This is the first in a series I am starting. The series is going to involve couples stories. Some of them will be success stories, and some of them not. But each of them will give you a glimpse into what other couples struggle with. I think you'll find that you are not alone in your own struggles. I hope that from reading these stories, you find insight into your own marriage and how to make improvements. These stories come from my experiences in counseling couples. In my 4 years of practice, I have treated over four hundred couples. To protect the confidentiality of those involved, names are not used. I will also leave out certain details or edit parts of the story so that the couple cannot be identified and confidentiality is maintained.
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This story is about a couple that has been married 12 years. They have 2 children ages 7 and 10. They started out like any ordinary couple, fell in love, got married and had kids. She immersed herself in the role of mother and wife. He worked full-time and saw his role as provider. He was involved in his kids lives, but not to the full extent that his wife was. She became a stay-at-home mom and was devoted to the kids. During the 10 years of parenthood, these two didn't take a whole lot of time to be alone with one another. Everything they did was with or for the kids. Being a full-time mom, she rarely took time for herself and when she did she felt guilty. She wanted more help from her husband but never asked for this because 1. she shouldn't need help, she should be able to manage on her own like a good mother should and 2. he should know he needs to help out more, she shouldn't have to tell him. Slowly over the years, resentment built up inside of her that she never communicated to her husband. Well, she would communicate subtly, but not in any way that he was able to register and respond to. After 10 years of this, she hit burnout. She began going out and disregarding how her actions impacted her family. She went into an emotional crisis and began acting opposite of her normal self and began taking time for herself, away from her family in large doses. She then met a man that showed interest in her and she engaged in an emotional affair. (It was caught before it got physical). Upon her husband's discovery, they entered into counseling.
She was seething with bitterness toward her husband for his lack of help around the house all these years. He was confused. He worked and felt he did his part and had no idea that she was so angry with him. He was hurt and upset by her emotional affair, no longer had trust and became insecure in the relationship. As they began to dig into their marriage to understand why the affair happened, she was able to stop blaming her husband and take a harder look at herself. She began to uncover the faulty thinking that was behind her own behaviors. She realized the affair was an escape from dealing with the realities of her marriage. She avoided conflict which was part of how things got this far. She had a negative relationship with her own mother and was giving herself the message that she had to be perfect in order to be good enough. She expected her husband to step up even though she never communicated her needs to him. So her husband was oblivious to his wife's unhappiness and completely taken off guard by the affair and her admission that she was carrying so much resentment toward him. He also avoided conflict. He realized over the years he may have read the signs of her discontent, but he turned away from it to avoid causing conflict and their disconnection grew slowly over time.
At the time they came into counseling, they were on the brink of divorce. With two children, they didn't want to go this road, but they were both in so much pain, they didn't know how they were going to make it work. They engaged in counseling on a weekly basis for 6 months and then did monthly check-ins for 6 months after that and they not only succeeded in taking their marriage off the ledge, but they feel happier and healthier and are experiencing a new relationship with one another.
How did they do it? She worked at understanding her own faulty thinking. She realized she doesn't have to spend every minute with her children to be a loving mother. She realized that she is allowed to take time for herself and doesn't have to feel guilty about it. She worked on communicating her needs to her husband, and he listened and was responsive. He realized he needs to do more than just provide financially and is taking a much more active role in parenting the kids and helping around the house. She was able to acknowledge the pain she caused with her emotional affair and together they worked to understand why it happened, how to prevent it and together they found forgiveness. She became transparent so he could begin to regain a sense of trust. And when anything went awry, they talked about it together openly, honestly and with love and kindness. So overall, through their experience and the counseling process, they were able to learn to communicate with one another, expressing their needs and becoming responsive to one another, they were able to forgive and rebuild trust, they learned a great deal about themselves and each other and in the end created a marriage that they both feel good to be a part of.