Good Ideas on Marriage Therapy (I wish I thought of them.)

I have been reading a book by Wendy Plump entitled “Vow: A Memoir of a Marriage.” Because I mention the book does not mean that I recommend it for your reading. In fact, I do not recommend it particularly.

There is a chapter entitled “The Efficacy Of Therapy” where the author designs a kind of therapy instruction card for couples in crisis. I would like to give some comment to the several things that she says. (The author’s words are in italics.)

One, everything doesn’t have to be solved in one session. And, in fact, it will not! Short-term marital therapy is usually 8 to 12, one or two hour sessions over several months, when we want the problem solved immediately. Sometimes it takes a couple 10 to 15 years to create an “unsolvable” problem and then the expectation is that through a few short conversations that all will be resolved.

Two, be clear about your need. I often sit with people who think I am reading their minds. I find this humorous – or at least I used to find it humorous – that people submit their intelligence to someone who is looking at them with care and concentration. Please do not forget that you are paying for concrete advice and not just consolation, so get what it is you want and need.

Three, remember that it is the two of you who matter most. It is very easy to allow the therapist to intrude herself or himself into the marriage. No matter how well trained the therapist is, he or she will have opinions and judgments and it is very important that the couple understand that they are there for them only. As Wendy Plump says, “it is you and your spouse against the world, not you and your therapist.”

Four, each person in the marital dyad needs to take some responsibility for the efficacy of your therapy. The therapist may be marvelous in every way but the therapist cannot make the changes that the couple needs to make. As the author says “put some serious energy into it. I admit to being lethargic or overly daft in the therapist’s office.” Often times the couple will say, we are paying you, make it work! The couple is really the experts on how their marriage can work as well as how their marriage is unworkable. The therapist collates this information and provides direction and support in the progress.

Five, be willing to hear that you screwed up royally and need to make amends and then make amends. It is so common to use excuses, or explanations, or “context” to avoid personal responsibility. Apologies and forgiveness can be very difficult for most people and it is especially complicated in the intimacy of couple conflict. In my experience as a marriage therapist, no one moves ahead without consistent and thoroughly thoughtful apology.

Six, there are many ways to get out of the woods. If you are not going forward in your marital therapy with one counsellor, you can switch. There are times when you need consolation and support and there are other times when you need confrontation and challenge. One counsellor may be able to do both but your therapist cannot read your mind – say what it is you want. Also, therapy is not necessarily better or more efficient then good friends, a supportive community, and the consolation and direction from healthy parents. There are many ways to get out of the woods.

Seven, and most important, understand that you can bear it. Of course, most of us do not want to bear the responsibility or challenge of change. We also do not want to bear the pain of the loss of ideals and covenant. But flailing about looking for relief will only make therapy more difficult and less helpful. A competent therapist will help a couple defuse their emotion and increase their thinking. At least, that is the goal. (Tell me if I am doing this!)

Wendy Plump summarizes that “therapy has its value, but it remains a stubbornly limited one. Even in the concert with all of our best intentions, therapy could not rescue our marriage. I’m not sure that therapy can rescue any marriage…. A therapist will listen and listen and listen, which is one of the things you need most. Rescuing the marriage seems a tall order. But there is a chance that therapy can rescue you. Perhaps the expectation should end there. It does seem like enough.”

“Vow: A Memoir of a Marriage” by Wendy Plump, Bloomsbury Publishing, 2013.

 

[You can respond to this blog or anything else you see on my web site by emailing life@theducklows.ca.]

Gays (LGBTQs) are Welcome Here

This probably doesn’t need to be said. It is 2017 after all. But maybe I need to say it for me more than you need to hear it.

All our psychology and therapy work is gay valuing. We accept, affirm and advocate for all genders and make no discrimination. (Actually, I discriminate on smoking.)

Not only do we understand and accept gay people and their relationships, we advocate for men, women and children to be who they are, not what others think they should be.

No big deal in this culture and this generation. But it is a big deal for others, especially from other societies (e.g. African and Asian) and prominently religious communities.

Churchly people (Jewish, Christian, Muslim and others) are slow to accept newer forms of gender understanding and resist inclusion for lots of reasons. Mostly I think that religious folk are trying to please God and obey Scriptures as a priority, and misreading ancient, biblical documents is easy to do. Some read that the bible seems to argue for exclusion rather than welcome on gender matters, though that is not my opinion and is not the opinion of many world class scholars and ethicists. This makes faith groups more “homeostatic” (resisting change) than “morphogenic” (wanting change) to use Family Systems Theory words.

I think another reason is that the church has been a hospice for “ego dystonic” (this was a diagnostic category in the DSM) gays and lesbians. These people know they are gay but prefer to remain closeted and single, meeting their intimacy needs mostly within the church fold.

Clergy-led marriage is a big thing for church people (and many are persuaded that it is a pivotal dimension of the nature of faith) and they would argue that this is a privilege for men with women and women with men. I am not sure that church people oppose “pairage” (a term to distinguish gay marriage) as much as they are confused or uninformed. And the clergy don’t do much to clarify.

Speaking of uninformed, I have some decent references for those who want to follow up. The connection between psychology and theology is an interest of mine, so the resources below engage that fruitful tension.

So that is where I am. Out of date as I may be, and slow to understand as I am, I accept, affirm and advocate for the LGBTQ people who wish to accept our therapy and care.

 

[You can respond to this blog or anything else you see on my web site by emailing life@theducklows.ca.]

Notes:

http://www.cnn.com/2016/04/13/living/gender-fluid-feat/index.html

Richard Mouw and Virginia Ramey Mollenkott — Gay Marriage: Broken or Blessed? Two Evangelical Views

 

 

 

 

I Am Especially Fond of You

Carole and I speak of our love for each other often. Sometimes too much for me, but still appreciated. She also speaks of what she likes of me – that I am attentive to her, that I think outside the box, that I am freer than I used to be. And, of course, I tell her that I am especially fond of her and those particular ways of which I am especially fond of. It always evokes a smile in us both. I feel secure and I think that she does too.

We have been married a long time and I am glad for it. I expect her to love me – what choice does she have after all these years? – but to be fond of me, that is something more.

I loved “The Shack” when I first read it. It made me question, wonder and weep. I love the idea of a black, matronly woman as God! Paul Young wrote this book for his kids as a Christmas gift and in a short period of time many thousands wanted to know what he was telling his children: that God was especially fond of them. I think that is what I want in my life – to know that God is especially fond of me. I know that this is what I want from my wife and my children. And I want them to know that I am especially fond of them too.

I know that I am not especially fond of me. Perhaps that is why to have God and others orient toward me in this way is a wonder.

Many people I see in my counselling practice don’t have anyone that they think is especially fond of them; spouse or child or friend or God. So they try to be perfect, hope to cause no offence, work to be right most of the time, hide from any conflict, all in the hope that someone might read through these adaptations and, perhaps, that the someone will discover something to be fond of.

Sound like you? Maybe sometimes.

Like the beautiful woman I met who had all the augmentations done to her face and body but could not find a man who was fond of her – the inside her. Or the painfully narcissistic young man who entranced everyone but could not make a relationship that would last. Or the grandfather who criticized his children and grandchildren and could not give up “correction” (as he called it) for fear that his loved ones would turn out as empty as him. How un-fond of a man to himself and his progeny.

But to be found as a person who is fond of others and to have others be fond of them. That is amazing.

The Shack movie is coming out shortly and I expect to be disappointed. Unless I discover again that God is especially fond of me and of you. I hope so. I believe so.

 

[You can respond to this blog or anything else you see on my web site by emailing life@theducklows.ca.]

Who Are You Going to Please?

Most of us are people-pleasers. We will please almost anyone if it keeps us from pain or adds some “bling” to our lives. Ministers can be terrible people-pleasers; but they don’t seem to know who to please, so they try to please everybody or ignore anybody.

One pastor I know would lie in a fetal position behind his office desk on bad Sundays after his sermon, crying and hiding, hoping that no one would find him. Not only was he not found, he almost lost himself and his family.

Today we speak of “boundaries” – that is, to think and reason who you will let “get in” your soul and in your face; who you will trust and who you might wish to please.

Here is something about Jesus that reflects on this: “All [in the synagogue] spoke well of him [Jesus] and were amazed at the gracious words that came from his lips.” [and then, a little later] “All the people in the synagogue were furious when they heard this [what he said]. They got up, drove him out of the town, and took him to the brow of the hill … in order to throw him down the cliff” (Luke 4:22,29 NIV).

Interesting isn’t it? We may try to please people and then they inevitably turn on us. At least they did for Jesus and they probably will for you if you stand for something worthwhile.

Psychologists say that people are motivated by the appreciation of others, especially significant others, like parents or bosses or God. But not everyone will be pleased by how you live your life and so you have to choose who matters. Who will you please?

When I was hired as the team-leading pastor of CapChurch in North Vancouver, I boldly said that I would do all I could to please God, and satisfy my elders but I wouldn’t overly labour to please the pew-people generally. I figured that I would dissociate running after all these people’s whims, worries and wants. 16 years later I think that was a good decision. And I have learned that pleasing your spouse is a good idea and in so doing you are often pleasing God in the bargain.

This is not to say that we (those who decide who they will please) need to be rabble-rousers or demagogues. But it’s not like the English bishop who once remarked, “Everywhere Jesus or Paul went, there was either a revival or a revolution. Everywhere I go, they serve tea!” (An old preacher’s story. Who knows if it’s true.)

I don’t want to be like that. At the end of the day, I want my life to count for something and for a long time. This will mean I am going to run into opposition somewhere along the way. And, knowing me, probably a lot of it.

 

[You can respond to this blog or anything else you see on my web site by emailing life@theducklows.ca.]

Page 1 of 3612345...102030...Last »