I had my heart set on a series of real, thoughtful, meaty, non-bullet-pointed posts. Alas, that mountain seems too high to climb at this moment---I'm on week 2 of a lingering, exhausting URI/LRTI that is obliterating my motivation to do anything beyond the absolutely necessary.
A couple of you did ask about the steps G & I were taking to work on our relationship sans therapist. I want to write this down NOW, before we drift back into the status quo and forget all the fantastic intentions and insights we had, that time and stress will surely drive out of our heads.
At the first therapist visit, G talked a lot about how he feels like he's lost himself in the whirlwind of babies and toddlers and housework the past couple of years. He has no time for his activities or socialization, and feels very isolated and unmotivated. I've offered him time to himself, but he's been reluctant to take it, perhaps not knowing how sincere my offers have been. So we discussed that when help is offered, we should take advantage of it, and if its not offered, we should ask for it. Because both of us recognized that we actually feel good about helping out the other, so its a win win. We've been putting this into action on weekends and weekdays, where once a week I'll get the kids and do dinner/bath/bed myself so that G can work late (or do whatever he wishes, though he usually works late). I guess technically this is not directly related to our relationship, but anything that helps us get more personal time does increase our general feeling of good will towards each other.
We also discussed my need for having time set aside to talk to each other without interruptions. At the visit, G suggested we eat dinner one night/week after the kids are in bed. We tried this, and basically we were starving and exhausted by 8:30 PM and scarfed down our food and then STILL had to clean up and I hated it. So we decided instead to sit down after the kids were asleep with a glass of wine once a week and talk (instead of our usual TV-watching, internet surfing, or going our separate ways to read/work/sleep). After we made this decision, of course, I got sick and have been going to bed early, and then I was gone for 2 days on a work trip, and then G got sick...so we have yet to try it out.
Also related to communication, we discussed how G tends to get defensive very easily when I bring up anything bothering me. Our conversations generally take this pattern: I bring something up, he gets defensive, I start to cry, he gets more defensive and now angry and starts the whole "Oh, I guess I can't do ANYTHING right, so this is another thing I'm doing wrong, etc..." I get annoyed by that nonsense and refuse to continue the conversation. He gets even madder. Then I get angry. We both say things we don't mean to say. One of us storms off.
A couple of times since we discussed this, he's checked himself, realizing he's getting defensive, and stepped back so that we could actually have a productive conversation. I was amazed.
Not discussed at the therapist, but something that we've both brought up before is the issue of s.ex. Or the lack of it, really, that is caused mostly by a mismatch in our optimal times of being in the mood. I am adamant about getting my sleep; so if we want to have our alone time, I would prefer it to be right after the kids are in bed. G insists that he can't just switch from childcare to sexytime mode, and needs to "unwind" for a while at which point I'm generally ready for bed. So he's always trying something as I'm getting ready for bed, after we've watched a movie, or gone out on a date night, and getting rejected because at that point I am exhausted and sleep is priority #1. Once we explained our rationales, it made it pretty easy to come up with the plan that when one of is was in the mood, we would have to be clear about it, and then we could unwind briefly with a drink or just chatting and then get to it, so that I wouldn't fall asleep or feel resentful that I was missing out on sleep and would be tired the next day.
G also mentioned how I never touch him affectionately. I'm honestly just not, and never have been, very physically affectionate. But its something he needs, and I am working on it. I forget frequently---I got home from a 2-day trip and started making myself dinner (it was late and I was starving!) instead of giving him a hug. I know. I said I'm working on it.
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, is an issue that I am working on myself. It is my tendency to not want to bring up touchy subjects (conflict aversion) until they build up to a point that I explode, and having a rational conversation becomes difficult. I'm trying to bring things up as they arise. Not everything needs to be said, of course, I pick my battles. But if I've decided something is really bothering me and I want to talk about it, the time to do it is today, not waiting for some perfect moment when the stars align.
I think that's the whole of it. As you can see, we are approaching this with the best of intentions. I'll keep ya'll updated.