Dear Dr. Yael,
I am writing to you about an issue in my marriage. My husband and I are married for five years, baruch Hashem, and my husband is a great person.We have two young, beautiful children in elementary and preschool. I love my husband deeply, but we get into the craziest fights. We decided to go for marital therapy to help us improve our marriage. We are currently seeing a therapist who treats us together. (I do not like him, but want to put the work in to make my marriage better.) When we go for therapy, we fight like crazy in his office and all he does is watch us fight, take our money, and make sure to end the session exactly 45 minutes after we started. We can be in the middle of a sentence, but when our time is up,the session is over. We then do not talk to each other for hours. My husband feels that the therapy is hurting our marriage and I agree. Please advise us what to do. We both love each other. The therapist mentioned divorce and we both got upset with him. Please respond to this letter.
A Loyal Reader
Dear Loyal Reader,
Thank you for your letter. I have written columns before regarding doing marital therapy with the couple together. Honestly, my own approach to marital therapy is to work with both parties individually. I believe that in therapy if both husband and wife work on their individual issues, and then show positive loving feelings to one another, the marriage can improve dramatically. Working on communication is also important, but this can be worked on individually at first and then together once the marriage is in a stronger place. I will try to address a few points.
- You mention that you both fight like crazy in his office which is extremely detrimental to the marriage because;
1a. You are hurting each other and reinforcing negative feelings
1b. You are humiliating each other in front of another person
- You mention that the therapist is cutting you off in the middle of a sentence, which obviously is upsetting you. Have you told the therapist that this bothers you? Do you feel any connection to this therapist or feel cared about?
- Is the therapist interacting with you or giving you any feedback or guidelines as to how to improve your marriage?
- It is unethical for the therapist to mention divorce when clearly you are coming to marital therapy to save your marriage. If you were seeking divorce, you would either go to a Beis Din, a divorce lawyer, or go for divorce mediation. When seeking marital therapy, the goal should be to improve your marriage (unless it is an extreme case of abuse).
If you answered “no” to the questions asked in points 2 and 3, it may be time to seek a different therapist that you connect with and feel is helping you. It is also important to make sure the therapist you find is on the same page as you and wants to help you save and improve your marriage. It may also be prudent to find someone who will see you and your husband individually, help you each work on your own issues, and teach you both how to show each other more love as well as how to communicate better without fighting.
Marriage is challenging. The root of ahava is “hav” which means to give. If we all go into our marriages thinking, what can we give instead of what can we get we will be infinitely happier. Let us think of a baby. When the baby is born, he or she is dependent on their parents for survival. We have sleepless nights, interrupted sleep, and endless hours of care that we must devote to our children. Yet we love our children more intensely than any other love. All we do for our babies is give and all they do is take to survive, yet we love them so dearly. This is because the more we give to a person, the more we will love them. Chazal even recommends giving a present to someone who you don’t like, so that you can engender a positive feeling toward them.
Please don’t give up on marital therapy and please try to find someone who seems to be a better fit for you and your husband . I wish you hatzlacha in your journey in life and hope that you achieve true marital harmony.