We didn’t talk much about it, except I did ask her if she still wanted to go and she said she was fine with it. And that was that.
We drove to the church in silence. The closer we got, you could feel the tension ramping up. We walked into the counseling center and filled out a variety of miscellaneous papers. While insurance would not cover these visits, the cost was within our range. While this guy has a Master’s degree, he is still working under the supervision of someone who is licensed and working towards his own license. It occurred to me that by the time the church took their cut and he spent time going through the paperwork and such, he was not getting paid very much for his time, relatively speaking. Pair this with the odd hours and it adds up to a tough career. It beats farming, though.
So I had to do some talking not unlike what I do here with you folks. He’s a skilled empathetic listener, often restating what I said to make sure he was hearing it correctly. I’m not a big fan of empathetic communication skills for marriage counseling but I do have a better appreciation for it now that I’ve seen it done with some skill.
We talked about our own marital history and some of the stressors we’ve had to endure. Like having a child with special needs, which our particular disability category gives us about a 90% chance of being divorced. Or put another way, 10% of making it all the way. When we went over the stressors it did give me an appreciation as to how we’ve managed to persevere. We know a few other couples with special needs children and most of them have marriages that are falling to pieces. But 90% of the time a divorce is in the cards under the emotional, financial and general stress generated by this sort of trial. You don’t have to look too far in our little community to find casualties of the struggle to raise kids with extra needs.
We briefly went through so family history but not a whole lot of time. He had a little family tree where he took notes on our parents and on us and the kids. Given our moving around and how spread out our families are, I can see some utility in trying to keep track of everyone. I could see more utility in family systems therapy for younger parents who had extended family close by and where there was deeper enmeshment or even estrangement. But we’re just connected by distance.
Not a lot of real deep disclosures were made in this initial session. We did talk about the where we were in the sexual arena which is to say we’re having sex about every other year. And this is supposedly his specialty so it will be interesting to see how he deals with this. Our initial goals are to get out of our marital rut and to move into an area of greater intimacy. Or, if sex wasn’t going to happen, I would have to deal with that. He said dealing with not having sex would be a last resort, as it would be preferable to move into greater intimacy.
Arwyn appeared to be fairly relaxed in the session. She voiced her own anxieties and frustrations in being a mother to a demanding son and wife to an equally demanding husband and the seeming never-ending crises that we endured as parents. We were both pretty needy at that time with very little in the way of family and social support. Thing was, especially early on, as Arwyn’s anxiety was always high it sent my own anxiety into the stratosphere. Not knowing how to deal with that, I did what pretty much every guy does when confronted with domestic stress; I dove deeper into work and spent more time away from home. Home was too stressful a place where things were out of control, contrasted to work where I could exert control and get positive feedback and respect. I’m not saying it was right. It was classic avoidance and denial. I have no idea what else I could have or would have done. Better to live on a corner of a roof than to live with a contentious wife. But I was not helping her be less contentious by avoiding while still being demanding.
Anyway, since we had her mother watching the boys we did go out to eat and it was a fairly nice and relaxing time. We’re in a place where I think we can move on because we’re not embroiled in contempt and hostility. The counselor said he thought he could help us and we are setting up for next week. We’ll then maybe do some individual stuff for a couple of sessions which will help from having to scramble for childcare every week. Arwyn seems to be pretty open about the process so that will help move things along. It’s too early to place a whole lot of confidence it this guy or the process but we’ll see.