Big Update--this will be a long post as I'll try to cover everything descriptively.
Yesterday was a whirlwind. My WW was picking a fight on and off all day regarding the dinner with her friend--her position was it wasn't fair to her to give up the only potential friend in our town as every other person she knew has ghosted her post-A. I didn't disagree with her, all I could do was share how I felt about it and leave the decision to her. But she kept picking at it, trying to make me tell her that she didn't have permission to go; which I refused to engage in.
We had MC in the evening and sat through a largely quiet dinner at a restaurant beforehand. We arrived at MC early and she engaged again in the car as we waited outside--again citing how unfair this was to her.
We went inside for the most explosive (and probably best) MC session yet. We nibbled around the edges at the general problems we're having with our conflicts: parent/child dynamic, staking ground, blame shifting, defensiveness, etc. We went through an example from my WW's work for 10-15 minutes and my WW kept trying to deflect back to me and the MC kept probing as to why she was trying to do that.
Then we got to the friend dinner and dug in on it. Again, my WW kept trying to deflect--at one point when asked a question about the dinner, she yelled out: "Well he wants me to take a polygraph!" and I couldn't help but laugh--the MC got an up close examination on what it's like to have a conflict with my WW with her "whataboutisms." The MC kept her cool though and was impressive to watch honestly--she kept things on topic and kept probing deeper. It was quite something to see--my wife yelling and being defensive, sparring with the MC, who kept her cool and focus.
Eventually she got to something fairly interesting--the root of the conflict on the dinner. On the surface, the MC got my WW to agree that attending the dinner was bad for the M, but perhaps selfishly good for her. So why was my WW so locked in on it? Control. My WW said she felt that not going to the dinner would be giving me control over her and every fiber of her body was telling her to not allow that to happen.
Even though I wasn't asking her to not go to the dinner, she felt that me thinking it was the *right* thing for her to do meant she was compelled to do the opposite.
The MC dug deeper, asking her about those feelings of being controlled...which of course led right back to my WW's father. She talked about how controlled she felt as a child by her father; and that when she disappointed her father, he would give her the silent treatment, often for days. And she learned to adapt to that by toughening her exterior--not letting her father see he was hurting her with his silence. She'd never give in; right or wrong, she never wanted him to think he was winning and she was under his thumb. The MC said that was a common feeling when parents use the silent treatment on children--and it's especially cruel; psychologically similar to a child who learns not to cry when he/she is physically hit.
My WW doesn't want the rest of her life to feel like she's being controlled. The MC pointed out that I was not controlling her in this instance--but recognized the strong pull in her mind to *feeling* like I was. The MC said she would need to rewire those feelings of being controlled all the time to have a healthy relationship.
The MC turned to me and told me I was doing an admirable job trying different approaches out and that ultimately, as long as I'm communicating how I feel, especially on the big stuff, I'm doing all I can. She suggested I not change what I'm doing. Hearing that was frustrating as it's difficult for me to be told I'm doing everything I can do and still living the worst hell of my life.
I'd say I spent the first 60% of the session feeling more and more down on my WW. Her behavior and the things she was saying were truly breathtaking at times. I feel like I barely spoke the last half of the session though--just listening and absorbing the things she was saying. I transitioned from anger and disappointment toward her into empathy. I saw her as this wounded, hurt animal, cornered and entirely confused. She was fighting, but it was primal--the alternative was flight and she didn't want to run, so she just kept throwing blind haymakers at the MC as they went back and forth.
None of this was about the dinner, it was all about her trying to avoid a lifetime of feeling controlled by a man and that was the *only* vantage point she was capable of seeing it from.
We went back home and she was largely quiet, still dug in as a victim. But I felt horrible for her in those moments. We were locked in a fight that was entirely unproductive as we were fighting over different things. I wanted her to know how her actions were hurting me and she felt that my feelings were hurting her. We are living two different realities.
I wanted to retreat to another room, but I instead tried to take the temperature down in the room. I pointed out that we were spiraling into negativity over dinners and polygraphs and not at all focused on healing ourselves or our marriage. I suggested some wine, a TV show, a bath--anything to give us a little bit of a bond to remind us of why we're still trying to make this work.
She agreed on the wine (lol), but said nothing else. I opened a bottle and poured us glasses. I played a romantic song and asked her to dance with me in the kitchen. We danced and cried. We went to the couch and sat largely in silence, sipping our wine. I was comfortable with the silence--I was relaxing.
After nearly an hour, she did it again--re-engaged on the dinner. This time digging into how unfair the dynamic is between us that I can go out with friends and family and she has no friends or nearby family. I was surprised and decided to head upstairs rather than engage again.
I sent her a text from upstairs, telling her that she badmouthed me all over town, fucked and sucked another man, and is now criticizing me for trying to get my mind off things by going to a dinner with my sister--her cruelty and selfishness was shocking. I then went to sleep.
About 60-90 minutes later she came up and I woke up--I was really out of it in the moment and don't remember exactly what was said by either of us, but I recall thinking she probably came up to apologize to me, but instead she was angry with me over my text. I was dazed and confused as to what was happening and she went back downstairs.
I collected myself and went downstairs to confirm that she was not apologizing, but instead angry with me over the text. She confirmed that. So I told her this dynamic wasn't working at all--I couldn't relate to her behavior or thinking--at a minimum, we need to explore what a temporary separation would look like.
She got hyper defensive, first saying she's not moving out and I should go. I calmly said no. She quickly caved and then said there's nothing available in our town and she can't go anywhere, so I told he we'd find something nearby--she said she refused to leave the town. I explained how that might not be practical. She caved; then she said she wouldn't leave the kids with me and I told her we would share custody 50/50. I then disengaged and went back up to bed.
She came up crying and cuddled into me apologizing for how she was acting. We talked for an hour and I explained that she has two paths. She either get on the "coaster" and prioritize our marriage in every decision she makes, trumping everything else. And all her other efforts need to be on examining herself and fixing all the broken things inside her. Or, we separate and focus on ourselves first and then look to reconnect in a couple of months if that's what we want.
We went to bed and woke up early, resuming the same conversation. Ultimately, she wasn't sure she was capable of prioritizing the marriage first right now. I suggested that was an answer then. She agreed.
She left the bedroom and I stayed and briefly cried, absorbing this new reality--I collected myself after a couple of minutes and she came back, also crying. She said she "couldn't risk losing me over her stupid state of mind." I told her she wasn't losing me and that this could be good for both of us. We got the kids off to camp an returned back home.
We then had probably our best conversation yet. She explained how the dinner to her felt like I wanted her not to go (to be hurtful to her) and I was manipulating and controlling her by making her feel like she shouldn't go. She knew that wasn't what was happening and knew it was incredibly unfair, but that's how she's often felt when in conflicts throughout her life. It sounded to me like she was projecting something she does, but she said she never does that either, recognizes I never do it, and doesn't know why she thinks so low of me during our conflicts. Every conflict is a chance for her to win, so she purposely isn't entirely transparent on how she's feeling because she feels like if she is transparent, I'll use what she's telling me to control the outcome.
She felt silly dying on a sword over a dinner with an acquaintance; risking her marriage over something she doesn't even care about it. It was all principle to her--she felt like I was trying to hurt and control her and she didn't want that to happen. She acknowledged that she sees it clearly now and her thinking over the last two days has been bizarre. She had convinced herself that I'd never allow her to go out to a dinner with anyone ever again. She goes to these extremes with me as a super villain.
The conversation ended with her saying she is going to get on the coaster and prioritize the marriage over everything. And she understands that she will need to fight against how she feels sometimes to make that happen, but she wants to do it. I think we're both clear that failure to make this work means we'll have to try separation instead.
She noted at one point that she felt like she kept making progress with good days and then feeling sad when we reset everything with bad days. I told her I didn't feel that way--to me, we've never made any progress on the relationship this entire time because anytime she's had a choice between the M or herself, she's chosen herself--so the good days are just days where she never had to make such a choice.
She largely agreed with that and realized she's been selfish her entire life and being M-first now would require a complete change of thinking for her. She wants to try. She recognizes that in virtually all of our conflicts she arrives at a different way of thinking and that her initial defensiveness is illogical and unproductive. As many of you pointed out, she just hates the idea of not resisting my POV because she feels she's losing--even though she sees she's still "losing" and hurting us both tremendously in the process before she does.
For me, I don't want to ever frame this as me kicking her out of the house. I feel like she was close to choosing to leave on her own late last night and early this morning and she will leave on her own if she fails again. I told her she'll need to proactively anticipate these issues before they arise by filtering all her actions through a pro-M, empathetic lens--and when that fails, she'll need to be willing to have open, honest conversations with me without thinking I'm her adversary.
She claims she is now set straight and gets it. She claims she's on the coaster and is going to prioritize me and the marriage before her needs no matter what. I told her those are all just words and we're likely setting ourselves up to fail again, but from my perspective, one more bad conflict isn't that big of a deal at this point and her perspective is she desperately wants one more chance to show she deserves to be my partner for the rest of our lives.
When you talked to the polygrapher did he discuss lines of questioning with you and help you come up with questions?
Typically you will get only 4 questions. Those questions can not be subjective. It is a "yes" or "no" question only.
I would honestly be skeptical if he is allowing a long line of questioning and having her sign a document after stating the specific things she said.
It doesn’t work if the questions can left up to interpretation.
I have personal experience with a polygraph.
The polygrapher said she can't do a list of questions and have her sign off on all of them, but she did say she could look at a testimony and build two or three questions to ask in the process of confirming the entire document. My thought was I could have my WW confirm all the locations and activities she was alone with AP for, meaning if she was untruthful, it would mean they had additional hookups. I was thinking the same for the badmouthing list. And then I had 1-3 other questions.
Bottom-line though, I didn't like the polygrapher I spoke with--she was very crass and insensitive--so I'll be looking for another option.
[This message edited by Drstrangelove at 6:13 PM, Friday, July 1st]