Do you remember this post?
Well as part of the reconstruction of our marriage in our new normal, Walter and I decided to go for some couples counseling. I have seen too many marriages fall apart because instead of acknowledging the problem and doing the work to fix it, many couples choose to ignore it and pretend like it’s not there. The problem with that approach is that you can only live with the fat elephant between you for so long before it drives a permanent wedge between you and your relationship completely falls apart.
So we decided to acknowledge it and do something about it. While we both agree we could have gone on the way we were, we both realize that, whether it be a year or another 10 years, the fat elephant standing between us would eventually drive a wedge so far between us that we would end up in divorce – something neither of us wants!
We landed up with the same therapist who I saw a few years ago. We decided to go back to her because she knew the history behind how we’d gotten to this place of disconnect. She knew the years of infertility, she had “talked me off a ledge” so to speak during my 6th miscarriage when I’d threatened suicide.
It was definitely the right choice. She has been fantastic and after only 3 sessions, the change is so great its tangible. I think I speak for both of us when I say that having this 3rd, insightful person, assist us with our communication with each other and draw attention to some of the things causing the disconnect, especially things we couldn’t see because we were too close to the situation, has already started to make a dramatic improvement in our relationship.
We had our third session with her yesterday and I had the biggest A-ha moment of our entire marriage. She pointed out something that clicked so in my brain when she said it, that both Walter and most especially I, have had a paradigm shift in our thinking and attitude towards one of the biggest bones of contention in our relationship – his mother.
She pointed out that there was in fact a third person in our marriage, Walters Mom. Whether it be through her actions or simply because we had allowed it. There was in fact a third adult in our relationship, like a third wheel, it would always cause disharmony. When she said it, my jaw dropped! This is so hitting the nail on the head. It explains exactly why I always feel like I’m in a tug of war with her over Walter. I’m trapped in a power struggle and I’m always on the back foot. It explains why I overreact so violently to some of the really petty and stupid stuff that she says. Because instead of relating to her as my mother in law, I relate to her as “the other woman” in our relationship. I gave her my power. I gave up my rightful position. I allowed her (through her actions or my actions or Walters actions) room to maneuver into a position within our marriage that is wholly unhealthy for all of us.
It also explains my complete distrust of her with Ava. Why I refuse to allow her to baby sit or have ANY alone time with Ava. Because like I feel she is the other woman in Walters life, so I feel she could/would/wants to replace me as Ava’s mother.
Just having this realization empowered me to shift my thinking, change my attitude and hopefully going forward have a healthier relationship with her, that of course is secondary. The primary result is a change in our marriage. There isn’t space for 3 adults in a marriage, only two. Whether this was a conscience thing that she has done, or my own doing, or Walters doing is totally irrelevant. What matters is that she CAN’T replace me as Walters wife, anymore than she can replace me as Ava’s mother.
This means that I don’t need to feel threatened by her, I don’t need to be reactive in such a combative manner. That I have EVERY RIGHT to politely draw a line in the sand for her and tell her the boundaries. If I manage myself in that manner, she will have no choice but to respect my rules with my child, my home, my relationship etc because if she doesn’t respect the boundaries set in place by me, as Walters wife, then I can rely on Walters support to step in and reiterate the boundaries that I have set. But when I go off on a violent tangent, I cannot expect either her respect or Walters support.
Both Walter and I were flabbergasted by this revelation. It makes such perfect sense and it took a complete stranger, on the outside looking in to be able to see this and point it out to us.
I feel about a million times better about this since the revelation and I feel so much more confident in my role as Walters wife and Ava’s mother since this revelation. Of course this is all theoretical. The true test will be the next time we spend time together. But I feel completely empowered to take control of the situation and not start every meeting with her on the back foot fighting against her.
I’m so proud of us both for being so mature and committed to our marriage. And I’m really looking forward to seeing what else comes out of these sessions!