Rita was happy and Norman hated it!
Rita was on top of the world and Norman hated it. He couldn’t stand seeing her so comfortable in her own skin, and in such good spirits. It turned his stomach. It was unfair. What right did she have to feel so good when he felt lousy?

Despite her determination to hang onto her good mood, Rita found her self rolling it back, hiding her happy feelings since they were obviously not welcome. Norman began complaining about his life, taking the focus away from her happy mood and turning the lens on his crappy day.

Norman is threatened by Rita’s good mood
Every time Rita built herself up Norman took pleasure in tearing it down. It threatened him when she was self-contained and happy in her own right. If she could do that without him what was his function in the relationship? If she could be happy without his input she may walk away and then where would he be?

Rita hid her feelings and became quiet. She didn’t volunteer any information unless Norman asked for her opinion. It made her sad that she couldn’t share her happiness with Norman. It took the edge off her good day. She shut down, blinking tears away from her eyes.

Rita’s tears lift Norman’s spirits
The tears galvanized Norman into action. He went to give Rita a hug, showed genuine interest in her unhappiness and turned on the comforting and consoling tap. Now he felt needed. Now he had a role to play. Her sadness became his reassurance and relief, his security that they were a solid couple.

The One Up One Down Game Sabotages the Relationship
It’s a pretty bad situation if Norman can only feel important and worthy when his partner is down and needy. It’s a tragedy that Rita has to hide her good mood to make Norman feel better about himself. Neither of them get to feel good together and enjoy their partnership. They only seem to connect when one of them is down and the other one is up.

Only One Person Gets To Use the Happiness Card
Norman believes that there is a limited amount of happiness around, and if Rita has it, that means there is none left for him. It makes him feel so deprived and hopeless that his only course of action is to destroy her happiness. If she is sad then he can feel sympathy and compassion towards her instead of envy and rage.

The Relationship is Doomed by Unconscious Sabotage
It would be too scary to be jealous of his own wife’s happiness. In order to get rid of his envy, Norman sabotages the relationship by making Rita feel guilty about her happiness.

Rita feels guilty when she is happy and Norman is grumpy. The guilt takes the pleasure away, so she willingly plays the game and turns her happiness into sadness. In the short term it puts Norman and Rita on a level playing field, where no one is happy, but ultimately it sabotages their relationship. It’s exhausting to play this game and the resentment they build up unravels the bonds of their connection.

Turning Relationship unravellers into relationship builders
1. Rita needs to feel her anger whenever Norman brings her down and call him on his stuff without exploding.
2. Norman needs an invitation from Rita to talk about his fear that if she gets the bowl of happiness he gets nothing. Then they can create opportunities to make sure they are sharing pleasure rather than competing for the right to own it for a short time.
3. Rita needs to tell Norman about her guilty feelings when she is happy so that he begins to see how destructive their game is.
4. Telling each other what they want from one another in clear ways will lessen the sabotaging nature of the game, and make for a stronger and more up front relationship.

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Copyright, Jeanette Raymond, Ph.D.

Author's Bio: 

Dr. Jeanette Raymond is a licensed psychologist in Los Angeles. She is an expert on helping people who repeatedly find themselves in broken relationships and want to stop that pattern. You can find out more at http://howtobuildhealthyrelationships.com