Wednesday, May 8, 2013
Reflections on Marriage Counseling
As I shared a few weeks back, Jim and I--in an attempt to make our "ever after" go as happily as possible--have been working with a counselor. Considering we haven't yet addressed the first issue*, I'm amazed by how much the counseling has helped, already. I wish we'd gone years ago.
You may be wondering why I'm blogging about this, and truth is: I don't really know. I do believe with all my heart that, as believers, we do ourselves and others a disservice when we pretend we're perfect. I don't want my hurts wasted and like to think that--by laying them out like this--I make it easier for God to use them. I seek accountability. I desire prayer.
Anyway, our first session was all about the three of us getting to know one another and deciding to work together. The counselor offered no advice or suggestions beyond encouraging our being nice to one another until the next session. We'd made the first step, he said, and we needed to rest in the knowledge that we were on the right road, that things were going to get better.
Those simple words really helped me, and Jim and I didn't have the first argument before our second session. It felt like some of the pressure had been relieved. We were hopeful and especially attentive and kind toward one another.
During our second session, Jim and I took a lot of notes regarding a specific process of communication called reflective listening. We'd been collecting hurts and resentments for a long time, our counselor said; our first goal should be to stop accumulating them. He gave us some homework and sent us home to complete it. We had another excellent weekend, but a few days before our third session, we tried to discuss an event of the day and had a communication fail.
When our conversation started to get heated, Jim called a time-out, which is part of the reflective-listening process. I was perturbed: we hadn't followed the process up to that point, and Jim wasn't particularly inclined to follow it after. I pretty much refused to accept the time-out until Jim followed the rest of the process correctly.
Our third session with the counselor was painful for me because the counselor disapproved of my refusing to accept the time-out. Einstein defined insanity, the counselor said, as doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results, and fact is: I've always refused to let things drop for any reason or length of time. I pretty much demand to be heard, understood, appeased, etc....not that it's worked out for me.
The counselor reminded me: if I have a problem, it's my problem. I need to ask the other person to help me with it and respect his or her need for the time and/or space to do so. He said: any answer or response I get from demanding is unlikely to be the one I want. Finally, he encouraged me to trust him, Jim, and the process itself. We won't leave things unresolved from here on out, the counselor promised, regardless of how many times that's happened in my past.
All in all, his words forced me to take a hard look at myself, my past, and the unhealthy patterns I've learned and lived. I cried and cried, and--at the end of the session--I really just wanted to go to bed. But I reckon they call them growing pains for a reason.
One more note: the time-out part of the reflective-listening process, when carried out properly, should make it possible to 1) talk about the troublesome issue at a later time, and 2) talk easily about other things, in the interim. I love those concepts.
*No worries: I don't intend to write out our issues at any point, just share some of what I'm learning.