This next chapter could easily be a book of its own. Here I go into the hilarious stories that came about during the counseling sessions of trying to save my marriage. Now, these are only my personal encounters with therapy. I have dear friends who are incredible therapists, so before you go on thinking I am totally anti, that’s not the case. Catch the teasers of chapters 1-7 here and enjoy a laugh on this Monday morning as you try to visualize a few of the looney sessions I nodded and smiled through.
8. The Magical Garden
“Friends are therapists you can drink with.” -Unknown
“I would have labeled myself anti-counseling before my life fell apart. My mind operates in an incredibly reasonable fashion and I am not a very emotionally driven individual. With that, I never understood why people needed a counselor’s opinion to guide them through anything. To be clear, this was not an arrogant stance I took, but more so legitimately how my mind processed things. Spelling out the most reasonable and logical choice has always come easy to me.
When I heard BD’s first (G-rated) version of the story, I called a counseling hotline from an organization I trusted. I felt as if I needed a little guidance as to what the hell to do when your husband is involved with another woman. This was outside of my “reasonable” sphere. When I first called for a free over the phone counseling session, I got a recording saying if I left my name and number I’d get a call back in 72 hours. I thought this was hilarious. I felt like I was being put on hold after calling a suicide hotline. Nevertheless, they called me back the next day and told me something that seemed generic at the time, yet I think of it often. They said, “You can’t go outside the marriage to fix the marriage, you must stay in the marriage to fix the marriage.” Truth right there. If something about a marriage is not satisfying or meeting an expectation you have, you work with what you have in the marriage, you don’t try to satisfy it elsewhere.
During the time we were separated I went to a counselor who looked liked a spitting image of Mr. Bean. He was a pretty sensitive guy who drank a lot of green tea (and in turn was frantically running to the bathroom in between clients). When I first started seeing this particular shrink, I was really hoping he would advise me not to expose our daughter to BD’s filth or immorality. I thought maybe this counselor would take my side on this one. I was afterall the victim here! Well, he didn’t. He encouraged me to let BD see our daughter for her sake. She was still so young and needed to bond with her father. Their relationship needed this time together in order to thrive. After some convincing on his part, I saw where he was coming from and am thankful for that advice he gave. I never regretted letting our daughter see her father. That was my main take home from Mr. Bean. All of our other sessions included finding the balance between giving BD time and being a patient wife, while protecting myself from the pain and torture his affair was causing. A simple feat, really. Not.
When BD and I started “working” on our marriage, we began a counseling program that was designed to help restore marriages after an affair. The counselor who designed this program was recommended to us by another couple who’d gone through a similar ordeal. Now, because this man was so well-known for helping couples just like us (in theory), we thought he was completely worth the rate and the drive. The rate was $175/hour (anyone else in the wrong profession?). The drive was about an hour and a half from where we were living. Long drives are super fun when you are with someone you enjoy being with. Long drives are super miserable if you were BD and I on our way to “save” our marriage. On more than one occasion we arrived early to counseling and would head down the street to the local Island’s (the only place close by with a bar) and chug a few beers to ease the nerves. A sweet bartender once asked us, ‘why we were laughing and what was the big hurry?’ ‘Oh us? Just on our way to a marriage counseling program that allegedly saves marriages after an affair’ … Cricket. Cricket. She responded with sad puppy dog eyes, saying that she was proud of us for wanting to help our marriage.
Now, what struck me as funnier than pre-gaming at Island’s was the fact that this counselor was renting an office above a used car lot. Does it get any more sleezy? How do you take anyone seriously that has an office space at that location? Moving on. We would walk to the lobby and wait to get buzzed in as another couple was leaving. Every time this shameful transaction took place, each couple staring the other one down, wondering who was the cheater and who was the victim. You’d be surprised. Okay, enough trash talking about the used car lot.
This program was full of valuable information if two people were willing and committed. At first, the exercises we did to rebuild trust were very helpful. BD would assure me daily. He would take pictures of where he was and show me that he was wearing his ring proudly and brag about the type of husband he knew he could be. He would happily talk of our future and simply, I thought, I can see how we will rebuild and come back stronger! Wow! This is totally possible. Sadly, this didn’t last long, and our counseling sessions started to look like this: BD asking what a professional time frame looked like for improvement in the marriage before calling it quits, BD saying he wasn’t attracted to me, didn’t want to spend time with me, and had stronger chemistry with the other woman. The counselor looking at me with cancer eyes (a term I created after about the millionth person looked at me, blank gaze, as if I just broke the news that I had terminal cancer) and telling me how bad he felt for me. Um, can I get my money back because your pity just made me feel worse!
After not completing this program in full due to the hopeless prognosis from the counselor and BD’s mind on his way to being made up already, we tried another counselor who specialized in emotional intimacy. This was one area of our marriage BD felt that we lacked. This guy had some good things to say, but his prices were outrageous. Once again, BD was a skeptic about all people or things that would potentially help us. This particular counselor did say it may take BD years to get over the affair and that I should be “open” in helping ease his transition back to the marriage. This made me want to throw up. We didn’t go back to that million dollar joker.
After BD checked out from all counseling endeavors, I started seeking some counseling for myself. In hindsight, this was hilarious. I went to two women. I had only gone to men counselors before because I felt as if I would connect with them better. I had the preconceived notion that female counselors would just be sobbing at the story I told and would only give me emotional advice. I know in reality this was a silly thought and had little truth to it.
Anyhow, I made an appointment with a lady whose office was close by and who was covered under our insurance. Our first and last appointment went a little something like this… Me telling her our story, her looking at me with a blank stare. Me judging her velvet choker and the fact that she still had the price tag stickers on the bottom of her hideous heels, her ranting about how there’s no magic number in terms of a time frame for emotional attachment between BD and the homewrecker. After hearing the phrase, “magic number” 100+ times that hour, I decided to just say no to the velvet choker.
A preview of the next lady I saw includes a garden, chanting, communes of open marriages, and a whole lot more crazy where that came from. (more on those sessions in the book).
Even through all of the laughable moments of counseling, I do now see how they are beneficial. In a marriage, sometimes that third party is necessary (and not how BD would define “third party”). I did learn a lot from the advice of these professionals. I would encourage women and couples to seek a counselor you connect with and that shares your beliefs. With that being said, I wholeheartedly stand behind that trusted friends who share your beliefs and know you intricately can at times be the best counselors. I suppose, for what it’s worth, that’s where I stand on counseling. Not quite as anti as I was before, but not completely sold either.”