Tuesday, 2 February 2016

Couples Counselling and the Marital Stretch Marks

I have been invited to be part of a discussion on the BBC next week which I am really looking forward to.  So part of the subject matter is this ... are couples getting divorced too easily... do we not work hard enough at our marriages?

So it got me thinking about some of the pre-divorce work that my Ex and I did and the benefits of couples counselling for us ... how did it help us? Was there any point? Did it just prolong the inevitable? Did we fit the particular personality profile more precluded to the positive processes of counselling? Or had the damage been done? It may be that we are not supposed to be married to one person for the rest of our life... an excuse for me?  No not at all.... But what I did question was the fall out of unexpected life events, happening to each human being that just ever so slightly alters life's perspective. The choices we humans make, at any given time that sub-consciously changes our thinking, our lives and the 'how and why' we are all here.  

I am not here to question the sanctity of marriage for anyone else, but it seems to me marriage has been for many centuries a "control the human tool"... why?...Because of the levels of shame, guilt and lack of self-worth that can stem from it ..... the shackles and control of that legal piece of paper resulting from the glorious joyous celebrations of a feast, a heart given promise and a future of hope.   Has the element of fear contributed to the longevity of some marriages and penalisation of failure of marriage in society, even today.....Really, for all our billions of snowflake differences as humans .... who thought up the one size fits all? 

So having got that bit off my chest I thought I would share with you a little of my own history ... A few years ago, in a Middle Eastern "bright lights gold rush city" there was trouble brewing for my Ex and I.  With long work travel commitments, surreal lives in an emerging city and a loss of marital connection, we both came to the decision that a course of counselling sessions could be not without merit a good, avenue for us.  

As reasonable and intelligent, but unhappy and sometimes very stressed husband and wife, married for 12 years, this we felt was positive and in-keeping with the marriage doctrine we had committed and signed up to.  We were positive, we had the intention to sort our marriage out and more importantly... we had two children aged 4 and 7. Our parents had both divorced and we really didn't want to be part of a "selfishly and sadly they failed" statistic in UK society or actually, anywhere...   

Our counsellor was great, a no messing 'not in my Glen' Scots lady. It worked for us both - we didn't want anyone too meek for a 'nice' couple's chat, we needed moderating by someone who was sure enough in their practice that we would stay the course of sessions. 

Couple's counselling in itself felt shameful ... turning up to the Reception Desk in a counselling centre had us checking in next to emotionally frazzled parents with children needing a lot of help.  We felt small, ridiculous and childish - after all we had healthy children and here we were paying for someone to sort out our adult "stuff". This is the bit where I want to cuss a lot and write strong sweary words, but "stuff" it will be and it stays... So we walked upstairs feeling puerile, like two naughty school children needing to see the Head Teacher and this continued on into the session. We were each individually admonished on several occasions to give the other a respectful space to speak... we felt chagrined, how had we got to this shameful place? 

We heard about the diamond analogy - the one where you start off so together at the base... then working your way to the middle part as you have children, career commitments and money stresses. Then, with the future tip in sight as a couple and the understanding that if you could go beyond that furthest point width ways, you could begin once again to move closer together... we both liked that analogy... 

With clipped accent no nonsense Scot had given us hope, that we as two married adults could look forward to staying married, to becoming a closer unit. That we really were currently able to stretch to the widest of possible diamanté of places in our marriage and then slowly, avoiding the flaws, the now permanent stretch marks, know that married life could become easier.... We left, grateful that clearly it wasn't either of us that were the problem, it was just life - married life.  

And so we dutifully - because truth be told, our couples counsellor was a little fearsome, returned for another four sessions, each time grateful for the fact that our marriage wasn't over, it was just a big blip.  We could do what so many married couples do and work through it. 
Heart Based Salve

So we wrote our 'future letter of life' together (which coincidentally I found the other day) and signed it with the commitment of a relieved 'not to be getting divorced couple'.  Thus we began to make plans for the next step of our marriage and our sparkly diamond tipped future together with our two gorgeous children .... 

And so for the few years or so, with due diligence we set to the future plan of action and made it happen. We moved home to the UK, the children were healthier, schools better and we had the 'warts and all' comforting support of those that are family and friends.  

We still had the matter of some pretty deep stretch marks in our marriage.... They were new, raw and we did what is mostly done with stretch marks; we oiled and rubbed them, lovingly imbuing ours with matrimonial salve. Sometimes we ignored them, mostly living with them, forever reminded of the marital stretch we had experienced... but on sunny days we chose to hide them away, shameful that they were a forever judgemental reminder that we had nearly failed ... 

so the vows we weave
the vows we say
the vows that hang weighty and judgemental over us
that society never takes away ...

With love x

So in my next blog I reveal how salve can ease ... but does it always heal .... x 

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