Carly Mayes from Kansas City, Mo
Q: How can I convince my husband to go with me to a marriage counselor? He does not believe that going will accomplish anything except take more out of our already tight budget. Thank you, Carly.
A: Carly. I would suggest that you give him several choices. Do the research and give him data on 3 marriage counselors. Get him to choose one of them. By reframing his choice to be among the three, he will be less likely to focus on his choice of opposing you. Another option would be to negotiate a contingency contract. It would look like this. You would agree to temporarily suspend the idea of marriage counseling if he would come up with a plan of his own for improving the marriage. However, he would need to agree that if his plan does not improve the marriage to your satisfaction within 6 months (or another mutually acceptable time frame), then he would be committed to trying your plan of marriage counseling. Hope this helps. – Bryce Kaye
Fred from Raleigh, NC
Q: My wife and I have been married for nearly 18 years. Overall, it has been a good and loving marriage. We’ve gotten along well and done for each other in the past. She was a dedicated church goer who never drank or smoked and was always really into the religious and spiritual training of our children. I must admit that I was only passively involved in the church activities, but my participation had been increasing. In the middle of last year, after taking on a much larger mortgage (although, I was earning great money – more than enough for the burden, I lost my job. To make things worse, I had done very well at my job, but the company chose to move to an area that was undesirable to us both, so we declined to go. To make matters even worse, this job was working with her father. The news to move was delivered to me on Friday afternoon via fax from his office in the other location. In the fax he had some less-than kind words for his own daughter’s support of my career, which I disagreed with and she took very hard. One evening later that month, she called her father and confronted him with the remarks he had made and the call erupted into a shouting match. They both said some pretty strong things to each other and have not spoken since. She says she does not care for him anymore. As I strived to locate employment that would keep us in the home we were living in, I took on some pretty tough menial jobs that managed to at least subsidize our expenses. With the financial tensions arose marital tensions and we began to argue more frequently. We both said some very mean things to each other in the process. She ceased attending church and began adopting an attitude of ambivalence toward me. (I should note here that she also lost a lot of weight [~60 pounds] through exercise and diet and looked better at this point than she ever had in our relationship.) She became more distant and cold throughout the last months of 1999. In late January 2000, I discovered she had been having an affair with someone she met while on a planned trip with her college girlfriends. She admitted to it and said that it occurred because things got so bad that she didn’t feel loved by anyone anymore. She said her partner showered her with attention and praise. I was absolutely devastated by this, because it was so out of character for her. Her apologies for this action has been lukewarm at best. I am terribly hurt. Her feelings of ambivalence continue to this day. She is pleasant, but shows no affection for me and sexual activity is almost non-existent. Everyone who knows her says she is 180 degrees from what she once was, and her best friend says if she met her on the street today she wouldn’t care to befriend her. I do still love her very much, and could forgive her brief indiscretion, if her behavior demonstrated that she deserved it. Lately, she has been staying out late and not bothering to call as to her whereabouts and when she will be home. She has admitted going to restaurant-bars as well. She says she wants some space to discover herself and that she can no longer rely on anyone but herself for her security and happiness. We have three terrific kids that I do not want growing up in a broken home. I do not know what buttons to push to bring out the person she used to be. Do you think that person still exists?
A: Fred. That person may exist but it may not be feasible to expect her to go directly back there. It may be that there’s been a major shift in her life schema. Because of the rift with her father, she may be questioning ALL roles of responsibility including her marriage. It may take tremendous amounts of energy for her to psychologically separate from her father. Unfortunately, she may get her marriage caught up in the same dynamic. She may feel that being accountable to you may be too similar to being accountable to her father. This is not an infrequent phenomenon. Her comments about her need to discover herself tends to support this interpretation. It can be very disruptive to carry out adolescent work while still married. I’d suggest that you ask her directly if she thinks it’s possible that she’s getting you and her father mixed up, at least in the sense that she’s tired of feeling overly responsible and accountable. I’ve seen spouses really turn around when they recognize that repulsion towards a parent has overlapped their partner. If you can get her attention, you may ask her what you can do to help her perceive you in a different light than her Dad. Good luck. – Bryce Kaye
Jennifer from Canada
Q: Do you know anything about emotional dependency? Preferably in relationships out side of marriage!! I am not married so I need to know about this subject in terms of non-marital relationships! Thank you and God Bless.
A: Jennifer. I know a lot about emotional dependency. However, your question is too general. For example, did you know that all of us are emotionally dependent except for the psychopaths, schizophrenics, autistics, and a few other mentally ill types? I think you may be asking about being compulsively dependent. If so, you may be referring to the way that people try to use other people to act as surrogate parents when they haven’t been lucky enough to have sufficiently developed mature personalities. When people unfortunately receive less than optimal parenting, they often don’t develop the “internal parent” part of themselves that helps them to feel valuable and valid on their own. Without this piece of themselves fully developed, they need to supplement their sense of worth with the approval or nurturance of others. If this is the case for you, you may want to see a therapist of your own sex or check out the organization Sex and Love Addicts Anonymous. – Bryce Kaye
Traci from Texas
Q: My husband and I were married only 8 months ago and we are separated already. I love and cherish him deeply, however he has many issues that he will not confront or deal with which in returns creates frustration, anxieties, conflicts and even depression in our marriage. We have both made huge, rash mistakes during the final conflict. I have communicated to him that I am willing to do whatever it takes to resolve our problems and I do take responsibility for my (horrible) actions. The problem is however that the majority of our conflicts stem from his substance use. He was raised by an alcoholic family where divorce came easy (both parents married 3 times) and I fear that he will choose alcohol and drugs over me because it is easier to do this than to make sacrifices. The most toxic part of it all is the fact that I believe he resents my fortunate upbringing as compared to his alcoholic, drug dependant, abusive and dysfunctional upbringing. My question is this…although it has been two weeks and he states that he doesn’t feel it will ever work out, what are my choices at this point. Do I wait for a change of heart, do I wait for him to mature, do I make the bigger steps and press the issue of therapy?…I feel as if he may need time to process all that has happened, but I don’t want him to think that I have walked away. On the other hand, I don’t want to be too pushy or even make my self too available to whereas he becomes more disgusted with me. They say absence makes the heart grow fonder, but how long does this plan hold?
A: Traci. I would suggest that you make your decision based upon the person he is now, not the person you hope he will become. I would also suggest that you let go of interpreting his possible resentments. He may or may not resent you for your fortunate upbringing but there are a lot of other ways that resentment can be configured. For example, he may resent that you think you know better than he what is going on inside his head. Be cautious with intrusive interpretations. They can be toxic to the other person. I would suggest that you wait until he give you a clear sign of wanting to reinvest ….or…..you can choose to not wait and get on with your life. Whatever you do, don’t wait until he “matures”. – Bryce Kaye
Tina from Pensacola, Fl
Q: ME AND MY HUSBAND HAVE BEEN MARRIED FOR SIX YRS. I AM 25 AND HE IS 27. WE HAVE HAD OUR SHARE OF PROBLEMS. HE HAS LEFT A COUPLE OF TIMES, BUT WHEN HE COMES BACK THINGS ARE FINE FOR A WHILE, BUT THEN HE STOPS HELPING DO ANYTHING AROUND THE HOUSE, YARD WORK, TAKING OUT A BAG OF TRASH, ANYTHING. I WAS RAISED UP IN A HOME WHERE THINGS ARE 50/50. WE HAVE 2 KIDS AND WE WANTS ME TO STAY HOME WITH THEM, BUT EXPECTS ME TO DO EVERYTHING. HE NEVER SHOWS ANY KIND OF FEELINGS, OR LOVE. WE DON’T GO OUT ON DATES TOGETHER. IT’S LIKE HE DOES NOT WANT TO BE SEEN WITH ME. HOW CAN I GET HIM TO HELP ME OUT A LITTLE? I DO MY SHARE OF FUSSING ,BUT I DO EVERYTHING, EVEN TAKE CARE OF THE KIDS WHEN HE THINKS HE NEEDS A BREAK AND LEAVES US FOR A WEEK OR SO. I AM READY TO GIVE UP . I REALLY COULD USE YOUR ADVICE.
A: Tina. My advice for a lot of this is already written in the recommended intervention for the Delinquent Helper Syndrome. I suggest you check it out, and give up on the notion that you can make him into a “helper.” – Bryce Kaye
Beth from Palatka, Fl
Q: I’m only 21 & my husband is 26. We’ve been married for a year & a half & are expecting our first son very soon. My husband (“George”) is extremely unaffectionate, selfish, insensitive, etc… All he ever wants to do is be with his sleazy brother playing pool in dirty old bars & fishing. He never takes me anywhere, claiming we have no money but thinks nothing of blowing money on booze, pool games, & fishing boats. I’ve tried (& TRIED!!!) to discuss this with him every way possible but all he does is get mad saying nothing is wrong or calling me names. He’s always accusing me of cheating on him although I have never given him any reason at ALL to think that. He’s the one who’s always out till 3 a.m. not me! I do love him but I’m going absolutely crazy because I just can’t get through to him. I think about leaving him all the time, but I have no money & no where to go so I’m stuck! I don’t know if he has another woman or what. Please DON’T tell me to try & talk to him because believe me, it doesn’t work!!! Help Me!!!!!!!!!
A: Beth. It certainly sounds like you have an arrangement and not much of a relationship. I also don’t hear any love in what you wrote, only frustrated dependence. If he doesn’t want to pursue a real relationship with you then you’re not going to build the relationship on your own. I know you have a big investment in the relationship now because of the pregnancy. However, would you be willing to live your whole life in this relationship the way it is? If not, then how long? I would suggest setting yourself a time limit for long you will wait to see if he will work with you (perhaps even going to marriage counseling together). I’m not talking about an ultimatum that you give him, I’m talking about a time-frame that you keep to yourself. YOU are the one who needs to save the rest of your life. – Bryce Kaye
Donna from Texas
Q: I have reason to believe that my husband is gay/bisexual but he denies it. What can I do to find out for sure?
A: Donna. Be careful here. Don’t assume that just because your husband has gay interests that he isn’t interested in you or can’t maintain a relationship with you. Many people have sexual interests for both sexes. You could try talking with him directly. However, if you have reason to believe that he has lied to you about his sexual behavior, then I suggest that you treat THAT as the more important issue anyway. It may be possible that he has some sexual compulsions or he may have a problem with telling the truth. I can’t tell from here but I would suggest that you try the direct talking route first. – Bryce Kaye
Worried in Lexington, Ky
Q: My husband and I have been married a little over two years and we have a 6 month old little girl. When I was about 6 months pregnant he joined the Army he said that he wanted to make it better for our child and us, but now we are having problems. First we are separated due to training and now we have money problems. Sometimes I don’t hear from him in weeks. When he was in basic he wrote everyday and now its like he has forgotten. He says that he doesn’t want a divorce but he tells me that I need one to be happy. I am on the edge. He doesn’t want out of the Army but he wants us to be together. What should I do?
A: Dear “Worried”, I don’t know. Life can be very rough sometimes and I don’t know all that he must manage in his situation. You have choices, some of them very difficult ones. For example, one option is to pick up work yourself if you haven’t already. That leaves you with childcare problems but then there may be resources such as extended family. It’s very hard to work on a relationship with someone who isn’t there. Is there a predictable point in time when you and he will be back together? If so, you may choose to just tough it out until you can have a relationship again. Sorry but I don’t have any easy answers here. – Bryce Kaye
Frustrated in Jax, Fl
Q: My husband and I have been married for 33 years. We have had our ups and downs but always known that we love each other. During our married life my husband have not had much involvement with the family that he was raised with. I think this was because he was raised by his grandmother and step-grandfather. I’m sure that they loved him but they were very dysfunctional. Up until eight months ago, my husband never had any contact with his biological mother or her children. He thought that she was less than a mother and was unfair to him by giving him away. Well, eight months ago the biological mother died. There was no insurance to cover the burial. The sister called to tell him that the mother was dead ( two day after the death) and they wanted him to go with them to make arrangements. My husband and I gave 1,000.00 towards the burial and the others signed a promisory note ( some of the eight children). Since this time my husband has been going around to visit his sister’s home frequently. He says that he enjoys the company of her husband. True enough, he has never had a close male friend. I have always been his closest friend. We no longer go out on our Friday night dates. He is gone from home long periods of time. When I complain, he accuses me of treating him like a “child”, or trying to control him. He comes home late and drunk from beer on Friday nights, and he is incapacitated for the rest of the week-end. This matter is causing great disharmony in our home……we are arguing constantly. When his “new” family calls on the phone they do not even greet me. He is going out of his way to take them places ( for instance shopping). I have to beg him to go with me. I have expressed my displeasure with the situation, but to no avail. Please help me to understand his feelings and mine most of all. “Frustrated in Florida” .
A: Dear “Frustrated”. I can’t help you know someone else’s feelings when I’m not sure what they are. I would highly recommend for you to not try to work his feelings out towards the others. You are better off focusing on what you need and negotiating with your husband directly to get your needs met. Don’t get focused on competing or trying to lessen his contact elsewhere. Keep it focused on you and he and what you need. He needs to work out his own relationships with his extended family. Even if you think you understand his dynamic, don’t intrude. You can be constructively confrontive in pointing out what is happening to your relationship. You can then follow that with a focus on what you need and some possible solutions (without reference to the rest of his family). – Bryce Kaye
Elizabeth from Fort Mill, SC
Q: Is it possible that my husband and I are suffering from two different problems at once? I feel like our main problem is Role-Bound, Emotional Starvation Syndrome with a little Initiator-Dependent Syndrome thrown on the side. If so, do we start with the Role-Bound intervention first, then add in Initiator-Dependent intervention once we have gotten a good handle on the Role-Bound?
A: Elizabeth. Yes. Many people have more than one syndrome going on at the same time. I always like to recommend starting with the role-bound intervention first as you have suggested. – Bryce Kaye
Kyla from Atlamonte Springs. Fl
Q: We have been together for almost 2 1/2 years now. Our daughter is two months old. Ever since she was born our lives have been so different. I feel like I have all the responsibility of raising her and working. He works long hours and complains when I ask him to wake up in the middle of the night to feed her, etc. He doesn’t think that he should have to do too much because he works a lot. I started working again as well as taking care of the baby 24 hours a day and I too am tired. He doesn’t think I have the right to be as tired as him. He says that it isn’t that hard to take care of a baby. So how come when I ask him to participate, he complains? We fight constantly. He told me if I am going to be too tired than I shouldn’t work. It’s almost as if his job is more important than mine, and it is automatically my job to take care of the baby. He is a wonderful man and I love him but our views are totally different. I feel like I don’t know who he is. Any suggestions?
A: Kyla. One thing I would suggest is that you might check if he imagines that a) you have free discretionary time during the day while the baby is sleeping and b) that during these times you also have time to sleep. You may need to be more accountable by keeping a detailed log of your typical day (several pages long) so that your husband can see that his assumptions are inaccurate. If you can do this, he might be more willing to negotiate. It is common for a partner to underestimate the burdens on the other when they don’t have the details. – Bryce Kaye
Martha from Stockbridge, Ga
Q: I HAVE BEEN MARRIED FOR OVER 25 YRS AND NONE OF THEM HAPPILY. MY HUSBAND MAKES ME SEVERELY NERVOUS/HE IS CRITICAL OF ME/ HE ATTRIBUTES EVERYTHING TO MONEY. I FEEL AS IF I AM GOING CRAZY. I LOVE HIM BUT I FEEL AS IF I AM DEPRIVING MYSELF OF THE HAPPINESS THAT I DESERVE. SHOULD I STAY WITH HIM OR NOT?
A: Martha, if I were to answer your question yes or no I think I would be doing both of us a disservice. What troubles me most is that you give your husband so much power to define your happiness. My intuition tells me that it’s probably not just him but also how you view your self and your place in the world. I would suggest that you explore a good woman’s consciousness group in your community. – Bryce Kaye
Lloyd from Media, Pa
Q: How do I go about finding a good marriage counselor in my area. I have no idea how to get started. Is there a service that makes recommendations and evaluates therapists?
A: Lloyd. I’m doubt that you’ll find such an independent service. There may be referral services but they will either be marketing devices or general listings that do not discriminate. The best way that I know is to ask friends who have gone first-hand to a particular counselor. Ask about whether homework was given and whether the counselor was fairly directive. If all they got was support, move on to another counselor. Also, a counselor who only puts emphasis on improving communication will miss a lot of the true emotional dynamics within a marriage. I always advise people to visit one time with 3 different counselors. Then pick the one who is most clear and strategic. You’ll know when you have a good one. It may be expensive to evaluate 3 counselors up front but it’s worth it in the long-run. Good luck. – Bryce Kaye
Lisa from Altoona, Pa
Q: My husband and I have been together for almost five years, but only married since May, 99. Well, things started out a little rocky in the first place. I was 17 when I met him, and he was 22. After being together for about a year, I became pregnant with our son. We then moved in together a few months after our son was born. He had a lot of problems when I met him, that I stuck through with him . He had a horrible temper due to the fact that he had Sleep Apnea, but he has now had surgery. I am a real family person, as where his mother had him at the age of 15, and he was never really close with her or his father. Now, he is a very intelligent person, going to college, and working for a neurologist. We see the world very differently. I stay at home with our son, who is now going to be 3. Rich (my husband), has his priorities all backwards in my eyes. He comes first in his book. When I try to talk to him about anything, he doesn’t want to hear me. We have been fighting constantly, and I am really regretting marrying him. He can be a good husband, and a good father, but only at his convenience. He would rather read than spend time with me and our son. Right now, he has a broken ankle, and I have no urge to wait on him hand-and-foot. He has put me through so much mental abuse that I am starting not to love him. We tried counseling, but we only went once. We had a male counselor whom only saw Rich’s side, and Jacob (our son) cried the whole time through it, so we didn’t really get to discuss the root to our problem. I really have gone through a lot with him, from name calling, and any feelings that I have ever told him about anything (not even including us), he has thrown in my face when we fight. He has never given me his shoulder to cry on; and has never once comforted me. I feel so deprived of his time. I have held this relationship together so far, but I don’t know how much longer I can do it. I’m starting to give up, and not really caring about it. If you have any advice, please help me. Should I leave, or should I stay?? Thank You, Lisa
A: Lisa, it sounds as if you and your husband need fairly intensive help. I would recommend going back to a marital counselor but this time without the child. Your reference to the previous counselor seeing only your husband’s side suggests that there is more complexity to your situation than you may think. – Bryce Kaye
Evelyn from Memphis, Tn
Q: How do I know if I have the “right man”?
A: Dear Evelyn. Please don’t do that to yourself! Perfection is such a nerve-racking thing to expect. You’ll know you have a good man when you find out that he love truth and integrity more than he loves you or any relationship. – Bryce Kaye
Shelly from Mesa, Az
Q: My husband and I have had some serious problems concerning his anger management and my alcohol problems, even though I am in recovery. I am wondering about abuse of pets in the past and in the present. We are seeing a marriage counselor but I don’t think the seriousness of this has been seen. He has been violent with me in the past and can be verbally and emotionally abusive but has to try very hard not to. What can I do to show how serious I think this is?
A: Explain your feelings to your marriage counselor. It’s not very clear to me what you’re asking. Your counselor needs to help you clarify it for your husband and for yourself. If you already feel let-down by your marriage counselor, then confront him/her about that. Either they or you’ll learn something new. I don’t have enough information to see where the distortions are. – Bryce Kaye
Amanda from In
Q: Why can’t I make myself happy with my life?
A: Dear Amanda, I am sorry to hear that your life is not happy. I would have to be extremely arrogant to pretend that I know with certainty what stands in your way. There are many different ways to become unhappy. However, I can say that for most unhappy people who are not trapped in an abusive situation, a good suggestion is to focus more on deciding what you really want, not what you think you “should” do to prove your worth. Hope this helps. -Bryce Kaye