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In therapy she learned to stop her silent treatment and incessant crying. It took a lot of courage, but she would sometimes laugh at the joke publicly and then tell him privately that she laughed so as not to embarrass him, but that his joke had hurt her. She would tell him calmly that she knew he did not mean to hurt her, and would ask him to think before speaking. She continued to treat him respectfully, and spoke to him calmly.

At first the husband was totally unprepared for her reaction and did not know how to respond. However, she kept on firmly telling him how he had hurt her, but insinuated that perhaps he did not do it on purpose. This continued until the husband finally admitted that he hated himself for hurting her. He decided to attempt to change his behavior.

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He reached the conclusion that he needed help in bolstering his self-esteem, since he acted this way publicly due to his own insecurity. Since his wife created a loving and warm atmosphere whereby she accepted him and changed her countermove when he embarrassed her, he eventually attended therapy to learn how to behave differently in social situations. In therapy he realized that his mother had always embarrassed him publicly.  What he had been doing was considered a “repetition compulsion,” where he repeated his mother’s behavior, but focusing it on his wife.  He was finally able to control his behavior and their marriage became loving and respectful.

These examples show that it is possible to change a marriage by initiating therapy on your own. In both cases the reluctant spouse entered treatment after seeing the marriage partner change his or her countermoves.

Hatzlachah in your quest to improve your marriage. I hope the aforementioned examples help you make the right choice and assist you in getting the help that you need!

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Dr. Yael Respler is a psychotherapist in private practice who provides marital, dating and family counseling. Dr. Respler also deals with problems relating to marital intimacy. Letters may be emailed to deardryael@aol.com. To schedule an appointment, please call 917-751-4887. Dr. Orit Respler-Herman, a child psychologist, co-authors this column and is now in private practice providing complete pychological evaluations as well as child and adolescent therapy. She can be reached at 917-679-1612. Previous columns can be viewed at www.jewishpress.com and archives of Dr. Respler’s radio shows can be found at www.dryaelrespler.com.