Got asked this recently. “How should I approach counseling with my partner?” I sent this response and you may get a kick out of it. I’ve said this sort of thing so often it is almost poetry to me.
Remember, I chat, and don’t do counseling. No, I don’t do sliding scales. I simplify, by keeping the flat rate for an hour of my time, so that I can live in peace with all the people who call or visit. I rarely see people in person, except for my group and classes. Don’t have an office and don’t want one. I am concerned about your hard earned money, but as a wise old Navy psychiatrist told me in 1965, “Get your money situation in hand, Al. Then go see someone good.”
- Overall. Both are 50% responsible for everything. His 50% is easier for you to see. Your 50% is easier for him to see. Your 50% is for you to fix, maybe with his help. Spend 98% of your energy on this. His 50% you can do nothing about, but maybe help him. Spend 2% of your energy on this. Blame is only useful when you two are trying to figure out whose stuff belongs to whom.
- Both are equally, but differently, traumatized by childhood. As a rule of thumb, when you note his damage, you have the same level. When you note your damage, he has the same level. Between you two, you have to address the totality of effects left over. One way of looking at it is to guess how much damage the worst damaged of you two has. Then multiply by two and set your goals to do that much work.
- In dealing with his stuff: a) do not take responsibility for his stuff*, b) don’t get hurt, impatient, discouraged, etc., c) listen when he shares, and prove you are listening, e.g. mirroring, etc. d) PreValidate him always, e) Validate him any chance you get. Offer suggestions only very very rarely. Display curiosity about how he is gonna deal with his stuff. Offer to help at his direction. Keep your boundaries solid, feet on the ground especially when he has trouble, and remember to protect your Lizard.
- In dealing with your stuff: a) only occasionally focus on your stuff in his presence and make sure he explicitly wants you to. When you need an in-depth listener, find some great friends or maybe use a professional. Don’t expect your partner to do it. Enjoy it if he does.
- Share your recovery journeys. Remember to play.
* Taking responsibility for another adult is the way to keep them (enable them) to stay in their troubles. Learn such useful phrases as , “I love your problems and am eagerly waiting for you to share your solutions,” or “Wow what a mess! How are you going to handle it?” Hand responsibility back to them.