So I went to session today and it was…okay. We certainly didn’t completely repair this massive rupture, but we did take the very beginning steps back towards each other.
I spent a LOT of time trying to decide how I would even approach the session. In the end (and after reading ideas from you all, especially Clara and Pink*) I decided to abandon my need to control the situation. My fear instinct was to go in, walls up and guns-blazing, prepared for the worst. I debated even writing her a check for the full week of sessions, fearing she would terminate and I’d have to re-write a check for that single session only.
But I didn’t do that. I just let go.
At the last minute, I decided to approach the session as normally as possible, as if it were any other day. I kept to the same routine I more or less use at the beginning of every session: I walked in, set my stuff down, unzipped my coat, handed her the check (for the full three session fee), took off my rain boots, made some arbitrary comment (this time it was about how much I hate rain boots), took a deep breath and sat down.
Then I just started talking. I pretty much said what I wrote in my previous post, but added some stuff that Tina suggested about how I felt really afraid and unsettled by what had happened between us. I felt a lot of resistance from her, but I pushed through it. Then I set a basic narrative, as BodyPolitical recommended, giving her a sense of what happened from my perspective. More than once, I had to push through her interruptions and questions to remind her that I wasn’t necessarily fact-checking, but trying to hold both of our realities because I feel like mine keeps getting lost to hers.
I was able to tell her how afraid I am, how confused I am, and most important of all how I believe that she failed me.
I could tell it was hard for her to hear all of that, but in the end, she relented and said that yes, it there is a corrective for her there. She said she can see now how the boundaries were initially unclear and then shifted into an even murkier territory. She shared that she absolutely wants there to be as little ambiguity as possible around this issue because she knows how scary it is for me to not be able to see the edges of the boundaries.
I also made it very clear that the most important thing at this point, is that neither of us are right or wrong, and I am not interesting in fighting over technicalities. Rather, what I believe we need to focus on (and thanks again to Clara for this insight) is that this is a pattern I absolutely do NOT want to keep repeating. It’s destructive and painful and it pushes her away when I need her the most.
She agreed and said that she knows that pushing boundaries is hell for me, so we can definitely work on what’s really going on around this and how my needs aren’t getting met. I shared that I believe we should have dealt with this more back in July when we ruptured because I found out her father died (through Google). She insisted that we had talked about it, but I said:
“I mean, sure, we talked about it. But clearly we didn’t talk about it enough or else we wouldn’t be here right now.”
Then I shared how I afraid I was that she was going to terminate my therapy and before I could even finish my sentence, she said that the thought never even crossed her mind, and she wanted me to really hear her say that. She said that pushing the boundaries and getting lost in patterns and transference dynamics is what we’re supposed to be doing. But that we’re also needing to be able to step out of them and examine what’s happening, which is where we got stuck.
I cried a lot. But, much to my own pleasure, I never raised my voice or got sarcastic or snotty with her. I stayed with the vulnerability and pushed through my defenses.
In the very end, I told her that I think eliminating email will ultimately be better for us and, further, that I think we need to re-visit the parameters around phone calls. I shared that although it was painful that she didn’t return my call on Thursday (which she didn’t do because she was unavailable, but also because I’d said if I didn’t talk to her this weekend, I’d just see her Tuesday and she wanted to “take me at my word” that I’d be okay until then…), it ultimately forced me to just BE with my feelings. And that experience allowed me to process a lot of material and figure out how I was going to survive without her.
I said, “I love that you reassure me, but maybe we could limit it to like one phone call per week or something. Which is hard because then I’ll be agonizing over whether it’s the right time to call or if I should wait until later, but if I always call when I need you and you always respond, then in the moments when I can’t call or you’re just unavailable, I don’t know what to do. I need to practice not being able to connect with you or get reassurance because it makes it so hard when I can’t have access to you.”
She agreed and I think she was pretty impressed with my insight and willingness to suggest this change. I don’t know that it’s a perfect answer, but I think we’re at least paving the way to setting up a boundary that feels a bit more containing and empowering for me.
*I cannot thank you enough for your support and input over the last four days. I reached out to this beautiful community and was absolutely overwhelmed with the love and validation I got back. I love each and every one of you. ❤