How to get the right help for your marriage

couple overlooking water morguefile_125Like mechanics, plumbers, and anyone who fixes things for a living, some therapists are better than others.Some therapists are “marriage neutral,” while others place a very high value on preserving and improving the marriage. A couple who is going to therapy to improve or save their marriage needs a therapist who leans pro-marriage. Some questions to ask a potential therapist:
1. “What percentage of your practice is marital therapy?” Avoid therapists who do mostly individual therapy as they likely have worked little with couples.
2. “Of the couples you treat, what percentage work out their problems and stay married with a reasonable amount of satisfaction?” Look for a therapist who bats 70 percent or higher. Be wary of a therapist who says this is not a measure of success, because they may be neutral about the marriage commitment. Couples in floundering marriages need a pro-marriage therapist.
3. “How do you see the importance of keeping a marriage together when there are problems?” Look for general statements in the answer that show the therapist’s first priority will be to help you find tools you need to improve your marriage, rather than walk away from it.
—Questions taken from Take Back Your Marriage: Sticking Together in a World That Pulls Us Apart by William J. Doherty (Guilford)

By Annemarie Scobey, from the pages of At Home with Our Faith, Claretian Publications’ print newsletter for parents on nurturing spirituality in the home. Winner of the Best in Class award in 2014 from the Associated Church Press, as well as a First Place General Excellence award from the Catholic Press Association for  four years running. Here’s a sample issue.

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We can work it out

Ring_Flickr_arsheffieldA friend tells this story about his marriage: He and his wife were going through one of those periods that predictably happen to most marriages but that still blindside couples. It seemed that way more of his wife’s time was taken up with their young children than with him, as if they were co-owners of a small child-raising business instead of a couple who loved each other. He was starting to contemplate an early exit. He was probably imagining that somewhere there might be a woman who’d be more interested in him, who’d talk with him about things other than potty training and carpooling and kids’ swimming lessons. Continue reading

A thousand small compromises, part two

Couple winter walk RGB 2dMEpAK…continued from last week  

Prayer helps perspective. For Miguel, married for 12 years to Beatriz, compromise is easier when he is actively taking time to pray. “When I spend a few minutes in prayer at the beginning of my day, I find that our marriage flows better,” he says. “I have an easier time letting go of my own agenda and being able to compromise when I am prayerful.”

Conversely, Miguel noticed that during a recent rocky patch in their marriage, neither he nor his wife were praying. Continue reading

A thousand small compromises

Couple SmilingWhen Brian and Jenny, parents of three, were first married, they struggled with Brian’s attendance at the many gatherings of aunts, uncles, grandparents, and cousins hosted by Jenny’s side of the family. Feeling that the gatherings were taking away from time with his friends and his life outside the extended family, Brian would often come late, leave early, or skip events entirely. “This led to frustration and hurt feelings on both our parts,” Jenny says.

Eventually the two decided that Jenny would tell Brian which gatherings she most wanted him to attend. Brian, in turn, would commit to attending those from start to finish, but with the understanding that he would get a pass on the less important events. “Interestingly, after I changed my expectations and took a more low-key approach, Brian joined me at most gatherings, and he was always at the most important ones. Now this is no longer an issue in our marriage,” Jenny says.

Compromise is a staple of any good marriage, but it can be elusive. Continue reading

When a parent is depressed

couple in trouble  RGB mhGwPtWA spouse of a depressed parent is often consumed with simply keeping the family moving forward. Surviving, rather than thriving, becomes the goal. Things like hugging one’s children, normal routines, and time spent listening can all fall victim to the parent’s exhaustion as he or she struggles to keep the family on course. Here are suggestions from Let Me Sow Light: Living with a Depressed Spouse by Amy Viets and Bernadette Stankard (ACTA):

Discuss the depression regularly.  It’s not enough to give an introductory explanation and assume the children understand. Every few weeks, talk about how the depression is affecting the family—and listen to concerns your children have. Children often believe they are the cause of the depression. Continue reading

Even Jesus listened to his mother

Senior adult woman talking to her son.The gospel of Jesus turning water into wine gives us three strong messages: Jesus, an adult, taking the advice of his mother; Jesus “revealing his glory” publicly for the first time; and Jesus serving the people of God by making sure the celebration of the wedding could continue.

Yes, you’re the Messiah, but I’m still your mom. Thirty-year-old Jesus had a different perspective than did his 40-something mother on how involved to become in the problem of the wine shortage. He said that the time wasn’t quite right; she nudged him to do the miracle anyway. His change of mind showed the value he placed on his relationship with his mother. We would be wise, in our own decision-making, to consider the advice of our parents, who may see talent or opportunity where we miss it. Continue reading

When your spouse is suffering

couple in trouble  RGB mhGwPtWWhether it’s a diagnosis of serious illness, a car accident, or job loss, every marriage will eventually include suffering. While moonlit walks on the beach are undoubtedly a more enjoyable way to build closeness with your spouse, suffering has equal or greater potential to bring spouses together. “How you suffer matters greatly; suffering can drive you apart or it can draw you together,” says Mary Jo Pedersen in For Better, For Worse, For God (Loyola). When pain and difficulty make their presence known in your family, enter into the pain together.

Do not flee. Denial is helpful for a very short period of time to keep functionality in the face of immediate crisis. Once the initial shock of the circumstance is over, though, don’t use extended work hours or busyness as a substitute for talking about the problem with your spouse. Pretending everything is normal when it is not leads to a build-up of anger and sometimes depression. Continue reading