CAN THIS TROUBLED
MARRIAGE BE SAVED?
of power struggle, rechannel strategies.
When couples show up in my office
for counseling, they are often angry and in shock, despair and
Some are relative newlyweds, and
they can't understand how they have plummeted form the heights of
love and glory into a swamp of hopelessness and conflict.
Others have been married for many years, and though they have been
drudging along - in calm or in storm - and their days of wine and
roses are a dim memory, they are nevertheless devastated by the
shambles of their marriage, and the consequent lack of fulfillment
in their lives.
Even if life at home is relatively
peaceful, couples lament that they have "nothing in common
anymore." And so they lead a disappointed or angry
co-existence, each with their own friends and interests, in a
marriage of convenience, or an arrangement they endure "for
the sake of the children."
They wonder if they will ever again
feel love for their mates. Can they ever breach the chasm of
silence, or anger, that has grown between them? Perhaps they
should just cut their losses and find someone who loves and
understands them, someone who offers one more chance at the love
and security they long for.
Whatever form they take, shattered
dreams are painful. If you are reading this, you may also be
struggling to find love and meaning in your marriage or
relationship. I assure you, as I assure the couples who come
to me in such distress, there is hope.
In fact, the pain and conflict of
marriage arise not out of lack of love for our partners, but from
a misunderstanding of what marriage is about. Moreover, your
conflict can be the fuel for the fulfillment you seek.
When we fall in love, we believe
we've found it. Suddenly life is in technicolor. We
nibble each other's ear and tell each other everything; our
limitations and rigidities melt away.
We're sexier, smarter, funnier,
more giving. We decide that we can't live without our
beloved, for now we feel whole, we feel like ourselves. For
awhile we are able to relax. Finally, we feel safe, and
breathe a sigh of relief. It looks like everything is going
to turn out all right, after all.
But, inevitably - often when we
marry or move in together - as night follows day, things just
begin to go wrong. In some cases, all hell breaks
loose. The veil of illusion falls away, and it seems that
our partners are different than we thought they were. It
turns out they have qualities that we can't bear. Even
qualities we once admired grate on us.
Old hurts are reactivated as we
realize that our partners cannot or will not love and care for us
as they promised. Our dreams are shattered.
Disillusionment turns to anger,
fueled by fear that we won't survive without the love and safety
that was within our grasp. Since our partner is no longer
willingly giving us what we need, we change tactics, trying to
maneuver our partners into caring through anger, crying,
withdrawal, shame, intimidation, criticism - whatever works.
We will make them love us.
Now we negotiate - for time, love,
chores, gifts - measuring our success against an economic
yardstick of profit and loss. The power struggle has begun
and may go on for many years until we split, or we settle into an
uneasy truce, or until we seek help, desperate to feel alive and
whole again, to have our dream back.
What we don't realize is that the
power struggle is a normal developmental stage of the
relationship, just as the romantic love phase is. The power
struggle is fed by our unconscious and until we know what is
feeding the power struggle and how to work through it, we won't
get the love that we so desperately seek.
The couples I work with in my
practice usually come to therapy because of the pain of the power
struggle. In order to heal the relationship both partners
must be committed to the relationship and to doing the work the
power struggle is calling them to do.
The goal of the therapy is to
become passionate friends with your partner, to develop what might
be called "Reality Love," which is based not on
childhood notions of attachment, but on knowledge, care, respect,
and value of the other person.
In the safe setting of my office,
and in the structured work you and your partner will do together,
uncover what the power struggle
is really about
tell each other exactly what
would make you feel loved
use that information to
rechannel behavior into effective ways of love and caring for
each other, as well as meeting your partners personal needs
replace inappropriate behaviors
and defense strategies
give your partner what he or
This type of therapy is called
Imago Relationship Therapy and was developed by Harville Hendrix,
PhD. and based on the best-selling book, Getting The Love You
Want. I trained with the Institute for Imago Relationship
Therapy and am a certified Imago Relationship Therapist. I
have dedicated the last fifteen years of my career to helping
couples get the love they want.