Thursday, November 19, 2009

A big, crowded couch

Well, folks, it looks like I just wasn't cut out for the NaBloPoMo. Missed a few posts in there. I'm not too broken up about it, to be honest. It's grant season, and my Superwoman cape is at the cleaners. Life goes on.

Twenty years ago, we met a couple, Joyce and Mike, who have become very close and wonderful friends. Their marriage is a bit unconventional: She is divorced once and 10 years his senior. It's a very strong marriage, however, and it's one that I admire.

Before they were married, they took the unusual step of seeing a marriage counselor for several sessions. At the time I had met them, I thought this was, frankly, weird. Why on earth would anyone spend a bunch of time pre-hashing a bunch of yet-to-be-acquired baggage, when they were in that “lovey-dovey-let’s-get-married” phase of this relationship? It just seemed like asking for trouble that just wasn’t there yet. Paying a toll for a bridge that might never be crossed

In retrospect, their strategy was brilliant. They’ve just celebrated their 25th anniversary, and really, the road here hasn’t been easy. But laying that foundation – learning what was in-bounds and what was out-of-bounds in arguments, learning how best to be supportive when times were tough, establishing the communication – has helped them come through the good times and the bad with flying colors.

With this in mind, we started family therapy on Tuesday. The kids were a bit puzzled by this, but not so much as you might think. There was the question of, “Well, but we’re not even officially a family yet. How can we be screwed up already?” To which I answered with a look that said, “Do you even have to ask that question?”

I was particularly concerned about Daisy seeing this as her “fault”. I explained to her that, yes; we were doing this because she was joining our family on a permanent basis. However, the motivation for this was not because of any shortcoming on her – or anyone’s – part.

Disclaimer: it's not all peaches and cream, however; to be completely candid, these first few months have been marked by a lot more conflict that I imaged when we started down this road.

We are doing this because we each have spent the last 15 years living very different lives. Our experiences are different. Our expectations are different. Our communication styles are different. And now we’re talking about bringing us all together, forever. It’s not too different from being in an arranged marriage. Arranged marriages can be loveless, or even violent. It’s not always like that – some arranged marriages are very happy. But the unhappily-ever-after story is common enough to give us all pause. So we’re spending some time with our version of the marriage counselor now.

I was really encouraged by Tuesday’s session. Our therapist is pragmatic, yet upbeat. She tells it like it is. Her first question was to ask each of us what the best and worst things were about our family. Interestingly, we all were pretty well-aligned about both the best and the worst. So we have a common set of expectations to start from.

I’m really looking forward to seeing where this journey takes us


bhd said...

Wow. Good on you!

Crabby McSlacker said...

This is SUCH a great idea. So glad you have someone good to work with too! It's not like conflict is optional in any family--getting the tools to deal with it constructively makes so much sense!

Ellie Creek Ellis said...

Very good, Beanie. I am a strong supporter of family counseling (with the right counselor) and this is a great way to lead your family to healthy relationships and ensure the foundation you've already laid, prior to your new one, is still solid. Hugs to you all.

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