Author’s Note: I wanted to include a trigger warning, as below I will be discussing emotional abuse, specifically as it relates to my first marriage. I wanted to share this now, because I am emotionally in a much better place and it is difficult for me to think, talk or write about these times if I am not in a very good head space.
Once you decide that you are going to divorce, there are a few things that you have to do. First, you have to tell the person you are divorcing. Second, you have to tell everyone else. If you have never been divorced, you can’t understand how difficult the second part is. When I divorced, I felt like a failure. I truly believed that marriage meant forever, and here I was “giving up.”
When I did finally start to have the conversation with everyone, it was awkward. It doesn’t help that people in times of crisis tend to say stupid sh*t. One of the first things people would ask was “Did you try marriage counseling?”I always wanted to punch those people.
Yes, I did try marriage counseling for a year and a half. I tried everything in my power to make my marriage work. It didn’t, therefore I came to the conclusion that we needed to divorce. So, just a public service announcement. Unless the person who is divorcing is literally an alien just arrived from another planet… DO NOT suggest marriage counseling to a person who is announcing their divorce. Just. Don’t.
Anyways, I digress. What I really want to talk about today is marriage counseling itself. Yes, marriage counseling can work. If both parties are agreeable to truly working on the marriage, AND working on themselves. It cannot and will not work if one party is not interested in changing and/or saving the marriage.
Richard and I started marriage counseling in either late 2012, or early 2013. It was shortly after he told me that he was having feelings for another woman, and that he wished that we were poly-amorous. He did confess his feelings to the other woman, however, when she told him he was a doofus and then called me to apologize he agreed to try and work on our relationship.
So with a positive attitude, and an open heart I went with Richard. Marriage counseling typically follows a pattern, the first session together, second week you will have individual sessions and then moving forward the sessions are together.
After we had gone for about six weeks, I composed a letter that I read during our seventh session. I found it while cleaning, and I wanted to share some excerpts from the letter. I really wanted to do this because I think it’s important to be honest. I think that it’s important to trust your intuition, and because I want other’s to know what abuse can look like, so if you ever find yourself in a similar jam or mentoring a friend who is in a similar jam you can tell them “THIS IS NOT OKAY.” I will also apologize in advance for the run on sentences, this was a VERY free write.
I don’t want a divorce, but I think a part of me is in a little bit of denial. That part of me wants Richard… but it also wants the life that I thought I would get with him. I understand that we don’t always get what we wants, and sometimes life will throw us curveballs, [But, I included in here what I thought life would look like.}
So six weeks in, I identified that I was in denial and that I was pretty sure we were headed to divorce.
After our session last week we had a huge fight. And Richard said some things that finally gave me some clarity. He said that he does blame me for our problem, because he feels that it is me that needs to change to make this relationship work. He listed the things that I need to change for me and said that if I was only willing to do these things that everything would be okay. When I asked him what he needed to change, he stated that he feels that he has already changed a lot for me. He asked me to list some things and when I said I don’t have a list because the only thing I want is to be loved and accepted, he said that this was proof that he didn’t kneed to change anything.
I think that I really hit the nail on the head here. I did have clarify in that moment that it was never going to be a two way street. Let me also say that if your partner blames you for your problems… well that’s just never going to end well.
I sometimes feel like this is not a relationship between two partners, but a dictatorship. Or a relationship in which Richard feels that he has to be the parent. He said last week that I was not taught proper behavior, and that I don’t act my age, either acting way to mature or immature and as a result he has to reprimand me the same way he has to reprimand our host daughter. And, I know that Richard will say that I am calling all the shots, and that I am being the dictator, but in my heart I don’t think this is true. We don’t live where I want, we don’t have the house that I want, have the family I want, the career that I want, or the hobbies that I want. I can’t even change my hair or clothing style without complaints.
When I read through this now, I cringe. I can’t imagine that I was once this girl that allowed another person to dictate to me everything about my life down to how I dressed and how I wore my hair. I am distinctly remembering at this time when I cut bangs and Richard threw a fit. When he first saw me saying “What did you do!?” then spending the rest of the day/days until they grew out making fun of me and tell me to never spring something like that on him again.
But, when I look at our marriage and seriously think of terminating it, I can still see the good. That is why it is hard for me to hear him say, I can’t think of anything good about being married to you and to hear such a constant focus on the negative. So at this point, I feel like maybe divorce is the only option left. After six weeks of therapy, nothing has really changed and I don’t feel like Richard wants anything to change but me.
Again, I demonstrate some serious denial with insight. I so wanted things to work out, but even early on I realized that it wasn’t going to work.
So after I read this letter (there is more that I have chosen not to share) there was a silence that came over the room. Richard tensed on the couch next to me. What our therapist then said, put me on a path that would eventually lead to my severe depression. She said that there certainly was a lot to take in with what I had written. However, she did feel that we could work together to make our marriage better. She asked me to table the letter for a time and really give the therapy a chance. Richard of course immediately denied that anything I had written was factual.
So I went in feeling confident and self assured. I left the session feeling like not only was my voice not heard, but that I wasn’t being patient with the process. That I needed to be different, because I needed to do the work with the therapist.
In other words. I was wrong.
So, I went week after week trying to see it how she did. I went week after week trying to change and make myself a better wife. I closed off that part of me that had doubts, and tried. I wouldn’t verbalize again the feelings that the relationship just wasn’t right to anyone out loud again for nearly another two years. I would continue to be abused for this amount of time, and over time the constantly abusive environment would trigger in me depression. It would leave me with post traumatic stress, flashbacks and triggers.
So yes, I did try marriage counseling. It didn’t work and it nearly killed me.