After a couple is engaged and has set the date for the marriage, they may seek premarital counseling with the Minister, Priest or Rabbi who will be presiding the ceremony. This usually involves three meetings or so and can include a personality profile that shows where couples are in agreement, or where they may dif It also includes the religious aspect of marriage.
Or, some couples seek a secular marriage with no religious overtones. Many couples will seek premarital counseling to address specific aspects of the relationship from an emotional and mental health perspective.
Namaste Family Services offers 6-8 sessions specifically designed to address common difficulties that can occur within marriage after the honeymoon phase has worn off. The most common areas that couples seek help with are:
3. Defining the shared responsibilities of running a household
5. Controlling behavior
In these sessions, every couple will learn skills to communicate that are compassionate and resolve conflict in a peaceful manner. In addition to compassionate communication, other issues that are of concern will be addressed according to their unique needs.
Almost all couples enter the sanctity of marriage with the goal of growing old together and sharing life together. Premarital counseling helps to build a solid foundation in which to launch a loving and fruitful partnership.
When I did my graduate work to become a psychotherapist I was introduced and trained in three theories of treatment.
2. Family systems.
3. Cognitive Behavioral.
However, my undergrad major was social work. The basic tenets of social work do not rely on the above psychological beliefs. The beginnings of social work can be traced back to Jane Adams (September 6, 1860 – May 28, 1935) and her work in Chicago with immigrants and families who were impoverished. The basic necessities such as food, clothing, shelter, hygiene were paramount to survival. In 1943, Abraham Maslow wrote the paper, “A Theory of Human Motivation.” In this paper, he proposed that humans have a “Hierarchy of Needs” starting with the basic needs mentioned above. This was further defined in his book, “Motivation and Personality.” Once these needs are met, individuals can go to the next level, which according to Maslow is Safety, then Social, Self Esteem, and Self Actualization. At any point in a person’s life, they may have to descend the hierarchy to reclaim the original needs. For example, the loss of a job puts in jeopardy the ability to obtain basic necessities. This doesn’t mean that an individual regresses in their personal growth, but their priorities change. Another example is when
you lose a close friendship or have to move and lose the community you had developed for your social needs.
William Glasser, MD defines Reality Therapy as, “…A therapeutic approach that focuses on problem-solving and making better choices in order to achieve specific goals. …Reality therapy is focused on the here and now rather than the past.” (https://www.crchealth.com/types-of-therapy/reality-therapy/). Reality Therapy-borrowing from Maslow’s hierarchy-uses problem solving to help the client address the specific blocks that are hindering their ability to resolve the current dilemma they are facing.
In my practice, I blend the different psychological approaches to address the difficulties my clients are facing. Reality therapy techniques are used when an obvious solution is visible or a client is stuck in faulty or fantasy beliefs. An example of the use of reality therapy is in the couple’s work I do. On rare occasions, I will have a partner who is emotionally abusive or controlling their partner. Many times, the may not recognize how they are abusive. Directly addressing the abusive behavior is essential in these cases in order to save the relationship.
There are two basic tenets of Psychotherapy. The first one is the Hippocratic Oath which is summed up in the phrase, “Do no harm.” The second tent is, “Meet the client where they are at.” When a client seeks counseling they are at various stages in their life. From developmental to psychological, to specific circumstances. Understanding and having empathy for a client is paramount to developing a therapeutic “healing” relationship. In the initial stages of therapy, it is usually not effective to be using reality therapy until trust has formed. For some, their ego or sense of self is not stable sufficiently to use problem-solving skills as it may overwhelm them. An example is when someone has recently lost a loved one. Problem-solving is not effective during the initial stages of grief. Developing a safe, nurturing environment during the sessions allows a client to gradually address concreate problems. However, in an urgent or crisis period, the client must change, avoid, or remedy specific dilemmas or their emotional or physical health may be threatened if not injured.
Reality therapy can be as simple as gently pointing out how a person communicates to others may be considered inappropriate. Or, it may be as complex that it needs to be addressed in specific concrete steps laid out in a logical order to achieve the desired outcome.
The most effective way to use the techniques of reality therapy is with compassion, empathy, and timing so that it can be heard and utilized by the client. Unfortunately, there are times when I have had to be blunt with a client because their actions are hurting the physical or emotional wellbeing of others around them. Or their actions are seriously hurting themselves. This is the most difficult time for a client. And once the intervention is completed, a return to empathy and compassion can negate the sharp edge of reality.
Throughout my training, I was told that I must not induce my opinions or emotions into the session. This is sound advice for 95% of all therapeutic issues. However, when I see a client drinking themselves to death, or their hostile actions are hurting those around them, it is my belief that it would be unethical to not confront it with the force directly needed to alter the actions of the client. This is the hardest part of the job. I have seen many a therapist avoid and thus collude with the negative behaviors. An example of this is when a husband berates or belittles their spouse in the session and the therapist sits back without intervening.
In short, reality therapy is a technique that is used when appropriate for the clinical situation. It needs to be delivered if at all possible with caring compassion. Timing is critical. It does not replace the use of other therapeutic modalities but rather blends in with them to enhance the effectiveness of the client’s work.
When two people take the vows of marriage, it is an implied commitment that it will last as “long as both shall live.” The sacred trust of fidelity will not be broken. However, for many reasons, some will seek intimacy elsewhere. In most cases, the infidelity is discovered. The effects of this can be devastating. Betrayal, anger, abandonment, revenge, are all normal reactions when the affair is discovered. It may be as simple as excessive flirting, emotional attachment and finally sexual relations. In my practice, I have been witness to many levels of adultery. I have seen the pain it can cause, not only to the spouse but also to the children.
Can the marriage be saved, or will it break apart? Maybe, it depends on many factors. What triggered one spouse to seek another? Is there a lack of intimacy in the marriage? Abuse? Alcohol or drug abuse? One partner who believes that there are better mates out there. Whatever the reason, two critical things are needed to at least start the process of healing. The willingness to forgive and the willingness to accept accountability.
For many, when their trust is broken, they cannot trust the person again. For some, betrayal starts early in childhood, usually by a parent. If this is the case, the trust may have never been given, or cannot be regained. I have heard the saying that I will forgive but never forget. But is that true forgiveness?
On the other side of this equation is how does a spouse prove they are trustworthy? The simple answer is you can’t. Only faith and true forgiveness can restore a marriage to what it had once been.
How does a couple overcome this? When I work with a couple I will always ask each of them why you married your spouse. Did the love you had just disappear? Or did it eroded over time? Eros is the love of sexual attraction, and connection. It is basic to our instincts but usually fades and if possible it turns into Philia love. The love that holds a family together. Commitment, sacrifice, appreciation, and loyalty. This is the love that can stand up to life’s challenges. In its purest form, it is unconditional. When a spouse is unfaithful, either Philia’s love was never achieved, or it was ground down over the years.
While one spouse may break the vow of fidelity, both spouses usually have a responsibility to the breakdown of the marriage. The one who was betrayed may feel they hold the higher ground. This can turn into a power play that never helps the couple to regain balance in the marriage. Righteous anger is toxic. In addition, anger is usually used to cover more feelings of vulnerability. Acknowledging these emotions takes courage.
So how does one start to heal the relationship? Resolution is the key. This is where a marital therapist may play a role. An impartial, trained professional who seeks to put the relationship first. The couple must have a sincere desire to commit to the process and be open-minded. All connections to the one in which the spouse was cheating must end. There cannot be a third person in the counseling sessions lurking in the background.
The counseling process begins by gathering information on the marriage and on the background of each partner. Strategies to reconnect are suggested. Compassionate communication techniques are introduced along with the concept of “fair fighting”. Jumping starting or reinforcing basic intimacy is attended to with the specific needs of each couple considered. Other factors that are stressors or create distance are also addressed.
The process of reconciliation and recommitment to the marriage is arduous. A journey that takes love, courage, and commitment. There is no one set path to follow. But it is not an impossible journey if both truly want to stay married.