Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Piggyback Therapy: It's Not About the Sauce

My husband and I have a great marriage.  We laugh, we fight, and instead of make up sex, we give each other high fives.  In general, we both truly enjoy each other’s company…and we both also love being apart.  We love getting in bed together at night, and we treasure sleeping in separate beds when we go on vacation.  Overall, we are doing pretty well…but there is always room for improvement…or a few sessions of marriage therapy.

Unfortunately, these days we don’t have much time to spend on counseling. Between work, the kids and our raging social life (which consists of bouncy house birthday parties and baseball games), we just haven’t had the time.  The irony is that even though we have no time for therapy, we somehow still manage to find plenty of time to have arguments…about the same thing…over and over and over again.
So what’s a couple to do when they don’t have the time, money or inclination to go to therapy? 
The solution is Piggyback Therapy...
Piggyback therapy is a new concept that my husband and I experienced a few weeks ago.  We were in the midst of one of our classic arguments…the details aren’t important but the main point is that he thought I was acting like a crazy Bitch and I was convinced he was missing something in his brain, like a whole section.  Overall, this tends to be the recurring theme in our marriage.
We had planned on going out to dinner alone, but knowing that the experience would be a nightmare, we asked our friends to join.  The reason we invited this particular couple is that they are great friends and we love being with them...but in the end, the best part about them was that they were currently in marriage therapy. 
It turns out that having friends with great insurance (low deductible + generous mental health coverage), flexible jobs, and some deep unresolved issues is a wonderful benefit. The idea is that you go to dinner with them, have lots of cocktails, and eventually spill all the details of your marital problems.  As everyone gets drunk, they begin to analyze your relationship with brutal honesty.  Based on what they have learned in their own extensive relationship therapy, they then try to figure what the hell is wrong with yours. 
That night, we explained our argument to our friends. This particular fight had to do with my husband messing up my kitchen while making his famous “sauce.”  Every time he makes his “sauce” we get into a huge fight.  The fact that he uses every plate, pan, and utensil in our kitchen while simultaneously spraying red sauce on every appliance, wall and electrical outlet is just the beginning.  While he cooks, he BLARES Frank Sinatra, sweats profusely, and either under cooks or over cooks the meatballs (it can go either way.)  In my world of low grade OCD and neurotic cleaning habits, the sauce is my worst nightmare. 
As my friends listened to our problems, I could tell they were feeling very confident about their counseling skills.  Although they had only been to four sessions, which had barely scratched the surface of their deep-rooted problems, they had suddenly become experts on marriage and conflict resolution.  The truth is…they were good.  If it weren’t for the fact that we were in a bar with loud music, basketball games, and a transgender sitting behind me, I would have thought we were in a real therapy session.  The chairs were comfortable, my husband and I weren’t speaking, and there were tissues nearby.  It reminded me of all the good things about therapy minus the $150 and one-hour limit.   Here is a small excerpt from the night:
Friend/Therapist: So every time he makes this sauce you get mad?
Me: Yes...I want to kill him.
Friend/Therapist: I hear you are angry with him…but how do you FEEL when he makes the sauce?
Me:  I feel anxious and overwhelmed…and like I want to kill him.  I hate the mess he makes and how he blares Frank Sinatra so loud.
Husband: (voice rising in disbelief) WHO in the world doesn’t like Frank Sinatra?
Friend/Therapist:  (to Sinatra loving husband) It is not your time to share yet.  Kelsey, is there a time in your childhood when you felt anxious?
Kelsey:  (mentally blaming her parents for all her current problems) Yes…the entire time. 
Friend/Therapist:  So when he makes the sauce you feel anxious and overwhelmed, which then reminds you of how you felt as a child?
Kelsey:  Yes
Friend/Therapist: Kelsey, I think I have your answer.  “It’s not about the sauce.”
He was right!  It wasn’t about the sauce…it was about so much more!  Our friend was a genius and I was beginning to feel relieved.  We were making progress and I knew the solution was right around the corner.
Kelsey (extremely hopeful):  So what do we do about it?
Friend/Therapist:  I have no idea.  We haven’t gotten to that part yet…
I took a sip of my drink, sighed, and realized that piggyback therapy can only take you so far.   We had come to the end of the road and they had nothing else to give.  We had bared our souls, told all our secrets, and had way too much to drink.  Even though we left with no idea what to do next, I still believe our first session went very well. 
In the meantime, we decided it would be best to avoid the sauce and Sinatra...So far it has been a few days of wedded bliss…