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Happy Birthday To Me: Couples Counseling -- Advice Requested

Miss Know It All's picture

Disclaimer: Again, operating on very little sleep and am uncharacteristically emo about impending birthday. Do not advise "Cut and run" -- this option has been ruled out.

I sat FDH down last night and asked point-blank if we needed to take a break while he moves back into his marital home that his ex just vacated (should take an entire month given the remodeling he wants to do). This talk occurred in conjunction with a meltdown about Disney Dad behavior in the middle of the night on a night when it's MY time with him and not Disney Dad Night (yes, we have a designated night where it's OK for him to spoil the shit out of FSD3 while I keep a safe distance at my own house).

Long story short, I said we go to couples counseling or we try the month-long "break" -- but I'm not spending another sleepless, sexless night with FDH while FSD3 is prancing around naked in the living room watching Netflix marathons and calling for chocolate milk until 4am (never mind the fact that she has a GIANT TV in her own room with a stack of DVDs AND that she knows how to operate a faucet).

He cried. I cried. He doesn't want me to leave. I don't want me to leave. You'd think this would make it easy to work things out without the assistance of a therapist -- but you add in a bunch of external factors, and you wind up subtracting the key thing couples need to survive: TIME. Time to work through conflicts, time to rest and recover from long, hard days, and time to vent frustrations about what's not working and celebrate the stuff that is. He pointed out -- and I agree -- that our relationship is "great" when his child isn't around. Sometimes it remains great even when she IS around, I pointed out. But he says he cannot relax when I'm with both of them because he feels like he needs to be two different people. Like doing what's best for his daughter automatically means being unfair to me as his lover, and vice versa.

I said he was being over-negative and unwilling to examine his own parenting without using me as an excuse to feel guilty (this came out as: "HOW THE HELL IS IT FAIR TO YOUR DAUGHTER TO LET HER STAY UP ALL NIGHT AND THEN DRAG HER TO A 6-HOUR FAMILY PICNIC TOMORROW?!"). He said he didn't accept criticism of his parenting very well, that he was still depressed, and that I deserved a better person. I asked if he'd go to counseling with me, since he doesn't want the break and still maintains he cannot afford to go to therapy for his own issues. He agreed.

So now, on Independence Day, I'm shopping for a therapist within my coverage plan online. As a birthday present to myself tomorrow, I'll be calling each place to confirm coverage and find out if they can schedule us an appointment this month.

My question to you, step-talkers, is: What other questions should I be asking the therapists on the phone tomorrow? Any red flags I need to look out for?

Thank you all for the birthday wishes -- they did cheer me up the other day mid-emo-moment.


12yrstepmonster's picture

We didn't shop around. Just found one and went With him. We agreed that if neither of us were comfortable with him we would find a different one.

Our counselor saw us only together, we took divorce off the table. We had "homework" assignments- but even 3 yrs later I don't know what I would have asked him!

Kes's picture

I agree with Snarky - I was a couples counsellor for 8 years with the UK national couples counselling service, Relate, and we didn't get any specific training in stepfamilies. However that was many years ago, it may have changed. I would phone round a few therapists asking specifically about stepfamily experience.

alwaysanxious's picture

I was looking for someone who specifically deals with divorce and step-mom issues. She used all the right words, disney dad, don't be a maid. etc.

I like her a lot.