Couple Therapy Success Stories
Success Story #3:
Nancy Was Fed-Up with Doug’s Serial Affairs
Success Story #1
Tom Was Devastated after Discovering Carol’s Affair with
One of Their Best Friends
Tom and Carol had been married for seven years and were close friends with another couple. One day Tom discovered romantic email exchanges between Carol and the husband, Sam.
Naturally Tom was shocked and traumatized to discover the affair. When he confronted Carol she confessed that she and Sam had been involved for over six months. Even though Carol wasn’t sure she wanted to stay in the marriage, she decided to stop seeing Sam because she was feeling pressure from Tom to do so.
While Tom was devastated, he still loved Carol and desperately wanted to save his marriage. He had heard about my seven-stage Affair Recovery Program and was able to convince Carol that they should come to see me for couples therapy.
When we first met, I listened carefully to their story and supported both in their pain. Then, I helped them manage their immediate crisis and make important decisions. These included deciding what to say to family and friends, how to deal with their teenage children, who had found out about the affair, and whether they would separate.
After the immediate crisis was under control, I saw Carol for several individual therapy sessions, as she was still feeling ambivalent about her marriage. Our goal was to help her get clear as to whether or not she wanted to stay with Tom.
Carol and I talked about what the affair meant to her. Sam had given her the attention she longed for and had not been getting from Tom. She still had feelings for Sam and was thinking about resuming the affair.
We also discussed how the marriage had been for her before the affair began. Carol said she had felt neglected and abandoned by Tom for quite a while due to the long hours he had been putting in at work.
She had tried for a couple of years to get Tom to spend more time with her and the children, but whenever she spoke to him about it he would become defensive and withdraw further.
The more Tom withdrew into his work, the more frustrated, critical, and angry Carol became… and the more she expressed these emotions, the more he pulled away. It was an endless cycle and it had become the monster in their marriage that had made Carol vulnerable to an affair.
As a result of her individual therapy sessions, Carol realized that although she had been unhappy in her marriage for some time, she had been satisfied in her relationship with Tom before. She remembered some of the good times they had together and she worked through some of her negative feelings.
As a result, Carol decided to give her marriage another chance in the hopes that they could again be happy, and also for the sake of their two children.
We then resumed marriage therapy sessions to begin the healing of both Carol and Tom as well as their relationship.
Tom disclosed how deeply he had been wounded by the affair and when Carol heard this, she realized how much she meant to Tom. She responded with heartfelt sorrow and compassion. Carol also took responsibility for how she had hurt Tom and their children.
In the following session, I helped Carol work through her guilt about the pain she had caused others and her shame over having violated her own values. At this point it was Tom who expressed compassion.
As we continued to work our way through the all seven stages of my Affair Recovery Program, Tom and Carol reconnected more and more with each other.
Near the end of their couple therapy they reported that they had become closer to each other than they had ever been. They were very grateful for my Affair Recovery Program and stated that it had saved their marriage.
I followed up with Carol and Tom one year later and they were continuing to do very well. They had put the affair behind them and they were helping couples in their church who were struggling in their marriages.
Success Story #2
Stacy and Jeff Were Stuck:
They Had the Same Destructive Fights Over and Over
Stacy was frustrated with Jeff, her athletic husband, who during the past few months had been spending much of his free time preparing for a triathlon. She kept insisting that he train less and spend more time helping with the chores and the care of their three young children.
When Tom resisted her demands and increasingly withdrew from her, she became angrier and angrier. Their ongoing conflict ranged from day to day bickering, to all out blow-ups in which they would yell and say hurtful things. Each felt totally unsupported by the other.
Stacy decided they should go to marriage counseling together and Jeff agreed to attend.
As their couple therapist, I helped Stacy and Jeff look at the deeper feelings that lay beneath the surface anger and frustration they felt toward each other.
Stacy discovered that at the root of her anger and resentment there was a longing for connection with Jeff and a fear that she might be losing him. She felt sad and lonely. In addition she felt overwhelmed, like she was “drowning” looking after their three children all by herself.
Jeff disclosed that he felt “bossed” and emasculated by Stacy. He was afraid that if he gave in to her and cut back on preparing for his triathlon, he would be swallowed up by her and wouldn’t have a life. Hence, he became increasingly resistant to her demands. Also, he spent more time training than he needed to as a way of avoiding her.
They had fallen into a negative pattern of relating, a vicious cycle, in which Stacy’s demands were fueling Tom’s withdrawal and his withdrawal was fueling Stacy’s demands.
Once Stacy and Jeff heard each other’s deeper feelings in therapy, their relationship began to heal. They realized how much they missed each other and they remembered times in the past when Stacy would attend Jeff’s sporting events and cheer him on.
Stacy softened and eased off on her demands. She began to let Jeff know how important he was to her and how much she wanted to spend time with him. Jeff stopped withdrawing and began to engage more with Stacy. And he began to pitch in more around the house.
After four months of couples counseling, Stacy and Jeff had resolved much of their fear, hurt, and anger. They had gotten out of their demand-resist cycle and their constant bickering had stopped. In addition, they had developed new, healthier ways of relating to each other.
Best of all, they had gotten their closeness back.
And the triathlon for which Jeff had been training? He achieved a new personal best time. Waiting there for him as he crossed the finish line was Stacy, who proudly threw her arms around him!
At one-year follow-up Stacy and Jeff were doing very well.
Success Story #3
Nancy Was Fed-Up with Doug’s Serial Affairs
One evening Mary saw her friend Nancy’s corporate-executive husband, Doug, sitting at a candle-lit table in the back of a restaurant with his administrative assistant. The two of them were holding hands across the table and acting romantically towards each other.
When Mary told Nancy, she was livid. She confronted Tom and discovered that he had been having an affair for over a year. And it wasn’t the first time.
In their twelve years of marriage together, Nancy had been traumatized by two previous affairs Doug had. Both times she had eventually forgiven Doug for the affairs, after he swore up and down that it would not happen again. But this time, she had enough. She hired a divorce attorney.
Doug saw that he was on the edge of losing Mary and he panicked. Desperate to save his marriage, he hurriedly broke off the affair and then went on line looking for a marriage therapist.
He discovered my private Marriage Counseling Weekend Intensives for couples in crisis and he noticed that I specialize in affair-recovery. Doug pleaded with Nancy to join him in doing a weekend couples therapy intensive with me and she reluctantly agreed.
The intensive I did with Doug and Nancy lasted for 3 days, during which I guided them through my seven-stage Affair Recovery Program.
I began the weekend by helping them de-escalate. I helped Nancy get her rage under control and Doug get his anxiety down to a manageable level. Once they were calmer, Nancy agreed to give their marriage one last chance and to put the divorce proceedings on hold.
I then helped Nancy articulate the feelings that lay beneath her rage: feelings of shock, betrayal, and devastation. Doug listened intently to Nancy as I helped her articulate the trauma he had caused her with his three affairs. For the first time he realized how deeply he had wounded her.
After Nancy described her pain in the session, Doug choked up and became tearful. He expressed deep remorse and responded to her in a caring, compassionate way.
After about five months of couples therapy as well as Doug’s individual therapy, he and Nancy and were doing better than ever. Doug was able to gain control over his sexual addiction and heal the underlying issues that had caused it.
Over time, Doug and Nancy re-bonded and resumed their sexual relationship. They got back the happiness they had enjoyed earlier in their marriage. They were glad they had gone through my Affair Recovery Program.
At two-year follow-up, they remained very satisfied in their relationship.
Success Story #4
Sandy and Bill Felt Disconnected from Each Other:
They Were Like Roommates
Sandy and Bill’s romantic life had disappeared over the past several years. They rarely touched and seldom had any meaningful conversation with each other. In the evenings they would watch TV or read in separate rooms. Usually they went to bed at different times.
As Sandy stated, they were like roommates. They never fought, but they lacked any real connection and their excitement and passion for each other was long gone. Their relationship was like a flat bottle of seltzer; it lacked “fizz”. While Bill wasn’t happy with their relationship either, he tolerated this flatness better than Sandy did.
One morning Sandy had coffee with a girlfriend who talked about how close she and her husband were. The more she talked about how wonderful her marriage was, the more envious Sandy felt. On the way home she decided that she could no longer handle the disconnect between her and Bill.
Later that day she expressed her frustration to Bill and asked him to join her in marriage counseling.
During our couples therapy sessions, it came out that Sandy and Bill once had a lot of “fizz” in their marriage. This was true until their third year of marriage when, for the first time, they began to disagree about some important issues.
Because neither of their sets of parents had handled conflict well, Sandy and Bill never learned how to deal effectively with conflict. So they became conflict-avoiders. They feared that if they tried to discuss a conflict issue they might wind up yelling and screaming at each other as their parents had done.
They were afraid conflict would tear them apart. So they gave into each other a lot and resented it later. Or they just swept their issues under the carpet.
Over time, neglecting to discuss issues had led to a gradual decline in closeness. Like other couples therapy clients I have had, by avoiding conflict they were also avoiding truly connecting with each other. Trying to keep away from conflict had led to the “fizz” going out of their relationship.
During marriage counseling, I facilitated Sandy and Bill talking about the distance between them and how empty they both felt. At last, they were having a meaningful conversation about their relationship. Paradoxically, this discussion about disconnection opened the door to them reconnecting with each other.
Over the next few weeks the “fizz” came back into their relationship. It no longer felt “flat.” The excitement and passion they once felt for each other returned.
I began to teach Sandy and Bill how to handle conflict by either resolving it, or agreeing to disagree. To their amazement, rather than breaking them apart, discussing their disagreements actually brought them closer together.
Fortunately for Sandy and Bill, we only had to work together in couple therapy for about three months. They had sought help for their problem fairly early in the game and so we didn’t have to “un-do” a lot of damage that might have occurred if they had allowed the distance between them to continue to grow.
Sandy and Bill were still enjoying each other at one-year follow-up.
Success Story #5
Karen Threatened to Divorce Steve:
“I Won’t Settle for a Mediocre Relationship”
Steve thought everything was basically fine in his relationship with Karen. There were some things that he was unhappy about, but he wasn’t too worried.
Then one day, after nineteen years of marriage, Karen suddenly announced that she was considering divorce. Steve was shocked.
Karen told Steve she still cared about him, but felt neglected by him and didn’t feel romantic towards him anymore. Although she had not had an affair, she was starting to feel attracted to other men.
She announced that she would no longer settle for a mediocre relationship. Karen wanted an exceptional one. She said that if things didn’t change she would leave.
Steve decided to seek out my help as a marriage therapist, and Karen agreed to attend sessions with him. Since their marriage was on the brink due to Karen’s divorce threat, they decided to do a private marriage counseling weekend intensive, which I offer to couples in crisis, and then follow up with weekly couples therapy sessions.
During their weekend with me we worked together in a highly focused way. It was revealed that the playing field had changed over the years that Steve and Karen had been together.
They had one child who was grown up and had left home and Karen now had lots of friends and an exciting job where she was earning much more income than Steve. The rest of her life was going great and she was no longer willing to settle for an unfulfilling marriage.
While she was willing to work on the relationship, she made it clear that if things didn’t improve – meaning if Steve didn’t pay more attention to her – it was over as far as she was concerned.
On the second day of their weekend intensive it became clear that Steve had been keeping his distance from Karen because of her extreme criticalness. Often, she had verbally attacked him and the more she had done this, the more he had withdrawn to his computer.
Of course, the more he had withdrawn, the more she had attacked. They had fallen into a cycle that over the past several years had gradually picked up speed and lately had been spinning around out of control.
In the safety of their weekend intensive, Steve was able to admit that he felt insecure about Karen earning more money than him. Karen had never complained about this. However, Steve felt he wasn’t living up to his responsibility as a man. He felt inadequate and I worked with him to help him overcome this feeling.
At one point during their weekend intensive I slowly asked Steve, “What would it be like for you if you were standing with Karen in the front hallway of your home and you saw her slowly turn away from you and walk out the door… and you knew that you would never see her again?”
He began to cry and said that he would be devastated, that it would be almost more than he could bear. This display of emotion caught Karen’s attention. She began to see that Steve really did care about her, even though he hadn’t been showing it.
After their weekend intensive, we continued working together in weekly couple counseling for the next three months.
As therapy continued, Steve began to pay more attention to Karen and she began to show more acceptance to Steve. They opened their hearts to each other in new ways. As they did this, they became more affectionate with each other and they grew closer together.
At one-year follow-up they were doing better than ever. Karen had the exceptional relationship she wanted and Steve was happier than he had ever been with Karen.
Success Story #6
Peter and Sharon Were Disillusioned When They Discovered Their Blended Family Wasn’t the “Brady Bunch” After All
Peter and Sharon each had three teen-aged children from previous marriages. Once they married they moved into a large house with their combined six children.
They joked that they were like the “Brady Bunch”, the TV family from the 1970’s where a couple who each have three children become one big happy family. They even loved to watch reruns of this popular show.
Gradually Peter and Sharon discovered that it wasn’t so easy to blend their families together. They became stuck in conflict over their differing parenting styles, a common blended family problem. Peter felt Sharon was too lenient with her children, and Sharon felt Peter was too harsh with them.
They were very much in love and both agreed that if they didn’t have children, everything would be fine. However this issue was causing a lot of anger and resentment to grow between them.
As the conflict worsened, Sharon and her three children started disconnecting from Peter and his three children. As a couple and a family, they were losing a lot of their closeness. It began to look like two different families living under the same roof.
The couple eventually decided to come in to see me for my marriage counseling for blended families in order to save their marriage and family.
As I began to work with Peter and Sharon, it became clear that under their anger and resentment, each felt discounted by the other. Both wondered, “If my feelings about parenting don’t matter, than how much do I matter?” And both secretly worried about where their marriage might be headed.
As Peter and Sharon got in touch with the insecurity they both felt, they began to give reassurances about how much they meant to each other and how committed they were to their marriage. They began to get back both their sense of security and their closeness.
I helped Peter and Sharon see how important it was for them to put their marriage first. After all, if they did not have it together as a couple, then they could hardly be an effective parenting team. They started going out together again and enjoying each other’s company.
I then helped them see that both of their parenting styles were effective depending on the situation. There were times when their children required more gentleness, and times when a firmer approach was needed. We discussed which kinds of parenting situations required toughness and which required tenderness.
Through my marriage counseling for blended families Peter and Sharon began to reconnect as a parenting team and to develop a more collaborative parenting style that worked well for them. They grew confident that they would always be able to find ways to deal with the inevitable challenges they would face as parents in a blended family.
I also helped them let go of their idealized view of what it meant to be a successful blended family. They realized that being “The Brady Bunch” wasn’t realistic. Peter and Sharon wisely decided to stop striving to have the perfect blended family and instead to settle for having a “good enough” blended family.
At one-year follow up, Peter and Sharon continued to function well as parents. The couple was happier together and their blended family was more unified.
If you are having blended family problems and want to transform your relationship like the couples above have, contact me now and for effective marriage counseling for blended families.
Note: each of the success stories above is a composite of the stories of several couples.
Master couples therapist and psychologist Dr. Jay Lindsay utilizes Emotionally Focused Couple Therapy (EFT), one of the most researched and effective approaches to marital therapy. Based in Louisville, (near Boulder) Colorado, Dr. Lindsay is a marriage counselor who is sought after by couples from all across the country.