The following stories are true. However identifying details have been changed to protect privacy
A woman came for counseling upset because her adult children from her first marriage would not accept her fiance. Whenever they saw him, they were rude and were constantly complaining that she had no right to get married again.
Upon questioning her, she confirmed my suspicions that she had feelings of guilt over the divorce, even though it had occurred some eight years ago. She was fearful that perhaps her kids were right and that she had no right to remarry and replace their father as the main person in her life.
During our single session, I helped her understand that she had every right to remarry and that she should not be intimidated by her children. I explained that they would soon be moving out of the home and getting on with their lives and that if she had found a loving partner, then she should marry him if that was her desire.
At a later time, one of her children came for an appointment for her own personal problem. She reported her mother has been insistent about her fiance and is not giving her, nor her siblings, a choice in the matter with regards to her intentions to marry him. Thus, she and her siblings were beginning to accept their mother’s future husband and actually even starting to like him.
Delegating responsibility and valuing diversity is a great asset to marital peace and harmony. Now, they are both very happy and the arguing a distant memory.
Bob and Jill came to me for marriage counseling in my Thornhill office. Jill was frustrated because Bob was constantly critical and insisting that his way was always the right way.
Jill stayed home with the kids and took care of the domestic responsibilities. She wanted Bob to support her in these activities and not criticize. Bob was upset because he worked long and hard hours out of the home in his own private business. He felt he should have a right to be active and involved when at home.
The shouting had gotten out of control, and even the neighbors were now overhearing their disagreements. Jill was embarrassed and thinking of leaving.
I explained to Bob how important it was to support Jill in her profession as Chief Executive Officer of their home. I asked him how he would feel if Jill went to his office and complained and criticized how he ran his business. He understood that just like he wants support from his wife for his responsibilities, she too wants his support. I also explained to Jill that although she is the CEO at home since Bill wants to be involved, both could benefit from her delegating work to Bill. Of course, she would need to respect that Bill will do things differently from her.
Delegating responsibility and valuing diversity is a great asset to marital peace and harmony. Now, they are both very happy and the arguing a distant memory.
Janet, a thirty-year-old married woman with three children was recently in a minor car accident. She witnessed a pedestrian being knocked up upon the hood of her car. Fortunately, the pedestrian was not injured at all, and both Janet and her husband received only minor back injuries.
Shortly after the accident, Janet began experiencing moods of sadness in which she would cry for several hours at a time. As well, she was having nightmares and frequently replayed in her mind the scene of the pedestrian being thrown up on the hood of her car.
Janet attended our first session together with her husband. As we began to talk, I asked about Janet’s childhood experiences. Her mother was an alcoholic and was frequently absent during the week spending time with her numerous boyfriends. Janet assumed the responsibility of caring for her two younger siblings. Her father had disappeared before she was born. Janet was also physically and sexually abused as a child and adolescent. In spite of all this, as an adult, together with her husband, she created a healthy and happy family. She confided that she survived her horrifying childhood by telling herself that she would be different from her mom. She succeeded. She was in fact very different from her mom.
Janet found a way to heal herself from her childhood wounds. Unlike many of the other men and women that I work with, she was in my office, not because she couldn’t cope with life, but because she had been in an auto accident. Janet was a remarkably resourceful and strong woman. I shared my thoughts with Janet and her husband.
Throughout our two sessions, I continued to emphasize Janet’s strengths. I was truly amazed, and I abundantly shared my enthusiasm and respect. We all came to the logical conclusion that a woman who could reverse so many childhood traumas could certainly find a way to deal with a minor car accident.
When Janet and her husband returned for the second visit, they both told me things had improved considerably. She was no longer having crying spells and had begun thinking about the situation in a new way.
Janet canceled our third appointment. She reported that the symptoms had cleared and that she was confident she could deal with whatever else might come up in connection with the accident. She thanked me for pointing her in the right direction and helping her get in touch with her own strength.
Janet had many inner resources to draw from. She only needed a little help in bringing them out. This is true for most other people as well. The most effective approach to treating depression or anxiety is teaching people permanent skills and strategies for living their lives more effectively. Although psychotropic drugs may be useful at times, treatment in most cases should be combined with positive psychotherapy.
The harmonious and supportive emotional life between a husband and wife is very important. The feelings a husband and wife have towards each other directly impact the way they co-operate, parent, speak and create a home atmosphere. As well, if there are children, their emotional development is directly impacted.
There are a number of reasons why emotional distance may exist between partners. Sometimes it is just a failure to understand each other needs. The following true story illustrates how improved communication alone brought one couple closer.
Larry and Sue made an appointment with me for marriage counseling. Sue, a woman in her late twenties, nervously tugged on her pearl necklace. After brief introductions and small talk she began:
“I don’t know if I can continue living with Larry. Whenever we have a problem, instead of talking it through Larry walks out. The problem is never solved, and I question his commitment.”
Larry, his voice choking with emotion, responded: “I love Sue, and I am very afraid to lose her. But her temper drives me away. When she gets upset she raises her voice; shouts insults at me; and on more than one occasion; has thrown things around the house. Sometimes this happens even in front of the kids. I feel so humiliated.”
I checked with Sue to see if she agreed with the facts as Larry had presented them. She did. I then asked her to describe in detail what happens when she is furious with Larry. Next, I ask her to experience it; to dive into that feeling right here in my office. Her voice rose with rage as she accused Larry of ignoring her; not being there for her. In a short period of time, Sue broke into tears. I handed her a tissue. I asked her what she was feeling behind all that anger.
Shaking, she answered: “I feel alone. Like no one cares. Like when I was a kid and my parents punished me by sending me to my room.”
I asked: “What is it Sue that you need most of all when you feel like that?”
Immediately Sue answered: “Reassurance, comforting words, closeness.”
I turned to Larry and asked him: “Can you comfort your wife now? Can you be there with her when she needs you? Can you talk to her now?”
Moving his chair toward Sue, he responded: “Sue, I never knew you wanted my support. I always thought you wanted me to get lost when you were angry. From now on . . .”
In this session, Larry and Sue learned something very important. Sometimes our actions don’t accurately reflect our true feelings; they can even betray our real needs. When Larry understood the true meaning behind Sue’s outbursts, i.e., that when she is upset what she really needs is comforting. He now knew how to respond in a new way. Instead of walking out and aggravating the situation, he now can choose to move closer to her; to comfort her.
When Sue experienced Larry’s sincerity in trying to comfort and support her, she realized she had also misread the situation. Larry’s “walking-out” was because he thought she wanted him to “get out,” not because he lacked commitment or wanted to avoid her.
In these few minutes, both Larry and Sue took a giant leap forward toward a more meaningful and satisfying marital relationship. What they really learned was to “check out” each other’s inner thoughts and feelings rather than make assumptions and act blindly. Incorrect assumptions almost always create negative emotions, divisiveness, and other inappropriate responses.
In many cases, a couple can make improvements by themselves. Take some time, informal or scheduled, and ask your partner to take a minute or two and reflect and then communicate what is behind a negative emotion. You might learn something very surprising and valuable to your relationship as well as demonstrate that you care.
Marilyn, an attractive woman in her thirties came in with her second husband of three years and her seven-year-old son Mark, born from her previous marriage. Marilyn was concerned about the emotional development of Mark and some nervous behaviors he was exhibiting. Marilyn’s husband Barry was unsure if there really was a problem, but was supportive of his wife’s concerns.
Upon careful questioning about Marilyn’s concerns with regards to Mark, and the observation of his behavior and relationship with his parents in my office, I did not feel that Mark, in fact, had “a problem.” He had already been through a divorce and remarriage and some anxiety, stress, testing-of-limits, and acting-out would be normal. Both Marilyn and Barry presented as concerned and sensitive parents.
As it turned out, Marilyn had a very unhappy and conflicted childhood. Her mother had been emotionally abusive, told her she was ugly and that no one would ever like her. As an adolescent, not surprisingly Marilyn had tried to commit suicide.
I discussed with Marilyn my feelings that she was projecting her fears about what had happened to her as a child, which would also happen to Mark. I reassured her that she was in fact very different from her mother and that her anxieties about Mark were not really about him, but about her and her parenting skills. I explained to Marilyn that she was overcautious and deeply worried about anything “bad” happening to Mark. She was fearful he might “try to kill himself” as she had when she was a teen.
I told her that the real danger for Mark was her treating him differently because of her own childhood trauma. We agreed the best thing would be to let Mark grow up “free to be himself” and not be evaluated through the lenses of her past experiences. Marilyn agreed to say goodbye to the past.
I proposed to Marilyn that to help give her a “good judgment” about Mark’s behavior she should carefully consult with her husband Barry before worrying or disciplining him. She agreed, and Barry was happy to help.
When we finished several sessions together, both Marilyn and Barry were more confident as parents. Barry had felt a lot of pressure from Marilyn to be the “perfect” parent. He was greatly relieved to hear that Mark was okay and that they were doing a good job. Now they could all relax and just enjoy their son. As well, working together as a “parenting team” would strengthen their marriage.
Mrs. T. is a middle-aged married woman. She has serious health problems and has had an organ transplant. A few weeks before another major operation she acted on feelings of attraction she had for her “boss”, and they had a sexual liaison. Her feelings of guilt became overwhelming, and she told her husband.
Mr. T. became despondent and began experiencing painful stomach problems. Mr. T. contacted me for help. Both were emotionally wrought when they entered my office.
The first thing we did was touch upon Mr. T.’s pain, victimization, and abandonment. Fortunately for Mrs. T., her husband wanted to continue the relationship and was motivated to understand what had led his wife to act in such a “dangerous and regrettable” way. Both Mr. and Mrs. T. were able to cry and validate each other.
We worked through issues of trust and long-standing marital problems. They discovered that Mrs. T.’s conflict relationship with her father who had recently died made it difficult for her to open up to her husband — who could listen, unlike her father. They both agreed to make an increased effort to reach out and support each other.
By the end of the third session, they both felt the “black cloud” (the infidelity) was passing. They were working on improving communication and understanding each other. Currently, they are trying to decide if Mrs. T. should change jobs.
Please note: For most couples, resolving unfaithfulness is more difficult and requires considerably more time and effort.
Erica is a young newly married woman working as a technician in a dental office. She has always felt depressed and timid and would frequently break into tears at home and work. Her sleep became disturbed and when she did sleep, she had nightmares about a young child being sexually abused by a man.
After several supportive sessions with her family doctor, she was referred to me. When I met her, she was tearful and depressed. She was just beginning to piece together her own tragic childhood in which she was emotionally and sexually abused by her father. It took great courage for her to even talk to someone about it. This was the first time she was naming her abuser. Previous to this time she had blocked out what had happened.
After several weeks, Erica began feeling much stronger and on her own decided to confront her parents. So she did. Erica told them for the time being she did not want any more contact with them. She continued to piece together her story with the help of her brother. She began to understand why as a young teenager she was sexually promiscuous.
Erica had just married, and she was naturally thinking a lot about her husband. She had felt very guilty about her having been sexually abused and having behaved promiscuously as a teen. Illogically, she felt she had actually betrayed her husband whom she loved very much. It was this thought that she had betrayed her husband by her past experiences that were causing her so much emotional disturbance.
Erica worked hard in therapy to understand her dysfunctional thinking and let go of the past.
After several months of work, she reported feeling much stronger and more confident. She started gardening, riding her bicycle, and contacting old friends, all of which were signs to her that she was healing. Erica’s husband and fellow co-workers commented on how she seemed happier and more optimistic.
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* These comments are non-solicited. They are not meant to imply that all people will have similar outcomes. All identifying details have been changed to ensure confidentiality. They have been extracted from records and voluntary remarks for the purpose of research, teaching, publication, and the evaluation of services.
Abe, you are incredible. You really can move mountains. You have helped me change my life and given me for the first time hope for the future. -B.F.
Thank you. You were a tremendous help. I didn’t think I would ever feel this satisfied in my relationship. I thought I would have to live in conflict forever. Now our relationship is everything I wanted and I feel I have it all. I want to thank you. You are fantastic. -P. D.
This past year has been my miracle year. You have helped me so much with my OCD. My life is so much better now! -N.T.
Hi Abe, We are doing great. The reasons why for all this success is: first, our love for each other was always there, even during the bad times. Second, the need for each other and the need to keep our family together. Third, the counseling, we could not have done this without your assistance. Your personality and skills helped us through a very difficult time and you gave us hope. You taught us to be a better person for each other. We are wiser and we strive everyday to keep this wisdom. We thank you for your contribution to our happier life together. I don’t foresee an appointment very soon, as things are going well right now, but we will stay in touch and we will call on you again if we fall off the wagon. We also appreciate your newsletter, so please keep sending them. We wish you all the best. -N.S.
I was really scared. I had pains in my chest. I went straight to my doctor. After a thorough checkup, he told me it was stress. I went to you for stress management counseling. I learned how relax and be more assertive. Now I feel great. -B.L.
In just one session you helped me immensely. My depression has completely lifted. I always knew what I had to do but you gave me “permission” to do it. I succeeded and I feel so much better. Thank you. -F.Z.
I have come from a very troubled past. It is very hard for me to believe in myself. However, through your help I’m beginning to realize that I have value and my life can have meaning. There are many things in life that I still do not understand, but one thing I know is that G-d sent me to you. I know that it’s a lot of work, but slowly I am putting my life together thanks to your remarkable help and genuine care. -T.D.
As you know, my wife has had a difficult childhood. She has never trusted anyone. However, you are a first. She trust you completely. -S.L.
I was really scared. I had pains in my chest. I went straight to my doctor. After a thorough checkup, he told me it was stress. I went to you for stress management counseling. I learned how relax and be more assertive. Now I feel great. -M.N.
Hi Abe, it’s nice to see you again. Before we talk about my current problem, I want to tell you that since you did hypnotherapy with me for smoking, I haven’t had a puff in four years. It really worked. -E.T.
Hi, Abe, I hope you remember me from last year. It is Karen. We did several sessions on the phone after I called you about my back pain and how I was having a hard time being stuck, literally and figuratively. I’m writing because I just wanted to do a “thank you” after our sessions. You encouraged me to just get my courage back. I had lost all of my courage over the last 15 years to the point of not recognizing myself anymore. Our sessions really helped me to just take a chance and force myself. While it is still difficult for me to do so physically, I now try to force myself to walk around in some stores to shop for things we may need for our new condo. I plan carefully, but I force myself to get out there. I wish I was fully improved, but I still have the faith that one day I’ll be 100%. It is a daily effort to motivate myself, and I still face daily struggles to not “anticipate” the pain which is what I think is fueling the pain most times. I guess I still have that piece of the puzzle to figure out. I wanted to sincerely thank you. I know I dropped off mysteriously last year, but it is because I realized I needed to take concrete action. I really believe that your encouragement and advice really helped to motivate me to take positive action.-R.A.
Hi Abe, it’s nice to see you again. Before we talk about my current problem, I want to tell you that since you did hypnotherapy with me for smoking, I haven’t had a puff in four years. It really worked. -I.J.
I thought the session we had yesterday was excellent. I am optimistic that Cindy and I are definitely going in the right direction with our new family organization. Thanks for helping us find our way.-O.D.
Just a note of thanks for going out of your way to help my son Tom in completing the court’s requests, and what they expected of him. Also, for the guidance as well you were able to give him, your time and consideration was greatly and sincerely appreciated. -S.J
I thought the session we had yesterday was excellent. I am optimistic that Cindy and I are definitely going in the right direction with our new family organization. Thanks for helping us find our way.-W.D.
Just a note of thanks for going out of your way to help my son Tom in completing the court’s requests, and what they expected of him. Also, for the guidance as well you were able to give him, your time and consideration was greatly and sincerely appreciated.” -D.R.
Once the problems with our children have been resolved, we began to focus on each other. Many of the sensitivities that we learned with regards to the kids we have now applied to our relationship with each other and it works. We used to be so angry at each other we barely cared about each other, now we worry about each other’s welfare. Perhaps we have even gone too far, but it is rather remarkable when we contrast this with where we were about a year ago when we first met you. Our family, for many years in the past, has been disorganized and dysfunctional. Recently we went away on a holiday with several other families and we noticed that we were one of the few families that functioned well. Again, it highlighted for us how far we have come and how appreciative we are for your guidance and skill. Good counselors are very hard to find. We just regret not having met you years ago when our problems first began piling-up. -P.M.
Thank you. Things are much calmer now. We’ve even been talking again. We really appreciate how you got to the root of matters so efficiently so that we have some peace again. Looking forward to working on things much deeper in the future. -S.W.
Just yesterday my wife went to a lawyer to talk about divorce. After we saw you she felt so much better we actually went on a date and had a delightful time. Thanks for everything and we will certainly be back. -B.K.
I was really scared. I had pains in my chest. I went straight to my doctor. After a thorough checkup, he told me it was stress. I went to you for stress management counseling. I learned how relax and be more assertive. Now I feel great. -R.Y.