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Some Couples Do Live Happily Ever After Therapy
Written By: Mark Smith

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I got an e-mail from one of my fellow columnists this week suggesting that my recent fares have been a bit on the dark side. She suggested that I share something a little more upbeat and positive for a change. That got me thinking. I do have a lot of success stories that I never get around to talking about because I’m so busy pounding from my ‘you marry your issues’ pulpit. So here are some wonderful marital therapy success stories that I hope encourage you to take the therapy plunge for yourselves.

Steve was in his early 30’s, but he was an emotional little boy. He had one divorce behind him, and he looked like he might rack up two or three more before he was done. He was Peter Pan. At the first sign of conflict he was famous for ‘bugging out’ on a new girlfriend. When he showed up for therapy I thought that he would maybe last for a few months of soul searching before he bugged out on therapy too. Sure enough, after a few months of therapy Steve launched into an ‘I think that I’m ready for a break from therapy speech’. I don’t know why I did it, I had never done anything like that before or sense, but I actually reached over and grabbed this guy by the shirt and told him that his therapy wasn’t over and that he wasn’t going to go anywhere yet! His eyes got really big and he said, ‘Ok, I’ll do whatever you tell me to do’. He wasn’t scared, and I wasn’t intimidating him. I was holding him accountable, albeit in a very unusual but highly effective manner. Steve had a first date the next week, and I warned him that he had better be careful. He was operating differently now and not bugging out on the next woman he dated, so he just might develop into the healthiest relationship that he has ever had. That was 14 years and four kids ago. Steve and his wife literally have THE best marriage of anyone that I know.

The Jones’ were a handful in their first session. The ‘F’ word was flying so much that I informed them that they had shattered a 20 year record for its use during an initial session with me. The issue was a shockingly common one – the husband was not interested in having sex with the wife. I run across this frequently even if the wife is quite attractive. In the six months that I have been seeing them the Jones report a great deal of improvement: they enjoy regular fulfilling sexual relations, they feel close emotionally, they have both gained a great deal of insight into their families of origin and how their backgrounds impacted the marriage, and I haven’t heard an ‘F’ bomb during a session in months.

A couple I’ll call the Smiths started therapy with several bombshells exploding at once. Al learned that his wife of 20 years had not one but several affairs through the years. He had always been the good guy who supported his wife no matter what. He had never felt comfortable with mustering up any anger towards her for any reason. He ignored his own needs, and he lived to serve the family. He didn’t really know who he was or how he should respond to the devastating news of his wife’s infidelities.

After fewer than six months of therapy Al is a different man. He has worked through a lot of hurt and anger about the affairs, is getting comfortable with his anger, is taking up some new hobbies, is taking good care of himself and is genuinely happy. His marriage has come a long way, and it still has a long way to go. What surprised him the most has been the mode of therapy that has been the most helpful to him – group therapy. He is an introverted private fellow, but he has loved group because he is learning so much about his issues in a safe community. And it has been a lot of fun as well. Al glows when he talks about his group therapy experience. His therapy is really working for him.

So there you have it – me being positive and upbeat. Marital therapy really does work if you come to the work with open minds, open hearts and a great deal of motivation.

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This article was authored by Family Tree Counseling Associates, a marriage, individual and family counseling center serving the Indianapolis, Carmel, Fishers, Westfield and Noblesville communities in Indiana. If you would like to contact us, please fill out a contact us form or call us at 317-844-2442.
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