Fools’ Council

counselling can mean many things to many people. To me it has always meant it’s long over due that you talked openly with friends. To a friend of mine it has meant getting proscribed psychotropic drugs. Both of these could possibly be viewed as failure. Which is pretty much how I have regarded them. But after our recent transient marital melt down I found myself googling relationship counseling in our area.

48hrs ago I would have laughed at you for suggesting I’d be seriously considering getting a complete stranger to guide my marriage back on track. 12hrs ago I thought that’s what relationship counsellors did, but it turns out I’m wrong. Relate, the UK’s best know marriage guidance charity, seem to make a point of saying they can’t fix a relationship – if one partner has decided it’s over, all they can do is help make the seperation as painless as possible. I’m not sure they even do what we need  – we need someone to bang our heads together, tell us we’re behaving like twats, and to start treating each other like we love each other. The latter is something She seems able to say – rightly or wrongly – but it is not something I have felt able to do for quite some time. It’s not that I can say I don’t love Her, it’s just that I don’t know what that means any more. As well as marriage guidance, Relate also do Sex Therapy. I think we need a bit of both.

When the friend I mentioned at the start was sent away by his counsellor with instructions to come back when he’d been medicated, my opinion of therapy dropped a little lower than it already was. So I quizzed him (via SMS) for the name of said professional – I didn’t want to go anywhere near this one. I gave him no specifics about why I was asking, but he was positive about the process and the benefits. I don’t know if he’s right. We may see.

The following couple of hours I spent researching Counselling. I deliberately went through this process on my own as I needed to know how counselling worked before I suggested it to my Wife. (I can’t take all the credit for this as She’s floated the idea in the past, but I have dismissed it, or ignored it.) As part of that I ended up unexpectedly having about a 90min web-chat with a Relate counsellor. Initially it seemed to be starting out as a counselling session, but that wasn’t what I needed today – I needed to know how their session worked – what’s involved. So I raised the issue, and we got back on track. I wasn’t ungrateful, it just wasn’t what I wanted (or was prepared for) there and then. My questions were answered and I logged off. And armed with my new (if limited) knowledge and a degree of resolve, I suggested it to my Wife when She got home from work.

I was disappointed with the response.

Since she had suggested we might benefit from relationship counselling in the past, I expected a degree of positivity, but what I got was a preference to talk things through ourselves, a wariness of personality clashes with the counsellor (I do share this concern) and other unnecessary hurdles: Do Relate do home visits, because the need for childcare would be problematic. Not if She’s prepared to take a couple of hours off work for the sake of our marriage. Are they counsellors or psychotherapists? I think we both have a distrust of Freudian analysts. Do they publish any self help programs? Not that I’ve seen, but I haven’t looked. And I’m not sure unguided self help without a mediator present is a good idea for us. Etc, etc, etc.

Anyway, come the morning, I revisited the Relate website. Amongst other things I tried their Relationship Health Check. My result? No As. No Bs. 4 Cs and 3 Ds. And I was trying to be positive with my answers! Their diagnosis (in summary) is as follows:
Mostly a’s: Congratulations – your relationship is looking very healthy indeed.
Mostly b’s: On the whole your relationship is in good shape.
Mostly c’s: If you scored mostly c’s you may be finding your relationship often feels like a struggle.
Mostly d’s: It looks as though your relationship is going though a particularly difficult time at the moment.

So it seems we’re floating between “feels like a struggle” and “going though a particularly difficult time”. No shit Sherlock! Why the fuck do you think I’m looking at a marriage counselling website? Because everything’s hunky-fucking-dory? [Note to self: Deep breaths. Keep taking nice, deep, calming breaths.]

For the second time I logged on for web chat with a counsellor. To try to figure out what to do about my Wife’s reluctance for us to see a counsellor. Unfortunately I think I must have come up against the sort of negatively stereotypical, tree hugging, warm and fuzzy, simperingly fawning and understanding counsellor I’m going to want to beat to death before feeding her corpse to her cats. [Deep breaths again. Deep … breaths …] This webchat focussed on the issue of the unspoken power struggle in our relationship, and the fact that I don’t think we are capable, as individuals, of being objective about our own failings, or being told by eachother where we’re going wrong.

As our 45 minutes progressed, I felt I wasn’t getting much support and was being told I had to be the one to compromise. And I gently said as much. I quote a couple of lines from the webchat that followed:

Agent Nicola: Compromise is a joint venture… I’m wondering what will happen if you both don’t compromise?
Customer AM: That’s a very confrontational and accusatory way of putting it.
Agent Nicola: Im sorry if you feel I’m being confrontational… I’m not trying to be so…

Do please bear in mind that is quoted without context, and I may have come across as being a little negative, but I didn’t expect a counsellor to be passive-aggressive. Or maybe I’m being unfair and overly defensive?

eventually Nicola suggested a compromise that actually struck me as way we could compromise, as opposed to a way I could compromise. I agree to try talking together first [Ed: and suffer the bruises] if She agrees to us booking an initial session with a counsellor. So we’ll try that tonight. [Am takes deep breath, shivers, and crosses fingers.]

29 Responses to “Fools’ Council”

  1. Gillian Colbert Says:

    Fingers crossed!!!!!

  2. I read your posts in order so my comment on your last post actually speaks to all of this.

    Marriage counseling is special. Finding a counselor you both like can often be an insurmountable issue, but if you can both “mostly” like the counselor at the outset, I’d say go for it.

    Next, in a couple, there is ALWAYS the one who suggested it and the one who agreed. The levels of commitment to the process and to the marriage are inevitably different. That’s why a couple ends up on the couch in the first place.

    I live in the States, so I’ve never heard of this Relate thing you’re talking about, but I don’t blame you for feeling a little off about it. I don’t like the idea of online “counseling” or even an online “consultation” that would last longer than about 15 minutes. 45+ minutes of words in a chat box isn’t even a glimmer of what a therapeutic session is.

    In regards to the difference between counselors and psychotherapists are the same here – it’s psychoANALYSTS that have the special Freudian training that requires you lay on a couch with the analyst behind you. They don’t do couples counseling. They also require you to see them 3x a week or more.

    Also, no therapist worth their salt should ever turn a client away until they get medicated. They should be able to work with any population under any circumstances. That’s bullshit what your friend was told.

    Lastly, your wife and you are at a crossroads, clearly. I’d stop chatting with online counselors and start making some phone calls instead. My ex and I had to get a babysitter for the first time ever to make our appointments. It was that high of a priority. At the very least, YOU could go to a counselor on your own. You’d be surprised at what you might get out of it whether your wife joins you or not.

    Thanks for sharing all of this with us. Hang in there.
    xx Hy

    • Relate is a propper, grown up, nationwide, relationship counselling charity. They mainly do face to face session, but also phone, email, and (for free) web chats. The latter are not meant to replace proper counselling. I think.
      I have no idea whether we’re going to get as far as booking a session – I think I hope we will. We have another “chat” on the horizon for tonight.
      And thanks for the support. Others’ input helps, and I’m not sure I could share much of this with any of my local friends.
      (In the UK we don’t really do “thrapy”, so getting admissions from people that they’ve even seen a counsellor is rare, never mind a recommendation. Stiff upper lip, you know.)

  3. Hyacinth just put it into the right words. (Where is the “like” button?).
    I feel sorry for you. A good counsellor is hard to find. My experience (Germany) is, that the really good psychotherapists often don’t do couple counseling, but stick with individual sessions. And sooner or later drift off to “coaching” because they can make shit loads of money by doing the same stuff with managers. The guys who stay with the couple counseling are often the soft-non-confrontational-whimps if you ask me. Sorry to be very prejudiced here.

  4. During my therapy-infested times in my twenties, it was all hard-core first-generation Gestalt-Therapie with a lot of screaming, shouting, crying, beating up pillows (imagining it’s your repressive father/mother), trembling-shaking-whatever fits, curling up in laps sobbing, group hugs and group fights, etc. (unfortunately no group sex, but at least during the week-ends there always were some who found each other through all the emotions).

    My therapists were in their early thirties at the time. As they grew elder, things got a little less action-driven (to always push everyone to go through the most painful feelings they have inside them), and more thoughtful/analytic. I loved the combination of going through emotions live + analyzing the story behind.

    Sometimes I miss these times, when I still believed that there is a way to leave all the shit behind you and become a “clean” and happy person. (Result today: I am a happy person WITH all the shit somehow integrated- nothing hidden, so no struggles compensating and hiding, but I didn’t really leave much behind either).

    OK, I got driven away there 🙂 Just to encourage you, it doesn’t have to be the limp “I can understand how you are feeling” handshake.

  5. A very brief update:
    We talked. It was tense to start with. It was civilised. We ended up smiling. We’re going to talk to a Relate counsellor. She’s done some reading on sex therapy, which please me on some level, because I feel it’s a part of what She needs, but I do hope She realises we have a lot of other things to sort out, and I did intimate my feelings about the whole of our relationship having issues. I am, though, massively releived. We even had sex. Neither of us came, but it was reasonably good sex. It was certainly good to have sex, as it meant we’re not enemies in the way we have been for a couple of days.
    A petty good result, I think.

  6. Gillian Colbert Says:

    I hope so … all the best to you both!

  7. I’m always vaguely intimidated commenting peoples posts…I’m afraid to say something idiotic or make a typo or something, yuno? I think getting outside help can be really useful. I usually find the whole therapeutic world kind of limp-dick, limp-handshake too but it’s in listening to what I come up to tell them that somehow pulls my head out of my ass.

    Plus, you got laid in the deal. Good luck to you and Her.

    • Don’t worry about commenting on my posts. I’ve got pretty thick skin.
      And if it gets me laid on a daily basis I’d even consider seeing a Freudian analyst. (Oh, hang on, no, I’m wrong – I’d rather stick to wanking.)

  8. confessionsofyourhusbandsmistress Says:

    You’re doing the right thing. It takes time and effort on both sides. But it’s so worth the work!

  9. PS: I didn’t mean I thought your head was in your ass! See, I’m hopeless for commenting.

  10. sexuallifeofawife Says:

    Sounds good! If anything stuff will get put out into the open – which is what you said was difficult for you to do before…
    Great if its getting you laid aswell!

  11. Accidental… I’m a little behind here, trying to catch up on your blog. In my day job, I work in treatment. I think anyone and everyone can benefit from therapy. As long as you have a good therapist. It’s a lot about “guided discovery” (at least that’s how I was trained). And if it doesn’t work out doing couples therapy, consider going alone. God knows we’ve all got issues! I don’t know. I say all this but when M and I almost got divorced in 2009, we didn’t go to therapy (he doesn’t believe in it)… Anyway, Good Luck! Wishing you the best!

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