Category Archives: Marriage Counseling

Honesty really is the best policy

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen honesty, or rather the lack of honesty, play out as the underlying issue in a marriage.

HonestyI always ask new clients about what prompted them to come see me.  This generally gives me a pretty good idea of the presenting issues in the relationship and provides a launching point into the work we’ll do together.  We’ll typically address some serious topics over the course of the first few sessions, topics that are good to discuss in any marriage.  But inevitably, there will come a time when, often by accident, one spouse will say something that catches the other by surprise and touches a nerve.  

I’ll see the body language change almost instantly, followed by a “I didn’t know you felt that way”.  And with that, the stakes are raised.  As a counselor, this is when my work gets tough and requires a lot of  finesse.

Why? Because many of us bury – and I mean deeply bury – the root causes of our frustrations with our spouses. Sometimes that’s because we’re unaware – we haven’t really unearthed those roots ourselves.  But often it’s because we are fully aware, and scared to death to expose them, for fear of unsettling the delicate ground we’re walking on in our relationship.

''Most of us bury the root causes of our frustrations with our spouses.'' Click To Tweet

The underlying issue: we’re scared

In my experience, when we’re not honest about a serious issue in our relationship, 9 out of 10 times it’s because we’re scared. We’re scared of how our partner will respond to our feelings.  We’re scared of the conflict that will result. We’re scared of the hurt feelings, the hostility, anger, tears, you name it.  Or maybe we’ve been burned by past attempts and think there’s no good way to proceed.  The end result is our fear keeps us silent and it controls our relationship.

The counseling world calls this a “lack of differentiation”. We’re burying our true selves for the sake of our spouse’s feelings. Or, often, what we perceive their feelings will be. And in turn, we’re sacrificing a deeper, more mature,and more authentic relationship with our spouse, all in an effort to keep the peace.
''When we're afraid to bring up difficult topics with our spouses,we're letting fear control the quality of our relationships. '' Click To Tweet

Is it time to bring honesty back to your marriage?

I don’t care whether it’s your spouse’s weight, or how they parent your kids, or that they work too much, or that they don’t want sex very often – whatever it is, if you’re not talking about it, then it’s not the real issue.

The real issue is that you aren’t willing to be honest with your spouse.  These “secrets” cause cracks in the foundation of your marriage that will eventually grow big enough to swallow both of you.

What you can do now

Everyone needs a place to begin.  If you are struggling with being open and honest with your spouse on tough subjects, here are four steps that will help you kickstart honest conversations:

Number One: Identify what’s important to you – Don’t make this about your spouse, make it about you.

Number Two: Write it down – Think about it. If you can’t put into words what’s important to you, how can you tell your spouse in a way they can understand it?

Number Three: Tell your spouse – Pick a time when you’re both in listening mode, when neither of you is frustrated or hostile. Again, make it about what’s important to you, not about whether your spouse is doing their part.

Number Four: Listen – Don’t sit back and listen, sit forward. Express with every part of you that you want to hear your spouse’s feedback – even when it’s not the feedback you wanted.

Now, it’s just the beginning, but it’s a solid one. After this, you can take actions to help you process what you’re saying to one another, truly accept the other’s perspective, and learn to support each other’s personal growth. That growth will provide the cement to re-strengthen the foundation of your life together as a couple.

I’m not going to kid you though.  It may look like a simple process, but this can be really tough to do..  It takes practice and often times it takes the guidance of an experienced therapist who can lead you through the process until it becomes more natural to you.   If it feels daunting or like it could never work for your marriage, I urge you to have at least one conversation with us before you give up.  You can give us a call or schedule an appointment online. Your marriage is worth at least the phone call, right?

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How to Slowly Destroy Your Marriage

Tell me if this feels familiar:

  • You cannot remember the last time you’ve had a deep conversation with your spouse about your relationship.
  • If you can remember, the memory is not a positive one.
  • When you think about talking to your spouse about _____________, you cringe inside. (Fill in the blank with sex, money, parenting – you name it),

If this is familiar, I feel for you. Because at one point, it was me. It brought me to within a hair’s breadth of pursuing divorce and wreaking havoc on my immediate and extended family.

While there is rarely a single issue that drives a husband and wife apart, the desire to avoid pain or conflict is present in most of the couples we counsel. It’s a core issue because when we can’t discuss what’s hurting us, it gradually oozes out in other ways. Eventually there is no more sharing, no more intimacy, no more of anything remotely resembling what brought us together in the first place.

‘I can’t talk to my spouse about that’

I often hear people say their spouse won’t or can’t hear them. Often it’s about sex. The percentage of people who are unhappy with their sex life is huge! But for whatever reason, they feel they can’t tell their spouse. The same goes with talking about a spouse’s appearance, especially if obesity is in the mix.
''Saying 'I can't talk about that' could be killing your marriage. '' Click To Tweet
In reality – in the vast majority of situations – the spouse who says “I can’t talk to him/her about that” is simply protecting themselves. Specifically, they’re protecting themselves from the anxiety the conversation would cause.  They are worried about the spouse’s reaction. The consequences.  The aftershock.  And so instead, they avoid the topic altogether.

‘I don’t want to hurt their feelings’

I get this. My husband is one of the dearest, sweetest men on planet Earth. Years back, when I was an emotional basket case, even though I was miserable, I didn’t want to tell him. The last thing I wanted to do was make him feel bad about himself. Things about him drove me crazy and yet I wouldn’t tell him. I thought if I verbalized what I was really thinking, what was really bothering me, how deeply unhappy I was, he would take all the blame on himself and things would just get worse.

The truth is though, I didn’t tell him because I didn’t want to face the anxiety it would cause in me if I had the conversation.  I was protecting me.  Guess what else I did?

I aborted any chance of a deeper relationship with my husband byassuming he couldn’t handle it.

How fair is that? How loving is it? Rather than giving him the chance to know me better and help me through my issues, I stuffed it and justified doing so by assuming he couldn’t handle it.

If you’re doing this, you are destroying your marriage. And it’s a death by a million little paper cuts.

If your relationship doesn’t end in outright divorce, it will at a minimum slip into the doldrums, as you find less and less to discuss and fewer activities you enjoy together. Loving affection will become a distant memory and tender moments of closeness will be nonexistent. You’ll become the couple in the corner of the restaurant who’ve been married for 40 years but don’t have a thing to say to one another.

Choose your destiny

If you don’t want this, I encourage you to run – not walk, run – to an experienced, educated marriage counselor.   That’s what we did and it saved our marriage.

Technically, this issue is called a ‘lack of differentiation’. It’s when we have a hard time defining ourselves as individuals. It involves knowing what is important to us, setting boundaries between ourselves and others, and knowing how to handle the anxiety that comes with being intimate with someone else.

A lack of differentiation is rooted in fear. It basically means we’re scared.

We’re scared the other person doesn’t really value us, or that they’ll respond with hostility, or that we’ll just make things worse, or that it won’t change anything.

Is that how you want to operate? Out of fear?

I challenge you to take control of your relationship. Pursue help. . Your marriage is worth it.

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(972) 441-4432 or Send us a text at (214) 431-5764

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