Marriage counseling report card - part two

So, the negative side of marriage counseling with Linda These are some of the things she said and did that made things more difficult, rather than improving the situation.

Pretty early on, Linda said that the purpose of our counseling wasn't to save the marriage. This perplexed and confused me. Why on earth were we meeting each week, turning over rocks, airing our dirty laundry if saving the marriage wasn't our end goal.

Linda told me she didn't think I was sincere in making changes. This was also pretty early on, before we had spent a whole lot of time together. She seemed to think I was just making empty promises to do whatever J asked. I challenged this, but she stuck to the opinion that I was basically full of shit. This only improved somewhat as the weeks went by.

Linda told me I was angry. Didn't ask, but rather told me. When I said I wasn't, she challenged me, provoked me. I was depressed, despondent, hurt, sad - but I was months and months away from approaching angry. One thing that will make me angry is for someone to tell me how I feel. We went back and forth and she wouldn't it go. I finally said if I was truly angry, and living in denial, that this was a topic to be taken up with my personal counselor.

We were talking about our different views of the separation. J felt she needed the space to work on her own things, and I was supportive. That being said, I planned on things working out in the end and that she would be coming home. I think Linda asked why I hoped/expected that she would be coming home. I talked about my feelings, got a bit emotional, and wrapped up by saying she is "my wife". Linda jumped all over "wife" saying that J and I might have different ideas of what "wife" meant. She implied that I expected J to be home doing my laundry and cooking me turkey-pot-pie. Frustrated that she thought I was a stereotype husband from the 50's, I explained (as best as I could) that what “my wife” means to me is that she is the woman I love, the woman I plan to share the rest of my life with, and the woman I would do anything to make happy – even if it was to my own personal detriment right now. She backpedaled, but it was clear what she thought of me.

There was no question I was upset about how things were going in counseling and our marriage. Linda told me she thought that I was despondent because I thought I could never find happiness again, rather than being upset about my marriage to J ending. We went back and forth a bit, not getting very far. I finally said "if I have to make a stupid comparison, I will. If my dog died, I can imagine having another dog sometime in the future and being happy, but it doesn't mean I wouldn't be absolutely crushed if she died." There were a lot of times I had to explain what I meant by making stupid-simple comparisons.

At one point Linda made J say that she didn't love me. J resisted, saying that wasn't true. I think the point Linda was trying to make was that J didn't have romantic feelings. As this was going on, tears began to well in my eyes. Linda's focus snapped to me and she said "why are you crying?" before the first tear fell. Not "how does that make you feel" or "what is going through your mind", but "why are you crying." Then she said I was overreacting. Early on in counseling, she said emotions aren't right or wrong, they just "are" and we need to learn how to manage and express them. Now she is telling me my emotions are wrong after she did her best to stir them up.

Then in our last session, she said that maybe J and I should be satisfied with a marriage where we don't talk all that much. All through this process, and even before we started, better communication was emphasized. We weren't really talking, and counseling was supposed to help solve this. After twelve weeks of digging up the past and present, we were doing much better. Then in our last session, Linda said "Just be happy with what made you miserable before."

There were other issues, but this is plenty to give an impression of what kind of counselor she was. Basically she thought I was insincere, unable to recognize (or admit) anger, a Neanderthal husband, incapable of future happiness, and after encouraging us to express emotion she criticized me when I did. I pushed back on several of these topics, but I didn't want our sessions turning into argument matches between me and the counselor, rather than working on our marriage.

Of course if I had to do it all over again, I would have changed counselors. We did talk about it part of the way through, but at the time I felt like keeping J in counseling was tenuous. I stuck it out for the general benefit it was providing, and tried to defend/explain myself while keeping the confrontation to a minimum.

Next, my final grade on the value of counseling, and what it meant to our marriage.


matt said...

Jeepers that sounds hard. I don't think I would have been able to keep my cool.

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