Relationship Advice Tips from Dr. Jeanette Raymond, Ph.D.
Recently a woman brought her male partner into therapy to make him confess to seeing other women, because she ‘knew’ he was playing around.
You can guess how that went down!
He felt cornered as if he had been forced into a confessional in the guise of having ‘therapy’ which is generally considered useful and validating.
She felt vindicated that I was seeing the lying side of him, while frustrated that I wasn’t browbeating him into admitting what she already ‘knew’ about his transgressions.
I felt like I was being put in the role of a principal of a school with a teacher bringing me a naughty boy to be punished – unwilling to take on that mantle.
Couples therapy often fails to take off because the intentions of one or other of the partners is to make the other feel bad. They say they want to work on the relationship but when it comes down to it, the partner that instigated the therapy usually wants to shame, blame and reclaim the control.
CONTROL VERSUS FREEDOM AND TRUST : Shape up and do your duty versus ‘let me have a life’!
One couple I worked with had very different reasons for coming in: the woman wanted me to whip her partner into shape and tell him how a man should prove his allegiance and loyalty. The man came in because he wanted me to help him get her off his back and be sanctioned to have other people like his family and work friends in his life.
So each wanted very different things as individuals. They didn’t come in to strengthen their couple ties.
YOU NEED TO CHANGE AND BECOME WHAT I WANT YOU TO BE, OR ELSE! – THREATENING, AND ATTEMPTING TO FORCE YOUR PARTNER TO CHANGE
One member of a couple who came to couples therapy wanted her partner to stop having card games with his friends 2 evenings a week. She brought him to therapy to threaten him. If he didn’t stop his games and spend time with his family she was going to throw him out.
The therapy setting became a place of reining in, and presenting ultimatums. Not very therapeutic.
Imagine how it could have been if the woman described her sense of loneliness or fear that she wasn’t good company any longer. Just think about how that conversation could have opened the door to understanding her sense of inadequacy and his need to be elsewhere!
Depersonalize and Dehumanize : Make Your Partner into a non person without feelings so you can be sadistic without guilt
One angry wife came to therapy with her husband ready to spew her anger, bitterness and resentment on him as if he weren’t human. She didn’t let him get a word in edgewise, and insisted on talking to him and about him as if he had no feelings and wasn’t also hurt and upset. He shut down after failed attempts to make himself visible, and the therapy fell flat.
Owning the right to feel all the hurt and anger, giving her partner none, rendered her partner-less!
Imagine how different it would have been if the wife shared her hurt and then got curious as to what goes on inside him when he hurts her! Things would have taken a more positive route if she could have allowed for the fact that they are both human and he hurts as much as her!
Blaming, Shaming and Comparing : You’re bad, look what so and so’s partner does for them, you ought to be ashamed!
It’s quite common for one partner to use a therapy session to blame their partner for shirking household duties, child care and other jobs. The one being blamed feels unseen for what they actually do. their intentions and their way of showing love and care. The angry partner compares the situation to other couples and drives the knife home. The result is shame and later a need to retaliate and take revenge.
Imagine what it would have been like if the angry partner shared her sense of having to take on all the responsibility and then hear the partner’s sense of responsibility! Maybe they would have uncovered their mutual sense of being unseen and taken for granted. Perhaps they would have found that they could empathize with one and other in that place of similar feelings. They could have made more efforts to notice the things they did for each other and come to a whole different place in their relationship.
NEXT TIME : TEN REASONS TO GO TO COUPLES THERAPY AND MAKE IT WORK
AUTHOR OF ‘Now You Want Me, Now You Don’t! Fear of Intimacy: ten ways to recognize it and ten ways to manage it in your relationships.”
Copyright, Jeanette Raymond, Ph.D. 2015
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Disclaimer: this article is for informational and educative purposes only. Dr. Raymond is not responsible for any reactions you may have when reading the content or using the suggestions therein. Interacting with this material does not constitute a therapeutic relationship with Dr. Jeanette Raymond