I received a text from Carol. She was going to be late for our appointment. When I got there, I spent some time chatting with MC about my therapy.
I told her that we have mostly done talking sessions with just a couple hypnotherapy sessions so far. MC was particularly interested in the hypnotherapy so I provided details of each session.
“First, we worked on a trauma reversal. It was not about erasing the memory of what happened, but weakening its impact on me so I don’t keep revisiting the trauma in my mind. It still happens especially when I go home at lunchtime.”
“Has it helped?” MC asked.
“It did at first but, the thing is, I’ve talked about what happened to a lot of people and I didn’t realize HT didn’t even have the details herself. So, after the trauma reversal, I had a session where I explained in great detail what happened and that kind of brought it back a bit. She says we’ll need more sessions to dampen the trauma anyway.”
“I’ll bet. It was a big one. What else have you done?”
I had forgotten about the session where I locked away my ego, the source of my angry, violent thoughts.
“Recently, I had a session where we worked on finding some memories that contributed to my performance anxiety issues.”
Imagery from that session was described in Jacks and Carols: Time Travel Through Hypnotherapy. As I’ve explained before, opening myself up, even anonymously, can be quite difficult and recent events on my blog have caused me to withdraw more. I wasn’t up to writing about my bedroom issues at the time but I loved the imagery from that hypnotherapy session, so I opted to focus on that in my post.
I continued, “We searched through my past to see if there was a source for it. I found that there were times when I didn’t really want to have sex so it wasn’t in my best interest to achieve an erection.”
“With Carol?” MC asked.
“No,” I didn’t elaborate on the past encounters but they were times when I was not in love with the woman I was with so I really wasn’t into it. Basically, I was forcing myself to participate in one night stands to get over an ex-girlfriend.
“There was a time when I began to have trouble performing with Carol. That was after our second child. I was afraid of getting her pregnant again. We didn’t have much money and couldn’t really afford her being away on maternity leave the second time around. That was shortly after she got her job and I hadn’t had my job for very long after being unemployed then going through the health issues. I knew a third child would break us.”
“So, when it came time to be intimate, you had all that on your mind. No wonder you had trouble,” MC said.
“Yeah, so we still have work to do on it but I’m making progress. The other thing we did was have me confront Carol in my mind so I could tell her how I feel. It’s to get through the anger by letting some of it out in a safe environment,” I said just as Carol entered the room.
“Hi Carol, I was just talking with Jack about his hypnotherapy. Seems to be doing a lot of good! Jack, I’ve noticed a whole lot of confidence in you. Even the way you walk shows a self assurance that I haven’t seen before. What do you think, Carol?”
“I feel like he has more control over his emotions. He does seem more sure of himself,” Carol said. We looked at each other and smiled.
“So how about you, Carol? How are things with you?” MC asked.
“Well, I got a new job, that’s why I was late. Just as I was leaving, someone decided to explain a process to me.”
“A new job? Wow! That ought to make things a lot easier between you two. And how has your counselling been going?” MC asked Carol.
“It’s been good. She’s been helping me get past what I did. I wasn’t a good person. I wasn’t a nice person to be around. And instead of doing anything to try to help my marriage, I just didn’t bother. I gave up. I don’t ever want to be that person again. Now I have to keep working through all this guilt,” Carol said.
That was so well put. This is exactly why I chose to reconcile with Carol. She is a beautiful person who owns what she did and makes steps to become a better person.
“So, how has the communication been since our last session?” MC asked.
“It’s been good. We make time for each other in the evenings to chat about things and watch TV together,” I said.
“And have you had any questions for Carol about the affair?” MC asked.
“No, not really. I mean, I don’t want to dwell on the details. I know what they did and I know what I need to forgive,” I said.
“In the last session, you guys really dropped a bomb on me. I was kind of shocked to learn that it had been going on as long as it had. Carol, how does it feel now that it’s all out in the open?”
“Better, I guess. It’s just a terrible thing to think about.”
“Does your mind go back there a lot?” MC asked Carol.
“It does sometimes and it makes me feel sick to think about what I did. Sometimes I’ll just be sitting there and, I don’t know what triggers it, but a thought will come to me and I’ll just feel like throwing up.”
“Ah, I get that too. A thought will come up randomly but I feel anger, like I want to strangle somebody,” I said.
“So Carol, you have the guilt to deal with and Jack, you have the anger. How has your anger been?”
“It’s not as intense. It’ll come up suddenly but drop off pretty quickly now. I don’t dwell on it as long. I think we both will continue to not feel it as strongly as time goes on,” I said.
“Carol, has your counsellor been working on self-talk with you, to turn your negative thoughts into positive ones?”
“Yes, I try to remind myself that I’m not that person anymore,” Carol responded.
“How about you, Jack?”
“I’ve been doing that too. I remind myself that I’m thinking of the past and I focus on what I’ve got with Carol now and how great she is,” I said.
“Tell her how she is now.”
“Carol, you’ve been wonderful. It’s like we’re a team now when before it seemed like you were just fighting against me. You’re caring, patient, kind, and you’re fun to be around. You’re happy and I can see that in your eyes,” I said.
“Carol, how has Jack changed?”
“Jack is more confident. He tries to do more things on his own, like the repairs around the house lately. He’s nice… well,” Carol turned to me, “Jack, you’ve always been nice. You’re a good man. I just…” Carol paused, then turned to MC, “I used to be annoyed when he was trying to be nice to me. I wanted him to be an asshole to me so it would justify me being a bitch to him all the time. So I was angry because then I had no excuse to behave the way I was. Jack is a nice person. He treats me so well. I appreciate it when he tries to do nice things now.”
I later told Carol that I’m not trying to be nice. That comes naturally because I love her. I was also shocked that she resented me for not being an asshole, something that Rick was completely.
“How about your sex life?” MC asked.
“It’s been good,” we both said with big smiles.
“Well, that’s good to see! So how about the performance anxiety issues?”
“We’ve been making progress. I have troubles sometimes. I get easily distracted or a flash of a bad memory takes me out of the moment and takes time to recover from, but Carol’s attitude helps a lot. She makes it feel like it’s okay, it’s not a failure if things aren’t working 100%. Whether things are working physically or not, we have a lot fun,” I laughed.
I don’t know why, but neither Carol or I chose to elaborate. We had sexual intercourse the night before and that was a big milestone after 7 months of sex without penetration. It seemed like it didn’t need to be said. MC could see the satisfaction on our faces.
“Well, it looks like you’re both happy with how it’s going. That’s great! So Jack, what do you think needs to be done to continue to improve your relationship?”
“I think we need to be more open to talk about what happened. I’d like it to not be something I feel I have to save up for counselling. I don’t want to pretend we can just sweep it under the rug and try to forget it all happened.”
“Well, Carol may have different thoughts on that. What do you think?”
“It’s something I don’t really want to revisit, no, but I understand. It’s not something we can just ignore and if we deal with it, it will be less painful over time,” Carol said.
“Yeah, I mean, I’m not talking about scheduling a serious talk or anything but like, a casual conversation if something’s on my mind, or something’s on her mind,” I said.
“Have you had conversations like that?” MC asked.
“A few. There’s been the discovery periods, you know, that lead to arguments, fueled by a lot of emotion. Not the best way to discuss it. But we’ve had a few times where we could chat about it. Like our follow up conversation after the discovery. It was a more casual talk, trying to understand. But even just, like our talk about hanging out with them as couples. I had a few questions for Carol about her motivations for having us all hang out, and Carol had questions for me about what I thought Jennifer was thinking. That kind of stuff,” I said.
“Have there been many fights over it?” MC asked.
“Well, there was the thing that happened on Carol’s last day…” I said.
“I hugged him,” Carol said.
“How did that come about?” MC asked Carol.
“Well, it was my last day and both him and Jennifer came to see me off. Everyone was there. She hugged me first and he went in for one too.”
“Wait, she hugged you? Does she know what happened?” MC asked.
“Yeah, I don’t think she knows how long it had been going on, but she knows it happened,” I said.
“She must be a really big person to be able to hug you,” MC told Carol, “It would be like Jack hugging him.”
“Heh. That’s not happening,” I said.
“Well, she was the one who I trained to take over my position,” Carol said, “so I was working with her for the last two weeks.”
“Yeah, she had to take the job that he was supposed to do but can’t because he’s too incompetent… and rapey,” I said.
My deadpan humour caught MC by surprise. She let out a laugh, “Oh my God, I’m sorry. I wasn’t expecting that. Rapey, that’s one way to put it.”
“So, she worked with you and hugged you. I wonder what was going on in her mind?”
“She has a strange relationship with him, definitely not like ours, and I think she handled it all completely wrong,” Carol said.
“She’s trapped,” I added.
“So, what kind of hug was it with him? Did it linger?”
“No, it was just as long as my hug with her, a quick, awkward hug. I was in the kitchen, and all the other employees were around. I had to either just get it over with or make a scene. Either everyone would notice and wonder what my problem with him is, or only he would notice and I’d have to deal with whatever reaction or grudge that would come from him.”
“Because no one else knew what had happened except for you, him, and her, correct?”
“Yes,” Carol replied.
“Okay, for one thing, you never even gave me those details,” I said to Carol.
“Yes, I did, the next day when we talked about it.”
“Really? In the kitchen and what kind of hug it was?” I asked.
“Yes, I told you all that already,” Carol replied.
“Well, at some points it was hard to understand what you were saying. Maybe I missed it.”
“When did you tell Jack about the hug?” MC asked Carol.
“Right when I came home from work.”
“Were you upset?”
“I was happy that I was done work but I knew that Jack would get angry about the hug. I knew I needed to just get it out in the open right away though, so I did.”
“That’s good, because no more secrets, right?” MC asked.
“Look, I’m glad she told me and everything but still, it hurt. It was like one more kick to the gut of our relationship. It stung,” I said.
“So you were angry?”
“Yeah, I was furious. It made me step back and re-evaluate things. Made me think about if this was really a relationship I would be able to continue in. I didn’t speak to her much the rest of that night. I needed to think first. I was angry and I didn’t want to say something I’d regret.”
“So you talked the next day?”
“Yeah. And you know, I get it. I’m not happy about it, I think it’s something she could’ve avoided, but for her, doing so was a self-preservation thing,” I said.
“Any other arguments?” MC asked.
“No, that was it,” I said.
“Not really. I get that he was an abuser who manipulated her but the thing is, it doesn’t matter how much he manipulated her, no one’s going to be able to convince her that cheating is okay. She did that, knowing what she was doing was wrong and destructive,” I said.
“It was me who didn’t like having excuses,” Carol said.
“Yes, and you must face your role in it. I just want to be clear that although you are responsible for your actions, there are predatory people out there who will try to control and exploit you,” MC said.
“I’ve said it before, if it wasn’t for him or a predatory person like him, Carol wouldn’t have had an affair. That’s not to say everything would’ve been fine. We could’ve ended up in another bad situation because of where things were headed,” I said.
“And that’s where it’s important to accept your responsibility in the marriage. You must continue to communicate and connect so things don’t get out of hand-”
“This will never, ever happen again. I’m never going to be that person,” Carol interrupted.
“Before, if your marriage was at 100%, you’d be more protected against things sliding out of control to the point where one of you has an affair,” MC said.
“Look, we were not perfect but there was no reason for Carol to completely skip over all other options and go right for the affair. There was nothing I did in our relationship that called for an affair as a solution,” I said, irritated.
“From your perspective, everything was okay, not hers,” MC said.
“Yeah, exactly. So if I’m not being told there’s a problem, how do I solve it?” I asked.
“I was such a bitch to him. I didn’t try. He didn’t deserve to be treated the way I treated him,” Carol said.
I looked at Carol, sitting there owning it all, defending me. I know she was cruel to me at times but not all the time. I didn’t want her to think she did nothing but make me suffer for the past 4-6 years.
“Honey, it wasn’t all bad,” I said then turned back to MC, “It’s hard to look back at the last half of our marriage and not see just darkness. I feel like I was unknowingly single while she was off being single. But it wasn’t all bad. All throughout, there’s these wonderful little moments where the spark was there and I knew she loved me. It’s hard to look at these memories with any happiness, knowing what she did during that time but they’re still there,”
I looked at Carol again. “Remember our England trip? It was the most wonderful time we ever had together. It was just you and me and we were so in sync with each other. You can’t tell me you didn’t love me then. You can’t tell me you weren’t married to me then. That memory is real and I will not let anything take that away from me.”
“We were great with each other then. Yes, I knew I loved you then,” Carol replied.
“When did this happen?” MC asked.
“2016,” Carol replied.
“Wow, so right in the thick of it. Jack didn’t know what was going on with you but you knew, and you still had a great time together.”
“She was great because it was just us. She was away from him, out of his influence,” I said.
“That goes to show he certainly did have control over you,” MC said to Carol.
This gave MC pause. I’d like to think this revelation made her rethink her position on my ‘responsibility in the breakdown of the marriage’. If I was failing our marriage on my end, why things always go great when it was just the two of us? Family trips were great too. Everything was great unless she was around him.
Somewhere in the mix of this conversation, I did mention that I didn’t believe certain things went down the way Carol said they did, but the specifics didn’t matter to me anymore. Then we got back to communicating when issues surrounding the affair come up.
“Carol, what if you told Jack when you have a sudden wave of guilt. Or maybe, you just tell him ‘I love you’ when you feel that way?”
“She does tell me that now,” I said.
“I do. I tell him that I love him a lot now. I… don’t know why this is making me cry,” Carol said as the tears began to flow.
“Because you love your husband,” I said.
“I do. So much,” Carol replied.
“Well, I said this in our last session but you guys could teach my other couples a thing or two. You’re amazing! Most of my other couples take years to get where you are, if at all.”
“I think it has a lot to do with the type of people we are. I don’t want to be angry. It’s wasting my time, so I work to not be angry. Carol doesn’t want to be that person, so she puts in the hard work to be a new person. Some people want to hang onto the anger. Some people just aren’t ready to make a change,” I said.
“Well, how about we don’t book a follow up but you keep my number if anything comes up or if you just want to check in 6 months down the road, or whenever.”
“Sure,” we said.
“Well, that’s it then. You’ve graduated!” MC gave us both hugs and off we went.
Carol and I plan to purchase new wedding rings in the future. We haven’t decided when.
We are getting a puppy next weekend. Shhh, don’t tell the kids. It’s a surprise!
Note: I nearly forgot the biggest thing I said near the end of the session. It was, “I know what I’m worth now and I refuse to be treated as lesser.” That was a statement about my progress in therapy and a warning to Carol that I will not tolerate her old behaviour.