Marriage Answers

How can you reconnect with your spouse after being in a dark place for so long?

Throughout relationships there are times where we may feel more disconnected and distant due to time, responsibilities, and varying other aspects of life. However, this can just be for a time depending on what actions you take to reconnect to your significant other. Below are a few suggestions to assist with the reconnection. One way to reconnect is to improve communication. This can be done by setting specific time to engage with our significant other. I typically have clients set aside 20-30 minutes a day where they are together to talk about anything and everything except problems and kids. This does two things. First it allows communication to not always feel as a correction or to address negative things. Second it allows the communication to be about each other to give further insight into the other person. Typically, during these conversations, you talk about your day, what made you laugh, something that you connected with, or about anything. Additionally, we can reconnect with the person not just try to fix things. Another way to reconnect is to set aside time to date. Making sure that once a week you take the time to spend with each other can assist with the reconnection as well as the flame. Date night does not need to be expensive. It can be simple things that you both like to do that allows to connection through fun and talking. One date idea is to take the Five Love Languages Quiz then explore together different activities or ways to meet the love language together (example gifts- go to the dollar store and spend $5 on things that remind you of the other person or make each other a gift). Additionally, doing a gratitude journal with each other where you identify things in each other that you are grateful for in each other. This can be both deep things as well as simple things. By doing this the connection and respect can be found. It also allows you to remember and find the reasons you are still together. If you feel these will not assist you can additionally do couple's therapy. Sometimes couple's therapy can more specifically assist you and your husband in reconnecting.
Answered on 02/06/2023

Communication tips for my relationship

Thank you for asking your question.  Communication and understanding of the other is an integral part of a partnership.  It is essential that communication styles in a relationship are as healthy in word choice and tone when speaking to the other. All relationships have good and bad days. A healthy communication style can make it easier to handle conflict when it arises.   When we speak with our partners we are essentially telling them who we are, what we need, and what our boundaries and limitations might be. Having the ability to communicate effectively allows you to connect and reconnect with those in your life.  Poor communication can escalate situations and teach others that you don't respect them or that they don't respect you.  No matter how much you love and know who your partner is, neither of you is a mind reader. You may think your partner is telling you one thing, but in actuality, they are asking for something completely different.  Misunderstandings happen. This may cause anger resentment and confusion between you both.  When we are clear with our partners, our messages can be received in an understanding manner. Sometimes that means we have to set time aside to find a quiet place to sit and have a conversation without distractions or interruptions from other people in our lives.   When we describe how we are feeling and accept any responsibility for our part in the misunderstandings and how it has impacted each other we not only begin to honestly own our own feelings, we can fully try to understand the other person's needs, feelings, and wants. This is the beginning of developing empathy.  It is equally important to express positive feelings and show the other appreciation and admiration for the other. Let them know how important they are to you.  Communication is more than the words we speak. It is also our body language and the energy we emit in the room when we are together. Are you showing warmth, care, and concern? Or is there anger and resentment?  Is this a moment of forgiveness or a moment to escalate into an argument?  Having an open non judgemental relaxed conversation vs fidgeting and putting up physical barriers is equally important. No one can feel safe discussing an issue if they see the other person is not showing an interest nor asking for feedback and clarity.  Communication patterns can be taught and learned.  It is good that you are beginning to seek out outside help to give you clarity and skills. 
(Doctorate, Social, Work, LCPC)
Answered on 02/05/2023

How can I look at future relationships without letting trust issues cause a problem?

Dear Joann, First of all, I am deeply sorry to hear this news. This is devastating. What happened to the marriage? Did you two seek marital counseling? Did you two try to work it out? There are a lot of reasons why infidelity happens. When problems in the marriage is dealt with, in an appropriate manner, including infidelity, there are high chances for reconciliation, and therefore a deeper and long term trusting relationship.  The Gottman Institute, well known couples counseling team of psycho-education providers, highlights reasons infidelity happens: - Lack of affection - Loss of fondness for each other - Imbalance of give and take  - Breakdown of the communication as far as the emotional and relationship needs - Physical health issues such as chronic pain and disability - Mental health issues such as bipolar, major depression, and severe anxiety - Addiction to substances such as lethal chemicals and/ or impulsive behaviors such as sex or gambling  - Fear of intimacy or avoidance of conflict - Life changes such as transition to Parenthood or becoming Empty Nesters - Stressful period such as long distance relationships due to military deployments or long term work travels - Personal dissatisfaction and low self-esteem Finding out the facts, and connecting the dots, then ultimately coming to the conclusion, validated by the partner, of the deep unfathomable deception, can undeniably be hurtful for you. As you mentioned in your posted question, it could not have been easy for you, because you already had a history of infidelity, before having a family with your recent husband.  Your question is now how do you go on into finding a new partner after these events have transpired. First off, definitely take a pause in starting a new relationship for now. I highly recommend just taking a break and instead learn to date yourself for the time being. Focus on yourself first for now. Spend time healing yourself at this time. You cannot enter a new relationship or even give this recent one (your husband) a second chance, if you are still clearly very distraught about it.  Some proven helpful coping techniques for now: - Stay distracted - Pick a task to do that you never had the time before because you were always with that other person - Gather your thoughts and isolate the ones that have been centered on your relationship first, then redirect them to automatically focus on self-healing starting now ("I can't do this because my husband will say something." Turn this thought around to, "I CAN do this now because my husband can't say anything now!")  - Do something nice for yourself for a change - Take good care of yourself - Work for yourself (and your children) - Set goals towards happiness and kindness towards others - Journal, Paint, Draw, Read, Exercise!  - Surround yourself with positive and supportive people - Recognize you are vulnerable right now and ask for help. Realize that you need to take it one step at a time.  - Remember You Are Good Enough.  - Do what you can. Do not overdo it.  - Do spend quality time with the kids and make sure their needs are met including therapy for them as needed.  - Assure the kids that no matter what happens to mom and dad, they will always be loved first, and make it intentional that this will always be true. - Whenever you are ready, focus on forgiveness. This will be better with an individuals therapist.  - If you want to give your husband a second chance, I recommend a couples counselor.  Good luck! Wishing you the best on your self-healing journey. 🙏🏼 Very respectfully, Grace, LCPC, Maryland Therapist
Answered on 02/05/2023

How do I prepare myself in case my wife leaves me?

Hi Homer, thank you for asking your question and I am sorry to hear you are having struggles in your marriage. The first way I would answer this question of how to prepare yourself is to address the problems in your marriage to the best of your ability. If things are going to end the best thing you can do to prepare yourself is make sure you leave it all on the table. So, your wife says it's nothing you do wrong but she just can't do it anymore, and I would wonder what is "it" that she can't do anymore? Are you arguing? What are you arguing about? Is there anything that she says you can do to change the way she feels? How often is she saying this to you about being done with the marriage? Has she done anything else besides threaten to show that she is serious about leaving the relationship? Is there any part of her that wants to work on it? And if so, putting effort towards that on both of your parts. So depending on the answers to the series of questions I would try to exhaust all options and avenues to mend the relationship and move toward repairing the bond and marriage. Another option to consider is individual or couples counseling or both. Sometimes talking to someone and having a neutral and objective party involved can help to bridge the communication gap and improve the relationship.  This way, if it eventually doesn't work out, you can say you did everything you could do and put in your all. And I would just add that if she says there is nothing you can do, then it would become more about what you want to do, what you are willing to accept and tolerate.  The second thing I would say in answer to this is to essentially prepare yourself to become independent and take care of yourself and your children. In my mind this is kind of like a worst case scenario emergency planning approach to the situation. This could mean different things to different people, but thinking about things like how you would support yourself independently, potential living options or what you would do if you needed to or were forced to separate from your wife. Do you have a support system in your area? Maybe lean in to some of those supports, the people you trust, your parents or siblings or best friend to talk about what is going on and discuss potential options if you aren't able to work things out or improve your marriage with your wife. I understand the fear of your children going through a separation as well and all of your fears are valid. If and when appropriate, when you have exhausted all options and you know a separation is inevitable, it might be good to talk to your children about what is happening, reassure them that you and their mom love them, and differentiate the relationship with your wife from your relationship with them. There is no good way to deal with getting a divorce other than being as open and honest as possible without putting the other parent down or placing blame. Last thing I would say is to begin practicing your coping skills or hobbies if you have not already. So, what are the things that you like to do? What are the ways you spend your time that make you feel good? And similarly- how do you relieve stressor sadness? What are the things that you do to feel better? Engage in these things. Spend time doing things that make you feel good or make you feel better. This could be anyting from spending time with your kids, doing things with them, going to the gym, going for a walk, going to trivia night with friends, journaling, singing, drawing, etc. Whatever makes you feel the best, do that. This way, if the relationship cannot be salvaged, you will have good coping skills and positive ways to spend time in place.  I hope this answer provides some comfort and guidance during this difficult time. Take care 
Answered on 02/05/2023

Is it possible for a person to fall back in love and build desire back in a relationship?

Hi Issa,  Thank you for your question, and I hope that my answer can provide some further clarity for you. It is certainly possible to fall back in love and re-build desire in a relationship. It is a common experience for these feelings to wane in a relationship after a child comes on the scene, as the priorities of both partners change, the dynamics are shifted and there is simply less time/energy that can be devoted to each other when so much of that is devoted to your child. The key throughout all of this will be communication, with you and your partner checking in on each other's feelings and needs to ensure that you feel heard, understood and supported within your relationship.  In order to re-build these feelings, it takes time and work from both partners. It is first of all important to be able to recognize what sparked that initial love and desire when your relationship was first being built. What was it about him that you found attractive? What traits did he have that you fell for? Is there anything that he would do for you towards the beginning of the relationship that you do not feel is done now? In order to tap into those initial feelings of attraction that you had to one another, it may be a good idea to bring some of these elements back into your current-day relationship. Doing so may not be easy and it would require you both to prioritize the time that is needed to do so. However, working on these elements of the relationship may bring some of that initial 'spark' back.  Sometimes it may be as simple as taking the time to spend with one another, and check in with each other. As relationships go on, and particularly when children are in the picture, it can be tough to remember to prioritize your partner as there are so many other responsibilities to be juggling. Over 10 years, you and your partner have likely changed a lot, and it can be an exciting process to re-discover each other in the present day. Spending time discussing in and engaging in each other's hobbies and interests can be a great place to start with this, as spending time doing something fun with your partner can give you an insight into where they're currently at, and seeing them engage in something that they enjoy can be a reminder of those positive qualities that you fell in love with in the first place.  Though it sounds regimented, it can be of great benefit to schedule in time for intimacy. One night a week where you can engage in an intimate way with your partner can re-build the desire that you initially felt. This does not have to be on purely sexual terms, but through intimate activities such as massages and cuddling. Engaging in physical affection can allow the feelings of desire to develop naturally.  Spending time appreciating your partner and practicing gratitude can strengthen the bond between you both. How often do you take the time to appreciate your partner and their qualities? How often do you communicate these things to him, letting him know of your appreciation for him? And vice versa. Taking this time to think of each other positively and to communicate these feelings to one another can be a great reminder to you both of what you mean to each other. Hearing compliments and positive feedback from your partner can also give a big boost of confidence, which in itself can often be an attractive trait.  Discussing the past and forward-planning for the future could help you to maintain the relationship going forward. How do you think you got to the point that you are at now? Is there anything that you could do in the future to avoid getting back to this place? What signs should you look out for that you are not experiencing the love and desire that you once did? Having a clear-cut idea of where the relationship has been and where you both want the relationship to be going ensures that you are both working from the same page in the relationship, and aiming for the same goals.  I hope that some of these suggestions are helpful to you, and that they help you work towards re-building these feelings in your relationship. If you and your partner feel that you would benefit from doing so, seeking support from a relationship therapist can be of benefit. A therapist would be able to guide you through some of the strategies described above, as well as others. They would also be able to work through any issues or barriers in your relationship with you so that you and your partner can reach a place of increased happiness. 
Answered on 02/03/2023

How do i get the trust back of someone i love that i have betrayed?

Hey there, First of all I’m really proud of you for reaching out for help! It’s definitely a hard step, Allowing yourself to be vulnerable and admit to things that we are not proud of. I think that it says a lot about you and your dedication and determination to make things right.  One of the first steps could be to look into what led you to be pulled towards the friend of your wife. Are there things that you feel like you aren’t getting from her that you could get from the friend? Most of the time people seek outside attention when they aren’t getting what they need from their current relationship. Part of earning trust back is knowing where it was lost, so figuring out what caused you to want to look outside of your relationship and explaining that to your partner might be beneficial in getting it back. Sounds like there are changes that probably need to happen on both ends to have a successful, happy relationship.  It's also a factor in looking at how she ended up finding out ... did you tell her, or did her friend?  I think that part of rebuilding trust is just that .... being totally open and transparent as much as you can be right now.  Another thing to consider is whether she would be open to doing possibly couple / marital counseling.  It can be extremely beneficial to have a non-biased person to help mediate discussions over what the biggest concerns are, whether this is something that can be fixed, and if so, the steps in moving forward, and if not, begin processing how to move on from there as well.  It's important in re-building the trust to know if your wife is even on board or not -- so that you know how to move forward in your own life as well.  I hate that you are dealing with this situation, I know that both of you are probably hurt and confused and it will definitely take time if nothing else to heal some of the damage.   I think sitting down and talking about the reasons that you truly want this to work, why you still want to be with her, and taking it back to the basics, as well as respecting her need for space if she requests it, will be key factors in rebuilding if that is a goal.  I hope this helps and I wish you all the best moving forward!
Answered on 02/03/2023

How to better myself in a relationship?

Arguments and disagreements cannot and should not be avoided in relationships, especially intimate relationships. Disagreements are a good thing! They prove that we are unique individuals with different perceptions and opinions than others, and we are not robotic creatures following a one-order law. However, arguments and disagreements can (and should) be communicated in a way that leaves both people feeling calm, heard, and understood. The best way that I found to communicate properly in a relationship is to utilize the acronym PICAS, which stands for Process, Identify, Communicate, Acknowledge, and Support. PICAS is an acronym I came up with after discovering what my couples clients kept saying they need from each other. The first part of this skill: Process, Identify, and Communicate is for the person who may have been angered or triggered by something their partner has said. The PIC is to process what they're feeling, identify the feeling word and why they feel that way, and then communicate that in a healthy way. This process involves using I-statements and talking about feelings and triggers.  The second part of this is for the person responding. AC stands for Acknowledge and Support. That can be done in a number of different ways. Acknowledging is simply validating the person's feelings. This can simply be in the form of listening, or it can be by saying something like "I hear what you're saying." You should always acknowledge someone according to what acknowledgment (or validation) looks like for them. The last part (Support) is simply adding something extra to reassure your love for the person who has just communicated their feelings to you. That is usually done like this, "I'm sorry for making you feel that way." PICAS is successful in relationships where two people are invested in the relationship and willing to give love, patience and meekness to push forward. If you want to know more about PICAS and how it works, please schedule an appointment with me and I will be happy to teach you more about it as well as how to set healthy boundaries and be overall happier in relationships. 
Answered on 02/02/2023

I can't forgive my husband after he cheated on me, what can i do?

Lili: First of all, it is very normal to struggle with building back trust and grieving the deep betrayal of infidelity.  This is why so many couples divorce. You have stayed for two years in a great deal of pain, so it seems that there is a big part of you that believes remaining married is what is best.  Maybe you have children and you do not want to disrupt their lives.  Maybe you have religious reasons. Maybe you are afraid to be on your own and deal with all the pressures of life—job, housing etc. alone.  I am not sure because you have not offered more information than that you feel resentment and anger all the time—over two years and that you are in deep pain and feeling indecisive about divorce. Divorce will not automatically resolve all the pain of betrayal—you will still have to do work on yourself in grieving and letting go of the pain, but it does give a small sense of justice that might stimulate the personal healing needed after divorce. Whatever decision you make, to divorce or to remain married, you will need to do a lot of work on facing the pain of your betrayal and recognizing that you are not in control of being betrayed again, but you are in control of allowing yourself to heal and give the shame of the betrayal back to the betrayer rather than being crushed by the pain.  I would encourage you to work on yourself first before you make the final decision about whether divorce is what is best for you. Why do you need to work on yourself since you have been faithful in the marriage?  It’s the same with being married to the an alcoholic.  The spouse has the disease too even if she doesn’t have a problem stopping drinking.  She is affected by the husband’s drinking and she needs to work her own program in overcoming the insanity that living with an alcoholic brings to her life.  That is why Alanon—the support group for people who live with or loving an alcoholic.  The resentment and anger and pain is only hurting you at this point.  You are being rewounded over and over for two years. The first place I would start with is catharsis—which means to express the damage the betrayal has done in your soul.  I often have people write a letter of rage to the betrayal that they are not going to send.  We work through that letter together and it is often helpful in discerning the pain and shame that belongs to the betrayer and not to you.  You might also write a letter of anger that you will not send to the person he had the affair with.  Once your soul can release these strong toxins that you have not been able to get rid of just using time as a healer.  Time does not heal this kind of pain.  You need to be brutally honest with yourself.  Often when you have gone through the trauma you end up storing lies about yourself or your relationship that you don’t even realize.  These letters help bring that to light and then you can make decisions that are best for you and your relationship. It is possible for marriages to come back stronger than ever after infidelity, but not without soul-searching work on the part of both partners.  If you choose to work on your marriage eventually your spouse must be willing to do the same.  You could either start marriage counseling together to do this or each work separately at first. It is important for you to understand that you went from 100% to 0% of trust in your husband when you found out about his infidelity.  Perhaps these two years have helped you increase your trust to 5%, but marriage counseling would help you increase trust to a more acceptable percentage like 70-80% where you are both comfortable with the commitment you have to be faithful.  No marriage, no matter how strong is 100% immune from infidelity.  It is healthy to know this in a good marriage.  I hope you will reach out for individual or marriage counseling so that you can move beyond your resentment, anger and pain to find contentment in the decision you make to be with  your husband or to divorce him.  I hope this helps give you direction and understanding of what you are facing. Warmly, Dr. Newman
(D., Phil., LPC, LMFT)
Answered on 02/02/2023

My husband likes me so much that he wants to do EVERYTHING with me. I feel smothered by his love.

Inadequacy It kind of stinks when what presents itself as a "good man" is also the same thing causing him to act like a toddler. An inadequate, grown man is a dangerous and often insidious beast. They tend to be both "good fathers/grandfathers" and will remind you of the time you spend with your ex for the purpose of guilting you into spending time with them. These types of men are seeking external validation for an internal void. He isn't "bad" in the sense of malicious, but he's inadequate, and it's manifesting in these behaviors that can drain you.  So, you can sometimes see why, when you are advancing yourself or have the obvious previous relationships how these could provoke within a man who is already struggling with themself. It's hard for men to address this because it's embarrassing and appears weak. Bluntly speaking, we would rather rely on bravado and overcompensation and the appearance of things are under control than we would address the deep inadequacy our mind keeps us from.  The mind says to the man, "she isn't spending time with you, but she can spend time here or there; she must not care about you as much as those other things." I know to us, outside of the man's head it seems illogical, but to them, it is reality. We can relate, however, because we also have messages inside our heads. We have a narrative that we, too, believe without question. Our mind tells us things based on experiences and what is perceived in the current environment, and we are left to deal with these things, depending on the same mind that told us they were there and now controlling how we perceive the narrative. But, it doesn't have to be this way.  Here's what you can do in your marriage to try and remove that third awkward person in the room, the wounded mind. You, your husband, and his wounded self, the self that was formed early in life inadequate and now overcompensated and throws temper tantrums, also the same self that overproduces in kindness at times when receiving praise for doing so, that self needs to be addressed for what it is. He will have to do this work, but you can help him by being kind and acknowledging things you notice in a specific way.  Reflective questions for the sake of genuine curiosity can be a great asset that transcends this wounded self. Ask things like, "It seems like when I am doing work, you get frustrated with me, can you tell me what you are experiencing when I am not giving you that time?" Or, "What do you think when I am reaching out to my exes?" Now, he might respond with something that doesn't sound desperate and will rely on something superficial. Still, the more you have talks about that third person in the room, the wounded and inadequate self that he relies on for his advice when struggling in life, the more it becomes apparent to him and you.  Call out that third person by having him ask that inadequate part these questions. You can also notice your own inadequate parts and start to ask reflective questions such as "how am I doing today?" or "why am I not giving him attention?" Or, "Do I have any part in what he is feeling?" It's not that we don't know how to do this, but it's that sometimes the answers we know are there are often too painful to acknowledge, or they don't sound very good.  This is a pretty complex thing, actually and something a good couple's counselor can help address by identifying and communicating about this underlying self both of you have. I recommend that you get accustomed to asking the difficult, reflective questions, not to challenge or call him out (that will wound the ego and will not result in good things), but to get to know him and get him to know him better. You and him relate a lot more than you think, on these matters alone, and once you are able to remove that third person as a barrier, things can get better than ever, closer, more connected, and he will grow from that healthy place as well. 
Answered on 02/01/2023

How can my wife and I establish Couples Counseling?

Hi Ima!  Thank you so much for reaching out for some help with this! BetterHelp does offer couples therapy. I recently read a statistic that said that therapy helps 70% of couples who engage in it together so it sounds like you are off to a great start in improving your marriage! Visit and choose the center green oval that says couples counseling to get started!  You will be matched with a therapist who chooses to work with couples and is trained in that area. There are many different evidence based approaches that can help you work through challenges like having trouble understanding each other, as well as working towards healthier communication!  I can already see a lot of strengths in your marriage! I can see that you care about each other and you want this to work! It sounds like you have a history of understanding each other better than you do now which means that you do have the ability to do so. The biggest strength I see is that you want to work on this and you want your marriage to last. One of the biggest barriers people face to making positive changes is not being willing to put in the hard work, so great job with being willing to take this first step!  A few tips while you wait to get matched to a therapist; communicate about everything! Speak with "I statements". For example, tell your partner how you feel about things without blaming them for those feelings. Say, "I feel hurt by that" instead of saying "You hurt me".  Maybe your partner did hurt you but blaming people puts them into a defensive mode that typically leads to unhealthy conflict.  Can you identify the things that are causing the lack of understanding that you once had? Sometimes just having a conversation about that can bring up things that you would not expect. Communication is key to a healthy and happy marriage.  I have confidence that with a little bit of help and suggestions from an outside perspective, your marriage will do well!  I wish you the best and thank you for reaching out for some help!  -Melissa 
Answered on 01/31/2023

How can I improve my communication with my partner.

Hi Sally!  I see some great strengths here! I do see that you are struggling but the strengths are what get us through the struggles!  The strengths that I am seeing are; you are aware of the issues, you want to make positive changes, you have a supportive husband, you are aware of your thoughts, and that you have an idea of where these thoughts and feelings are coming from. The biggest strength I am seeing is that you want to work on your relationship and you are willing to put in some work to make positive changes in your relationship and your life overall.  The first suggestion that I have for you is to write your thoughts down throughout the day. Then when your husband asks you this question, say let me get my list! Pick something from the list and see where the conversation takes you. This might feel unnatural at first but it is just good practice at getting your thoughts out!  Another idea is to give your husband a list of ways to ask this question differently. Maybe he could say things like, "tell me about your day" or "help me to understand why you are thinking/feeling/doing that". These open-ended questions don't really give you the option for a simple response. Ask him to explore your answers a little bit and dig a little deeper into your thoughts, in a kind and respectful way. Again, this might feel unnatural at first but you will build up to being able to express your thoughts as you have them better.  Relationships are hard. Fear of judgment is hard. Remind yourself that your husband has not done anything that might result in your not trusting him with your feelings. I know that this is not intentional, but it could be seen as you punishing him for the mistakes of others. Allow him to be worthy of your trust and show him that he is. I understand feeling this way due to past relationships and that it is a difficult thing to get past but with some practice, you will.  I wish you the best!  -Melissa
Answered on 01/30/2023

Help me heal

You Are... If this were a therapy session, I would recommend we spend some time discovering what it is exactly you are experiencing when it comes to this man leaving. I know his leaving you is tragic, but what are you noticing about the situation that got your attention when he left? Do you feel inadequate, abandoned, and stupid for being played and committed? Do you have anything significant from childhood that is being triggered here? Let's take some time to get you to know you better because you are going to be your best advocate in all this. The reason therapy is a thing is because we think we know ourselves pretty well. In reality, we all have blind spots where many of our problems lie, that something like you are experiencing is triggered when it occurs. Your husband did not just leave, you wrote he left you for another woman. You say, "help." Going off of the reminder that you could have written a thousand different things about this situation, you wrote those things. Do you realize what this reveals about you, about how you view this situation and how you have a belief that there is some other way to do this or view this situation providing relief, hence the "help?" I know this seems like it's not what you came here for, but how you are viewing this situation and what is being triggered inside of you is really what we are dealing with, not just the husband leaving, but what it says about us, before, and now.  The "before" part is the part of us that is being triggered; that is the "blind" spot I refer to. You have beliefs and experiences that are in your brain that lies dormant, or at least we think they are dormant, until something significant happens, and then you notice something else about yourself. This is why reflective questions get you to know yourself better. Though I, as the therapist, may see things about you, or view your situation a certain way, none of that matters until you see it, and makes space for that in your life. As I asked before, are there any significant issues in childhood, inadequacies, or beliefs about yourself that are present here today in your husband leaving you....for another woman?  The brain works based on experience. Often the experiences we have are what tell us the world is a certain way, and we are a certain way, and experiences act as a frame of reference for future occurrences. For example, if in childhood I wasn't paid attention to, or my parents didn't allow me to fail because of their own anxieties, my brain makes sense of the world (harsh) and my ability to be in it (cannot be in it as I am). However, new beliefs can override the old ones if they are consistent enough. You can start to believe inadequacies about yourself from this recent marriage if you aren't aware they exist.  Your husband and you's relationship, what did you think about it? What did you notice going through the marriage about him or about yourself? Was this a surprise, or was there a part of you that knew parts of him that could not admit that this behavior fits? If you did not see anything about him, or your relationship, what did you miss, and what were you doing to miss it? These would be good questions to help identify where your head was in the moment, and where it is now, and identify thoughts you may not have said aloud before (hence, getting to know yourself, the blind spots).  So, we've identified beliefs about ourselves from childhood, or most recently, about the marriage and us in that marriage. We have talked about some reflective questions to focus on to help better understand us in that situation. Now, it is time for us to sit with all of this and accept the fact that it sucks and is painful.  Here's the deal with life, it's painful. The type of pain we will experience and why it gets our attention, not another kind of pain, is up to the formed beliefs and the subconscious way we hold it. You are in a state of pain, and that is OK, make space for this pain. One of the worst things people do to themselves is trying to fix or remedy everything they deem uncomfortable. It is not the pain that causes problems, but our belief that we should not feel this pain and that we need to fix it. You don't need to fix it, and you can (despite what your mind tells you) sit with this pain.  Your mind will tell you many things about what to do in the next couple of weeks or months. Your mind will judge you, make up stories, and flood you with inadequacies (possibly), your job is to notice them, make space for them, and remember that your mind does not control you, but it does exist. Your thoughts are not you, but they are there. You, a deeper you than the thoughts, get to choose what you do when the thoughts and pain come up. If you find value in learning and experience and know that someday this all has a purpose, then endure. Do not remedy your pain or try to avoid it; learn what it is like to sit in it. This will equate to a strength unlike you've had before.  You notice thoughts, distance yourself from them, experience the pain, and learn to sit with it, and you will become bulletproof in life. You will learn to experience life, while not letting it take away your experience. You will learn to go into situations your mind says you can't do or that you are scared of. You can imagine yourself standing firm while all the words, firey pain, and then remedy thoughts tell you, "you can't handle this." You won't have to respond to those thoughts; you notice them and continue to do what it is you care most about in this world.  Find that "why," and you can endure any 'how." What do you care most about? What is something you value in life? Go for it, live for that thing, and there you will find that experience, pain, or pleasure, will be your best teacher, and you can even find gratitude for it. 
Answered on 01/30/2023

How do you rekindle your marriage after 9 years of marriage & kids?

Thank you for taking the time to post this question. Kids and years together can change the dynamic of a partnership so quickly! You refer to it like being co-workers with your partner and you are spot on! I remember joking with my partner that we had become administrative assistants for our infant when he was born. Thankfully, it is possible to break out of that role and back into the passion and intimacy that feels so lost.   When we get bogged down in the day-to-day minutia of our lives [jobs, finances, kids, food planning, etc.] it can be easy to lose touch with the person that you fell in love with and with yourself. Even though I am going to be directly answering your question regarding rekindling things with your partner, please parallel that with the idea that you need to also rekindle your connection with yourself. It is very common for parents to lose their individual sense of identity just as much as their sense of partnership when kids come into the picture. So, let’s get to it! There are some great clinicians out there [John Gottman and Esther Perel specifically] who have done a lot of amazing work on this issue. Esther Perel’s book Mating in Captivity is an exploration of just this topic- keeping the passion in a relationship alive despite all the domestic life things we have going on. She also has a few podcasts and a card game for couples you can purchase. John Gottman and the Gottman Institute have an app called “Card Decks” that can help to prompt discussion and play with your partner [And it’s FREE!]. All of these can be great resources for you! Here are some actionable items that can be a great starting point for rekindling.  _____________________________________________________________________________________ The 6 Second Kiss How many times a day do you and your partner transition between spaces or roles and give each other a peck on the cheek or lips in passing? Gottman suggests that one easy way to rekindle the intimate connection is through a six second kiss. Here’s what you do: Instead of just doing the peck on the lips and leave, both of you should be intentional about holding the kiss for at least six seconds. It will likely feel awkward at first and perhaps seem like the longest six seconds ever, but many couples report that by taking just this step they were able to start rebuilding their intimacy almost exponentially. Schedule Date Nights and Check-Ins When you are busy managing the schedule of a tiny dictator…ahem…child…it’s easy to lose sight of your own schedule. Suddenly those date nights are the first things to go because they don’t seem nearly as important as the twenty bajillion other things you have going on. Schedule a night a week, even if it’s just a few hours between your bed time and when the child goes to sleep, to have a date night with your partner. This may be a date night in your own house, but the goal is to be intentional about doing something that you both enjoy that brings you together. It may be playing video games together, taking a long shower together, sitting on the porch cuddling and talking. Whatever you do, the goal is to be consistent with your date nights but also to make sure that the focus is on your relationship, not on phones or anything else. Just each other. If you can save up for childcare, then you can plan outings. I have found that a lot of churches and local children’s programs have a parent’s night out program where they will take care of your children while you go do something for a few hours and the cost is quite inexpensive. It can also be helpful to have a weekly check-in for your relationship. The check-in and the date night can happen at the same time too. A check-in can be whatever you both agree it needs to be, but the basics would be that you check in to see how you feel you have done as a partnership this past week. Where were areas you guys did really well and where are some areas that might need some work? You can also review the schedule for the coming week to make sure that you guys are on the same page as to events and priorities. Permission to Escape This section really is about being intentional about allowing your partner to have their own time away from the family. One partner may find they feel more refreshed after a night away in a hotel for a night. The other partner might feel rejuvenated by a night out with their friends. Figure out what you both need and start scheduling those times. Also be prepared to do them ad hoc. You may need to ask for one or suggest that your partner take one. Whichever it is, the key is to communicate openly what your needs are so you can partner around how to get them met. I sincerely hope this was helpful. The big take-away here is to be intentional in your relationship vs. getting lost in the routines of the day.
Answered on 01/27/2023

Where do I start?

Hello, That's hard to be processing on your end when your dream is to be loved and having your own family and not seeing changes on your partner's end. I can help start to direct ideas to think about as you start therapy on the platform.  I might start out with the idea of: what makes you feel loved that you do for yourself in the marriage and is there anything that you feel would be an expression of love from your spouse? An example can be getting a core group of friends to do things with outside the marriage, I need a romantic date night once in a while and I'll reciprocate that as well, I need affirmation or touches daily from my spouse, etc. I understand you mentioned that it has been hard to communicate as well and usually I do recommend on creating a safe place to start talking about things in your relationship. If you're looking to connect more, one idea is to do a fondness and admiration exercise where you start to notice what your partner does that you cherish from them and say specifically how they showed that in that day. I would do it spontaneously throughout a week with words, love notes, etc. This can be something like I really enjoyed being playful last night on our walk when we talked about having a family together, etc. I will also say that it can be normal at times to feel scared if you felt you haven't been connecting with your spouse lately and those thoughts can pop in. I will often say that thoughts are just thoughts, they might not be true and facts can be different. I may recommend couples counseling for you two or individual therapy as a way to build up the courage to start discussing and noticing patterns in your relationships you're unhappy with and noticing often times it can be bettered and repaired to be even stronger. Most relationships will have ups and downs and learning to navigate when you feel disconnected is incredibly important.  I hope this gives you an idea, some validation and how to start navigating your question. Best Regards, Mitchell Daas, MA, LPCC
Answered on 01/27/2023

Do you have therapists with extended knowledge and experience with covert narcissism?

Hello Mickey, thank you so much for reaching out to BetterHelp with your question regarding narcissism and divorce. I am so sorry to hear you are going through such a heavy time. You are navigating divorce after 33 years; you are coping with the loss of a parent; adjusting to your children moving away; and looking to begin a journey of healing from being married to someone whom you consider to have a narcissistic personality disorder. Mickey, that's a lot on your plate. I am so glad you are considering therapy to help you through this difficult time.  I would imagine that it took a great deal of courage to file for divorce after so many years. I do not know the details (whether or not he knows or has been served papers at this time), so I will offer a few tips and will also highly encourage you to seek a therapist who can be by your side for extra support and guidance during this time. I don't want to assume that you already have an attorney, but I will encourage you to retain a strong and successful lawyer. If you can find one with experience with narcissists, that is even better. An attorney that is able to easily recognize the manipulation tactics your spouse may try to utilize will be beneficial. Aside from legal things-- Until court day, be mindful of things you text him or even vent your feelings to MUTUAL friends and family who may still be in contact with your ex. We do not want anything you say or put in writing to be turned against you in court. Boundaries, boundaries, boundaries. Mickey, do not let your ex walk all over you and talk to you however he pleases. I want you to take care of your well-being during this time. If he is a true narcissist, he will try to challenge the boundaries that you set, so try and be as consistent as you can. I know it is tough! Lastly, prioritizing self-care is going to be oh-so-important during this time. Looking after your mental health is essential! Again, I do not know the details of what this divorce will look like, but in my experience, it has the potential to become a drawn-out process with a lot of heavy emotions. Prioritize uplifting activities like journaling, meditating, spending time in nature, getting enough exercise and sleep, etc.  Therapy can help a lot with any toxic stress or other negative symptoms you may experience during this time. Your therapist can provide the necessary support for you to feel confident but also help recover from the impacts of being married to someone with NPD for 33 years. Prepare yourself for a difficult journey, but know that rainbows come after the storm!
(M.A., LPC)
Answered on 01/27/2023

How do I stay happy when my husband is irritable and grumpy 90% of the time?

Hello CL, Thank you for sending in your question. This is an important question because it speaks to how we affect one another in marriage, our responsibility for our own mental health and also the stages of marriage that we go through. You have been married over a decade, so you are in a new stage of life now than when you first got married and your marriage can grow with you as you both grow as individuals and with the time and attention you can give your marriage to help your relationship grow closer.  If I were talking with you I would want more information about this new stage you both are in and what may be contributing to your husband's attitude change over time. I would wonder is it work stress, grief over a loss or change, irritability over a personal goal not being met yet, or possibly physical health concerns. I think understanding the context would help my perspective and advice be more personal. So I will ask you, as you think about your concern does the context lend you perspective? Does that help you have an idea of what your husband is going through?   Now with more perspective you can think about what is his role and what is your role in this issue. I would generally talk with people about individual responsibility for our own emotions and personal growth. It is healthy to encourage and support each other, while the primary responsibility is on the individual to manage themselves.  Can you encourage him and also maintain some emotional boundaries and not allowing his negative mood to affect yours most of the time?   A helpful option to work on boundaries would be to try individual therapy.  If we were working together in therapy, I would want to process this idea of emotional boundaries with you. Because I think it is a life skill that can help in other relationships as well. Being compassionate and also having your own emotions and thoughts about your daily life.  Other options you have as you think through these things would be reading books about marriage, couples counseling, and listening to podcasts about marriage. There are great resources out there to help you grow as a couple!
Answered on 01/25/2023

How do I get through the pain of a temporary separation from my wife?

Thank you for submitting your question. And I am truly sorry that you find yourself in this situation. I am sorry that you are struggling and facing this painful challenge right now. Right now your entire world has been unexpectedly turned upside down. It is a difficult thing to adjust to and cope with. Separation from a spouse can be one of the most stressful things you may encounter in life. So, if it feels like it is – it really is. It might feel nearly impossible to get through each day and to remain productive. There might be a variety of different feelings which come up for you including sadness, exhaustion, frustration, doubt, fear, confusion, and perhaps even some anger. You might feel some or all of these. You are venturing into a new and unknown phase. And the unknown can be quite frightening and unsettling. Everything you are feeling is normal. Whatever the emotion is. It is okay to cry and grieve. It is okay to let the feelings out. This is not the time to push everything down and away. Do not pretend all is fine. It isn’t. Go ahead and feel whatever feelings arise. Cry. Scream. Punch a pillow. Get the emotions out. At this time, you are not going to be functioning at your peak. That’s okay and entirely expected. So, try as best you can to be patient and compassionate with yourself. This is truly a heavy weight upon you and you won’t perform at optimal levels for probably a while. You might feel tired and like your brain is in a bit of a fog. You might find yourself forgetting an appointment or find it difficult to complete a task that is typically easy. You might sit down to pay a bill you have paid for years – and suddenly you cannot recall who you are supposed to pay. Your brain is under tremendous stress right now and it is struggling to function. Your brain and body will feel under attack and so doing the usual tasks of life are not the priority – your mind is hyper attuned to self-preservation so high-level tasks become far more challenging to tackle. It can be hard to focus and concentrate. Your brain is very busy dealing with a trauma right now. Accept and acknowledge the reality of all this and do your best to give yourself a bit of a break. Lower your expectations for yourself during this time. Do your absolute best to take good care of yourself. Nurture yourself more than you ever have before. Even if that just means lying down to rest and maybe listen to a podcast or watch a movie. It does not have to be fancy or complicated. It is whatever feels doable and best to you. Try to get outside and go for a walk. See if you can find a companion to join you. Make sure you eat well. Do your best to get enough sleep. Stick to your usual routine as much as you can. Recognize that now is not the ideal time to make a major life change or make any new, major decisions. Keep it simple. Keep it all business as usual as much as you can. Stay away from alcohol, drugs, and cigarettes. These will not be good coping tools and will just makes things worse. Try journaling. Write about what is happening and how you feel about it. This is a great place to get honest and to reflect. If you are religious, now more than ever is the time to lean into that. Read devotions and engage in prayer. Attend church services. An important element when we find ourselves in this type of situation is the need for support. Please do not go through this alone. More than ever, you need and will benefit from opening up to friends and family. Think about anyone you feel connected to, someone who you can trust. You do not need to talk about this with everyone, but at least one or two trusted people who you can call upon to be there for you – to listen, to sit with you, to be at your side through this. Find someone who will just be there and hear you out without trying to solve or fix things. Someone who will allow you to let all your emotions hang out – the good, the bad and even the ugly crying. Isolation will just make things worse. Consider seeking out a support group. And if you have not already made an appointment with one, give thought to meeting with a therapist. Do not hesitate to ask for help. This is all hard. Reach out and ask for all the support you feel you need.
Answered on 01/21/2023

Am I being unreasonable for not wanting to continue putting up with husband's drinking problem?

Hello Indie ... thank you so much for your message and your questions. The very short answer to some complicated questions that you raise is, "No absolutely not. You are not in any way, shape or form being unreasonable." That's the short answer. The long answer requires a look at many different aspects of this relationship. You mentioned one of them -- respect. We all have personal rights. I am not talking about constitutional rights. I am talking about rights as humans. One of them is to be treated with respect. Leaving a partner repeatedly alone to take care of the children and the household duties -- not to mention just leaving the partner alone -- is not generally considered to be a sign of respect. Do partners occasionally go out with their friends for a night? Maybe even a whole weekend sometimes? Of course. But that is not the norm. What is the point of being married if the partners are not going to engage together in a life. You are not being unreasonable when you want to have your husband at home. A couple needs to think about a few questions. Do we want to be together? If the answer is yes, then the next question is, "Why do we want to be together?" If there are some very sound answers to this question, then the next question is, "What are we willing to do to strengthen our relationship?" Both parties in a relationship need to do the work required if the relationship is going to thrive. It can't be one person doing all the work. One person cannot expect the other person to just accept their disrespectful behavior because they want to go out and have a good time. I would imagine that you might like to go out and have a good time from time to time as well. Your description of your husband makes it sound like he is emotionally immature. Sometimes, if a person has done some heavy drinking as a teenager, they kind of get stuck emotionally at that age. While you didn't say that your husband has been drinking since he was a teenager, it is something to consider. There are a number of personal rights. The right to be treated with respect is just one of them. You also have the right to say "yes" to things you choose to do and "no" to things you choose not to do. It is important that the two people involved in the relationship split responsibility and respect for each other's personal rights. I frequently talk about "staying on our side of the street." This means that we all have to take responsibility for our own thoughts, feelings, and actions. We cannot control other people's thoughts, feelings, and actions. However, we can influence other people by establishing boundaries that we expect other people to respect. Establishing boundaries is what I call staying on our side of the street. I am in charge of my own boundaries. I cannot control what other people do with respect to my boundaries. If another person chooses not to respect my boundaries, that is their side of the street. I can choose to respond to their disrespect with a consequence of some sort or not. But I can't make them respect my boundaries. I also have to make sure that other people know what my boundaries are. I can't expect anyone to know what I find acceptable and unacceptable unless I tell them. And, once I set a boundary, I need to be prepared with some kind of consequence for not respecting my boundary. There is no point in having boundaries if there are no consequences for failure to show respect for them. Setting boundaries can be very challenging. This is why it is important to have our own support system. These would be people who will be compassionate listeners -- not fixers or advice givers -- just people we can lean on. Many people find support with Al-Anon (the family's version of AA), CODA (Codependent Anonymous), or SMART's version of Al-Anon which is Family and Friends. These groups can help a person gain control over their own thoughts and feelings. Sometimes, we can feel very isolated when we are in a relationship such as the one you described. When that happens, we can also start to question our own sanity and our ability to make good choices and decisions. By attending some of these meetings (they are online and in person), a person will come to realize that they are not alone. This is not easy work for a person to do. You mentioned having children and it is important to remember that what is going on within the home is affecting the children as well. It is unfortunate that sometimes we are not willing to stand up for ourselves. But typically when it comes to our children, we are willing to take on hard challenges that we might not take on if it is just for ourselves. So consider what would be best for yourself and your children. This is certainly not everything that is important for you to understand. There is so much involved when it comes to navigating a relationship where some type of addiction is at play. I would encourage you to engage in your own therapy if you are able to. And if you are not able to, at the very least go to some support group meetings. They do not cost anything. Whatever you do, don't fall down the rabbit hole of "maybe I am just being too sensitive or too demanding." You can truly trust your gut. If something doesn't feel right, it probably isn't right. And it would seem that there is a great deal of inequity and disrespect in your home.  Yes, you do have a right to feel what you feel and to take appropriate action. I hope this has helped a bit. Judi
Answered on 01/18/2023

How can I not be resentful towards a loved one who makes choices I don't agree with?

Hello Renae! Thank you for submitting your question. I am sorry to hear that you have been experiencing some struggles with your husband. You mentioned that your husband is choosing not to work while taking online classes, while you are also taking online classes and working full time. There seems to be an imbalance. When your husband lost a very prominent job two years ago, is it possible he didn't fully recover from that loss, or is he choosing not to work because of his expectations in what he is looking for? Is he willing to work until he finds something that is a good fit for him to restore the balance in the household? Have you articulated how you feel to him about this? It may help to have a discussion about what your goals are as a married couple including, but not limited to, your financial goals. "What does balance mean to the both of us?" (an example of a goal-oriented question) While there may be things you don't always agree on as a couple, it is important to recognize what you place value on. If there is something that goes against something you feel strongly about or place value on then it is important to establish boundaries and articulate your feelings and needs. Have you tried to communicate to him in a way that is goal/solution-oriented in nature? These are all questions to consider if you have either a). already talked to him about this or b.) have not talked to him, but want to.   You also mentioned that you do not want to be resentful towards your husband. By definition resentment is feeling wronged or mistreated by another person. It can build over time if there has been discussion about this, however there has been very little to no change or response from the other person. This is why it is very important to talk this through with your husband. If you are not feeling heard or you feel like you would need an unbiased person involved, therapy is another option. You can choose to do individual therapy and/or marital counseling. Better Help does offer both options. They can connect you with a licensed therapist in your state of residence. Therapy can help you navigate through challenges such as these.  I do hope you find this information helpful. Again, thank you for submitting your question. Good luck to you!! 
Answered on 01/18/2023

How do I not let things bother me so much?

Thank you for your question.  It is important to remember we chose the person we marry but that person did not chose their biological family (parents, siblings, grandparents).  Having difficulty with in-laws is common and can be extremely uncomfortable.  The spouse can feel stuck in the middle because they don't know how to navigate interpersonal difficulties between their spouse and parents.   First, I suggest you work on continuing setting boundaries.  You set your first boundary when you decided to move out of your sister-in-law's home.  Good for you for doing that!  It must have been difficult.  Now, you work on articulating your boundaries, such as informing your in-laws you are not willing to engage in this type of behavior.  If they cross that boundary, you can respond by stating something like, "I'm not doing this with you."  Remember, their behavior is not personal. They have probably been acting like this most of their lives, and will likely not change.  It is important to not take ownership of other people's behavior. We get to take responsibility for our own responses to other people's behavior.  Having this outlook can be empowering because the only person we have control over is ourselves. This can be worked on in therapy.  It takes practice, but the result leads to you being free from this negative reaction and having a closer relationship with your spouse. People that behave in such ways as your in-laws attempt to bait people.  It is important to not bite!  If you don't "bite," they tend to move on to another topic. I'm a visual learner, therefore I like to visualize a form of bait being thrown at me when someone states something with the hope of receiving a reaction from me.   I encourage you to also work on boundaries with your spouse in dealing with future issues with his parents.  This can be done in a therapeutic setting as well.  Again, remember, we don't chose our families.  It is not fair to punish or blame the spouse for their parents' behavior.  You two get to determine what you are willing to compromise on and work on in the future to make your marriage stronger without the influence of your in-laws.  
Answered on 01/17/2023