the better part of his adult life. She's held everything together while he follows his dream. Now he's found his dream...and she's not in it.

I bring up these two separate stories for a couple of reasons. One is the response of the people who got left. I've clearly spent my life with the wrong person, because the idea of killing myself over the FX never, never occurred to me. Sure, it sucked. Yes, it was a brutal year and the residual effects are still very much with me. But suicide? Over a man? Are you kidding me? There's only three men in the world who mean that much to me - and I gave birth to them.

Also not happening in my life is the whole begging and pleading business. I'm the first to admit that I'm stubborn, and I've realized over the last year that my pride can be a real sticking point, but the day I beg someone to stay with me will be...almost impossible to imagine. From that point of view, I made it very easy for the FX to leave, since I have no interest in being with someone who doesn't want to be with me. What's the point in that? And where's the joy?

The second point is something that my friend's therapist said to her yesterday. She was venting about her husband's behavior and the therapist made the comment that it all came down to personality. Nurses are caregivers, he said, who nurture compulsively and have a burning need to take care of everything for those they love. And the large percentage of them, he continued, are in relationships with narcicissts who have to be the center of someone's universe, who have a burning need to be taken care of and are unable to nurture themselves in any way. It's like two pieces of a puzzle, he explained, and until you figure out how dysfunctional it is, you'll just keep being attracted to the same type partner forever.

Wow. Just frickin' wow.

I know a lot of nurses read this and I'm very curious to hear their take on this. Do you think this is true, and if so does it apply to your life? Did you outgrow this little trap or are you still in it? Or do you think it's just flat out BS? Would this apply to other "nurturing" fields too? Teachers? Social workers?

It's not something I'd ever really thought of in those terms, but I got it immediately. And I have to say that it sums up my life perfectly. And the lives of the other two nurses above, for that matter.

Now the question is - how to make sure to not repeat that particular pattern.


Thalia's Child said...

I think the therapist may be on to something.

Beaker is not a narcissist, however, he does need taking care of - something I can say without spite because he's told me so.

I *used* to date narcissists though. It used to be all I'd be attracted to.

Tyen"s Sis said...

This is so true,and to keep from repeating this pattern,I choose to be alone.One doesn't have to be in that field to have that as one of their trait"s

Rudee said...

Hmmmm. The therapist makes an interesting point, however, not all nurses are compulsive nurturers, so really, he's generalizing, or worse, stereotyping. I've met plenty of nurses who don't/wouldn't nurture a soul.

As for killing myself because a man left me? That'll be the day. Really. If my husband left for those greener pastures that don't exist, I'd have to tell him not to let the door hit him in the ass on the way out.

ped crossing said...

Sounds true of some teachers I know. I can say that I am expected to be on top of everything in our house, food, schedules, plans. Let's call it Life's Lesson Plan and it seems to be in my Plan Book. I get tired of always having to be in charge.

I am also going on the record to say that Ducky has many redeeming qualities.

Maggie May said...

Not just nurses, but there are trends in every walk of life. Unfortunately people do seem to attract the very people who they should avoid in the first place & keep going back for more.
Same if you have alcoholism in the family or depression. You are programmed to find another partner the same & repeat the whole darned process. even the kids are programmed to do the same. Familiarity & all that!

Yes........ there is much truth in what the psychiatrist said.

The Gossamer Woman said...

The psychiatrist is right and that is why I am staying single instead of finding myself in another dysfunctional relationship again. We are instinctively drawn to the "type", and I don't want to take any chances. After three failed relationships, I'm keeping clear of a 4th until I have my instincts under control.

Frances said...

As an ex-teacher myself, I wouldn't say I was attracted to dependent types, but I would say that they pursued me with dogged determination - saying that one of the things that attracted them was my kindness and friendliness.
So maybe they look out for carers - consciously or unconsciously? We slip easily into that role without noticing, because it is so easy to do and we have HUGE wells of guilt if we don't do those easy little things we could do... people who want to be looked after just use the old ways they had with their mother, or if they weren't mothered, the tricks they saw their friends using. There is also the point that nurses and teachers and the rest have the reputation of being forgiving and understanding... whether true or not. May all be subconscious, but I think the therapist is right.
It is dysfunctional if it is all one way. If both partners care for each other, and are supportive that must be healthier, surely?
The danger of being Mother may be that baby grows up a little and leaves home.

auntiegwen said...

As an ex nurse who is now a teacher, I know that this patience and nurturing is allowing my partner to survive life but it has taken a massive emotional toll on me. I don't know how much longer I can go on despite loving him.

Rositta said...

Well I'm not a nurse but am a nurturing kind of person. When I first met and married husband two I did many things for him. My friends all thought I spoiled him too much and probably that was true. But it's coming back now in spades as he takes care of me. As for begging a man to stay, not ever, not my personality and certainly suicide...nobody is worth ending my life for...ciao

Rositta said...

Well I'm not a nurse but am a nurturing kind of person. When I first met and married husband two I did many things for him. My friends all thought I spoiled him too much and probably that was true. But it's coming back now in spades as he takes care of me. As for begging a man to stay, not ever, not my personality and certainly suicide...nobody is worth ending my life for...ciao

Kaycie said...

I think that therapist is full of crap. One of the most narcissistic people I've ever known was a nurse with a long suffering husband who catered to her every whim.

The therapist is generalizing which is not a useful thing for a therapist to do when trying to help someone through an issue like divorce. Or almost anything else, for that matter. If I were your friend, I'd find a new therapist, pronto.

aims said...

Couldn't this be said of a lot of mothers as well?

Hmmmm.....not sure about this therapist. I'm thinking he's saying what she wants to hear.

Daryl said...

I have read all the comments and I have to say I think Aims is onto something .. and like Rudee I wouldnt blink if Husband decided to fly away ... NOT that he isnt a great guy, but right now I am not happy with him not getting our tax stuff off to the accountant ASAP...

Iota said...

Carla and Turk fit that pattern, for sure.

Devon said...

Nurse checking in here... Well, yes part of that definitely applies to my life.

We didn't want our kids in day care and due to hubbies weird, ever changing schedule, I had to give up working, even part time.

He pretty much does what he wants, I have to check 3 times and leave copious notes just to get a mamogram. Hence, he is now golfing while I am about to take #1 child to ortho appt.

In fairness, if I had been a different type of person 23 years ago when we married and didn't try to do everything for him, he would probably be a different husband.

But, the basics in both of us were pretty much there from the beginning as you described.

Miriam said...

I'm not a nurse, but I know a few people who are, and this would be true of them. I think that being aware of this tendency is a huge part, and then it's probably about finding a middle ground- a bit of care-giving, but not taking over. I'm a teacher, and I think that they end up with people who don't mind being told what to do! Who do policemen end up with? And prison wardens? mimi

Cath said...

There is something in this if I look at a friend and her hubby. He is a total narcissist and she would agree with that, in fact, describes him as such.
It's hard to look objectively at your own circumstances, but I think it has been true of me too, maybe to a lesser extent, but still true. Hubby is (was - is retired) a nurse though. So how does that work?

Cath said...

Rudee makes a good point - not all nurses are nurturers. I am, my friend is, my hubby much less so (but is not cold in his nursing) and still others who are downright frozen stiff and you wonder why they chose this career.

So that messes the theory up a little. I see his point, but it also is a generalisation, like "all men are the same". A fair point, but a generalisation. ;0)