It’s a great line. It falls under the concept of allowing the other person’s feelings to be validated as real, and accepting that the person feels that way is a good step toward opening communication back up. But the next thing you do determines whether you really mean it or not. If you then let me express that anger and why I am angry and if necessary, explain what I’m not understanding or taking into account, then you really are following through.
But if your next step is to say you are very angry, refuse to make eye contact or listen to what is being said, and stop talking about the issue, then you really haven’t validated my feelings at all. You’ve closed me off and told me I don’t have a right to have feelings about whatever is happening to me.
And my first response is that Dave has no right to be angry about anything, he started all of this with his actions. And he should have known how Alison and the boys, and we would react, so he should have been ready for it. Besides, we’re just trying to talk to him, figure out what he’s thinking, and tell him why we think this is a bad idea.
A more tempered response is that he obviously can be angry, since he is. Perhaps he didn’t think it through and was surprised to find out that not only were people angered and hurt by his actions but actually expected him to talk about it and change his behavior. Preferably change his behavior enough to come home and live his life again. At least stand up and accept responsibility for his behavior and the damage it is doing and work with the people he is hurting to get through this.
But he is the one that opened with the line and then he refused to listen or to respond as if he really felt his son or wife or the rest of us actually had a right to be angry. Or at least that we had a right to express how we felt and why we felt that way and then actually get some useful response from him.
Over the past two days David has commented that his oldest son has been hostile on the 2 visitations and then indicated that he doesn’t want him on the next visitation as a result. Yet, this is actually one of the first people Dave admitted should be angry, and that time in the driveway Dave even said he was surprised the young man wasn’t even angrier than he seemed to be. He’s 15, a teenager, old enough to understand what is going on, and to feel betrayed by the man he called Dad. Like us, he wants answers. Yet when he has stated his feelings, Dave has accused us of coaching him, as if he isn’t capable of feeling this pain and anger all by himself. And when he expresses his anger that Dave won’t talk to or answer the questions of the younger boys, Dave calls it hostile and instead of talking to him simply states he doesn’t want him there.
David is a life coach. He’s someone you call up and work with to help make yourself better, achieve more, and live your dreams. There are things we hold on to, agonize over, and keep dragging around that a life coach has to help us realize should just be let go and walked away from. But there are also things we avoid, ignore, keep procrastinating about dealing with. Here is where the life coach guides you to stand up and face the situation or person or weakness or fear. David seems to be telling himself (and I supposed getting reinforced by someone) that he should just walk away from his family and the quicker the better. For an abused spouse, that may be the way to go (and you don’t leave the kids behind). But for a man to walk out because he wants to be selfish and wants to focus on his business, it is not right or profitable to avoid dealing with the pain and damage he leaves in his wake.