The counselor asked us how we were doing since the holidays and Donald and I just looked at each other uncomfortably. I've noticed my tolerance for his defense mechanisms and the general bullshit that surrounds his family of origin is pretty much gone since getting the skin cancer diagnosis and this session really showed it. One of the first things I said to the counselor was that the holidays really showcased for me
I gave the example of the N taking video of Bess over Thanksgiving and lying to her about it. The counselor agreed with me that this was a breach of trust, especially given that Donald has basically tried to place the N in a position of power over our family. The counselor castigated Donald for not taking any action in the situation. There was then a discussion where the counselor advised Donald he really needed to listen to me in regards to boundaries and the overall safety of the kids because my instincts were very good whereas he was too passive. This was so very validating for me because for YEARS Donald has told me I'm too aggressive in dealing with the N which is bullshit. I'm building boundaries and standing up for myself and the kids. But the whole setting boundaries thing goes against everything he was ever taught going up, so of course he'd find it aggressive. The power differential in his family of origin is ridiculously tilted in his mother's favor, but rather than acknowledge any of this Donald would rather stay within his cloud of denial. It makes his life with his mother safer for him, but it makes life hell for me and the kids.
The other major thing that came up in the counseling session was what happened when I set a boundary with the N. She'd sent us both an email that had no text and only had an appointment time at JC Penney portrait studios. The subject line said pictures for me and the kids. I asked Donald if she'd said anything to him about this over Thanksgiving and of course she hadn't. We both felt the email was demanding so I handled it. I replied to her email with one stating we didn't mind that she wanted pics with the kids, but we did mind that with no prior warning she'd sent us an appointment date and just expected us to comply with it. I also pointed out that she could've said something to one of us while we were all at the Aunt's home for Thanksgiving. Finally, I told her that she needed to give us a heads up for anything like pictures with the kids so we could be prepared instead of feeling like we had to drop everything to make this happen. Her reply simply stated she'd discussed it with Donald over the Summer and she'd take my request into consideration for the future.
After explaining what had happened to the counselor he agreed that she treated me as inferior. He also praised me for standing up for myself and the kids because Bess hadn't wanted to do the pictures for the simple reason that we'd had no notice. The boys didn't really care, and that was fine. Other than the N being an N the thing that really irritated me about the whole thing was all Donald did was try to soothe his mother's ruffled feathers. He never really backed me up which is basically how this marriage works. I'm on my own trying to take care of myself and the kids and he's constantly trying to take care of the N.
So goals for the year continue to be: become cancer free; get gainful employment; and get separated. Finishing up the last class of this master's degree and it's a doozy. But it will end and eventually life will become less complicated. Spring is coming soon and I can't wait to welcome it back ;-)