I had a really great session with my counselor this week. It was just the two of us, no Claire. We covered a variety of topics and I think made some headway. This was the first time I really felt that the counselor understood what was going on with me.
We started by talking about something that had been on my mind. I had a few conversations with people who had been in lots of dating relationships lately and it led me thinking about my own dating history. I had one semi-serious girlfriend in high school. Then Claire the next year. That was it. I did not play the field. I did not experience the various personalities and wealth of emotions that can come with different relationships. In fact my employee is going through a hard break up right now and I realized I never really experienced the pain of a break up. I don’t know how to deal with these situations.
The counselor noted I am emotionally stunted in regard to relationships. I did not gain experience or knowledge in dealing with the highs and the lows of relationships.
When you combine that with some of the underlying biases I grew up with it forms a picture of a man who cannot deal with rejection. My own mother has a very anti-man bias. She blames most of the world’s and relationship ills on men. It’s always the man’s fault. I didn’t consciously think those thoughts as a young man but it was there. I had a clear desire not to lose a single relationship. Dealing with any rejection made me reconsider all I was doing wrong. Rather than recognize I can be right, rather men can be right, I just assumed I was wrong and tried to find a way to make it better. I don’t go to anger when I am rejected for something (generally), I go to sadness. Because I messed up. If I didn’t mess up then there wouldn’t be a problem.
The other side of not playing the field is that I find myself now desiring other women. Wondering what is out there. Thinking about the situations I missed and longing for a current version of that. I want to know what they are like. The quiet ones; the tattooed ones; all of them. What can I learn from them? What relationship secrets could I learn about them and myself? What would the sex be like? The level of intimacy? The tender moments after sex? What are their interests and desires? I just want to know all about this other life that I never experienced. I shared this with my counselor. She agreed that it would be natural to feel that way due to my history.
Then she redirected to a book I’ve been reading at her recommendation. A Passionate Marriage. It’s mostly about the need for differentiation within a long term relationship. I’ll be honest I don’t totally understand at this point as I’m only on chapter five, but the gist is maintaining yourself while being in a relationship. It’s possible this is what I’m struggling from, but I have yet to see exactly how or what to do about it. The author promises mind blowing intimacy and sex if we can figure this out. Color me skeptical. It’s also really long and dense copy. That also makes me skeptical.
Lastly we talked about an argument Claire and I had the night before. The argument started as most of ours do: I said something; she was offended; hours of discussion later still not resolved. The argument was about how she treated our daughter. I had set our daughter up to watch Mr. Rogers and she was getting really into it, asking lots of questions and what not. I was thrilled because she was learning something from TV. While I was making dinner I was very aware and in tune with my daughter and her energy flow. Then Claire walks in completely misreading the situation and grabs a play robot mask and gets in my daughter’s face talking like a robot.
It all happened really fast. As I saw what she was doing I said “Dear not now.” But Claire often doesn’t hear me when she’s in middle of something. The next thing I said was after it was done and my daughter started whining at Claire to stop. I asked Claire “why did you do that? She was focused on the show.” I mean it was a genuine question. I could not fathom how she thought that was a good idea. I finally got our child calm and in a learning mode, Claire was not going to stick around and play as she had stuff she was working on upstairs, it was just weird. Her response was that I was wrong and needed to allow her to parent her way. Then she got genuinely upset with me for the rest of the night.
The whole thing was so odd. The counselor and I spoke about it for some time. She really stood up for me on that one. That I don’t need to back down on things when I’m right. I need to hold my own. The problem is that I’m attaching too much emotional connection to my relationship. I have a codependent attachment emotionally. When my wife fires back I assume I’m wrong and feel hurt and rejected. It turns into a long battle about who attacked who.
A lot of those feeling come from my past as I mentioned earlier. It must be my fault so I’m right to feel hurt and rejected. Instead I need to hold my ground and calmly tell my wife why I feel the way I do and then let her figure out how to handle her emotions. Neither of us are good at it on our own. Listening to the counselor talk about this it didn’t immediately land, but over the week, as I worked on things, it made more and more sense. I regularly get pulled into emotional battles with Claire because we have become emotionally codependent.
I’m going to continue working on improving my own independence and mental health and we will see where it goes.