Contributing BWC blogger Steam had the benefit of a good – nay great! – therapist. She offers up what she learned here:
Sometimes I wonder: Am I really this far along in my recovery from the largest trauma of my life? Is it really possible? I see so many of us who are stuck and although I know we are not supposed to judge our recovery against others, sometimes I can’t help but use our collective as a barometer.
If my story has one thing that is a little different, it might be that, if my husband had not agreed to go to therapy, that was a deal-breaker right there. But he said yes.
Once upon a time, and maybe where you live, as recently as yesterday, therapy was frowned upon.
You were mentally unstable if you had to seek therapy.
Although that's not always the case, in fact it rarely is, if you are just finding out you have been betrayed, here is the truth:
You really ARE mentally unstable.
For damn good reason. You have been rocked to the core. You know how you feel – you feel crazy.
But right now, for you, crazy is the new normal.
And don't you dare feel ashamed about this.
I knew, even on D-day, that I wanted to be with my husband and, in my mind, that pointed to my own insanity. I must be nuts to want to stay and yet I wanted to…and had no idea how to do it.
This is where therapy became a must, not just for me, not just for my husband, but as our therapist pointed out on our first visit, for the third entity – “the relationship”.
Our therapist – let's call her Mary – knew exactly why we were there and her first question was “do you want to stay together?”. We both answered yes. If you are unsure if you want to stay, I still believe therapy is a good place to learn why you’re not sure…and perhaps become sure, one way or the other.
Mary's style is very active. I didn't just watch someone nod her head and ask me “how does that make you feel?”
No, we had to get off our butts and do things, such as…
Learning to communicate
That is an art form and neither of us had the tools. We never would have made it without them. Everything had to come out: ”Fine” was not a real answer to “how are you?” and “nothing” was not an answer to “what are you thinking?” If you did not feel like talking, you could set a time in the not-so-distant future, say, 30 minutes, to get it together and communicate. We could not just shove our concerns aside until they were convenient.
We had to go on a date once a week and only one person planned it. No squabbling during planning. One partner just planned it, told the other what to wear and to get in the car (which explains why I went hiking in heels once – men sometimes miss the God in the details, and I will never ever judge another woman by her footwear on the trails. She may be on the same path as me, literally and figuratively).
We had been living in the same house, quietly and often too independently, for so many years that bringing fun back was a game-changer.
No matter how awful the week was, we had something fun to look forward to, and no matter what, we had to go. The change of scenery was always good. It only failed one time, our very first time when I fell into a heap of tears looking at other happy couples. They looked so young and untarnished, I knew I would never be like that again and it killed me. But the next weekend, we adjusted and did it again. Practice makes headway.
But above all else, Mary urged me to feel and explore this state we call crazy and she called it PTSD (hallelujah, it has a name! Facing it was the only way to go through it. I was up, I was down, I was crying, I was re-living, I needed HELP and not just once a week. I needed help from the person who betrayed me. Gasp! She asked if my husband was willing to not just listen, but actively support me through my bout with PTSD. It could not have been easy for him, but yes, he was.
She taught both of us that “crazy” was totally normal, at least for now, and we both had to deal with it.
This newfound me with my need for passwords and complete transparency, who needed to know every moment of every day where my husband was and who just texted, felt bossy and controlling, wanting passwords and to “talk” at any hour of the day.
I was hurt, I was shattered, I was NORMAL.
I have always known and said to anyone that my husband is the kindest man I have ever known. He has never said an unkind word to me in our 15 years together. Never put me down, never noticed if my weight creeped up, or if he did, was brilliant enough not to mention it. But what I put him through for at least six months was not pretty, or easy or fun.
Without Mary and my husband’s urging, I never could have set rules and demands. That was so not my style. I needed permission to feel every feeling, to learn the difference between feeling them and acting on them, and my husband learned a lot too!
Run, don’t walk to a good therapist!
If your husband tells you (or you feel the need) to “put it behind us”, “leave the past in the past”, “never speak about it again because it makes him (or you) feel bad” then you need some tools, either to stay or to go, and to find out why you want to or not, and the best place I know is inside the office of someone trained to help.
How does that make you feel? You don’t know? Make an appointment.