Archive for June 25th, 2012
Married couples who come in to see me for therapy are considering entering the door into the world of divorce. The experience of feeling empty, pained, fearful, lonely, angry, hurt, unloved, ambivalent, and numb is commonplace when intimate communication diminishes. Many couples have slowly and unknowingly drifted into divergent directions, or have found themselves with a metaphorical wall seemingly built between them. They might be thinking that, “something is missing in my relationship, we don’t talk anymore, we don’t have fun anymore, we don’t do much of anything together, we don’t have sex, we sit on the sofa watching TV without noticing each other, my spouse is rarely at home anymore, or what has happened to us?” Sometimes one partner may be having an affair, or might be triangulated with a computer, gambling, alcohol or drugs. I have heard these kinds of thoughts and have seen these scenarios many times from many couples. There is often the spouse whose partner doesn’t want to air their business in public, or doesn’t want to participate in therapy, so one spouse enters individual therapy.
The factor of distancing in the relationship happens for many reasons. Couples often blame or criticize one another for their problems. They don’t accept responsibility in the development of the current state of the marriage. Sometimes one spouse will refuse to talk or stonewall the other partner. Other times there is avoidance or defensiveness in communication. Or, the opposite occurs where there are frequent arguments and anger blocks the meaning in the communication. Then there is the couple who fight over who is right and who is wrong. So, they both lose out in the end. These attitudes, especially in combination, are what John Gottman, Ph.D. considers those that lead to divorce. To counter the presence of conflict or dis-connect when couples or one spouse enters into therapy, I support them for having the courage to break the silence and deal with what is happening in their marriage. Sometimes I talk to them about honoring their commitment to one another, or their spouse as this is what they agreed upon when they entered marriage. I tell them that they now have the opportunity to make their marriage the way they want it to be. I suggest that “it can’t get much worse than where they are right now.” I address their beliefs about marriage which most often come from what they learned while growing up. And, I give them permission to alter their relationship now and over time as they grow and change, and reach new life stages. I bring to their awareness that they don’t have to be stuck, and that they can negotiate and compromise change over the life span. Sometimes, the wake-up call of one partner finding out about a secret can in fact be a gift to bring the marriage back to the focal point in a couple’s life. The couple can now address what is missing or not working in the relationship, which otherwise would be lost in the conflict or dis-connect pattern. I suggest that feeling stuck at some point in life or marriage is a part of being human. Wanting to take action to change what’s not working for them is a personal choice and is possible. Once they have decided to try something different, they are on the way to finding what they are looking for. After all, they married to enjoy life with their partner! I ask them to think back about the vision of marriage they once had early in their relationship. Have suggested that sometimes trains get off track because the tracks are rusty or aren’t properly maintained. Train tracks need to be taken care of on an ongoing basis so that they won’t rust, break, or lead trains off course. Marriages, like our individual personal lives, need to be properly maintained. Couples need to make time to communicate with their partner regularly about important matters (that includes listening to each other). They need to have fun, have quiet time, have regular sex, and give their partner space when they need it for self – maintenance. It is okay and important to do something for one to feel good. This will in turn help each spouse to improve their marriage and family. When I first see couples, they might be feeling angry or numb, or something else. They might not feel too motivated to do something different. However, they can take things one step at a time to make small changes. I often suggest that small changes can show small results. Small changes can build on one another and develop more significant results. Sometimes, spontaneous changes can bring on unexpected results. And sometimes, planned changes start a new course of action.
Lastly, the notion of offering new possibilities and hope to a couple can open the door letting the light enter into the dark room in which they have been living.Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )