Abuse Hides in the Dark. Turn on Your Light.

Couples’ Counseling Does Not Help Abusive Relationships

Couple in therapy, woman is talking and man looking at her in disbelief

Today’s couples’ counseling went well for the most part. I learned that I can ask Will to clarify statements that sound “off” to me instead of internalizing his words and hearing something not said.

Remembering to ask questions like, “Are you saying I’m a bad mother?” when he says, “You don’t discipline the boys” is better than inferring that he thinks I’m a bad mother.

I want him to take responsibility for our problems as he expects me to do & expects as much of himself as he expects of me. I want equality in our marriage.

Of course, it is hard not to infer what he means when he has loudly told me several times that our boys are fucked up because of me, which tells me that he believes I’m the definition of a bad mother. He would probably prefer that I prove that statement by quoting him verbatim from more than one occasion because that feeds into the games abusers love to play. [is there an emoticon for brushing aside snide remarks bred from a hostile history? that’s what I’m doing now…]

So anyway, after couples’ counseling I told him I would ask such questions of him in the future, and that I hoped he’d hear them without accusing me of being a smart ass. He said that he could do that (I Tried Marriage Counseling).

Also after couples’ counseling, he finally told me a couple of nice things I could do for him. (Remember, I asked him last week what I could do in the hope of dispelling the hostile environment.) One, it would be very nice for him if when he came home, the house was “presentable.”

“Presentable” is a word his mother used to say as she hurried his siblings into a cleaning frenzy before Dad walked in the door at 5:30. Presentable, to him, means the same thing as “straightened” means to me, but it’s more the feeling that I and the boys care about the home he provides, and out of appreciation for his hard work, we pick up the joint before he gets home.

That isn’t so much to ask, I don’t think. I can do that.

I could go into the past, telling you about WHY I stopped doing those things in the first place. But this is a clean slate (nothing is forgotten, I’m not in la-la land, but I am willing to wipe the slate clean and start fresh and small). I trust that by doing nice things for Will, he will be encouraged to do nice things for me, too.

What Did He Take from Couples’ Counseling?

I don’t know what, if anything, Will took away from the session today. I hope he heard the counselor tell me “No one has the right to define you…” when I mentioned the “housewife” thing from earlier this week. (Will told me, “You’re a housewife. You have a roof over your head, food on your table and children to care for. You are happy.”)

I hope he sees that I learned from the couples’ counseling already – that I can ask him what he means instead of swishing it around in my head and then turning on him like a crazy woman because I feel as if he is demeaning me. I would very much like to respond to his concern that I am not disciplining the boys (or any other concern) with meaningful dialogue.

What Do I Really Want?

I would very much like to respond to his critiques with requests for help in meeting his expectations or “Oh, yeah, I can see where what I did could be a problem” or “No, I disagree, I see it another way” and be able to talk it through.

My ultimate hope, eventually, is that he takes as much responsibility for our problems as he expects me to do, and critiques of my job performance transform into assessments of our abilities, to include what is being done well.

Or maybe my ultimate hope, what I really want, is that we can move beyond talking about problems all of the time and start enjoying each other’s company, talking about interests outside of children, finances, respect, and our roles. I want to laugh, and I really want to laugh with Will.

UPDATE: During a subsequent meeting with the marriage counselor, I told Will that if he ever put his hands on me again then I would leave him. I guess he had to test my boundary because he choked me, shook me like a rag doll, and wouldn’t let me out of our room until my son came to see what the fuss was about.

I left him on January 22, 2010. Couples counseling only works in front of the counselor. God knows what will happen when you get home.

Read Why We Don’t Recommend Marriage Counseling For Abusive Relationships at the National Domestic Violence Hotline website.