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Keeping the Love Alive [4 Tips]

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Let’s face it, everyone is busy today: work, school, and the inevitable “To Do” lists! We can be so bogged down with commitments and constantly being on the move, that life can pass us by if we don’t pay attention.

The same applies to our relationships; after so many years of being a couple, what don’t you know about the person you share a bed with? Well, you would be surprised. (more…)

July 10, 2017 |

Are We Roommates or Soulmates?

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Karl and Sarah are on the couch opposite me. Married for nine years with three children, Karl had called saying they were in a crisis. They’ve spent the last twenty minutes trading accusations but now sit quietly. Sarah cries quietly while Karl struggles to avoid a similar show of emotion. They’re mourning is over lost love and is filled with hurt, sadness, and anger. It is Karl who breaks the silence. In a barely audible voice, he says “we’re roommates, that’s the reality – pure and simple – we’re just roommates. I don’t know where the love went.”

Like many couples, Karl and Sarah had started off their marriage feeling like soul mates… best friends and passionate lovers. And like many couples today they had lost that “in love feeling” and desperately wanted it back. The first step forward was understanding why this happened to them. (more…)

June 29, 2017 |

An Emotional Affair: A Couple Rebuilds Broken Trust

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Brenda and Tim had been married for ten years, had flourishing professional lives and had started their relationship with a solid foundation of mutual respect and caring. They had no children, deciding instead to put their time and energy into their respective careers. In the beginning of their relationship, they were mutually supportive of each other’s long hours and traveling that happened weekly. But after ten years of working on her career, Brenda felt completely disconnected from Tim. She felt that Tim was more of a roommate than her lover, even though they were under the same roof. One morning, Brenda had a real awakening as to what was really going on in the relationship- she found a text from Tim to a co-worker that was intimate and sexual.

With a heavy heart, she confronted Tim, and he agreed that he and Brenda had lost their connection and that he was attracted to someone else. Tim said that Brenda could not even hold an engaging conversation with him and that he was tired of feeling alone. They discussed their lack of emotional and sexual intimacy and the excitement that they used to feel about each other. That morning, Brenda and Tim both confessed to having thoughts of straying outside of the marriage to feel loved and desired again, thinking that their partner had completely lost interest in both themselves and their relationship.

This couple had several issues that needed to be addressed- and needs that were going unfulfilled. In the early stages of their relationship, Brenda and Tim had put every ounce of their energy into their careers and professions, which they had both agreed that they wanted to do. The results were that they had thriving, demanding careers that they loved, but had let the relationship slip to the point of severe neglect. (more…)

June 29, 2017 |

Tension in Marriage: Dropping the Defensive Game

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Isaac and Rachel, with a marriage of 16 years and two teenage children, were on the brink of divorce. Tension in the smallest of interactions ruled the day. Financial stresses, the demands of parenting, and disappointment in what each thought marriage would be was about to take them under. Isaac described Rachel as a moving target, someone he could never please – in housework, childcare, or in the bedroom. Rachel described Isaac in more colorful terms. Clearly, he was not someone she wanted to be close with. (more…)

June 29, 2017 |

Ready to Call It Quits

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On the advice of a friend, Ann and Dave sought my help at a serious crossroads. Dave had just moved out after acknowledging he was having an emotional affair. Although married only three years, this couple felt disconnected and discouraged. This is a sad enough scenario, that of young marrieds who only a few years ago were excited, close and eagerly envisioning a long life together as they walked down the aisle. What made their situation even sadder is that they had a three-month-old baby who was starting her life with parents on the brink of divorce.

What Ann and Dave soon came to realize in their counseling sessions is that the tools needed to communicate after the honeymoon were missing in their marriage. Because they did not know have to productive disagreements, they devolved into criticism and blame. They also had failed to make regular deposits into their relationship bank account such as dates, showing one another little caring behaviors, intimacy, having fun and continuing their adventures.  The combination of increased conflict and reduced expressions of affection caused them to feel painfully disconnected. (more…)

June 7, 2017 |

Reconnect as Friends and Lovers

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Fran, after 26 years of marriage, had decided to divorce Harry. She had consulted an attorney, told her mother and sister and put Harry on notice. Then her two teenage daughters called a family meeting and insisted that their mother and father get counseling.

Fran described Harry as a negative person who found fault with almost everything she did. She felt blamed by Harry for almost anything that went wrong in their lives and for Harry a lot went wrong.

Harry felt ignored and neglected because Fran “loved her work more than anything else.” He felt that he came way down on her list of priorities after work, the kids, the house and the dog. This left him feeling hurt and angry. Although neither of them ever thought divorce would be a part of their lives it now seemed like the only possibility.

Counseling helped each of them see the particular part they each played in keeping their marriage unhealthy. (more…)

June 7, 2017 |

Repairing a Miserable Marriage

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Alice and Tor have been married for 10 years, no children. She is a nurse and he a government worker. They have mixed ethnic heritage. She is white Anglo and he is second generation Asian. When they came to see me, they were exhibiting signs of high distress. They didn’t think their marriage would survive. She described him as a “narcissistic selfish mamma’s boy” and he described her as “ out of control crazy and emotional”. They had seen another marriage counselor who let them fight for three sessions straight until they fired him. By the time they sought my help, she was self-injuring and he was withdrawing into work and drinking.

I worked with them for approximately 24 sessions. At first, they came once a week, after 10 sessions, they dropped to once every other week and then to once a month. I stopped seeing them about 2 years ago. They recently came in for a “check-up” during which they disclosed their pregnancy. They purpose of the session was to help them figure out what steps they could take to anticipate what challenges to their relationship would parenting bring. (more…)

June 7, 2017 |

Bringing Home Baby

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“We were so in love, Janet said, until the baby was born. Then it was as if I had two children, Jim and Kayla; as Kayla was expected, she was not the problem”. This was Janet’s opening sentence to me when first we spoke. She has a great sense of humor, which allowed for a high level of patience and perseverance when confronted with her husband Jim’s jealous behaviors concerning their newly born daughter Kayla.

In a couples session, Janet told Jim that she wanted him to stop complaining that she did not give him enough attention at night when he came home from work, and that she did not have breakfast with him anymore and that he had no free time to play sports. Janet shared that she was sleep deprived and needed to rest in the morning, if she was able to, after she fed Kayla. She would love to spend time with Jim at night but she needed to shower and could only do that when he was home. She continued to share that “on the weekends, I would like some time to sleep since you are home and can take care of Kayla for an hour or two”. It seems that neither Janet nor Jim had discussed or understood what the time constrictions would be with a newborn. They were having quite a challenge as many couples do with the adjustment into parenthood. (more…)

June 2, 2017 |

The Blame Game: A Marriage Caught in the Cycle

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Joanne hadn’t realized that it had been years since she and her husband Bill had even looked into each other’s eyes. They were both flooded with emotion when they finally did – for more than three seconds – in the counseling office. They missed one another. Joanne had finally owned up to the fact that she had been taking her anger out on him for the past 10 years. He had wanted her to start exercising so that she’d have more of the sexy body he was attracted to when they were younger. She was deeply offended, even though she knew she was out of shape and overweight. Joanne had been punishing him, nonetheless, and she was finally admitting it.

But Joanne wanted to go deeper. She talked about being at a place in her life when she knew it was time to either get real or get out. She wanted to get real and she wanted Bill to join her. Bill, as it turns out, wasn’t so sure. He certainly talked about wanting a more intimate relationship but Bill wanted to have his cake and to eat it too. He didn’t want to have to stand up for anything or to take risks or be vulnerable with Joanne. He wanted Joanne to carry the relationship load, as she always had, and he’d just tag along. If he didn’t like something he’d twist it and blame her for not taking his desires into account. Joanne was done with that game.

She got a hold of herself and stopped taking his blame. She waited for him to initiate sex rather than initiating it herself all the time. Bill hemmed and hawed, jerked and finger pointed, worried and closed off – for weeks. Joanne wavered from time to time, afraid she’d lose him, but she remained determined to have a better relationship. While anxious, Joanne grew in confidence. Will Bill join her? Have you been in Joanne’s position? Bill’s? Can you relate? We’d love to hear your story!

Written with client confidentiality by Miriam Bellamy, LMFT

June 2, 2017 |

Divorce for a Good Marriage?

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“The last marriage counselor we saw said that we should get a divorce”. These are the most painful words for me to hear when I work with a couple that has been courageous enough to seek out help for their troubled marriage.

Marriage is hard and conflict inevitable, and that conflict can cause a relationship to feel empty, stuck and desperate. In fact, the marriage can feel “depressed”. If you were depressed and saw a counselor who suggested that you end your miserable existence, I would hope you would fire the individual and report them to their board. When a marriage counselor advises a couple to end their miserable marriage that professional is suggesting that the couple kill their depressed relationship.

Steve and Becca were just this couple. They saw two other counselors before me who both suggested that they divorce. Somehow they had the good sense to keep looking for help with their unproductive conflict styles. They were a typical two-income couple with busy lives, two kids, and a seven-year marriage. In the first session, I asked them to describe their marriage, starting with what they appreciate about one another. After 20 minutes of listing their appreciations, I had to cut them off and ask them to share what wasn’t working. What felt awful was their conflict style. Also typical, Steve’s conflict style was to retreat inside, not answer Becca’s questions, go silent and refuse to talk. In other words, he was a Turtle. Becca, on the other hand, was outspoken, expressed her complaints aloud, pursued Steve when he retreated and escalated the tension by threatening to leave. She became a Hailstorm in their conflict style. Because Turtles are afraid of hail, Steve would retreat further and then finally blow up and become a snapping turtle.

After listening I recapped their stories, “so what I hear you saying is that about 90% of your relationship is wonderful. (more…)

February 1, 2017 |
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