I went to marriage counseling for the first time last night. In case any of you are wondering, marriage counseling is much like all the other counseling, except that you often have to wait for someone else to speak before you can get your point across. I found myself ignoring this and interrupting my husband to either try to clarify his point for him, or to get my own thoughts in. I decided I am going to have to work on that.
Last night after the appointment I decided there were a couple of things I was going to work on. It is tough when you leave the first session of your counseling and you realize that not only half the problem is your own, but that there are some things so obvious to the others in the room that they stand out immediately.
I have been in therapy most of my life. Don’t really mind it, because often if I can find a good doctor, I can find someone to challenge my thinking and give me another perspective. I need that. I often get to far into my own head and I can’t hear anything else. I miss the obvious and take for granted that I already know the answer. This is not conducive to being a better person, something I think I strive for routinely. There are so many things I wish I was, I wish that I could do, and so many things in my life I wish that I could change. Going to a therapist can often be a catalyst for that change; even if it is only for a day, a moment, a second.
The doctor my husband and I went to last night was exactly what I look for; articulate, intelligent and not afraid to stop the proceedings to demand we listen to what we just said. Often, we as humans, say things but we don’t actually hear them. Or what we think we are saying is not what anyone else is hearing. It is the basic communication between two humans that is often the most misjudged, and often the most obvious things that must be worked out in order to discover true happiness.
Obviously, if I am in marriage counseling than it is safe to say my husband and my communication skills suck. I don’t mind saying it. The truth is if I could “hear” what I need from him, my marriage might be much different than it is today. I like to believe with all my heart that my husband and I love each other, we simply don’t have a clue what each other desires, needs, or even wants. And unfortunately, as pointed out to me last night, I don’t know what I desire, need, or want either.
Almost immediately in the fifty minute session it was pointed out to me that there was no way that my husband could be expected to give me what I needed, if I didn’t know what I needed. If I couldn’t pinpoint the ways that I needed my husband to act, to say, to be, how could he possibly ever work to give me that. It is a legitimate question. If I don’t love myself, how will I ever accept that it is possible that my husband actually loves me. I won’t be able to believe it. I won’t be able to feel it. I will crumble on the weight of disappointment because while my husband is giving all that he can, he is literally floundering around trying to make someone who can’t be happy, happy. It isn’t fair to him and it isn’t fair to our marriage.
When the therapist said this to me it was like a door slammed into my nose. Kind of like what I imagine a slap across the face, or a brick upside the head would feel like. It was almost if my whole world stopped moving for one moment. For one tiny second, I was laid out bare. I won’t say it was an a-ha moment, because truthfully I might have known this somehow. But it was staggering to put what I have struggled with in the most basic terms. To reduce what I have always believed to be a major and terrifying problem into a simple declarative sentence. Somehow I thought it wasn’t that basic; if you don’t love yourself how can you accept your husband’s love? How will you recognize it? How will you believe in it? How will you feel it?
My personality demands that when I am confronted a problem, that I must immediately try to solve it. Sorry to say it is fourteen hours later, and despite the length of time I have thought of this problem, I am no closer to what I need to do. How can I make myself believe that I am a good person or a pretty person? How can I force myself to see the brightness in me instead of only recognizing the darkness? How can I forgive myself for being human, for making mistakes? How can I take those things that I ashamed about and turn it into simply acts that were wrong but ultimately make me real? How can I understand that I may not be perfect, but I am okay?
The first thing I tried was simple. I told myself I was beautiful over and over. I got a stomach-ache.
The second thing I tried was to remind myself that God loves me. And then I got stuck on the question of how the hell could I prove that? I got a headache.
From there I tried to remind myself of my accomplishments. But all I could think of was the aftermath, and what came next after those accomplishments. I got heartache.
I imagined myself in front of a room full of people clapping, praising me on my writing. I got an anxiety attack.
I don’t think I ever truly realized that the ability for me to like myself is completely missing. I suppose I always held the hope that I could find something that I felt I was worthy of. I always assumed that there was some talent, some limb on my body, some smile I gave to another that would counteract my own doubts about myself. But there isn’t. There isn’t one thing that I can think of that will allow me to stand a little taller this morning. There isn’t one thing that I can think of that will allow me to find pride. And that knowledge is simply wrong. Not just depressing, not just anger inspiring, but wrong. There has to be good things about me. There has to be good things about everyone.
But how do I climb that wall, when I can’t even find the first threshold? How do I take the first step? Do I list all the things I can do? I can read fast…but it takes away time from my family that they deserve. I suppose I am an okay writer, but my writing is so private and I really have days when I simply am too overwhelmed to put anything on paper. I suppose I drive okay, but really is that a place to start? Then I thought to climb that wall I would list all the things I dislike about myself and then try to think of good things associated with them. I think my hands literally cramped from typing that fast and that much…and I didn’t even get to the good things.
It is unfair for me to expect my husband to give me what I need when I don’t know what I need? How can I possibly believe him when he says I look beautiful, if I don’t believe I ever look beautiful? How is that fair to him? How is that ever fair to him? How can I expect him to enjoy being married to me when he is suffering from the constant unknown? When he wants to give me the good things in life, but I can’t accept them, or I don’t recognize them?
I never believed that my husband and I were going to marriage counseling because he did something wrong. I love him to much for that. I never believed that it was all his fault or that he should change for me. I wanted to go to marriage counseling so that we could be our individual selves, and still like one another. So we could find the ability to enjoy each other’s company again, not spend time in separate worlds because the work has gotten too hard. I always accepted that I have a lot of problems, a lot of issues, that hurt our marriage. What I don’t think I ever realized is I have some really big ones. I never recognized that something basic could put our marriage in its current state.
My husband is the kind of man who won’t accept my apology for this one. My husband is that great guy who believes in his whole heart that it takes two to tango. He is that decent and that good. But until I can resolve this one, how am I ever going to be able to find the answers I am so desperately seeking in my marriage? How can we fix something that is so broken, yet broken so simply? How do I find belief? How do I find confidence? How in the world do I find the self-esteem I need to believe that someone as incredible as my husband could ever love someone like me?