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Thursday, January 20, 2011

Marriage Counseling, the final session

Well, I'm trying to figure out how to best explain what went on in our last counseling session and my thoughts are all jumbled and I'm going to try to refrain from writing in all caps but just bare with me please!

DH and I had talked a little before our appointment that maybe it would be best to talk about him starting college courses again and how to support each other when our schedules get pretty out of hand because the last time DH took college courses, I really felt I was left to do everything and blamed when he didn't do well in his course work.  And I just want to make it clear that we both felt we were really doing so much better at this point, we hadn't had any big blow ups and we were just curious what suggestions our counselor would bring to the table to help us. 

I can tell you within 5 seconds of sitting down in her office, I just knew something was off and I immediately felt nervous.  Usually we'd sit down and she'd smile and ask how the past week went, commend us on making improvements and then kindly ask us what she could help us with this week.  This time....she didn't smile, didn't say a word, DH and I looked at each other, then looked back at her and she said, "Well are you going to speak?".......Uhhh,, HUH?  WTF is what I wanted to say!  So we looked at each other again and I told her we wanted to discuss DH's new schedule with school and how to handle allowing him to have enough time to study and go to class, yet how to help me out at home (his classes were 3 weekday night classes along with 1 online class).  And she still didn't say anything.  I get we are there to talk but she is there to guide us through the discussion. 

Within about 2 minutes the conversation morphed into her proposing to DH that he either A) quits his job and goes to school full time or B) finds a part time job or C) finds a job that he can work 4- 10's.   The very first session we had I had told her I had had several anxiety attacks when discussing or experiencing Chad's layoff's and just how stressful that was and it topped my list of fears.  So when she started discussing these options with DH, I began to panic.  First, she has no idea of our financial situation (at the time, we had ZERO in savings.  I had saved 4 months emergency savings prior to having Dylan and because I couldn't work full time and make sales, we used it up), second, in this economy it's pretty hard for a guy with no degree but a military background and being a disabled vet, that he could just find a job that works 4-10's and had decent insurance and paid as well as his current job.  I have a feeling I'm going to make this start sounding more confusing but I'm going to just keep going.  And third, who says his part time income is enough and probably wouldn't have decent benefits.  Our current insurance pays 90% of EVERYTHING after a $100 yearly copay, it's awesome!  Also, I make 4 times as much as my husband so any time he makes less or is laid off, I have to pick up the slack and try to make more and so it's constantly made me feel like I'm solely responsible for my family's financial well being.  But after such a rough couple of years and big money expenses such as fertility treatments with the first OB/GYN that diagnosed me as infertile and we spent about $10,000 in those 4 months, then 3 months before I got pregnant, my Audi engine died and a few months later the Turbo had to be replaced costing us over $10,000 (don't even get me started about that, it was outrageous and we paid in cash and they pretty much held my car hostage for 2 1/2 months until they got around to putting the car back together) so I felt like any decreases in his pay was just not feasible at this time.

So now that I probably overwhelmed you with details, short story is, we were there to figure out how to come to some understanding of how to make it work with DH gone so many days a week and needing to study while I was talking care of 2 kids under 2 and not spin myself back into PPD because I was slowly coming out of it at this point.  Last time DH took classes, it seemed when I needed help with the house, kids or to go to an appointment, he'd throw a fit that he HAD to study or he was going to fail a test and so I'd feel guilty and upset.

So about 5 minutes into her conversation with DH (and I was ticked at him for acting like this all sounded fine and dandy!) I started to have an anxiety attack and I kind of just "went off."  I told her that him not working 40 hours a week at his current job was just NOT AN OPTION at this point.  And she said, "Do you hear yourself?  You are telling him he's just a paycheck to you."  And then DH starts crying and if you've ever seen a grown man cry, it's heart breaking.  And this is the same counselor that in our first session told DH that, "I can tell you this, she really does love you because if she didn't, she'd be gone because financially, she doesn't have to stay.  Many women stay because they don't know how they could afford to be on their own.  That isn't the situation here and besides that, just seeing you two together and the things you've said, you can make this work if you are willing to work at it." 

Then how did she turn this around to he's just a paycheck?!  But I'm 29 years old with 2 kids and it's just not the time for my husband to not work or work less so he can go to school.  I think that takes time and planning and saving money.  I mean of course school would be easier on him if he can just do school and not go to work for 40 hours but to act like that was something we could do in a few short weeks, NOT POSSIBLE.  So I'm freaking out at this point thinking 'What if DH thinks this is a great idea and we get home and he is adamant about doing it because this professional told him to!'  I guess I just didn't understand HOW she thought I was going to pay all the bills and why does he get to be the stay at home dad and go to school?

And then I questioned her on where he was going to find a good paying job that he could work part time or 4-10's because he looked for a good paying job after he get out of the military in 2007 and didn't find anything that paid even $15/hour and now he makes good money (when he's not laid off) and your telling him to walk away after he's invested over 2 years in learning his job?  Seriously, he's 34, not 18 and he chose to have kids and a wife which means he has to step up and help take care of his family and if he wants to focus on school then we need to plan that out and it'll probably take a couple years to get us to the point where we have enough money in savings where maybe that could work.  But in 3 weeks?!  And I was really ticked that she knew this causes me anxiety and she just kept pushing the idea!  When I started to say, "How do you expect us to pay the bills?  And really, where are you going to find a job that let's you work 4-10's?  And don't you think insurance is important?  We could go into debt so fast if anything happened to us or the kids.  We are trying to adopt a kid and I'm supposed to prove I can take care of him without your income or only part of your income?  You were laid off for 5 straight months after I got pregnant and we used up our savings, I worked 40-60 hours a week my last 2 months of pregnancy to get us ahead again, and now you want to just focus on school and stop working full time?  When do I get break?!  This just means I'm going to have to work that much harder and I already work hard!" 

And then the counselor said, "Stop, now, just stop.  I'm not going to let this go on any longer and i WILL NOT schedule your next session until you can go home and think about this and decide that you are ready to make some changes and when you can call me and tell me that, then we will schedule your next session." 


And that was it, she got up and opened the door.  We quickly walked to the elevator, left in separate cars and I just broke down.  Was I really wrong?  Was I really supposed to go along with the idea of this?  Why was this lady suggesting things that could put our family in a really bad financial place even after I told her we did not have the money to make those decisions right now!  And would I be married to him if he didn't work?  I never thought I'd grow up, go to college, have a good career and THEN take care of a grown man and put him through college while having 2 kids under 2!  Why?!  Why when most of my girlfriends were talking about being a SAHM am I talking about supporting the entire family on my own!?

I was really worried when we drove away that DH thought she was right and I dreaded the argument that was probably to come once we got home.  However, once DH got home from work, he said she was out of line and he knew it was not an option right now.  He said he felt really bad for the way she treated me and he knows how stressful it can be when he's laid off and I'm the only one earning money and he would have never suggested he quit his current job (which does not have an option to go part time).  Over the weekend we talked about how to handle his college schedule AND that we were not going back to that counselor. I even opened up to my friend that suggested this counselor because she goes to her also and she agreed that she shouldn't have been advising DH on doing things that affect our finances after we told her we didn't have money saved to do that.

I can tell you since that session this past summer, I have worked hard on myself to reduce my anxiety about layoffs.  Oh, and the first week of November DH was laid off for about 6 weeks and we didn't fight about it and I didn't give him a hard time but we also had worked on our savings so I knew we were fine and I understand it's not his fault he gets laid off and he understands it still puts more pressure on me to make more money during those times so this last time he really stepped up taking care of the kids and house and running errands so I could focus on appointments with my clients in order to make sales so I think we are in a much better place.  I really believe our counselor was having an off day, I think something must have irritated her before we ever got there or maybe it was me but I still think she was way out of line. 

Any thoughts?  Have you been to marriage counseling, anything you'd like to share that helped your relationship?


  1. I have not been to marriage counseling but I am a licensed social worker and have worked with patients suffering from depression, anxiety, terminal illness and other psychosocial issues. This counselor sounds completely inappropriate, from what you wrote. I'm not sure what her training/education is but sometimes there are just bad therapists. Just like there are bad physicians, nurses etc. A good therapist would not give such specific advice unless the client is asking directly. And, even then, it is not always apppropriate. It really depends on the situation and the rapport between therapist and client(s). It is not the therapists job to decide what the patient/client does. It's the therapists job to facilitate an honest discussion so that the client/patient discovers for themself a solution that feels like the best fit for him/her.

    There are very skilled therapists out there and I hope if you ever need one again that you will reach out and try to find another one. It may just be trial and error to find a good one. Having certain credentials (a psychiatrist (MD) vs. psychologist (PhD) vs. social worker (MSW) etc) does not guarantee that the person is going to provide exceptional care. Sorry, I could go on and on about this.

    The one you went to just sounds unprofessional. Good that you did not return!

  2. Wow I am truly disgusted with her behaviors she is very unprofessional and I think she should be reported .
    I haven't been to marriage counseling but I have seen a phycologist and I have never been treated like this.
    I am very sorry that she has done this and I wouldn't let it put you off counselling there would be someone else way better then her don't let what she did run in your head it was her problem and like you said sounds like she was having a bad day but absolutely no excuses

  3. You weren't out of line at all. This woman was *nuts* !

  4. I'm prayin for ya over here. Hope all is well.

  5. I am a psychologist, and this behavior is absolutely unacceptable. Please, please do yourself a favor and try to find someone that is very skilled in this area. Therapists should never, ever judge you and there are very few situations where you tell someone what they should do. It would have to be life or death, literally. Therapy is about the patient finding their own solutions through their own process and in their own time. I would also recommend individual and couples therapy if you have anxiety attacks. You need help with those in individual therapy. Also, check out the leading books by John Gottman - his research is amazing and should provide you some insight into your marriage and whether there is hope. It's hard to find a good therapist - especially marital therapy - but this person ain't it....

  6. Thank you very much for all the suggestions. I was wondering what authors people might suggest, so thank you for adding that too. It really is hard to find someone good, this was my first adult experience with counseling and the recommendation came from a friend....however her and I are like night and day so maybe that was part of it. It's hard to trust another stranger to tell all to after this but I'll try.

  7. Marriage works by loving the right person enough to make the right choices as you do so. Marriage counselling continues to be identified by many people with different points of views. 
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