Relationship Advice Tips from Dr. Jeanette Raymond, Ph.D.

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Disappointed and Detached, A couple Whose Dreams Faded Marriage Brought Reality Into Focus

Filled with excitement and carried away by romance you imagine the fairy tale of living happily ever after.

You do everything you can to protect yourself against anticipating the adjustments you will have to make when living together as fallible human beings. But marriage turns the rose colored glasses you wore into lenses of disappointment, resentment, anger and mistrust – especially when your impending marriage is primarily an exit strategy from controlling, rejecting and abandoning parents.

Desperation to escape a bad family situation made Brett ripe for the romance and marriage market

Watching his high school friends shack up with their girlfriends and marry made twenty-five year old Brett feel left out. He was lonely and unhappy living with his parents. The youngest in his family of three, he was his mother’s pet and his father’s punch bag. Appeasing his father by not reacting to the taunts and insults heaped his way, Brett tried to get comfort in his work as a computer technician. Engrossed in fixing other people’s technical problems he was able to keep his anger in check. Helping other people solve their issue compensated for the ridicule he got at home.

But he didn’t like being his mother’s emotional savior either. Taking care of her every time his parents argued and fought exhausted him, taking away any hope that maybe one day his ‘goodness’ would be reciprocated. All he got was financial bribes to keep him at home. He never had a serious girl friend and felt bad about himself – stuck depending on his parents and hating them for it.

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So when Brett met twenty-five-year-old Natalie in a sandwich store one lunch time, his life changed. After a three month romance he knew that Natalie was his ‘get-out-of-jail-free-card’! He loved the way she instantly boosted him up, making him feel like superman. She believed in him. Her faith in him meant everything and gave him the courage to leave home – now that he was going to get married there was no guilt about leaving his mother, and he would teach his father a lesson by not being around.

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Longing to call someone her own, and own them forever made Natalie fall for Brett’s loyal qualities

Abandoned by her father when she was four years old, Natalie grew up mistrusting all caring adults around her. She had boyfriends who made her feel wanted for short periods of time, but she wanted a lot more. She wanted someone whom she could rely on to be that ‘dad’ she never had, the parents she wished she had and the trusted friend she dreamed of.

Her first  few meetings with Brett made her feel like she was a princess, adored and cherished. He had eyes only for her and there was no competition she had to be wary of.

She didn’t have to worry about being alone or unlovable ever again.

They got engaged and made plans for the wedding, united against their families who wanted to take over control and outdo one another.

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Two months after the marriage their romantic dreams were smashed.

Brett and Natalie argued about anything and everything. They had so much conflict, it was hard to believe they had been each others saviors only a few weeks ago!

Brett felt on the spot to reassure and prove to Natalie that he was thinking only of her ‘twenty-four-seven’, and that annoyed him to no end. It was like having to take care of his mother all over again. He hated it, but he couldn’t antagonize his bride – he would loose the only person who encouraged him to be his own man and break ties with his controlling parents.

Natalie’s anxieties increased when the level of compliments from Brett dropped, as they settled into married life. She didn’t feel like a princess anymore, but more like Cinderella – demanding to be reinstated to princess status.

They were both caught in the same traps they thought they were escaping when they fell in love and got married.

Tensions were high, and physical intimacy went out the window.

They tried to keep their problems a secret out of shame, not wanting their families to manage their lives.

Too scared to go to therapy in case they discovered things about each other that would shatter their initial idealistic visions, their marriage became a quagmire of anger, hate, fear and tremendous guilt.

Their marriage was rocky and unsatisfying. It all came to a head when Natalie accused Brett of not caring about her after all the support she had given him during the time he suffered a boat load of criticism from his parents about marrying the wrong girl, and not being a good son. The accusation led them to threaten each other with violence and divorce. Frustrated and scared beyond belief, Natalie hit Brett one evening when he came home late. He couldn’t handle it – the marriage secrets were out – he told both their families, who each took sides, wanting to rescue their loved one from the doomed marriage.

Unhappy with their families interference, Brett and Natalie finally made the decision to go to couples therapy. They had to mourn the loss of their idealistic hopes and dreams. They discovered a lot of things that may have given them pause if they had known the underlying triggers that ruined their marriage.

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Four ways Premarital Counseling Would Have Benefited Brett and Natalie

1. Premarital counseling would have opened their eyes to the unresolved issues of insecurity and stress that both were facing:

Fear of rejection on Natalie’s part, and fear of being controlled and stifled on Brett’s part.

Each was burdening the other with trying to undo their past family traumas – an impossible task. An even more impossible job when it’s under the radar.

2. Premarital counseling would have helped them understand each others traumas, not simply imagine wiping them away with a one -time rescue with a wedding ring.

Understanding each others sore spots and needs would have given the couple a heads up of what they were taking on, and given them a sense of the dangers involved in trying to play hero and savior without being equipped for the job.

3. Premarital counseling would have given them space and time to sort out their own respective unresolved emotional time bombs, so that the burden didn’t fall on their partner in the marriage.

Going into the marriage with less of an agenda would have given it a chance to establish firm roots of its own, rather than having to switch between the toxic roots that each of them brought to the table.

4. Premarital counseling would have taught Brett and Natalie how to listen to each other and develop a closeness, based on who they really are as wounded souls rather than as each others saviors.

  They would have prevented the marriage going sour when they discovered that they had married humans who were struggling to feel loved and worthy.

Disillusionment is a very common reason married couples enter therapy – they want that hero image to be a reality. The efforts to recreate it in their marriage fails, and they seek therapy in the hope that it will work like magic.

Unfortunately they find that therapy helps them cope with the grief and anger of discovering that their partners are not saviors – working instead to get the couple to accept each other as flawed humans, learn tolerance and develop bonds of emotional intimacy.

Premarital counseling would have been provided a head start, making sure that each partner knew the ‘human’ they were going to marry, not the idealized hero they had created in their imagination.

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. 2014

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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