Monday, June 18, 2007

Notes for Joint Counseling Session

Here are my notes for the joint counseling session that will take place in a couple hours. It's not the "I'm taking the job and leaving, dammit" speech, but I think it's likely to push the discussion in a way that will be less hostile.

[begin quoted text]

After we completed marriage counseling last August, I started to take a hard look at my situation. Since then, I've come to some realizations about myself.

  • Decisions in my life have been driven largely by fear. Rather than asking myself what I truly want, I pick the option that entails the least amount of anxiety.

  • I had a very low image of my self worth both as a professional and as a husband. I settled for what I got and didn't push for more out of fear that conflict would result in abandonment (loss of job, divorce).

  • I tied my sense of self worth to what other people thought of me.

  • I believed that by keeping you happy by providing you with what you wanted, you would meet my needs voluntarily.

  • My reliance on you for validation fed resentment when I sensed you didn't find me sexually attractive. I took it personally.

  • Most of our sexual experiences lacked connection. I felt as if you were doing it out of duty rather than desire.

  • When it came between choosing between my marriage and integrity, my integrity lost out. I wound up giving up so much of myself that I feel that there is little in this marriage is me.

I chose to confront these things in several ways.

  • I made self soothing of my anxiety a high priority.

  • I tried to take my focus off of what I thought was wrong with you.

  • I tried to mobilize myself in other situations where I was the low desire person (holiday celebrations, painting, etc.).

  • I attacked the notion of low self worth on the job by interviewing for jobs that I once thought were outside my grasp.

  • I refrained from initiating sex when I felt like I was doing it to get validation from you. In order to stand on my own two feet emotionally, I needed to be willing to face the reality that you might not choose me.

  • I no longer considered my sexuality to be pathological, and I began to reassert my right to pleasure myself sexually.

In the process I learned:

  • The value of my skills is much higher than I once thought. As I opened myself up to the idea of interviewing nationally, a lot more opportunities presented themselves. My struggle to find a job here locally says more about the poor quality of the local job market.

  • I am quickly approaching a point in my life where it becomes much harder to get hired. I need to be very careful in my selection of jobs, keeping in mind the health of the company itself as well as the skills I pick up as part of doing the job. If I don't, I run the risk of becoming a dinosaur.

I currently have two job offers on the table. One is with (local startup), and the other is with (Payment Subsidiary). I believe that the (Payment Subsidiary)offer provides me a better set of growth opportunities, and it puts me in an area with a much more vibrant job market for my line of work. While there is a chance that (local startup) may succeed, the downside is that if they do fail, I will most likely be into my 40s, where the marketability becomes more difficult. I fear that the sight of two failed startups on my resume convey the image of someone whose career is sputtering.

I realize that the prospect of me taking a far away job has created anxiety in you. I don't take delight in it one bit. I know that your friends and relatives provide a support network for you, one that would be hard to replicate elsewhere. I realize that such a move would take the kids away from the grandparents. The fact that you said you wanted to separate if I took the (Payment Subsidiary) job makes it clear that you think moving would be a violation of your integrity. But I also believe that to take the local job would be a violation of my own integrity and would surely not be in my best interest.

I know that my refusal to give up a choice that causes you anxiety has caused you much frustration. Over the past couple of weeks, some of the things you have said and written have hurt me. You've tried to scare me with the threat of separation. You have ridiculed me by suggesting that I apply for a job at McDonald's. You have used guilt in the form of financial distress over bills. It's made it very difficult for me to be open about discussing this further with you.

When you have been conciliatory, most of the things you suggested involve either further sacrifice from me, like going back to school to make myself more marketable here, or are just superficial changes, like going out on more dates or playing Scrabble. I don't see a desire from you to confront yourself and grow. I don't believe that you are responsible for my happiness, but it certainly doesn't help my happiness to think I'm married to someone who won't work to overcome her own limitations.

The proximity of this session to Father's Day is bittersweet, because it reminds me that there is more to this marriage than just us. There are the kids. They didn't come into our lives easily, and it's hard for me to think of being away from them for extended periods of time. They don't stay small for long. I realize that in addition to the financial security they might gain from me advancing my career, they need emotional security, to know that they are loved by both parents.

I also worry that by staying here, I will stagnate and become resentful. Parents give up their lives freely for their children in split second decisions, but it is much harder to do so when the sacrifice endures for years. The act can give rise to bitterness, warping the character. I don't want my children to know me as that kind of person. I wonder whether the choice to stay just defers the development I've been trying to dodge for years. It could come back to haunt me through destructive behaviors later on through substance abuse or some kind of midlife crisis.

Both potential employers have been very patient with me in this decision making process. I have maintained contact with them to let them know that I am still considering. (Payment Subsidiary) has indicated that I could still hire on at either location, provided that there is an opening. So if I were to take their offer, I could go to (somewhere in the Silicon Valley) because the pay is much higher. I wouldn't be working in the same division because they have already filled their slots, but they said they would try to find an appropriate match.

If I were to take the job with (Payment Subsidiary), I realize that I would be starting over from scratch. That's a scary thing in itself, but it could be a good exercise in trying to define myself. Most of the things that I would take with me are things you probably wouldn't want to keep anyway, and I wouldn't want you and the girls to do without. I would make sure that the debts got paid off, and that you had what you needed to keep food on the table and a roof on your head.

I think that we need to have a discussion about why we're holding onto this marriage. Is it because we believe it's truly worth keeping, or is it because we're just struggling to keep up appearances for the foreseeable future? I'm at a point where I feel it is more for the sake of appearances. When you take away the pictures of the happy family and look within, there isn't a deep connection between us. I don't think it's because either of us is defective. We've grown to have very different needs.

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