Paul Cockayne – 07791 970406 – firstname.lastname@example.org
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I have come across quite a few people can do – have done – a disappearing trick. It’s a bit like the tricks magicians do with a big cloak and a puff of smoke. But it’s not magic, it’s tragic. Here’s how it works.
These people are kind, considerate people, who want to do all they can to make their relationship work. They are empathic, they are good listeners, and they are very flexible. So when they get into a relationship one of things they want to do is to get to know their partner, to understand them, and to make them happy. They work hard at this, will always ask their partner what they want, and then will fit in around them, watching the TV programmes their partner likes, cooking the meals they like, decorating the house to their tastes and so on.
Both partners will be very happy, the one because they’re getting what they like, the other because they get pleasure from pleasing their partner. Then, perhaps, kids will come along and the same thing happens. Our “disappearer” will do the same thing again, they’ll make that sure the kids are happy, that the family is happy, they’ll listen to everyone and try to make sure their needs are met.
And so it is, and everyone gets used to this, and the other members of the family expect it to continue, they take it for granted, they never stop to ask what our disappearer wants – or if they do, they’ll be told “I don’t mind” or “I’ll join in with whatever you want to do”. And so other members of the family stop asking, and indeed our disappearer no longer even knows what they do want, because they’ve spent so long putting everyone else’s needs before their own that they have lost the ability to articulate their own needs. And indeed, this may be something they’ve done all their lives, well before the start of this relationship, since childhood.
But all is well, everybody is happy, until one day something changes. It may only be a small thing that causes the change, but one day our disappearer will wake up and look around and ask the question “What about me?” And they will realise what has happened, that they have been swallowed up by everyone else, that they have disappeared.
But what’s the problem? All our disappearer has to do is to say how they feel, express their needs, and their family will listen and adapt, won’t they? Well, long-established patterns can be difficult to change. The disappearer’s kids will know no different and their partner may be too set in their ways – or too selfish – to change. The disappearer may feel very guilty about expressing their wishes, or be fearful of upsetting others. And then the whole thing can stop working. Resentment can build, sometimes an affair starts (“someone who actually listens to me and cares about what I want”), sometimes the disappearer does just disappear – they walk out.
Is your partner a disappearer? Or do they have the potential to be? It may be much easier for you to spot it than for them to. And if you can spot it, you have a chance of changing things before there’s a wave of a cloak, a puff of smoke – and no more partner….