July 11, 2011

Tales From The Couch

Tales From The Couch

Ah yes. Therapy. The lovely activity of paying someone insane amounts of money to have them tell you-you suck. You pay someone to basically watch you argue. We did, and at the end, he said, “I don’t care if you use me or not, but if you don’t...

Ah yes. Therapy. The lovely activity of paying someone insane amounts of money to have them tell you-you suck. You pay someone to basically watch you argue. We did, and at the end, he said, “I don’t care if you use me or not, but if you don’t change you guys are going to get divorced.”  He was blunt. He also dropped F-bombs on a regular basis and came across unprofessional.

We found a lovely older Christian counselor. We paid her lots of money to listen to us argue. We also got to learn about the counselor’s family. Learning about her children, and husband didn’t really help my marriage. She had some good advice. But there was a problem. She said we had to work on ourselves. If we were there to fix the other person, it wasn’t going to work. What did she know? She wasn’t home with me. The nurse is the one who needs the most fixing. Sure, I’m open to learning new stuff. I’m a teacher and feel learning is something we should do every day. I felt a big problem was my wife had issues admitting when she was wrong. Meanwhile, she admitted that about 80% of our marriage problems were related to me. We were like gunslingers ready to draw quickly and start pointing fingers. Anybody see the problem with this?

I did an experiment and timed the amount of time I spent on the computer during the week. It was an insane amount. I decided to make plans to cut back. It would be a process. I just couldn’t flip a switch, but I needed to cut back on my consulting and make some time for my family. I tried assigning one night of the week to be the “computer night. That didn’t work. In general, I am a creative person and ask any songwriter, poet, artist, etc and they will talk about those times when the "Creative juices flow." Ask them about how long it took to do a project, and they won't know. Why? Because we lose track of time. We get wrapped up in the project and get sucked in. This is fine when you're 18 and you end up finishing a song at 3:57 AM. This is not good when you're married with stepchildren who need your time and attention. I needed to keep an eye on the clock. I would say things like, "This will only take 15 minutes," and an hour later still be "almost done." This is something I still struggle today. I started making progress, but we still hadn’t really found a way to communicate.  The bad news is we both had wrongful impressions of what the other person wanted.

Counselor number three was a nice woman who used the Gottman institute process (Check out the Gottman Book). Great stuff. They assigned homework, we were making progress. I had cut back my computer time and started spending more time with the family. We were slowly headed in the right direction, but moving at a snail’s pace.

Like most couples, we argued about money. It doesn’t matter how much you make. It matters how much you spend. Here again, you have someone who grew up poor (me) and someone who didn’t.  In the transition of trying to manage the finances, I made some mistakes and we ended up bouncing checks. The nurse lost confidence in me as I didn’t do things the way she would do them, and things started to separate. Feeling disrespected (as I can be quite good with money), the resentment rose to a new level.  Any discussion over this came to no conclusions, no compromises of any value, and the boat that was headed in the right direction began to sink. My marriage had turned into a power struggle. You had to two people who were accustomed to living single, use to doing what they wanted. We were “So in love” we didn’t really set any expectations. In regards to being married, we just figured we would figure it out. We had both been married before. This is a bad plan. We no longer saw each other as people of good will.

One marriage seminar spoke about making sure your wife felt cherished. I was trying, we both we trying, but failing. Panic started to sink in I believe. That nagging question of, "Did I make a mistake?" started to quietly, softly, appear. The nurse would say something like, "Why don't you just divorce me if I'm so bad." When I told her how upsetting it was to hear the word "Divorce" come out of her mouth. It was NOT an option for me. It has never been, and never will be. I tried to get her to promise not to use it. Reluctantly agreed, but found loopholes by using phrases like, "I've had enough," or "I'm through," "We're done." Sure, she didn't use the word "Divorce," but she might as well. Eventually, it snuck back into her vocabulary. Each time, making me feel less confident in my marriage. She wanted more quality time with me? She wanted me to invest in the marriage. Why put money in a bank that is going out of business? I think we both kind of took on an "I'll change when you change" attitude. Whatever we were doing, it wasn't helping. Being a good husband doesn't mean you act lovingly when she's nice. It means acting lovingly when she's not. Jesus said, turn the other cheek. That will come up again later. I think we both tried at different times. However, I don't think we were ever in sync. I would try while she was being a butt head. Then she would try when I was being an idiot. In both cases, it's hard to keep giving to someone who is just taking. I know this is a shocking revelation, but marriage is hard.

I remember having one loud discussion in our bedroom (right next door to my stepdaughter) as my wife tried to explain to me that she is “just bad with money.” That somehow there is a gene that causes her to handle money poorly. Being a teacher, I believe everyone can learn anything. Some learn faster than others, but anything can be learned. When I moved in, I was told that “We can’t do algebra.” Nonsense! I said and started helping my step-children with math (who now get A’s and B’s in math). They had mentally locked themselves in the math closet. Because they thought they were bad in math, they did poorly in math. Nonsense. My wife wasn’t buying this, “Old dogs can learn new tricks” philosophy I was selling. She was, and is, convinced she is “just bad” with money. It was a long, loud, argument of me explaining how she isn’t stupid, and my wife trying to convince me that with money she is. I wasn’t having any of it. In turned into a shouting match, and I told my wife she was a negative piece of Sh*t. Wonderful Dave, you've entered the lovely world of name calling. Great move. Most things in life come down to decisions you make. Get educated. Make informed decisions. Sacrifice when necessary. Success is right around the corner. Not in the case. The mental door was locked.

Add this to the list of unresolved items.

I was the self-centered, computer-obsessed, sitting in his room all day husband. In my eyes, my wife was the not understanding, wants all of my time, nagasourus. OK, neither of those was or is true. In some cases, I was the person hiding in a safe place talking into a microphone to people who cared about what I had to say. People that seem to appreciate my efforts. I was also the husband stewing in his creative juices while his wife was the lonely spouse who only wanted to feel loved and cherished. A hug from me would've would've gone a long way, but I was "too busy, and I'm sure I thought I would "get to it eventually." If I would just spend a little quality time with her, and turn off the technology, and be in the moment with her, she would feel loved. Once she felt loved, she wouldn’t care how much time I spent on the computer.

One seminar we attended asked the question, "But what happens when you have a stalemate?" Who should be the person to give in? The answer? The more mature one. With the attitude of "I will when you will" still prevalent, nobody moved, and things didn't get much better.

So my marriage still isn’t fixed after thousands of dollars in therapy. Would I say therapy is a failure? No. In fact, I urge everyone who is having an issue with anything to go to therapy. It can really be an eye opener, but you have to be willing to see the world through another set of eyes. The hardest part to get over is that going to therapy does not mean your nuts. It’s doesn’t mean your broken. It means your looking to understand why it is you do, think, and feel the way you do. The more you know about yourself, the more you can understand what you need, understand why you react certain ways to certain things and in some cases, control those reactions. But this means you have to be willing to admit that the way you are needs to improve. You need to step back, take a look at all the facts, and make sure the facts you are building your thoughts and feelings on are accurate. This again means you may need to make adjustments. This means you have to be able to acknowledge that you were a little off the mark (or a lot of the mark).

It does not good to get advice if you don’t follow it. They say knowledge is power. Knowledge is only powerful when you act on it. You need to focus on it. Review it. Keep it in front of your thoughts, and act on it, and hopefully make these actions into habits.

As of this recording, we are not doing that, and the results are as expected.

This show is LISTENER Supported. 

If this show made you laugh, cry, think, groan, or educated, or entertained. Consider giving some of that value back.