Sunday, May 21, 2017

Controlling Behavior Vs. Reasonable Behavior

I finished watching the episode of Packed to the Rafters that I talked about in my previous post.

Gaslighting isn't Tom's (John Howard) only emotional-crime.

He also does something else.  Despite all the pop psychology I've read, I'm not sure what the name would be.

I think it would count as some kind of controlling behavior.  It's about demanding loyalty.

What Tom does is put pressure on his grandson Coby (Ryan Corr) to love him more than the other family members.

When Cody was a youngster, Tom rescued him from an abusive stepfather.  Since then, I think he's demanded gratitude from Cody.  And sometimes he demands even more.

I forget what exactly happened in season three, but there was a problem with Tom pushing Cody into doing illegal things to the Rafter family.  I think he ended up stealing from them. Whatever it was, it led to a lot of problems.

In the episode I just watched, Tom warns Cody about getting too close to the Rafter family. They haven't been around long enough, he tells him.  Because of this, he says, Cody needs to put more of his trust in Tom.

In one scene, he purposely gets Cody in trouble with his uncle and cousins by telling them that Cody was in a pub during working hours.  Now Cody was there to check on his uncle, but Tom led them to believe that Cody was there drinking.  It's like he's purposely trying to drive a wedge in the relationship.

Cody feels torn between being loyal to his conman grandfather and wanting to be an upstanding citizen of the Rafter family.  He's so torn that in one of the last scenes of the episode, he confesses to his cousin Nathan (Angus McLaren) that he wishes Grandpa Tom would just go away.

I think Cody loves Tom, but I think it's a love that hurts.

Well...all love hurts.  But some love hurts much more than others.

When there is tactics of control, I think it's more likely that the love is going to be a painful one.

When we think of controlling relationships, I think we often have a classic picture in mind.  There's the father who doesn't let his teenage daughter out of the house. She's not allowed friends. She's not allowed to date. Her parents pick out all her clothes for her.  She's locked in the closet for having impure thoughts.  

There's the husband who has his wife on an allowance. He keeps track of when she leaves the house. He forces her to give up her friends and job.  He hits her if she disobeys.

But there are controlling relationships where the control is much more covert.  The husband allows his wife to have friends and go out, but he sulks for the hours before she leaves.  Or he conveniently plans a surprise dinner the night she was supposed to go out with her friends.  What? I didn't know you had plans with friends! Why are you so mad at me? I was just trying to do something nice for you.  It's only because I love you so much. Is it wrong for me to love you? If it is, lock me up now!

The father allows the teenage daughter to go out, but she's reminded every so often that no friend is as important as family.  Or he might use guilt tactics.  I'm totally fine with you going out. I think it's good that you have friends! Friendships are very important.'s your mother. I think she's getting depressed because you're not around enough.  She really misses you. This is hard on her.  I hate seeing her so sad. 

Control is complicated, though, because relationships are in the eye of the beholder.  Different families and different cultures have different ideas about what is expected.

What if the teenage daughter was truly rarely around?  What if she was never there for breakfast, lunch, dinner, etc. What if they never even saw her on the weekends?  Would it be wrong for the dad to inform her that mom was getting a bit depressed about it all?

What if the wife was almost always with her friend and rarely had time for the husband?  Would it be unreasonable for him to sulk, or to try to use a surprise party to get some time with her?

If Coby was completely pulling away from Tom, and choosing the Rafters over him, would it be wrong for Tom to use a little bit of manipulation to try to pull him back?

Now I'm trying to figure out what the hell I'm trying to say here.

I don't know, really.

I guess it's that relationships aren't always black and white.

I think with downright abusive ones, there's a definite answer.

And with toxic ones like Tom and Cody, there's probably not a lot of grey.

But with other relationships, there might be some understandable neediness/pushiness. (Though it would be much better if manipulation didn't play a part).

Again, though, what is understandable to me might not be understandable to you.

I have been needy with Tim in ways that I don't think he found tolerable.  I don't feel guilty or wrong for my feelings or behavior.  I think I was being reasonable, but that's up to interpretation.

My parents have been needy with me, and the rest of our local family, in ways that I don't find tolerable. But in their eyes, they probably see their expectations as being very reasonable.

I feel I have given Jack a lot of freedom and space, but I know there are times where I've said no...or probably, no, and he was not happy about it.  Am I a controlling parent, or am I a reasonable parent?

In some cases, there are obvious answers. In other cases, the opinion is going to widely vary.