A Marriage Counselor’s Secret Confession

Shh in colour I’ve been married 25 years.  I’ve devoted my life and career to helping people save their marriages.  I constantly train in the latest modalities and theories to better equip my clients, which also better equips my own relationship.  I’m pro marriage and I hate divorce.  And yet….

 

Sometimes I fantasize about divorcing my husband.

I love my husband but..MARRIAGE IS HARD.  Just like all couples, both my husband and I have deeply ingrained patterns of behavior that affect how we relate to each other.  On our good days, we are kind, reasonable, patient and willing to overlook each other’s flaws.  On our bad days, well…we look like everyone else who is struggling.  We are rigid, critical, impatient, self-protective, childish and selfish.  Thankfully, because of good training and practice we have many more good days than bad ones.  But bad days still happen and when they do we are miserable until we remember we know tools we aren’t using.

I am not proud of the fact that I sometimes fantasize about leaving my marriage.  That’s my self-protection mechanism.  When I’m hurting, I want to wall off and detach.  When I’m in “that place”, I’m not thinking about connecting with my husband.  I’m thinking about protecting myself emotionally.  It becomes all about me and nothing about us.  It isn’t until I calm down and become rational that I realize how self-defeating my behavior is and I try a different approach.  That’s when the bad day ends for me.

So why am I confessing to you about the struggles in my own marriage?  Because I want you to know that good marriages have bad days.  Or bad weeks.  Or bad months.  Sometimes they even have bad years.  But it doesn’t mean you married the wrong person or it’s time to get a divorce.  It does mean it is time to learn some new skills or to remember to use the ones you have.  I’m in a 25 year marriage that I would classify as “great” a majority of the time, not because I found the perfect person for me but because I use the same tools I teach my clients.  I’m on the same journey as everyone else…in the trenches fighting to keep my marriage from going off its rails.

I always cringe when I hear a client refer to their partner and say, “He/she isn’t my soul mate.” Or “Love shouldn’t be this hard.” I have to fight the urge to say “Come on!  Are you kidding me?  Who told you that?”  Many people actually believe if you are with the “right” person, you will effortlessly waltz through life together.  I’ve worked with clients who are on their 4th and 5th marriages because they are still looking for their soul mate.  But soul mates aren’t found.  They are created through commitment, perseverance, hard work and determination.

My husband is absolutely my soul mate but we didn’t come packaged that way.  We fought for it.  We forged it out of every disagreement and disillusionment we encountered.  That’s why love really does have to be this hard.  Because no one has a ready made soul mate waiting for him/her in this world.

Everyone has their “bad place”…their way of protecting themselves and they all have one thing in common:  it’s ugly. But the difference for me is that I’m no longer lost in feeling hopeless.  I know people can and do change.  I know I have to be an agent for change in my marriage and I know how to do that.  But I have also learned reasonable expectations for my marriage.  My husband cannot fill my every need and want.  We all marry the partner we think will fill our empty spaces…the person who will heal our hurts and make us whole.  We all have to face the moment when we realize our expectations for our marriage do not match our reality. Some people get so disillusioned when this happens they begin looking for a new better reality or, as in my case, fantasizing about one.

I won’t ever choose to divorce my husband.  I made a commitment 25 years ago that I would stay married to him until one of us dies and I take that commitment seriously.  I won’t divorce him because we have two kids who would be devastated if we divorced and I refuse to give them that legacy.  There is no abuse in my marriage.  There is simply no good reason to leave except that some days it would be easier to go than stay and frankly, that just isn’t good enough to justify all the collateral damage a divorce would bring.

But I also don’t want anyone to stay in a lonely or miserable marriage.  I get it that some of you are more than willing to make changes to improve your marriage but your spouse isn’t.  Maybe your spouse feels hopeless or maybe he/she isn’t as unhappy as you have become.  If that’s the case, you may have to make them really uncomfortable before they are willing to do the work.  We can show you how to do that in a way that is respectful and firm without pushing him/her further away.   If you are willing to try different things to get better results, then you have all the power you need to make huge changes in your relationship!  Even if your spouse doesn’t seem interested.

Just don’t allow yourself to be lured into the fantasy that your marriage is hopeless or just too hard to fix. Divorce is hard work too.  Going from relationship to relationship is hard and exhausting.  And please…don’t settle in the space between working on your marriage and leaving your marriage – that place of resigning yourself to the fact your marriage will never be what you need it to be so you suffer in silence.  While I’m all for having reasonable expectations for your marriage, there is a huge difference in true acceptance of differences and resignation of what won’t change.  Resignation will breed resentment and contempt.  It will kill your marriage slowly underneath your radar.  Resignation masquerades as mature acceptance but it leads to self-righteous indignation and it is a death sentence for marriage.

If your marriage isn’t working for you, get to work on your marriage!  We know how to help you fight for a better marriage and we have made access to our experts easy for you.  We have coaches on staff who can work with you remotely no matter where you live.  If you are local to the Dallas area, you can come and work with one of our counselors.  We also offer one and two day intensives.  We have clients who travel from all over for these!  There are no more excuses!  If what you have been doing hasn’t been working, let us show you a better way.  Call 972-441-4432 or email us.  Let today be the beginning of your better marriage!

I want to thank my amazing husband who is so willing to have pieces of our intimate lives displayed in public if he thinks it may possibly help someone else.  He truly has a heart for marriage and for helping other people salvage their own.  Hmmm…maybe I should hire him as a coach?  I love you, honey!  Thank you for doing the hard work of intimacy with me.

More Than Friends?

Windows and Walls“I am telling you, we are just friends! I don’t get why you are so uptight about this?”

Your gut is telling you one thing but your partner is telling you another.  The explanations of all the incoming texts, the heavily guarded phone and late night social media sessions just don’t quite add up. Your partner is adamant there is nothing going on and you shouldn’t be worried, but should you believe it?

Sound familiar? How do you know if your spouse is in a relationship that is too “friendly”? Where are the boundaries? Dr. Shirley Glass, one of the world’s leading experts on infidelity, spells it out in her book, Not “Just Friends”: Rebuilding Trust and Recovering Your Sanity After Infidelity.

One very helpful concept is that of windows and walls. To decipher whether a particular friendship is threatening, first determine where the windows and walls of the relationship reside. Couples in healthy relationships build walls to protect themselves from outside influences that could potentially split them apart. Together, they look at the world through a shared window of openness and honesty. The couple is a team, a unified front when dealing with outside stresses.

Trouble arises however when one partner opens a window to an outside person and builds an interior wall of secrecy with their partner. When a friend knows more about your marriage than you – the spouse – knows about the friend, the windows and walls are reversed! The friend is on the inside, the spouse is on the outside and an emotional affair is dangerously close!

If your partner is getting close to someone else they are also distancing themselves from you. What can you do about it?  If it’s early enough, you may be able to set boundaries your spouse will respect.  Even so, it’s more than likely the relationship will continue and your spouse will simply get better at hiding it from you.  If you are currently facing this situation, call us!  We can show you how to draw your spouse back into the marriage and make him/her more interested in YOU and less interested in the relationship with the other person.  But it is important to act quickly!  Waiting only allows the bond with the friend to strengthen which can lead to a physical affair.  If your partner gets angry and defensive every time you ask about this “friendship”, it’s a sign things may have already progressed too far and the threat to your marriage is real. Contact us here or call us at 972-441-4432.  At Engage With Love we know how to help!

But what if it is YOU who is the one developing a friendship outside of the marriage?  Take this quiz to see if your friendship has crossed the line.

Has Your Friendship Become An Emotional Affair?*

Y/N     1.  Do you confide more to your friend than to your partner about how your day went?

Y/N     2.  Do you discuss negative feelings or intimate details about your marriage with your friend but not with your partner?

Y/N     3.  Are you open with your partner about the extent of your involvement with your friend?

Y/N     4.  Would you feel comfortable if your partner heard your conversation with your friend?

Y/N     5.  Would you feel comfortable if your partner saw a videotape of your meeting?

Y/N     6.  Are you aware of sexual tension in this friendship?

Y/N     7.  Do you and your friend touch differently when you are alone than in front of others?

Y/N     8.  Are you in love with your friend?

Scoring Key:

You get one point for each yes to questions 1, 2, 6, 7, 8, and one point each for no to 3, 4, 5.

If you scored near 0, this is just friendship.

If you scored 3 or more, you may not be “just friends.”

If you scored 7-8, you are definitely involved in an emotional affair.

*This quiz by Shirley Glass was first printed in USA Today (June 20, 1988) in an article by Karen Peterson, “When platonic relationships get too close for comfort,” p. 6D.

If your relationship is threatened by a “friend”, don’t wait. Come see us! We can help you rekindle your romance and reorganize your walls and windows so you can rediscover the bonds that brought you together in the first place!

Susan