Miracle Marital Mission
Written By: Mark Smith
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Friday 4/29 6:30pm - I got a call several weeks ago from Paul, one of my all-time favorite clients. I worked with Paul and his wife many years ago. He was charming, teachable, funny, likable, interesting and he became a Mark Smith fan. Paul said that he had a friend who desperately needed some very effective marital therapy. One thing led to another and I now find myself pecking away on my IPad on a 737 headed for Florida. The gig for the next three days will be to intensively work with Dave and Susan (not their real names) for three hours in the morning and three hours in the evening while lying on the beach all afternoon. I couldn't pass a gig like that up!
Dave and Sue are beyond miserable. They have been married 30+ long, disconnected, sad, lonely years. Dave was a notorious workaholic business owner for over 25 years. He numbed his marital pain by building one of the largest businesses of its kind in the state of Florida. After retirement Dave no longer has his most effective pain medication. Retirement can cause dormant issues to start exploding. He is now desperate for intimate connection with Susan. Their rationship has turned reactive, combative and even more painful.
Dave is bitter, victimy and relentless in his criticism of Susan's drinking, smoking and mainly her sexual distancing. He is on the brink of divorce although that is not at all what he wants. I'm packing some powerful medicine in my bag for my trip to Florida. I fully expect to completely change how both Dave and Susan see the marriage, how they view the whole of their lives, how they see their parents and how they see and feel the pain of their marriage. I have a stunning message, confidence, communication skills and two open and motivated new clients. I am going to describe for you exactly how this case unfolds. If it blows up in my face and they are in divorce court next week I will tell you exactly that. Neither Dave or Susan historically have had much faith in the healing power of therapy. They are both pretty reactive. I might very well be spending more time on the beach then I had originally planned for. The thing is, I'm in the business of selling delicious, ice-cold lemonade to parched, dehydrated, thirsty souls who are willing to do whatever it takes to get more lemonade. In spite of the fact that this is actually a difficult and challenging case I am convinced that I will reach both Dave and Susan on a deep level 30 minutes into our first session. The paradigm we base the therapy on is so shockingly simple, profound, inarguable, air-tight and totally bad ass that in my heart of hearts I know that this isn't really a miracle mission...it's a slam dunk contest complete with cool obstacles. Think Blake Griffin!
It is Babe Ruth pointing to was going to hit a home run and then doing it. My point isn't to brag on myself but rather to give you hope for your marriage as well.
If these distant mortal marital enemies with 30+ years of marital destruction and erosion can rebuild their marriage from the ground up then you can too! The difference between a bitter divorce and a healed marriage can and often is the quality of the marital therapist. That is sad but it is true. There are many really bad marriage counselors out there. Dave and Susan have tried therapy twice, with zero positive impact. If your marriage counselor does not focus primarily on the wounds of your childhoods and how those patterns get re-enacted in your marriage then you are wasting your time and your money and you are most likely headed for a nasty divorce. I want to give you hope, not so much with the prospect of your working directly with me, but with working with other therapists who use a Systems, Intergenerational Recovery Approach to marital work. If you think your situation is hopeless then join me in this weekend adventure with Dave and Susan. Their marital denial, misery and victim stance is about ready to get blown up!
4/30 Saturday 9:00am - Unfortunately my energy level is not high. Since suffering a partially collapsed lung due to my motorcycle accident I have had a deep chest cold that just won't go away. Dave and Susan are pretty much going to get my 'C Game'. Between coughing, sniffling, blowing my nose and generally feeling like death warmed over I fear that the quality of the work is going to be hampered.
4/30 4:00pm My older brother, Chuck just happened to be attending a meeting just 10 minutes from my hotel. We enjoyed a nice seafood lunch (I conveniently forgot my wallet), played putt-putt (he spanked me as he said he would) and then we jumped in the ocean. Ironically I also ran into my younger brother at the airport in Indianapolis. When you are flowing with the Universe's plan for you, you have a sense of being in the right place at the right time.
5/02 Sunday 5:00pm - I have now completed 9.50 hours of therapy with Dave and Susan. Things have gone better than I had hoped. Dave is a wellspring of little boy neediness and sadness. He has quit pointing his finger of blame at Susan. He is vulnerable, sweet, enthusiastic and teachable. He is prone to get a little reactive, aggressive and ouchy if he feels misunderstood, but we worked through that on several occasions. He gave me to 'shush hand' more than anyone has ever given it to me in 25 years yesterday but we talked our way through it.
I informed him that only the therapist can give the 'shush hand' in therapy. Susan is sweet, cautious, funny, insightful and extremely open. She said that she felt a weight lifted off of her as her learned how her family of origin issues fit in together so well with Dave's. They ended their second session with a long, very sweet embrace. In spite of all of the distance, betrayal, rejection and pain through the years they clearly still love each other. The key to marriage counseling is enlightening the partner or partners in the marriage who feel bitter, resentful and victimized by their spouse that they, in fact, have never been victimized by their spouse in any way, shape or form. Initially Dave came across as whiney, reactive and triangling as he spoke about his marriage. He loved to vent his spleen about all the hurtful things she had done to him over the years. He now knows that Susan was not responsible for the massive depth of his pain and unhappiness.
Sunday 5/01 10:45pm We just finished another 2.50 hours. People are so interesting! That is what makes my work so much fun. In gathering the family background information we had a pistol packing mother, a grandfather who put out a contract on himself, a father who hid in his backyard 'living room' and various other nuts in the family tree. Dave was severely abandoned by both of his parents, he has a lot of shame so he is defensive, he is controlling and he has more energy that 10 normal people. Susan is codependent, she shuts down during conflict, she has some issues with drinking and she frequently allows herself to be manipulated by Dave. I got more 'hand shushing' from Dave tonight but ultimately he calms down and owns his stuff. The session ended with another tender hug between husband and wife. We lanced a festering boil tonight that has been being avoided for decades by the couple because both of them just felt too raw and too unsafe to go there. Dave is a handful. At one point Susan asked me a question during the session and my man just jumped in and fielded the question with a very opinionated response that left me little room for me to share feedback that wasn't in contradiction to his. I pointed out that he took over, that he was used to being the man in charge and then I whacked away at this feedback, which was actually pretty off base. Counterdependents are capable of trying tp do healthy and noble things in the most arrogant and insensitive of manners. When I'm done with a 2.5 or 3 hour session with Dave I feel like I have been wrestling all afternoon.
He is tenacious when it comes to ultimately being able to take feedback in though and that is ultimately going to win his marriage back for him.
5/1 11:00pm A guy just came into the business center and said that he had heard that the US had killed Osama Bin Laden. That is justice! To me that was good news.
Dave and Susan are going to be fine. Susan is gaining a voice, she has a lot of wisdom and she is becoming less intimidated by Dave. Dave’s intense pain has resulted in intense motivation to work on his issues. I am proud of the work that both of them did this weekend. We will wrap up tomorrow and I will get on a plane headed back home to Indy. Mission accomplished!
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