When to suspend counseling?


#1

Our marriage has been in shambles for many years now and our children have certainly sustained damage from it all. My wife and I have been to Retouvaille and to numerous counselors for the last 5 years. We have spent a tremendous amount of emotional energy and tens of thousands of dollars on this counseling.

I won’t go into the details of the mess, but should say that our problems are not related to affairs or deviant sexual issues or alcohol or drugs or anything of that nature - just the ordinary garden variety marital issues - communication, conflict resolution, anger management, child rearing, control, respect etc.

In any case though the course of our problems my wife has taken to sleeping on the couch (off and on - but frequently and for long periods of time - weeks, sometimes months). When she has slept in the same bedroom, she will only do so if the door is left open.This has bothered me tremendously and my patience is wearing thin. NOTE: this is not about sex, our sex life has pretty much come to an end in the last 5 years and is only very rarely even brought up anymore. In fact I have expressed my willingness to sleep on the floor of the master bath, as a compromise to give her her space while accomplishing one of my goals of shielding the children from this mess.

My wife would say that she is uncomfortable being in the same bedroom as I am in, and if I owned up to just how I hurt her through years of temper tantrums and berating and controlling her, then I would understand and be supportive of her needing this space.

I would say that it is long past time to move on. My problems of having temper tantrums and berating her for her faults and not showing her love and respect - all problems I freely admit to having had - are history - getting to be ancient history. the mistrust demonstrated by sleeping on the couch every night is harmful to the marriage and a really bad display for the children.

The issue of the couch sleeping has been brought up with every counselor we have had, and although all have indicated there are concerns about such a situation, and that it clearly is not the ideal, none have come right out and said it should stop. I have always had a problem with counselors who are dedicated to being non direct - and I think that is what is going on here.

Through all of this I have been unable to see that my wife is willing to own up to her shortcomings as a wife (though she has improved very much as a mother in issues that were a great source of tension in the past) and actually do anything about them. She remains to this day, unwilling to follow advice given in any of the various books that counselors have suggested.

Sorry so long. I am willing to keep going to counseling, but have been unable to see any movement on my wifes part to change the ways that she hurts me - this couch thing being the most blatant. My specific question is this, would it be wrong of me to lay as a condition for further counseling that she cease sleeping on the couch?

Also, I think everyone would agree that there could be some limits to a spouse’s willingness to continue counseling, (For example, if a wife was upset about a husband sleeping with other women, would there be anything wrong with her saying, IF you want me to work on our marriage through counseling, then you must first stop the affairs.) So what would the general principle be?


#2

I would probably see if your wife would be willing to do a bible study with you. Not necessarily one with just to two of you. Having a “leader” in a small group would probably work. Also, doing one together. Maybe not right now, but a ways down the road. I think that the subject of marriage and forgiveness can be seen a little different if those are brought up in a bible study type atmosphere.

If the two of you aren’t sleeping together. Would a seperate room be available. Yes, I am aware of your concern about the children. But if they see the two of you working on the relationship, what’s wrong with that? They can see that not all relationships are without problems. And, if your wife is willing, show them how to work on the problems together.

Just a quick question. Is your wife really wanting to work on the relationship? It kind of sounds like she isn’t. Ask her if she would be willing for the sake of the children. I went through a very nasty divorce. Not fun. Especially when children are affected. Our child was only 2 1/2 when it took place. So she has no memory of it. But it still hurt terribly.


#3

If you are working toward your marriage being solid and lasting, it is the norm to sleep in the same room in a solid lasting marriage, so I don’t think it is unreasonable. However, you are working toward that, and you have to keep that in mind. I wish in my parent’s marriage they would have just tried to live as a normal happy couple instead of fighting about why they weren’t a normal happy couple. The fighting tends to take on a bigger persona than the marriage in some cases, and just being happy would have been so much easier.
Do you try to spend time alone with your wife other than that time? If not, maybe try taking walks or go out to dinner or whatever you guys enjoy doing, but just the two of you. If she feels comfortable spending time alone with you, sleeping in the same room might feel comfortable as well.
Good luck with your marriage and keeping your family together. You guys are in my prayers.


#4

I’m not trying to blame you for this situation, and it’s none of my business who’s to blame, but it seems that you have focussed on your wife’s unwillingness.

You admit here that you have had temper problems in the past, but that you have overcome these and apologised for them, yet it doesn’t seem that your wife realises that you have apologised or stopped doing them. Maybe you need to ask her what kind of apology she wants, what it would take to convince her that you have changed, and whatever it takes, give it to her, it doesn’t hurt to be the fall guy sometimes. In your temper problems in the past, have you ever hit her? If so, then you need to realise that it might take a lifetime for her to trust you, and she might never trust you again, accept that, and offer it up. Keep trusting her and thinking the best of her, even if she doesn’t trust you back.

That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be honest about what you expect in return. Be honest, but be realistic too.

DISCLAIMER: I’m not a married man myself, though I know my own mistakes from a broken engagement. I am probably called to single life, at least for the forseeable future, and still struggle with a whole bunch of issues, temper, lust, self-doubt and stubbornness being most of them, which would make me unsuited to marriage at present. I’m not pretending to be an expert here.

I wish you all the best in your marriage, and will pray for you both.


#5

I think I remember your posts previously…and I think I remember your wife’s from a couple of years ago. I remember reading hers and thinking that there was a lot of passive aggressive tension going on.

What I would say is that your wife is not acting like a married woman. She wants to have all of the advantages of having an intact family, without really being a wife. Why don’t you give her plenty of space. Move out into a small apartment.

She seems content with the status quo and has no incentive to make progress towards restoring the relationship between the two of you to the point that it is truly a husband and a wife relationship.

So, why don’t you let her experience the reality of what it is like to not be married. Maybe a separation would give her a taste of what the emotional and economic realities are when a couple is no longer really husband and wife. Perhaps this would give her the perspective that she needs in order to actually want to work for some change.

I do think that there comes a point in time that you should expect to see some progress from counseling. Otherwise, it would seem to just be a very expensive way of just spinning your wheels.


#6

I just wanted to recommend Greg & Julie Alexander’s work. I know them indirectly, and respect them highly. They were on the brink of divorce (even told theur kids it was so) but were rescued through the grace of God. Now they run a full time marriage apostolate and have had a series on EWTN.

They can work with you over the phone. christianmarriagecoaching.org/about.htm

God bless.


#7

#8

ks60…My husband was never the companion type either (and pretty much angry all of the time) but I was never the sleep on the couch kind of a wife. I think I am bringing that up just because I want to say that one person in the marriage who is willing to change and willing to sacrifice is never enough to make a marriage work. When a husband is angry/detached/no interest in building a relationship…sleeping on the couch or not sleeping on the couch, I don’t know, I don’t think it makes the difference either way if he isn’t willing to address his own issues and work on the relationship.

And to the OP, from what I remember from your wife’s posts, she did acknowledge that you had worked hard to improve and had made some very positive changes, but that she and your older daughter were still somehow upset by your presence. It did sound like her only issue was not really wanting to be around you. Now, you know, that in and of itself probably really is not the issue. She hasn’t been willing to actually open up and explore that issue through counseling. So, the reason I gave the advice I did is that it removes her only excuse for not addressing the real issue. If she has all the space she could ever ask for, what is her excuse going to be?

I mean even God does not give us forever. There has to come a time where we become accountable. It sounds like the way that this is dragging out is really not healthy for anyone. You and your wife have a large family and still have quite a few children that need to grow up without this sort of oppressive tension hanging over them forever. I think having some time apart might give you both a chance to figure out which direction to take this. Perhaps speaking to your priest about it would be a good idea.


#9

I know that the reality of my H’s leaving made me want to do all I could to save the marriage. If you decide to move out, I hope that would be your wife’s reaction.

If you do separate, make sure that you both are separating in order to make your marriage work better. Do it with the guidance and accountability of your priest, and with an understanding that neither you or your wife are single and dating.


#10

I don’t know your history, but are you, or do you try to be, her companion outside of your bedroom? My H talking to me, spending time with me, just appreciating me as a he did others would have made all of the difference in the world at bedtime.

I think this is so important.

My GoodHusband and I have been married twenty years. We’ve had our garden variety ups and downs. (Garden variety like poison sumac garden variety.) We’ve been amazingly happy and healed for these past 7 or 8 years.

The worst of the worst downs was when we were entrenched in trying to discover “who’s more wrong? who needs to change most of all?” The worst of the worst of our downs were when either of us decided, “I’ve changed enough. Now it’s your turn.”

In fact, ***I ***was most responsible and I needed to change whether or not my husband learned to change. I changed my behaviors with NO motivation to manipulate or change his. I changed my behavior because it was what pleased God. All the while, I prayed for my husband.

But what’s this? My husband came to the same conclusion. He decided that because his was the only behavior he could change, he was most responsible to change himself-- not to change me. He began working on his faults-- not with any motivation to manipulate me into better wifedom-- only to be more pleasing to God.

I don’t know who started our marriage problems. I don’t know first followed God’s will toward ending them. All I know is this: had I waited for my husband to demonstrate better behavior, we’d still be in a mess. Had my husband waited for me to deomstrate better behavior, we’d still be in a mess.

Counseling? Why? You already know which of your behaviors still need changing. Clean up your side of the street. Pray for her constantly and offer the rest to God.


#11

Perhaps a bit of compromise? Is there a spare bedroom that one of you could move into? There is no law that says married couples MUST share a bedroom. Heck, DH and I are happy as clams, we have not shared a room for years. Different sleep patterns and his incurable snoring - we just both get a better nights sleep if we are in different rooms.

If a separate bedroom will ease some of the tension, why not give it a try?


#12

fwiw, the wife’s post:

forums.catholic.com/showthread.php?t=87095


#13

Just a quick response to a few of the concerns brought up so as to keep the thread on track…

No, there has never been any physical abuse. Of course that would take a long time to heal - maybe never completely even. None of that here.

I did lose my temper regularly over all sorts of things - the laundry, the kids not getting their school or chores done, children not being held to responsibilities in general, her driving, her failing on her diet.
I was out of line, no doubt. That is not to say that at least some of those issues are gravely serious, and she really failed habitually on them - still no excuse for my tantrums, and further, no excuse for me not trying harder to find ways to really help her. I was always quick to blame and REALLY slow to apologize (usually found some way to make her feel like she was the one who needed to apologize - then I wouldn’t.)

I see how I hurt her. When I did finally come to that realization, I stopped. I haven’t raised my voice at her in a very, very long time even through our struggles. I also have raised my voice in anger with the children only 3 times in the last 5 years. My wife, and I expect many readers here lose it more than that in a regular day.

That she would be initially be slow to make steps towards reconciliation and trust is entirely understandable. But it has been 5 years. Though we have been advised by more than one counselor to follow the advice in the book “the five love languages”, she refuses. There was another book suggested as well with concrete marriage building how to type advice - it took her over a year to read it - and she is a voracious reader. She will not follow those guidelines. We did Retrovaille after I begged her for a year to do so, but when we were out, phhtt! that was it, she did not want to do the ongoing exercises that they so strongly recommended.

So as far as not wanting to be in a bed with someone who just wants sex - no - that is LOOONG behind us. She cut off sex years ago, and though it has returned occasionally for brief and sporadic periods, it is now pretty much dead. I used to pray that God would make her libido be more like mine - Boy! Watch what you pray for, now I am as frigid as she is! We both recognize at least intellectually, that that is not what God wants in a marriage.

The basic paradigm that she seems to be operating by is

  1. I was the vitimizer - she the victim
  2. Her faults were largely due to me being a lousy husband that so depressed her to the point of being non functional on many levels.
  3. The male is to lead, the female then naturally responds - and I need to lead by love, accept her desire for distance, and wait patiently. That I need to love unconditionally and expect nothing in return from her. When I grow impatient, it is because I am incapable of love, lack empathy and really have not changed deep inside.

My response to this is, yes there is an element of truth in all her points, but she has responsibilities too, and geesh, it has been 5 years. Is it too much to expect her to take advice from widely accepted marriage manuals!!???

She likes counseling. They never give you direct advice and you can just let it all out. I hate it. I want advice, never get it and have to work half a day to pay for 45 minutes of indirect chit chat!


#14

When the economy is bad, people will not be spending money on new decorative concrete. People WILL need to have an honest person to fix the car.


#15

Is your wife still seeing the spiritual advisor?


#16

No, he sort of came to my position of things and she seems to have lost interest in his counsel.


#17

That sort of tells you a lot about her intentions then. It’s no wonder that you are getting nowhere with counseling.


#18

While I’m sure this advice was given with the best of intentions, as a practical matter, this is probably not a course of action you should take. She could go to a lawyer and claim that you have abandoned her and the kids, and the lawyer would go to the court and file for a decree of separate maintenance (or whatever it’s called in your state). You could find yourself paying the equivalent of child support and alimony with no access to your house, and that small apartment might be a long term arrangement.


#19

Verbal abuse can be just as bad. Watching your son screamed at day after day and you yourself screamed at day after day – put down, humiliated, told you are worthless. It’s funny how kids recover from that – they rationalize it or something, then they seem to forget it if they are young enough. I wish I could.

The first problem is the spite level has clearly risen in your wife – as reading the earlier thread posted by Dulcisima shows.

I did lose my temper regularly over all sorts of things - the laundry, the kids not getting their school or chores done, children not being held to responsibilities in general, her driving, her failing on her diet.
I was out of line, no doubt. That is not to say that at least some of those issues are gravely serious, and she really failed …

Hmm … I am more happy to see my wife gain weight. Her health is more important to me than her fitting into “skinny” clothes – but then she insunates I am fat occasionally too. I pressed 360Lb x 100 times today = 18tons of weight in under an hour. It’s not fat.
I still love my wife – but there are terrible problems of manipulation.

I am looking at the issues and the “gravely” serious part – and I don’t quite see it.
In my case pedophiles, child pornographers who wanted access to my niece, nude dancing and hitting inlaws, drunk priests, drug addicts trying to kill the neighbors next door and other such things were what I considered “grave” matter and which caused me to enter into friction with my wife. Doesn’t matter that not a hand was laid on my children. Doesn’t matter that I was the one who stood in the doorway when the man on crack was threatening the house – I stood in the doorway waiting for death.

She remembered none of it once the anger, biterness, and depression set in. Have you done this and then been told "Your job is to lay your life down for me?"
because she is ticked about you going back to college?

I see how I hurt her. When I did finally come to that realization, I stopped. I haven’t raised my voice at her in a very, very long time even through our struggles. I also have raised my voice in anger with the children only 3 times in the last 5 years. My wife, and I expect many readers here lose it more than that in a regular day.

Yes and no.

I was yelled at as a kid by my dad – it didn’t cause problems. I am one of 7 – if he didn’t raise the voice, we wouldn’t hear him. That’s not the same as yelling for vindication or spite, and we knew it – he wasn’t putting our worth down.

The child psychiatrist I spoke with said that yelling is often misinterpreted by children as their parents hating them – and she sees quite a few cases of it. Even though you don’t yell any more, there still is a difference in the way children view the masculine and feminine parents – I tend to think, from your description, they fear your wife more because she knows how to humilate them and you, not because she yells. How did your wife react on the times when you did yell? Did she confront you in front of the kids, heckle you for yelling, played pity games?
If your wife yells at the kids, the temptation to see her failure in yelling may tempt you to correct her ---- Don’t do it in front of the kids.

That she would be initially be slow to make steps towards reconciliation and trust is entirely understandable. But it has been 5 years. Though we have been advised by more than one counselor to follow the advice in the book “the five love languages”, she refuses.

Been there – my wife betrayed me at counselling with respect to everything she promised. That’s a decent book, but the non-willingness is probably from something like spite.

There was another book suggested as well with concrete marriage building how to type advice - it took her over a year to read it - and she is a voracious reader. She will not follow those guidelines. We did Retrovaille after I begged her for a year to do so, but when we were out, phhtt! that was it, she did not want to do the ongoing exercises that they so strongly recommended.

hmmm … I was just told by the Psychiatrist that Retrouvaulle “might” help…
But, if she is refusing to “do the exercises” are you “pushing her to do them”?
See if the original infliction on the marriage was your dominance, (and I mean out of place) then this will never be fruitful for you to ask. It intensifies her feeling that you have NOT changed, and she is probably blind to her own faults.

more…


#20

You are probably right. I’m recently divorced and with 4 kids my child support and alimony would have been half of my ex’s take home pay, but I agreed to take less. I would think that with 9 kids the OP would have a substantial obligation, although I know in CA the max that can be taken from a pay check is 50% of the net income. I guess I hadn’t thought about that aspect of it with regards to the OP.

It just sounds like a miserable situation for everyone.


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