The church had always made available to ministers an independent Christian Counselling service should they feel they needed to talk to someone outside of the church. There was no known precedent for marriage separation due to domestic violence but I knew that at some point the church leadership would strongly recommend counselling. Despite my own personal reservations, I contacted the Churches’ Ministerial Counselling Service and arranged some sessions.
I was very apprehensive about doing this but agreed to persevere with an open mind. I arrived at the venue for my first appointment not really wanting to be there. I knocked on the door and there was no answer. I telephoned the number I had been given. No one answered and my call got diverted to a messaging machine. I waited for quarter of an hour and tried knocking at the door again. I hadn’t seen anyone arrive there and still there was no reply. Hardly the best start considering my reluctance. I could have used this as an excuse not to continue saying that I’d given it a go but had been let down by the counsellor not turning up on schedule. The counsellor later contacted me to explain that she had been travelling in a rural area prior to our appointment and her car had broken down. Not anticipating being delayed, she had no method of communicating with me to cancel the session.
I agreed to re-schedule counselling and recall being asked at the first session why I was there. I said that I was there to ‘tick a box’ as something that the church would say needed to be done. Having said that, I was prepared to talk openly and see where it led.
As the weeks unfolded, the counsellor was horrified at the revelations which I’ve written about in this blog. She was equally amazed at the emotional detachment in which I shared and wondered how I was functioning ‘normally’ having gone through such experiences. What I found most useful was being guided into realising that some coping strategies I’d learnt in childhood came to the forefront in the way I tried to cope with Sandra.
Basically, I leant as a child that most scenarios were imperfect and some brought hardship. There was no point or advantage in using those adversities as a reason for not moving forward in life. I would banish the memory or block it out, draw a line under the anguish and lock the box, hoping never to revisit the torment. That worked for the little boy who was always moving house, changing school and looked on as peculiar by his new peers because he spoke with a strange accent. It also worked up to a point with Sandra.
There’s one more thing I would like to share about my counselling. My counsellor was extremely concerned for the safety and well-being of my children and felt she needed to raise professional concern. I did express that Sandra had not shown any physical aggressiveness towards the children, although she had been verbally aggressive towards them. My counsellor’s fear was that as I was no longer in the house to absorb Sandra’s anger, it could manifest itself against the children. With my permission, the counsellor wrote to the church authorities expressing her alarm over the danger the children could be placed in.
It is my feeling that the church leadership was quite dismissive of this letter as they were of the whole subject of Domestic Violence.