marriage therapy

Can This Marriage Be Saved? He Cheated! But He Won’t Admit It.

November 3, 2011 at 4:29 pm , by

A marriage is a marathon, not a sprint down the aisle followed by decades spent smoothly on autopilot. It needs tending, respect, and more than a few “state-of-the-union” chats. Otherwise, tiny, navigable speed bumps can grow into brick walls that smack your relationship down quicker than you realize. Kate, 39, and Alberto, 40, have reached one of these barriers in their marriage, and they turned to a counselor to help scale it. Read the full story here, or in our November issue, on newsstands now!

Kate’s turn: Kate’s job requires her to spend four days a week on the road, leaving Alberto alone with the kids—and his new friend, Nina, another mother from their children’s school. At first, Kate was glad her husband and kids had found someone to hang out with while she traveled, but the first time she met Nina, she sensed something was off. And when Nina visited their house, her familiarity with her way around their home (and Alberto) seemed like a big red flag. Sure enough, two weeks later, Kate came across a note from Nina to Alberto that was not so innocent. Kate’s convinced they’re having an affair, but Alberto staunchly denies it. Sure, he may have flirted with the idea, but he claims nothing happened. They tried seeing a marriage therapist to help them talk about everything, but when Kate felt like Alberto still wasn’t telling the whole truth, she quit going. She’s ready to work on their marriage, but can’t pretend they’re communicating while he’s lying to her.

Alberto’s turn: The whole story? He is, in fact, lying. Privately, Alberto revealed everything to the therapist: he did have sex with Nina, and on more than one occasion. Alberto feels lonely and overwhelmed taking care of two kids and working 60-hour weeks. Kate doesn’t call much when she’s away and seems tied to work when she’s home. When he met Nina, he wasn’t looking for a relationship but was glad to have a companion whose kids were friends with his kids. As they saw each other more, it became clear Nina wanted to pursue a romantic relationship, and Alberto didn’t stop it. And once they’d slept together, what was the harm in doing it again? He felt guilty, but justified it since Kate was absent, and Nina made him feel wanted. When Kate found the note from Nina, he panicked. It was never his intention to break up his family, and he’s afraid Kate will leave if he owns up to his mistake.

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Can This Marriage Be Saved? I Can’t Turn Him On

July 28, 2011 at 3:14 pm , by

When you’re newly married, in love and childless, sex is usually pretty easy to keep at the top of the agenda. But what happens when a romantic slump sets in while you’re still young, mad about each other and have a butt whose size is relatively similar to the one you had when you got hitched? For Angela and Lane, a young couple married for several years who are now dealing with Lane’s disinterest in sex, the problem started a bit too soon.

Angela’s turn She and Lane haven’t successfully had sex in eight months; he usually flat-out shuts down Angela’s advances, and when he doesn’t he can’t keep an erection. They’ve always had amazing chemistry and equally amazing sex, and Lane was always a generous lover. But after one unsuccessful attempt that ended with Lane insisting there was nothing wrong and turning on the TV, they haven’t so much as cuddled. One of Angela’s friends is pregnant, which makes her insanely jealous because she’s dying to start a family, too. She’s terrified that her husband doesn’t find her attractive anymore and tells him so constantly – and she also tells him she refuses to stay in a sexless marriage.

Lane’s turn He feels like a complete failure at absolutely everything – his job, his marriage and his life in general. He’s scared to initiate sex because he’s sure he’ll fail again, and when Angela says it must be because he’s no longer attracted to her, it makes him feel worse. Lane works for the family business and feels like a loser there, too, since he isn’t as successful as his older brother, who’s always been better than Lane at everything. The incident Angela mentions as the start of their problems happened after Lane had just lost a big contract at work and his brother secured one. Then Angela told him their friend was pregnant and he started to think about supporting a family on his own – and freaked out. He’s not sure he’s ready to be a father yet, but it’s a moot point since they can’t have sex anyway. He doesn’t want to lose his wife over this but can’t see how to fix it.

The counselor’s turn The cause of Lane’s erectile dysfunction, or ED, was purely emotional. At work, he was terrified of making a mistake and regretted not pursuing another career. At home, he feared not being able to support his family and was embarrassed about his problems in bed. The counselor started by having Lane write out on paper his successes at work, and he realized he was more than adequate and even equal to his brother. As for parenthood, Lane feared losing his independence just as much as supporting his family, so he and Angela discussed it and promised that they would still travel, spend time together and do the things they loved as individuals after the kids come. Angela also realized she wasn’t quite ready for kids herself but felt compelled after her friends starting having babies, so they agreed to start trying in a few years, which eased Lane’s anxiety. And as for sex, once Angela realized her attractiveness had nothing to do with Lane’s ED, she stopped panicking and taking it personally. They worked to resume non-sexual contact, like massages and cuddling, and gradually resumed their once-active sex life. If it doesn’t happen one night, they don’t make a big deal of it and are able to make it work the next time. Lane is thriving on the job, too, and no longer feels like a failure.

Can This Marriage Be Saved? My Teenager Is A Terror

July 21, 2011 at 12:51 pm , by

p_101300524If only all blended families could resemble The Brady Bunch: a life of zany hijinks and good-natured ribbing where the biggest problems involve the race for class president and who stole Cindy’s Kitty Karry-All doll. In real life, creating a new family from the parts of an old one is much more complicated. When Lisa, a 39-year old mother of two teen girls from a previous marriage, wed John, a successful 52-year-old businessman with no kids of his own, one child adjusted quickly while the other outright revolted.

Lisa’s turn Her 16-year-old daughter, Ali, is making their lives hell. She’s disrespectful, defiant and ignores the rules of the house. Ali was just 5 when Lisa and her ex-husband, Ken, split up, and she’s never been able to adjust. And Ken isn’t helping, either: He’s asked Ali to live with him full-time and promised her no curfew and a car, though he’s completely unreliable when it comes to seeing the girls or dropping them off. Lisa tried to make her first marriage work for years but eventually gave up, and she’s tried hard to do everything right in her new marriage, too, including taking it slow when introducing John into her girls’ lives. In fact, she’s always tried too hard in everything – she’s constantly told she’s too nice. The situation with Ali really came to a head when she shoved Lisa after an argument, John grabbed Ali’s arm, and Ali reacted by calling the police.

John’s turn Ali has been a headache from day one. John has tried and tried to love her like he loves her mom and sister, but the kid won’t give an inch. She blames John for her parents’ divorce, even though John and Lisa hadn’t even met until three years later, and it kills him to see how hard Lisa tries to make it work. They’ve taken away Ali’s privileges, grounded her and bent over backwards to please her and nothing’s worked. He can’t tolerate Ken – the man is always messing up their plans and is horribly irresponsible – and he can’t stand how Lisa lets her ex walk all over her. The stunt with the police put him over the edge. He doesn’t mean to take his anger at Ali out on his wife, but he can’t take much more if this situation doesn’t change. Read more

Can This Marriage Be Saved? We’ve Been Growing Apart for Years

July 14, 2011 at 1:25 pm , by

Chances are that the husband you’re currently married to is, at least in some ways, different from the man he was when you first laid eyes on him. Odds are also pretty good that you’ve changed a bit, too. (And not just in dress size.) Hopefully the differences are good, and you’ve grown together as a couple. But Pam, a 41-year-old marketing manager, and her lawyer husband, Ross, 45, have decidedly grown apart. (Read the full story in our August issue, which hits newsstands this week!)

Pam’s turn Ross is more like her roommate than her husband. Their conversations never go deeper than the grocery list, and his 60-hour workweeks leave her stuck with all the parenting duties even though she works as well. If she complains about feeling overwhelmed, he’ll help for a few days then go back to his old ways. She knows their relationship isn’t terrible, but whenever she expresses that she misses their closeness, Ross says it’s not that bad and refuses to discuss it. And she’s in charge of everything around the house, not just parenting. The man can’t give her a single opinion – it’s like he’s an employee waiting for instructions. She’s also overwhelmed caring for her aging parents. The final straw came when she almost had an affair with a coworker because for once, she’d found someone that made her feel like a whole person, not just the director of the family.

Ross’s turn Pam seems so much happier at work than she does at home, and it makes Ross sad. He’s jealous of her coworkers and can’t remember the last time her eyes lit up for him like they do when she talks about them. He doesn’t think they live separate lives, just that they’re busy with work and the kids and can’t spend time together like they used to. Whenever he tries to help around the house, Pam criticizes him or asks why he didn’t do other chores, too. Her anger is off the charts, and they have epic battles every time they fight, so he avoids the confrontations completely. And of course he has ideas and opinions, he’s just been deferring to her to keep the peace. He didn’t mean to brush her off and doesn’t want a divorce. Read more

Can This Marriage Be Saved? I Hate My Mother-In-Law

June 16, 2011 at 2:06 pm , by

m_ctmbsoct04beforeIt’s true that the mother-in-law, or, as she’s often known these days, MIL, gets a bad rap. (Monster In Law, anyone?) Even the way she’s referred to, with the “in law” bit, implies a certain coldness and distance that’s not always the case. But for Kathy, a mom of two young girls who’s been married to John for five years and hated his mother for all of them, her MIL may as well be from H-E-L-L.

Kathy’s turn Her MIL is an intrusive, bullying troublemaker, and her husband won’t stand up to the woman. Barbara blames Kathy when John doesn’t return her calls, whines that her son loves his wife more than her, shows up at their home unannounced and refuses to come over without her dog, who bites. John tries to ignore her, leaving Kathy to run interference, and criticizes her behind her back but won’t say so to her face. He stifles all his anger then explodes when Kathy complains, punching walls and throwing things. Kathy’s been a people-pleaser since childhood, so she tries to smooth things over, but the stress ends up making her anxious and gives her headaches and insomnia. She won’t stay married to a man who won’t stand up for her.

John’s turn He knows his mother is a total nightmare. She throws fits if she’s made to wait at a restaurant, only gives presents with strings attached and lashes out in anger constantly. She got pregnant young and left John to be raised by his grandparents, so he’s never had a relationship with her and doesn’t want one now, and his solution is to avoid her as much as possible. Their phone conversations are the same every time: She complains about their relationship, invites herself over and freaks out when he says no. But he’s a people pleaser, too, and he feels obligated to stay in contact. And he hates losing his temper but his mom makes him so angry he can’t help himself. He’s desperate to gain control over his mom and his marriage.

The counselor’s turn In-law problems are very common, but this case is extreme. Barbara is narcissistic, needy and irrational, and it’s not surprising that her son doesn’t know how to deal with her. There are two choices: sever ties with Barbara completely or set iron-clad limits and stick to them. Separately, Kathy had to deal with her anxiety, which stemmed from her childhood and grew worse with her MIL, and she needed to stop trying to “fix” the mother-son relationship. First, John agreed to call his mom at scheduled times, and she began to ease up on the phone calls once she knew she’d hear from him. If Barbara started to get upset, John refused to engage her and politely got off the phone, and when she didn’t get the reaction she wanted, she stopped flipping out. John also learned to express himself to Kathy, and letting his feelings out helped him manage his temper. With the added structure, the mother-son relationship has improved, though they’ll never be best friends, and Kathy no longer feels responsible for making everyone happy. The couple is a united front, and Barbara is less of an enemy.

Can This Marriage Be Saved? He’s More Like My Kid Than My Husband

May 19, 2011 at 3:14 pm , by

iStock_000006795608At some point during the course of your marriage, you may have uttered some version of the following phrase: “I have three kids: A 6-year old, a 10-year-old and a 45-year old.” Because sometimes all the feeding, clothing, reminding and directing extends beyond the kids. Donna and Leo, married for 25 years, are locked in the same sad cycle. She feels like she has to monitor and pester him constantly, and he feels like she’s being his mom.

Donna’s turn Her husband is the most irresponsible person on earth. He forgets to pay the mortgage, refuses to monitor his diabetes, comes home late without calling and won’t involve her in their finances. Donna went through a bout with colon cancer, and all he did to help was to tell her she’d be fine. She’s always run the show since childhood, when her parents worked long hours and she was left in charge of the household chores, so she’s assumed the same role in her marriage. Her husband always compares her to his mother, whom he doesn’t seem to like: When his mom says to do something, Leo does the opposite. Donna hates that he’s not affectionate in any way, and their sex life is on autopilot. He doesn’t appreciate all she does for him, and she’s finally fed up.

Leo’s turn The way he sees it, he’s just trying to protect his wife. He was the only child of loving parents and didn’t grow up expressing his affection, so he doesn’t understand why Donna can’t see that because he supports her financially and stays faithful, he loves her. She worries too much, so he tells her things will be fine or leaves her out of managing their finances so she won’t stress over them. He hates her micromanaging of his health, so he “forgets” to take his pills or eat properly to spite her. And he only kept repeating that everything would be okay when she was diagnosed with cancer because he thought that’s what she needed to hear and he was terrified to lose her. Despite everything, he’s desperate to keep his marriage alive. Read more

Can This Marriage Be Saved? I Can’t Stand Sex

May 13, 2011 at 10:30 am , by

2110_FinalWives (and husbands, too) come up with many a reason to skip out on sex: a headache, a sleepless kid, an especially compelling episode of Dancing With the Stars. But what happens when you’d love to get it on, but it actually physically hurts? The couple in our latest issue’s Can This Marriage Be Saved? column (on newsstand’s now! go buy it! Sheryl Crow is on the cover!) is dealing with that heartbreaking issue. Kiera, 38, has suffered from endometriosis her whole adult life but it’s recently worsened, which makes sex with her husband of 10 years, Ryan, virtually impossible. The condition causes terrible pain in the days before, during and after her period, making even everyday activities excruciating.

Kiera’s turn She longs to be intimate with her husband, but the constant pain and discomfort caused by her endometriosis makes it tough to run errands or cook dinner, let alone have sex. She’s noticed a change in Ryan recently – he gets home late from work and has strange, dark mood swings – and she thinks he may be having an affair. She’s caught him looking at online porn, which she hardly blames him for, since there’s no action anywhere else, but it hurts her that he’s resorted to that option. He’s withdrawn from helping around the house, too, and they constantly argue over parenting decisions. She’d rather be alone than feel like she’s letting her husband down. Read more