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Archive for September, 2014

Marriage Counseling isn’t magic, it takes work, but the end result can be everything you wanted and more.
A man told me that he’s not getting anywhere in marriage counseling. His marriage isn’t improving. His wife continues to be critical and aloof.

I asked him what he had learned in our two sessions.

He said, “Not much.”

I said, “Well, let’s review.” I pulled up my easel and newsprint to write on.

I asked him to go over for me what his wife has been complaining about over the years.

He said, “She doesn’t think I listen.” But then he added,

“I do listen.”

I asked him to recall what it meant to listen. He said that if she had an important meeting that day, he was to ask her about it that evening. If she had a disagreement with a friend, he was to be on her side and listen to how she felt. He said that he should not read the mail or walk out of the room while she was talking. And when she called him at his office, he was not to continue to work on his PC.

I wrote all these points down on the newsprint and asked if he had been practicing these listening behaviors. He said, “Sort of.” I requested that he tell me something else his wife complains about. He said she wants him home by 7 pm.

“And in this department, how are you doing?” I asked. He said some days good, other days not so good. In truth, he doesn’t pay attention to when he gets home. I wrote, “Home by 7 pm.”

I asked for more problems his wife had pointed out. He said she complains that every time she wants to do something, he says no.

I asked if he could recall anything she wanted to do during the weekend.

He said she wanted to go see Evita. He defended himself by saying that even though he had objected, in the end he went to the movie. I wrote on my easel, “Don’t immediately say no when wife suggests an activity.”

When I probed for other problem areas, he said she had been asking him to fix the doorbell, clean the basement, and take the newspapers out of the garage. And he was to call an attorney and set a date to go over their wills.

How was he coming on these projects? I wondered.

“Not too good,” he said. In actuality he hadn’t done any of them.

“Is there anything else that I should write on my chart?” I asked.

He said that she wanted him to give more time to the children, particularly their son, who was having trouble at school. “Be specific,” I said.

He said she wanted him to review their son’s homework each night, play ball with him in the yard, and take him to a sporting event or two. She also wanted to go on family outings a few times a month. I wrote down these points.

I then explained, “If you want a better marriage, you’ll need to do these things. Marriage counseling is not magic. People come to get help in defining their problem, getting some insight into why they have the problem, and then figuring out what they need to do differently. It’s not that marriage counseling isn’t working. The problem is you’re not working.”

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Whether you are the married child, in-law or parent, it’s important to have a close relationship with all family members.
This may include visiting each other at your homes. People tend to feel taken care of when included.

A friend asked, “What’s the matter with children today? Our son doesn’t invite us to dinner. He was married four years in July, and we’ve been invited to his house twice. And that’s because both times I said I wanted an invitation for my birthday.

“He and his wife are good to us in every other way. They’ve taken us out several times to dinner and invited us to several plays. But it’s hard when we don’t know about their house, and how it’s decorated, or what they’re doing in their garden. As far as I know, they like us. And neither his dad nor I have been critical when we’ve been to their home. It’s a nice house. It’s neat and tidy. I don’t understand the problem. Should I just call and say, ‘How about if I stop by today with some lunch?’ Or should I say something more directly?”

I said, “Well, let’s think of why they aren’t inviting you over. Has there been a riff or bad feelings about something in the past?

“No,” said my friend, “not anything I’m aware of. And when we get together, or when they come to our house, we genuinely have a good time.”

“Is it possible they’re too busy,” I asked. I know they both have demanding jobs. And he’s taking some night courses, and she has a large family. “Right,” my friend said, “but they can’t be so busy that they never invite us over.”

“Well,” I said, “maybe her parents never entertained and she’s not used to it.”

“That may be,” said my friend, “but our son comes from a family where we always had family and friends for dinner. Another thing, they have a well equipped kitchen and beautiful crystal and china. Why don’t they use it?”

“Do they entertain other people?” I asked.

“I don’t think so,” my friend replied.

“Well, it takes a lot of work,” I said, “especially when you’re new at entertaining. With cleaning, grocery shopping, and cooking, it can take all day to get ready for guests.”

My friend agreed.

“It seems to me you ought to talk with your son.” I suggested, “Tell him that you would like to be invited over to his house for a meal, or just a visit. Would he and his wife be willing to start inviting you every few months?

“If your son hesitates, you can ask if there’s something wrong, something you’re not aware of. Have you or your husband offended him or his wife in some way? Does his wife feel uncomfortable with the two of you? Is there anything you might do to get invited more often? Then be sure to listen to what your son has to say.”

When children first get married, they need time to set up their own house and to decide how much they want to see their parents, and how much entertaining they will do. Also, a son-in-law or daughter-in-law may feel anxious about fitting into a new family.

Parents, too, find it difficult to let go and adjust to a different type of relationship with their married child.

If you’re newly married, make sure you let your folks know how important they are to you. You can do this with a weekly telephone call and an invitation once or twice a month for dinner or an outing. Also, stay interested in their lives. Find out about them as people, what’s going on with their jobs, their social life, their dreams and disappointments.

If you’re a parent with newly married children, respect their privacy. Don’t pop in on them unannounced or ask them about their money or when they plan to have children. Also understand that they may have different standards of housekeeping from yours and different values about their life-style. Above all, don’t offer advice unless they ask for it. And then be careful how you give it.

Chances are great that if you had a good relationship before your child got married, you’ll have a good one after he or she has said, “I do.” Often, however, both parent and child go through a period of adjustment.

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