Moving From Darkness to Seeing the Light in Marriage
Chicago Relationship Counseling
By:Â Robert J. Smith, LCSW
241 Golf Mil Center, Suite 708
Niles, IL 60714
Ph.Â (847) 824-8366
Email. Â counseling@RobSmithLCSW.com
Married couples who come in to see me for therapy are considering entering the door into the world of divorce. The experience of feeling empty, pained, fearful, lonely, angry, hurt, unloved, ambivalent, and numb is commonplace when intimate communication diminishes. Many couples have slowly and unknowingly drifted into divergent directions, or have found themselves with a metaphorical wall seemingly built between them. They might be thinking that, â€œsomething is missing in my relationship, we donâ€™t talk anymore, we donâ€™t have fun anymore, we donâ€™t do much of anything together, we donâ€™t have sex, we sit on the sofa watching TV without noticing each other, my spouse is rarely at home anymore, or what has happened to us?â€ Sometimes one partner may be having an affair, or might be triangulated with a computer, gambling, alcohol or drugs. I have heard these kinds of thoughts and have seen these scenarios many times from many couples. There is often the spouse whose partner doesnâ€™t want to air their business in public, or doesnâ€™t want to participate in therapy, so one spouse enters individual therapy.
The factor of distancing in the relationship happens for many reasons. Couples oftenÂ blameÂ orÂ criticizeÂ one another for their problems. TheyÂ donâ€™t accept responsibilityÂ in the development of the current state of the marriage. Sometimes one spouse will refuse to talk orÂ stonewallÂ the other partner. Other times there isÂ avoidanceÂ orÂ defensivenessÂ in communication. Or, the opposite occurs where there are frequent arguments andÂ anger blocksÂ theÂ meaningÂ in the communication. Then there is the couple whoÂ fight over who is right and who is wrong. So, they both lose out in the end. TheseÂ attitudes, especially in combination, are what John Gottman, Ph.D. considers thoseÂ that lead to divorce. To counter the presence of conflict or dis-connect when couples or one spouse enters into therapy, I support them for having the courage to break the silence and deal with what is happening in their marriage. Sometimes I talk to them about honoring their commitment to one another, or their spouse as this is what they agreed upon when they entered marriage. I tell them that they now have the opportunity to make their marriage the way they want it to be. I suggest that â€œit canâ€™t get much worse than where they are right now.â€ I address their beliefs about marriage which most often come from what they learned while growing up. And, I give them permission to alter their relationship now and over time as they grow and change, and reach new life stages. I bring to their awareness that they donâ€™t have to be stuck, and that they can negotiate and compromise change over the life span. Sometimes, the wake-up call of one partner finding out about a secret can in fact be a gift to bring the marriage back to the focal point in a coupleâ€™s life. The couple can now address what is missing or not working in the relationship, which otherwise would be lost in the conflict or dis-connect pattern. I suggest that feeling stuck at some point in life or marriage is a part of being human. Wanting to take action to change whatâ€™s not working for them is aÂ personal choiceÂ andÂ is possible. Once they haveÂ decidedÂ toÂ try something different, they are on the way to finding what they are looking for. After all, they married to enjoy life with their partner! I ask them to think back about theÂ visionÂ of marriage they once had early in their relationship. Have suggested that sometimes trains get off track because the tracks are rusty or arenâ€™t properly maintained. Train tracks need to be taken care of on an ongoing basis so that they wonâ€™t rust, break, or lead trains off course. Marriages, like our individual personal lives, need to be properly maintained. Couples need toÂ make timeÂ to communicate with their partner regularly about important matters (that includes listening to each other). They need to have fun, have quiet time, have regular sex, and give their partner space when they need it for self â€“ maintenance. It is okay and important to do something for one to feel good. This will in turn help each spouse to improve their marriage and family. When I first see couples, they might be feeling angry or numb, or something else. They might not feel tooÂ motivated toÂ do something different. However, they can take things one step at a timeÂ to make small changes. I often suggest that small changes can show small results. Small changes can build on one another and develop more significant results. Sometimes, spontaneous changes can bring on unexpected results. And sometimes, planned changes start a new course of action.
Lastly, the notion of offering new possibilities and hope to a couple can open the door letting the light enter into the dark room in which they have been living.
Robert is Licensed in Clinical Social Work and Board Certified in Psychotherapy. He is a â€œmarriage friendly therapistâ€ with 32 years of experience in working with couples in conflict.
Contact Robert now atÂ Chicago Relationship CounselingÂ to schedule your appointment.Â Come in together or come in alone.Â You can be on the way to healing and building hope in your relationship.