Counseling #2 – Nothing Much New

All I can say is that there were no new revelations or breakthroughs during our second counseling session.  I think it was Emily who suggested that real work didn’t happen until session #3.  In my case, it may be session #4.

This session was spent with the counselor getting more background on our parents.  I can’t think of much that was revealed that I haven’t talked about before.  Her Dad’s alcoholism was a major theme, as well as the tendency of him to favor her two younger brothers over her.  For instance, she’d ask for a game or something for Christmas and it would appear under the tree…for her brother!  She spent quite a bit of time going over the strains of that relationship, and then when my name came up she dealt with comparing my frugality juxtaposed with her father’s monetary generosity.  Thing was, her dad was so fraught with guilt, he felt the need to compensate in the form of money and stuff.  So while I was trying to pinch pennies when we were starting out with very little money and lots of debt, she rebelled and went out and bought stuff anyway.  This just made things worse, money-wise.  So in a certain sense when comparing me to her father, I was coming up short in the money/provider department.

That was a bit difficult to hear, but I couldn’t apologize for that.  But I could acknowledge that I enabled it by avoiding talking to her about her spending.  I saw a lot of stuff coming into the house and didn’t question it much, figuring her dad was bankrolling her.  That was a mistaken assumption as she was using her credit cards and pretty much maxed them out.  We finally, finally have those crooks from Visa paid off.  They have steadily been shortening the grace period, raising the interest rate, increasing the amount of time on the penalty rate from 6 to 12 months and raising the late fees .  Playing with credit cards is like playing with poisonous snakes.  Sooner or later you will get bit.

I talked a bit about growing up on the farm and how that took priority over everything in the family.  It was an oppressive enough atmosphere that looked a lot like a sweatshop type of thing to us kids that we all live as far as Iowa as possible with my brother on the West coast, my sister on the East coast and me in the deep south.  But I think climate had quite a lot to do with it, too, seeing as you Midwestern folks are suffering this winter.  I have not forgotten frigid mornings fighting snow and ice or sweltering humid summers. 

I sat in the counseling session and found myself wondering why we both needed to be there and why we needed a babysitter.  Reflective listening is comforting in a way, but it was not getting us anywhere.  Little new ground and certainly nothing approaching resolution.  I’m willing to give it a half dozen more sessions but at some point there needs to be some progress made considering the time and money invested.  Arwyn and I have made progress on our own individually but not much together as a couple.  The next session, Arwyn will be going on her own followed by me going on my own the following week.  Maybe those sessions will shake something loose and I’m willing to stick with going a few rounds with that.  The fees are reasonable at $75 per session, but not if we’re not getting anywhere.  I might as well spend the money on lottery tickets.

One thing of note, is that starting in January (well before counseling appeared on the radar) I did confront Arwyn about her odd sleeping posture, i.e. sleeping with her head at the foot of the bed and wrapped in a totally separate blanket.  She has since reoriented her self back to having her head at the head of the bed, but she is still wrapped in her own blanket.  Cold weather would seem to be opportune snuggling weather since her chief complaint about sleeping close to me is that I’m too hot but that hasn’t happened.  So maybe there is some progress in there somewhere, but it has been glacial at best.  Warm weather WILL be back soon enough and then the hot complaint will kick in.

So you Yankees just hang tough and stay warm! 


10 Responses to Counseling #2 – Nothing Much New

  1. Rosie says:

    Your second to the last paragraph is a crock. STOP being so ego-centric. The counselor has to hear this backgound in get their handle on things. YOU believe you know it all, know exactly what to do, and so are going to now cut and run? And you are going to counseling because why…? You’re an avoider, and have had marital troubles for how long?

    Whew, that was harsh, but you should be man enough to stop and think what you said. You’re going to maybe quite because things are not going quickly enough, YOUR way!!!

  2. Dave says:

    Don’t expect too much too fast, though. The counselor doesn’t know all the backstory, until you’ve told them; at that point, it’s time to start looking for the “now” parts.

    Gotta give the now a chance, at any rate, or you’ll be stuck where you are.

  3. xi summit says:

    Digger- Do try to be patient, any competent therapist is going to find out all they can about the ‘patients’ before starting work. frankly if your therapist recommends much before the 4th or 5th visit you should be concerned that they’re NOT worth the money. Like it or not, this is one of those things where you gotta go against your instincts and be patient with the practitioner.

    While i have not personally been therapized I have witnessed some therapy-ing and been told about others and the counselors who took action in the first couple sessions always- not usually, not almost always but ALWAYS- did more damage than good. Made judgements based on too little information. Made lives/relationships worse rather than the same or better.

    Queenie’s not a snuggler either and will use all sorts of excuses. Bottom line, she just doesn’t like it and it’s not solvable by eliminating the excuses. I suspect the same is true for Arwyn. Try to be happy you’re not sleeping with her feet anymore.

  4. diggerjones says:

    The failure rate of marriage counseling as an intervention against divorce is 80-90%. Much of that is a symptom of people doing the equivalent of waiting until the final stage of cancer before seeking treatment. Some of it is because it is harder to get two people to fix themselves rather than just one person. Much of it is because of faulty methodology. I do get the necessity of the therapist to establish a baseline and get filled in. I suppose the paragraph that lit Rosie up was just me expressing a certain degree of boredom and some of that could have been the result of some heightened expectations on my part. I did go in to this session wanting to talk about some stuff that has been weighing on me, but it just never happened.

    So I guess I’ll gin up a blog post about it instead.

    I’m willing to go a year or however long if I see *some* progress within a couple of months. But talk therapy has a tendency to get bogged down and drag on forever with few results.


  5. Square1 says:

    In my own experience with counseling it took my counselors a while to “learn” me, to be able to tell when I was being honest, when I was dodging, and when I was plain lying. I imagine for a marriage counselor it’s even more difficult because you’re learning not only one but two people, and both of them have been together long enough that they’ve heard the other person relate the same anecdotes year after year, the same speeches, the same monologues, same old song and dance. This may look like a sign of no progress. You guys have the double edged sword of history, the counselor does not.

    I share Rosie’s sentiments. You can’t cut and run because he’s not fixing things fast enough, or you are bored. Guess what? You’re going to be bored. You’re going to get hurt. You’re going to get pissed off. You’re going to hate yourself. You’re going to hate Arwyn. And at times you will probably hate your counselor. Prepare yourself for it. You’ve come out of marital avoidance and are entering the marital crucible. Good luck with that. Quitting at this point is a loud scream in Arwyn’s direction that you’ve not given up only on counseling, but on your marriage. That may not be how you intend it, but that will be how she perceives it.

    Counseling only works if you allow it to. That 80-90% failure rate has as much to do with the couples as it does the counselors. More often than not people don’t want to be told that they are handling something incorrectly, or that they need to change. What they want to hear is that their spouse needs to do the changing. A good counselor will call both parties out, and mediate discussions, call for compromises. Too many times after years of resentments have built, one party or both have become unwilling to budge or to yield for fear of getting hurt or otherwise screwed by their partner. That is where a majority of your 80-90% failure rate comes from. The rest as you said comes from poor methodology. In that case though the notion of counseling does not have to fail. There is the option of firing the ineffectual counselor and finding another with a better track record.

  6. MP says:

    Seems to me that the reason you BOTH needed to be there is that it forces you (gently) to BE A COUPLE, which is something you’ve been dodging, no? You needed to hear the difficult stuff as much as Arwyn needed to say it, and needed for you to hear it – and vice versa. It IS getting you somewhere new: ONTO THE SAME PAGE. I think your therapist’s strategies will be more meaningful to you (both) if you know what they’re based upon.

  7. xi summit says:

    Well I didn’t wanna bring it up but you are right, marriage counseling as a tool to prevent divorce is a dismal long-shot and will probably always be so. Part of it is what you suggest, most do not start until the crisis is already too far gone. One of the other major factors is that both parties are looking to somehow change the other party and while that sounds ‘normal’ (i.e. the old ‘diamond in the rough’ garbage) the frank truth is it is a daunting task at best. And sometimes not entirely fair. Anyhow …..

  8. Digger Jones says:

    Well, Square, you are right on at least one count: cutting and running would be a pretty clear sign that I’ve given up on the marriage. So I sort of get what’s got people’s blood up. From another angle, this is so far the only thing Arwyn has been willing to do and try so even if little progress is made for awhile I’ve got that much to think about. If I tanked this, she would be unlikely to try anything else, so it deserves a fair shot. I just haven’t decided what a fair shot is, yet.

    MP, hearing difficult stuff is what it’s about I think. But we haven’t gone there yet.

    You’re right, Xi. One of my stated goals at the outset was to either move towards a more intimate connection or figure out how to deal with NOT having that connection. I think of it as developing and maturing but some might think of it as changing. I don’t want to be someone else as be more of who ‘m supposed to be.


  9. FTN says:

    I will at least agree with some of Digger’s sentiments — I’m not expecting something life-altering in the first few meetings with a counselor, but in my experience, s/he would at least be giving you homework and things to do, even perhaps in the first two weeks. That might not be huge behavior-changes, but maybe some personality tests or informational marriage quizzes and things to talk about as a couple.

    The problem is that Digger has been doing that stuff on his own, and analyzing it here, for years. So to him, the counselor is gonna have to be quite the superhero right off the bat to reach his expectations. Just remember that Arwyn HASN’T been doing any of that. So she’s gonna have some catching up to do, honestly.

    When you meet separately with the counselor, it may be a good time for you to bring up your thoughts on ACTION vs talking.

  10. Emily says:

    I agree with others here that you need to chill out a little, Digger, and ride with the process for a while.

    The pair of you took some time to get into this hole, and it may take some time to dig you out.

    It takes some time for a counsellor to get the background he or she needs to be useful to you. Also, it takes time to form conclusions about what is going on in your lives, your capacity to change/develop, and the pace you are both going to be comfortable with. For instance, my own perception is that you are raring to make progress but that Arwyn isn’t necessarily there yet – so it wouldn’t surprise me, for instance, if the counsellor decides to move slowly in order to bring Arwyn along with you.

    If you still feel things aren’t moving along by, say, the fourth week, then don’t choose quitting as your first option. Schedule a discussion with the counsellor about where this is going and any frustrations you have.

    Honestly, Digger, I suspect this is yours and Arwyn’s best chance, so just don’t blow it out of sheer impatience!

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