We are rapidly approaching the end of therapy, at least for the summer. Last night, Arwyn and I had a rather intense exchange about where we are at. We’ve had these before, of course, and sometimes they get somewhere for awhile and then fizzle out. Sort of like Farmwife’s garden analogy where the weeds keep coming back if the place isn’t tended regularly. And the garden of our marriage is pretty lush with noxious weeds.
One of the questions that came out of a recent 1:1 therapy session was this: What would it look like if Arwyn made our relationship a priority? If she was to really commit to working on it, what would it look like? I had no idea, so last night I asked her.
A bit of background: for the past few years she’s been working part-time at a church preschool as a teacher. She’s good at it and everyone tells her so. She’s just gifted in this area. She works 3 hours/day for 3 days a week, plus whatever time she puts into planning for it and putting stuff together. She’s quite thorough and a bit of a perfectionist sometimes. The preschool follows the school calendar, so sh gets all the breaks the kids get and summer off. It doesn’t pay a lot, though. This past spring many of our counseling sessions revolved around the idea of Arwyn considering quitting her job in order to concentrate on our family and especially our marriage. While I was willing to support her in whatever decision, I had a few misgivings about the idea as in she’d get bored being at home alone and would simply find other things to fill her time. The financial hit, while small, would involve us sacrificing some of the comforts we’ve started to enjoy since getting out of debt. In the end, she decided she would stay with her job.
So I brought this up last night, and pointed out that she’s been off for nearly a month and I hadn’t seen any real work on our relationship or marriage. I brought up a few things I had tried. So I asked what she had done. Every time we have a joint couple’s session, the therapists asks us what we think the other has done to help strengthen our relationship. And more often than not, I find myself grasping for anything. ANYTHING. I’ve come up with her doing laundry, taking care of the kids, sometimes cooking for me and having sex a time or two. And the domestic chores truly look lame to me. I mean they are important, but these are not reasons to get married and poor reasons to stay married. She has a much easier time answering that, because I do step in help with domestic things and occasionally buy little things for her or make things for her or whatever.
But without getting real confrontational, I asked her to help me out. I could be just really obstinate and blind and missing all the things she is doing for our relationship. So what has she done? She had to think awhile and she did come up with one thing. Back when she bought Fire Proof and The Love Dare. That was one thing and I definitely used that as an example in one of our counseling sessions back in February. But she had to really dial back a long way. She admitted that she hasn’t done much since then and hadn’t picked up the love dare book since she bought it.
We then had an exchange about how hard I can be to please, sometimes. I didn’t really see this, but I’m more than game to hear here out. She wanted to me to name stuff she could do to make me feel appreciated and valued as she said she had no idea. I should have just given her (another) copy of my top 20 list. And perhaps I still will.
Throughout the discussion, she did occasionally venture into “I’m sorry but you seem to want me to be someone who I’m not.” I’ve heard of other guys getting caught with that one, but I really wasn’t accepting it. I asked her, “Well, are you happy with who you are? Are you satisfied with the way things are?” She said no. So basically, I’d like to see her be whoever she’s going to be and would be happy to help her get there, but staying the same is not a happy option for either of us.
There was lots of other content here, but sex was not a major part of it, as that just pushes her too far. And she was on the edge of leaving the room crying as it was. She does feel a lot of guilt from that so I didn’t feel like pushing it at the moment. What did come out was that my interest has waned over time. A lot of the hope has drained away for anything resembling a lovely, regular and fulfilling sex life. I’d still like it, but I don’t see Arwyn ever turning into someone who could want or enjoy that. I’m just looking for something more basic that says she values our relationship beyond the money and lifestyle I provide. Then perhaps we can build on that.