Is It Time To Separate?
“Is choosing to separate the best option for me?” Choosing to separate in a marriage is never an easy decision to make. It is my hope that by reading this article you can gain some perspective on the topic of separation. A separation is different from a divorce in that you and your spouse will still legally share all parental and financial responsibilities. Also separations tend to have many different flavors. Here are the 3 most common types.
The Working Separation
In a working separation the couple separates in order to spend time improving themselves. Maybe a spouse has a mental health issue they are working on, or perhaps one spouse has an addiction they need to focus on. Working separations are best when there is an informal agreement between the two partners. This agreement will ideally have an explanation as to what issue needs to be worked on, who will take care of the kids and other responsibilities, what limits or boundaries are placed on communication (we’ll only communicate through text or email, or no communication for 2 months, etc.) and on what grounds will reconciliation take place. Working separations have the highest chance of resulting in reconciliation. If you think this is the type of separation you are looking for please contact a therapist or counselor–like myself--and draw up this contract with their input and guidance.
The Trial Separation
A trial separation is when one or more persons in the marriage express a desire to try what being single feels like. The idea is that the person is given time to clear their head. Afterwards they will then decide on whether or not to pursue reconciliation. One person generally will move out, either to another part of the house or to another place all together. Trial separations most commonly occur in families without young children.
These separations have a high rate of ending in divorce because most people leave a marriage when the pain and frustration are so high that staying seems impossible. Then, when they leave they find that being single has less pain and frustration then being married and make the jump to divorce.
The Legal Separation
This option is pursued most often when a marriage has become stale and anemic; there is little good in the marriage but also little frustration also. The couple may stay together for the sake of the children or because they both feel that becoming single is not attractive.
Whatever type of separation you are considering please understand that separation is a matter of last resort. Typically, divorce is the result of separation far, far more often than reconciliation. That being said if you separate when your pain and frustration haven’t yet caused you to give up there is a better chance of reconciliation afterward compared to waiting until you have one foot out the door.
If you or someone you know are going through a situation and you are contemplating separation or divorce, contact me today. I can help you work through your issues and come up with a plan that is best for your unique situation and relationship.
Where Do We Begin? Staying Together After an Affair
Should I stay, or should I leave? After an affair, an injured partner faces this question. It’s never easy, and there is no one size fits all solution.
Experiencing the infidelity of a partner can be so painful. It can make you believe you are losing your mind, and your life, as you have known it. Infidelity creates a sudden upheaval in everything you believed about your spouse, about yourself, and about your future. Several couples are unable to remain intact, and will move to end the relationship. But what if you aren’t yet sure, or want a different outcome?
Many areas in your relationship will need to be addressed, and it can be difficult to know where to start. If you are choosing to stay in your relationship, here are a few suggestions to help you and your partner repair, rebuild and reconnect.
Staying in a relationship, following an affair, requires addressing all of the changes that have occurred because of it. Changes, especially those we didn’t personally want or choose, can come with very strong negative feelings. Its important these feelings are acknowledged, and by both partners.
There is usually no shortage of hurt and anger, and you may find conflict has become your main method of communicating. Hurt can manifest itself in several ways. Anger tends to be one that is most commonly used, however, anger rarely comes alone.
Betrayed, sad, lost, scared, alone, confused, resentful, and vulnerable are just a few likely to surface. Each relationship is unique, however, and so are the feelings that come with it. Identify the feelings, as well as the underlying fears, insecurities, and loss the affair has created. This helps focus your communication and creates a deeper understanding of the hurt and anger.
Repair focuses on understanding our individual reaction to the affair, as well as recognizing that trust and friendship have now been called into question. To address the loss of trust and friendship, it’s crucial to actively practice being a better friend. This may seem obvious, but can often be overlooked in our everyday routine.
Learn what circumstances currently trigger negative feelings and/or conflict. Take action to correct these situations, and practice generating positive feelings instead. Be mindful of your daily exchanges and build an atmosphere of comfort, kindness and consideration. This creates a more neutral environment, and a neutral environment naturally reduces extra day-to-day conflict. I’m sure you will agree that any way you can reduce conflict, will be of great benefit to you.
Consider actions such listening without interruption. It sounds simple, but isn’t always so easy. You can also defuse your environment by helping out with routines and daily activities, being considerate in your living space, giving genuine compliments, paying attention, and checking in with your partner about how they are doing. If you aren’t already taking these actions, then this is a great opportunity to demonstrate care for your partner. With repetition and consistency, over time you share connections, and develop a sense of security. This helps to repair the trust, and sets the course for you to rebuild your friendship.
The level of friendship between partners is a significant indicator for success in a relationship. The stronger your friendship connection, the higher your relationship success.
When your relationship began, together you created a vision of hopes, dreams and goals you planned to work towards. This includes houses, children, careers, vacations, lifestyle goals, and the timeline for achieving them. An affair is not typically part of this vision, and can lead the injured partner to question: Have we really been working toward the same goal all along?
This question can lead to uncertainty about your future, and in need of confirmation about what the future holds. Address this uncertainty by communicating your intent to stay together, as frequently as needed. Be honest and clear about what you want going forward, and encourage your spouse to do the same.
Communicate your boundaries and expectations going forward. As you make these adjustments, you establish a clear vision of the future while also reassuring your partner of your intent to stay together. You are mending a friendship. By consistently addressing the uncertainty you demonstrate caring for your partner. By sharing and re-negotiating expectations and goals, you establish a plan for being together. Both are needed to encourage your friend to remain your friend.
As we have all heard, time heals. But while you allow time to work, this is the time to take active steps to build more closeness with your partner. Even if you and your partner are managing to get along, life can manage to shake things up at any time.
Acknowledge Landmines. Reminders of the affair, or that affairs exist, are similar to landmines. You never know when or where they may be hiding, but when you find them they blow up your whole day, week or even longer. A song on the radio, a scene in a movie or TV show. Maybe a news article, mention of a city, or specific location connected to the infidelity. These and many more not only can, but unavoidably will also pop up.
When landmines show up the emotional response can feel just as strong?as the day the affair was discovered.? These experiences are, to say?the least, uncomfortable, and the straying partner may feel that?talking about them would be poking the emotional bear.
You or your partner may want to avoid, minimize, or even ignore them, but don’t. As awkward or uncomfortable as these situations may be, they are actually opportunities for partners to share and understand the ongoing impact of the infidelity, and then work through the hurt together. Emphasis on together.
The injured partner will be faced with landmines on sometimes a daily basis. Dealing with them alone can make your partner feel alone, not understood, and uncared for. These feelings will no doubt defeat your goal of coming closer together, and will only create further distance between you. Working through these feelings together allows you the opportunity to heal together rather than separate and alone. It can prove comforting when your partner is considerate of this, and is willing to consistently demonstrate caring and support.
Working together through an affair takes time and a great deal of patience. The challenge of addressing the damage when our hurt and defensiveness is high can be overwhelming, and at times seem impossible to overcome. Finding ways to reconnect with your partner can be difficult or at times may not be well received.
Practice patience, with yourself and with your partner. Unfortunately there is no timeline or rule book for exactly how you will find your way back to each other. At times you may want to speed up the process, only to find a new bump in the road. Rest assured this is truly a situation where persistence and consistency pay off. Stick with it, and you can get the results you are looking for.
If you have dealt with this or are dealing with this, reach out to me. I can help you. I specialize in relationships. Don’t wait another day to start healing!
Am I Married To A Narcissist?
I get asked this question a lot in my counseling sessions. So, I thought I would take some time to address it here. Most of the time I am asked by one member of a marriage or relationship if their partner is narcissistic. Usually this is a question that they ask because they are genuinely confused as to why their spouse always seems to control the conversation, belittle or dismiss their opinions, or seem to have a sense of entitlement.
The first thing I check is if anyone else outside of the relationship sees this pattern? Do other family members, friends, or co-workers see these behaviors or is it just around you that he or she acts this way? If your spouse is treating other people this way and/or they have a history of doing this in their past, then it’s more likely that are narcissistic.However, what if you are the only one that they seem to act this way around. Does that make them a narcissist? Honestly, it makes it less likely. If a certain behavior only shows up in one setting, then there is something about that setting that is causing the behavior. In other words, if you are the only one who thinks your spouse is a narcissist then you might what to consider other possibilities. One possibility is that your marriage has reached gridlock.
A marriage that is in gridlock tends to look like this:
- There has been a long period of mutual pain, frustration or disappointment.
- It has been a long time since you each genuinely enjoyed being in each other company.
- When you fight neither you nor your spouse view it as productive.
- When you fight neither you nor your spouse feel heard.
Marriages in gridlock get that way because one or both spouses feel hurt. Because they have been hurt repeatedly by their partner they stop seeking the other partners well-being. Instead the hurt spouse begins to focus on damage control. Their goal becomes just getting through each day with their head down and hoping that they don’t piss of the other spouse.
This type of mentality causes a person to mimic many of the signs of narcissism. The person starts to control the conversation instead of listening because they are trying to prevent you from hurting them with your words or tone of voice. They begin to focus predominantly on their own opinion and will often stop trying to convince you they are right and will just tell you they are right. This happens because they haven’t felt “heard” in a long time. And when you don’t feel heard you shout your opinion even louder.
Furthermore, a gridlocked marriage can lead to a spouse developing a sense a sense of entitlement. This happens because both partners feel as though they have already given up a lot for this marriage and now their partner is asking for more.
Maybe they feel like they already do spend enough time with the kids, but you want more.
Or maybe they feel that they are already having sex more often they want, but you want more.
Often times their spouse doesn’t seem to appreciate how much they have given up to make this marriage work, so why give more up?
Finally, narcissism and gridlock both look very similar because pain causes all of us to be self-focused and narcissistic. Have you ever known someone who is sick or in pain to not be narcissistic? So, if you think your spouse is a narcist get a second opinion.
Maybe you’re right and you are married to an unhealthy individual but what if is just a symptom that your marriage is near the point of no return? Are you willing to end a marriage without trying everything you could to save it? Seek a second opinion either from a trusted therapist or read a book on the subject.
For more information about being married to a narcissist I would recommend Shannon Thomas book “Healing from Hidden Abuse.” She outlines what narcissistic personality disorder looks like and how those people tend to behave.
If you are having troubles or unresolved issues in your marriage or relationship, I can help you. Reach out to me today and schedule your initial appointment.
Can I Have A Life?
Many times,?I have sat with couples?who have told me that they?ve lost their romantic spark. They say that attraction that drew them together is gone. When I ask them to describe their marriage as it currently is, I often find that one of them?or both?lacks personal friends and hobbies.
Having a life outside of your marriage is vital to the health and attractiveness of your marriage. Don?t believe me? Think about this, when you were first dating your spouse, they had a life without you. They had fun, made friends, and spent their time and money without consulting you, yet despite all of that, you still were attracted to them.
How often did you love to hear them talking about one of their cherished memories? Or cheering with them as you watched their favorite sports team together? Remember when they took you to their favorite?and quite personal?spot?
It?s interesting how those same couples who found the other?s strength and independence SO attractive have lost the fire in their relationship. Now the individuals see themselves married to a partner with whom they have shared almost all the same experiences together. They live in the same house, they go to the same shows and restaurants, they attend the same church and hang out with the same people, and then they wonder why the other person seems so dull: familiarity breeds contempt!
Breathing by yourself is okay! Having a life outside your marriage allows you to grow as a person. Spending time with yourself is good for your health. You then take that healthy individual back and share it with your spouse. Then, you get to share new memories and experiences with them that they don?t know about?that makes you attractive. They get to see your skill-sets grow in hobbies from an amateur level to an expert. They get to share your highs and lows; this too makes you more interesting.
Here?s the million-dollar question: what if your spouse doesn?t like your hobby? This can be tricky, but it?s essential to learn to communicate with each other about your interests and the things you don?t like.
What if he doesn?t like to dance?
What if she doesn?t like to play video games?
What if he doesn?t like to drink?
What if she doesn?t like to go to sports games?
It may be beneficial to?seek a counselor?s assistance?to help with communicating with each other.
When it comes to recreation, it is the person who is left out?or at home by choice?that can develop resentment or a poor attitude about ?the hobby.? However, this can often be rectified with improved communication.
Ask yourself, ?why is it an issue that your spouse has a friend/ or a hobby that you can?t participate in?? The answer may involve jealousy?? I don?t get ?me? time, why should you???or it might involve fear/worry??You aren?t spending enough time with the kids or me.? These are valid concerns that are not problems but are opportunities to grow the marriage even stronger.
My Spouse Is Depressed
Depression is tough.?Having a depressed spouse is also hard and can prove to be a difficult and arduous road to travel. That journey can become a balancing act like walking on a tightrope (except it?s your marriage, not a circus act).
Depression can create communication barriers?in that the depressed person may become extremely self-critical and more depressed when their spouse tries to talk about what is frustrating them. On the surface, the depressed person may appear to agree with their partner?s irritation, but rather than channeling their energy towards finding a solution;?they often direct the power of frustration?negative energy?towards themselves which causes even more depression!
I have treated many couples?that have struggled with one of the two being depressed. These couples have become?emotionally drained! Depression in a marriage?or relationship?presents unique problems that the average couple will not experience nor understand.
For instance, a spouse with a history of suicide may have depressive episodes that are scary and, at times, keep their partner in a state of fear and anxiety. It seems unlikely that a person would want to share this type intimate issue with anyone. This type of concern can be a?massive weight to carry.
If you or your spouse is currently battling depression,?seek professional help immediately!?Contact an expert depression therapist or?licensed professional counselor in your area who has a proven track record of treating mental afflictions and solving marital issues.
Here are four tips for those suffering or those who have a partner suffering from depression:
- Ask for help.?You cannot (and should not) healthily carry this on your own. Without the proper approach, you may end up wasting a lot of time and energy trying to ?cure? it in the wrong way. A person who struggles with depression will only fight their depression so many times before they give up and lose hope.
- Acknowledge that depression is there.?Don?t call it something else, don?t say, ?It?s just who (s)he is.? No one wins by pretending.
- Understand who/what the real culprit is?beliefs in your (or your partner?s) mind.?It?s not something you did, or they did. Depression is a combination of many things. Don?t feel guilty and don?t make your partner feel guilty; it?s not your fault, and it?s not their fault.
- If your spouse does not go to counseling, then you should seek help for yourself.**Original article was written on October 27th, 2017
Depression & Marriage
Early on in my career as a?marriage counselor, I noticed that in a majority of couples I saw, there was mental illness present in one or both parties.? I also noticed that in those marriages, progress was incredibly difficult if the illness was not?addressed and treated.? I learned to shift focus to the illness temporarily.? I would offer that person to come and?see me individually?for treatment or I would make an appropriate referral.? I have continued that practice to this day, and I have had tremendous success in marriage counseling, particularly when the mental illness is treated, and the couple is able to move beyond it.? Below, I will highlight one common mental illness:?Major Depressive Disorder, and I will discuss its implications in marriage.
Having?Major Depressive Disorder?does not mean that one is depressed all day every day.? The person is usually depressed for certain periods of time called major depressive episodes.? They last anywhere from two weeks up to several months, or even years in rare cases.? During the episode, people typically have a?depressed mood?for most of the day and most days of the episode.? They often experience feelings of?hopelessness, sadness, and emptiness.? They typically?lose interest?in activities that normally bring them pleasure.? They may?sleep much more or much less?than usual.? Their?appetite may increase or decrease, causing their weight to fluctuate.? They may also become much?more irritable and want to be alone.? They often?lose energy, and their movements become very slow.? They may even feel?completely worthless?and have?desires to end their life.
In light of the description above, it is easy to see how depression can complicate marriage.? It can be fairly easy in the beginning of an episode for the partner to be supportive, but it doesn?t take long for them to feel?resentful?once their?needs are no longer being met, and to make matters worse, the depressed person often outright?rejects their partner.? It makes little difference whether the rejection is intentional or unintentional because?rejection always hurts.? Also, the negative mood of depression tends to?drag the mood of everyone else down, especially that of their partner.? Over time, the resentment their partner feels can begin to?harden them, and if that continues, the partner can?lose the ability to feel anymore, having been?rejected one too many times.
It is important to understand that?no one chooses to be depressed, and when they are,?they don?t like it, and?they don?t want to stay that way.? Their attitude may suggest otherwise, but that is merely one of the symptoms.??We shouldn?t blame the person for being depressed.? Instead, we should?offer support and encourage them to get help.??Depression is treatable. ?When depression is successfully treated, the marriage is relieved of a large burden that can provide new hope.
When the burden of depression is lifted,?the marriage is free to progress.? The entire?landscape is changed.? The couple is then free to?connect in ways never before possible.? This happens because the partner is no longer experiencing a high level of rejection, and the natural defense mechanisms of the brains aren?t being engaged so often.? This allows for?emotional safety, which can lead to?vulnerability, which leads to?intimacy.? If you or your partner are experiencing depression, please reach out to a?trusted counselor.? It can help you get your life back.? It can save your marriage.