There would be several times in my life when I would reach out for help but this would be my first experience with a therapist. I insisted that we go to a ‘couples therapist’. What a disaster! The sessions only made things worse. It seemed that all we did was point fingers at each other. All we did was make each other feel guilty. Richard refused to go after two sessions. I didn’t blame him.
But nothing was fixed. I couldn’t trust Richard and he felt it every time he left the house. He was becoming more and more resentful of my badgering questions about his whereabouts but too guilty about his betrayal to say so. Every time he went out the door I felt that same wrenching feeling I had during the phone call. I decided that even if he wouldn’t go to therapy I needed to feel better.
“The deeper that sorrow carves into your being, the more joy you can contain.When you are joyous, look deep into your heart and you shall find it is only that which has given you sorrow that is giving you joy.”
Kahlil Gibran, The Prophet
The decision to seek help for myself saved our marriage and was the beginning of an actual relationship for Richard and me. The woman I saw every week for six months suggested a number of therapies; writing letters that wouldn’t be sent, drawing pictures with no form and reading other therapist’s books on communication. I still, to this day, not only highly recommend one of them but also give it to people as a Wedding gift. Practicing its communication techniques opened a door so that Richard and I opened our hearts to each other and fell into true love for the first time; after fifteen years of marriage.
“The way I see it, if you want the rainbow, you gotta put up with the rain.”
Surprisingly enough, my very close cousin Jay had actually become very good friends with the author Jordan Paul - small world. The book is titled: Do I have to give up me to be loved by you? The communication techniques he teaches will work for any kind of communications; personal and professional.
But his methods take a tremendous amount of practice! I learned how to make statements that didn’t get defensive responses. That’s incredibly difficult to do when you’re feeling so betrayed; when you want to strike out; when you want someone to admit their errors and beg your forgiveness. We would have conversations that lasted for hours because it would sometimes take me ten minutes to formulate a correct response in my head to one statement. I was learning not to react. I stopped accusing and started telling Richard exactly how deeply I felt. How I felt about him, about something he might have said to me, about his behavior or mine, about our relationship, about our life, about myself.
We actually started to be tender with each other. Many times the awesome power of that tenderness would bring me to tears with the realization that these feelings were the essence of life itself. The most difficult part was trying to come up with the words that could describe the deep feelings I was having. ‘Love’ just didn’t do it. The feeling was so much more than that. I started to use the phrase ‘I love you desperately’ because it felt more real.
For the first time we were openly affectionate to each other all of the time. We held hands, we kissed each other if we entered the same room or left the room or for no apparent reason, we started and ended each day declaring our love for each other. Our feelings were so deep they made me cry; cry for joy that where there had been a cavernous aching emptiness and pain there was now such an intense all encompassing love that is still indescribable. My empty hole was overflowing.
The Lesson: Listen to your planned words with the ears of the person that will hear them before you let them leave your lips. Make sure the words you say are said with kindness. Make sure they will not incite a knee jerk defensive response.