Friday, February 19, 2016

What Is Love?

On September 30, 2015 Mark & I celebrated our 10 year wedding anniversary. I have never been in a relationship with a romantic partner for such a long time. My first marriage can be measured in months. The first relationship after my first marriage lasted about 3 1/2 years, which was about the same amount of time I spent in total with my first husband, including dating, engagement and all of that. And now I've been with the same man, day in, day out, for a decade; 11 1/2 years if count our time dating and being engaged.
God, and anyone who has been following this blog, knows that it hasn't always been unicorns and rainbows. There was about a 4 year period where Mark began drinking again. I knew without a doubt that I loved him enough to stay with him and be with him when he finally had enough and entered into recovery. I never once considered divorce. When we both stood before God and a bunch of witnesses and vowed to be together through good times and bad, we both took that vow literally. I've had issues with incapacitating depression and he stood by me and I stood by him during times when his alcoholism was incapacitating.
Currently, he's once again battling his depression. He's been out of work on FMLA for almost 6 weeks. I'm trying to support him as best I can as his wife, not his counselor, which is a challenge for both of us. My role as a counselor is such an intrinsic part of who I am as a person, it's hard to separate that out of how I interact with him. I've made tremendous strides in keeping my "counselor-self" out of our marriage and I think he sometimes understands that and yet sometimes he expects me to be his counselor and direct his behavior or "tell him what to do" which is not something I do with my actual clients; I don't dispense advice, that's what friends are for. Overall I see my role with clients as someone who walks the path toward recovery, healthier decision making, and boundary setting with them.
Sometimes spouses get the brunt of all the emotions our loved ones don't know what to do with. They come spewing out at odd times and in odd circumstances and in odd ways. That is something I'm currently experiencing in my own marriage.
So that's the background for what hit me like shit-load of concrete swallowing me whole when in mid-January I decided to check my Linked In account. I hadn't logged in to that website since I posted my promotion in late October so I thought it was a good time to see what any response was to that post. This website offers the "opportunity" to see who has looked at your profile. So I clicked to see who had been checking me out when I saw that "Paul G. Doctor from the area of Missoula Montana" had checked my profile on 12-28-15, his 57th birthday.
My first response: "WHAT THE FUCK!! I HAVE WORKED SO HARD TO MOVE BEYOND OUR RELATIONSHIP, FUCK YOU FOR TRYING TO FUCK WITH ME AND SUCK ME BACK IN!!" Then I realized that any head games I played with myself from that moment on were of my own creation and had nothing to do with him. So, being the cognitive behavioral therapist that I am, I immediately began challenging my distorted cognitions, interrupting my ruminative thinking patterns and tried to radically accept that him viewing my profile was likely nothing more than a) sheer curiosity and/or b) he was doing a life review on his birthday.
That was all well and good until I saw my own shrink, Freudian that he is, who told me I had "unfinished business" with him and this relationship. My first response: "ARE YOU FUCKING KIDDING ME?? THIS ENDED ALMOST 20 YEARS AGO!" My shrink's response: "You still love the idealized version of him you have created in your subconscious, regardless of how long it's been since you've have contact with him." My first response to this bit of analysis: "FUCK YOU AND YOUR FREUDIAN SUBCONSCIOUS BULLSHIT!" Which, because I have a great therapeutic relationship with my psychiatrist, I actually said to him and he was totally accepting of. He's a shrink that doesn't have to be right in the eyes of his clients and is willing to accept challenges to his analysis. At least he is that way with me, I think because he respects my own knowledge of myself and as a counselor, it's tricky treating someone "in the same biz" so to speak. When he goes Freudian on me in session, I call him on it and he understands. Sometimes he's right and it's what I need to hear, sometimes he's right and I don't want to hear it, and sometimes he's wrong and he can take that.
I shared this with a colleague whom I have tremendous respect for and she wisely pointed out that this is another time when I need to grieve the loss of that relationship before I start moving into my CBT thought challenging, cognitive restructuring, and "opposite to emotion" behavior. She was right and I think I've done plenty of journaling and yada-yada-yada talking about it with my own counselor so now I can begin to think about this with some emotional distance and challenge my cognitive distortions and recognize when I start playing mind games with myself.
So back to my original question, "What is love?" I really have no idea. I think that's something answered individually by everyone who experiences it. Is Mark my "soul mate"? No, I know that for sure. Do I love him enough to stand with him through good times and bad? That I can answer for sure: FUCK YA! Do I still wonder, "What might have been?" Yes, I do that too.