I got side-swiped in therapy again today. Only this time, in a good way.
The counselor picked up where we left off last time – where we were all left hanging, rather — and asked me to say how it felt when he kept making everything be about me and my problems. So she did get it. Then, after I told her, she had me turn to my husband and tell him exactly what I had just told her, as if he hadn’t been sitting there listening, because the thing about Emotionally Focused Therapy is that it takes practice. So it seems silly at first, but we’re used to it now. And it’s weird, but it works. Even though I know he knows what I’m about to say. There is power in turning to the person and looking them in the eyes and saying the words.
So I did. I told him that it makes me angry and frustrated, because when he deflects like that, we can’t solve the issue at hand. But underneath that it makes me sad and abandoned and lonely, because he is supposed to be my person, but when I go to him with a problem (regardless of the fact that he caused it), if he won’t talk honestly about it but keeps twisting my words, we can’t have a conversation. And then I told him I WON’T have that conversation any more. I am done with being the scapegoat. If he wants to talk to me, he is going to have to figure out some honest emotions and share them.
It didn’t come out as succinct as that, of course, but that was the gist. And boy, did that feel good. He then, very painstakingly, because he had to keep stopping himself from speaking his go-to words, managed to get out the idea that he had no idea what to say or do because it felt like he was treading water in a deep sea, trying to talk about how he felt. He had nothing to grab hold of, because it’s new territory.
And I was elated, because that is the first honest thing he has said in therapy for weeks. I told him that too. I told him it made me so happy that even though he was struggling, he said the truth.
I hope that he got that. I hope that he realizes when he is honest, he doesn’t get the sharp side of my tongue. I hope that we have once and for all put to death the idea that if he talks about himself I will turn into a green-eyed monster and scream at him. I don’t know where he got that idea, because I haven’t ever done that to him, but it’s lurking in there from something in his past.
So this was good.
And then, as we discussed all this with the counselor, between the three of us we realized that sharing your emotions is like confessing your sins to God. When you share your honest feelings, you can’t couch it in blame on others or excuses or lies. Just as when you confess your sins to God, it’s not true confession if you deflect, equivocate or lie. You don’t get real freedom from sin until you grasp it in your hands, identify it as your own, and offer it honestly to Him and receive His forgiveness.
That verse that talks about “confessing our sins one to another” came to mind. My husband even pointed out that it goes on to say, “so that you may be healed.” Here’s the verse:
Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. – James 5:16a
That word “sin” trips us up a lot in modern Christianity. “Sin” seems to only apply to truly bad things of an immoral nature. But that word, in the original Greek, hamartia, simply means to miss the mark. To err, to be mistaken.
So talking on an honest, gut-level, “here’s what I’m feeling” level kind of seems to go hand in hand with admitting when we miss the mark, when we’re feeling a bit off, when we don’t feel on top of things.
And apparently, THAT is where true deep relationship lies. Not in the Seven Skills of Spousal Communication. Not in simply reflective listening or giving the benefit of the doubt or not saying “always” or “never or making verbal contracts… not that there is anything wrong with those methods. There is a place and time for all of that. But true relationship comes when we can open up and truly share, honestly report, and completely confess our innermost screw-ups and “I don’t get this” and feelings, even if that’s only to say, “Whoa, I am WAY out of my depth here and I’m just looking for something to grab hold of to make sense of this.”
That’s where marital communication should be. Because trust me, my husband and I have listened to, studied and applied all the pop-Christian-Psychology tips on marital communication and there are GIANT loopholes in which one can hide simply using those as a guideline. Both my husband and I have found those. And used them.
But if you look at marital honestly, gut-level honesty, as a Scriptural MANDATE. Wow. That’s a totally different thing. That’s where some progress might be made.
So while we were talking about this in therapy it started to dawn on me, in the background, that maybe the way to deal with this narcissism isn’t to attack it, but to simply focus on the emotions and honest portrayal of them, without falling back into schema learned in childhood or coping mechanisms that are no longer necessary. Maybe we won’t ever have to bring that term up. Maybe my therapist pegged my husband as a narcissist months ago but isn’t going that route. Maybe we can sidestep all that ugliness and simply learn to talk to each other honestly.
Which then brings me back to that “he just lost me” decision I came to a month or so ago. Not sure where we’re going with that now. Not sure if that even applies, or if it even matters.
Because maybe, if we keep going this way, and if he stays brave and learns to tread water, he might find me again.