Because of all of the things mentioned in the last post, we were now in a state of crisis again. We knew something had to happen.
We ended up going to a pastor/lay counselor. I had such hope going there. From what I had been told, I really thought he was going to be different. I really thought that he might be for me, might care, might listen...that he might hold Joel accountable.
No such luck.
I wrote about our time there right after we got home from this counseling session, when it was all still just super fresh in my mind. It had just happened, so I was able to write down what happened in great detail. So, the details that are within the following account are taken from that.
Also, I don't share this in detail in hopes that you will pity me. I share to simply give you an idea of just how things have gone the past 3 ½ years...and why we're still in the same boat we've been in all along (although way further from the shore now).
We got to the counselor's house and his wife joined us too. After the two weeks I had just had defending myself against Joel's family, having to give answers to others constantly for the things I had done and for things that Joel had said about me, and defending myself constantly against Joel...I. was. exhausted already.
We start out with prayer and a scripture. You know...because that's just what you do when you are super holy and all. (yes, that's snark)
Then Joel starts. And I. am. not. even. kidding you...he gave a full-on monologue performance. I didn't know he had so many words. It lasted, I'm not kidding, 45 minutes.
Then I gave my side of the story...it was much, much shorter and bottom-liney.
And then as things progressed, I just knew right away. This was going to be bad.
I'm not sure the thought processes of the people who were also in that room, so I can't really know for sure. But basically after Joel gave his monologue, maybe his 'perfectness' and 'good intentions' and his 'I tried all I could try' statements won them over? No idea.
But, the bottom line is that they just believed Joel over me. Because...he didn't 'try all that he could try.' And he didn't meet my needs (my very basic, logical, reasonable, understandable needs)...plain and simple. But, he was barely even questioned in that regard...and he was never held accountable.
I felt like I was in just a really horrible nightmare as I sat in that counseling session. I couldn't believe the things that were being said and the things that were being done.
No matter what I said, the questioning and the accusations and the blame was always turned back onto me. The statement was made by the pastor/counselor, "I see a man that really loves you and is really trying...he's not perfect, but..."
It was stated over and over that "it went much deeper than Joel just not meeting those needs...couldn't just be that."
The whole entire time, Joel was believed over me. And the subject was ME. I was being called a know-it-all...about myself (he even questioned why I thought I knew...why I was so sure), and people even going so far as to label me with a mental illness (this was brought up again, by Joel, in this counseling session as well). Why? Because I knew myself. Because I knew my story. Because I knew what happened...and refused to back down from that.
Did Joel ever get accused of being a 'know-it-all' or having a mental illness?...even though, again, the subject was ME? No. Never. He could be sure and not back down and be fine. Me?...there's something wrong with me if I'm sure about something and won't back down. I couldn't be sure of myself and my story...that made me a know-it-all and 'difficult.' But, Joel could be sure of MYself (me) and MY story.
All Joel had to do was say, "Ahh, no...it didn't really happen that way." And they were all ears.
Towards the end, I was asked about my parents' divorce. For those of you who don't know, my parents separated after 34 years of marriage...and then officially divorced around 4 years after that. I was 30 years old when they separated and had just given birth to Hadley, my 2nd. So...I had already grown up, was out of the house, and had my own family already established.
The counselor and his wife asked me if I was sad about their divorce. I told them that I thought it was a sad thing that it happened. And that I was very sad for my brother who was still living at home at the time, still growing up. But was I sad? It was a sad thing that happened...but, I understood it and wasn't completely surprised by it and therefore no...I didn't walk around sad about it. It made me sad for them because divorce is always a sad thing and is never ideal...but I wasn't in a 'state of sadness.'
This convinced them right away that there had to be something else going on with me. Something deeper. Because I could talk about my parents' separation/divorce (that happened over 10 years ago) without sadness or becoming emotional, they just knew that all of our marital problems were caused by something deeper going on in me.
That was ludicrous to me actually. But, I'm a teachable person. I'm open. I didn't think that their reasoning for thinking there were deeper issues was legitimate. But, I indulged...I said to them, "O.K., you know what? What if there is something deeper? I was never allowed that time to recover and rest and heal...I was never allowed the thing that I said I needed...the 'cure' for all of this. So, if I was allowed that, and then at the end, it wasn't 'cured'...then O.K. There's something deeper. But...I've never been allowed that shot...I've never been allowed what I needed."
Counselor said, "Ohhhhkaaaay. Thaaat's truuue. Joel, what do you say to that?"
Joel, in his 'I'm-so-innocent charm' said, "All I can say is that I tried my hardest to give her what she needed."
That was his only defense. And...that was the only defense he needed.
That was the end of the questioning for Joel. And they all looked back at me, fully believing his answer. Fully satisfied with his answer.
I said, "Wait...Joel agrees with the timeline I wrote out and sent you. And the timeline clearly shows that I was not given what I needed...that I was not given rest. I was constantly hounded about going here and going there and we need to know this, etc. etc. That clearly shows that I was not made priority, and not given a period of rest and recovery."
Nothing was said.
"There's just something deeper going on here."
I sighed and knew that we were done there. And said that I didn't agree.
And then the counselor literally started arguing with me. He literally visibly got upset with me. He got visibly upset with me because I was saying that he was wrong about me. Now that's crazytown.
This is how it actually went down. Keep in mind, we were about 4 hours in at this point. Four hours of not being believed. And four hours of seeing them respect and listen to and believe Joel at his word. I was already devastated at this point. Super defeated...in the way I felt and my demeanor...there was no hiding it. So, when you read this, keep that in mind. I was not being argumentative...I was sticking up for myself still with the very last ounce of energy I had. But, picture someone lying on the ground barely able to interact after being kicked for 4 hours...that was me. Our exchange...
Counselor: You have something deeper going on here.
Me: I don't.
Counselor: I think you do.
Me: Well, I don't.
Counselor: Well, you do. (At this point I was like, 'are you serious?' Are you the counselor that has to get the last word or something? lol)
Me: You're wrong. And I'm done.
Joel then asked if I wanted to try to get in with an intensive marriage week that this counselor had mentioned. To which I said no, because at that point I wasn't interested in anything associated with this man. I said, "No...I'm done."
The pastor/counselor then said, very belligerently and mockingly, "What...are you ready to go draw up the divorce papers now?" (Seriously couldn't believe how immature and aggressive he was being at this point)
I said, "I'm just not willing to live like this anymore."
They asked again about the marriage week, I again said no, and then the pastor/counselor said, "Are you scared that someone else wouldn't have the same viewpoint as you?"
Again...badger badger badger...but now I'm being ganged up on by not just Joel, but also the counselor.
I said, "I'm scared I wouldn't be listened to or believed again."
At that point, I got up and told Joel that I was going to the bathroom and then I wanted to leave.
As I got up to go to the bathroom, the counselor quoted the 'take up your cross and follow Me...deny yourself' verse. I said, 'Yeah...that verse applies to Joel too." He said, "Deny yourself." I again said something about Joel. And then he said, "I don't see that in scripture."
I have no idea what he was talking about there, but I just said, 'O.K.' Maybe he was talking about how we aren't supposed to point out that other people are supposed to deny themselves? That I wasn't being very scripture-like by pointing that out? But, if that's the case...he shouldn't have been pointing the finger at me that I needed to deny myself. ?? I don't know...that whole conversation was all very surreal anyway. And super immature of him, the counselor and a seasoned pastor, to take an argumentative tone.
Joel, of course, never got that same admonishment...to deny self. Just me.
As we left, Joel and the counselor exchanged many verbal 'sorrys' back and forth (the counselor even saying, 'well, we tried...sorry Joel'), and they exchanged many looks that conveyed, 'wow...I'm sorry for you, Joel' and 'see...this is what I have to live with.'
And then we left.
It was seriously one of the most horrible experiences I have ever had.
I walked away from there unbelievably deflated. I had gone there with such hope. And once again...I had been zeroed in on. Joel was not at all held accountable for anything. I was blamed and told that I just needed to deny myself. And I was not believed...I was told that what I was saying wasn't actually what was going on...Joel was telling the truth that he had done all he could...and it was a much deeper issue anyway.
I was not believed. And they just took Joel at his word with every single question.
I mean, it couldn't be that there's something deeper with Joel. Heavens no...that wasn't even ever a thought in anyone's mind. I mean, Joel wasn't the one hurting here. The deeper issue has to lie within the one that is hurting, right?
Couldn't be Joel. Couldn't be that the one who is hurting is hurting because of his deeper issues. Couldn't be that he has a major 'leave and cleave' issue. Couldn't be that he doesn't put his wife and kids priority. Couldn't be that he doesn't want to do the hard things and...oh, what's the phrase?...deny himself. No no...it's not Joel that has the deeper issues.
So much could be said about all of this. But, my initial thoughts as I was processing this all right afterwards were these:
1. Men in general are seen as more steady and therefore more trustworthy. Sadly, they are more 'steady' many times...because they are not ONE with their wives. So, when their wives hurt, they don't hurt. (Joel is a prime example of this)
2. We women are, many times, visibly more wounded...which translates many times to 'unstable' and 'frantic.' Sadly, we are more 'frantic' sometimes...because a) our husbands aren't taking care of us, and 2) nobody is believing us.
We're told things like 'You are just taking this the wrong way' or 'You're being too sensitive.' Soooo many things we're told.
But here's the thing...why on earth would I make this all up?!? Why why why?!?
As if I would lie and make up a 'story' that my husband hasn't taken care of me...that my husband has abused me in many ways. That is hard enough to say out loud. It makes it 100 times worse when we finally do admit and verbalize it, but then aren't believed.
My life was sooooo good before all of this. So good. We had a rough last year in Brazil. But, I wanted to come home, rest and heal, and then continue with my life.
A couple of nights ago I dreamed about a time I was riding in a car in Brazil with some friends there. I was happy. I was laughing. I was joking with our friends and they were joking with me. Life was light and airy and free.
I woke up and I literally almost started crying. Because I woke up to the so sad realization that...I hadn't been allowed the opportunity to continue with my life. Because instead of the rest and healing that was required in order to do so, I was bombarded with everything under the sun that is the opposite of rest and healing. Therefore...
No more riding in cars with friends in Brazil
No more babies
No volunteering at the orphanage
No normalcy in everyday activities
Just a whole bunch of missing out while stuck in this huge hurricane of life...so exhausted by the constant dog-paddling for 3 ½ years to stay near the surface. It's so tempting to just relax my arms and let the storming, crashing waves take me down to the bottom of the sea.
And, with this example of a counseling session (which gives a clear picture of the kind of counseling we've encountered all along), where I felt anything but safe, you can see for yourselves why just relaxing my arms is so tempting.