Borrowed Hope

So, my husband and I are going to a counselor.  She is amazing.  Just a little FYI:  If you are having marital difficulties, find a counselor that does EFT (Emotionally Focused Therapy). It’s different from the run-of-the-mill and it WORKS way better than the usual “communication skills” approach.  Trust me on this.

At any rate, we are making progress.  Because, as I said, this approach works.  We’ve been to five other counselors over the years:

  • The Pre-Marital Counseling Pastor, who met with us exactly one (1) time, and then avoided every future appointment and the wedding went on as planned and we never did find out what we missed, but it was apparently important and might have saved us a world of pain.
  • The Cognitive Behavioral Therapist, who was wonderful and gave us some excellent tools, but never got to the bottom of The Problem.
  • The PhD, who was a chauvinist pig.  I’ve never in my life used that term before, but it applies there. Even my husband says he was awful. “Well, you know, women have these emotions, and even though it’s a big deal about nothing, it really FEELS real to them, so we just have to understand that and make allowances for it…”
  • The Associate Pastor, who actually was pretty great the one time we saw him, but he got pushed out of his pastorship by the power-hungry senior pastor, so that was the end of that. Needless to say, we left that church.
  • The Ex-psychologist Associate Pastor from the New Church, who… gee, I don’t really know WHAT all he did.  He was sympathetic but… Yeah, I got nothing.  He was a really nice guy, though.  We both agree on that.

Fast forward to now, where this Amazing, God-Sent, Angelic, I’ve Got Nothing Bad To Say About This Woman dropped down into our laps and Changed Everything.

Over the past year, she has finally managed to get my husband to admit that he might have some issues.  And she has managed to get me to admit that after all, I really do love my husband.  I was beginning to think I didn’t, but she keeps pointing out what I do that shows I do.

So today a couple of things hit me.  One is that I poured myself heart and soul into our marriage for the first 15 years.  I mean, Really.  Full on. I was an amazing wife.  I did everything I could to help my husband with his stuff.  And I worked diligently (with a couple of OTHER counselors) on my own stuff. But then I got tired, and disillusioned, and cynical, and realized I was being co-dependent, so I stopped pouring myself into this bottomless pit.

But today I realized that doesn’t mean I stopped loving.  I just got afraid to express it, because in the past, most expressions got twisted into codependence and that just doesn’t work out well.  I still have the capacity to be that amazing, poured out wife again.  I just need to know it’s safe to do so.

The other thing that came out yesterday in counseling is that my husband realizes that all these years he has been afraid to express, or even FEEL, his own emotions, so he prefers to focus on mine and “help me” fix them.  Which, of course, made me feel like he thinks I’m a basket case, especially when the crisis at hand had arisen out of HIS behavior and he kept focusing on MY reaction.

So he sees that now, and he says it’s hard to connect emotionally but he sees now he needs to, and that he feels like there’s this big forest that he needs to traverse, but he can’t see the path through it, other than what is immediately under his feet.

So this should put me over the moon.  I mean, seriously, I’ve been trying to get him to see this for our ENTIRE MARRIAGE.  I should be so happy that he’s finally getting it and starting down that road.

Instead, I’m rolling my eyes.  I’m shrugging.  I’m turning and walking away inside. It’s a classic case of “Oops.”  I finally got him where I wanted him and now I don’t think I want him there.

Which, you know, makes me feel like a cold-hearted bitch.

I guess the best way to explain it is to borrow from his picture – I sat on the other side of that damn forest for 15 years, waiting for him to find his way through it, marking the trail, ringing bells, yelling, running back and forth and going, “This way, dear,” cheering him on, telling him he was awesome and just needed to take another step… And finally, I had to admit he wasn’t going to do it, no matter what I did.  He was happy staying right where he was and couldn’t understand why I kept expecting him to move.

So I stopped waiting for him. I accepted that this was who he was, I wrote YHINAGU on my wrist, I considered it a physical impairment, like ADD or Aspergers or PTSD, I stopped blaming him for it, and I moved on.  And now I’m the other side of the mountains on the other side of the forest. The ones he can’t even see.

I got on with my emotional and spiritual life without him. I made friends and pursued those relationships instead.  I took opportunities in spite of his worry and negativity and Reasons Why You Should Just Stay Home.  I refused to entertain those negative whiny conversations about what This or That leader was doing wrong. I stopped going to The Excitement Plan with him. And you know what? I love my new life.

But then he noticed that I was moving on without him and tried to throw on the brakes. It was too late. I had broken free of those chains.  I didn’t care what he thought any more.

So then he suddenly felt left out.  I did tell him he was welcome to join me, but he just wanted me to come back and make everything “like it used to be.” i.e. when I pretended everything was fine and did everything I could to make him believe he had a Perfect Christian marriage.

So yeah, great, he’s on the right path.  He’s finally seeing what I needed him to see 10-15 years ago. Excuse me while I don’t pull out the pom-poms.

Because there is no WAY I am going back to that forest to wait for him again.

But at the end, our counselor said she has hope.  She can see in my eyes that I don’t, but she grabbed my knee this week and said, “Borrow hope from me.  I can see it.  You guys are way ahead of most couples I see.  You will get through this.”   So I am.  I’m borrowing her hope.

And then I realized today that maybe I’m not actually that cold-hearted bitch I seem to be after all.  Maybe I just got really, REALLY tired while I was waiting.  Maybe I also got pretty wounded, so I’m afraid to pour out any more.

But maybe I didn’t lose that love.  Maybe that love is still a part of me.  Not just for him, but for anyone.  Maybe I’m really a very loving person, but I poured out too much and wasn’t choosy enough about where I poured it and got burned as a result.

Maybe I will learn to pour out again.. Or perhaps not pour. Maybe I should be doing a steady trickle rather than a gush that depletes all my resources.

It’s possible. There might be hope. Maybe.

It’s borrowed hope, but it might actually be true.

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