Marriage Counseling – it’s all in the chemistry

Before D-day, 13 months ago, if you had asked me if I would ever need counseling, I would have said no.  I was a confident, strong woman who worked as a manager.  I sent other employees for counseling; I would never need it myself.

Ha!  What a crock!  How wrong I was!

I may have conceded that I might need a few sessions if I ever went through some kind of trauma.  Talk about trauma!  Here I am today recovering from an event so traumatic that I suffered flashbacks and triggers many times each day for months.  I still have them, though not as often these days, and I am learning, through counseling, how to deal with them.  So did I need a few sessions of counseling?

A few sessions?  Well… in reality I now have three counselors.  One online coach with whom I correspond a few times each week.  Then I have our company counselor who comes to see me about once a month to see if I’m fit for my job.  Then I have the couple’s counselor for my husband and me to see together – we will be increasing to once per week for the next few weeks.  He’s the newest of the three and is just getting to know us.  Three counselors for one little betrayed spouse!  Who woulda thought… certainly never me.

My online coach and my company’s counselor are very similar.  They often say the same things.  They both said that, while education and training are important, chemistry is THE most important thing in counseling.  Every counselor brings their own personality and style to the table, and sometimes it’s a match and sometimes it’s not and sometimes it’s REALLY NOT.  It’s not a reflection on their ability, but just a matter of chemistry.  Both of them feel that, for me, our couple’s counselor is that last one.  REALLY NOT a match.  I think they’re right.  We tried a counselor last December.  In a previous post, I talked about her and how she didn’t work out for us.  And now this new guy is not working out for me, either.  But my husband loves him… probably because he doesn’t have to put out much in the sessions.

My online coach feels that I need to keep trying until I find one that has that chemistry for me and for my husband, too.  I don’t know if I have the stamina to keep at it.

I am very happy with my online coach and how he helps me with my emotional and internal issues.  We definitely have chemistry.  I think we could be friends if we were not coach-client.  But his format would not work well for counseling both my husband and me.  My company counselor would work, too.  I like her a lot.  But it would be a conflict for her to be my personal counselor and work with me professionally, too.  So I’m walking into the session with the couple’s counselor today and taking charge.  Either he works with me on what we need from him or I need to go looking for that chemistry elsewhere.

I never knew it would be so difficult just to find a counselor… geez.

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12 thoughts on “Marriage Counseling – it’s all in the chemistry

  1. aaroncrj says:

    Hi DJ:

    Glad to see a couple new posts from you. This is my first holiday season since learning of my wife’s 5+ year-long EA with an old boyfriend. Thanksgiving was also the first time I have faced my family since I learned of it, as well. None of them know anything and I don’t want them to, but in the back of my head I kept hearing a voice saying that I and my marriage are frauds. That my wife really wanted to be with another man; that I am not enough man for her.

    They were a tough few days in part because my family saw how much weight I’ve lost since July and couldn’t keep from commenting on it. Fortunately (?) I am also dealing with a lot of crap at work simultaneously, so I used work stress and a desire to get back into shape as my explanations. I felt like a spring had been wound up too tightly inside of me and I took long walks each day to help burn off my energy and anxiety. My family thought it was due to my new healthy lifestyle.

    I think my Mom, who is in her 70s, saw through me, though. She didn’t pry, thankfully, but I could see concern and maybe even some sadness in her eyes when we talked. Maybe I am just imagining, or maybe she is just worried about her “skin and bones” son (though, I am hardly skin and bones at 6′, 190 lbs.).

    I am hopeful that Christmas will be a bit better, but I recently restarted counseling in part to help me cope with holiday-induced anxiety.

    Anyway, thanks again for your new posts and happy holidays to you!

  2. Not Over It says:

    Hey Aaron,

    My heart goes out to you. The first holiday season after D-day is always hard. Your mom probably does sense that something is wrong. That’s just like my sister. She is a lot older than me and has been like a mom to me in many ways. She knows something is off, but she can’t figure out what. But since I’ve decided to try to make it work with my husband, it will do no good to tell my family. They would hate him forever, and I don’t want that if we are going to stay together. I’m planning to post about that soon.

    I’d like to think that something good can come from this. I also lost a lot of weight and I’m using that as a jumpstart to get super fit again. So that’s one good thing. 6′ and 190 pounds sounds like a stud muffin to me!

    Hope your counselor has that chemistry with you. If not, keep looking. I found my online coach after a few awful attempts, and after giving up on couple’s counseling. He is a dream. I give him the credit for much of my improvement over the past year. Our new couple’s counselor will never be that, but he will do well for my husband, I think. Gonna post about that, too.

    Thank you for your comments! I appreciate hearing from people, sharing our experiences, and learning from one another. Take care. I know how dark it can look – I still fall back there often. I know words of encouragement can ring very hollow at those times, but I wish you the very best. Merry Christmas!

    DJ

    • aaroncrj says:

      Thanks for the replay, DJ. The stud muffin comment made me chuckle, though I am probably still more muffin than stud :-).

      We went through a round of counseling about 15 years ago. At that time we had been dealing with a series of trying events, including two lost pregnancies, failed in vitro attempts, and the decision to pursue adoption.

      That counseling was not particularly helpful because my wife felt the counselor was “taking my side” on most issues, making her feel like a number of our issues rested with her. I didn’t have the courage to push back and suggest to her that maybe the counselor was seeing things more clearly than she or I. Instead, I swallowed my words and her resentments went unresolved until finally a few years later she reconnected with her “lost love.”

      My biggest fear with marriage counseling this time is that she will have the same type of reaction if the counselor challenges or criticizes her…

      • Not Over It says:

        Hey Aaron – had to think a little about your comment. That’s a tough one. One of my big issues with my husband is how he will handle stress and hard times in the future. Will he turn to her again? Is he turning to her again now? I’ll let you know if I learn anything helpful. Please let me know if you do, too.

        You’ve been through a lot. Did you adopt? Do you have any children?

        Hope you are well and moving forward…

        DJ

  3. aaroncrj says:

    Hi DJ:

    We have been through a lot and there is a lot of history and heartache (and joy) that I’ve left out. Some of our early history echoes your description of your and your husband’s budding romance. The main difference is that I am the man she chose over the “lost love.” Our early marriage was challenging for a variety of reasons and then our middle years had all of the pregnancy/adoption drama. The lost love was in the background then for a time, too. I knew of some of their contact and suspected more, but their more recent correspondence confirmed what I had always suspected.

    For most of our marriage I felt like she didn’t really love me–not in the way that I loved her and wanted to be loved. She was/is the “love of my life” but I never felt that in return. So, let’s just say that my reaction to her EA with the old love is based on much more than the discovery of their almost six-year hidden relationship.

    We did eventually adopt and have a lovely 13-year-old daughter. (Lovely in all ways except for the fact that she is 13 :-).) We also have a 23-year-old daughter, who is my wife’s doppelganger, except in miniature form. She is in graduate school, living at home and trying to get into medical school. My wife and I both dote on our girls and I am pretty sure that they are the main reasons her EA didn’t evolve into a PA.

    Like you I wonder about what will happen when things get tough. Will she turn to him or to me? I think I know some of the reasons why she didn’t turn to me before and I believe I have made significant and real changes in order to improve my contributions to our relationship and to the family. But the questions of why she needed him, what feelings she had and may still have for him, and whether she sees me as the “love of her life,” haunt me almost all the time. I told her soon after d-day that I did not want to be nor did I deserve to be a “placeholder” until she could be with him. He is also married, though with no children. From their correspondence it did not appear they really would disrupt their current marriages for one another. Even so, I’d rather end it now than find out I was the safe choice.

    I have my individual counseling appointment tonight. I chose a female counselor who is a little older than I specifically so that she can help me see things from a woman’s perspective. This is only our second session. Last session I dredged up some feelings about our early marriage and about myself that surprised me.

    i didn’t intend to write so much. Hopefully, I can address much of these free range feelings though counseling.

    Take care,

    Aaron

  4. Not Over It says:

    Hi Aaron,

    My children kept me sane through this ordeal. I’m glad you have two girls to give you both the right perspective on life.

    I totally understand how you feel about being the safe choice. I have suspected all along that my husband chose me for security and finance and status in the community. I think I have been hoping against hope that I would be proven wrong. So far, that has not happened. I am also not willing to stay if he does not love me above all others.

    Let me know how your session goes! Hopefully you will work well with her. And don’t worry about writing too much. You write well and it’s good to commiserate with others who share your pain.

    DJ

  5. aaroncrj says:

    Howdy DJ:

    Well, Tuesday night’s session wasn’t as helpful as the previous week’s had been—at least not in terms of my feeling like I had made progress on managing my current feelings of ennui. We spent a fair amount of time discussing my wife’s EA and my struggles to understand why it happened as well as the hurt it caused me. My counselor tried to reassure me that from what she could tell the EA was consistent with the common types of wonderings that people experience at mid-life. She even somewhat dismissed the sexual overtones of the exchanges. While I certainly appreciate that mid-life issues played a role in her EA, I don’t think it is appropriate to chalk it up to simply a mid-life crisis.

    After the session my wife and I had a chance to talk a bit. She frames the situation with the OM almost completely in light of what she wasn’t getting from me; the things she wanted from me and our lack of “connection.” She doesn’t seem willing to admit how her willingness to seek solace, comfort, and even love outside of our relationship was a huge factor and that it was an obstacle to our ever being able to reconnect.

    I have acknowledged to her my failings in this area and she will confirm that I have demonstrated a commitment to being a better husband and father going forward. Yet, I don’t think she has fully appreciated her part in all of this. She doesn’t seem to understand that she contributed not only to our relationship but also to how I responded/related to her both before and during her EA. She has expressed sorrow and regret for what has happened–mostly for how I found out and the pain that caused me. Yet, she doesn’t seem to grasp the magnitude of her transgression with the OM. I am hopeful that through MC she can better see our relationship and the EA through my eyes.

    The other night she asked if I was angry about something. I first said “No, I’m not angry.” Then I thought more of it and said, “Wait, I take that back. I AM angry, REALLY angry, and I’m not exactly sure what to do with it.” What angers me is her inability or unwillingness to see the level of her betrayal and how it has deeply wounded me. I’ve gotten, the “it could have been worse, we could have slept together,” line, as if meeting the guy and admitting to kissing and embracing him romantically, followed up months and even years later with laments about not “daring more” or thinking she might have wanted ‘that memory,” make her more noble. She even said to me that she “passed the test,” meaning that they could have let it evolve into a full blown PA, but they resisted. My response was that she sure spent enough time “studying” for the test.

    [RANT MODE TURNED OFF} My anger aside, things are better between us. We’re connecting in a way that we haven’t for a long time. I actually feel some hope for our future and believe that with my IC and our MC we have a good chance of making things work. Don’t know if it’s good or bad, but she seems hyper-sensitive to my moods, body language, and facial expressions. She picks up on when I am triggered, and appears genuinely concerned for me. She has even expressed fear that I will go and have an affair of my own just to get back at her (I won’t, but maybe it’s a good thing for her to worry at least a bit that I will). Our level of physical intimacy is also higher, which definitely helps me, and I think it helps her too.

    So, why can’t she seem to get what her EA was and what it has done to me?

    Perhaps that will be the main question for my next counseling session on Monday…

    Have a great weekend.

    –Aaron

    • Not Over It says:

      Hi Aaron,

      Sounds so familiar. If you have found a good counselor for MC, that might help. Our last session was a huge breakthrough, which I will post about soon.

      I have been angry for my husband’s inability to “get it,” too. I am finally now moving past anger for that. For me, exercise is the best way to release anger and tension. I think I’m addicted! Do you do anything to release it?

      I’m glad to hear you say that you feel some hope. Her inability to see it may actually be an attempt to make you stop talking about it – not a good move, but one my husband has used. She may also not be able to face what she has done, and so denies it. Hopefully, your MC can flush it out.

      I had to lead the discussion in my MC to get the results I was looking for. I wrote out notes before each of the last two sessions about what I wanted to discuss and what problems I needed the counselor to mediate. I used them carefully. The doctor laughed the first time, but they really did help me to stay focused and remember what I wanted to say. I got so emotional in the sessions before that that I forgot to bring up things and I let the discussion get away from me.

      Glad to hear from you – thanks for keeping me posted. I am praying for you.

      DJ

      • aaroncrj says:

        Hi DJ:

        Thanks again for your perspective, understanding, and prayers. I can use all three.

        I am exercising regularly. I started walking/running 3-5 miles at night right after D-day in July which, combined with my complete loss of appetite, caused me to drop nearly 20 pounds in four weeks. In September I could see that the Midwest climate would not permit me to keep up that regimen, so I joined a gym–one where she has been a member for awhile. I am now in a 4-5X per week exercise routine and frequently my wife and I go to the gym together, which is a nice shared experience.

        She completely understands how the exercise is helping me both physically and emotionally and is quite supportive of my need to make time for it. The aerobic activity and weightlifting has helped me to further slim down/tone up though I haven’t lost any more weight since September. It is a hoot to wear clothes of mine that I hadn’t been able to wear since the ’80s (don’t ask me why I still had them in storage, but fortunately there are no parachute pants or Members Only jackets in the bunch).

        My next IC session is tonight. It will be my last until after the holidays, so I want to make it a good session. I plan to use your tactic of writing out some of the things I want to discuss in advance. Not sure why I didn’t think of that, but really appreciate your insights.

        Aaron

      • Not Over It says:

        Hey Aaron,

        I think my husband might have a Members Only jacket out in the garage somewhere – LOL! I have had the same experience of fitting into clothes that I hadn’t been able to wear in a long time. Feels good – it was a great ego boost at the time when I felt like nothing more than the dirt under his feet.

        I’m glad we are able to share and help each other. You are in my thoughts as you head for your IC session. Good luck!

        DJ

  6. changedforever says:

    If there is anyway you could refer me to an online coach…I need someone just for me…thx for anything you can do.

    • Not Over It says:

      Hey CF,

      I use the Marriage Coaching program on Marriage Sherpa.com. You may have heard of Dr. Gunzberg on EAJ. The program is part of his website. You pay $99 per month for unlimited access.

      It works well for me. So much of what we go through does not fit into a nice once per week schedule that we get from traditional counseling.

      Good luck!
      DJ

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