What a Marriage Counselor Would Tell Ben Affleck
December 16, 2021
Ben Affleck and Jennifer Garner in 2014 | CREDIT: ANGELA WEISS/FILMMAGIC
Have you heard the news?
Ben Affleck says he would probably still be drinking if stayed married to Jennifer Garner. WOW!
That’s a lot to lay on someone who you say you still care about and with whom you have created offspring. I hate that his kids will probably read or hear his father quoted as it will hurt them much more than Ben can imagine.
I see Ben’s in my office all the time. Both male and female. Their stories are similar:
“I feel trapped in my marriage”
“I don’t love my partner anymore like I used to”
“We have grown apart and we both need and want different things now”
“I have stayed for the kids but I think having them see an unhealthy marriage or unhappy parents is worse than divorce”
Oh, how I wish I had Ben Affleck in my office. I would tell him that his unhappiness most likely had very little to do with the person he married. In fact, his unhappy marriage was the result of something unfulfilled in him. I would tell him that his drinking wasn’t because he was unhappy with Jennifer #1 but that he drank because he didn’t have the right coping skills to deal with painful emotions. People who are miserable usually have unresolved painful experiences in the past they haven’t been able to process in a healthy way. Ben needs to numb his pain, insecurities, and fears with something that helps to make his life more bearable. Alcohol is one way. Another way is the strong distraction that a new relationship can bring. Enter Jennifer #2. Jenny from the block is new and exciting. She helps Ben to feel better about himself and the pain fades to the background. For a little while.
Ben’s future will look like one big re-run until he figures out the real source of his pain and stops blaming others for his misery. There will likely be a “Jenny” #3 and #4 in his future until he gets wiser or seeks counseling. Jennifer #2 is not his soulmate. She is his misery stabilizer. A temporary bandaid, holding back his deeper issues. But JLo probably knows this already as Jenny from the block has been around this block a few times herself.
Marriage gets a lot of expectations as an institution. Your partner cannot make you happy if you are dragged down with your own baggage. Making a commitment to someone is always doomed to fail if it is based on feelings. Marriage isn’t about feeling happy. Marriage is about growing yourself up emotionally and helping your partner grow. It’s about commitment and promises and understanding that feelings come and go. They always have and they always will. Marriage says “I’m staying put even when I want to run”. That creates safety and trust and when you have that…..oh man. That’s a beautiful marriage!
Oh…and Ben? When you make a statement that “you don’t want to hurt your kids” or “you stayed so long because you wanted your kids to be happy”, it is a big lie you are telling yourself. You did leave your kids and broke up their home and sense of security. Not only did you leave them, but you also very publicly announced that you were so unhappy with their mother you had to drink to get through it. You will never convince your kids you have their best interests at heart. They may forgive you. They may spend their lives trying to get your love and approval which may look to you like they are not damaged, but trust me. These kids are going to pay the consequences for your actions. You didn’t want to deal with your emotional wounds, so now your kids are going to have to deal with it for you.
How healthy is your marriage?
ready to have a conversation?
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A lot of the therapy work I do is helping couples and partners understand what their contributions to the relationship are, and how they can start making changes for the better, specifically with communication. Specifically, when communicating with your spouse, it’s important to make sure that you are not part of the problem, but part of the solution.
I bet many of you have already seen the recent Brene’ Brown video making the rounds where she calls out the myth of marriage being a 50/50 partnership.
I get asked a lot how to save a marriage when one spouse is leaning out or is contemplating divorce. Everybody’s situation’s different, but what I’m seeing a lot lately is very concerning to me.