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Marriage Counseling Advice

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#1 JackDonakey


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Posted 25 August 2009 - 09:36 AM

My wife has told me she feels no connection towards me. She loves me but does not feel that "connection" that she says married couples should feel.

We've been married 14+ years, have two beautiful daughters, active in church, etc. There is no really big problem with the marriage (infidelity, abuse, drugs) and we both have a good level of mutual respect for each other.

She does not show me any kind of affection unless it's in response to mine and even then it's half-hearted.

We saw a marriage counselor back in the Spring and it helped some, mostly got us through the summer but we're back to the stage where she cries on occasion because of our situation. She's told me she feels lonely and alone in the situation.

I do not think she wants a divorce nor do I think a separation or divorce is imminent but I do think that if we continue on our path that it could happen.

She and I are not sold on our past therapist and are looking for someone new and possibly not a marriage therapist but a personal therapist for my wife but could go either way with a pesonal or marriage counselor. My wife feels the problem is with her and not me. She has said that perhaps she has emotional or psychiatric problems she needs to address. I'm not convinced of that. She says the problem has nothing to do with me...that I'm a kind, loving, good father, husband and good man in general.

I would like to find a therapist that has a foundation in the gospel but not necessarily someone who works for the church or is overly "churchy" in their approach.

We have not spoken with our Bishop about this yet but I plan to speak with him just to give him the heads up and ask for his thoughts.

Does anyone have any advice for me or know of someone in the Salt Lake Valley they would recommend to help my wife either find her love for me, help her reconnect with me or just give her and us good advice and practices for how we can build that connection.


#2 ryanh


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Posted 25 August 2009 - 10:07 AM

nor do I think a separation or divorce is imminent

Yeah, that's what all us guy's think/feel - and then BAM! right out of the blue you no longer have any control over the situation and cannot heal it. If she's that unhappy, I'd consider the possibility of divorce very, very real.

Finding an appropriate therapist, esp in UT, is a real crap-shoot. I would definitely speak to your Bishop to get recommendations of good therapists. Word of mouth, like you are seeking here, is invaluable. Your Bishop, if he has been in place for very long, should have encountered several similar situations and received feedback about various therapists.

It doesn't hurt to interview a number of them before committing to see one. Ask them about their methods of therapy, areas they specialize in, expected course of treatment, etc, etc. Avoid those who only use talk therapy (unless you just want a paid friend to listen), and avoid those that only have one trick or claim that a method can solve everything (once had a guy try to talk my wife out of taking her psychiatrist prescribed meds because he felt that mindfulness could solve *anything* That really helped our marriage – NOT! )

You might consider finding a therapist that is an APRN – they can not only provide therapy, but can prescribe medication, if appropriate, and then you don’t have to make additional appointments with a psychiatrist (who can prescribe, but typically doesn’t counsel) or family doctor.

If your wife wants to meet a person that IMO is a great psychologist (a true PhD, not one of the plethora of LCSWs here in the valley), I have a name for you I can send in a PM. He is not LDS, but his understanding of the drivers of emotions and issues is very good. Top notch IMO.

Personally, I would advise separate therapists for individual and marital issues (if you do get another marital therapist). I’ve seen complications from mixing the two.

From the very little you have mentioned, it would seem appropriate that she be screened for depression. Just a guess from several hints in what you write.

What else have you and your wife tried as far as creating a greater connection that she may feel is missing? Have either of you read The Five Love Languages or other relationship help books?
Tis easy enough to be pleasant, When life flows along like a song; But the man worth while is the one who will smile when everything goes dead wrong. Ella Wheeler Wilcox

God does notice us, and he watches over us. But it is usually through another person that he meets our needs. Therefore, it is vital that we serve each other. Spencer W. Kimball

#3 NeuroTypical


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Posted 25 August 2009 - 10:31 AM

I would like to find a therapist that has a foundation in the gospel but not necessarily someone who works for the church or is overly "churchy" in their approach.

Please do consider the folks at LDS Social Services. Here in Colorado, we've availed ourselves of those folks a few times over the years. We found what you are asking for - someone with a foundation in church teachings, but very well versed in modern therapy techniques. It was never 'churchy'.

They are not representatives of the church. They are licensed professionals who got a job working for a company owned by the church. They respect and maintain confidentiality based on relevant laws and professional ethics. And no, you don't need to talk to your Bishop to go there (unless you want church help in paying for it.) Our Bishop only heard we were going there because we mentioned it to him in passing.

If I were rich, I'd have the time that I lack, to sit in the synagogue and pray.
And maybe have a seat by the Eastern wall.
And I'd discuss the holy books with the learned men, several hours every day.
That would be the sweetest thing of all.

If I were a rich man...

#4 JackDonakey


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Posted 25 August 2009 - 10:38 AM

Ryan, thanks for the advice. I really appreciate your thoughtful reply. I will respond to you in a PM because I'd like more information regarding an APRN and the PhD you mentioned.

I think she should be screened for depression and she's mentioned being depressed. She sleeps a lot but says it's because she lays awake at night thinking about our situation. She also thinks that her depression is a result of the situation and not the cause. I can't argue with her on that.

We've really done nothing to create a connectio other than me trying very hard to culture a connection through spending more time together, more physical intimacy (not just sex) and trying to talk with her more about what's going on in her life and trying to show I care about her and what she's up to. I've read a number of books but not The Five Love Languages. I have read Dr. Laura's book on Marriages and various other articles. I'm not sure my wife has read much. She really seems to believe this is something that is either there or it's not, which is what scares me the most.

Look for a PM shortly.

#5 pam


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Posted 25 August 2009 - 10:57 AM

I just sent you a pm with the possible name of someone.

#6 Gwen


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Posted 25 August 2009 - 11:07 AM

how old are yall?... is she in a significant hormone shift?

i don't have problems, i have issues
problems can be fixed, issues you just deal with

"The grass is not, in fact, always greener on the other side of the fence. Fences have nothing to do with it.
The grass is greenest where it is watered. When crossing over fences, carry water with you and tend the grass wherever you may be."
-Robert Fulghum

#7 JackDonakey


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Posted 25 August 2009 - 11:43 AM

She's 35.

#8 bytebear


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Posted 25 August 2009 - 12:04 PM

I would double up on the romantic things, and the small gestures, like cleaning up the living room, picking up your socks, or even just a hug, kiss or congratulatory comment on some little thing. Basically woo her as you did when you were dating. Tell her how you appreciate her for doing something special. 14 years is a long time, and things sometimes get a little boring, or mundane. She may also feel less important now that the kids are getting older. It sounds like she does love you which is a great start. Maybe get "The proper care and feeding of marriage' by Dr. Laura. Read it together, and just like the gospel, test it and see if the advice is true.

#9 Gatorman


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Posted 25 August 2009 - 12:28 PM

Gatorman Standard Answer 3 - Consider the movie Fireproof and The Love Dare.

#10 ryanh


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Posted 25 August 2009 - 12:31 PM

Jack, since thinking about the topic, I thought I would give my opinion/advice for anyone looking for professional mental health help. This isn't really directed towards you, just more general advice.

Family or general practice Dr’s can help diagnose and treat (with medication) depression. Never a bad place to start to ask the Doc “is there something wrong with my feeling x, y, and z?”. The Dr can help rule out other factors that play a role (like thyroid, sleep apnea, female hormones, etc). Two potential downsides are: 1) they are not specialists in mental health issues, and 2) the primary tool in their arsenal is to prescribe a med, see if it helps, if not, try another, see if it helps, . . .

See a Psychiatrist. Psychiatrists can be hard to find (there seems to be a shortage in UT for sure), but can be well worth the visit if the primary care Dr has ruled out other potential causes. Psychiatrists are medical doctors that specialize in mental health. As Dr’s, they can prescribe meds. The obvious benefit of a psychiatrist is their specialization and familiarity with mental health issues and nuances. Not a bad place to start for a diagnosis IMO.

Psychologists are non-medical therapists. Some are Ph.D.’s (but generally cannot prescribe medication), others have a Masters (such as clinical social workers). Often referred to collectively as therapists or counselors as many these days are not Ph.D.s. I know that at least in UT, there are a few therapists that have chosen to obtain Advanced Practice Registered Nurse status, and thus can practice mental health counseling as well as prescribe medications.

There is a wide variety of therapists/counselors available. Some are specialists, some are ‘general practice’. It really is tough to select a good therapist as you have to consider their specialty (do you need someone familiar with depression or ADHD, or someone specializes in marriage therapy, etc), their level of experience and education (Ph.D. vs other), their methods of therapy (see my comments above – some have lots of tools, some only know one key on the piano), personality fit, etc, etc. I’ve met a few therapists that were not even close to being worth their hourly charge. Did nothing but act as a sounding board – but sometimes that is what is needed, so they have a place too.

I wouldn’t necessarily suggest starting with a therapist/counselor as a persons first stop with mental health issues. However, if your issues are interpersonal, such as marriage conflict, they are probably the best first stop. There are some really good psychologists out there though, and they can help you know when your issues are simply behavioral, and when it is appropriate to seek medical help. But, in my limited experience, some psychologists believe that meds are never necessary, and that is a dangerous position from my point of view (if that were true, then psychiatry should be a dying profession).

Bottom line of my opinion: If there is any possibility of there being a medical issue, see your family Dr first to rule out various medical issues, and get advice to determine if seeing a specialist is warranted. BUT, if you are not happy with the answer you get, or don’t believe you got a through consideration, seek a second opinion (I’ve seen it several times where the family Dr dismissed serious mental health issues as “normal”. Post-partum depression often falls into this category.) If your are unsure if the root of the problems is just errant or maladaptive thought patterns, or are simply interpersonal in nature, seek out a psychologist as your first stop.

Marriage is hard enough without untreated mental health issues creating additional problems. Either way, get help and find out what the root problems are. Rule out all possibilities.

And for the naysayers, the brain is an organ just like any other organ in the body. It is subject to chemical imbalances and improper functioning. There are many times that problems are not so simple as changing behavior or thought patterns. Just like diabetes, there are chemical imbalances that need to be treated at times. Mental illness is simply a handicap that prevents a persons true spirit from being able to fully be expressed.
Tis easy enough to be pleasant, When life flows along like a song; But the man worth while is the one who will smile when everything goes dead wrong. Ella Wheeler Wilcox

God does notice us, and he watches over us. But it is usually through another person that he meets our needs. Therefore, it is vital that we serve each other. Spencer W. Kimball

#11 Misshalfway


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Posted 25 August 2009 - 12:57 PM

I can't improve on what has been said. It seems to me something else is going on here other than marital disharmony. I hesitate to even guess as so many factors may be combining together to influence these feelings. If there is no medical reasoning, then I would have to look deeply into the issues to know if I had anything helpful to add. I can only empathize as I know what it is like to experience wacked female emotions. I wonder too if it might be normal to fall out of "romantic love" with a spouse over the years. I think some of that is normal.....and maybe even necessary for deeper love to develop. Doesn't mean you don't love or that you aren't committed. Maybe it just means that her needs are changing.....or that her expectations need to change and perhaps she is disoriented because her feelings aren't familiar anymore. Perhaps she is like so many of us who never learned to nurture ourselves correctly and perhaps she does need to work on herself a bit so that she has more abundance to share and feel towards you. I think its ok for marriage partners to ebb and flow in closeness. I think this might make some panic. I don't really know......I am SO guessing here.

My heart goes out to both of you. This can't be easy. Best wishes as you seek professional help and I hope the Spirit helps make sense of things as well. I think it is so wise to go shopping for a therapist that is right for you. I did that and I am so glad I did. It makes all the difference. She might even need one she can visit alone so that she has a safe place to explore some of her not so pleasant concerns in a safe way.

#12 foreverafter



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Posted 25 August 2009 - 05:18 PM

It sounds like the only problem your wife has is that she is not keeping her marriage vows to you. That will eventually lead to depression & severe problems every time. Being madly in love & feeling connected to our spouse is completely our choice. It is so easy to enjoy exultant ecstacy in marriage. She just needs to start putting all your needs & desires 1st before her own or anything else, each day. She needs to live to make you happy & comfortable & loved with all your needs & wishes met. Then she will fall so in love with you she won't be able to see straight. The same goes for you if you want to be happy & intensely in love too. Do the same for her. But such loving service to each other has to come without any expectations from the other. If the other spouse fulfills your every wish, wonderful, if they don't, someday they will catch on to your good example.

Unconditional True Love is the only answer.

I would recommend sticking to the 'Prophesies of God' that work like a miracle every time, instead of going out in search of the 'Philosophies of Men' that the Prophets warn us about & say that most everyone is falling for.

"To those of you who live in troubled homes, Love is the only remedy. It is the very basis of marriage. The power lies within ourselves. Revive the wonderous feeling that brought you to the marriage altar." Pres. Hinckley, CR Apr. 1989.

Edited by foreverafter, 25 August 2009 - 05:21 PM.

#13 fhaye


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Posted 26 August 2009 - 03:32 AM

"She feels no connection towards me" if you have mutual respect with each other what is wrong? Maybe she had something that she probably miss in you that you forgot to always do. Be more open on all situations with your relationship. Looking for a marriage therapist is also good for both of you. Hope this could help you in someway choosing a marriage therapist

#14 FunkyTown


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Posted 26 August 2009 - 03:54 AM

Jack? You're in a rough position.

If she's gotten to the point that she's told you about it, it's serious. It may have nothing to do with how you treat her, or the daily life. She may simply be missing the spark she thinks a relationship needs.

And it does. I agree with the previous person, taking this seriously enough to think that divorce is imminent unless you do something about it. That might motivate you in to doing more than you might have.

The second thing to remember is that advice aimed at your wife will not help - She's not the one coming here looking for help. The only thing you can change is yourself.

Ask yourself the following:

1) Do you feel a romantic connection to her? When you look at her, do you have that fire in your eyes you had when you were younger? Oftentimes, we engage in what psychologists call 'Mirroring'. In the same way that a happy person coming to a party makes everyone around them laugh and a sad person brings the people around them down, you and her may be mirroring and feeding off of one another.

2) Does your idea of a successful relationship mirror hers? Have you even talked about what she expects? Does she trust you enough to tell you? Sometimes, people will tell you what you want to hear. You have to empathize and see past them to find the truth.

3) Do you share with her? What does she want out of life? What do you want? Do you encourage her to grow or do you have conversations like 'How was your day?' 'Fine. How was yours?' 'Fine. Work sucked.'

4) How do you react to her pulling back? Do you pursue her more strongly? Give her space? Listen to her?

5) What do YOU want out of the relationship? A lot of people sleepwalk through life without thinking about what they want. If all you want is to come home to your wife, eat dinner, sit down and watch TV and then cuddle in bed, you may be stifling her creative side. She may have wanted more out of life.

6) Conversely, women are a strange fig. What they think is bothering them may not actually be what's bothering them. "You never bring me flowers any more." may mean "My best friend just broke up with her husband and she said she knew it was over when he stopped bringing her flowers, so I'm scared and withdrawing." Respecting women enough to realize this and knowing that your wife will often place very deep significance on things that barely even register on your radar may let you look for what's actually bothering your wife.

What you want can be returned. It will take both of you working, but for right now, just look for what you can do.

Because that's all you can do.


I. Am. A. Socialist. :)

#15 JackDonakey


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Posted 26 August 2009 - 08:52 AM

Thanks to all for the great advice and keep it coming.

It's all advice I've heard at least once before either from our therapist or from books or both. I feel the connection with her, I love her deeply and treat her well. However, I may have only really started doing that back in January/February when I knew something was definately wrong. I think it's going to take time for me to rub off on her and I've had my hiccups along the way...getting mad at her for not showing me any affection and turning down advances for sex. I need to not get so upset and be more understanding. This is going to take time.

I think her problem is she's very selfish. My wife is about my wife. Then she's about our children, then me (or maybe some of her friends). She needs to lose her selfish behavior and focus on people other than herself and on others needs (this is what I believe). It's not going to happen by me telling her to be less selfish. She's going to have to realize it for herself or hear it from someone else.

I also think she could be suffering from mild depression but I'm not sure.

Anyways, things went well yesterday. Yesterday was a good day but we need a lot more of those.

#16 Misshalfway


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Posted 26 August 2009 - 11:14 AM

I think her problem is she's very selfish.

I hate myself for doing this, but I am going to quote Dr. Phil. You can't change what you don't acknowledge. Perhaps this is a time for your wife to come to terms with herself. Sadly, this is her work. But perhaps you can be her best friend by helping her see the truth. The truth sucks sometimes, but if we can accept it and laugh about it and then move to better ways of seeing and doing, life gets awfully happy and the truth becomes a really kind thing.

#17 JackDonakey


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Posted 27 August 2009 - 10:03 AM

The question is, how does one convince their spouse they are too selfish and need to focus more on their spouse and less on themselves...without coming off as selfish yourself.

I agree with the person who said that essentially you will fall in love with somone if you devote your life to them and their needs over your own. I really do believe that. The problem is when someone is in to themselves and devotes themselves to their own selfish needs, how do you convince them they must change that to be happy? I really don't know. I've told her she needs to do that but I think she looks at it like she needs to fall in love first, then she'll devote.

Anways, my hope is to screen her for depression first. She's indicated she may be depressed. After that, we'll see what's next but she seems open to having her own personal therapy rather than marriage counseling. She acknowledges I'm the perfect husband and I don't need to fix anything. I realize there are things I need to fix, like being more confident, getting less angry about things and other things but they are generally minor tweaks. I still devote my time and energy to her. Part of me thinks that could be part of the problem. She's come to expect it and takes it for granted.

Anways, onwards and upwards. I meet with my Bishop (alone) this Sunday and will give him the heads up on what's going on. He's unaware at this point.

#18 ryanh


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Posted 27 August 2009 - 11:25 AM

Use third party resources. Two I know of that would fit what you are looking to acomplish would be the book The Five Love Languages, and the website Marriagebuilders.com Both are great resources to help you target your efforts at showing her love in the manner that means the most to her. Plus, to find out what means the most to her, you will need to ask her to fill out a questionnaire or two - what better way to 1) show her you do love her and are trying to do what is best, and 2) introduce her to the resource that both address love is a choice/action in mature marriages more than it is 'just something that happens or is/isn't there'.
Tis easy enough to be pleasant, When life flows along like a song; But the man worth while is the one who will smile when everything goes dead wrong. Ella Wheeler Wilcox

God does notice us, and he watches over us. But it is usually through another person that he meets our needs. Therefore, it is vital that we serve each other. Spencer W. Kimball

#19 Guest_TheLutheran_*

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Posted 27 August 2009 - 02:27 PM

... She acknowledges I'm the perfect husband and I don't need to fix anything. I realize there are things I need to fix, like being more confident, getting less angry about things and other things but they are generally minor tweaks. I still devote my time and energy to her. ...

When your marriage is in disrepair, the responsibility rests on both shoulders to renovate it. Perhaps your wife does need to seek treatment for depression to be in a position to work on your marriage -- shoulder-to-shoulder.

Have you considered a Magnify Your Marriage retreat? I understand it is sort of an LDS version of Marriage Encounter. My hubby and I did one (Marriage Encounter . . . I'm not LDS) last March and it was INCREDIBLE!! Talk about reigniting sparks. We spent 2 days focusing on each other without everyday distractions, had an opportunity to learn better communication skills and solidified our 23+- year marriage as we enter the "empty nest" years. Very powerful!! :sunny:

#20 JackDonakey


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Posted 28 August 2009 - 08:33 AM

Lutheran - We have not considered one of these (Magnify Your Marriage or Marriage Encounter). It is something I will keep in my back pocket for when the time is right. I will also bring it up when I speak with my Bishop to get his thoughts.

I would be more than willing to do it. I'm willing to try anything but will prioritize what I think needs to come first. First we need to figure out if she's depressed. Then we can do other things. I will continue reading and trying my best to be a good, loving husband. Perhaps this Spring we could try a couples retreat. I know what she would say if I asked her now...she'd say that's "Cheesy" and would not want to do it. However, I think it's a great idea and may pull that card when it's the right time.

I visited my physician yesterday and asked about depression. I've also been reading a lot on the web about it. My bet is she's depressed...maybe not major depression but she's depressed. The symptoms are mostly there.

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