A Massive A-Ha Moment

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!

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  • Reply Me

    I’m glad you were able to take the step of counselling and that good things and realisations have come from it.

    As someone who hasn’t spoken to her MIL in 9 years and who has no plans ever to again – I totally get everything you’ve said about interfering and only being two people in a marriage.


    November 9, 2010 at 1:39 pm
  • Reply wheresmybun

    I’m so so SO glad you guys took the step to go for counselling! It’s good that you now have the tools to deal with you MIL, and Walters support is very very important. So proud of you and W! The insight she gave you about your MIL is excellent and I hope that things will be better for both of your sakes.

    November 9, 2010 at 2:13 pm
  • Reply merphin

    Very proud of you both to feel trust enough in each other to attend the sessions to start with!!!! What a wonderful gift to each other and yourself to be able to move forward with confidence in your relationship. Well done !!!

    November 9, 2010 at 4:54 pm
  • Reply orbit365

    Wow Wow Wow
    What a breakthrough!
    So happy that you are seeking counselling in order to remedy whatever issues you have. That can only be good for your family. Well done on recognizing that there was a problem to begin with.

    November 9, 2010 at 7:27 pm
  • Reply dee

    Seems so obvious hey? Sometimes you just need some guidance to see the wood from the trees. So glad to hear that you are moving forward and learning new things in the process. xx

    November 9, 2010 at 8:29 pm
  • Reply yvettene

    Wow, that is quite a revelation. It does help to consult a 3rd person, if a friend or family had told you that, you probably would not have believed them. Well done on going for counselling and all the best for the rest of your sessions.

    November 9, 2010 at 8:56 pm
  • Reply Hanneke C

    Good on you for wanting to make your marriage work! Great to hear that the sessions are going well. I’m doing some study on the subject and it is an ‘eye opener’ to say the least!

    November 9, 2010 at 11:57 pm
  • Reply ttcnot2easy

    Mmmm.. you have got me thinking now, Shaz. Although Travs mom doesn’t interfere alot.. when she’s around, she can be domineering and I can say that I AM scared of her. Scared to say anything to her – so instead I end up agreeing with her even though it may be just the opposite of how I feel. She had a lousy childhood which has made her incredibly family focused and driven.. sometimes too too too much. Sometimes to the point of smothering. Going to have to look at this from another angle now..

    November 10, 2010 at 10:47 am
  • Reply elna3

    Really glad that the councelling is working and going well. Who knows….. you might actually have a healthy and nice relationship with your MIL and Ava might have another granny that she enjoys spending time with.

    November 10, 2010 at 11:04 am
  • Reply waiting4amiracle

    And your marriage will be so much stronger because of this ah – ha moment. Well done to you both for being brave enough to explore. I think that it shows your marriage is strong in the first place.

    November 10, 2010 at 1:06 pm
  • Reply Mash

    What a fabulous thing you are doing Sharon, it’s a fantastic, and very mature attitude. I’m proud of you too 🙂 Now, not that I’m in a position to give assvice here, but one of the best books I ever read is “Getting the Love You Want” by Harville Hendrix. It’s an awesome book full of practical advice. I guarantee that it will change your life!

    November 10, 2010 at 2:19 pm
  • Reply little29

    wow Sharon what a breakthrough! half your battle is won already just recognising that there is problem and seeking help. Everything that you and Walter have been
    through your marriage is something worth fighting for.

    November 10, 2010 at 7:31 pm
  • Reply teamedeling

    So proud of you my friend!
    It took us 8 years of being together and 4 years of being married before we understood what God’s wish is for marriage and how awesome it can be if you acknowledge certain things!! And it takes constant hard work even when things are “perfect”
    xxx Just keep working 🙂

    November 13, 2010 at 7:31 am
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