I work on marriage every day.
Not only my own but mainly on others. It’s my job, and I never tire of it. Nothing brings me more joy than seeing my wife happy, and my clients happy.
Marriage therapy is a specialized field. Many go into it, only to leave quickly. Others, with a bit more stamina, burn out over a longer period of time. You can only referee arguments for so long, oftentimes seeing little to no results. I mean if years of resentment and bitterness were easy to resolve, why would couples seek professional help?
Discontent and disillusionment with married life doesn’t happen in a day. It doesn’t happen over months. It takes years for most couples to call it quits, finally accepting the sad realization that they made a mistake, and the square peg will just never fit into the round hole. The feelings of pain, abandonment, insecurity, distrust, and dislike become too overwhelming. Best to cut the cord and move on, while they still have time to seek out love and romance again.
It’s usually right before this final acceptance that I receive phone calls. Either from a desperate wife, so sad, tears pouring forth over the phone, as she shares with me—a total stranger—how her life is turning upside down. Will I please throw her a life raft?
Sometimes it’s from hubby, who expresses his frustration and bewilderment as to what happened to his wife. One moment everything is fine, and the next, sex is off the table and she’s threatening to leave. Trepidely he asks, “Tell me, doc, is this the invasion of the body snatchers?”
Now it’s my turn to assess the situation and try to fix the mess they have created. But I know something they don’t yet realize.
They love each other. Like, really love each other. And my job is merely to remind them of that.
This comes first and forms the foundation of the rest of the work we do together. The deep respect, admiration, and trust we already have for each other isn’t gone, it’s just buried. When we bring it to the surface, there is no limit to the closeness we can achieve.
But getting to the love we have for each other can’t be done through talk therapy. We can’t get to our real connection through sharing feelings, resolving arguments or even getting to the bottom of past trauma. No way.
Because marriage is more about what you do than how you feel.
Instead, we dive right into changing behaviors that immediately and directly affect the temperature of the relationship. My goal is to move the thermostat from cold to warm, hoping we eventually get to hot.
“Turn away from negativity, then do good.” ~ Ethics of our Fathers
First things first—I need to stop the emotional hemorrhaging by eliminating bad behavior. I hold up a mirror to this sorrowful wife and reflect back to her the dysfunctional behaviors she’s using that push her husband away. And I strongarm macho-man into zipping up his critical tongue. But these are just the first steps.
To recreate intimacy, we must bring back positivity: love, kindness, compassion, gratitude, and affection. This is the fun part, where we open up and share what we love about each other, with each other. For many couples, they haven’t done this in years, if ever. We learn to communicate and more importantly, to listen. We learn to say no, and we learn to say yes. She gets flowers, he gets hugs. We both get respect, gratitude, and attention.
Up goes appreciation, up goes emotional safety, up goes love, and up goes intimate love-making. Just like the good old days, only better.
To be honest, most of the concerns my clients originally come to me with go unresolved. Because in truth, these issues are usually fake news. The real culprit was the lack of goodwill and apathy that set it. Towards the end of our work together it’s very common for my clients not to even remember why they came to me in the first place. But because I take fastidious notes, I always remind them as we laugh and celebrate how far they have come.
But my most important message—which I constantly drill into them—is that this renewed feeling of love, this recreated intimacy, this is the real “us.” This is who they are, what their marriage really is, and how they really feel about each other. All the pain, sorrow, and discord they came to me with was just the result of allowing the difficulties of life to infect their hearts and behaviors. Once we turn that around by choosing to show up in positivity, everything goes back to great.
We breathe in the goodwill and positivity we now share, the honor, trust, and safety we feel again, knowing in confidence that our souls were always meant for each other. And most importantly, recognizing that getting back to the natural love we have for each other is just a few good choices away.