“Let’s talk about your past relationships and see if there are any patterns to look at,” the counsellor said.
“Patterns? Oh, I’ve got patterns, alright.”
“You’ve been in a relationship where infidelity occurred before?”
“How long ago?”
“In my late teens/early twenties. But infidelity in my life goes further back then that. It began with my mother.”
“Your mother was unfaithful to your father?” she asks.
“Yes. They divorced. I’m not sure if she left him or he kicked her out but she chose another man over my dad. A pathetic loser. Just like Carol did over me.”
We talk about my family history. During the conversation, I slipped in a few bitter remarks about Carol. The counselor comes back to our marriage.
“You seem quite angry. Do you want to continue this marriage? Counselling isn’t going to help if one of you isn’t committed to repairing the marriage.”
I’m silent for a long while.
“I do… but sometimes I’m just… no, not sometimes. I’ve been angry with her every day. Now, I haven’t expressed my anger toward her. I just pass it off as being tired or having a rough day at work.”
“So she’s picking up on it. Do you believe that she is dedicated to saving the marriage?”
“It seems that she is.”
“Yes, but in our first session, she ranked her desire to work on the marriage lower than me. She was a 7 and I was a 9? Seriously? I’m not the one who screwed everything up. That kind of took my enthusiasm down a few notches. But yes, I still want to make it work.
I just think… imagine if Carol had to explain what happened to our daughter. To tell her the man she picked to destroy her marriage was the same man who put her health at risk while she was in the womb.”
“One thing she could say is that there are men out there that abuse their positions of power…”
“That guy, though? He’s a loser, how could Carol not see that? She’s smarter than that. Stronger than that. At least, I used to think she was. No, she made the choice.”
“Yes, she could’ve said ‘no’ but she didn’t. But you have to understand that there was an abuse of power here. And it was a long time. Many years of manipulation…”
He made her work extra shifts while pregnant because he could. He complained about his problems to gain sympathy. He was a friend one moment, a boss the next. He used his position to get her where he wanted. Carol is very ashamed of her actions. Yes, she could’ve put a stop to it. Yes, she is responsible for her part in it. The phrase ‘Stockholm Syndrome’ was brought up. Don’t underestimate how people can use their rank to manipulate and abuse. Look at the ‘me too’ movement. We’re even seeing more women in positions of power being sexual abusers at work. Try to understand. We’re going to get to the bottom of it so it doesn’t happen again. She said ‘charisma’.
“Charisma? Have you seen this guy? He’s an idiot. He’s just a little snake and I saw it the moment I met him. Carol just would not listen.”
We talk in circles. But I have a bit of an understanding. Enough to not be angry at Carol today. I tell the counsellor I’m trying to step back to give Carol a chance to be first with the affection. I tell her I hate men that abuse women. I don’t tell her that I want to cause a slow, painful death to abusers of women. I don’t tell her that I’ve assigned a name to this side of myself.
We barely scratched the surface on my history. We agree that I should have individual counseling. She will provide some names and numbers.
Last night, Carol buried her face in my chest as we slept. When she turned away from me, she reached for my arm to put it around her. I used to be upset when she fell asleep so early when I was with her. Now, I understand that I make her feel safe. With me, she is safe to sleep soundly. I think she had an abusive relationship in her past, aside from Rick. There is a deeper trauma that has scarred her. Maybe she’ll tell me about it someday. Maybe she won’t.
Either way, she is safe with me.