Thank you for the wonderful education that you provide for our community.
My husband is currently in therapy for mental health issues that he unfortunately brought into the marriage. I am in therapy as well, dealing with terrible trauma that these issues caused. I believe that my husband's therapist has helped him greatly in some areas, but does not have a clear understanding of some of the other areas and how they impact the marriage. Because of this I believe the therapist provided guidance that may have been helpful for my husband as an individual, but caused significant damage to the marriage and my wellbeing. This is despite several conversations that I, as well as my therapist, already had with him to explain my perspective. I am concerned and don't feel confident that my husband is getting help from a professional with extensive experience in these specific areas. What do you suggest?
It certainly sounds like you are in a tough position. I am glad that you are both seeing therapists to help you deal with your individual concerns. This seems to have been helpful for both your husband and you. Your concern is that his therapist is focused more on your husband’s welfare than on yours, and is not properly addressing the negative impact that their work has on you and on your relationship.
I wonder whether your husband’s therapist does not fully comprehend the impact that their work is having on other aspects of his life. Perhaps, as you may be saying, he understands but lacks the expertise necessary to balance these varying needs.
To some degree, the question hinges on the therapist’s responsibility. Perhaps your husband’s therapist (ostensibly in conjunction with your husband) has determined that there are conflicting issues and needs, and that work on one can negatively impact on the other. If this is the case, the therapist’s determination may have been that his client’s needs take precedence over others’ needs.
Your sense seems to be that the therapist should be able to cater to both your husband’s individual needs and to those related to his wife and marriage. Has your husband’s therapist been directly asked about this? Does he believe that your husband first needs to be healthy in order to then work on relationship and other issues? If so, is this truly the case, or will a deteriorating marriage and a traumatized wife ultimately exacerbate his individual issues, continuing a possible vicious cycle?
These are questions that should be addressed. The question is who the proper person is that can help you address these issues. It appears that your individual counseling and your husband’s therapy are at odds. Perhaps a separate and unbiased marriage counselor is the appropriate person to approach with regard to this. This would likely be the best forum in which to air concerns that relate to your interpersonal communication and your effect on one another.
All marriages have issues, and can be traumatic—to various degrees—for one or both spouses. Traumatic events and our reactions to them are not universal. Although certain types of events are more likely to cause trauma for most people, not all will emotionally react in the same way. You mentioned the trauma that you have endured. There is a good chance that your husband feels traumatized by certain things that have occurred as well. Though objectively it may seem that one person’s trauma “should be” more “valid,” traumatic reactions are not objective.
It seems that your husband and you are both hurting. Each of you is doing your best to deal individually with this hurt. Perhaps it is time to begin dealing with the collective hurt, along with other aspects of your relationship. Initially, it may be helpful for your individual therapies and your marriage counseling to be addressed as separate and distinct processes, so as to avoid conflict between the individual and marital needs. As time goes on, perhaps these could be integrated into a more cohesive whole. These are decisions that a marriage counselor can help you to evaluate.
-Yehuda Lieberman, LCSW
psychotherapist in private practice
adjunct professor at Touro College
Graduate School of Social Work
author of Self-Esteem: A Primer
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