Paralyzing moments hit everybody when they are least expected. The shock of the information is what makes the encounter paralyzing.
During the last two episodes of Bravo’s Orange County Housewives, Vicki Gunvalson, the remaining original cast member, was heard saying, “If I don’t support her, I’ll lose her.” She was referring to a surprise, forced acceptance of her daughter Briana’s quickie marriage.
Wish I could have been at that restaurant when Briana told her mom that she got married to Ryan (who are you now?) in a spur-of-the-moment (gosh, we just happened to be in Vegas!!!) secret wedding at a drive-through chapel in Sin City.
Vicki, whenever someone hits you with a paralyzing moment again, I have a 3-step approach for you: Listen without interrupting, breathe, and detach from the conversation. (Dr. Amador, on Bethenny Ever After, even endorses this method of response.)
The paralyzing moment came at the end of that particular episode, so we really don’t know how it played out at the dinner table. We do know that Vicki’s way of handling her response in the following two episodes was to say, “If I don’t support her, I’ll lose her.” What I think Vicki meant by that is this: if she doesn’t accept, with an open heart and welcoming arms, without showing her hurt feelings, and without voicing that she felt completely disrespected by both Briana and Ryan, then she fears she won’t have a relationship with her daughter.
What?! A mother isn’t allowed to express her feelings or she’ll lose the relationship with her daughter? Briana’s explanation abut life being short and taking advantage of happiness now, did make sense since she just had an operation that was serious but not cancerous. But the conclusion to that philosophy – ‘so we simply decided to marry and you just have to accept it’ – seemed pretty narcissistic and harsh. It didn’t seem like Briana worried about losing the relationship with her mother over her sporadic, life-altering decision. Hmmmm….
If I don’t support her, I’ll lose her. Support her how? She’s not your baby anymore; she’s a grown married woman who’s priority is now her husband. My question of Vicki is this: What does you mean by support? People will marry whom they want to marry. Conversely, what does unsupportive look like? Does it mean you can’t express your feelings of abandonment and a lack of inclusion? All families have to get used to new members marrying into the clan. You just hope it’s done with consideration and respect for everyone involved.
Briana is a fascinating character. She seems so down-to-earth and insightful when it comes to normal discoursing with her mother, and in making observations about her mother. But when it comes to herself, her rules change. She laid her secret marriage out on the table like a cold dish of pasta and said to her mom, “Eat up!”
Then, to make matters worse, we find out that Briana still wants the traditional, extremely expensive wedding, even though she’s already married. She doesn’t just want a party to celebrate the wedding that already took place; she wants the full-blown costumed affair with wedding dress, tuxedos, and enormously expensive flowers, the whole works. Is that what supportive meant, that Vicki was still expected to spend the money that parents of the bride typically spend the first time their daughter gets married? This is a really tough position for Vicki.
Why does Vicki put Briana in charge of the relationship? Why isn’t it a mutually respectful one? Why would Briana do this? Why would she think that she’s owed anything after she chose to get married surreptitiously? You’re married, Girl. You’re not the little daughter anymore. You’re a grown woman now, Briana, and grown women act a lot more responsibly with their parents than you are by requesting the traditional wedding package.
Or, is Vicki trying to barter Briana’s acceptance of Vicki’s new boyfriend, Brooks (this will be a subject for another blog) by accepting Briana’s quickie marriage to Ryan? There’s always backstories to people’s actions.
One thing for sure – Vicki, like all of us when we’re confronted with paralyzing moments, needs to learn to be quiet, listen without interrupting, breathe, and detach from further comments. You’re generally not going to change the position of the paralyzer just because you don’t argue with them when confronted. But you will, as the one in paralysis, maintain your self-respect, and some semblance of control by saying these words: “I wasn’t prepared to hear what you just said, and I’m therefore not in a position to respond. I need time to process all of this. I’ll get back to you when I’m able.” If you find yourself in a situation where you don’t have to respond in present time, which is most situtions, I guarantee that if you listen quietly without interrupting, breathe, and punt your response to a later date of your choice you will never be controlled by the paralyzer again. When you do come back with a response, it will be a well thought out idea that works for you in the best way possible, given the circumstances of the situation.
Listen – Breathe – Detach