Rhonda and I are starting marriage counseling tonight.
It’s been a tough year, a year that has etched permanent tracks in us. Our kids have both been through catastrophic health experiences. We’ve lost babies. Without question that has been tougher on Rhonda. We’ve both gone through the emotional aspects of it…but she had to go through the physical process and she has a job where she sees between 50 and 60 pregnant women a day. It’s never not on her mind. I have a new job and travel a lot, which has put more pressure on us to schedule out how we do our imperatives, like take care of our kids. When I’m away, Rhonda is with them. When I’m home, she’s on call. It doesn’t leave a lot of oxygen in the room for either one of us to mentally cope…certainly not as a couple.
Add to that the fact that we are polar opposites. Now I could mean a million different things, but what I’m getting at is how we communicate and handle stress – we do that in opposite ways. In the most basic terms, Rhonda locks things up inside and I kick the gate open and let things fly all over the place. There are good and bad parts to each of our processes, both in terms of whether or not they work for us individually as well as whether they work for us as a unit. We’d both agree that, lately, the answer to whether or not our processes are working for us as a unit is a resounding no. That’s why we’re going.
So Rhonda – The Internalizer. The good part is that she thinks about things; she’s not impulsive. If something is bothering her, there is no risk that Rhonda is going to blow up and make a scene. Generally speaking, if she brings an issue up, she’s spent some time with it and has some opinions on how to make something better. That’s the good side. That part that’s not good is that she doesn’t bring things up all that often, despite the fact that something may be wrong. The challenge now is I think so much has built up inside her that she’s starting to erode from the inside out. She needs skills for tapping in to that internal reservoir and dealing with it and she needs help from me…awareness, patience…all that.
Then there is me – The Barn Burner. I like resolve and clarity – that’s good. When there is conflict – I want to settle it. I’m not afraid of it. I don’t necessarily see arguments as damaging and I don’t mind being wrong (though whether or not I think I’m wrong can sometimes come into question). I believe I can have emotionless, logical conversations that lead towards a resolution. I get frustrated when other people can’t do the same thing and discussions get buried in murkiness that doesn’t lead towards solving issues. Being able to drive discussions that need to be had is a good thing. The part that isn’t good is that my method isn’t always helpful for others, namely my wife. In fact, if the goal is to get her to talk more, sometimes my method achieves exactly the opposite effect. Not intentionally. And not good.
So yeah, we’re going to counseling.
We will walk into that room tonight with some very simple operating principles. For starters, we know there is a problem. There isn’t one of us pulling the other one to a counselor because one person sees something and is miserable and one person is oblivious. We’re in agreement that we need some better tools for recognizing what we’re doing that doesn’t work and intervening to do something different. And we’re not miserable either, that’s an important point to make. We’re good. We want to stay good. Also, we’re not trying to make a decision to stay together or get a divorce; we’re in it for the long haul so our purpose for seeking outside help is to get and keep our marriage strong, healthy and fun. Another fundamental is that we’re both bought into the belief that this is a good thing. I don’t view seeking help as a weakness or a failure – I see it as a strength. But going to someone for help is a little outside of Rhonda’s nature. It’s impressive that she’s so into it.
Anyway…so that’s that. Without question, I’ll take some heat for publicizing this.
“That’s a private matter!”
“I can’t believe you are airing all your dirty laundry!”
“Shouldn’t that be just between the two of you?”
Fuck that. It is just between the two of us. I’m not going to take some grandstand position and say I’m right for writing about this and everyone else is wrong. But I will say that writing about things I’m going through is helpful to me. It allows me to sort things out and put into words what I’m feeling. Then, as I’ve said before, pushing that experience into a public domain validates my process to me. It means I am owning what I am going through and not hiding anything…not from myself, not from anyone else. Of course this isn’t just my process. Rhonda may not want this out there and that’s fair. If that’s the case, this will be the last time I write about it.
I’m very curious about people who have so much of their life that is private. What’s the point? No one cares that much about you, or me, or anyone. Everyone has strengths and weaknesses…nobody is perfect or thinks anyone else is perfect. Is your personal life anyone else’s business? No. Is it wrong for someone not to want to share every little detail? No. I just personally find people who go to such lengths to hide what they’re up to in life – the bad or the good –very interesting. Because I think they’re suspect. Take a few stabs at publicly writing about YOUR inner-workings and let’s see how you behave afterwards. Makes you a little more accountable, eh?