Do I Stay or Do I Go? (Round 2)

Dave and I through the years have both struggled with the question –Should I stay? Should I Go?

There have been a few critical pieces that contributed to us staying together, 1) our Christian faith and values 2) engaging in couple’s therapy and 3) engaging in individual therapy. By engagement I mean taking to heart what we learned about ourselves, each other and our relationship style; applying strategies; taking risks to do new things; bottom line–doing the hard work to change things for the better.

I just wish we got help sooner.  By waiting until we desperately needed help, our marriage had deteriorated to the point where we were critical, resentful, and hostile toward each other.

I had become so fearful of bringing difficult subjects to Dave, fearful of voicing concerns that I developed a style of holding things in until I couldn’t anymore.  By the time I spoke up–all my hurts and resentment built up and I expressed it to Dave in very negative ways and the outcome wasn’t good.

I held things in because I feared triggering an attempt or another type of scary coping strategy from him.  But my own coping style of not speaking directly, of giving hints—left him to guess what was wrong and increased his anxiety.  He also held things in to avoid conflict and would act things out like slamming cabinet doors, burning out as he drove angrily away, not talking to me, and saying things under his breath.  Both of our styles of handling our hurt feelings or concerns about the other person was getting us what we didn’t want—escalated anxiety, confusion, hurt, frustration, and other negative feelings.

Dave and I went through stages.  In the honeymoon stage everything was going well, and we didn’t want to say anything to set the negative interactions into motion.  But because we didn’t say anything tension built up (tension stage), leading to our negative interactions/ deterioration stage , which would lead to an attempt, or other negative coping strategy. I would placate him, shower him with attention, then everything smoothed out.  The cycle would start all over again.

Years into our marriage–there was no honeymoon stage. There was just the tension stage—we coexisted in the tension stage where I had a constant lump in my throat, and walked on eggshells as I didn’t want to do anything to tip him.

Ultimately it took Dave’s first attempt for us to realize that we needed help. That we needed couple’s therapy.

We needed an objective third party, a therapist, to help us communicate, help us develop healthier coping strategies; help us gain insight into why we did what we did, why we felt what we felt.  Our therapist skillfully handled the fragile state we were in, helped us decrease defensiveness, balanced the sharing, and helped each of us to hear the other person’s experience/perspective.

I learned that Dave holding the suicide card—off set the balance of power his way.  Throwing the suicide card down—silenced me.  And then I would try to make everything better, to placate him, to try to convince him to stay with me.  This may have been subtly reinforcing his attempt behavior because I was now showering him with positive attention and care that he longed for.

We learned that we had developed a very dysfunctional interactional dance.

With the help of 6+ years of couple’s therapy–6+ years because we were really entrenched in our ways and both fearful and cautious of trying out new behavior; and we both had a lot of baggage to work through that we brought into the marriage–I can say that today, we are in a much better, hopeful place.  And we couldn’t have reached this place without professional help.

The individual therapy  piece helped me to process some of my own self-esteem, self-growth issues that have helped to make me a better individual, which helps me to be a better partner.

Looking back I can say that therapy was a challenging road.  Dave and I had to face difficult things as a couple and as individuals.  But it has been an awesome journey.

6+ years later after starting therapy and one-and-a-half years after his last attempt, my fears have decreased as Dave has been increasingly growing through individual therapy.  Dave and I are finally feeling more secure and happy. Beth said recently, “we’re a happy family now aren’t we.”  I smiled. “We are, aren’t we.”

Note: This post was drafted on December 13, 2012. Revisions completed today.

Each person’s situation is unique, this post is one snapshot of my 6+ years of couples therapy.  Not all of the nuances, dynamics, therapist interventions could be captured in this one post. If you need help about your situation meet with a mental health professional in your area. If you’re in a crisis call the crisis hotline (National 1-800-784-2433/1-800-273-8255) or call 911.

I share my experiences but my way is not THE way.  It’s what worked for me/us.  Having an understanding/empathetic therapist, supportive/encouraging friends, and a strong church group has gotten me through the toughest times.


3 thoughts on “Do I Stay or Do I Go? (Round 2)

  1. To DW–thanks for reading my post. I’m going to keep your comment private–because you used your real name and I would like to protect your privacy. It saddens me to hear of your experiences. I wish I knew how to help, but what each person finds helpful can be so different that I really can’t know what that help might specifically be. I can only speak to what I have found helpful and that has been finding a therapist to talk to. I would sometimes attempt to talk to family and friends, but they would go to a fixing it mode right away which I did not find helpful. What I did find helpful was finding the “right fit” for me therapist. The therapist listened to my story, conveyed interest, understanding, and deep empathy for my experiences and helped me to clarify my needs and how to go about getting my needs met–whatever that might look like. For myself I have found the help of an “expert” to be comforting and fruitful in being able to suggest some alternatives that I never considered. I’m sorry that I could not be of specific help to you. Take care.

    This blog is not meant to give advice. Comments are given as conversation, not as advisement. If you are searching for help you may contact a mental health professional in your community. Other options for help/support include calling the USA National Crisis Hotline (National 1-800-784-2433/1-800-273-8255), 911, or check yourself/loved one into a hospital to get assessed by a professional.

  2. Hi Vanessa,
    I am so sorry for what you are going through. I know for me what helped me to get through those traumatic times was talking to a professional who came alongside me through those periods and helped me to put words to my feelings and give voice to my turmoil. I am not sure what will be your path, but I do encourage you to take care of yourself. Thank you for sharing your heart with me.

  3. VANESSA RUA says:

    Thank you for posting your feelings. As I was reading, i cried and cried because this is exactly how I feel. My husband who is just 35 years old attempt to commit suicide this past weekend. I am going through the toughest time of my life, I have never experience this pain, hurt, frustration, the unknown is killing me. I have a 5 year old son who is my life and I have to be strong about it but I feel that I can not do this anymore. I want to run and scream, and all I do is cry and cry all day. I will stop and then my brain starts processing everything again and I will start crying again. I haven’t told my family yet, the only people who know is his mom who is trying to find a reason for it, blaming me at times and I can’t understand what went wrong.

    We were a happy family, we have been married for 15 years, we have work hard and together for the little we have. We have always work things through because overall our love will keep us strong and moving forward. We have seem how other families and relative relationships have split apart due to infidelity, drugs, and other things, but we always said, that will now happen to us because we don’t have any of those issues. But now, we have issues and I don’t know what they are for him to try to do something so harmful to himself and to his family. Out of the blue things changed, he blames it on anything, things that do not make sense, such as work is stressful, or my mother makes me crazy, you do not have time for me, the brakes of my car are not working. Anything would trigger his bad mood and careless affection towards his love ones.

    He will talk to his mother and blame me for his attitude, then comes back to me and blame his mother for what he is feeling. I don’t understand, I don’t know what he wants and why he feels that way.

    On Friday after midnight 3/15/13 I found him hanging from a power cord from “my son’s bunkbed”, my son was sleeping with me while he was watching TV in the living room. We had argue before I went to bed because I did not agree with the behavior he was having lately towards his mother and he was always blaming God for things that have not gone his way. I am a christian women and I believe that we have to respect our parents, no matter if we agree with the way the think or not. Moreover, we have to respect God’s will and understand that things happen for a reason. I went to bed upset and crying but before going to bed, I was on my knees praying to God to please help him to change his attitude and to help me understand the way he was feeling, I prayed to God to fill his heart with joy just like he was before. I wanted to have the happy family we had. Then, something told me to go and check on him. I found him hanging from that cord, I don’t know where I got the strength to lift him up for the cord not to keep on chocking him. As soon as I got the cord untangle, I called 911 and they took him to the hospital. He was admitted there for 3 days, he is back home now, he has therapy schedule for this week, and I feel hopeless.

    It is probably too soon to feel desperate but I feel that there is no way out. I feel that I will be trap forever with someone whom I do not know anymore. I feel angry of what he did because my logic tells me that he does not love us enough, that we are not good enough for him. That my son and I were not enough reason to be worth living. I always said that in order for you to love someone, you have to love yourself and if he does not love himself how can he love us?

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