Murphy’s Love: Advice on Intimacy and Relationships
Dear Stacy: There are a lot of great things in my life. I enjoy my work, and I have a great relationship with my husband. Our kids are young and keep us really busy, but we seem to be able to strike a work-life balance with some regularity. With so much going for me right now, I find myself really frustrated at the way I react to good news from friends. When they are struggling, I am the first one there with encouragement and assistance (babysitting, casseroles). I am great at swooping in to save the day. But when I hear about their latest achievements, I immediately feel jealous and resentful! Even when it’s something I would never want for myself, I jump right to feeling mad about their successes. I don’t know why I do that? I can usually talk myself out of those feelings, but I really wish I never had them in the first place. I am afraid that this means that underneath that I am just a bad person. – Secret Bad Person
Dear Secret, From where I am sitting, this actually isn’t a secret at all. You are admitting that you are actually a real live human being, and not a robot stuck on the “Cheery Disposition” setting. What you are describing is very common and truly not an indicator of a “bad person.” But you do raise an interesting existential question: What makes a good person?
The real answers on this may be found somewhere other than an advice column (I’m thinking a clergyperson or a family member might have more insights into your particular cultural history and experience). But since we’re talking about this, let’s remember that you have a pattern of doing really nice things for others. And even amid this tendency, you can label your family’s work/life balance as basically strong. These facts suggest that your outward actions reflect an inward sense of altruism and generosity – not “bad” characteristics at all.
What I would be curious about is why you are more comfortable helping others when they are down, as compared to helping them celebrate their successes. You acknowledge that this isn’t about wanting what your friends have, so it might be more about just wanting to be the winner. Were you a highly competitive kid? Did your family value you more when you were successful? This is a great opportunity – while Kids are still young – to get clear about the [subconscious] formula you [subconsciously] believe will bring you the most love from and connection with others. It’s important to know that code – whether you choose to recalculate it or leave it be – so that you can make conscious choices with Husband and Kids.
Stacy Notaras Murphy www.stacymurphyLPC.com is a licensed professional counselor and certified Imago Relationship therapist practicing in Georgetown. This column is meant for entertainment only, and should not be considered a substitute for professional counseling. Send your confidential question to email@example.com.