Congrats! You made it to Level 4. You have experienced some pretty drastic ups and downs, but you continue to fight for your marriage.
If you just jumped in. You die, start over with a new life here.
Counselor: What’s up?
Gamer: You know, you say that at the beginning of every session and I still don’t know how to respond to it.
Counselor: That’s how it’s supposed to be. It’s meant to act as a blank canvas for you to do whatever you want. Whatever you say will eventually get us to the important parts of what’s going on. If it’s important enough, you’ll bring it up somehow.
Gamer: I guess that makes sense. Sooo, this week wasn’t the greatest.
Counselor: Tell me more.
Gamer: Well, Nat freaked out on me this week. She says I’m not even trying and pretty much regrets having hope that I would change through therapy. It was all pretty hurtful. I didn’t respond the best either. I told her I was drowning in her expectations and felt like no matter what I did, I wouldn’t be enough.
Counselor: Man, that does sound like a hurtful experience and super draining.
Gamer: Yeah, so I don’t even know what to do.
Counselor: You’re feeling lost. So let’s backtrack. Tell me about the efforts you’ve been making in the past week.
Gamer: *looks away sheepishly* This week’s been a little bit different. A game I was super stoked about got released. I have pretty much been counting down for the past six months for the release. So needless to say, I have been playing that pretty much non-stop because it's so exciting… I even took a couple of days off of work. I stayed later the previous week to ensure I would be good to take the time off. I guess with the added stress of working late, I did game a little bit more last week.
Counselor: Ah, okay. So if you were to evaluate how well you think you’ve done in the past two weeks upholding the compromises you’ve created with your wife, what would you get out of 100%?
Gamer: I’d say about 50%...
Counselor: Is 50% enough to hold your marriage together?
Gamer: No… I just. I was just so excited and thought that it would be okay to take some time for me, you know.
Counselor: Sounds like you feel like you’ve been depriving yourself of some self-care.
Gamer: Yeah, exactly.
Counselor: Where do we go from here?
Gamer: I don’t know. I’m actually feeling bitter about the fact that she made this such a big deal and didn’t give me any credit for what I’ve done before the past two weeks.
Counselor: You were lacking affirmations that would have reassured you you were doing the right things.
Gamer: Yeah, she would say thank you every once in a while, but that’s it.
Counselor: So what do you think you would need in order to feel appreciated?
Gamer: Acknowledgement of my efforts I guess. She doesn’t realize how hard it’s been to not just plug into my games when I’m stressed out. Maybe a little bit of a leash that I don’t feel like I’m hanging myself on if I game more than she wants.
Counselor: Okay, so more “atta boys” and a little more freedom.
Gamer: Yeah. I just don’t know how to ask for it.
Counselor: Okay. Let’s start with what you do know. How did we get this far?
Gamer: Well, I had to give her the cords for my console to regain trust with her and control over myself for a couple weeks. I had to talk to her about what she wanted. I had a couple backslides already.
Counselor: What hasn’t been emphasized yet?
Gamer: I don’t know. We’ve mostly been working on what she wants and needs.
Counselor: And who is missing from that equation?
Gamer: What do you mean?
Counselor: There’s a lot of emphasis on your wife’s wants and needs.
Gamer: Are you saying I’m missing from the equation? Because me being too much of the equation is what got us here.
Counselor: So if you’re fishtailing and you overcorrect, what happens?
Gamer: An accident. Alright, I get it. So how do I make myself part of the equation?
Counselor: I don’t know. How are you missing from the equation?
Gamer: I threw my wants and needs out the window to save my marriage. Can’t really have a marriage if only one person is taken care of.
Counselor: Yeah. So what’s the middle ground?
Gamer: I guess I could talk to her and try to find a middle ground. Maybe like set times where I can game unlimited for a time period. Or discuss what I need in terms of decompression. I guess I should probably ask her how she decompresses too.
Counselor: What else?
Gamer: What do you mean what else? How is there anything else?
Counselor: It seems like you keep looking at it as adding your part and her part, but I’m not really hearing an addition of “our” part.
Gamer: You mean my wife and I together.
Gamer: Hmm, you mean like doing the chores together instead of just dividing them?
Counselor: Yeah, that could be a good start. What about doing decompression activities together?
Gamer: How? We have very different interests.
Counselor: True. Some of your interests are vastly different. However, there’s some overlap that may be found.
Gamer: How could I ever convince her to like a video game? She sees them as super pointless and thought I’d grow out of them.
Counselor: Remind me, what do you like about video games?
Gamer: It's challenging to my brain but also takes me away from my stress.
Counselor: How do you facilitate that without gaming?
Gamer: Find challenging things that take me away from my stress that I can do with her?
Counselor: Yeah. What might those things be?
Gamer: I guess we could build stuff together. She loves DIY furniture and decor so she might be down for that.
Counselor: You’ll never know until you ask.
Continue on like that didn’t just happen. The great thing about counselors, they keep your secrets. Your wife won’t know your counselor called you out like that, and you can go back to your old habits of answering with one sentence when she asks how it went. I mean, you already regressed this far. It’s going to be hard to keep going.
Continue on to talk to your wife about compromise and a way for you both to be heard and taken care of in the relationship.
Level 4: Action Transtheoretical Model of Change.
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