Colleen, our marriage counselor said. That’s what we call armchair psychology.
His delivery was direct.
Has anyone told you that you have a little Dr. Phil to you? I said jokingly. It was my reference to some of our recent dialogue and how he didn’t pull any punches. Our therapist said it like this.
“Why yes,” he said. “I’ve said that before.”
There was a reason he was calling what I said armchair psychology.
That was the infancy of couples counseling for my husband and me. It was our third appointment and I should have listened more and talked less. But we went to marriage counseling because we were unhappy, frustrated, and needed to vent.
Some marriage counselors are Licensed Clinical Social Workers (LCSW) and some are Licensed Marriage and Family Therapists (LMFT). Ours is a psychologist.
I commented on my husband’s behavior.
Because naturally, my husband is the problem.
Don’t we all go to couples counseling? We believe that the finger will be pointed at our husband. I’m sure that’s the only reason my husband even went: to put the blame on me.
One day I met with our counselor alone, Colleen, she said. Your husband is who he is but you made all the choices you made to stay with him.
That’s not what I want to hear. It’s like someone is being blamed my way.
Good counselors teach us to heal and we cannot heal unless we take responsibility for the choices and decisions we make. We remain stuck in victimization mode. An attitude of, “Someone else did this to me. I’ve been wronged.”
My ex-husband was diagnosed as lacking empathy and having narcissistic personality disorder on the extreme end of the spectrum. Some would believe that would give me a get-out-of-jail-free card. I cannot be to blame for any of our marital problems.
I was and I am not.
I dont take major responsibility because I always say that there is a third party in my marriage: addiction and narcissism.
There are no two sides to the total wrong. Instead, there is a wrongdoing party and an enabler.
I am the enabler. There is nothing healthy about a caring person who tolerates repeated bad behavior and makes constant excuses for the one they love. An enabler who lacks self-protective instincts and boundaries to get out of an unhealthy situation sooner.
But the number one thing I’ve learned in marriage counseling is to focus on myself.
I need to learn who I am and grow from the mistakes I’ve made.
I need to know that I have a pleasant personality. I learned that I am a pleaser and a fixer who tends to save people. I learned that I am an enabler who needs to learn what healthy boundaries are. I had to reflect on the fact that I had kept myself in a sad situation for so long.
Some people were upset by that, especially since I left a diagnosed narcissist.
They believe it is victim shaming.
But I don’t identify as a victim.
My ex-husband’s behavior is property. It’s not mine. He did what he did. He is responsible for all his decisions and bad behavior.
I am only responsible for myself.
I went to couples counseling to focus on my husband. But the most important lesson I learned was to focus on myself.
Colleen Sheehy Orme is a national relationship columnist, journalist, and former business columnist. She writes about love, life, relationships, family, parenting, divorce, and narcissism.
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