Posts Tagged ‘marriage counseling’

The last one was so vivid. They are always the same ~ my husband moves back into the house. This morning I woke up thinking, “Thank God it was only a dream!” I have been having these dreams almost every night since he moved out.

We went to see my therapist last week – all 7 of us. Compared to the day we told the kids that “dad” was moving out, they were very quiet. Only speaking when answering a question and volunteering no information on their own. Giving very little indication of “how they are doing”.

My husband also acted so strange during the therapy session, doing most of the talking and saying several times that despite his circumstances, he felt “so blessed”. (?!) He told us that he lived in his car for a week, (yes, you read that right, he lived in his car!) until one of his friends took pity on him and invited him to stay in a guest room. Being true to his character of always wanting “all” or “nothing” he said to me privately that we either need to divorce or he is going to come back home.

Whatever strength I lacked in enforcing boundaries in my marriage up to this point, I lack no longer. I have told my husband that our separation does not have to end in divorce, but he should use this time away from the family as an opportunity to work on his personal issues. I will not consider a reconciliation until:

1) He receives counseling – he can not change his behavior long term if he doesn’t understand what drives it.
2) He repairs his relationship with my two older children – the damage he has done to them as an emotionally abusive father can never be undone, but I pray it can be healed.
3) We attend marriage/family therapy – we are a broken family and it has been that way long before the separation

This is such a bittersweet time for me, I’m not sure how much of it I will be able to write about. I am glad my husband has moved out and I feel such a sense of peace and renewal in our home. But at the same time, the ugliness that caused the situation looms nearby and the strength required of me now is elusive. I know it can not be my own strength, it must be His. I also know myself, and know I am not always the most faithful of followers. I tend to lean on Him only when I have no other choice.

As I stand on the precipice of a new season, I acknowledge I don’t know what is next. Whether I feel ready or not, I remind myself, He is ready and I have to be clinging to Him.


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Wishing this couch wasn’t so familiar to me as I settle in with a box of Kleenex, anticipating an emotional hour spent sharing the events of my week.

“I just want you to sit and listen while I read something to you“, my therapist announced unexpectedly. With no preface, she began reading:

Narcissistic wounding starts early in life to children whose parents are insecure, abusive, addictive, or have narcissistic patterns themselves . . . People with narcissistic traits process information, emotions and unresolved pain to make up for what they did not have in childhood.”

“Narcissistic injury happens to the child when his emotional needs are not  met . . . They learn how manipulation and using guilt gets what they want.”

They cannot tolerate negative emotional distress and turn it on others in blame, rather than looking within to see their own part of the problem . . . They deny and rationalize their own contribution to the problems to preserve their own internal fantasy of being good and right.”

“They are super sensitive to criticism and either attack the other person or leave the scene. This blaming the person who gives criticism helps the person with narcissistic defenses avoid feeling guilt, shame and depression, but it also keeps them from taking responsibility for learning from their mistakes and ultimately from growing up.”

“They seek refuge in being seen as the good guy and try to gain approval and recognition from others . . . Constantly seeking attention and approval puts them in the precarious position of always needing something from yet someone else.”

“As they believe they are right and others are wrong, they rarely admit faults in themselves . . . They believe they have the right to do whatever it takes to get short term gratification without suffering any consequences . . .They have little or no remorse for the pain they caused the other person, only anger that they did to get away with their behavior.”

“Family members learn to back off from confronting their bad behavior in attempt to not ‘hurt their feelings’ . . . Criticism of their behavior or trying to get them to see what they are doing only causes them to entrench further into defensiveness.”

“When found out in wrong doing, they get evasive, lie or get angry . . . They would rather threaten their relationship than face humiliation, embarrassment or injury to their self esteem.”

“The narcissism defenses of becoming angry, shutting down, minimizing and distancing keep them feeling safe in the moment . . . People with severe narcissistic traits do not change because they do not believe that they have a problem . . . They CAN NOT see the damage that they inflict on others.”


* Uses emotional blackmail to get what he wants
* Has poor insight and can not see the impact his selfish behavior has on others
* Wants to control what you do and say – tries to micromanage
* Is unable to see things from any point of view other than his own
* Ignores your feelings and calls you overly sensitive if you express feelings
* Does not expect to be penalized for failure to follow directions or conform to guidelines
* Neglects the family to impress others
* Is overly involved with his own hobbies

She looked up from the screen of the tablet from which she was reading and asked, “Does this sound like anyone you know?” I nodded, speechless.

“I’ve always doubted the diagnosis of ADD for your husband, and even though it might be accurate, this sure seems to describe him as well, doesn’t it?” Again I could only nod, dumbfounded.

But what does this mean? Then I realized . . . my husband may have multiple issues which could explain his behavior, and that are blindingly evident to those closest to him, but it really is quite irrelevant until he sees that he has issues which need to be addressed and until he wants to resolve them.

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Spending time with an adult ADD “expert” gave me more insight to my husband’s behavior than weeks spent reading books on marriage & ADD, months on the couch of my therapist, and years of unproductive conversations with my husband. Here is the advice she gave me over lunch:


“Even though you may feel justified in being angry at your husband for the suffering he has caused you, the inevitable result is that both of you are hurt deeply and your indignation does nothing to help you deal with your anger.”

“You can address the root causes of anger in your relationship by giving back the responsibility for fixing ADD to the partner who has it. While at the same time, taking charge of your own happiness again.”


“The cure for anger? – Forgiveness”

“Blame diminishes each partners ability to be empathetic – it impairs the ability to forgive – it sets up two people as adversaries rather than partners – it provides an excuse to not keep trying.”

“Forgiveness can only occur after anger and sadness have been exposed, expressed and validated.”


“You should allow yourself to experience sadness, because grieving for what you have not had in your marriage, up to this point, is one of the first steps toward building a new life together.”

“Both partners should grieve over what could have been, but wasn’t because of the unrecognized effects of ADD on your lives. You can’t resolve someone’s grief. Just acknowledge and empathize; don’t dismiss. Over time, grief that is acknowledged and validated will heal.”

“Seek help! A good counselor will help you focus on today’s issues rather than the past.”


“When couples learn about ADD and work together to address problematic symptoms, life can improve dramatically.”


“Deciding whether to treat ADD is the sole responsibility of the person who has it. How to respond to your husband’s decision about treatment is up to you.”

“If the your husband decides against treatment, you will be left with only unpleasant choices:”

1) force treatment
2) force change without treatment
3) give up on change but stay in the relationship                                                (which often results in depression and anger)
4) leave the relationship


“Your husband might refuse treatment for ADD symptoms, essentially forcing you to “take it or leave it”

“At some point, the situation may become untenable for you and if your husband remains uninterested in treatment, expressing your own needs very clearly in the form of an ultimatum is all that will be left.”

. . . There may be an ultimatum in my future.

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What would you give your spouse if you could give her anything?” our marriage counselor once asked my husband. His answer: “Financial freedom.”

“. . . Tomorrow is Thanksgiving and although yesterday was payday, I will only have $75 left after paying the bills. And that will be needed to put gas in the car for the next two weeks. We have no food for tomorrow and as I walk down the aisles of the supermarket, I am so drained, I could cry . . . not from the lack of funds in my checking account, but from the weariness of feeling so alone . . . ”

This is what I wrote in my journal November 2008. I can’t help but feel that same weariness as I remember my husband’s answer to our marriage counselor, as well as that walk down the supermarket aisle and realize that much hasn’t changed since then.

My husband recently told me that he feels I am the “parent” in the family and he is the “paycheck”. He feels like I don’t appreciate him for providing for us financially – I feel like he doesn’t realize just how dearly I have paid for his provision.

While my marriage has not changed much since 2008, and my heart is wounded just as easily by my husband’s words and actions, I find strength and comfort in a different Source.

“The Truth has the power to set me free and to protect my mind and heart from deceptive thoughts and feelings. The moments when I feel besieged with emotions or thoughts I know are not of God, I need to run to the Truth for refuge.” (Lies Women Believe – DeMoss)

When we are weary, looking at the future is draining and discouraging, but His mercies are new each day – we need to do what is right for today. Weariness leads to discouragement. When weariness sets it, go to the Word and wait (with expectancy) on the Lord to renew your strength.”    (J. Osteen)

My purpose in life is not to pursue all the health, wealth and happiness I can obtain but to glorify God in whatever circumstances I may be.

Isaiah 35:4-6 & 10b . . . to those who have tired hearts, “Be strong and do not fear for your God is coming to save you.” And when He comes, He will open the eyes of the blind and unstop the ears of the deaf. The lame will leap like a deer and those who can not speak will shout and sing . . . Sorrow and mourning will disappear and they will be overcome with joy and gladness.

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The house was quiet, clean and I still had another hour before it was time to pick up the kids from school. I sat myself in front of the computer to browse Amazon for an author whose words would help me heal and gain insight. With each click of the mouse, the website would suggest more authors and titles for me to peruse. Beth Moore, click, Rob Bell, click, T.D. Jakes, click. After a few more clicks, my attention was captured and I found myself unable to turn my eyes away – like one who is passing a tragic accident on the road . . .

” . . . We’ve had many blowouts about his behavior. I thought I had unreasonable expectations, perhaps I was too needy . . . I have years of pent up frustration over his behavior. He can be amazingly inconsiderate . . . But yet, if I express that frustration, I am accused of disrespecting him. If he has let me down by another broken promise or more bad behavior, he says I am over reacting and looking for a reason to start a fight . . . ”       Lynn

” . . . I dream of a home with stability, a spouse who exercises mature decision making skills and takes responsibility for his own actions . . . Where calmness resides and there is some sort of structure . . . Where I am not blamed for things because now there is a man in the household who will be responsible for his own behavior instead of turning it around on me or the kids . . .” – Sheila

” . . . It wasn’t that I didn’t want there to be genuine warmth and affection in our relationship, but because I was angry there was no room even for respect . . . “ – Amber

” . . . The chronic communication issues have left me feeling hopeless. My husband has decided that I had problems long before he ever met me . . . “ Kimberly

” . . . Because of my husband’s irresponsibility, I am often stuck with so much responsibility . . . It’s always something and I am so sick and tired of the excuses whether they’re valid or not . . . I’ve pretty much become numb to his endless tales of woe . . . I have lost nearly all respect for him . . . I resent what he has put me through . . . “ – Lauren

. . . Over the years, we have gone to marriage counseling with no change. I am extremely hurt by it all and I still feel very alone. He will not change. He can not change. In his never ending – last minute emergency – drop everything – never available for me life, I can hardly catch his attention unless, I too, am in crisis mode. I am tired of repeatedly having my hopes dashed. To sum it up, if it all depends on me, then I guess I am not a big enough person to do it. I can do a lot, but I can’t do everything, and at this point, I feel like doing nothing . . . ” – Ann

What did these stories have in common? Stories that could have been my own. These women were all married to men with ADD.

(Excerpts taken from “Is It You Me or ADD” by Gina Pera and “The ADD Effect On Marriage” by Melissa Orlov)

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Channel surfing again. It’s late. My husband is sleeping and the only light in the bedroom is the flicker that comes from the tv as I change the channel every few seconds. I set the remote down when I come to the PBS station. A couple is being interviewed. The title of the segment, “ADD and Loving It.” I listen as they talk about their marriage and the dynamics of their relationship. It sounds very much like my marriage, but instead of speaking with despair, the wife seems to be light-hearted about the challenges of their life together.

How can she do that?” I wonder. But it is only a passing thought, since I am “working on me” these days, and trying to understand my husband’s behavior or resolving my marital issues have not been a priority.

A few weeks pass . . . I am “blog surfing” and this catches my attention:

” . . . For the past three years, my online exchanges with hundreds of partners to people with undiagnosed or untreated ADHD tell me this: They desperately love their partners, and yet they’re desperately hurting and confused. They need help . . . They didn’t know ADHD had anything to do with their partner’s rage, compulsive spending, and difficulty being a parent. Many live with partners in complete denial, refusing to even hear of ADHD. It’s not that the non-ADHD partners consider themselves paragons of mental-health virtue. They represent a spectrum of personalities, behaviors, intelligences, and neuroses — as their ADHD partners do, too. Most of them want to grow, change, expand, and meet their ADHD mates halfway or more.

Yet, when their partner’s untreated ADHD creates chaos at every turn . . . They’re left unable to act, only react — sometimes until they reach “meltdown.” Even the most formerly confident among them start to believe their partner’s accusations that their partnership woes are entirely their fault . . . On top of that, they are often dealing with financial difficulties, performing most of the household chores, and often working a full-time job.

For the most part, it’s not the little ADHD’ish things that wear them down. They can live with those (mostly) once they understand their underpinnings, and they can work together on solutions. Rather, it’s the big, teeth-rattling things that send them seeking support . . .The following list of most-problematic “hot spots” – again, primarily found among those refusing diagnosis and treatment — is not for the faint of heart . . .

Financial: They wrestle with their partners’ secret (and not so secret) debts, impulsive spending . . . Mention E-bay to them at your own risk; their closets (and garages) are filled with their partner’s impulsive and expensive online purchases . . .

Children: An often-heard phrase is “We feel like single parents.” . . . They have to act as referee between their children and partner . . .

Support: Not much. Their families often see the charming “social” side of their partners and think they’re exaggerating. Their closest friends commiserate but can’t help them, other than to say “get out!” Their in-laws often are wrapped up in their own undiagnosed sagas, decades in the making. Much of the public, including the family doctor or their therapist, relegate adult ADHD to tooth-fairy status: They don’t believe in it . . .

Self-Esteem: When they are consistently not valued or “seen,” they slowly become invisible. Even to themselves. They’re blamed for the sky being blue . . .

Provocation to anger: They hate themselves when their anger overwhelms them – it’s a new behavior for most of them — and they hate that their partner keeps provoking them. They are bone-tired of fighting.

Getting Help: Many place trust in doctors and psychologists only to find their problems worsen due to their ignorance about ADHD. While their ADHD partners can conveniently forget the trauma that’s transpired or place the blame at their feet – they are so traumatized, confused and depressed that, to the untrained eye, they often look like the cause of the relationship woes.

It often takes from 5 to 30 years before they gain a clue their partner’s behavior comes with a name – and hope for change. But by that time, much damage has been done . . .” (G. Pera)

Wow. This really resonated with me. Could it be possible I am married to a man with ADD? No . . . Not ready for that question or answer. Still “working on me” . . .

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Despite the trepidation I had of telling my story from the beginning to someone who might suspect I was describing a one-sided exaggerated version of my life, I now have a new therapist.

While the results with my last therapist were far from what I had been hoping, I was disappointed to learn he was no longer available. I had been looking forward to the comfort of familiarity in sharing with someone who knew firsthand the maddening effect of my husband’s behavior. When we spoke, he was apologetic for not being able to take me back on as a client, but changes in his personal life had necessitated a change in his work schedule.

The new therapist came highly recommended and when I “googled” her, instead of feeling encouraged by her long list of degrees, qualifications and experience, I was intimidated. That feeling was further intensified when we spoke on the phone to set up our first appointment.

Then we met.

She was everything I was expecting (and dreading) her to be . . . Which turned out to be exactly what I was needing.

Jeremiah 29:11. “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

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