We started seeing Jeremy just after the baby was born. We’d been married less than a year and the blended family, shared home, and unplanned pregnancy made both of us think marriage #2 was a pretty bad idea. (I’m not a really pleasant pregnant woman. I’m not great at relationships either way, but I am especially difficult when pregnant. The whole experience makes me very crabby.) Between a couple of crazy exes, a few trips to custody and child support court, and children we were each guilt parenting on our own, the whole thing was breaking down quickly. I started going to a MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers) group at a large church close to our home and noticed they had a counseling department. Since Darren had already told me (a few times) he couldn’t care less if I moved out, and I usually retorted with a very mature “F*** off,” or some other equally classy phrase, I figured counseling couldn’t make things worse. Plus, the counseling department offered free visits with their counseling interns, so we didn’t even have to commit financially to the future success of our relationship. We just had to show up.
The first time we met Jeremy, it struck me how young he is. I wondered if he would have anything relevant to offer two people working their way out of a second marriage and parenting children closer to his age than we were. It must have struck him how angry we were, and how close we were to going over the cliff. He asked to see us weekly, and we agreed.
During that first few months, we drove to counseling in silence, yelled at each other most of the way through the session, and left angry. Jeremy drew us pictures. He explained relationship psychology to us. Mostly, however, he heard us. He picked up on each of our deepest issues and began to very gently poke at the injuries we were hiding. He made us face each other and say things we didn’t know how to say before. We took turns cradling our infant and talking about our families, our parents, our first marriages, and mostly, our kids. We cried (that was mostly me) and struggled. We moved a little forward and a lot back, but nobody moved out.
After a few months, Jeremy started celebrating our progress, and we believed because he did. We left counseling a few times holding hands, tightly. I started to believe that a man could actually see me, see all that I am, and not leave. Darren started to believe a woman could actually love him, and not just need him.
Jeremy graduated from his counseling program and moved out of the church. We followed him. We took breaks from counseling, fell apart, and stumbled back in to his office, hearts bleeding. We began to make more forward progress. We spent longer periods of time really loving each other. Our kids resisted because as we got stronger, we guilt parented less, and our expectations of them rose. We fought, and learned to work through it without quitting. Jeremy was there every time, putting our pieces back together and cheering our success.
We went from seeing Jeremy weekly, to bi-weekly, to monthly, and back, as our ability to hold it together grew and weakened in cycles. For the past few months we’ve had monthly visits where we mostly refined communication skills. We narrowed down our biggest issues and talked about how solid we are, how far we’ve come.
Last night during one of those sessions, I confessed that I still save touchy issues for our meetings with Jeremy. It’s become my safe place. It’s where I can bring up things that are weighing on my heart and know there won’t be any backlash. But we have to be able to have a two-person marriage, and I am clinging to this counselor because with him I don’t really have to figure out how to say things to my husband. Jeremy does it for me.
Once again, our counselor saw right through us. We are coming up on a stressful circumstance, a situation that has been a trigger for us in the past, and I wanted to schedule another appointment during that time because I am afraid to go it alone with Darren. Jeremy refused to make an appointment. He told us that we could do it, and that we don’t need him. We can call if it doesn’t go well, but we have to try on our own.
I was filled with a deep sadness because I love our time with Jeremy. It’s where we grow. It’s so wonderful to sit with someone who knows us so well and supports us so wholly.
Jeremy’s send off was bittersweet. We did come from such a rough place with so little hope. Because of our meetings with Jeremy, I have a marriage. For the first time in my life, I trust a man, I know deep and lifelong love, I feel secure in my home. I felt panicked and unable to say goodbye. “Thank you” seems like so mediocre a statement when you’re saying goodbye to someone who saved your life. Jeremy said he thinks we won’t call him. He said he might see us at the grocery store sometime. I hugged him on my way out, and held my husband’s hand tightly on the way to the car.
I hope that we don’t need to call Jeremy. I hope that he’s right about us. I believe it too, but I will miss our time in the office of the man who saved us.