Your spouse is going through something big. And through no choice of your own, except choosing to marry this person, you’re all caught up in it too. You feel like you got hit by a truck. You never saw this coming and don’t know just how to deal with it. You’re trying to love and support your spouse, and at the same time you feel betrayed, angry, and resentful that you now have this life-changing challenge you really don’t want. You wish you could just go back, go back to before this bomb dropped on you, back when things were good.
There are a variety of things that could get you here:
Changes to religious belief or practice
When you and your spouse share a faith, having your spouse leave cuts to the core. You may be wondering “Will s/he leave me like she/he left God? How will we raise our children?” If your picture of life after death included being together with your spouse, you may be wondering what that looks like now. It’s devastating. You have no control and might be struggling to understand how this all happened. You may not want or know how to be in a marriage with a non-believer (or with a religious person if your spouse recently converted). And yet, s/he is your best friend, your partner, the person you chose to live the rest of your life with. What can you do? I can help. Together we can build a close, loving, respectful marriage that allows you both to live your beliefs and feel supported by your spouse.
I don’t have to tell you that addiction wreaks havoc on relationships. You’re living it! You might feel sad, angry, and betrayed. “How could my partner do this to me? How could s/he be so selfish?” Some of that doesn’t get better when your spouse enters a recovery or treatment program. The focus is still all on her/him! You might be thinking “When is it my turn? When do we get to talk about how all this affected me? What about my healing?” And you’re right. You won’t be happy in your relationship or able to heal if your needs and your experiences aren’t addressed also. I can help you rebuild trust. Together we can create a relationship where both your needs are important and both of you have space to heal. You don’t want your relationship to just go back to how it was, and maybe that’s a good thing. Maybe it can be even better!
(Please find a marriage therapist who understands addiction, even if it’s not me. A well-intentioned and otherwise skilled therapist could actually make things worse for you if s/he doesn’t understand addiction and the delicate dance of recovery. You don’t want a marriage therapist who might put your spouse at risk of relapse or an addiction counselor who ignores your needs. Choose carefully. If I’m not the right fit for you, I can help you find someone who is.)
Major or Chronic Illness
Your partner’s major or chronic illness is hard on you. And yet, that’s difficult to even admit. You aren’t the one who is sick. Maybe you think you’re selfish or uncaring for feeling weighed down by the extra burdens placed on you or for feeling resentful about all that you give up and miss out on because of your spouse’s illness. You probably feel burned out. Time for yourself would be nice, but you don’t know how to ask for it. You keep a lot to yourself because you don’t want your partner to feel bad. And the distance between you grows and grows. You miss him/her. You don’t want to keep going on like this, and yet the thought of divorce fills you with shame and sadness that you don’t know if you could ever go through with it. I can help. I can help you create a marriage that is loving and tender for you both, where both your needs are prioritized, where you can laugh and be friends again. If your spouse’s illness prevents you from coming to my office, I can come to you or we can meet online!
Your partner wants to make a major career change. S/he is excited, and you are terrified. Maybe your spouse made this decision without you, and you are feeling angry that you weren’t consulted. This change affects your life in big ways! Maybe you made the decision together and you’re trying to be supportive, but you’re feeling really nervous about how you are going to get through this.
Your spouse’s career change changes your life too. You may be doing more childcare or housework if your spouse is away from home more. Your financial situation may change as you look at increased expenses of a commute, travel, tuition, or student loans. You may even be looking at the necessity of a move. Any or all of these changes can throw off the balance of your relationship. There may be growing distance between you or irritability and resentment. I can help! I can help you both become the best versions of yourselves while maintaining a close and supportive relationship.