Just don’t be a jerk

The ex wants to take the kids to therapy. I’ve mostly agreed that we could get some insights in the process, but I don’t think one-to-one, psychoanalysis is the right thing.

She’s not someone I’d describe as understanding when or why therapy can be helpful, and I’d be shocked if she could recognize how therapy can work against the children’s emotional health in a co-parenting family where the parents don’t see eye-to-eye. With that in mind, I tried to lay out some basic ground rules for working together in this process.

1. Respect.
2. Agreement.
3. Honesty and openness.
4. Cooperation in the face of disagreement.

After a long, long email discussion to precisely define these terms, I agreed to meet with a man she described as “highly recommended by two different people – one was another child therapist and the other was a parent whose son was a patient of his at one time.” I got there ten minutes late because fuck driving a car.

They were on a subject I didn’t feel either of them wanted to press into when I arrived, so we moved on – leaving me slightly unnerved. He spent the next 50 minutes asking pointed questions about the kids’ daily lives and what we thought they needed therapy for. A mom and dad sitting on the couch, as far away from each other as they can be, and he doesn’t address the obvious. 

He told us that he would tell our kids that they could say anything to him and that he would promise not to tell us. And then explained how so many kids were so relieved to talk to someone who would promise they didn’t have to worry about mom and dad finding out.

“How do you communicate what’s going on with the child and let the parent know how they might benefit from what you’ve learned if you’re promising to never tell their parents what they told you?”

He responded, “I didn’t say I won’t tell their parents. I frame it as something they have a choice about. I say to them, ‘I have some advice for your parents. What do you think of that?’ to discuss with them what I might talk to you about.”

Done. You don’t get to have a doctor-patient confidentiality agreement with my kids. And if you have to lie to them about that to get them to open up to you, you shouldn’t be working with kids.

When I felt like we were running out of time, I finally asked, “since we’re running out of time, is it ok if we start asking questions?”

Then I felt like I was challenging him. I described my ideal therapy situation, one where it’s more about bridging the gaps between parent and child, broadening the understanding we have of each other, and less about establishing a therapy relationship.

Nothing.

Old guy, no toys in his office, no rapport with parents, gray beard and deep wrinkles, asks “what’s real life minecraft?” but blows off the explanation of “Minecraft” as though “of course I knows what Minecraft is! Pshaw!”

When I feel deceived or manipulated when someone’s talking to me to my face, I’m not quite sure what it is I do, but I can’t fake a pleasant disposition. Like, either make your case or stop talking to me. I notice it and I try really hard to let my distaste subside so that I can still listen to them and let them make their point. I kind of want to be on the other side of whatever face I make that is so obvious just so I can see it.

I told her immediately afterward that I had no interest in pursuing him as a therapist for our kids. She disagreed with my assessment, but didn’t press it. That’s not at all like her. 1) The guy was obviously a bad fit for our kids but she liked him. 2) When she feels right about something she stands up for her views.

Anyway, she wasn’t fighting me over it. She was being reasonable by all appearances. So I suspected there was something I wasn’t privy to going on there.

Days later, when I pressed a little deeper about who had recommended this guy, she said he was recommended by someone who was recommended by her personal therapist. And then later, as I finally spelled it out for her, asking “who is the parent you mentioned recommending him?” she casually added, days afterward, that he was also the family therapist her boyfriend used after his divorce.

I can’t figure out what she thought she was going to accomplish by withholding this information from me. Either let me know what the situation is or don’t create it in the first place. She argued that she didn’t want to violate her boyfriend’s privacy by sharing this information. But the discussion about this guy started on October 14th and disclosure that it was her boyfriend’s family therapist came on October 26th.

We met with him on the 22nd. 8 days between her recommendation that we see him and the meeting and then another four days before she gave me this pertinent information. Even then it was only because I had a nagging discomfort about the whole thing. She claimed it never occurred to her that I would care to know where the recommendation had come from, even through her evasive answers to my pointed questions.

How on earth could this possibly have worked out in a positive way? Was her goal just to get a reaction from me? Was it a poorly executed plan to acquiesce to her boyfriend’s advice and simultaneously slip it under my radar?

I just never know what game she’s playing and it sucks.