Sunday, March 7th, 2021

R Shopper Columns


What will have to happen when it is not
always one person doing all the giving
and changing - where it is reciprocal?

When we go to a fine restaurant, I like it when the waiter brings the pepper in a large pepper grinder and asks if I would like pepper on my salad. After my affirmative reply, he responds with, 'say when' as he begins to grind the pepper onto my salad. When I think I have had enough pepper, I will say 'when.'

Then he stops grinding.

When I transfer this scenario to life, there are people who never say 'when' even when they have had enough. They let people walk all over them and take advantage of them but they never say 'ouch' or 'when.' What could have been a good salad is ruined because there were not boundaries.

We have known people who are in unhealthy relationships where their partners has done cruel and hateful things to them, but these people never stand up for themselves. They seem to take it and take it.

Not only do they take the unhealthy
treatment but they accept the blame for
the relationship not working.

The non-when person is protective and defensive for her partner by making excuses for his unhealthy behavior. She will defend his behavior with such excuses as, 'He's under a lot of stress.' Or 'He's tired.'

What has to happen to the non-when person before she says, 'when'?

What has to happen for her to say, 'Stop! I don't deserve to be treated this way. I have had enough pepper.'? What has to happen to cause her to stop taking all the blame and demand that her partner share some responsibility for the condition of the relationship? What will have to happen when it is not always one person doing all the giving and changing - where it is reciprocal? What will have to happen for her partner to begin thinking of their relationship in terms of 'We' instead of 'I'?

When we observe the non-when person we see her self-image deteriorating and we sense a real sadness because she has not valued herself.

And then there are people who continue the grinding and pouring the pepper of hurt and dishonor upon their partner even after he or she has said, 'when.' The 'pepper grinder' person doesn't love because he would rather manipulate and control than strive for intimacy. He doesn't consider her dreams, her needs, or her family because it is all about making him happy. If he is not happy, it is not his fault but hers. So he sees himself as the victim as he grinds more and more pepper upon her. Because he thinks she needs to do the changing, he never assumes responsibility for his actions.

The truth is, if a person doesn't own or take responsibility for his or her actions, he or she will not change.

Dr. William E. Austin is a licensed psychotherapist and holds a Doctor of Divinity degree. He is a therapist with Tidewater Pastoral Counseling Services . He is well known for his warmth and sense of humor. His book, Creating Our Safe Place - Articles on Healthy Relationships, can be purchased through

Tidewater Pastoral Counseling: 623-2700