“When did you lose your voice?”, I asked Paula. She said, “I know exactly when.” Paula didn’t realize that her depression had anything to do with her marriage. She thought she had a chemical imbalance. Until the therapy with the family, Paula didn’t even let herself know that she felt angry at being shut out by her self-assured husband. She had given up trying to get him to hear her, and her quiet despair and helplessness showed up as depression. As the therapy unearthed these patterns, she discovered her voice. Her mood lifted.
It’s part of the human condition that we may be unhappy, unfulfilled, or overly stressed without even realizing it. That kind of unconscious distress can spill over to the marriage. Without realizing it, we may look to a relationship to fix what’s wrong with our life. That’s a recipe for disaster. Here’s the case of a couple where the wife was so unhappy she had begun contemplating divorce. Then she made an unexpected discovery.
Over the years, I’ve seen many couples whose presenting complaint revolves around sex. Usually it’s because the sex is too infrequent, too lackluster, or at the male parter has some kind of sexual dysfunction. (I’ve only seen one case where the complaint was too much sex!) As usual, unless there’s a biological problem, the sexual relationship is embedded in the larger emotional/psychological dance of the couple. Learning about this dance, and how to do some new steps, can change everything.
Amy: One of the best-kept secrets that even families themselves don’t know, is that kids worry about their parents. And why
Parenting advice often describes ways to “manage” a child’s temper tantrums. But temper tantrums, or defiant behavior in kids contain important messages for the parents. Often, without meaning to, kids are responding to underlying tensions in the family. They react in the only way they know how: through their behavior. The message: HELP!
Therapist Avi Klein wrote about the shame many men feel about their emotions, particularly feelings that expose a sense of vulnerability. We see men like that often in therapy with couples. Here’s a case of how one man allowed himself to be un-masked, and how it transformed the couple’s relationship.
In contemporary culture, as portrayed in commercials for pharmaceuticals, family members are portrayed as bystanders to suffering, having to “manage” the symptoms of their bi-polar loved one, or “suffer” the effects of the depressed person’s symptoms or behavior. But families, couples, all of us, can unwittingly get stuck in patterns, sometimes destructive patterns, of which we are unaware. Those patterns can cause distress in ourselves and others, which can show up as a “symptom” in one person. This is rarely intentional, more a product of the tricky, powerful and subtle nature of relationship dynamics.
Eating disorders are no exceptions. Most of the clinical writing and popular assumptions about anorexia and other eating disorders note that these conditions are characterized by the need for individual “control”. There’s truth to this. But if you expand the lens to include the family, you learn a lot about what this “control” can look like.
An extra-marital affair is one of the most profound “Stress Tests” of a marriage. Many couples who use this crisis as an opportunity to examine the state of their marriage end up with a more alive, more genuine connection. But others fail this test. What’s the difference between these couples? Here’s what one couple who didn’t make it looks like.
The psychological defense mechanism of projection can distort a parent’s judgement about their kids, or it can create a wedge between a couple, since projection interferes with the ability to see one’s partner as she truly is. The (unconscious) grip from the past gets in the way. Here’s a therapy session that looks at how this projection process played out in one family, and how it was–for the moment-transformed.
Most people believe that they can’t change their partner. “My husband is the way he is,” or “My wife is that way with everyone.” They imagine their partner to be a fixed entity. They see themselves as primarily responding TO their partner, a one-way street filled with frustration. People fail to understand the most fundamental Law of Intimate Relationship Physics: Each partner changes and helps to create the other. The only question is how.