Tag Archives: William Doherty

How to keep a daily connection in your marriage

canoe morguefile

One of the most common reasons given for marriage failures is that the spouses “drifted apart.” The truth is drifting comes very naturally. As William Doherty describes in his book Take Back Your Marriage, marriage is like launching a canoe in the Mississippi River at St.Paul; if you don’t paddle, it goes south. And if two people are in the canoe, you have to both paddle.

As you’re floating along, chances are that one of you will become concerned about marital drift, he explains. One of you may comment on fewer long talks, less quality time together, or less sex. “For some couples, these complaints are a call to start paddling more vigorously. For other couples, the complaints lead to unpleasant arguments that lead to greater distance. But even when we are inspired to try harder, the extra work on our marriage tends to be short lived—sustained for days or weeks at best—and then we resume our slow drift south.”

While this issue is not due to lack of love or good intentions, couples in this situation often lack a plan for taking back their marriage. Of the plethora of marriage books I have read and/or have on my shelves, Take Back Your Marriage is one of my top picks, because this situation is SO VERY COMMON. If this is your situation, realize this is normal, but solvable.  

To keep your marriage from drifting, make time for it, and give it sustained effort. Remember, if you’re not paddling, you’re going south. Ask yourself these questions:

  1. Are you spending time together? Do you go to church together, have meals together, and talk together? Do you make time for regular dates (it could be a morning walk or lunch date, not just an evening out)? You don’t have to spend all your time together, as long as you are spending some dedicated time and activities you enjoy with one another.
  2. Are you taking your partner for granted? Work is important. Kids are important. Chores have to be done. And on and on. But if you aren’t making time for your partner, they won’t feel appreciated.
  3. Are you absorbed in TV, internet and/or your phone? Media, especially in the bedroom, can come between you. All the research confirms that TVs should be left out of the bedrooms. Take the ipad and computer out while you’re at it. (If you can’t do it, that proves my point.)
  4. Are you focused on what you are getting out of your marriage? This consumer mentality can lead to problems.
  5. Do the people you spend time around support your marriage and family? Outside influences can contribute to drifting. This includes people who are more focused on “your happiness” than on your marriage.
  6. Are you focused on material things rather than relationships? The best things in life are free, but you can lose them by focusing on things instead of people.
  7. Are you making an effort to be kind to your spouse when he or she calls, or make/purchase a food or beverage they enjoy, or offer other gestures of kindness? Read If you want a happier marriage be generous. Do you help make their life easier not because you expect them to return the favor, but because you want them to be happy?
  8. Are you showing affection toward one another? Are you happy to see each other? Do you touch, kiss and enjoy sex together? These are important forms of connection.
  9. Are you dedicating all of your time to your children? Parents need to determine how much time children need, keeping in mind those children also need the stability of the family and the marriage. To read more about this, check out Putting kids first harms families.
  10. Are you sharing your true self with your partner—your hopes, dreams, desires, fears?

Couples may have issues with some of these, but that doesn’t mean your marriage is doomed. The key is to build on your strengths and to soften the impact of your weaknesses, says Doherty, especially times of stress. When marriage counseling is needed, select a qualified therapist that will help you fight for the marriage. “A good therapist, a brave therapist, will be the last one in the room willing to give up on a marriage,” says Doherty. Unfortunately, it’s not uncommon for a counselor to delve into why you’re unhappy or to even recommend a separation or divorce. Choose carefully.

Read: What’s a pro-marriage counselor and how do I find one?

How do you keep a positive daily connection in your marriage? Share your tips, especially for busy couples!

Lori Lowe has been married to her husband, Ming, for more than 18 years. She is the author of First Kiss to Lasting Bliss: Hope & Inspiration for Your Marriage. It tells the inspiring, true stories of couples who used adversity to improve their marriages–from overcoming drug addiction to cancer, infidelity, religious differences, and infertility, among many others. It’s available at Amazon.com and in various e-book formats here.

Photo courtesy of morguefile.com

What’s a Pro-Marriage Counselor & How Do You Find One?

I had the pleasure recently of interviewing a pro-marriage counselor whom I know personally and respect immensely. Timothy Heck, PhD, LMFT, is founder of Family Counseling Associates in Indianapolis. He’s a Christian counselor with a pro-marriage perspective. What’s a pro-marriage counselor, and what’s the alternative? A pro-marriage counselor is a therapist who is not neutral about the marriage—one who actively advocates for the marriage, not for one or both individuals.

If I were going to choose a marriage counselor, I would insist on someone who would fight for my marriage, not just convince me that I deserve to be happy. Too often in the U.S., that is not the type of counselor you will find.

The mental health field has been strongly influenced by the sociological movements of the last 50 years, says Dr. Heck. Some of the influences have been helpful, such as the balancing of power and respect in the relationship between males and females. Other influences have been negative, he adds, such as the widespread belief that marriage is a dispensable commodity that merely serves to meet an individual’s needs. “It has been reduced to a cost/benefit analysis,” he adds. “A lot of therapy buys into that quid pro quo.” Dr. Heck says while this strategy may work in some cases, it doesn’t work when both spouses are not motivated to do what is needed to meet the other’s needs.

Dr. Heck says when choosing a therapist, it’s important for couples to know the counselor’s value system up front. “Every therapist has a value system that needs to be considered an announced, so the client may go in with informed consent,” he explains. Many—surveys say most—therapists in the U.S. have a value system that prioritizes the health of the individual over the health of the marital relationship. Within a Christian/Catholic worldview, Dr. Heck says the marriage relationship would be every bit as important as the individuals’ wellbeing. “That’s the position I take,” he says.

Non-Christians are welcome at Dr. Heck’s Family Counseling practice, and while his faith is normally part of his work, it can be behind the scenes when the patient prefers. Most patients prefer to integrate faith into their sessions, but his worldview always shapes his work with couples, and he integrates psychology with his faith. “I’m going to work very hard to maintain and reconcile the relationship, believing that it is to the benefit of the partners and their children. It’s even best for the community—socially and economically,” says Dr. Heck.

Dr. Heck’s advice is exactly in line with the advice found in Take Back Your Marriage by William J. Doherty, PhD (one of my favorite marriage books). You can download two chapters from his web site for free here. Dr. Doherty doesn’t come at the topic from a faith-based approach, but he lands at the same point. Dr. Doherty says in his book, “If you talk to a therapist in the United States, I believe that you stand a good risk of harming your marriage.” His caveat is that is he a therapist and encourages therapy, but the right kind of therapy with the right kind of therapist—one who is committed to excellence in practice and who believes in marriage.

Dr. Doherty warns there are several big problems to watch out for in therapists: incompetent therapists who are not trained and experienced to work with couples, neutral therapists (which the majority of marriage and family therapists report themselves to be) who only help you weigh gain and loss, and therapists who see only pathology. In other words, they diagnose without helping, leading you to hopelessness or fatalism. He says a fourth type of therapist actively undermines the marriage by subtlely or overtly encouraging you to end the marriage. (“I can’t believe you’re still married to him.”) The last type of problem therapist he mentions is the one who gives direct advice, which is against the code of ethics. (“I think you need a separation.”)

Following are some of the tips for choosing a therapist from Dr. Doherty’s book:

• The therapist does not take sides, but is caring to both of you.
• The therapist actively tries to help your marriage and communicates hope that you solve your marital problems. This goes beyond just clarifying problems.
• The therapist offers reasonable and helpful perspectives and specific strategies for changing the relationship.
• The therapist does not allow you and your spouse to engage in repeated angry exchanges during the session.
• The therapist is alert to individual matters (addiction, illness, abuse, etc.)
• Although the therapist may explore your family backgrounds, the focus is on how to deal with your current marital problems rather than just on insight into how you developed these problems.

(There are more tips, but that gives you a few. I highly recommend chapter 6 in Take Back Your Marriage for more complete advice.)

Visit http://www.marriagefriendlytherapists.com for a directory established and run by Dr. Doherty that helps couples find supportive, pro-marriage therapists in your area. 

Have you had experience—good or bad—with a marriage counselor? Are you open to seeing a therapist if you feel your marriage could benefit?

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