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Posts Tagged ‘marriage counseling’

A husband’s bad behaviors invites his wife to turn off emotionally and sexually.

Jim came to my office because his wife has left him after 37 years of marriage. He wants her back. She does not have anyone else. She simply is fed up with him.

As we talked, I got him to help me make a list of behaviors that probably drove his wife away.

Worked too much. About 60 hours a week for years.

Unwilling to take vacations because of his job.

Drank too much in the early years of their marriage.

Got too angry when drinking. Never hit her but was verbally abusive.

Continues to get too angry when he doesn’t like what’s going on.

Gives her the silent treatment.

Gives her nice gifts, but they are things he likes. For example, a leaf blower, a big screen television, a new computer.

Didn’t take much responsibility with the children or housework because he was always at work.

Rarely helped make social plans.

Failed to say “thank you” and “I’m sorry” and “I love you.”

Never acted like he appreciated her salary and how she contributed to the household.

Didn’t show much kindness or love.

Showed affection only in bed.

Was too demanding when it came to sex.

Watched too much television.

Jim’s now putting in fewer hours at work. He’s watching very little television. He’s doing housework and now understands how much there is to do. He’s willing to learn how to be emotionally supportive. He’s working to keep his anger in check. He’s sorry and in a great deal of pain. He hopes she will come back.

If he continues to say he’s sorry and clean up his behavior, perhaps she will come back. It’s unfortunate that sometimes people have to leave their mate to get their point across.

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How one woman handled her husband’s affair.
When Joan received an anonymous phone call informing her that her husband was having an affair, she said that she couldn’t breathe. “I think the phone call confirmed what I vaguely suspected,” she said.

“My husband, who had always been easygoing, had became hostile.” When Joan tried to find out why he was leaving so early in the morning for his job or what time he was coming home from work, he acted as if it were none of her business. “He also bought himself some new sweaters and pants, tennis shoes, and loafers.” When Joan shared information about her life or the children’s, her husband would act uninterested.

“I was spending a lot of hours at work, so I think I dismissed the changes that were occurring.”

After the phone call, Joan started checking her husband’s long-distance phone bills. She looked more carefully at the checkbook and the charge card bills. There were bills from florists and restaurants. “Restaurants we never went to. Flowers I never saw,” she said.

At first Joan thought of killing herself. “I just couldn’t make sense of it because I thought we had a good marriage. My husband even said we had a good marriage.”

When Joan confronted her husband, he gave up the affair reluctantly. He said, however, that he had never thought of getting out of their marriage. He bought his wife gifts, apologized, and tried to reassure her. When Joan would get angry and berate him, he’d take it. He refused to fight back and he kept telling her he was sorry.

After two or three years, Joan said she brought up the affair less and less. “I could actually get through an argument and not mention the affair. I still have pain, but I no longer obsess on how my husband could do this to me.”

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Being critical with your mate may not be the wisest course of action for your relationship. Sometimes Silence Is Golden.

She and he are drying dishes. She clangs the dishes together and he says nothing. He clangs the dishes and she says, “Can’t you be a little noisier?”

She spills some milk on the counter and immediately takes a dishrag and wipes it up. He spills milk on the counter and she says, “Having a little trouble today?”

She sits and reads the newspaper by a dim overhead light. Later as he reads by the same light, she clicks on the lamp and asks, “Are you trying to ruin your eyes?”

She takes a second helping of potatoes and he says nothing. He takes a second helping and she pipes up with, “I thought you were watching your weight.”

She jams the milk carton into the refrigerator and he says nothing. He jams the carton into the refrigerator and she says, “Here, let me do it.”

She turns the radio on in the car and they ride along listening to the basketball game. He turns the basketball game on in the car and she says, “Are you trying to avoid talking to me?”

The sun is shining, the weather is beautiful, and she sits down to watch television. Two days later, the sun is shining, the weather is beautiful, and he sits down to watch television. She asks, “You’re not going to take advantage of this beautiful weather?”

She runs out of money and says, “I have to stop at the ATM.” He says nothing. When he says, “I have to stop at the ATM,” she says, “When are you going to start planning ahead?”

Incidentally, in these examples, “he” could be “she” and “she” could be “he.”

However, in my clinical experience, more women than men are critical and judgmental. Perhaps it’s because they have been primarily responsible for corralling the children into shape, so it comes naturally. Perhaps it’s because males have more behaviors that demand correcting, and soon the woman is correcting everything.

Perhaps it’s because more women are outer-focused, focusing their attention outward on others rather than inward on themselves. When their mate does something annoying, they immediately feel a need to address the issue. But if they do the same thing, they are not as focused on it.

Regardless of the whys and becauses, sometimes — in fact most of the time — it’s better to be quiet than critical.

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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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People often do not want to change until they are in a crisis situation in their relationship. It might be better to work on your marriage on an ongoing basis rather than lose your spouse.

He came to my office because his wife has left him after 37 years of marriage. He wants her back. She does not have anyone else. She simply is fed up with him.

As we talked, I got him to help me make a list of behaviors that probably drove his wife away.

Worked too much. About 60 hours a week for years.

Unwilling to take vacations because of his working.

Drank too much in the early years of their marriage.

Got too angry when drinking. Never hit her but was verbally abusive.

Continues to get too angry when he doesn’t like what’s going on.

Gave her the silent treatment.

Gave her nice gifts, but they were things he liked. He never consulted her.

Did not take much responsibility with the children or housework because he was always working.

Never helped make social plans.

Failed to say “thank you” and “I’m sorry” and “I love you.”

Controlled the money. Insisted on saving most of the money instead of taking some for enjoyment.

Never acted like he appreciated her salary and how she contributed to the household.

Didn’t show much kindness or love.

Showed affection only in bed.

Was too demanding when it came to sex.

Watched too much television.

He’s now putting in fewer hours at work. He’s watching very little television. He’s doing housework and now understands how much there is to do. He’s willing to learn how to be emotionally supportive. He’s working to keep his anger in check. He’s sorry and in a great deal of pain. He hopes she will come back.

If he continues to say he’s sorry and clean up his behavior, perhaps she will come back. It’s unfortunate that sometimes people have to leave their mate to get their point across.

 

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Doing what we say we are going to do, or taking responsibility for our actions is not alway easy but many times is needed. Saying I’m Sorry can also certainly clear the air and make for a sunnier future.

Who have you closed off in your life? Is there anyone you’ve taken advantage of recently or treated unfairly in the distant past? Have you promised to do someone a favor and then not followed through?  Make amends with someone before the year’s end.

Molly confessed she needed to make amends with her mother. From the time she was little, Molly knew she was adopted. Four years ago she decided to track down her birth mother. She was so happy to find her birth mother, she started doing things with her and neglected the mother who raised her.

When her mother complained that she was ignoring her, Molly told her mom she was imagining things. “I even threw it in her face that she was jealous of my birth mother. Of course, this was true because I made it that way.”

Molly will make amends by going to her mother and apologizing. If her mother gives her a lecture, she’ll take it. She won’t fight. She’ll make a list of 100 special memories she’s had with her. She’ll treat her mother to a nice lunch and read the list. And she’ll be careful in the future not to push her mother aside.

Gene has been critical of his wife for working part-time instead of full-time. Recently Gene has realized how much his wife does in addition to her part-time job. Gene will make amends by apologizing, and in the future he’ll support his wife’s decision to work part-time.

Bob has been bulldozing family members for years. If anyone disagrees with him, he becomes enraged. Or he pouts and won’t talk. To make amends, he is to get his anger under control and to learn to be respectful when others see things differently.

Carol has owed her dentist $400 for over nine months. Although she can’t pay the entire bill, she’s decided to pay him $50 a month. “It’s time I grow up and pay what I owe,” she says.

“I have a bracelet of my sister’s,” Renee said. “She left it at my house last spring.” Her sister has asked for the bracelet several times, but Renee keeps putting her off because she likes wearing the bracelet. “I promise to return her bracelet and to buy her some earrings to go with it by the end of the year.”

Have you borrowed something — a book, money, a dish, clothing — and not returned it? Now’s a good time to give the item back to its true owner.

Have you made a promise to see a doctor, clean the carport, make a will, have a neighbor for dinner and not kept it? Set the date today for when you’ll get the job done.

Are you neglecting a duty that is yours, such as taking financial responsibility for a child or caring for an aging parent? Refusing to put your shoulder to the wheel or to pull your weight financially forces others to do your share.

Have you been mean because of a slight or injustice? Are you sure you want to take such a stance?

Each day we make our destiny. Do you really respect the destiny you’re choosing?

 

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Here are some solutions to problems that may arise when stepchildren are staying for any long period of time.

His children, ages 5, 7 and 10, are coming for six weeks this summer. His present wife works outside the home. He works outside the home. Whose job is it to take care of the children?

He says his 10-year old is very responsible. She can babysit.

The wife says, “No, she’s too young. I will not put that responsibility on her.”

He says, “If you don’t like my plan, you figure it out.”

She says, “They’re your children.”

He says, “You knew I had children before I married you. It was a package deal.”

The wife got quiet and then suggested she find a baby sitter.

Fourteen telephone calls and two weeks later the wife found a sitter and a day camp for the children to attend part-time. Neither husband nor wife is happy with the additional expected financial outlay. But both have agreed not to fight about how much money they are spending on the children. Other issues they still had to deal with:

Whose job will it be to cook, keep the house picked up, and do the extra laundry? Who will take responsibility to tell the children what chores they must do, when to shower, when to go to bed, when to stop jumping on the sofa?

Slowly we worked out a plan whereby she would take responsibility for directing the children regarding showers and eating and helping clean up after dinner. Additionally, she would arrange some family activities, including a week’s vacation at the lake.

He would take charge of everything else — making carpool arrangements, doing laundry, writing up a list of chores for the children with his wife’s input, and then monitoring who was doing what. He further agreed that if his wife wanted him to deal with a particular issue with one of the children, he would handle it as she wished. He would acquiese.

She agreed to shrug a lot, say “whatever,” understand that the house would frequently be messy, and get away by herself two evenings a week. The two of them would get a sitter so they could be alone on Saturday nights. Over the course of the summer, she would write a list of 100 things she liked about the children and give it to me.

He agreed to give his wife 100 compliments for helping care for the children. He would give me a list of his compliments. He further agreed to do more than his usual share of housework while the children were in town.

I would act as the moderator, with a few phone consults if things got sticky.

I then gave this couple my standard speel: “The children are not responsible for the divorce or for having a stepmother. It’s something they must adjust to through no fault of their own.”

• Stepchildren are a lot of work and are often ungrateful. In this regard, however, they are no different than children generally.

• It is the responsibility of the parent, not the stepparent, to do the lion’s share of the work involved in caring for the children.

• When a stepparent takes too hard a line with his/her stepchildren, the marital relationship suffers because the natural parent will not look kindly on such behavior and his feelings will be adversely affected.

• Lead with your brains, not your emotions. Accept that you will sometimes have to give in or take responsibility when you don’t really believe you should have to. Be generous with forgiveness and be determined that you’ll respect each other and the children.

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