Do people who can’t make themselves do things have an emotional problem or do they just lack self-control?
The person I am asking about can’t make himself get up in the morning or go to bed at night. He is late for everything. He has no concept of time.
He can’t make himself get to work, so his wife has to earn all the money. He makes it hard for her to get to work. He is very controlling. He doesn’t like to work, but he loves to play. He always wants to be off doing something fun with the family instead of working.
He sets goals but never follows through. He verbally abuses anyone who suggests that he needs to change. Is it possible for him to change?
First of all, yes, this guy can change. He clearly has no reason to change right now because it sounds like everyone is organizing around his dysfunction.
Now, you’re wondering what is causing his underfunctioning mess of a life. That is a more difficult question.
Regardless of the answer, this guy is never going to have a satisfying life until he takes full responsibility for the life he’s created. I have no idea if he has some mental disorder, a rough upbringing or is just plain lazy and entitled. He is still responsible for the way his life looks.
I once heard someone say, “It may not be your fault, but it is your responsibility.” They said this to a loved one who had grown up in a terribly abusive family and, as a result, started out life at a tremendous disadvantage. I appreciated the fact that they could delineate what was out of his control and what was within his control.
This man you’re describing can do something about his life, even if he has mental or emotional problems. He could have attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, depression (in men, depression looks exactly like this, by the way), a hidden addiction, a history of trauma or other psychological issues. Again, regardless of the cause, he can do something about it. All of the conditions I listed above are treatable.
The challenge is to find out what will motivate him to change. Most of us don’t change until we have to. I don’t know what consequences need to pile up in his life so he’s motivated to take a hard look at the damage he’s created. The biggest source of motivation for most people is the family.
If you have any influence at all, I recommend you encourage his wife to get some help for herself so she can recover her voice and her strength. Living with a person who makes excuses and refuses to improve their situation can diminish her in ways she may not even realize.
She may begin to believe things about herself and her role that will perpetuate the dysfunction to the next generation. She doesn’t have to continue living this way, even if she chooses to stay with him.
It’s amazing what happens when one person in a family begins to change the rules of how they respond. Even slight changes in how she talks to him, what she agrees to or how she lives her life can begin a chain reaction that can affect change in her family life. Granted, it will likely raise the intensity, but nothing will stay the same.
These are the conditions that generally create positive changes in families. The challenge is to see it through and get the proper professional and social support to make sure it doesn’t go back to the old patterns of avoidance.
Geoff Steurer is a licensed marriage and family therapist in private practice in St. George, Utah.He specializes in working with couples in all stages of their relationships. The opinions stated in this article are solely his and not those of St. George News.
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