Abuse Hides in the Dark. Turn on Your Light.

Marriage Counseling Does Not Help Abusive Relationships

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.

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.Today’s 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.

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 I try to make them my friends, send them to therapy & other such reasons. To me, that sounds like him blaming me for damaging our children. 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 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.

Also after 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 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.

Another thing he would like is if on weekends where he is outside working at lunchtime, I call him inside to eat. Lunch doesn’t have to be fancy or hot, it’s not about the food. He wants to know that I care about him enough to remind him to eat, and respect the work he’s doing enough to fix some food.

I can do that now.

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.

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 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.

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 following 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 couldn’t resist testing my boundary because he choked me, shook me like a rag doll and barricaded me into our room until my son came to see what the fuss was about. I left him on January 22, 2010. Marriage counseling only works in front of the counselor. God knows what will happen when you get home.

This story updates on I Tried Marriage Counseling for My Abusive Relationship. There was no happy ending.

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