When people find out I am a marriage therapist, I inevitably get asked two questions. 1) What is the number one reason people come in for marriage therapy? and 2) When do you know it’s time to see a marriage therapist? I could go on for several pages about the different reasons that couples come into therapy. However, my answer to the second question is pretty cut and dry. There is no such thing as starting marriage therapy too early. However, there can be a point where it is too late. Often times people only contact professional help after a catastrophic event has happened in their relationship. Too often one or both people involved are coming to therapy so they can have peace of mind that “they did everything to save the marriage.” The very sad truth is that the marriage could have been saved if the couple had come in at the first sign of difficulty. For those of you asking whether now is a good time to start therapy, let me ask: Are you H.A.P.P.Y. in your relationship?
Finding out that your partner has been unfaithful has the potential to be one of the most devastating experiences a person can encounter in his/her life. A common and appropriate reaction, given the circumstances, is panic. There is generally nothing short of a roller coaster of emotions, and as a result, many couples do unintentional damage before they can seek help. This is to be expected as no one tells you what you should do in the immediate aftermath of an affair.
The main goal is to limit the destruction in the time between finding out and getting help. Here are some crisis control tips to follow until you can get some additional help:
A traveler was walking alone down a country lane. The Sun and the North Wind decided to have a contest to see who could remove the traveler’s overcoat. The North Wind tried first. He blew and he blew around the traveler as fiercely as he could, trying to rip the coat from the traveler but the traveler wrapped his coat more closely around him and held it tighter. The more the North Wind blew, the tighter the traveler hugged the coat. Then the Sun said, “Let me try,” and as she gently shone her warmth on the traveler, the traveler opened his coat and within minutes took it off (Alison Lee, Ph.D., EFT Community News 2013).
Now, put on your relationship hat. What is this parable teaching about creating closeness and safety in a marriage? Imagine that the traveler is you or your spouse and the overcoat represents vulnerability or risking connection in the relationship. To reach our partner and feel the reassurance that we are loved and cared for, we can choose to “blow off the overcoat” like the North Wind or “to gently warm” our spouse and he/she will remove the overcoat willingly.
This may come as a surprise to you, but sex begins long before you make it to the bedroom. Many people report needing to feel emotionally close to their partner before they get physically close to their partner. Sex can be the most vulnerable you become with another person and so you need to feel safe emotionally with your partner. What does emotional intimacy look like? I have heard many couples describe this as feeling “connected”. To become more emotionally intimate you can spend more quality time with your partner. Be open with each other. Share your thoughts and feelings with one another. Try talking about things that don’t revolve around the tasks of running a household. Share your fears, sorrows, dreams, and excitement for life. Play together. This could be as simple as laughing with one another or doing something new together. Make sure you spend quality alone time to develop emotional intimacy and build trust with your partner.
Q: My Father In-law has been living with us for 2 years now. What started out as a temporary situation 3-6 months. Has turned out to be a permanent situation. Despite talking to him, he doesn’t help with expenses and hasn’t made an effort to move out.. We just bought a Condo and can’t very well move out leaving him behind like we did once before 4 years back when our apartment lease was up. We just went our separate ways. He’s Diabetic and still drinks and smokes all day long and doesn’t eat healthy. He rearranges everything in the house to the way he wants it. He yells/makes rules to our kids and I don’t like how he favors our youngest 4 year old daughter causing hurt and stress on our 9 year old older daughter. We’ve tried contacting other family members to arrange a living situation where we each have a couple years of responsibility for him but no one is interested. My husband and I constantly fight over him. I feel my only option is to leave him with the kids and start a new life. There has to be some solution I love my husband and we’ve made it this far with our 11 year marriage. There’s got to be another way please help us.
Q: Is it okay/appropriate to see more than one psychotherapist at the same time? After all, we sometimes have more than one massage therapist! Just wondering about your take on this.
A: In general, I recommend having a primary individual psychotherapist who is “in charge” of treatment. That being said, there are situations where it may be appropriate and helpful to work with additional therapists simultaneously. If you and your therapist desire additional interventions that are outside of your primary therapist’s specialties then your therapist may refer you to another therapist for specific interventions, like EMDR or neurofeedback, for example.
It’s also appropriate and often recommended to have additional therapists for different treatment modalities, like group, marriage, or family therapy. In marriage counseling or family therapy the client is actually the “marriage” or the “family” instead of the individuals. I hope this helps answer your question. Feel free to write again with more specific details about your situation.
Getting remarried is a happy and exciting time for many couples, filled with renewed hope and possibilities. However, what many couples don’t realize is that starting a new step family can also be very difficult, complete with an enormous set of challenges and transitions that none of them saw coming. In fact, about 60% of remarriages eventually end in divorce, because step families have no idea how to navigate through these unexpected challenges. So, how can your step family fall into the other 40%? The following suggestions can help you get started in the right direction: