Murphy’s Love: Her Therapy or Our Therapy?
My wife reads your column, so I am hoping you and I can work together to convince her that she needs some help. She is a stay-at-home mother to our three kids, and she’s fabulous at the job. To make it possible for her to stay at home, I work long hours in a competitive field. We met when I was in law school. She has always known what kind of career I wanted, and for the most part has always been very supportive of my work.
In recent months, she has been very needy. She calls me at work and gets upset when I can’t make room in my schedule to talk to her. I think she is overwhelmed by the demands of her position and it is causing her to be depressed. I think she needs therapy and I am happy to pay for it. She refuses, saying she thinks the problem is our relationship. She is insisting we go to couples therapy, but I know that won’t help her. I want her to feel better and have the support I know she will get with her own counselor. Please put better words to my request. I am completely supportive of her and only want her to feel better. She needs help to do that.
- Wanting the Best for Her
I need to start by saying I do not doubt your good intentions here. Not even a little bit. But you are doing this all wrong. No one ever got better when her spouse responded to her loneliness by saying, “Go get yourself some help, I’m buying.” She has asked you to join her in couples therapy – what do you have to lose? If you bristle when thinking about that question, then it seems you actually might benefit from that kind of work.
With the exception of serious mental health disorders, my experience has been that a couple’s relationship is actually the best space for healing. If Dear Wife leaves your dyad, and finds a gentle and caring counselor to walk with her through whatever she’s experiencing, at the end of the day you are not the one witnessing or inspiring that healing. This will put more distance between you. And if you fall into the category of Ambitious-Law-School-Trained-Competitive-Field-Dweller that you describe, I’m guessing that more distance is the last thing your marriage needs.
Work with her to find a couples counselor with a schedule that fits both of your calendars. Leave the rest of the work to that person. If s/he thinks Dear Wife will benefit from individual treatment, trust that s/he will say so. In the interim, consider how much you might learn and how much you both could benefit. If you really want the best, that’s the gold standard.
Stacy Notaras Murphy (www.stacymurphyLPC.com) is a licensed professional counselor and certified Imago Relationship therapist practicing in Georgetown. This column is meant for entertainment only, and should not be considered a substitute for professional counseling. Send your confidential question to firstname.lastname@example.org.