Changes….PART three: couple’s therapy 

Hubby has been more present the last few weeks. I think it’s our couples therapy. We’ve only had 3 sessions so far, but I like the therapist– Kim.

To recap, I had been feeling so badly in September, during a time when Bea was gone, and hubby and I fought, that I called around and found a couple’s therapist. Due to hubby’s work schedule we had moved the appointment twice, so by the time it came up, I wasn’t really feeling it. I just kept thinking it wasn’t needed now, I didn’t want to connect with anyone right now, hubby was fine, I liked him being so far away from me. Bea encouraged me to go, that it would be fine, just an intake appointment so nothing too deep would be touched on at all. 

In the end, Kat ended up starting at her new school that day, and I wanted to be with her that first day, so hubby went to the appointment by himself. I think Bea and the therapist took that to mean I had a certain level,of trust in hubby, and maybe I do, but moreover, it was that I didn’t want to cancel on Kim again and appear to be a total flake who just rudely cancels every first appointment I’ve had with her, and who doesn’t really care about or want couple’s therapy. So, hubby went alone. And I honestly think that it was maybe for the best that way, because he talked to her quite a bit about his issues in this marriage– his tuning out, his not being present, his being emotionally shut down. He talked about how he grew up, and his crazy narcissistic mother. I’d already told her some of this but I think it’s good he told her himself. And, hubby liked her. 

Our first appointment together was really uneventful. They gave me a recap of what they talked about, and Kim explained that she was hoping we could get hubby to have a work brain and an emotionally attached/family brain so he could hopefully leave his work brain at work and use his family brain at home. We talked a lot about hubby’s job and how that has effected him in that it has taught him to shut down and close out feelings, and to process things quickly, filtering out irrelevant details. This clearly, does not translate well to family life, or in being married to someone who is extremely triggered when feeling not seen or heard. Hubby talked about how I talk too much, and don’t give him time to speak. Kim asked if I could maybe edit down my talking and leave bigger pauses in the conversation for him. I didn’t like her asking that, it felt hurtful, simply because of my childhood and my mothers accusations that I talked too much and needed too much. I also felt like she was wrong, that If hubby would put his phone down, stay in one place, focus on the conversation, there wouldn’t be a problem. At one point, hubby said that how we were talking in Kim’s office was “normal conversation” and not how I talk at home, and I retorted that it was different here because he was actually present and paying attention. 

Kim also brought up the idea of hubby using emotion words, and that talking to me like that would create the intimacy he was looking for. I know I dissociated at that point, because the words freaked me out. To me, that word means sex. Bea was up north then, so I couldn’t (well, I could, I just won’t) email her to ask her about it or to share my freak out. Instead. Later that day, I looked up the meaning of the word, and found that intimacy can mean several things. I wrote about it in my journal and when Bea read it she confirmed that if she were to use the word she would mean “emotional closeness”, not sex. So I felt better about that. And, while Bea was reading my journal, she murmured “I wish you would have emailed” In response to me having a freakout in my journal and feeling upset that I *couldn’t* email. She sounded sad for me, and really real when she said it. So, it appears she really doesn’t mind me emailing when she is gone. So maybe I will next time.  

Session number 3 with Kim was a lot like session 2, except I had a lot of moments of feeling uncomfortable. We started out by discussing how things had been the last two weeks, and how we were doing with hubby being present and me talking less. Hubby said he felt like I was talking a lot more with him instead of at him, and I explained I didn’t feel like I had to rush through anything I wanted to tell him before he zoned out or picked up his phone because he had been more present and had been making sure to put the phone down. Kim said that was all really good to hear. 

She asked about my birthday because we had mentioned being out of town to visit my parents to celebrate. She had wanted to know if hubby and I had gone out since my parents were there and could babysit. I shook my head, explaining that we didn’t do a lot because it was the first time I’d been back for my birthday in 3 years. And then I tried to explain why, and the tears fell. A lot of tears fell. It was embarrassing because I didn’t feel comfortable pulling my knees to my chest and hiding my face — I had my boots on and felt like I couldn’t put my feet on the couch— but I hate being seen when I cry. So I covered my face with my hands, and felt really silly. Then I felt myself get that floaty fuzzy feeling, and I didn’t feel so silly anymore, or so upset or sad anymore, either. So I stopped crying, and wiped my face, and apologized for crying. I think hubby said something, but I’m not sure because I wasn’t really there. 

That’s the point where I’m not sure what happened next, but I eventually brought up Kat, and how school was going so good. I told hubby a funny story about how she had pushed me out of class the day before. And that worked to bring me back to more or less grounded and present. It was a little awkward discussing Kat, though. It wasn’t as easy to use that subject to avoid more difficult topics as it is to do so in my own therapy. So that started to feel a little awkward to be talking about Kat. 

Later, I said something to Ryan about how I guess I should have just asked him to put the phone down instead of just talking faster and attempting to get everything out before he began ignoring me. Kim suggested I could ask for things I need or want from hubby now that he is listening better. As soon as she began that sentence, I was gone. I didn’t want to have that conversation, I didn’t want to discuss it. I shrugged and mumbled maybe. She said something about how she thought I could do it now, even if it would be really hard. I wanted to tell her she didn’t even know me, so how could she possibly have a clue? Instead I said nothing for what felt like a long time, and then I looked at hubby and managed to force out the words, “I won’t ask because if I ask and you say no, or ignore me, that’s worse than not asking and not getting…..” Kim said that it was a risk, but she still thought I could do it. Hubby said he would listen better and he would do what I asked if he could. I wanted to throw up I felt so uncomfortable. The whole conversation was just ugh feeling. I wasn’t very there and the longer the conversation went on, the further I could feel myself going away. I wanted to ask “what about all the times I did need something emotionally, and asked for it and was ignored, or you didn’t do what I needed anyway? When you said no, or said okay and then didn’t do it even though you said yes?” I wanted to say how I don’t trust his yes, and I don’t trust him to be there emotionally, and I don’t count on him for support. I didn’t though. It felt like I was wrong about all of that. Hubby on one side of me saying he will be there and listen and Kim across from me telling I could do it. Instead I just sat there far away, trying not to freak out inside. Maybe she realized I was far away, or maybe my silence spoke volumes, but she changed her tune to “Maybe you aren’t ready yet, and that’s okay, too.” But that makes me feel like maybe I should be ready and I’m not, so I’m failing couples therapy. 

I think the thing is, people meet hubby and he is so perfect and kind and soft spoken and mild mannered and protective and loving that they just can’t see why I wouldn’t want to confide in him. They meet him, and assume it should be easy to talk to such a non confrontational and caring person. So I end up looking crazy, or whiny or like a drama queen. I end up looking like I’m just being difficult for no reason. 

At the end of session, hubby’s week long hunting trip came up. I hate this trip. I think it’s unfair of him to leave for 8 days, and 7 nights. It wouldn’t bother me so much, except he goes every year, no matter what. He left me home with a screaming colicky infant who never slept, he left me when I was throwing up sick from a migraine (with a child to care for). He left me the year I broke my ankle. Every year, no matter what, he disappears. He doesn’t hear me when I protest, or say how upset I am about this, because he doesn’t want to hear me. His comeback response is always “I would have come home if you really needed me.” Kim said we could talk about it next week, but the discussion carried on outside her office. I behaved like a brat, but he finally heard me. This year he is going to go hunt for 3 days, come home a few days and go back out for 2 more days. Which is all I have ever asked— to break it up, or lessen the time spent gone. It’s not the hunting I begrudge him, or the going away, it’s the amount of time he goes and how he doesn’t care about anything else but going. Hunting turns him into an asshole. 

Anyways, we left the session with another appointment for the next (this) week, but I’m not sure why we are even going right now. It feels hard. And I’m not sure what I’m supposed to talk about there, and anything “real” or too emotional feels too scary and hard to bring up. Because I have faith that hubby will respond one way in session (present and supportive, caring) and another way later on at home (shut down and as if I hadn’t told him anything at all).  

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6 thoughts on “Changes….PART three: couple’s therapy 

  1. what you are describing with the couple’s therapy – of feeling like the therapist isn’t seeing your real interactions in the session – is familiar to me from the start of my own couple’s therapy. I think this does change a bit as the couple gets more familiar with the therapist and doesn’t put up so much of a front, and your usual interactions start to emerge in the room where the therapist can see them. Even then, it can be like the early stages of individual therapy, where you start to see patterns emerge but feel powerless to change them, which is scary and horrible. Don’t give up too early, and do expect that any changes that happen will be slow and incremental. But it is hard, in some ways more challenging than individual therapy, and there is that lurking fear that instead of resolving the problems all it will do is reveal that they can’t be fixed. If the love between you is there underneath it will get you through this.

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    • Thank you for sharing your experience, it helps to know that this is maybe common, and comparing beginning stages of couples therapy to beginning stages of individual therapy helps. It makes sense. We do love each other, and we have a lot of positives as a couple– it’s really that emotional connection piece that is missing. And I think a lot of that is because of me and my not trusting.

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  2. Interesting Alice that you start very positively, with the observation that hubs is being more present, but by the end of your piece, you are so skeptical about the value of the therapy.

    Just to let you know, in my case, couples therapy was pretty much useless, and I did feel throughout that the T preferred my ex to me. He definitely presented better. So I’m not starry eyed in general about couples therapy.

    I think for you though, this is actually looking a bit promising. It could be this T is not taking your hubs at face value, as you fear, and may be wondering what lies beneath that calm and caring front he presents so well to the world. Also, hubs seems to be trying to change, even if it’s only a bit so far. I get the impression he has a long way to go, but he might be willing to go there.

    I wondered though why the T went right to your ‘difficulty’ with expressing needs, making it all about you, without inquiring into the history of your marriage, where you have expressed needs and were abandoned and rejected. No wonder it’s ‘difficult’ for you to do so.

    Well, just wanted to say that overall this seems kind of hopeful.

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    • Funny, I didn’t even really notice be I started positive and then ended up skeptical and ready to quit. It is interesting, and I can’t really explain it. Thank you for the reality check– therapy is looking promising but it is going to be very slow going. I’m not sure why are went to my difficulty so quick. The only thing I can think is that Miss Perfect was really running things that first appointment and the beginning of this last appointment, so maybe the therapist didn’t see any reason for the difficulty, or even see the difficulty because I do hide things really well. Bea reassured me again today that she can always talk to the therapist and help express or explain things to her, so that helps. And I do agree, overall this is a positive (and terrifying) and hopeful thing. Xx💟

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  3. I give you so much credit for going at all! It sounds awful and so hard and difficult to do the therapy work. I’m sorry hubbys hunting trip made you upset. Sometimes men don’t think, they just do what suits them. I notice that with my dad a lot. Hoping the next appointments are good and valuable. xxx

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    • I think we might be done with couple’s therapy. Hubby hasn’t bothered to schedule another appointment. I asked him and he said he would but he never did. 🙁 I do think men just don’t think sometimes. And I’m tired of asking/begging/crying/nagging.

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