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Marriage Counseling - Session 2

Before I summarize what happened at our second session, I want to forewarn the reader that from a distance these issues might seem kind of petty, particularly in light of the bigger problems like lack of affection and sex. My goal here is only to share with the EP friends what happened, and what topic was covered.

"I am under stress and have no time for this, but I will go", he says.

So we went.

Point blank, I said, and the therapist agreed by the end of the session, that communication was our biggest problem.  Just as last time, I find out more than I knew before about my husband.

The hot topic was that I think my husband is selfish.  Especially when it comes to money (he is selfish with attention and affection, but in a one hour session we can only cover so much).  My husband and I have only had separate accounts, even after our child was born, and I had the burden of supporting us both. Then I find out that my husband, as is the law in Germany, has to pay for his first child until she is 27 years old (yeah, my fellow Americans you heard that right - 27!), this whole time he already had a savings account for her from which he was withdrawing monthly.  In other words, my assumption that he had to take from his own monthly business cash flow to cover her was incorrect.  I thought the whole time that I was actually supporting his first child indirectly every month, by shouldering the burden of our baby girl by myself.

So now I surprised the therapist after she asked, "Engel, does this information change how you feel about your husband?"  Instead of answering that I feel bad now for blaming him based on a false assumption I answered, "Well yeah, because what that really means is that he has less excuse than ever for not helping to support our child the past three years, because his regular monthly cash flow was not drawn down from child support payments."

I told her, "When I ask him for help, he grits his teeth and acts like I asked him to cut his finger off."  He admitted, that there are so many things he is not used to having to help with.  "In my first marriage, my wife never asked me to go to the kindergarten parents' night, or to help her put up lights, or mount a mirror on the wall.  She had help from her mother and from others in her family, so she did not bother me with such things."
Yeah, and here I am in Germany, with no family or friends whatsoever.  What the hell did he expect?  Plus I am a foreigner.  My German is pretty good, but not so great that I do not screw things up every now and then.

Of course she observed that he and I never communicated about money, and we seem not to know much about each other's habits and purchases.  He bitched about my buying things off of Ebay and Amazon and I reminded him it was always clothes and toys and such for our baby girl or things for our home.  (Here in Germany, if you can avoid tanking up your car to go shopping, it is always a good thing, because that trip to the shopping center will cost you 20 euros in petrol.  And if you multiply that times all the trips you would need to make to go get something, you soon find out that not only have you lost time, but also gas money, just for shopping.)

On the other hand, I admitted to my own weakness here, that I shop often to self-soothe, even though what I buy is not for myself.

Then H had to tell the therapist what I do to help him, and his answer of course was business-focused, that I help with American legal and administrative issues, and that I rewrite all his correspondences to Americans before sending to ensure he does not alienate anybody (which Germans can easily do, please forgive the stereotyping).  Strange - He did not mention the other things I do, like keep our home orderly and running smoothly.  Does he not value those things too?  He can tell the difference between what our home looks like now as opposed to how it looked when I was working.

Our homework is to think of three things we are thankful for each week, and tell each other what those things are.  Value statements, she calls them.  For instance, we should thank each other if the other does something thoughtful, or remind each other what we value in the other.

She says, "From a theoretical perspective, you both add value to each other and would make a good team, but if you do not communicate, the partnership does not function."  Duh.  But am hoping her stating that makes him see the truth.

Over all, I do not think we made much progress this week, but at least I can say a neutral third party might be able to motivate my husband to cooperate, merely by helping him see this situation through her eyes.
EinEngel EinEngel 46-50, F 6 Responses Nov 8, 2012

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----- "In my first marriage, my wife never asked me to go to the kindergarten parents' night, or to help her put up lights, or mount a mirror on the wall. She had help from her mother and from others in her family, so she did not bother me with such things."

I found this truth to be particularly troubling.

Life can be long and quite messy. And having a partner who doesn't think it a bother to help get through life is probably better than having one who thinks everything in this arena is a "bother".

Fast forward to when you both are old(er). You might need some assistance with activities of daily living, things that loving spouses can and do for each other - when appropriate.

What will be his response if you need help?

Keep digging for your truth! You made great progress.

Yes, I did not think so deeply about that, but you are right. Of course, we are not going to be old together, since he is 13 years my senior and does not take care of himself. But still, anything can happen, and whether or not he would be there for me is an unanswered question.

People, even the sickest ones, live longer now relative to the past. Long term disability is a far more probable event happening (in the developed world) than sudden death.

yup, you could be looking at years of caring for someone who doesn't practice self-care. (and would find reciprocating a "bother")

You might point out to him that caring for him may become a "bother" to you . . . !!!

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"Over all, I do not think we made much progress this week"

Actually I think YOU made great progress. YOUR eyes are opening to the fact that the problems are deep, and not just with sex. Why do you think this will work? Why do you WANT it to work? From what you write, he is just not interested in partnerships of almost any kind; he is a user.

I think I am way behind the eight ball with regards to how things have been going in your life, so I'm just seeking clarification here. I seem to recall that you had been outsourcing and things were pretty much dead in the water where your marriage was concerned. I am curious as to the intent of the counselling. Are you trying to fix the marriage?

Yes, I want to fix it. I think we can fix it if we communicate and work together. The thing that might not get fixed is the sex, but I can live with an affectionate partnership where we communicate with each other and work with each other for once.

So you'd have an affectionate partnership while you outsource intimacy (did I get that right?). The thing with communication is that both parties would need to be authentic with it. In addition, it seems that you and your spouse have different perceptions of each other's contribution to the partnership. The trouble with someone who is non-communicative is that this perceived imbalance can lead to unspoken resentment and that pretty much shoots down any attempts at good communication.

Yes, I am hoping we start to communicate more, and work as a team. Then if that happens, and then we become more caring and affectionate with each other, maybe, just maybe, the sex will follow. I hope so, but if it does not, at least we have would have dealt with the most important problems.

Thanks for catching me up. That is a huge undertaking. Is there any desire and wanting of each other in all of this? I would have thought the most important problem is the disconnect, the lack of pair bonding between the two of you. To find your way back to caring and mutual respect and trust is going to take so much. All the best.

Thanks LaoTzu. Yes, I still want to have sex with my husband and sometimes, he even wants to have sex with me too. We are talking about every two weeks though.

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Can I recommend writing down three things you've enjoyed for YOURSELF - not with him, and do this every day for a month? Doesn't have to be anything grand, there's pleasure in the touch of the wind, the smile of a stranger. I have done this for a long while, and it's been found to help people be happier, more grounded.

Good one hl42. I will have to think on that one. Seems that so little gives me pleasure any more.

Keep at it. If nothing else you will see more clearly what he is like and at least with that knowledge it may make it all more bearable and perhaps help you to get on with life. You may in the end up NOT being able to change him and in some cases best left well alone. But at least you will have a better understanding of him.

Yes, others have mentioned that marriage counseling might just not turn out to have the result I desired, but at the very least will help us find truth.

It never gets the desired results and if you have preconcieved ideas of how the sessions should go you will be disappointed. Go in with an open mind and open heart. You are in safe territory as there is a third party present, they should be able to draw out the bits and bobs from BOTH of you and help you look at them constructively. We are not all perfect and a little self analysis can sometimes reveal things on our own characters that could be contribution factors.

Landyboy, that is a GREAT response! Like ++++++++

Within the entire context of your stories / posts / blog et al, I am getting a picture of serious financial troubles for Herr Engel.
You might have a bit of a sniff around (to whatever level you are comfortable with) to check that out.

Tread your own path.

Yes, that worries me too. But if that were the case, what I do not understand is why he does not want me to go back to work full time, especially if it is in our best interest? He would only have to watch our daughter for 2 hours every day, because the kindergarten closes at 4 pm. So if I have a normal fulltime job, I can be home by 6, no problem. He leaves tomorrow for China again, but when he comes home, I want to have this discussion with him.

Incidentally, the sniffing is pretty easy to do when he is in China.

And well, if you read my latest blog post, you will see another red flag.