Marriage Counselors. They're quite an interesting phenomena -- they're there to help you, but not to get involved or to take sides. My rabbi told me to use the counselor as a tool to work on the areas of my marriage that need fixing, but not to engage my wife directly in fighting about the issues. Having an intermediary he says is the perfect way to hit the issues head on, while still being a supportive husband after the session is over.
Our third session -- this morning -- was quite an interesting one. I came in there with an agenda. My wife believes that when I do not speak about something that is on my mind, that I am being deceptive. Quite frankly, I was exasperated because every topic I discuss was shot down. Let me explain.
I used to love homeopathy. I read books on it, and I not only knew most of the remedies, but I lived the philosophy of homeopathy as my own. It excited me how the body was able to clean itself and it was able to take in some poison and use the poison to extract the hurt. There is obviously more about this, but here is not the place. Point being, I loved homeopathy, however, my wife had absolutely no interest in hearing about it. She shut down every conversation I ever tried to have about it, and called my conversations about it tedious, boring, and a waste of her time.
After a while, I shut down and metaphorically, put the "homeopathy" topic "on the metaphorical shelf." Same with ballroom dancing, holosync/hemisync, green drinks and health topics, piano playing, and pretty much everything else that use to give me jazz -- one topic at a time, it died. After a while, I stopped talking to my wife about the topics, and I even stopped thinking of them. This was easy because much of my former interests was against halacha or bordered on avoda zarah anyway (think mixed dancing, kol isha with the opera, and cloud busting, etc.), so when they popped into my head or inspired me, I ignored the thoughts and as much as I wanted to share them with my wife, I didn't.
The problem that arose however, is that when I didn't share something, my wife thought I was deceiving her, and this upset me. Quite frankly, she cannot ignore or not allow me to discuss topics (or even personal hardships) that are meaningful to me, but then expect me to open up to her at the same time. If she kills who I am, then I am dead, plain and simple. She doesn't get to have me full of life if the things that give me excitement have been sliced out of our marriage with her scalpel.
Then there is the past, which if any of you are older readers, you know well about. All the old issues I went through and then probably subsequently deleted from the blog years later. Quite frankly, there are some things -- skeletons -- that I simply did not tell her, not because I was hiding them from her, but because when we were shidduch dating, they weren't relevant because I was no longer that person. Obviously she is well aware that I was in a fraternity and that I had girlfriends, but we never discussed them and nor do I think we should. They are simply not helpful in our marriage, and they do not contribute to our understanding of each other.
On the topic of ex-girlfriends, quite simply, I never told her about the various experiences, the hurts, the heartbreaks, and the endless journey of trying to find the "right" person. I still hold by this, because I have friends who told their wives about a certain "other Jane" from before they even met (sometimes years earlier), and every time there is a fight -- if those friends are still even married which many are not -- the wife used to throw "Jane" at the husband as a weapon which was simply not fair. Bottom line, all my wife needs to know is that I dated girls before her, that I had girlfriends, and that I was a different person back then, and... I chose to live my life with her.
Anyway, I spoke about this topic in depth with a friend of mine who I trust, and he agreed that there is no reason for a man to embarrass himself and expose his "skeletons" to his wife, especially if the skeletons have nothing to do with the man, his family, or the person he has become. Obviously if an ex-girlfriend moves next door, then yes, my wife and I have something to discuss. But aside from that, there is no reason to expose and embarrass one's self with skeletons if they don't affect the marriage. And as for the diaries that discuss every detail of every past skeleton in haunting detail -- he says, "get it out of the house and put it in a safe." Some say "burn it," but there is so much more in there that is very useful to me (e.g., seeing how I've grown, my thoughts as they change as I mature, etc.) that it would be too much of a loss of my own history to just burn it. I wrote those memoirs so that my kids will be able to learn about me and through my mistakes as I grew up. They were my chronicles and they were my lessons. I don't want them to go away just because I stupidly wrote about so-and-so.
I am running short in time, and as always, there is so much to say and no time to say it. The exciting part of the session was that when I brought up the "shelved" topics, my wife retorted to the marriage counselor that she was bored by my incessant discussions of the topics that excited me because all I would do is discuss the topics as factoids. Instead, the counselor suggested that I discuss how I feel about those topics, and what meaning they have for me. That way, my wife gets to learn not only about what excites me, but why it excites me, and perhaps it can help us share a few moments and help us share intimate moments.
FYI, if you haven't gotten this yet, intimate moments are moments a couple connects together. We aren't at all discussing sex or physical intimacy.