Monthly Archives: August 2017

Don’t Let Your Therapist Talk You Into Divorce

It’s unbelievable to me, but it happens. I know it happens because I hear a version of this story all too frequently when a new client finds me and it gets me angry every time.It happened again today.

A man who has been married for more than 20 years started to feel unhappy in his marriage. He is analytical, so he spent a lot of time trying to decide if he should leave his wife because he just didn’t feel “in love” with her anymore.

He wondered if he was being selfish.

He wondered if he could change anything.

He wondered if he should stop trying.

For four years he struggled with these thoughts, and eventually, he spoke with a therapist because he wanted someone to help him get some clarity.  He wanted to make sure he wasn’t acting rashly so he worked with this therapist for months, and his wife never knew about it. She knew he was unhappy, but she didn’t know the extent of his unhappiness.

After a few weeks, the therapist tells this man, “Sounds like you are done. What are
you waiting for? You don’t need my permission. Go ahead and file for divorce!”

Don’t let your therapist talk you into divorce.

WHAT just happened?  When the wife did find out, she was furious.  She asked me how a therapist could say this when he had never met her and was only getting one person’s perspective on a two person marriage!  She felt the therapist was negligent and I couldn’t disagree with her.  But this is often what happens in “individual” therapy.

I’m sure the therapist felt like he did really good work. The client took his advice and the therapist got to feel good at the end of the day because he “connected” with his client; the client got temporary relief from the troubles that had been bothering him. But now his family is in tatters.

Was this client “done”? Well…yes. In that moment in time, he was. He was feeling hopeless and wanted to end the pain. But what about the wife? What about the kids he was also going to leave?  What about the marriage that was based on promises and commitments that were now torn apart?

This is a family! You can’t treat the individual like the family does not exist.

That’s why you need a pro-marriage therapist.

There are plenty of “feel good” therapists out there who want their clients to find themselves or focus on personal happiness at the expense of everyone else in their lives, their commitments, and their responsibilities. But this is hogwash!

This man absolutely had an excellent shot at saving his marriage. A great first step would have been actually telling his wife that he was thinking of divorce back when he still had deep feelings for her. That would have gotten her attention and then they could have rolled up their sleeves together and gotten to work on saving the marriage.  But that isn’t what happened.  By the time the wife found out just how unhappy the husband really was, he was emotionally distant and detached.  Now the work has become a whole lot harder.

A pro-marriage therapist is important because you want someone who places the same value as you on this precious relationship.

You want someone who knows that the marriage is not disposable…that things might feel hopeless but until both people have the opportunity to work together to change the relationship, you cannot know it truly is hopeless.

And then it happened to me!

Six months ago I was going through something in my own life, and I hadn’t done individual work on myself in awhile so I made an appointment with a well-known therapist in town who had lots of years of experience. I was pretty excited to have another professional to bounce things off of.

But after the third session, I had to fire her.

That morning I had fought with my husband, and when I came in for my appointment with the therapist I was upset and mad. Yes, even marriage therapists fight with their spouses.  This wasn’t one of those fights that sometimes surprise you. This was one of those battles that we have fought countless times before.  I found myself in that place of wondering “Why do we always get stuck here?”  I was feeling defeated and tired.  My new individual therapist was happy to help me explore my feelings of hopelessness that anything would change.  She was so compassionate and understanding.  She joined my bandwagon and wholeheartedly agreed that my husband was unreasonable and difficult.  She looked appropriately shocked when I complained that this was an ongoing battle.  Then asked me the question.  “How long do you want to put up with this from your husband before you have had enough?

Excuse me?  I thought I must have misunderstood her.

Oh my goodness, I thought to myself. This is how it happens!

The therapist did a masterful job in supporting me but what about supporting my marriage?

“Why do you feel like you deserve so little?”

That’s a good question, but she didn’t also investigate why my husband deserves so little from me at that particular moment.  She didn’t probe enough into how I contribute to this endless loop we sometimes find ourselves in.  She didn’t hold me accountable in any way.  Protecting the marriage meant considering both of us, not just my needs alone. A marriage is not about just one person.

Find a therapist who values marriage.

I get why my therapist didn’t push back on my whining and complaining and force me to look at myself more closely.  That could have damaged the client/therapist relationship.  I could have gotten angry and left, found another therapist.  All therapists are trained to “join” with our clients; to show unconditional support without judgment.  But I believe holding a client accountable to act responsibly is part of my job.  My therapist joined with me but she wasn’t acting in my best interest because she was siding with me when I needed her to challenge me.

The only time I tell a client that they need to get out of their relationship is when there’s abuse going on. And usually severe abuse.

He’s hitting her. She’s raging at him. He’s raging at the kids.

In these extreme situations, there might be the need for a safe space before doing anything else. But if there isn’t abuse, a therapist who works with only one-half of the couple shouldn’t be advocating divorce. It is irresponsible. It doesn’t value the marriage or consider the other people in that person’s life.

Choose a therapist who shares your values and believes in marriage.

If you don’t find the right therapist at first, try again. Try three times. Try four.

Don’t work with the wrong therapist. Don’t give up.

Most marriages can and should be saved.

There’s this young couple I’m almost finished working with that was on the verge of divorce when they came in.

The husband had an affair, and he came into my office last year and told me he didn’t love his wife.

“I don’t even like her,” he said. “There is nothing you can say or do that is going to make me want to stay in this marriage.”

He had seen another therapist who also told him to leave the marriage. But we sat down and investigated why he was so unhappy. It came down to him not feeling in love anymore.

I told him he had these four kids at home who loved and adored him, and I asked if he really wanted to leave them. He didn’t. So did he want to try and see if we could bring back the feelings and save the marriage?

He didn’t think it was possible.

But his marriage was worth a leap of faith. It was worth a try.

And you know what? We did bring back the love. They did save their marriage. Now he wants to be a testimonial so he can show other couples there is hope. He went from almost hating his wife to loving her again. But that never would have happened if he had followed the advice of the other therapist.

I’m not saying every marriage can be saved. But most can.

If your marriage is struggling and you don’t have a pro-marriage therapist who is supporting you, call me or go online to schedule an appointment with us.  We work with clients all over the world so don’t worry if you don’t live in Dallas.

Your marriage is worth saving. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

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Affair Repair: Where to Start

Affair Repair: Where to Start

One of the most devastating moments in any relationship is when there has been an affair. I don’t think I can overstate enough how profoundly traumatic it is to have that kind of betrayal in a close, intimate relationship.

There are feelings of hopelessness and despair.

I don’t know what to do. I’m damned if I stay, I’m damned if I go.

How can I possibly fix this? I can’t possibly save my marriage after this massive breach of trust.

There’s emotional exhaustion.

Every day is an emotional storm. Sometimes I feel like we’ve never been closer, and other times I feel like I’m sleeping with the enemy.

There’s doubt.

Will I ever be able to stop visualizing my partner with someone else? Can I ever feel special again? How will I ever forgive them?

You’re going to have all kinds of feelings and emotions. It is a roller coaster every day. For a long time.

So the first step in recovering from an affair is giving you permission to be where you are at this moment.

It is okay that you’re not sure if you want to work on the marriage. It is okay that you’re not sure if you’ll ever trust again. Let it be okay that you don’t know what you are thinking and feeling.

Early Decisions are Not Set in Stone

Feeling these strong emotions after an affair is normal. You’re just not going to act on them.

You need time to grieve for the loss of the marriage you thought you had, assess the damage, figure out how you feel about it. Then you need some time to heal and pull yourself together.

Only after all that can you decide if your marriage is something worth fixing. You don’t want to make permanent, life-altering decisions in an emotional state. You’re going to get in trouble almost every time when you do that.

So declare a moratorium on decision-making for at least six to twelve weeks after you discover the affair. This provides a period of safety where you can fully explore your thoughts and feelings.

How long you wait depends on your situation and how you respond.

I recently had a client whose wife was having multiple affairs for 15 years and practically prostituting herself out. Recovering from that probably will take more time.

But I had another client who went on a business trip and slept with someone while he was out of town. One time.

While both are traumatic, the recovery period could be completely different.

The key is waiting until you have your emotional state under control every day. However long that takes.

Ambivalence is Normal and Healthy

Another mistake I often see is clients who move through ambivalence too fast and give up.

Ambivalence is a part of the process when you’re depressed, and I can’t imagine a situation where there’s been an affair and you’re not depressed. Infidelity is tough stuff.

Let yourself be ambivalent and tune out while you process the emotions.

We call this “responsible distance taking.” Tell your partner you need some time away. You need some time to think about it and be ambivalent.

Just don’t ignore your partner and withdraw completely from the relationship. Your partner’s bad behavior is not a green light for yours. You can’t make them pay by staying in the marriage but not talking with them for six months, even if they hurt you.

That’s emotional abuse. That’s retribution. You don’t get that right.

Staying is Just Time to Heal

Tell yourself that staying doesn’t mean you condone your partner’s behavior. It doesn’t mean you are trapped forever in a bad relationship.

Staying just means you’re committed to the process of grieving and healing. You are committed to forging a new partnership.

Divorce Your Marriage—Not Your Spouse

We often tell people not to divorce your spouse, divorce your marriage and build a new one.

Is this relationship worth salvaging? And if not, is it worth trying to create one that is worth keeping?

Most affairs don’t end in divorce. Most affairs actually make it through and survive. The difference between a marriage that survives and one that doesn’t is the desire to save the relationship.

That’s the difference.

Is that something you’re interested in?

It may be hard to believe, but we find that if a couple is ready to partner together and change the dynamic of their marriage, they actually can have a better marriage after infidelity. An affair can be an opening for dealing with problems that have been festering in the marriage for a long time.

Get Ready for a Long Journey

Research shows that it takes between two and three years to recover from an affair.

This is not two or three sessions. This is two or three years.

That doesn’t mean you will be miserable all the time. But it does mean you will need to learn how to navigate the ebbs and flows that come as you grieve and rebuild. You will need to hold yourself responsible and accountable. You will need to learn how to forgive, how to partner again. You will need patience.

A partner having an affair is like a fox that got into the hen house. You have to clean up the mess, and then you have to find out where the fence needs fortifying.

Not every marriage with an affair is a bad marriage. An affair just means there is a gap somewhere.

Somebody let down their guard.

Somebody blinked

Something happened.

Repairing after an affair isn’t easy. But it is possible. And we can help.

We’re going to help you recover emotionally. Then we’re going to find out what happened, the dynamic that made the marriage vulnerable. And we’re going to help you fix it.

So if you find that you’re stuck in the grieving process, or the forgiving process or you just can’t close the gap, call or go online to schedule an appointment with us.

Most people need help to get through something like an affair…we, at The Marriage Place, are trained and equipped to help you recover and rebuild!

Affairs are tough stuff.

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