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Voyeurs and Performers

In every relationship we find balance by the way we interact with each other. It's like a dance we develop in the beginning, when things are fresh and exciting.

He is attentive, encouraging, and your biggest fan. He lets you make decisions on where you want to go because he wants to "make you happy." You enjoy being able to show him all your favorite places, your favorite foods, and your favorite hobbies. He smiles and is a willing participant to everything about you, but offers very little of himself saying he doesn't like to talk about himself, he really, "doesn't care what we do," and doesn't have a favorite- anything. You consider the dance where you are always leading, and feel comfortable in that role as long as he's willing and continues to smile and participate. After a while you get tired of leading and ask him to lead. He becomes angry and defensive, and you start to fight a lot. You don't understand why he is so resistant to taking the lead. He won't even pick a restaurant, won't participate in your favorite activities, or do any of the things he was willing to do in the beginning of the relationship. There appears to be a complete FLIP of his personality and you become confused, frustrated, and discouraged.

When couples get together sometimes the relationship is based on the need for one person to be the "performer" to allow the other person to be a "voyeur." It's like the performer is on a stage and the voyeur is watching the relationship unfold, but they are not part of the play; they are the audience. After a while, the performer gets tired of performing all the time and wants to watch the other perform for a while. The voyeur, who never wanted to be a performer, becomes angry, defensive, and resists any attempts to make him take the stage or perform. His sees his only role in this relationship is as a happy observer. His resistance comes from a place of fear, a type of "stage fright," because if he performs poorly, he could be judged, criticized, or made to feel like a fool. He remains unmotivated to change and feels harassed, criticized, and shamed into doing something he didn't sign up for. He was your audience, encourager, supporter, and approver, and does not want to give you the power over him to judge, discourage, criticize, and disprove his efforts. So, he crosses his arms and sits on life's sideline.

You can see this in the lack of participation with chores at home, raising the children, or participation in family functions. He is "there," but he isn't engaged. He becomes a liability to the relationship, another responsibility the performer must take care of, and it can become exhausting. The performer has no ability to change the voyeur and all efforts to "motivate" him are futile. The voyeur MUST have a desire to change, or no change will happen.

There are usually two solutions seen to this problem: The performer must always perform with no expectation of ever seeing their mate as participating in their relationship; or they terminate the relationship looking for another person to dance with (and usually the pattern repeats). Often, the decision for the performer is to move one way or the other isn't made for several months and even years because the performer is forced to perform against their will as the voyeur refuses to take the lead.

Change is possible if the voyeur has a reason to change. He must first see that his unwillingness to participate is the problem, not his mate. Often the fear of putting oneself out there is overwhelming because they think they have to take the place of the performer. When in fact, the performer enjoys being on stage, but could use some help now and again. The goal is not to make him become a full-time performer, but to give the performer a "break" occasionally, to be more supportive, and more of a team player. A good therapist can offer suggestions, books to read, and emotional support to help the voyeur understand a compromise is possible, and with only a few slight changes, the show can go on!

If this sounds like your relationship and you would love to improve your dance, call Encouragers and schedule an appointment with a dance instructor today.

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