From a Submariner's Perspective is a weekly column, written in response to the letters sent in to advice columnist "Prudie" at Slate.com. Each week, The Submariner responds to the letter writers in a way that Slate.com author, Emily Yoffe, probably can't (but perhaps would like to...). Each entry is headed with a link to the orginal questions and Yoffe's answers. Enjoy!

Also, if you have questions that you'd like answered by The Submariner, or anyone here at "The Fly", just write to me at smagboy1@gmail.com and I'll forward to the appropriate party/parties for an answer (or you can write to them directly via the e-mail addresses on their pages)! Once the answers are published, I'll drop you a note letting you know.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

...on Emotional Abuse, Manipulation, and Putting On Adult Undies

http://www.slate.com/id/2261000/ (7/22/2010) <---Original Prudie Letters Can Be Found There

Hey hidey-ho, Shippers! How the hell are ya on this fine, fine Prudie Day? I hope that the day finds you happy and appropriately air-conditioned (more on that in a bit). I’m all atwitter about my recent travels, some upcoming travels, and, just with being alive! It’s summer! The sun is out, the days are long, and, life is good. I apologize for my lack of commentary in last week’s comment section. I was laden with so viel Schnitzel and die Arbeiten, and, I hope to never let it happen again. That said, and in the interest of time, let’s get crackin’, shall we?

LW#1: Dear Prudie. My husband of less than a year was recently laid off. He’s trying to start a home business, and, as I work at home half the week myself, we’ve seen a lot more of each other. This has sucked balls for me, Prudie, as I find that he’s a total dick. He yells at me about not unloading the dishwasher, or, for not folding clothes, etc. He punches the walls. He’s taken to insulting my intelligence, and insulting me, but, when I bring up with him how much this hurts me, he says that he can’t be held accountable for my faults (Smag note: holy fucking shit, over?!). Prudie, I’m not going to divorce him, but, what should I do? Signed, Two Steps Down the Three-Step Path to Complete Emotional Servitude

Dear Already a Victim. Get out. There are so many red flags here that it’s not worth going into anything other than you getting out. Right. Now. Tell Mr. Fuck Stain Coward Asshole that hitting walls and throwing things as a surrogate to hitting you or throwing things at you is not an acceptable alternative. Tell him that you will not be made to live that way. That you will not accept his projecting his shortcomings and fears onto you. Tell him that you are leaving. Staying is eroding your self worth, whether you can see it yet or not. Do not let it continue! Later, when you look back at this time in your life, you’ll be amazed at how you let it get this far! This man is emotionally abusing you, blaming you for it, and you’re already so beaten down that you’re actually rationalizing it! Let me ask you, how many of your friends has he alienated you from? How much does your family come ‘round (or how often do you go to see them)? Please seek help or at least gain education on emotional abuse. You’re already well down the path to being completely controlled and until you realize it, there’s not much help to be offered here. Please seek help as I don’t want you to disappear.

(Smag note: I could have snarkily abused the hell out of this woman for being so dense as to stay in this situation, but, clearly she’s getting enough of that already, and my piling on would, ironically, only serve to reinforce what hubby is saying, which, of course, is a bunch of abusive bullshit and the opposite of true. Challenge me on this and I’ll bring out the double barrel snark gun on you. This behavior is not healthy and I will not entertain discussion that it’s anything but emotional abuse.)

LW#2: Dear Prudie. I’m in my mid-twenties and recently engaged to the bestest most wonderfulest man that ever lived in the entire world. Sadly, though, if I tell him that I once tried to kill myself, I’m afraid that he’ll leave. Because, even though I’m entirely over my suicide attempt (I am, Prudie, honest!), I fear that I’m not worthy of this great and wonderful and awesome man, you know, considering my suicide attempt. The one that I’m honestly over. And if he left, Prudie, I’d just die! So, my question is, do I tell him? Signed, Not Dead Yet

Dear Not Yet Dead. He’s so great for you that life couldn’t be any more of a fairy tale, yeah? Yet, you’re afraid that if you tell him, he’ll leave? How much abuse of your self worth have you taken in your life that you think this situation is okay? Listen, I’m with Prudie. I have a feeling that if you’re open and honest, your betrothed will be just fine. He may have some questions, some concerns, but, if you’ve been honest with us, and are honest with him, I’m sure it’ll be okay. And, as Prudie says, if it’s not, then he wasn’t the man for you to start with! Normally, I would advocate not even telling him something about your past that is so personal, but this is something that could affect the future, your children, your family together. This isn’t a past sexual partner. This is a lifetime concern. You are under obligation to be honest and open. If he’s everything you say he is, it likely won’t be an issue, but you owe it to him to be upfront and brutally honest about this.  You both deserve for the entire truth to be told here.

LW#3: Dear Prudie. My cubicle is located in a bad place in my office. People congregate just off of my desk’s port bow, laughing, joking, shooting the breeze. One associate was actually unconsciously tapping my desk lamp the other day as he dispensed his verbal diarrhea to the group! Prudie, the biggest problem is that one of the chief offenders is my boss! I don’t want to seem like a killjoy, so I just put on earphones and avoid eye contact when they come ‘round. I’ve considered, as a deterrent to the congregating around my desk, no longer using deodorant or performing dental hygiene, but I’ve just never been the granola-eating, pubic hair-braiding type. Short of that, what can I do? Signed, That Shit Makes Me Batshit Crazy

Dear Batshit, I know this will sound like I’m toying with you, but, I promise, I’m not. Not much, anyway. Why don’t you say, “Hey guys, I’m not trying to sound like a killjoy, and, I really don’t want to have to learn to fart (although I’m willing), so, would you please walk a few paces on down the row? No, farther. Farther. Farther you fucking assholes! There! That’s perfect!” See? Easy, eh? You could also take the less direct path of just calmly talking to your supervisor, who I’m sure isn’t a complete idiot, or, even taking the initiative and arranging an area that’s away from your desk that would be even more suitable. Perhaps put some chairs there. Some plants. A tabloid, some magazines, etc. Call it a “Break Room”. It’ll be great! Above all, though, I want you to look into the mirror and repeat this mantra with me, “I’m a likely-intelligent adult. I can put on my big person undies, use my big person words and solve simple problems like this with relative ease. Why, I can even go to the potty by myself! Yay, me!”

LW#4: Dear Prudie. I have a friend who’s very concerned about the environment. I am, too, but maybe not as much as my friend. We both recycle, buy products with minimal packaging, and drive hybrids (when we’re not walking or using public transit, of course!), but, when it’s the summer, I like to use the A/C. I sometimes set it as low as 85˚F. My friend doesn’t use it at all, and so, whenever my friend comes over to my house, I turn off the A/C so as not to offend. However, my friend knows that I use it and constantly harps at me for my selfish, boorish behavior. What can I do? Signed, My Friend Is A Meany Pants

Dear Your Friend is an Asshole. Hey, guess what? Your friend is an asshole, fuck stain, rude, shit bag, hot air-making, sociopath. Tell your “friend” that “friends” don’t dictate the behaviors of other friends. “Friends” don’t harp, bitch, whine or moan when they’re in someone else’s house. “Friends” don’t manipulate. They accept us for who we are, not for who they’d like us to be. “Friends” aren’t assholes. Your “friend”? Assholus Primus Dicktatus. If this person has so little respect for you, what can you possibly be gaining from the relationship? Further, doesn’t your “friend” know that all of that bitching only leads to global warming (and, by the way, that air your “friend” is breathing is a valuable resource that the environment could be using)? I suggest asking your friend to start breathing at about 50% less. It’s the green thing to do.

****
Well, Shippers, that’s about it! I hate that I had to hold back the snark on the first two LWs, but damn, it’s amazing how emotionally messed up we can allow ourselves to get. And how the relationships we’re in when in those situations can seem so normal when we’re in them! So, I didn’t want to add any fuel, you know? Anyway, here’s hoping you’re all having a fabulously wonderful week! Good cheer, fair winds and following seas to you all!

43 comments:

  1. This is kinda exciting...it looks like I'm the first to comment!! Anyhow, SB1, I don't think the disclaimer to #1 was necessary...at least not to the "usual crowd". I can't imagine any of the posters here to disagree w/ your advice. And the attempted suicide one..well I have first hand knowledge that attempted or completed suicide isn't funny and does not deserve snark. So kudos on those answers. Really this week I'm all in agreement!

    Happy sailing til next week :)

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  2. Hey clhriker! You're first! :-)

    Please don't think that I wasn't trusting my regular readers with that disclaimer! I was actually just flinging some poo at a few really good buds with whom I had a pretty spirited debate a few weeks back about the value of different anger management techniques. And they know who they are and they'd better stay in line, dagnabit! :-P

    Anyway, clhriker, happy sailing to you, too! And good cheer. :-)

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  3. Thank you SmagBoy1, for being so clear cut with your position regarding LW1. I guess it's because rarely do the men I've come across seem to openly take that stance.

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  4. Goodie, I've been looking for some snark in my life.
    *dons devil horns*
    He could just be really emotionally maladjusted and never had to deal with being unemployed before. Also, since they just got married, it could just be that his stress level is higher than he's ever dealt with, and some really good therapy could help.
    Yanno. It could be.
    *waits in anticipation for the snark*



    Not that I actually believe any of that, this is a very clear-cut situation of unhealthy emotional abuse, but since you said I'd better stay in line.... >:-D

    *rocks heel to toe in anticipation*

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  5. Hey Anonymous, well, I'm glad to restore your faith, even if only a very little bit, in the three-legged species. We're not all bad. ;-)

    Good cheer!

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  6. Well, Libby, you're just going to have to keep on rockin' because I know that you're just flingin' poo at me. ;-)

    And, even if you weren't being so overt about it, I would still laugh at your defense of this idiot because, even if all of what you stated was true, his taking out those symptoms on our LW is what's at issue here. And, since I know that you know that, and since I know that you know that even that's entirely and completely unacceptable, by even Mel Gibson standards, I'd still know that you were funnin' with me because you're far more clever than that! ;-)

    But, I do appreciate you trying to get me to unload the snark-o-pult! Don't worry, someone will earn it. Just wait! ;-)

    Good cheer, Libby! :-)

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  7. asking for a "friend"July 22, 2010 at 9:46 PM

    oops; tried commenting b4. please disregard/delete "test" one.

    odd bunch of LW this week. in the words of teddy kgb "very unsatisfying" (in mediocre accent).

    regarding lw #3 and lw #4, maybe lw #4's antagonist could go to workplace of #3 and not flush the toilet* to further annoy lw #3 and thereby negate the advice of "i can go 2 the bathroom" :).

    * allusion to past prudie lw who was eco-dicktatus as well. :).

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  8. Heh. Foiled by my own history. ;-)
    I truly enjoyed your responses this week!

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  9. PS. If I keep on rockin, don't nobody come aknockin on the van door, k?

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  10. LW # 1 : Tell him that you will not be made to live that way. That you will not accept his projecting his shortcomings and fears onto you.

    Or, you know, she could just load the dishwasher and fold his clothes in A TIMELY FUCKING MANNER !!!!!

    Solution for Desk Magnet Guy : play some Creed - never fails to dislodge the stubbornest moochers even though it's obviously kick-ass awesome.

    You're welcome.

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  11. LW #2, do you work at my office?? The direct way is definitely the best way to go, as some people just don’t realize they are being bothersome (hard as that may be to believe). However, I do have another suggestion if you are that worried about offending people: at our office, we have a “rescue” system - there are several people who are known offenders for this kind of a thing, and if we see or hear a coworker in this situation (or sometimes the victim is able to send out a distress signal via email), we will come over and say “I’m sorry to break this up - Sue, can you help me out with something?” We will also step outside and call someone’s desk phone from a cell phone if they need to be saved from Sir Talks-a-Lot. Is this perhaps the childish, non-confrontational way out? Sure. But let’s face it: most people are pretty hesitant to do anything, however small, that could be conceived as rocking the boat or being antisocial. And I’m guessing if you’re writing to the internet lady about what to do, you’re one of them.

    SB, you said it all in regards to LW #1. Holy effing crap! This is not normal behavior. Not when you’re unemployed, not ever.

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  12. Smaggy, good advice. I like that you know when to snark and when not to snark and that you're so insightful and sensitive about the conditioning process victims of abuse go through....

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  13. Miss Scarlet, I like your "buddy" system. It works if there are only a few offenders. But when it's a majority of the people, it doesn't work as well. Though we all do frequently rescue guests from one certain employee ...

    I used to use the "hide out in the bathroom" method, too, when I was the only female in the department at two different places, and the ladies' room (at each company) had a nice comfy couch. Not just to avoid the Chatty Charlies, either. Now, the restrooms have been standardized, and there are too many other women who might walk in.

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  14. Yes, Tarky ~ playing Creed WOULD definitely dislodge even the stubbornest moocher, but not because it's kick ass awesome, it's because listening to is is equivalent to a slow and painful death. Worse than watching David Caruso chew the scenery in season one of CSI Miami even.

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  15. Ahoy, "asking for a 'friend'"! That's a great idea! I love it when we can cross over from one letter to the next, and do good work at the same time! :-) And when you can bring in past letters?! Wow! :-)

    Good cheer! :-)

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  16. Hey Libby, behave in that van! Or, you know, if you don't behave, share some of that good smoke with us! ;-) Wait, what?! :-)

    Cheers! :-)

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  17. Tarky, I realize this LW isn't living up to your standards, but, what do you expect. She's a woman. Penis-lacking is the #1 cause of womanhood, and it's just a damned shame.

    As for moocher dislodgement, I have no quarrel with you, Brother! However, all I can say is that if I was in that office and the Creed came on, I'd be there in a millisecond, regardless of what MM says!

    Cheers, Tarky! :-)

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  18. Ah, Ms. Scarlet, the ol' Passive-passive approach, eh? ;-) I understand, though, and it's actually a good plan. And, despite my tough exterior shell, I w...well, nah, who am I kidding, I'd tell 'em all to fuck off! ;-) But that's just me! :-)

    Good cheer! :-)

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  19. Ahoy, Kati! Thank you! All I can say that is that if you're pleased with the advise, I'm pleased. :-)

    Good cheer! :-)

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  20. Ahoy CoolOne. Okay, you said, "...Not just to avoid the Chatty Charlies, either." So, um, what *were* you doing in there on the couch?! Eh? C'mon, you can tell us. You're among friends. ;-)

    Cheers, CoolOne! :-)

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  21. MM, that you would put the band Creed, perhaps the greatest grouping of musical talent ever to grace a stage, in the same sentence, thought or even entire blog with David Caruso is pure and complete blasphemy. And, though I hate to do this--it's going to hurt me more than it's going to hurt you--I'm going to have to give you a spanking for that shit. Now, go cut me off a switch... ;-)

    Cheers, MM! And happy tides to you on your side of the Lagoon, there, DB. ;-)

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  22. I will defend to the death your right, SB1, and the rights of others to have unmentionable taste in any of a wide number of things, and you seem to have justified my decision to have LW1 locked in a room with you while her husband is locked in a room with Ms Messy, but you seem in severe danger of actually liking her, and that's going too far. It might be acceptable had they really been married about a year, but hasn't it only been a month? Somebody insisted on seeing the world through Bride-Coloured Glasses. While that may merit gentle handling, LW1 is nowhere near meeting the extremely high standard for LWs that would result in one actually liking one of them. Be careful, please.

    Amazingly, I have not lost my temper over your having called LW2's suicide attempt a lifetime concern. But I am not in the mood to repeat myself. Please go read my reply to Ms Mermaid's comment on PFCE - it's just up even if you've already seen this week's (and I'd so wanted to use the L4 moral for the longest time; I'm glad opportunity finally presented itself). Do you know, it's just occurring to me that I might have just made myself an outcast, but I was never really that much of an incast anyway. Will I dare to post next week? Good question. If not, I wish you great success in all your endeavours and a happy future with Ms Mermaid.

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  23. herd"T"hinner slogs in:

    LW1 - I'm with hrumpole on the bride-colored glasses thing. Beer goggles have nothing on those things. Anyway, she needs to have Gloria Gaynor's "I Will Survive" on her personal music-playing device, and ONLY that song, and play it constantly. I listen to that and wish that I HAD a rotten man to leave, just so I could act it out.

    What? I've never heard a single Creed song before, so I go with what I grew up with.


    LW2 - I went to college with a suicidal gal. One time I unknowingly "talked" her out of an attempt just by getting distraught by the very coversation of it. She told me later - after saying she wouldn't do it, that is - that she just needed someone to show they cared, which I guess I'd done by turning into a blubbering idiot around her.

    Anyway, I'D want to know that a paramour had had a rough patch in life, not too long ago.


    LW3 - ask people to move on. GAD, I'm good at advice!


    LW4 - all right, ALL RIGHT! I'll quit bugging my friend about her A/C! We'll talk instead about her using her hose to wash down the driveway. Happy now??

    >;-D

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  24. * Takes off sunglasses *

    Mermaid, [pause] The next time [pause]

    * Puts on sunglasses *

    you want to [pause]

    * Takes off sunglasses. Looks into distance *

    take a swing at someone,

    * Puts on sunglasses *

    start with [long pause]

    * Takes off sunglasses. Looks at Mermaid *

    me

    * smirk *

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  25. Ahoy, hrumpole! You bring up an interesting point on LW#1. So, rather than argue against your perspective, I'll explain mine. Considering the words she used, and the actions she attributed to her husband, I imagined this LW to be a member of a long-term couple. One that has lived together for some time. The words *sound* like that of a longer-term couple than just a single month of cohabitation (even if the *marriage* has only been for one month). It was on that assumption that I gave my advice.

    That said, regardless of time frame, any person who would blame their own abusive actions on the one being abused is dangerous and should be avoided.

    As for liking her, I neither like nor dislike her. But, I am an advocate for those who cannot help themselves. Those who *do* not help themselves is another matter all together, but, those who've been beaten down into no longer being able to help themselves are worthy of our compassion, and a hand, IMHO. But, in the end, she'll have to take the steps herself. Just as I advised.

    Now, regarding LW#2. My concern about the suicide attempt is not that it is a permanent blot on her personality. Nor is it that it is even something that will or should ever come up again. However, as I'm sure you know, depression *is* an insidious and destructive disease. And while this LW's attempt may have had absolutely nothing to do with any permanent or recurring condition, many do. Most do. And often, the illness is cyclical, conditional and/or situational. One particular stressor, one particular bad situation *can* provide the catalyst.

    And while I fully and completely honor anyone's right to withhold most any information they want from others, I'm thinking that this letter writer finds the information important enough that she *wants* to share it. She's asked Prudie about it, for goodness sake! As such, I believe that not feeling as if she *can* tell will only drive a wedge between these two. Seems to me that being in a relationship where she feels free to tell is important to her.

    Further, and this is all I care to say on this subject, if the future spouse knows ahead of time what might happen, if it's pointed out and he/she understands the stakes, he/she *may* be able to notice potential signs. He/she may be able to help avert a tragedy. He/she may be able to intervene if things do return.

    And hrumpole, even though there are all sorts of people in this world, those who actually make a real attempt (one that goes past ideation), are far more likely to make another. You're capable of researching the facts for yourself, so I won't spout a dearth statistics here, but repeat attempts range from 10% to 50%+, depending on country, location, economic situation, etc. If my future spouse had even a 1 in 10 known chance of dying suddenly and unexpectedly during the course of our marriage, I would like to know ahead of time. It seems selfish to me to choose not tell, for just that reason. Perhaps I'm biased, but I've seen too much of this terrible disease to ignore it.

    As for the green mallet, if she's playing you in croquet, regardless of the specific version or rules, MM may use mine--we can always use some green tape on one if necessary. But she can't have the dog in Monopoly, however. That's mine!

    I hope you do not feel yourself an outcast, hrumpole? I consider you quite the opposite.

    Good cheer. :-)

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  26. Ahoy, "T"! Here you go. Sit back and enjoy the velvety goodness that is Creed: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iBBqjGd3fHQ&feature=avmsc2

    Don't be distracted by the overt, ham-fisted, subtle-as-a-rock "message" of the lyrics. It's the overall musical and life experience of hearing the music that's important here.

    Although, perhaps a little Gloria Gaynor's "I Will Survive" would be good, too! :-)

    Good cheer, "T". :-)

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  27. OMG, Tarky, I just moistened my panties! :-)

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  28. Tarky! I think I just fell in love.
    You outlined exactly why there could never be a drinking game for that show, though I maintain that's the only way to watch it... =-D

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  29. We don't have the 'naughty step' in my house, Libby. We just have 2 minutes with David Caruso.

    Works like a charm.

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  30. (my note above should have said "LW #3, BTW)

    CoolOne, I agree, the buddy system works best when there are a few repeat offenders, not a whole office of Chatty Cathies. Especially since you'll likely find it difficult to gain allies to rescue you if the closest thing you have to a "work friend" is the person who annoys you the least.

    SmagBoy, I'm pretty sure a picture of my office is found in the dictionary under "passive aggressive." It's actually pretty amazing the lengths that grown adults will go to in order to avoid a small amount of conflict. (And I'm not judging - I do include myself in that group many times.)

    I find that the subtext of nearly all Prudie letters is "How can I get my way without having to actually do anything differently?" (or "How can I sleep with someone else and still keep my marriage exactly the same?").

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  31. You're certainly being very practical this week, which is not necessarily a bad thing. Practical has, of course, only been something to which I've resorted when I couldn't wrap something in an arcane theory of my own invention instead.

    I can grant you amnesty for appearing to tell LW2 that Everyone Must Tell because it's the best way to make her feel comfortable telling when she clearly wants to.

    One trouble here is that you distinguish between thought and act and I don't, so that we are unlikely to be able to reach real agreement. I am willing to let you have charge of all the ones who act out of a recurring condition that it could reasonably be called selfish not to disclose, and hope you will let me have custody of the rest.

    I hope I can add a gentle word of warning, though, that there are few things more likely to drive someone to suicide than a Suicide Preventing Partner in Hypermode. Not that you would be that way, but you know the type of person to which I refer - always looking for Dangerous Signs in such a maddening way as to create them - a sort of sideways Munchausen. I don't know whether we can agree that that sort of partner ought not to be told on general principles anything short of actively life-threatening, and I would agree with anyone in wondering how such a person could be considered worth marrying, but I might as well throw it in.

    We might perhaps have an interesting debate about whether one might be safer with someone who's had an attempt and gotten it out of the system than with someone who's not made an attempt yet but is on the track, and see if we can find where exactly you want to draw the line that splits the earth, but I'm not really up for it.

    As for whether I post in future, it's nothing to do you with you; I can just hear the distant rumblings of the posse coming to ride me out of town, and the tar and feathers are that much closer to the ready. It just feels as if my posts are numbered, but whatever happens, it's been real.

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  32. Ahoy, Miss Scarlet! I think you've nailed it. There really are only very few themes regarding Prudie letters. And the whole, "How can I get my way without having to actually do anything differently (or have anything change that I don't want to have change)?" meme has got to be right up there, if not tops on the list.

    What other common themes are in the letters, you guys? I know that one repeated mantra (even though this doesn't qualify as a theme) is "My SO is the bestest best that ever lived, BUT..." ;-)

    What say you guys?

    Good cheer, Scarlet! :-)

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  33. Ahoy, hrumpole. You say, "One trouble here is that you distinguish between thought and act and I don't, so that we are unlikely to be able to reach real agreement." I have to agree because I'd say that most *everyone* has thought about it. Even if just in passing. So, I did draw a line in the sand, arbitrary though it may be.

    Regarding "I am willing to let you have charge of all the ones who act out of a recurring condition that it could reasonably be called selfish not to disclose, and hope you will let me have custody of the rest." I think we have complete agreement here. There are certainly cases, likely many, that *don't* require disclosure. Perhaps I could have parsed the attempts by saying those who did/attempted something that would have killed them had they not been found versus those that made suicidal gestures, but that would not have ended in death. Of course, that's arbitrary, too, and I realize that inherent weakness in trying to draw any sort of set rule. We humans don't fit well into those, do we? :-) So, in general terms, I will absolutely agree to your standard and hope that we can both agree that there will always be exceptions?

    As for the "Suicide Preventing Partner in Hypermode", I fully and 100% agree. I hesitated quite awhile when I made my previous post for this very reason. A partner like this can (in their own minds) reduce their mate to incapable infant status (and also lead to quite a bit of emotional regression in the one they're trying to "help"). In many ways, this behavior can meet and exceed the standards laid out regarding emotional abuse. The controlling behavior becomes far worse and more damaging than the "suicidal" partner's own struggles. So, I acknowledge and accept all of that. of course, I would posit that this type of partner, if after being confronted, can't right themselves, needs to be considered an ex-partner with as much haste as possible.

    Regarding posts being numbered, please note that most all of us here have our e-mail addresses posted, so, should you ever desire to communicate privately, the opportunity exists without the pressure or publicness of this forum.

    Good cheer! :-)

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  34. And here I was about to launch into Sully and Hitch, which I almost mentioned last night, only we've suddenly found a good deal of agreement.

    I wish the debate about how a believer and an atheist should handle one of them becoming seriously ill hadn't fizzled; I was quite enjoying it. Someone should probably crank out a letter of that sort and get it chugging over to DP; it would certainly be a step up from this week's meagre offerings.

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  35. Well, Smaggy, with that nice comfy couch sitting there all unused in the ladies room and all, well, sometimes you just need a short nap during the day. ;)

    A serious suicide attempt or a major bout of depression is a bit like a minor heart attack. It may never ever happen again, but it could be indicative of a potentially chronic health concern. Depression is part of the woman's medical history, and if she ever were in the hospital and unconscious, it's good for her spouse to know everything which could affect which medications they choose to give her. Some are bad for people with heart conditions, and some are bad for people prone to depression.

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  36. Ack, hrumpole, not Sully and Hitch! :-) I'm glad that we've found some common ground. There's something to be said for adult conversation. And I can sometimes even hold up my end of that equation. Sometimes! :-)

    I don't recall the debate about how a believer and an atheist should handle one of their being seriously ill! That sounds like a good one. Where was it? Can we start it back up here?

    Good cheer, hrumpole! :-)

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  37. Ahoy, Cool One! I'm bummed. What with no other females, and knowing you had that couch all to yourself, I was hoping for a far more interesting story! ;-) But don't mind me, I'm just a guy. And only rarely very adult about it!

    As for the suicide attempt, as you can see in my conversation with hrumpole, I can truly and honestly see both sides of that argument/discussion. It's a tough thing, and, in truth, I do value privacy rights. It's just, as you say, this is something potentially life-changing for both of them. And, if it's something she already has knowledge of, I can understand the argument that she ought to tell. Ah well. I don't reckon we'll solve it here. It's just good to discuss.

    Good cheer! :-)

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  38. I don't know that it ever got to Slate, but it got around to a few places. Maybe we can or maybe we can't presume that most people here know that Christopher Hitchens has been diagnosed with cancer. He and Andrew Sullivan have been good friends of the needling variety for some years.

    Mr Sullivan, announcing the sad news, also said that he would be praying for Mr Hitchens. There was a sentence that was very like, "May God, who you believe poisons everything, be there for you." It might have been in the third person instead of second person, but that was the sort of sentence.

    I'm not sure whether it was before or after a lot of readers wrote in that Mr S began a round or two of public introspection. He was making it a point of honour not to stop needling his friend the atheist. That would have been to his mind diagnosis-related coddling of the exact sort Mr H would not want. He also raised the question in general of whether one should pray for atheist friends and sought the opinions of a number of ethicists and others who might be considered to have authority in this sort of area. My favourite was the one who said that a believer by all means should pray for an atheist friend in such a situation, but that it would be very bad form to expect gratitude for such prayers.

    Of the other places to which the debate spread, I recall Mr Savage commenting that those who had anti-Sullivan reactions basically knew nothing about friendship. And I followed a link to some site where a lot of atheist Serious Social Worker Types found it Terribly Offensive and the lot of religious Serious Social Worker Types weren't any better responding to them.

    One of the things I've been thinking about is what difference it makes if, instead of a believer and an unbeliever, we have believers of conflicting faiths (how conflicting do they have to be?) or one all-embracing faith and one other-excluding faith.

    I've also wondered, to look at this from the other side, whether A telling B, "Please don't pray for me," is on a par with B telling A, "Please pray for me." While it seems that a reasonable person would cut the sufferer at least a little slack, it seems maybe marginally worse form to ask someone to do something to which he likely morally objects than to ask someone to refrain from doing what he might feel morally imperative. I suppose they both have a reasonable alternative - A might say, "Please keep me in your thought and wish me the best" or B might say, "If you choose to pray for me, please don't tell me" or something along those lines.

    It also got me wondering about what sort of difference it makes to conduct in such a situation whether one embraces the difference with a friend or sincerely believes that the friend needs to change, because I got thinking about what would happen if this illness turned out to be a conversion experience and Mr H emerged a believer. Would that really be to Mr S' liking? I don't think the two of my nephews who like baseball would know what to do with each other if the BRS one went over to the NYY side or vice versa.

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  39. Ahoy, hrumpole! I'd neither read nor heard about this at all. Wow, there's a lot to chew on there, isn't there?

    To me, it shouldn't matter one lick to an atheist if a religious adherent prays for him or not? After all, atheism, in and of itself, is only the belief that there is no god. So, a person praying to one, or not, for the good of the atheist, seems irrelevant if one believes there's no god. Where I can see it getting dicey is if the adherent attempts, out of love and friendship, to convert the atheist "for his own good", prior to his demise. In that approach, I'd have a great deal of issue.

    Alternatively, if it was the religious adherent that was sick, I should think he would have nothing to bemoan if his atheist friend wished him the best care and hoped beyond hope, with genuine desire, that his friend would recover, or not suffer, whatever the case afforded. Perhaps he might even advocate for his friend with medical staff, as necessary and permisable to the friend, in order to be of help and/or service. Similar to above, this care and devotion would only cross the line for me if the atheist attempted, in the end, to "cure of the adherent of his delusion", or to disillusion his friend of the "god fantasy".

    True friends, I'm certain, will have no issue in figuring out this sort of thing. One hopes, anyway. :-) I imagine the difficulty is with those whom you mention, hrumpole, the serious types. Sigh.

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  40. hrumpole, this conversation has been had on the DP Fray by some of us old time Fraysters, several years back. During the course of the discussion, I relayed an anecdote about a self-proclaimed Christian woman, who owned a shop near mine and when she became aware that I did not share her faith, said to me "Well, I'll pray for you." I took this as the insult I'm sure she intended it, and others told me I was taking a gesture of goodwill and turning it into something not intended. I asked them what the intent could be (aside from her obviousy snarky tone) other than to say my way of life was so unacceptable as to require intervention by the highest authority she could imagine?

    The point was eventually raised that true prayer is not boastful. It is not self-serving. It does not look for glory. Christians are supposed to be God's early ambassadors, performing his works on earth. True Christian deeds are done anonymously, so as not to take the glory away from God. If a Christian announces aloud that they are going to be doing a good deed in praying for you ~ they are really selfishly seeking praise for their own actions.

    Now, having said that, I don't pray, but I do "think good thoughts" about people. I can't imagine someone asking me to "please don't think good thoughts about me." I'm afraid I might have to defy them on that. :)

    I have respect for myself and my friends enough to know that I do not know everything. I believe I am right about what comes after, but I accept the fact that I may be wrong. I respect my friends enough to believe they're as smart as I am, and have given it as much thought as I. I have to respect that they are just as likely to be right as I am, and thus, will defend their right to have their views as staunchly as my own.

    I like to believe that everyone gets what they expect in the end. I like to think that our beliefs and convictions are not in vain, for anyone. The idea that my beloved great-grandmother might not go to the heaven she believed in, just because I don't believe in it, breaks my heart. I like to think that those that believe in heaven will go there. Those that don't, won't. It all works out in the end. :)

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  41. Ahoy, MM! Yes, you make a great point, and I should have been more clear in my post. A religious adherent praying for an atheist, out loud, in the atheist's presence, or telling the atheist that they'll pray for his salvation, etc., is beyond the pale. When I said that I didn’t see anything wrong with an adherent praying for an atheist, I certainly didn’t mean they should do it with the atheist’s knowledge or as a means of attempting to convert or pass judgment or in any way challenge the atheist's beliefs! Yikes!

    And, to show the other side, I'd feel the same about an atheist who said to a dying religious adherent, "I'm sorry that you're going to be disappointed about the other side, well, except you won't, because you'll be dead, but, you've been a wonderful friend regardless of how misguided!" That's equally Yikes!-worthy. :-)

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  42. "I'm sorry that you're going to be disappointed about the other side, well, except you won't, because you'll be dead, but, you've been a wonderful friend regardless of how misguided!"

    Thanks for the laugh, Smag. You've made up for another year of piss-poor advice.

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  43. I'm really rather horrified by what it could mean if this sort of prayer actually has any effect on such a situation beyond being of use to the person praying. Imagine if someone only gets a miracle cure divinely bestowed because enough of his friends prayed for him, or prayed often enough, or said the right prayers - of all the petty reasons to play favourites! It reminds me of Michael Chang thinking and saying that God wanted him to win the French Open. It really made me wonder what God was supposed to have against Stefan Edberg.

    I'd like to hope that an atheist could take being told of well-meant prayers of a believer friend in a situation of illness with enough grace to accept that the friend is trying to do something useful by his own lights, though one could hardly blame the atheist who might say something like, "Thanks, but could I ask you to make me a casserole instead?"

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