Today’s therapy dealt primarily with trying to investigate why I didn’t feel like I was enough.
A bit of teeing up from youth… in that “work hard, strive forward, always do better” is good motivation but ultimately creates an inner monologue that nothing can ever be good enough, nothing can ever be settled. BUT obviously, 15 years with Nancy is the BIG yeah, nobody could have survived that without deeply being affected in this way.
So the Therapist wanted to reframe the issue. Especially after hearing me summarize (as I’ve done here to death, but what’s one more)
Nancy chose me. I was attracted to her, decided not to pursue someone in a serious relationship. She came after me.
Nancy begged to stay. I was going to break up with her in 2009 but she begged me not to.
Nancy said yes to me. I asked if she wanted to get married and she very much wanted to.
So… the whole thing was HER coming after ME.
But when we got married? Like a shot to the solar plexus. The air went out almost instantly.
So I tried to figure out what I needed to do to fix the marriage. I spent time, energy, thought, emotion, money… I dedicated far too much of myself to actively trying to make us work, get us back on track, fix our marriage.
At the end there? It got to a point where our marriage counselor specifically told me to STOP trying to save the marriage. Sit back. Be passive. See what Nancy was going to do to save the marriage, see what active steps Nancy would take. After 3 months of no action? I said we had to end it.
OF COURSE I feel like I’m not enough. A 15 year relationship boils down to a 3 month window of “Nancy, do something to save your marriage” and got NOTHING. Hell, OF COURSE I feel like I’m not enough when all Nancy had to do to keep the marriage going was (1) say I love you; (2) engage in some sexual interaction once a month; (3) help out around the house some. Those were the only expectations and she couldn’t do those to keep the marriage going. NO DUH I DON’T FEEL LIKE I’M ENOUGH.
Therapist took two different approaches… which is good because that means she knows me. Give me two things to work with, one is BOUND to work and as I’m dissecting both of them, my “secondary thought” track is already occupied, so I won’t be thinking of arguments, concerns, weaknesses, etc. Oh… the mind of a lawyer.
(1) The first path she wanted to take was to discuss how all of the hard work I put into my marriage was NOT wasted effort. (This wasn’t a blue sky comment, I’ve often reflected on it being a damned waste). It is more like an Olympic Athlete who trains for a long distance event. You’ve proven that you have the fortitude, the work ethic, the heart, and the desire to really go “long haul”. If love is a verb and that verb requires a muscle; you’ve worked that muscle to an expert level. Especially considering that putting that kind of work in without getting reciprocal work makes the process even more difficult. You’ve gone “Love Superhero” which isn’t wasted. It just means you’ll be that much more amazing and wonderful when the next opportunity to demonstrate all of that comes around.
(2) The second path was to make sure we reframed the experience of Nancy and I. Taking the whole thing to a very physical concept. CHRIS is Chuong Garden. Nancy walked into a Chinese Restaurant, sat down, and ordered a Big Mac. Chris (metaphor changes to me being server) trying his best to make the customer happy explains that the restaurant doesn’t serve Big Macs, but then shows the customer all of the other food that she might enjoy instead. Nancy remains in the restaurant and continues to demand that she receive a Big Mac. Chris keeps trying to reason with her, work with her, and encourage her to order something they DO serve. Finally, Chris simply says “We don’t have what you want, you’re welcome to leave.” But Nancy still doesn’t leave. Ultimately, Chris has to forcibly remove Nancy from the restaurant at which time she finally goes across the street to eat at the bloody McDonalds.
At no point was Chris NOT ENOUGH. At no point did Chris’ actions mean that he wasn’t good enough. It was simply a matter of Nancy not being interested in what was on offer and needing to figure that out and take action about it.
Of those two paths, I like the second one better. Do you know what I keep thinking about the first path? 15 years of training… and what if there is no “Game Day”. What if I’m an athlete that trained for 15 years for the Tokyo Olympics or the Moscow Summer Olympics… what if all of that training and that “You did great, champ. You’re gonna crush ‘em in the Big Game!” never ever pays off? I’m already thinking things like that. I don’t need my therapists metaphor to take me down that road.
The other metaphor at least suggests something I can use, expand upon, and grow. Because… it takes a lot of things about me and puts them right there.
Like the fact that, much like a server in a restaurant, as a Husband, I am going to try to do everything I can to meet the needs and expectations of my Wife. But, much like a server in a restaurant, I am not going to fundamentally change everything just to please the individual who walked into the store of her own free will. And… like some servers, I wasn’t going to make a scene if I didn’t have to.
Now let’s expand this to the TODAY and TOMORROW of it.
The restaurant is currently empty though still open. A good restaurant employee can’t simply sit around and complain. There are things to clean, organize, rearrange. I need to make sure that the next customer gets the best experience the restaurant can offer.
That being said, it also properly frames the emotions I have about wanting/needing a new customer at some point. Because the server can’t make tips and the restaurant can’t make money if there are no new customers.
So the approach needs to balance making sure I’m cleaning and organizing; while making sure my “Where are the customers?” panic is appropriately put into place.
EDIT (3:31 CST)
Another reason the Restaurant Analogy works… COVID. Restaurants are pretty much crossing their fingers and hoping they can survive through COVID right now. Much in the same way I am with my own social issues.
Last updated 4 days ago