But we were so happy

One of the classic scenarios that lead to Missing Missing Reasons estrangements:

  1. Person A is happy.
  2. Person B has a problem with person A.
  3. B tells A, “I have this particular problem with you.”
  4. A disagrees that there’s a problem.
  5. A resolves B’s problem to A’s satisfaction.
  6. A is happy.

When the problem is as simple as disagreement about the volume of A’s radio in the workplace, the result is ye basic workplace squabble. But when the problem is one that A has deep resistance to, things can get ugly.

A usually starts by dismissing B’s problem. A’s dismissals come with a sting of contempt or anger, a reminder not to try to bring up the problem again. A doesn’t remember his stings. Why would he? He’s been doing it his whole life. If he does remember–or if he’s forced to remember–he says it’s nothing, just a mild understandable reaction that nobody should be bothered by. (It’s so mild that he uses it as his main defense.) His stings slip out of his mind, but they pile up in his victim’s memory.

Dismissing B’s problem resolves it to A’s satisfaction, but it does nothing for B. B might try again right away; she might put it off rather than get stung again; or she might cram it down and let it simmer until she explodes uncontrollably all over A. If she manages to get past A’s wall of dismissal, she hits his second defense: the half-assed effort.

Of course it’s half-assed. A doesn’t understand what the problem is. As far as he’s concerned, there is no problem. But B wants him to do this… thing, and she’s really mad about it, so he’ll try. He’ll do his damndest to hit her target, firing blind, until he figures the problem is solved. He figures it’s solved just about immediately. Because when A looks around him, he doesn’t see a problem.

Rinse, lather, repeat.

Eventually, B realizes there’s no point talking to A.

A is happy. B has stopped bringing problems to him! The problems are all fixed. Everything is good. If B has any more problems, of course she’ll bring them to him. She’s been so open with him. But she’s not telling him there are problems, so there are no problems, and A and B can live contentedly ever after. Their relationship is so healthy.

Then B leaves.

A loses it. Things were so good! They were so happy together! B left without even talking to him about what was bothering her!

Something must have changed her–a new friend, a new medication, a new hobby. She needs to be changed back for her own good, before she loses the wonderful thing she had before she inexplicably ran.

If you remind A of all the times B talked to him, there’s a good chance he won’t remember. When prodded into remembering, he says he didn’t realize it was so important to B–even if B broke down sobbing when she told A about the problem. “If she told me it was that serious, I would’ve done something!”

When prodded into remembering that B was crying, A… deflects.

She told him the wrong way.
She told him something else entirely.
And what about the time she did that awful thing?

A unleashes his full arsenal of dismissal against anyone who tries to get through to him. Then he cuts them off, because they’re cruel and thoughtless and clearly brainwashed by poor, deluded, brainwashed B.

Why did she leave?

It’s inexplicable.


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