There are plenty of marriage situations where one person has a problem with doing the thing.

It’s a thing they clearly should not be doing, but they do the thing anyway. Their partner at first tolerates the thing, then loathes the thing, and finally hates the thing. At some point it all goes to harsh words, threats and various assorted drama, and the evil thing-doer eventually promises that they will not do the thing anymore, they are sorry for the thing, and will get the thing all sorted out.

It goes well for a little while, they make some good progress… then they do the thing again. Whereupon their partner becomes Batshit Crazy about the thing.

So here’s the issue with these situations were you keep doing the thing.

Each time you start recovering and then lapse back, it’s typically a compounding error, meaning each lapse will tend to have a greater and greater negative impact, and take longer and longer to recover from. You might have collected a lot of +1 points as you made progress, but what look like minor screw ups can net you a -10 reduction.

Each time you lapse, you’re training your partner to believe you’ll never beat it, and you set the bar higher and higher to regain their trust. You’re also probably lapsing at the particular moments where they want to see you as being at your best, and doing the thing again is going to be a Display of Weakness every single time. Often that Batshit Crazy explosion from your partner is an expression of loss of attraction as much as anything.

Is it “just doing the thing one time”? Sure it is. I get it, it’s one bad day in a while, and you’re on an upward path. But the days where you lapse into doing the thing get you vastly more negative points because of the “boy who cried wolf” effect of all the previous failings, lies to cover up doing the thing and so on. It’s death by a thousand papercuts.

The risk is that you get yourself into the situation where you are in fact making progress, but the repeated steps backwards of the “two steps forward, one step back” shuffle, are framing you as not making any progress at all because the one step backwards carries more emotional weight than the two steps forward. It often requires some sort of outside person talking your spouse down repeatedly and reaffirming that progress is indeed happening.

If you’re the person who is doing the thing, you have to (1) very much frame the positive progress made as actually happening, and (2) acknowledge as justified any anger your spouse has about you doing the thing again, (3) not defend against their anger, just accept it, and (4) continue to make progress and stop doing the thing without trying to burden or make your partner accountable for stopping you from doing the thing.

The thing is your problem. You are your spouse’s problem. If you make you doing the thing your spouse’s problem to solve, you’ve now given them two problems to handle and you  simply aren’t attractive enough in this moment to carry it off successfully. You’re effectively giving them a reverse ultimatum of (A) just accept responsibility for my shit, or (B) dump me. So…

Depending on just how bad and big your thing is, I understand stopping might not be either an easy or simple matter. But it’s really the only way forward. It’s going to take some time, but the thing is draining your life away for no gain.

I’ve also seen a large number of Batshit Crazy people become rather less Batshit Crazy after their spouse finally stops doing the thing.

Do you have a thing you need to stop? What’s your thing?

And for those unfamiliar with the story of “the boy who cried wolf”…