Couples therapy: “The Work”

Last night, I picked up DH after work and we drove into Huntington to meet with a therapist who practices “The Work” of Byron Katie. This was our second attempt at couples counseling—last week, we tried a therapist who has a psychoanalytic approach, but we didn’t have great rapport with her (she was a bit cold). The therapist we saw last night was the opposite. She was warm, fully present, and fully engaged with us. We talked for hours! She was excited to begin working with us, and she didn’t hold back letting us know it. A social worker + psychologist who are familiar with cognitive behavior therapies and who have pretty great communication skills—we were laughing afterward, saying, “Well, if a couple like us walked into one of our offices, we’d be excited to work with them, too.” The energy in the room was palpable, electric—the feeling of three people being mindful together and bravely saying what we were actually thinking. It was difficult and liberating. DH and I felt shiftings in our brains, actual physical, tingling sensations, and we said so. Our therapist just smiled in response, like she knew exactly what we meant.

I’ll call her Jori, and she calls The Work of Byron Katie “CBT on speed.” I’ll write more about it as we progress, but for now, I’ll just say that I think it is going to help us tremendously.

Right now DH and I have a dynamic that we are highly aware of and that we want to change.

What happens is this: I get triggered by something and spiral into rage/depression and, at times, suicidal ideation (without intent–just a dramatic way of craving escape from psychological pain); DH soothes me and feels responsible for “fixing” me, helps me by becoming, basically, my own personal cognitive behavior therapist; the CBT works, I eventually feel better, and then I don’t recognize who in the hell that was crying and screaming and feeling helpless; during this period, DH becomes depressed by what has transpired (especially the suicidal ideation, as you can imagine) but he doesn’t talk to me about his own depression, and he doesn’t talk to anyone else about it either; when he is depressed and remote, I bend over backwards trying to cheer him up, to draw him closer to me, to reassure him that I am okay, capable of happiness and contentment, I’ve just been through a lot and get triggered, and no, darlin, no, I would never, ever hurt myself, I just speak and think dramatically when I’m in that much psychological pain; DH eventually comes around and we are close again, wonderfully warm and solid companions who laugh so much together, have stimulating conversations, hot sex, and adventures walking, talking, homemaking, drawing, making music together, etc. And we’re good. We’re great. Until the next trigger…

Last night, I said, “I don’t want him to be my therapist, and I don’t want to be his patient.”

DH said, “I don’t want to feel responsible for fixing what’s going on inside her.”

Jori said, “You both want the same thing.”

We all smiled.

And I want DH to feel more comfortable expressing his own pain. He says he doesn’t want me to feel rejected or abandoned in any way, so he doesn’t. But it’s important that we both feel comfortable expressing our thoughts and feelings, of course.

Jori put it this way: My feelings are my business, and DH’s feelings are his business. When the other person is upset, we can comfort each other, surely, but we aren’t responsible for “fixing” each other. It’s not the comfort we need to change; it’s the approach.

I have a good feeling about this…


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  1. chris

     /  March 9, 2013

    Thanks for sharing this personal story with us! Sounds like you have the right combination to really make some positive changes. :)

  2. If possible, can you continue writing about your couples therapy occasionally? I feel like I’m reading my own story and we don’t have the funds for therapy right now, I’m having Aha moments left and right and am sharing with my hubby… Thanks for sharing!!!

    • Absolutely! I love the request—it makes me feel like my story is helping others, and I’m so glad it is helping you. I will write about it next week sometime. The therapy has concluded, but so many incredible things happened in it, and I’ve been wanting to write more about it. Our therapist was nothing short of a miracle, and I don’t use that word lightly (:

      • Great thanks! And thanks for the quick reply. You are most DEFINITELY helping me (and others I’m sure). I’m usually a silent lurker but so many topics you write about hit home so close it’s amazing. I look forward to reading more. Take care!

  1. (Much) more on couples counseling | the unexpected trip

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