Okay, A Real Update

It’s been awhile since I had an update, mainly because there wasn’t much to update on at all. There are times when the marital drama has to take a backseat to other kinds of drama, and so it was for the past several weeks. The therapy was put on hold for a week and then Arwyn went for a couple of solo sessions. One of those was at her request, and I guessed that she needed extra help to work on some sort of issues. I’m not sure what those issues would be, exactly. We are getting ready to visit some of her family and mine, and any of those could involve issues. Plus there’s me, and Heaven knows being married to me could result in having to go to weeks and weeks and years and years of therapy!

So in my last post on the subject I was feeling a bit frustrated.  Emily made a comment and expressed a thought or two I can respond to.  But since she was responding to Desmond (and others who were so inclined), maybe I should take a minute to a couple of those thoughts.  I agree with the sentiments until it gets to a point of making some sort of ultimatum.  Yes, we’ve been making progress and yes it has been glacial at times.  I get totally weary of the struggle at times.  Some days, I want to throw myself off the mountain entirely.  But I’m continuing to fight while occasionally venting.  Things are frustrating but they have been much worse in the past.

Emily made some noise about Arwyn not getting off.  Yes, it’s frustrating for her.  But the squeeze technique would go over like a lead duck.  I even tried a variant of that in trying to wear a cock ring, which was absolutely disastrous.   Getting off in advance sometimes works…sort of.  It’s important to note that the single biggest stimulous for Aryn getting off is me getting off, which sort of works against the hardness she wants.  Oddly enough, the two previous attempts at sex brought her pretty close to getting off while I did not.  And I was okay with that, given the circumstances.

Last night was our first joint session in a month or so and it was interesting.  I’ve said before how this guy is skilled in the art of reflective listening.  But I quickly discovered the downfall of having couples use this on each other.  The therapist tried to guide us into using it, and he started off by having Arwyn say something that I had done that made her feel more supported, significant and valued.  She referred to something last weekend, where I turned my bad attitude around to one that was more accepting.  The therapist had me repeat what she said back either verbatum or as a paraphrase.  Easy enough.  Awkward, but no big deal.  And when the person is saying something neutral or positive, it isn’t very difficult at all, just a bit awkward.  “What I hear you saying is that you felt supported when I said such and such.”

However, somehow, this little exchanged spirale downward and before I knew it, Arwyn began criticizing me as a father. “What I hear you saying is that I’m not spending enough time with with the boys.” And after I repeated or paraphrased, she elaborated.  “What I hear you saying is that I’m not doing enough with you and the boys.” Then she elaborated and added some more.  “What I hear you saying is that you are disappointed in me as a father to my children.”

I was being totally emotionally ransacked.  Arwyn kept going on and on, and each time the therapist would ask me to repeat or paraphrase and then ask Arwyn if she felt like what I repeated back was accurate and if she felt like she was being heard.  And each time it was and she did.  But she still kept going.

She finally read me correctly and said that it seemed like I was getting a bit tense.  Yes, I was!  At that point I turned on her and the therapist both, and said that this technique was simply digging in more and more resentment on my part.  If she felt like I had heard her, why did she have to keep repeating and piling on and on?  He didn’t seem to have a ready answer for me, but then there was some discussion about feeling judged critically and my relationship with my father and Arwyn’s relationship with her father and yadda, yadda, yadda.

Bah, rubbish!

This guy relies on some fairly old marital therapy technology:

1. Reflective listening

2. Family Systems

3. Stereotypical male/female – Mars/Venus stuff

4. And then he brought in the love language stuff and we have some exercises to do with that.

While all of these are interesting, there isn’t any good research backing any of these approaches as being efficacious. Not even bad research. That does not in any way negate what progress we’ve made, though.  Basically, we’re getting a good view of the placebo effect where something (anything) is better than nothing.  And in that way it is as if some small amount of accountability is built in.

Reflective listening is a loser, because no one is going to use it in a fight, as John Gottmen suggests.  There needs to be constructive ways of dealing with the conflict especially since most major conflicts will never be resolved!  Instead of working so hard to avoid the fight, work at recovering after the fight.

And that’s what we did later that night.  We got the kids to bed, talked, snuggled and got the groove on.  While my past two mishaps were mostly caused by my worry about where Arwyn was, I didn’t bother with that extra pressure this time and I’d say it was a more positive experience for both of us.

D.

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3 Responses to Okay, A Real Update

  1. aphron says:

    Reflective listening sounds like a dead end. Also, I would agree that arguments rarely end in both parties learning and growing from it. In my experience, it just stops. Dealing with the aftermath of an intense argument is the hardest part. That is where I, and probably many, need the most help. Forgiveness. Sadly, these arguments leave resentment more often than not.

    I’m happy to read that some progress is being made. It will take a long time and a lot of hard work. Arwyn seems pretty committed.

  2. FTN says:

    Actually, rather than trying to AVOID the fight or only learning how to RECOVER from the fight, I think what is needed is learning HOW to fight. Fighting nicely. Positive disagreement. Civil debate. I think Aphron’s marriage would be the perfect example of how much it’s needed!

    That kind of reflective listening is helpful, and something to keep in mind — learning to actually HEAR what the person is saying is obviously vital in communication — but in many cases it’s not going to be used at home the same way it would be in therapy. It’s rather wishy-washy and feminine-centered, quite frankly. But it is good to keep in mind if the other person doesn’t think you are hearing or understanding. It has to go two ways, though.

    I’m surprised the therapists didn’t stop Arwyn if she was clearly attacking you and piling it on. She does seem to reiterate a lot that she resents your lack of time with your kids — you’ve mentioned that quite often over the years. So what is your response and reaction to that? I realize she’s attacking you, but what is your response to the core of what she’s saying?

    And congratulations on some good sex, by the way. Yay for that.

  3. Desmond Jones says:

    Yeah, you’re right, Digger – the ultimatum is a loser, and I kinda said so at the time. Really, what I meant to say before is just to drive home to her how terribly destructive is the ‘I like sex, just not with you’ line.

    As to the current post, I’m not sure I agree that you can’t (or rarely can) learn and grow from an argument, ‘cuz I think that Molly and I do it all the time, so it seems to me that it’s at least possible. Maybe we’re more exceptional than I think we are, and the phenomenon is rarer than it seems to me. I do agree that forgiveness and restoration of the relationship are absolutely necessary.

    And hey – Makeup Sex! You’re still definitely heading in a good direction. . .

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