Sunday, May 7, 2017

Here's to marriage counseling! And a list of questions to ask if your counselor is not a CSAT.

We finally started marriage counseling. We've needed to for a long time, but we haven't been able to make it a financial priority. In fact, I met with our bishop a few weeks ago to discuss some things I've been struggling with, and when he learned that we've never done marriage counseling because of the cost on top of our individual counseling, he asked if he could please help us out so we can work on our marriage in a therapy setting. He, of course, wanted us to start with LDS Family Services. I agreed because I didn't want to be picky if he is helping us out. My motto is to give it a shot and evaluate how it goes. Plus, I think both Ben and I are well-versed enough in recovery that we could both easily recognize bad/damaging advice from a counselor.

I was wary, though, because I haven't really heard of anyone having good experiences at LDSFS with this kind of stuff. Plus, when we lived in Texas, I went through LDSFS to find a counselor, and it ended up being a not-so-good experience. However, I didn't want to completely write off all LDSFS counselors because of that. Instead, I did a lot of thinking and decided to come up with a list of questions to ask our counselor--an interview of sorts. If the counselor "passed", we would proceed. If there were any red flags, we would not proceed.

When we went to our first session, I fully intended on asking the questions, but I ended up just feeling things out through our discussion and saved my questions for the second session. I scanned her office and found she had lots of good books relating to pornography addiction and betrayal trauma, so she earned points there. We had an overall good experience during our first session, and she seemed well versed in how pornography/sex addiction can affect the family and the marital relationship, so we decided to continue giving her a shot.

Here is my list of questions:
  • What kind of experience/training/certification do you have treating sex addiction?
  • How do you believe pornography can affect the family?
  • Do you believe pornography use can be classified as an addiction?
  • Do you believe wives have an obligation to provide sex for their spouses?
  • Do you believe more marital sex can help a strengthen a relationship when one of the spouses is a porn/sex addict?
  • Do you believe masturbation can be addictive?
  • What do you think the addict needs as part of recovery?
  • What do you think the spouse needs as part of recovery?
  • How do you define recovery and measure success in treating porn addicts? In spouses of porn addicts?
  • What's your view on betrayal trauma as it relates to porn/sex addiction?
  • What kinds of things do you believe the addict should disclose to the spouse?
  • What do you believe is considered as a slip/relapse?
  • What is your experience or belief as it relates to codependency vs trauma?
(Questions based on this blog post, SA Lifeline's website, and my own experience and preference.)

Because of info I gleaned from our first session, I didn't actually ask all of these questions. But based on her answers and the overall information I gathered from her, we have decided to keep pressing forward with this particular therapist. 

We are in somewhat of a tricky position right now because Ben has been sober for over a year (woohoo!), so while the addiction is certainly a consideration in our marriage and plays a huge role in our background and the issues we have, there is actually much more than the active addiction at play. Our marriage isn't struggling because he is constantly acting out anymore. Our marriage is struggling because of the consequences of his actions in our marriage and the coping mechanisms and habits we have both developed because of that. While we have come SO FAR over the years, especially over the past year while working on this without a marriage therapist, there is still much work to do. AND I know it's not all him. For a long time, I blamed him for everything. Because it was easy. Because I was tired. Because I was hurting. I did and said things in the not-most-healthy way because of my reaction to his constant acting out and addiction cycle. And that has been a hard thing to break out of. We are stuck in a cycle that we don't want to be in. And we are ready to break free. Together. We have been working against each other for so long--neither of us showing enough compassion or empathy because we are both hurting in our own ways--and we are finally coming together as a team. 

I'll admit I've been struggling a lot since the birth of our second child (she is five months old). We have gone through cycles of things being really good and things being really hard. And, (I think this is normal...) because we have had a tiny baby who is so dependent, and a toddler who was adjusting (he's adjusted really great), we really haven't been able to focus on us. We have dedicated our energy towards the day to day nitty gritty, and during that time, we have both withdrawn to an extent. This time also solicited emotions in me from when he was acting out after the birth of our first child, and I've gone through cycles of battling my emotions and trying to figure out what is going on inside me. 

We don't want a divorce. And now that he has been sober for over a year, things are leveling out. And I feel like we can work together to create something amazing. So that's what we are doing. I've been turning to God more (something I've also struggled with over the past 5ish months as I've struggled with more trials than I write about on here), and trying to let His love envelope me and help me learn to love better. I've been working on a lot of ways to improve myself, and I plan to continue doing just that. 

So, here's to marriage counseling!