Will you be able to help my partner see how they need to change?
“This is probably the misconception many people walk in with – that one partner will express to me how they feel, and then I’ll help translate that for their partner to get them on board with the first partner’s needs,” says social worker, Lynn R. Zakeri. While she will help translate, she does it for both parties, she says. One scenario might be that the wife always gets mad when the husband hangs out with his friends. His agenda is that she be more understanding; hers is that he should hang out with her instead. “My role is to get to the underlying feelings about this,” she says. Does she not feel prioritised? Does he feel she is too controlling? Is there a lack of trust? “These questions help them get past the idea that going out with friends is a defining moment of the relationship,” she says.
How can I possibly take them back when my family is so mad?
“When there’s been a major betrayal like an affair, friends and family leap to the defence of the cheated-on partner,” says marriage and family therapist, Jill Whitney. “They’re mad at the person who was unfaithful and usually tell the betrayed person to leave the relationship.” However, Whitney advises the betrayed partner to politely ask people to back off. “They can say something like, ‘I appreciate your support and that you want to protect me. But I need to figure this out myself. Chris and I are seeing a therapist. I want to see if we can make it work. Please keep loving me, but give me space to decide what’s best for me.”
Shouldn’t my spouse know what I need after all these years?
“Even if you’ve been married a long time, you shouldn’t expect to your spouse to know what you’re thinking,” says social worker, Sarah Mandel. “Nothing is better than communication when you’re unsure what your partner needs [or your needs aren’t being met]. These are some of the skills that I help my couples with when they experience this frustration with each other.” If you want to understand your spouse, ask for clarification and give each other the benefit of the doubt, she says. “Both of you want the same thing – a happy marriage and to be understood,” she says. When you speak, focus on each other and the conversation, without being defensive. “Express your feelings, but also listen to your partner’s needs, too,” she says.