Tying the Knot in a Meaningful and Memorable Way (Without Losing Our Savings or Sanity)

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Couples' Counseling Update

Last week, I went to my first session of couples' counseling, although it wasn't exactly "couples'" counseling yet because the counselor wanted us to attend our first sessions separately.

I had had a stressful day leading up to the session, and as I drove there, I started crying. I was crying about the fact that I would probably start crying in the session (I cry very easily when I feel any sort of anxiousness at various types of doctors' offices). I was also crying because of the day I had had. I was crying because I was nervous. I was crying because I was afraid that therapy would unpack something deeply "wrong" with me. And I was crying because I was afraid of something being wrong with me (I would much rather embrace than fear such self-discovery).

I was a mess.

I stopped crying before I introduced myself to the counselor but then pretty much started crying right away. She validated my need to cry and talked about how cathartic crying is. She explained that the kind of counseling she practices believes that the wounds we experienced in childhood are at the root of our current problems. She asked me to try and connect the feeling I'm having in my relationship with Matt (i.e., not being able to give him what he wants/needs) with a similar feeling from my childhood.

I've done a lot of processing of my childhood because I never knew my father. He didn't want to have anything to do with me or my pregnant mother. I've thought a lot about how that feeling of abandonment has affected my attraction toward men (i.e., I used to go after the men who were emotionally unavailable and uninterested in me because I wanted to convince them to love me). I've also thought about how not being loved by my father has led me to develop a pattern of over-achievement and perfectionism. I am always vying for external love and affirmation to fill the void that my very own father left.

However, I hadn't thought a lot about what it was like to grow up in a single-parent household for many years and how that affected the amount of attention I received. I also hadn't thought much about how hard it was for me to share that attention with the various stepfathers who came in and out of my life. Inevitably, there must have been tension between wanting my mom to be happy but also wanting her all to myself (and not feeling like I was able to give her everything she needed to be happy).

It was an extremely difficult conversation to have, and I clearly need to do lots more thinking and processing of the wounded self I still carry around. It's also not clear to me how helpful it will be to have sessions with Matt, since it seems like the issue in our relationship might be connected to our individual issues.

But, nonetheless, it's an awesome process to be going through. We can't really afford the $85 per session, once a week, but it's an investment in our life together.

I'll keep you updated!

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Jessica said...

I really thank you so much for sharing this, even though it is so personal. Even just reading the process the therapist had you go through has helped me start thinking about some things that might effect my relationship. Does your insurance cover personal counseling? Maybe you could do that and then have a few sessions together later on.

Kathryn said...

I felt fine walking into my first session of counseling and all of a sudden, I was sobbing the rest of the way through my session! I hear it happens a lot on the first one. I'm a huge supporter of therapy and counseling and I thank you for writing about this and letting people know it can be so productive and good.

Carissa said...

thanks for opening your heart and sharing all of this. Of all the things, it was actually just really nice to read that you had been crying so much. I hope counseling does great things for you guys.

Carey said...

I cry at doctor's office's too - I have an appointment today, and will probably cry. Anxiousness is an interesting thing.

I love that you are sharing your experiennce! Thank you.

Heather said...

I appreciate your honesty and openness in sharing your experience. I've been contemplating whether or not my new husband and I would benefit from sort of couple's counseling as we head into some life changes/obstacles, so I very much enjoy hearing about your own experience.

Megilon said...

I applaud your openness and honesty. It is difficult to deal with our issues but even harder to put them out to the world. Unfortunately our childhood and the issues we faced (or didn't face) then has a big impact on our lives as adults. I wish you the best in your journey.

Therese T. said...

Thank you for sharing, Sara. I wish you and Matt the best!

Jen said...

Thanks so much for sharing! I just caught myself up (since I've been out for a bit! hellooo, honeymoon!) and really appreciate your openess on this. Sex is such a tough issue with so many different layers to it.

Sarah said...

I'm so excited for you guys that you started sessions! My husband and I meet in both separate and joint sessions- and our therapist also spends a lot of time looking at family patterns from childhood and how they manifest themselves in your relationships now. It's so good to deal with even the unpleasant feelings and have a place where you can feel those things authentically. She always reminds me that if you don't allow to feel the bad things fully, then your psyche won't allow you to feel the good things as fully either- and you want the good ones too! Thanks for blogging about this issue, I think it's so important and so common to us women, that finding out others experience it too can in and of itself be healing!

Ms. Bunny said...

Congratulations for taking these steps. I've cried at just about every counseling session I've ever had. So don't feel like your alone in that. Sometimes that makes it hard to want to go to counseling -- knowing you're going to have to open up which leads to crying. But I always feel better in the end. I really believe this will help your marriage and all your other relationships.

Lisa said...

Good luck with the rest of the process. I know counseling can take a huge hit out of the budget but in my experience its been worth it, and truly an investment in the future. In our area a lot of providers will give you a discount if you are paying cash/not through insurance--something to think about. I also really recommend the book Breaking through Depression to help you process some of the childhood unmet needs issues further--even if you're not currently depressed it does ask some probing questions about those things.

Anonymous said...

have you and matt done any further counseling sessions? If so, could you update us on the process and if it's been helpful?

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