Illness can mean you have to have serious conversations. The thought of this can terrify people. Their fears are nearly always worse than the reality would be if they could explore it. Unfortunately, you can’t be sure if this is one of the exceptions to that rule until you’ve started thinking and talking, by which time it might be too late.
So people avoid conversations by:
- going out – to work, to a friend’s, a pub, to visit a sick relative, to church, to synagogue, to the mosque..
- creating an argument or a fight
- threatening to leave
- finding a good film to watch
- turning up the television or the radio
- inviting round someone who will make trouble
- inviting round someone who will prevent the conversation in some other way
- putting on their headphones.
- reading the paper
- doing the washing up – though this can be a good time to talk.
- drinking too much
Good places to talk include:
- in the car
- on a walk
- in the kitchen, with the radio or tv off
People who are really frightened will avoid these situations too.
If you can work out what it is they are frightened of, and ask them if this is troubling them, they may find it easier to talk. But they may feel you are accusing when you are trying to say they are not at fault. Some people can listen and hear if you get them at the right time and talk in the right way. Others cannot.
The only way to get an acknowledgement of guilt from someone may be to reduce their sense of guilt. You may need to sort out how guilty you think they really are too. And how guilty you feel you are. It is easy to throw guilt back and forth and both end up feeling awful. However, if you can clarify how far the guilt goes and where it stops, you may feel a lot better.
Finding someone else to talk this through with may help. A counsellor, a friend, a relative might be a good person.
One problem with this is that we know that deep conversations about personal guilt can end up in bed. So choosing who to open up to is a complicated matter. The person offering to listen may not be clear enough about keeping their boundaries; or you may be tempted even though you know you shouldn’t. Starting an affair is a brilliant way of making the other person see how terribly they have hurt you, and letting them share the feelings. But it can backfire and end up with you and other people feeling much worse.
People can be very jealous of their partner having a relationship with anyone who talks about things that really matter. They might behave worse. They may not admit it, or even recognise it: they just feel bad and behave badly every time you go to talk to this person. Sometimes just pointing out that they are jealous, and that you have no intention of leaving them, can be enough (for a while at least).