Tomorrow is counseling day. Marriage counseling. I admitted to IHAA in an email conversation that it’s not an easy road. Nor should it be, but I’m definitely a bit fatigued by it right now. And to be fair, so is DH. It’s been just over a year now, DH & I have been diligent in our attendance, doing the homework and taking each day as it comes. We have good days, okay days and of course, bad days. It’s been a long while since we’ve had a complete shit-show day and that’s good too except that it feels as if we are at a stalemate in terms of progress. The last few sessions we’ve started to touch upon incredibly hard and deeply seeded issues but it’s always in the 15-minutes of the session and only after our counselor has gone through a herculean effort to bring it out of DH. I am more than cognizant of the fact that I’m all in when it comes to therapy and participation and so I work at patience and letting whatever needs to be said to flow from DH in his time and when he’s ready. Even our counselor has said that I can’t do all of the work. As much as he may want to punish me or be angry, which he has every right to do and be, he also has work to do and if he isn’t willing to address that and talk about that then I can’t do any work if I don’t know what it is he wants to address. It’s a cycle.
We have been dancing around the topic of PTSD related to childhood abuse and yet some of the things still haven’t been addressed or done that DH has committed to. In our marriage counseling and his own therapy. Our counselor asked him again, why not. His answer of “why”? Made her stop in her tracks. She asked him, “Do you want to try to understand IsMe and her own journey?” . Silence. Not the kind where you could hear a pin drop more of the hushed kind. I was about to speak but she silenced me with a wave of her hand. Wanting DH to ruminate on her question and wallow in the silence. When DH finally took a breath he was honest in his answer. “Can we talk about it next session? Maybe? I don’t know…” and our time was up.
So, next time is tomorrow. The past two weeks have been okay. Not great, a couple of very difficult trigger-filled days for both of us, but the majority of the time ok. Every time we’ve tried to start a conversation about us or our relationship was quickly moved to the parking lot. As in, let’s park this until our next session. Tomorrow is the next session.
I’m on the road and one thing I try to do between flights from the comfort of the united lounge is catch up on blogs that I follow. so much has transpired at work, in family life, extended family and just every day life that posting has been minimal at best. when feeling overwhelmed, I tend to find comfort in reading what everyone else has to share on several topics. that said, one blogger that I thoroughly enjoy, admittedly usually for his sensual musing, has been posting thoughts and musings that leave me pondering. the one below is one such post from a week or so ago that’s been sitting in my drafts folder…
It resonated for many reasons but in particular, due to a recent marriage counseling session in which dh and I were both asked if we thought we would have dated/married one another knowing the challenges we have faced and are facing now? Intriguing and thought provoking to say the least (and for another post)…
this is the weather out my way today and it makes me deliriously happy. truly. rain is appropriate for any mood when applied with the right perspective.
today is marriage counseling day as well as a day when we have the quarterly check-in with the aba program manager for our son as well as a myriad of his other providers. it’s during these when dh and i are completely in-synch. when it comes to parenting; whether our neuro-typical kidlet #1 or our quirky kidlet #2 we are a team. most of the time i’m the qb and he’s the point-after kicker, it’s just the way it is. that said, we are so good together when it comes to our kids, that he nor I take that lightly. it weighs heavily in our decision making as a team, as a family and whether or not we remain married.
for a variety of reasons related to having a child with special needs; ours is a family that has availed itself of counseling and therapy in that regard. dh has never pushed back or resisted when it comes to our kids. not when our oldest suffered a medical trauma that has had lasting effects and certainly not with our youngest and all of the nuances that comes with therapy, support systems etc. to answer some people’s question around staying/leaving: this is a large reason why neither of us, that’s right, it’s a choice either one of us can make, it’s a big reason neither of us has left. believe it or not, together, as parents we are a good team. we recognize what each of bring to the table in terms of strengths as well as tolerance level for particular activities and or situations.
if dh would have invested and leaned in, as he has as a parent, over the last 13 years when it came to us as a couple i’d like to think we wouldn’t be where we are right now. but we won’t know that, will we? no. he has always resisted and flat out refused to do any work when it came to us, whether together, with counselors, mediators, self-help books etc. steadfast in his determination. even all of those years ago, when his affair with a then colleague turned into a full on love affair and we hired a mediator to form a parenting plan in preparation for a divorce, even then dh refused counseling. of any sort. even as we worked to rebuild our marriage and family when he ultimately decided to stay; counseling to address what got us to his stepping outside of our marriage in the first place was never part of the plan. until D-day 6-months ago.
and then it was suddenly “let’s go to counseling” because in his mind; since counseling is what i had been asking for all of these years if we go to counseling “it” would be fixed. to dh, who is a very good and well-rewarded engineer, he sees our marriage as a project, complete with a gantt chart, deliverables and milestones. if you check off a box then it’s forward on a timeline. but real life isn’t a project plan, gantt chart. especially when you add the complexities of emotions, feelings, childhood histories (and for one of us, sex abuse as a toddler) and a shared, past history into the mix. i recognize counseling is incredibly difficult for dh and it’s selfish of me to not have more patience as he works through understanding and internalizing that emotions are very real and very important to people. to me.
when dh had his affair(s), he was safe in knowing that i didn’t want our marriage to end. but i also had to take ownership of my role in what led him to a relationship outside of our marriage with a colleague that he fell in love with. a big problem is that we never worked on repairing our relationship when he decided to stay in our marriage. instead we let life become the priority and when we had kidlet number 2 everything else but the kids, our careers and our community service took a back seat.
dh never expected me to stray. hell, i never expected it of myself. and now that i know what mutual desire, emotional connection and emotional intimacy is, the question isn’t whether or not i can go back. i can’t. the question is do i move forward with him and we do the heavy lifting together knowing that nothing is guaranteed and it’s a crap shoot. or, do i move forward, alone, and forge ahead.
someone asked if our counselor or my dh knows about this blog. all three therapists (our mutual marriage counselor which dh chose, his therapist and my own therapist) know of this blog and one of them has commented here and there. they all know that i also have a nsfw tumblr and dh knows i have a couple of blogs but only has access, that i know of, to my professional blog, the one i get paid for.
i’m happy because it’s been brutally hot for the greater pacific nw over the last month. unheard of. cold, heavy rain is refreshing to me and while today is going to be a tough day all around. it’s also a good day because it’s a new day of fighting the good fight for our son, together.
as i’m sure my fellow bloggers, complicitgrace and thewomaninvisible , can attest to, as well as understand, last week at work was brutal. while a (current) survivor of the round of layoffs as well as one of the project leads at the global company my career is tethered to, there is the aftermath to deal with.
the aftermath of assisting those impacted by job eliminations but those that have survived and frankly, those of us on the project team as well. believe it or not, it’s hard to switch back to “normal” given the size and scope of what we just undertook. and we did it without outside consultants or hired guns (think “up in the air” starring mr. clooney above) which can really, suck. there’s nothing like being the one to have to notify a colleague, neighbor, former lover (not me but my colleague inadvertently was assigned to deliver the news to a team that included her first ex-husband!), etc. that they no longer have a job. even with a severance package that is generous, it’s crappy work. and a bit of you dies inside each time.
darling husband has known i was on some secret project for the last 9-weeks. it’s come up during our counseling sessions due to the inordinate amount of stress and some of the medical complications that my treatment has encountered as a result of that stress.
yet on the day of the actual milestone not one word of good luck, thinking of you or don’t worry you will get through it. instead he asks me to remember to pick his shirts up from the cleaners and to pick up a baby gift for one of his co-workers. and yet, he wonders when we sit in our counseling sessions how i can say “you just don’t get me”. i swear i wanted to scream and walk out the door. but that’s too easy. i know some folks, specifically a vitriolic troll, are always saying why don’t you leave and the reasons are numerous and complex. likely the same reasons dh hasn’t left either. yet.
so in practice of what we’ve been coached on in counseling, i tell dh what i need in that moment and for that day. and was clear that if he couldn’t provide it, i was going to reach out to my long distance friend for the reassurance and emotional connection he provides me. if even for a moment of solace. it’s the first time dh has acknowledged that maybe our son gets his autism from him because while he can see that kind of connection is important to me, he doesn’t understand why emotions are important. of course, i don’t have to reach out to “him”. when i finally log in to my laptop at work the first message that comes through is a silly limerick and a simple sentence telling me to take a deep breath, let it go and know that he’s thinking of me. and so it goes…
I swear I did *not* go searching for this article, it was served up to my feed on the homepage I use at work. the article in of itself isn’t earth shattering per se, but rather the perspective one doesn’t hear often unless you are a dedicated reader of dan savage and other columnists with a more diverse, and open foundation.
Additionally, Kat, a blogger I’ve been following for a while over on BlogSpot recently posted her thoughts on sexual fidelity (here) from the perspective of being in a long-term (25+ years) marriage and both articles came up in our most recent counseling session. (that post forthcoming).
It sounds crazy that an affair could actually strengthen a marriage. And yet, for those of us who work in therapy, what we see is that couples who do the work after an affair is disclosed often describe having a relationship that is even better than before. Impossible? Not really.
In American culture, affairs are the most taboo choices that a spouse can make while married. It is quite common to hear the unmarried and married alike say, “If my husband cheated on me? I’d leave him! Period!” or “I’d never tolerate an affair. Our relationship would be over!”
Until it happens to you. Can your marriage survive an affair? When an affair comes to light and your entire life, your family, your children, your standard of living, and the person you have loved all stand in the balance — it often does not seem as cut and dry.
If you have a quality therapist, that person probably will not just focus on the affair itself. She will help you and your partner untangle the, often, years of emotional distance, unresolved hurt, sexual tepidness, and complacency that almost always accompany an affair. During this process the “whose to blame?” question gets thrown around a lot but the truth is that in marriages it is not a 50/50 agreement. In a healthy marriage, each partner is 100% accountable for their actions, behaviors, tone, and emotional engagement in a relationship. If the marriage is not satisfying what you want, where are YOU accountable? Tough questions, especially if your partner is the one who cheated on you.
And yet, like most tough questions, it is the question that gets to the underbelly of the issue. I am not saying that a spouse can cause an affair, but I am saying that both parties contribute to creating an environment that sprouts and can sustain an affair.
Often, the person that acts out and has the affair is communicating something loud and clear that their partner has not been able to hear prior:
I am very unhappy in this relationship.
I am tired of being ignored.
I cannot go on living like this.
I am incredibly hurt and want someone to see and love me.
I am willing to take a major risk in order to get my needs met.
Almost always, prior to an affair happening, some of these statements have been made aloud. There have been discussions (or arguments) about how one or both people have been dissatisfied in the marriage. Almost always, if each partner were to get quiet and feel back to before the affair, they can see signs of where and how the relationship was breaking down— but you didn’t think your partner would ever cheat.
The statistics are somewhere between 30% and 70% of married people have affairs (texting, chatting, or sleeping with someone who is not their spouse) in America. We can pass judgment or we can see this as an indicator of an epidemic of marital breakdown that is sweeping the country. It is a call for help to find effective ways to revitalize and heal our marriages.
connection is important to me. in all aspects of my life. our marriage counselor caught on early and has had to redirect dh a few times when it comes to lack of connection or emotional detachment on his end…when we had to have a hard conversation about *him* and the connection, she did a good job of facilitating as it wasn’t to hurt dh but to explain how and why and why it’s so critical. dh struggled as he admits he just doesn’t understand nor does he get that connection has always been important to me but that for many of our 25+ years, i went without for a myriad of reasons, one of which was not wanting to ask anymore because he always refused. last week, our counselor asked about my prognosis, my health, the future for our kids, especially our son with special needs. looking to me, dh knew that i’m the planner and have started the work long ago. she shook her head and asked him why wasn’t he partnering with me on this difficult work and he had no answer, as if knew me but didn’t. this week, during the “sticky wicket” part of our session in which we both are to talk about current transgressions/issues she asked again about connection and why did i think “he” knew me, even better than dh at times? without thinking and without any ill intent, i mentioned cloud atlas and how it took me a few viewings to “get it”. but that “he” had mentioned to me that he almost cries when her speech comes up near the end. i never asked him about that. i understood why the other day when i casually mentioned i finally got the movie. and he simply typed out “duh. i cry everytime because her mannerisms, her beliefs, her love reminds me of you” *gasp* to me that’s connection. knowing someone knows you better than you even know yourself sometimes. as dh says he still thinks it’s a dumb movie our counselor looks at him. then at me. then at him again. before saying “clearly, there is so much more work here than you realize. especially if the intent is to remain married.” huh, ya think?
during counseling today i was stunned into silence when the counselor looked at me, then at darling husband, back at me before turning to face darling husband and said “you can’t fault her for finally choosing herself when she has always put you first. always. her choice, whether right or wrong, was still her choice and you chose to ignore her for so long that to raise an objection now is your issue. not hers. we are here to deal with each of these separately as they impact your relationship. but until you can see, not agree, but see things from her perspective, you won’t move forward.” huh…still processing.