In order to stop chasing the monkey around the mulberry bush, we decided to pursue couples’ therapy. An action that only seems logical now, but at the time was a wild idea given the state of affairs. After all, how was a couples’ therapist going to help in this particular situation?
Finding a Therapist
Since Rainbow had researched and found a counselor he liked through the Psychology Today website, we went back to that website again. Sitting side-by-side on the couch one evening after the kids were in bed, Rainbow and I pulled up the website. Entering the criteria of LGBTQ friendly and individuals open to ployamourous relationships (this was a serious solution consideration at the time), we found two therapists that were potentials.
My friend Samantha had also provided me with her therapist that she loved and highly recommended.
I drafted and emailed a note to each of the three potential counselors/therapists. This is the blurb I sent to each:
“We are a heterosexual married couple of 13 years with two children. We are seeking assistance in identifying issues that need to be addressed as a result of one spouse’s change in sexuality. The spouse struggling with their sexuality has been struggling for a year and has received individual therapy over the past few months.
The major concern at present is the uncertainty both spouses are feeling regarding individual identities and the marriage. Specifically, we want to unravel if our marriage can/should survive and, if so, how we re-connect after such revelations to develop a “new” normal. Ideally, we would appreciate exercises for outside of counseling in addition to in-session time.”
Within 24 hours we received a response from the two counselors found on the website. The recommended therapist was not heard from for almost a week.
Given the emotional urgency we were both feeling, we choose the counselor, Frieda. Frieda is a shortened version of her name. Her real name is longer and I’ve never seen it before nor know how to pronounce it.
Her email response was titled, “I’m here to help…” Frieda’s response was very open and accepting with phrases like, “I hold space of of warm accepting regard for you guys. I am beyond comfortable with these matters.” She has over twenty years of experience and her own private office space ideally located for us.
We schedule an appointment within the next week.
Due to schedules, Rainbow and I meet at Frieda’s office instead of riding together. We enter the 70’s style, stark office building together, complete with smells of freshly redone carpet and paint and underlying flavors of the past.
Climbing the carpeted, metal railed stairs (roasting in the sun courtesy of the large windows in the open stairwell), we arrive at the second floor hallway. It’s serene wall color and long narrow stretch remind me of a scene from The Twilight Zone.
Finding the generic door for Frieda’s office halfway down the hall on the right, we walk in. On the wall to the right, there a two upholstered, arm less chairs from a home decor store with a table between them. The walls boast Eastern inspired art. There are no less than three small fountains burbling welcome. In the far corner from the door is a multi-tiered shelf with magazines. Straight head is a closed-door and along the wall to its right is a sliding office window with ledge. On the ledge is a note that asks new patients to complete the forms on the clipboards lying next to it.
Rainbow and I complete the forms as requested and sit quietly while waiting. The occasional comment about the environment or expectations of the session is made by one of us as we wait.
Soon Frieda opens the closed-door next to the office window. Her face is open and friendly with a smile. Her short-dark hair curls around her face in almost a perfect circle and her clothes reflect a well-put-together professional.
She collects our completed forms then ducks into the back again to process our payment.
When she returns, she welcomes us into the back office area. Handing our licenses and credit card back as we walk. Directly past the back office door is a small room on the right that connects the office window to the waiting area. Beyond the small room, at the end of the short hallway, you see a larger space and window with a small table-top fountain, plant, and traditional upright arm-chair in front of it. Across from the chair is a light-colored couch with a matching loveseat at a right angle. All the furniture forms a small rectangle shape in the room. There are small accent tables in front of each couch topped with tissue boxes. A slightly cluttered desk sits in the corner along the wall with the door. It smells like a generic doctor’s office. Overall the feeling is soothing; if not friendly.
We both choose to sit on the couch directly across from what is clearly Frieda’s arm-chair. Several pillows block the couch seating surface and require movement. The table prevents us from sitting directly next to each other.
As we sink into the well-worn leather of the couch, Frieda launches into the standard happy-to-meet-yous and general therapy disclosures.
Therapy – Round One
After the mandatory disclosures, Frieda invites us to tell her more about our situation.
I have always been the primary talker, so with shaking hands and thumping heart, I begin the back story about how we arrived at her doorstep. Rainbow occasionally chimes in with clarifications or his perspective. Frieda is fully focused on me as I speak casting sporadic glances at Rainbow.
As the story unravels, tears leak out. Rainbow also struggles in the telling of where we have been and where we are trying to go. Frieda stops Rainbow at one point and instructs him to “breathe”. She shares with us that she can tell this has been really tough on both of us. Well duh!
During the session, Rainbow reaches out here and there to touch my knee or hold my hand. It’s awkward with the table between us. Frieda and Rainbow are intensely focused on my telling of the story, including thoughts and feelings. I appreciate the physical support Rainbow provides, regardless of the slight awkwardness.
Over halfway through our time, and after the high points of our story are shared, Frieda turns to Rainbow and asks him, “Do you need to tell Sunshine that you are gay?”
Rainbow and I turn to each other with wide, unbelieving eyes. Does she really think that is the issue here? How does this help us? What benefit is received from him telling me he is gay in front of her? We already know he is gay, that’s why we are here; so that she might help us navigate what to do with this revelation.
We skim over this sudo-directive from Frieda. Frieda again shifts her focus back to me. She notes I have been glancing at the whiteboard hanging on the wall next to the window. On it I have noticed what appears to be something that may help our current emotional stress levels. The board details common thinking errors.
In the last few minutes of our first session, Frieda shares with me the thinking errors on her board. She reiterates that Rainbow should focus on his breathing when he starts to get upset.
Our time is up.
Frieda shows us to the door between the back office and the waiting area. She tells us to schedule another session via her online scheduling tool. As we enter the waiting area, two women are sprawled waiting in the chairs. The annoyed tension in the room is palpable. We exit the main office door quickly.
Walking down the sauna stairs and through the building doors, I take a deep breath. It’s a relief to be outside.
We drive home separately and slip into the normal physical routines of life. Get supper ready, have a drink, eat, get the kids ready for bed, and collapse.
Once the kids are in bed we chat on the couch.
Neither one of us left the session feeling better or having a clearer idea of what to do. This is not what I expected based on previous therapy experiences. Rainbow agrees verbally, however, I don’t get the vibe that he is all that upset about the experience the way I am.
We schedule another session via Frieda’s online scheduling tool. Due to a scheduled vacation for Frieda, we schedule a time within the next 4 days. After this session, there will be a long break for Frieda’s vacation.
I actively read about thinking errors and life again continues as normal.
My brain is still churning thousands of thoughts and my heart is still in turmoil.
I remind myself that was just the first session. The main focus was to tell our story so Frieda might provide tools and exercises going forward for possible solutions to our conundrum.
I decide it’s a good idea to start a blog to share our experiences. To tell our story of how we made our marriage work despite the odds. I draft several posts. Writing makes me feel better.
Before I know it, we were headed to the next session.