Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Counseling Session III Roundup

Our third marriage counseling session took place late Tuesday afternoon, and I emerged from it with far less hope than I have ever had for the future of our marriage.

My wife and I drove separately as I was arriving from work and she had to drop off the kids at the sitter. She arrived at the practice's waiting room, mega cup of some Starbuck's concoction involving whipped cream in hand. She said that she was fragile.

As the therapost welcomed us into her office, my wife told her that she had not completed the exercise worksheets, but that she had started reading The Five Love Languages, saying it wasn't as boring as she remembered.

The therapist started off by going back to the Imago worksheets from last week. She asked me if I recalled what my wife had said about her father. I was able to recount every point, which produced a surprised look from both the therapist and my wife. My blog is a wonderful memory reinforcement tool. ;-)

The therapist then asked my wife if she saw the "controlling and inflexible" personality traits of my father-in-law in me when I expressed a desire for more frequent and more emotionally involved sex. My wife said she thought so. I ceded that point, saying that it was reasonable to believe that.

My wife said that she thought that I overanalyzed things. She pointed to the IM conversation from earlier that afternoon. She said that I kept asking her questions about the details of her troubles with the exercises. At this point, my wife was in tears, and it was becoming clear that I must intimidate her in some sense.

The therapist noted that I seemed to have a strong thinking personality whereas my wife was geared more toward feeling.

The therapist noted that she had visited the Dateline NBC website about the episode on sexless marriages. She asked me what I thought was the key message of the show.

I paused for a few moments and then said that it was Dr. Schnarch's assertions that people in marriage avoid revealing their true wants because they're afraid that it will upset the state of the marriage, and then I pointed to the example of the couple whose wife wasn't interested in having sex with her husband because it wasn't erotic enough for her (see the website, video clip 2). The therapist suggested that perhaps my wife resisted sex because she didn't feel like she was being heard.

The therapist suggested that my wife's lack of enthusiasm for sex may have stemmed from parental role modeling, erroneously recalling that her parents were married, sleeping separately (those were my parents before they divorced). She correctly recalled that there was speculation that her father was gay and was seeing guys behind her mother's back.

We moved onto the discussion of love languages. My wife said she had been trying to do better on physical touch with holding hands and and hugs. The therapist asked me if that was helping. I said it did help some, but it bothered me that she seemed to be so against learning the sexual dialect, which speaks most loudly.

The wife said she thought that the last two times we had sex (1, 2), around three weeks ago, was pretty good, but "obviously it wasn't good enough to him for some reason." I said that it was because I set aside expectations of foreplay.

I talked about how I felt like the sex was purely mechanical. I didn't feel like she was present emotionally. I said that I couldn't understand why she seemed to resistant to improving her sexual skills. I had learned and practiced the love languages that speak most loudly to her, why couldn't she do the same? Why doesn't her love for me motivate her to do that? Why couldn't she spend some time experimenting and learning more about herself sexually? Why couldn't she be more creative and try to discover new ways to make me feel good?

I used an analogy of unloading the groceries from the minivan only up to the porch instead of all the way to the kitchen. I asked her if she would be happy with that, she copped an attitude and said that she would be okay with that. I then tried to draw an analogy between good sex being like a see-saw, where both people riding have to put in effort. She told me that she was tired of my analogies.

I said that I had tried the typical advice given to men on how to please women: encourage her to express what she wants, engage in relaxed foreplay, tell her what you want. None of those things worked because she says "I don't know" to the what she wants question, "I don't want that" to the foreplay, and doesn't really follow through on what I ask.

My wife responded by saying that she felt under pressure when I tried to communicate with her. The therapist helped her along by asking whether she felt like she was under a microscope, and my wife agreed.

The therapist tried making some workaround suggestions, starting with being less of a "thinker" in bed and approaching it from "a more feeling space". I asked her what that mean in concrete terms because I couldn't understand what she was talking about. She had to pause for a moment.

She likened the approach to soothing a crying baby. There are books that give advice on how to take care of a baby, and there are usually guidelines for what to do when the baby cries. Doing the steps as they're described in the book doesn't guarantee that the baby will stop crying. One needed to learn to read the baby. By the same token, I needed to learn how to read my wife.

She went on to say that meant deemphasizing the importance of foreplay, giving my wife more continuous feedback on what I wanted, and learning to read my wife's signs of arousal. My wife shot down the idea of me giving more verbal feedback because she said she just tunes it out after a while. I said that my wife was not very expressive when I was trying to stimulate her. The only thing I could go by was pelvic movements.

As we approached the end of this discussion, my wife was in tears, whimpering that she didn't know what to do. In retrospect, I think I should have told her to go get a God damned book and learn how to be a better lover.

I brought the discussion back to the "why doesn't she try harder"? I told the therapist the question for me is whether she "can't" or "won't" learn to speak my love language more fluently. I said that in my heart, I felt like it was a matter of "won't". The therapist didn't seem to buy that suspicion.

The recurring motif in the therapy session seemed to be gearing down my expectations so that the wouldn't exceed whatever pittance my wife was willing to offer in the bedroom. It's as if she thinks all a woman needs to provide for sex is a slippery surface and some friction. Actually, she doesn't do slippery well, either because we almost always have to break out the K-Y. That's not much more than what one would expect from sex with an inflatable doll.

I was unsatisfied with this, but I wasn't ready to rebut because I needed time to process all of this. I suspect that if the genders were reversed, I doubt that many self respecting therapists would tell the wife to "expect less foreplay and communication from your husband."

Because the therapist suspected that my wife and I have widely differing personality types, she gave us the assignment to complete an enneagram.

I don't think it's overanalytical to say that she hasn't taken the therapy seriously. She's barely worked on the exercises. Her attitude toward it all is reflected in that IM conversation cited earlier in this post. She has little to say outside of the therapist's room. She hasn't done much of the reading. She's on pure cry-and-evade mode. She's not too stupid to grasp this stuff. She has taken, and passed with good grades, college level coursework. However, she is lazy when it comes to thinking.

I was quite depressed last night and for the better part of the day. My heart now believes it is over.

Today, my wife had her first sex therapy appointment. She hasn't volunteered any information on it, and I'm not going to ask any questions because I don't want her to accuse me of overanalyzing things. I was distant to her this morning and this evening. She asked tonight if I was unhappy with how yesterday's therapy went. I simply replied that I wasn't in a good enough space to talk about it with her.

We have another counseling session this coming Tuesday. I think that if it goes as badly, I will start to consider what my options are. I don't feel close to her. I don't feel loved by her. I don't feel love for her. I can't even be certain that I can bring myself to lie in the same bed with her tonight.
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