I was hopeful the latest move would at least give us more time together, time to rebuild as a couple and as a family. We had a wonderful family vacation as we turned our move into a cross-country road trip. We made some nice memories as a family.
The new house and neighborhood were quite perfect for our family, in my view. We live near the water. TL and I even went scuba diving here once. I enjoyed it — not just for its own sake, but because it was something fun I could share with TL.
The kids and I found a nice rhythm in the new place, with new friends, activities, and routines. I knew TL was still suffering desperately. I knew she had her heart set on staying in her hometown. That’s a dream I’d love to give her, but she and I both decided there’s a lot to be said for a pension and a few more years of financial stability for the kids. I saw and felt her desperate loneliness, depression, and pain.
TL and I found babysitting and went out together occasionally. It was a good chance to work on our relationship.
TL feared the vasectomy and counseling delay showed that I failed her by not matching my words with my actions. I just discussed my view of the vasectomy issue. Yes, I failed. Please read further to see my view of the counseling issue.
I failed to act quickly in beginning to see a counselor alone. Right after D-day, I saw the immediate need for marriage counseling as a couple. First of all, it was to help us deal with the shock of d-day and all the related revelations. Second, it was to help us carefully start down the path of reconciliation. It was like joint urgent care. I also saw the need for TL to see a counselor individually, to help her through her trauma that I had caused. And, I told TL that I would see a counselor individually as well, to work on fixing my fundamental flaws so as to prevent further sins on my part. I meant it. I wanted to do that.
But, the problem was, I think, that separate from my desire to help TL and our marriage, I did not yet understand what I would do, for my own purposes, in individual counseling. So, like with the vasectomy, that good intention kept slipping lower down my to-do list. Again, it was not until TL reminded me about it that I seriously spoke to B about seeing me for individual counseling as well.
Unlike my delay with the vasectomy, I was not hesitating on individual counseling due to fear. I think I was hesitating on account of lack of understanding. Yes, it was arrogant of me to think I had to understand the diagnosis before seeing a counselor for strategies. Even with physical health, sports, or job skills, I prefer to go as far as I can on my own before asking for professional assistance.
But, I was wrong. I should have jumped into individual counseling immediately. I finally got it done. It feels good to be doing it, but I will always feel lousy about how long it took me to start.
Why am I in counseling? I have struggled with self-esteem problems my whole life. At age forty-five, I have not been able to fully master that challenge. I need help. Second, I still need to learn more of how to nurture and support TL, how to think of others before myself, how to think before I speak, how to listen better, and how to be more empathetic. Third, though I’ve learned some effective strategies for staving off self-pity and how to avoid comparing myself to others, I could benefit from professional guidance, to be sure I’m not missing threatening clues. Fourth, I view mental health maintenance as analogous to physical health maintenance. You need regular check-ups and occasional professional interventions. I promised TL that I will continue seeing a counselor regularly until I die, even if TL leaves me or dies first. I do it for me — not just for her.
Very gradually, I’m learning some tangible things. I’ve already mentioned some examples earlier in this blog, and you’ll see more as they develop.
Most recently, B helped us discover that I need to learn how to nurture TL. We discussed the three parts of personality in a theory that builds on Freud’s discussion if the id, ego, and super-ego. In this theory we call the three parts child, adult-computer, and adult. The latter can be authoritarian or it can be nurturing. When TL and I communicate, particularly in the difficult discussions, we are trying to recognize which part of each of our personalities is at the fore in that particular conversation.
Then came the travel dilemma. Please read my next entry for more on that. Also, in future posts I’ll talk about books I’ve read on the subject of affairs, reconciliation, and self-esteem.