Monday, April 30, 2007

Schnarch's Impact on My Kids

The book Passionate Marriage spends a lot of time on the topic of self soothing. When you can modulate anxiety on your own, you're capable of a higher level of functioning.

This is an important lesson not only for the good of one's relationship with a spouse but also for the benefit of raising one's children. Both in the main text and in the end notes, Schnarch talks about how you can help encourage that skill in your kids, based on how you interact with them.

I've tried to put that lesson into practice. My older daughter, just shy of four years old, can sometimes spiral into a horrible temper tantrum. Rather than going stern and trying to scold her into submission, I encourage her to "make herself quiet inside". Sometimes it works better than others.

This morning, I had a moment that helped me realize that she's grasping the idea. I caught her younger sister, who is two years old, with something she wasn't supposed to have. I confiscated the item, and she threw a big fit.

While I was putting the item away, the older daughter came to her younger sister and held her in a hug. I asked her what she was doing, and she responded, "I'm trying to show her how to calm down." She was applying a small child's version of hugging till relaxed. It was a beautiful moment.

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Good Cartoons: the Comfort Food of My Mind

Although not as funny as Rabbit Seasoning, Duck, Rabbit, Duck, linked from AOL's homepage this evening, is a welcome sight indeed. You can watch it here.

Shoot me now! Shoot me now!

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Wickedly Ironic Thought for the Day

I've shared this privately with a couple of other blog readers, and based on their reaction, I figure that this might be worth sharing with everyone else.

If the disagreement over this job offer were to precipitate the downfall of my marriage, would it be tacky to send the child & ex-spousal support through my would-be employer's online payment service?

But seriously, folks...

My wife continues to hold her ground on the refusal to move. Provided that things don't go "snap" over the weekend, I'll try to persuade her to take the trip out there just so she can see what it's like out there.

For those of you keeping score on the job hunt... I canceled the interview in the Music City because there's really no way that it can compare to the Big Offer. I've decided to go ahead with the in-person interview for the New England job lead. It has a chance of offering a competitive salary package. I fly out for that one on May 1.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

She Will Not be Moved

My wife and I had two discussions about the job offer last night. One was over dinner, without the kids, and the other was just before we went to bed.

I might write more about the details if I can collect my thoughts and recollections better. But for right now here are the bottom line points:

  • She doesn't believe that the offer in the Silicon Valley will pay enough for us to live on, based on what she read about the cost of living there.

  • She didn't think I would be very happy for long out there, just like I was happy with my current job only for a little while.

  • She said that all of our vacation time would be used to visit family back home, and that I would be grumpy the whole time.

  • She wondered whether I felt tied down by her and the kids, and if they were out of the picture, I would take the offer no questions asked.

  • She thinks that I haven't tried hard enough to find local jobs, suggesting that I should be cold calling companies that hire software developers.

  • She said that I should get involved in doing some volunteer work so that I don't think so much about myself and realize just how good I've got it.

  • She questioned whether I would find the run-of-the-mill programming jobs here to be as boring as I say they are.

  • She said she doesn't know what to do about my general feeling of unhappiness, and noted that although I was excited about the offer on Thursday, the feeling didn't stay around long.

  • She asked me whether I thought some medication might help me deal with this situation better.

When she told me, "I love you," before we went to sleep. I had to pause for a moment, then I struggled out an, "I love you, too." She asked me whether I was sure. I told her that it was difficult for me to feel loving at the time.

At least I've got therapy this afternoon. I am having a hard time keeping it all together.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Chasin' that Silicon Rainbow, Livin' that Web 2.0 Dream

Like a circle in a spiral
Like a wheel within a wheel
Never ending or beginning
On an ever-spinning reel
As the images unwind
Like the circles that you find
In the windmills of your mind

-- Noel Harrison, "The Windmills of Your Mind"

First of all, thanks to all who have offered up congratulations on my recent job offer, and thanks to all of you who have been posting comments of support in this odyssey.

The news of a job offer this past Thursday seemed to scrub away whatever traces of hurt were left from the rejection the week before. To be honest, it came as a surprise to me. I sensed a good rapport with the interviewers, but I wondered whether I actually had the technical prowess to make it into that stratum of the developer universe.

For the first time in a long time, a feeling of peace traveled with me on the 40-minute commute to work on Friday. A part of me felt like a Survivor contestant who had just taken possession of the Immunity Idol. I could play the game as best as possible, but at the end of the day, Tribal Council wasn't going to extinguish my torch.

I got a phone call from one of my interviewers on Friday afternoon. She wanted to make sure that I had received the job offer details via e-mail and gave me her cell phone number so that I could reach her if I had any questions over the weekend. Her comments and the tone of her voice made it clear that they were enthusiastic about me, and she could probably tell by my remarks that I was clearly excited about the offer, too.

I still have interviews left on my calendar. There's one penciled in for a week from this Monday down in the Music City for a subsidiary of a music licensing organization. It's interesting work, but it's a contract-to-hire position, meaning after six months, I could be looking for a job again.

There is another lead for which I have done two phone interviews and provided a code sample. The word as of late this past week is that they want to fly me in to their offices in New England for a face-to-face interview. The pay could possibly be even more than the job offer I have on the table, but the company is privately held, and they've been somewhat secretive about their project, which makes me wonder if the line of work could be adult oriented.

My gut feeling is that the Silicon Valley offer is going to be the best deal overall. The company is doing well, and it just reported another bang-up quarter on earnings. From my visit to their offices, I know that it's a lively place that fosters creativity and fun. I believe that at this job, my skills will grow and mature in ways that will benefit me in the long run.

There's a lot I need to ponder before I say "yes" to this offer, both out of fairness to my family and my prospective employer.

Right now, the offer details are statistics dancing around in my head. The HR folks were supposed to send me some information on Friday, but it never arrived in my webmail account's inbox. I suspect it was the victim of an overly aggressive bulk mail filter, so I have requested that they resend the information to a separate account.

If I take this job and we relocate (the latter being a big if, given the rigid stance my wife has taken), there will need to be some thinking on the execution timetable. I know darned well that Chaos Control wasn't joking when she wrote about the sky high housing prices in the Silicon Valley.

We don't have a huge stack of cash to plonk down on a down payment, so in reality, I would probably have to move out here alone and live pretty modestly so that we could save up some money and pay down the debts back home. After that, I would make use of the relocation package from the employer to get all the big stuff moved here. During the job offer phone conversation, I felt out the possibility of deferring parts of the relocation package, and they said they could do that.

From a quality of life standpoint, I think the kids would benefit greatly from growing up out there, both from the standpoint of academics and culture. Two bloggers who know the area well have offered up advice and resources for getting settled down.

As for me, I could see myself throwing down roots there. I'm not someone who needs a lot of space or a big house. Indeed, when we moved to our current location, we shunned the vinyl clad McMansions, so popular in this area, for a 1,250 sq. ft. ranch built back in 1961.

The hard part will be convincing my wife that this is the best thing to do. As I mentioned in the prior post, she was on the verge of tears on Thursday night when I gave her the news. In terms of timing, the news of the offer couldn't have been more stressful, since our eleventh wedding anniversary was on Friday.

She hasn't expressed an interest in discussing the offer at all. Keeping Schnarch's advice in mind, I've been trying to keep my role as "high desire" partner from badgering her into making a choice. The good thing is that the prospective employer said that they do fly out couples when the spouse is reluctant, so at least she would get a chance to see the area firsthand.

At some point, she has to weigh her comfort against the long term financial security of the family. My skill set doesn't find much demand here, save for dead-end maintenance programming roles and contract jobs with no benefits. Even if I don't take the job and stay here, she might find that I am so unhappy with my lot in life that I refuse to remain in the marriage.

The challenge for me in the days to come is to look really hard at my anxieties and learn to tolerate them. If I do take this offer, I will be charging head-on into a lot of old fears... fear of a new place, new job, the potential of making mistakes, worries about whether I'm doing the best thing for everyone. You name it.

The worries about doing the best for everyone weigh especially heavy. Every once in a while, a song will pop in my mind, the lyrics of which reinforce the narrative of conformity. A good example is Chad Brock's "Ordinary Life", which spins a yarn about a man who winds up regretting a choice to put career over family. On the flip-side, I have to say that I'm nowhere near the feelings expressed in Gary Allan's "Right Where I Need To Be".

When I sink into this state of psychic entropy, I have to keep in mind that these fears must be experienced as part of growing into a more mature me... someone who is more confident in his abilities and can live up to his potential. I hope that in going through all of this, I can finally use the windmills of my mind to harness the energy of my life instead of fueling the confusion.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

More Breaking News...

Another light blogging night... Spent most of it replacing the fill valve on the toilet and giving my daughters a much needed bath. I'll have more to write over the weekend, so stay tuned. In the meantime, here is a bombshell for you.

Got a call shortly after 7 p.m. The Online Payment Subsidiary of a Big Online Auction Company is going to tender an offer, and it's about double what I make now, plus bonuses and benefits. I was floored, awestruck, and fearful at the same time. I am staring right into the face of what may well be the biggest career opportunity of my life. Had someone told me as recently as a year ago that this would be happening, I would have written the person off as insane.

My wife was there when I took the call on my cell phone, and afterwards she said that she had a feeling that it was them making an offer. She said she was happy for me, but that she was scared. She was holding back tears, but cushioned it with humor saying that at least she had a reason to drink tonight. Earlier in the day, she had made plans to go out with the other preschool moms to a bar which is a favorite among the Parrotheads.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Too... Tired... To... Blog

I'm still lagging over the 24-hour travel-and-interview marathon to the big online payment company in the Silicon Valley. At work today, I had to get up several times and walk around just to stay awake. Maybe tomorrow I'll catch up on some thoughts.

In the meantime, try solving this puzzle problem, which was one of many I had thrown at me on Monday...
Suppose you have a balance scale with which you wish to measure the weights of objects to an accuracy of one ounce. You are allowed to use only four known weights, the masses of which are your choosing. You are also allowed to place the known weights on either side of the balance. So, for example, you may have two of the known weights in one pan, and another known weight sitting in the other pan with the object of unknown weight. What weights should you select to maximize the range of weights you can measure?

Thursday, April 12, 2007

This Just In...

An HR person at the large software development company in the Pacific Northwest has called to let me know that the group with whom I interviewed "would not be moving forward with an offer."

I am not my rejections.

Next interview is this coming Monday, someplace that Dionne Warwick once sang about. Does anyone remember the cover of that tune by Frankie Goes to Hollywood?

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Clarifying the Reflection on Reflection

Some of the comments on the Teachable Moment post gave me food for thought, and I'd like to respond to them.

The comment from Tom Allen will be my starting point:
What's the difference between a reflected sense, and getting a reality check by objective observers?

I'm asking because to me there's a grey area.

I think the grey area can be delineated pretty well by addressing the context in which the term reflected sense of self is used.

All of us have this inner sense of whether we are OK. The driving force behind it varies from person to person. Usually it is a mixture of both rational and emotional influences. The OKness, or validation, has a huge influence on the choices we make.

I don't think it's entirely possible for one to squelch out the emotional influences, because that's what makes us feel truly alive. But emotions unchecked can be destructive.

Bowen family systems theory, one of the major influences of Schnarch's ideas on marriage and sex, looks at relationships with others as a source of emotional dominance.

We know from experience that peers and relatives can influence the thoughts of an individual. Bowen's theory characterized this influence through the notion of differentiation of self.

What does it mean to be differentiated? Consider this moderately abstract situation: You might believe in idea A, but are you resilient enough to hold onto that belief and act on it if friends and family respond in disagreement or disapproval? If you do hold onto that belief, can you do so without engaging in hostility or avoidance? Your capacity to do all of these things will depend on the quality of your differentiation.

Quoting further from some introductory material at Georgetown Family Center (emphasis mine):
People with a poorly differentiated "self" depend so heavily on the acceptance and approval of others that either they quickly adjust what they think, say, and do to please others or they dogmatically proclaim what others should be like and pressure them to conform. Bullies depend on approval and acceptance as much as chameleons, but bullies push others to agree with them rather than their agreeing with others. Disagreement threatens a bully as much as it threatens a chameleon. An extreme rebel is a poorly differentiated person too, but he pretends to be a "self" by routinely opposing the positions of others.

A person with a well-differentiated "self" recognizes his realistic dependence on others, but he can stay calm and clear headed enough in the face of conflict, criticism, and rejection to distinguish thinking rooted in a careful assessment of the facts from thinking clouded by emotionality. Thoughtfully acquired principles help guide decision-making about important family and social issues, making him less at the mercy of the feelings of the moment. What he decides and what he says matches what he does. He can act selflessly, but his acting in the best interests of the group is a thoughtful choice, not a response to relationship pressures. Confident in his thinking, he can either support another's view without being a disciple or reject another view without polarizing the differences. He defines himself without being pushy and deals with pressure to yield without being wishy-washy.

In the second quoted paragraph above, I've italicized the portion that addresses Tom's question.

The dependency on a reflected sense of self is that region on the differentiation scale where the dependency upon the approval of others is so strong that you are willing to compromise your core beliefs or lash out in anger. Your emotions override the best in you.

When that sense of OKness is tightly coupled to others, you will not weather difficult periods well. The inability to land a job from an interview gets inflated into a global referendum on yourself. Get the job, and you're on top of the world. Don't get it, and you feel worthless.

Someone with a higher level of differentiation can look at the full picture and realize that the outcome of an interview has a much more limited scope. He or she can look back at what happened and learn from the experience, realizing that filling a job is more like a matching of compatible parts rather than the molding of Play-Doh into some novel shape.

Try answering karma's rhetorical question:
Why would you believe Mr. Singer's comment to be a true statement in the first place? It seems to me that his statement cannot be taken to be a fact, because it's an opinion. There's no way to prove the worth of a blog, statement, comment, what have you. It's subjective, you assign the worth yourself.

This is the voice of differentiation speaking, pure and simple. Why so? The reason I might take peter singer's comment to be true would be a poor level of differentiation.

This blog is the chronicle of my attempt to elevate that differentiation, so it is worthwhile for me to be mindful of potential pitfalls. Strongly critical comments are prime invitations to regress. By forcing myself to self soothe my defensiveness away and stand my ground in a respectful manner, I grow a little bit closer to the mature person I seek to become.

Saturday, April 07, 2007

The Trip to the Pacific Northwest

For those of you who have been following the job search subplot of this blog, you may recall that I was scheduled to have an interview with a very large software company located up in the Pacific Northwest.

It was a long time coming, with two one hour technical phone interviews in February, a one-month wait for their legal team to decide that my current employment agreement didn't expose them to legal risks, and finally a reschedule of the interview due to illness on my end.

The trip there started way too early on the 31st of March. My wife was gone with the kids on a trip of her own, so I parked the car at a third-party park/ride/fly lot. Check-in was hectic because a lot of passengers were outbound for spring break.

It was the first time I had flown in over six years, so this was also my first experience with the post 9/11 security apparatus. I did my homework, so I made it through with minimal hassle.

The trip went fairly smoothly, with a bit of turbulence in a couple of places. I arrived at my destination around mid-day local time, grabbed a shuttle van to my motel, and got some rest.

I spent Saturday evening and Sunday afternoon with some old friends who had moved to the area about eight years ago. The wife of the couple had worked as the manager of the sales department for my former employer in the late 90s, and she was very excited about the job prospect. They took me out for dinner on Saturday and drove me around the city and the countryside to sell me on the area.

I got a very positive first impression. As someone who has never been a fan of urban sprawl, I was pleased to see just how pervasive trees seemed to be even in recently developed areas. Knowing full well the higher cost of living for the area, I'm still a bit concerned over whether I would be able to afford living out there.

The interview process started Monday morning bright and early a 9 a.m. First up was an recruiting coordinator who gave me the high level view of the business unit for which I was interviewing. She then explained to me the underlying idea of the technical interviews that would follow. She also talked some about how compensation was determined, saying that the salary might not be as high as one would expect from the company, but that generous benefits package would also boost the total value.

I was then shuttled off to another building and met with four guys from the department. One was a staff developer. Two of them were group leads, and then finally I met with the department manager. Each interview took place in the member's office.

There were some questions about my background, but nothing too far in depth. Then came programming questions, which were toy problems designed to give them an insight into my thought process. Here is a list of the questions I was asked to give you an idea of what I was up against.

  • Given two C strings (null terminated character arrays) of arbitrary length that contain the characters of the decimal representation of large numbers, write a function that can compute the sum of the two numbers, storing the result in the larger of the two strings.

  • Given two C strings, one containing some text and the other that contains a pattern that can contain one or more asterisks serving as wild card characters, write a function that will return whether the first string matches the pattern in the second.

  • Given a C string consisting of words separated by delimiting characters like white space, write a function that reverses in place the order of letters in each word, but not the sequence of words. (e.g. "the quick brown" -> "eht kciuq nworb")

  • Given a C string, write a function that removes all duplicate characters, including white spaces, without using any functions in the C standard library. (e.g. "Apple tree house" -> "Aple trhous"

After coding the solution on a white board, I was asked to discuss how I would go about testing the function.

I also got a whopper of a question at lunch time that kept my mind a working up until my flight home that evening.
Suppose you have a data storage medium, like magnetic tape, that can be read forward only once. The medium contains a sequence of random integers ranging from 1 to some very large value N. There are no repeats, and all members of the sequence appear on the tape except for one unknown value. Assuming that your programming environment can store numbers up to the value N and do arithmetic on them, how would you determine the missing value for the case where N is larger than the platform's memory address space?

I gave each problem my best effort, and kept my cool when the interviewers would question my approach. I knew my own limitations, and I knew that my first attempts to write an algorithm were rarely the most optimal. I tried as much as possible to communicate my thinking behind my approach.

It suffices to say that my brain was very much in pain by the end of the last interview. After meeting with the department manager, I was told that I was done for the day. It was about 2:40 p.m. by then, and I had a fear that perhaps my day was ending early because I didn't measure up.

I got a cab back to the motel, spent a little time vegging in the hotel lobby. Then I grabbed an early dinner at a nearby Mexican restaurant. I wasn't feeling all that smart. The Dos Equis helped me achieve a level of self soothing that I might not otherwise would have attained.

At this time, I'm inclined to believe that I probably won't get an offer. It'll be a bruise to the ego, but for someone to have gotten this far without a formal computer science degree and mostly self education, that's not too shabby.

The crucible has been more than just about my marriage, it has been about questioning whether I've lived up to my potential. I've had a lot of moments of overachievement in my life, but I've also sold myself out too many times out of a lack of self confidence.

Whether I get an offer is not the ultimate measure of personal growth. The growth manifests itself in the willingness to face my anxiety head on. Success isn't meaningful unless it is achieved under the shadow of potential failure. Taking the risk requires self soothing and a deep belief in myself. I may find out that I am not the right fit, but if I hold onto myself, I can learn where I need to improve for the next challenge.

Friday, April 06, 2007

Sex Declined, Anger Ensues, Counseling Follows

In this evening's post, I'll try to recap some of the events from last weekend, which proved to be pretty significant.

We'll rewind back to the late evening of March 29. Shortly before midnight, my wife approached me while I was working on the computer. Standing about seven feet away, she asked in a fairly deadpan tone, "You wanna have sex?"

I paused for a moment to gather my thoughts, then took a breath, and even then I was still awkward in what I was about to say.

I started by saying that I had been doing some thinking since the "It's easier if I caress you with your clothes on" conversation, and in combining that with the longer term trend of her placing more restrictions on what she will do in bed, I had come to believe that she was dealing with something bigger than just a low sex drive.

Her increased anxiety or hostility suggested to me that deep down she viewed sex with me as violation of a core boundary within herself. I said that if this was the case, I didn't think it was in our best interest to engage in sex.

She became very angry with me, questioning the timing of my disclosure, asking me why I had waited until just then to let her know this. I told her that these were things that I had been thinking about but had not yet been ready to tell her, but I had enough of a grasp on them to know that I didn't want to have sex on those terms.

I said that I realized from my therapy that I could not force her to have feelings that weren't really there. I needed to deal with reality, and I needed to accept that sex seemed to cause a great deal of emotional discomfort and that she probably wasn't interested in taking a look at why that was so.

To support that impression, I noted that she had stopped reading The Sex Starved Marriage a few pages short of the chapter that deals with making changes and finding solutions. She had not taken me up on my invitation to read the excerpts from Passionate Marriage that I thought might give her some insight into my own therapy. Finally, she had chosen to stop going to therapy quietly sometime in the late fall, only telling me that she had done so after I asked about it sometime in late December.

She continued on the offensive, as if I had suggested that she was wrong not to want to do those things. She said that she didn't like the feeling of touching my genitals, saying that it was too hairy down there. Then she threw in the non sequitur that she didn't like touching the scars on my chest that I had developed when I had a case of chicken pox in my teens. I realized that she was drawing the parallel to attack my reflected sense of self. She drew a parallel between my intimate regions and scars to make me feel repulsive.

I asked her how long she had felt this way about touching me, she replied, "I don't know, maybe three or four years." The tone of her voice made it sound like I was out of line for asking this. I asked if there was some event that might have triggered this, and she said she didn't remember.

She says she recalled that we had been fighting over whether to have children or something like that. The struggle over whether to have kids actually took place in the late 90s and had been resolved by early 2000, but I didn't bring that up. I could tell that she was trying to quash opposition.

She then said that she saw it as just a natural process, that she had changed over time. And then she added that it was a change that I underwent from reluctant husband to willing parent. I said that was something different because that change was brought about by self confrontation and involved an expansion of my comfort zone. Her change was a shrinkage of her comfort zone.

She said that I should have known that she probably wouldn't have read the books because she didn't do well with self-help books. She probably wouldn't have retained the information in them, and then if she did finish them, I would be bombarding her with questions about what she thought of them.

Regarding the cessation of therapy, she said that she had gotten busy toward the end of the year and just decided that she had too much to do. She then said that it wasn't fair for her because I got to go to see my therapist on my lunch break and she had to take time out of her day to drop the kids off at a sitter and then drive to the therapist's office.

She then accused me of having checked out of the sexual side of the relationship because I had not initiated sex. Back in the late summer, she said that I needed to start initiating sex more often if I wanted it. She said she'd try to be more accomodating, but that I would need to be able to handle her rejections without getting all pouty.

In retrospect, it was Schnarch's writings that kept me from operating purely on her terms. A passage on pp. 143 and 144 of Passionate Marriage makes clear that having the high desire partner take on role of initiator works to kill desire. The low desire partner gets his or her desire to be wanted without having to risk wanting in return. Quoting further on down:
The politics of wanting are truly powerful -- and volatile. Low differentiation requires a rather tricky balance: it's only safe to want your partner as much as your partner wants you. On the other hand, it's only safe to not want your partner when your partner wants you. If your partner stops wanting you while you don't want him or her, you might end up divorced. (Schnarch, Passionate Marriage, p. 150)

She then said it sounded like we couldn't have a meaningful conversation without a therapist present, so she wanted to go with me to my next counseling session, which was to be on Tuesday. I agreed and called my therapist to let her know that my wife would be coming.

She then went to bed, offer of sex withdrawn. I didn't feel like I had been deprived of much of anything.

We managed to function okay for the kids' preschool breakfast and Easter egg hunt. I had taken the first half of the day off from work to attend. My wife was busy with preparation work, so we didn't have much interaction anyway. Then she and the kids took off in the afternoon to take a trip to visit an old friend of hers a couple hours away. She had scheduled the trip because I would be gone for three days on my trip to the Pacific Northwest.

On Tuesday, my wife met me at the counselor's office. This was the first time she had met my therapist, so several minutes were spent on get-to-know-you-better stuff.

Then we discussed the events of the prior Thursday evening. My therapist was immediately latched onto my choice of the word "offered" in describing how my wife tried to initiate sex. I then described the situation in greater detail, and the therapist said she could see way I chose that wording.

I then tried to do a better job of explaining why I turned down the sex. I told my wife that my therapy had made me realize that there was nothing I could do to bring about change in her, and it was wrong for me to have badgered her into seeing a therapist last summer. I needed to see things as they were and then ask myself a really tough question, "What was I going to do with my life?"

I recalled reading in The Sex Starved Marriage, in the section that is addressed to the higher desire spouse, that there might be a possibility that the lower desire spouse wouldn't make any efforts on his or her end. If that was the case, maybe it was time just to give up on sex and try to concentrate on other areas of the marriage that worked.

In working through Schnarch's readings, I knew I had to self confront and look at myself really hard, asking whether I had the capacity to accept the possibility that my wife was really disturbed by the idea of having sex with me and didn't want to do anything to deal with the situation. The set of things my wife was willing to do in bed was growing ever smaller, and it didn't look like it would ever enlarge again.

I summarized some of the ideas in a prior posting to this blog, especially how I felt like I was reliving the pattern of relying on an undependable person.

I then disclosed to her that I had decided that I could not give up my sexuality and just go on with the marriage. To do otherwise would just be engaging in self deception and the possibility of an affair later on. I was approaching a point where I needed to make a definitive decision, and that might involve leaving the marriage.

My therapist noted that it sounded like there were some abandonment issues at work. That might well be, but I think it has more to do with the anger of realizing that I am sustaining a cycle that should have never been perpetuated in marriage. I also felt angry because I felt like I had wasted so many years of my life hoping for something that just wasn't going to happen.

One really big admission from the session: my wife said that most of the times she initiated sex were mercy fucks.

We moved on to the question of genital touching. My wife said that it wasn't just directed at me; she said she hated touching her own genitals. That led the conversation into touching in general. My wife said that she couldn't stand long term skin-to-skin contact, not just from me but also from anyone, including the kids.

My therapist asked how my wife felt when the skin contact got outside the zone of comfort. My wife described it as spiders crawling over her body. This disclosure went a little more in depth than the discussion in our fourth marriage counseling session in August.

The therapist asked my wife how long she had this aversion, and my wife couldn't pinpoint a starting point. She did note that some forms of skin contact do not bother her, such as receiving a massage. She speculated that was because motion was involved. That didn't jibe with her claims of genital touching, since a handjob involves motion, but I kept my mouth shut tightly.

My wife defended her decision to stop seeing the therapist. She said that she wasn't getting that much out of the therapy. To her the counselor was more like an empathetic girlfriend listening to her complain rather than someone in search of solutions. She also said that her schedule was too filled up with family activities for her to add the effort of seeing another therapist.

It was at this point that my therapist put a big question to my wife, "Do you believe that your marriage is worth the effort? The marriage is the foundation from which the family is built, and without that marriage, your family won't have something solid upon which to grow."

My wife didn't address that directly, but she then offered to see another therapist. My therapist said that one of the other counselors at the practice has an office on our side of town and offered to make a referral. Sure enough, the office is only a few minutes away from my wife's best friend's house, so she can't complain about having to drive a half hour on top of getting child care for the kids.

The plan right now is to have her start seeing this therapist and then maybe have a joint session with both therapists present. Like my own therapist, this other therapist is trained in Bowenian family systems therapy, so we'll all be speaking the same language in the joint sessions.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

A Teachable Moment

the worth of any blog/writing/post is in it's reaction

-- blogger peter singer, in a comment

One goal of the process chronicled in this blog has been to help me convince myself that the above statement is untrue. For if I believe it is true, then I am still relying on a reflected sense of self.