Thursday, July 2, 2009

Stuck in Neutral

- C.S. Lewis



Most of my clients are experiencing issues with domestic violence, but sometimes I talk with someone who just has regular marriage problems. I kind of like being in the role of a regular therapist once in a while.
My client was a middle-aged man who came to our office to ask for a protective order – except there wasn’t any domestic violence. Like some folks, he thought a protective order was kind of like the first step in a divorce.
So, since he was there, I talked with him to see if I could at least give in an ear for a bit and steer him in the right direction. The man actually didn’t know what he wanted. He was trying to decide whether to end a twenty-five year marriage with several kids involved. Tough decision.
We talked for a while and I realized that what he wanted was a good marriage. However, based on what he was telling me, that hadn’t been going on for them in a very LONG time. And – based on both of their recent choices, it wasn’t likely to happen.
After we ripped the scab off the never-healing sore that is their marriage he said, “Well, maybe we can just work on things.” Really. OK –I’ll just put it out there. My response: “Wishes and hopes won’t fix anything.” He looked at me very sadly, “I know.” I compared him to the proverbial gerbil spinning around his little wheel and wondering why no matter how fast he runs, the scenery never changes. I challenged him: What are YOU getting out of this relationship now? What can YOU do that is different? He kept talking about all the things she could do to make things better. I kept focusing him back on his choices. And the painful reality: If things are not different, then what? He has to decide.
In the end, I hope I helped him some. I encouraged him to consider going to counseling to get some clarity and insight on his situation. I could tell he was one of those people who thinks counseling is for “crazy” people, so I kept focusing on his kids and saying he could bring them (as they are embroiled no doubt in all the tension and turmoil of the parents). We even looked up some counselors in his area.
I know what it feels like to be stuck. Maybe not exactly like he is. But, sometimes it is easier to stay in the mess that you know, rather than expend the energy and face the fears of the unknown.


jeremy said...

i'm glad to see that you're writing again!!

CJ Social Worker said...

You inspired me.