My friend, previously a relative by marriage, asked me to promise her I would schedule counseling although my husband had refused three times. She said I could go alone. I knew I could, I just hadn’t wanted to. Finding a counselor for solo therapy seemed to be the first step in admitting I was done.
That night, after making the promise, my husband and I went to a regular function we attend and argued on the way. A lady I know pulled me aside at the end to let me know she could tell we were having problems, was everything okay. We have been trying to become better friends for a while but our schedules and lives have not really helped that happen, so I opened up a little and briefly told her what was happening. And she gave me the card of a counselor.
I looked for another counselor due to the location–not really inconvenient for me from my office but not really my neighborhood either. But he was the only one who called me back. He caught me while I was eating lunch at the park near my office. And I was almost immediately crying. We only talked for a few minutes; I felt some relief that I had an appointment to talk to someone about the decision I was making, the options I might have.
When I got home, I told him that I was going to counseling the next day. And he insisted we didn’t need it. He asked how I found this doctor and I told him this person recommended him. At that point, I think he realized that I have started talking to other people about what is going on. He felt we could work it out on our own, although I kept telling him that hasn’t been working so far. Then he tried to negotiate going to another counselor, finding someone closer to home. I did not want to give him an “out” so I gave him a website and said find someone now. And he realized it was too hard. I said I was going whether he did or not. He finally said that he “had to go” as in he had no choice.
I took the day off work for other reasons in addition to having this appointment, so I picked him up at work and we went to the counselor. I was in tears as soon as Doctor asked why we were there. I said something like I was looking for options, choices.
Over the course of our hour, we discussed our marriage, our childhoods, and our parents. Doctor asked hard questions. We both cried.
I found out that my husband has not accepted my MS diagnosis. I know it, but to hear it…he has treated me as if it never happened, although my symptoms require that I adjust to having it. He has never cut me any slack for my MS fatigue. I was diagnosed 10 years ago. He has made me feel shitty about not getting things done or needing rest for 10 years. On the way home, he asked questions I asked 10 years ago, like “why me?” and did I blame my MS on something or someone. It was very disheartening to hear what I should have known and didn’t really realize.
The hardest thing for me to hear was that my MS diagnosis was when he knew we weren’t having kids. This is difficult for me because we talked about it when we were dating, before we even slept together. Anyone who knew me then can tell you that I was not having kids. It wasn’t in the cards for a lot of reasons and I thought he understood. To hear him trying to explain that his parents resent me because of this, and he did not stand up for me, and in fact, did not even really agree with my (I thought our) decision…it was beyond words.
Doctor wanted to know why his parents have any say in us having kids. Of course they don’t but my husband has allowed his parents to have a say in everything. The doctor got real with him about not standing up for me, letting his parents talk to me or about me in hurtful ways (my husband actually said his dad “said terrible things” which is totally true), and talking hurtfully to me–taking out his feelings about his parents on me.
My husband had a hard time understanding why the doctor kept talking about his parents “abusing” him; he thought he had a great childhood. But as I’ve told him, parents are supposed to raise you to be an adult, self-sufficient, independent, functioning. He feels he owes them and he is anything but self-sufficient. He finally realized he does not confront them or stand up to them because he thinks they will not stay around then. It’s a version of abandonment. And he will have to address it with them.
My husband talked about his goal of retiring in the house we currently live in. And I was pissed. I told him before we moved in that it was unlikely I could stay in that huge two-story house for the rest of my life. I. Have. MS. But he never accepted it so he made his goal ours without my consent. He seems to be coming around to the idea of not staying in that house, and went as far as to say it wouldn’t be his dream if I wasn’t there. But he spent the next couple days trying to rationalize staying there for 5-7 more years so we could recover the money we’ve put into it.
When we talked about my childhood, the doctor finally asked “has anyone told you that you’ve lived through hell?” And I said yes, my friends who know tell me all the time. On the way home, my husband said he was sad that he didn’t know half of what I said happened in my childhood but also that he has never been that person who told me how amazing I am to have lived through that.
The doctor pointed out that I am a woman who needs nurturing. My husband has not been nurturing ever in our marriage that I can think of. And realizing this, after the fact, is making it difficult for me to see how things will work out. Can you teach someone to be nurturing? And do I want to be responsible for teaching this? I don’t think so.
At one point during our session, the doctor looked at my husband and said “you realize this woman is on her way out the door, don’t you?” And I think he does understand that now. And he wants to change. But I really don’t know if it’s enough. The conversations seem to be a lot about him not wanting to lose me, it would be so hard for him, it seems to be a lot about him and not much about me. And I’ve already had more than 15 years of that, now that I realize what has been going on right under my nose while I wasn’t paying attention. Why more?