The beginning of…?

Walking into day 1 with Dr Ruth, all I could do was fixate on an end. A multifaceted, far reaching, and earth shattering end. Not the end of Me per se, but the end of Mine.

I could expound on my initial impressions of Dr Ruth, but suffice to say she was significantly different from the counsellors I/We have encountered, and good enough for that.

The first hour was relatively easy.

The second hour was more challenging. Much more challenging.
Talk of what irks us respectively, with no right to respond, but rather an obligation to repeat what the other has said.
A technique called Imago.
I got to lead with the talking, whilst my Wife was obliged to listen, absorb, and acknowledge.

I found it incredibly uncomfortable and at the end, when I had decided whether I had no more to say, I felt I needed space. To physically walk away from the the obligation to throw metaphorical stones and windows.
I needed space – literally and emotionally.

I had unloaded about about respect, equality, acknowledgement and control. And, not having opportunity to fight back, my Wife seemed to take it remarkably well.
She had also taken notes.

The tables were then turned, and I had to hear of my Wife’s stress at my negative emotions, not knowing whether She was the cause at any instant, and not being given the opportunity to fix or make amends.

In the cold light of the next morning, I’m disappointed to say I can’t really remember much detail of the afternoon. Perhaps that is all lost in the shadow that came after We had left Dr Ruth. Let’s just hope Dr Ruth was keeping track and will know where to pick up from.

However, I felt more positive about Our relationship and the possibility of a future together than I have for a long time. There was almost a sense of optimism. Fundamental grievances had been aired … and heard.
My grievances had been aired … and heard.
And I had heard some of my Wife’s.

We had a couple of exercises for the evening. We started with discussing making one small change at the other’s respective behest. Both were insignificant in their simplicity, but profound in the problems they addressed.
Discussion started well with my Wife’s request, and it became apparent that collectively, Dr Ruth and I had over- complicated the practicalities, and hijacked something simple. My Wife and I managed to salvage Her request and steer it back to what She wanted.
But somewhere along the line, We got lost. Somewhere it descended back into the usual control dynamic. To my Wife’s credit, Her response was to fall back on Imago – repeating what I had said and listening without responding.

We took a break from each other.

When We came back together, the air was clearer. Not clear, but clearer.
We turned to a different piece of homework. And again, frustratingly, somewhere We fell back into our old ways. My Wife taking control and, had I not got pissed off, I would have shut down. I took myself off for a walk. I escaped from Her. And in the solitude of the dark streets, I berated silently in my head.

When I made myself return to the hotel – when I made myself not deny Her the opportunity to make amends, She was … contrite is the wrong word, but having explicitly found Imago a positive tool, again She reflected what I was saying without fighting back. And whilst I acknowledged that decades old behaviour patterns will not be fixed over night, I vented my frustration at how Our earlier progress … Her earlier progress, now seemed to have been so transient.

And She listened. And wrote more notes.

At some point We mutually turned the tables, and I listened.
I did not like to hear that my anger was making Her (physically) feel (emotionally) unsafe. And because it was not my turn to speak, I did not respond with Welcome to my world.

When We had finally run out of things to say, again to my Wife’s credit, She suggested We end the night by saying what We had felt was positive from the day.
For Her, it was that She had had to listen.
For me, it was that I had been able to voice my perspective without the inevitable metaphorical punch that has invariably followed, and that, for the first time in far too long, I had the hope that all hope had not gone.

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