Dear Dr. Z
By Laura Zipris, Psy. D., LMHC
Dear Dr. Z,
My husband and I have been married for 12 years. He has always been a work-a-holic but it has gotten even worse recently. He frequently stays at the office late and often works many hours on the weekends. When he is finally home, he is often too tired to even want to spend time with me. All he wants to do is relax and watch TV. I feel totally neglected and sad. Do you think he could be having an affair? What should I do?
Dear Mrs. Lonely,
I certainly understand why you are feeling sad and disconnected from your partner. It sounds as if he has not been devoting a lot of time to you and your marriage. I would not automatically assume, however, that your husband is having an affair just because he has been unavailable to you. What is clear is that your husband’s energy is being directed outside of the relationship and as a result there has been a “relational energy leak”. Your husband may be “exiting” due to real work demands or “exiting” as a means of acting out his feelings within the relationship, but either way, it is worth having a conversation. Approach your husband with empathy and understanding about how hard he works. Validate him and respect his need for “down-time “. Then explain to him, using “I” statements, how you have been feeling and how much you miss him. See if the two of you can schedule some special alone time each week to go out on a date and just have fun with one another. Setting this time aside for relational reconnection can go a long way in helping you and your partner feel close again. Keep in mind that closing exits and reconnecting with one another is a process and not an event.
Laura Zipris, Psy.D., LMHC
Dear Dr. Z,
I have an 8 year old son, Michael, who has been acting out a lot lately. His father and I have been separated since last summer and I find that since his father moved out, my son is very angry and disrespectful to me. In addition, Michael did quite poorly in school this past year and had a great deal of difficulty focusing in the classroom. The school has encouraged me to consider medication for Michael to help him focus. I am confused as to what to do. I am very concerned about Michael but his father, who shares custody and has our son 3 days a week at his house, thinks I am overreacting. What should I do?
Concerned and confused
Dear Concerned and Confused,
Your son has experienced a major life transition since your separation. In addition to experiencing a range of emotions about his parents’ split, your son’s life has grown increasingly chaotic, having to shuttle back and forth from each of his parent’s homes. That being said, it is imperative that you are clear and consistent with Michael about your expectations and about consequences, and that you openly communicate with him to encourage the expression of his feelings. All of this will help to reassure him that he is safe and loved.
You and Michael’s father must quickly unite on how to best co-parent so that Michael gets consistent messages. If it is unrealistic that the two of you can navigate this on your own given your relationship dynamics, I strongly urge you to seek the expertise of a child/behavioral psychotherapist. A professional can work with you both on ways to set consistent limits and to help Michael adjust to his “new normal”.
As far as Michael’s school performance, research shows that children’s academic functioning is often negatively impacted by divorce and separation. To minimize this impact moving forward, I would encourage you and Michael’s father to work closely with the school to set up a home/ school communication system. This will enable you to monitor Michael’s day to day performance and make Michael part of his own behavior plan. Medication may be considered down the road should a behavior plan prove ineffective and should a school psychologist and/or a pediatric psychiatrist feel it is warranted. Lastly, Michael may benefit from a program such as “Banana Splits”, which offers group support for children experiencing parental divorce (see www.bananasplitsresourcecenter.org for more information).
Laura Zipris, Psy.D., LMHC
Laura Zipris holds a doctorate in Psychology and is licensed to practice psychotherapy in New York, as well as in Florida. Laura is certified in Imago Relationship Therapy, a transformational approach that has been used successfully with couples around the world to help them to strengthen their partnerships, deepen their connection and reignite their passion for one another. Laura sees individuals of all ages and sexual orientations, couples, families, and groups in her offices located in Wellington and Delray Beach. In addition to her psychotherapy practice, Dr. Zipris works part time as a licensed school psychologist for the Palm Beach County School District.
For more information about Laura, please visit her website at www.drlaurazipris.com or to set up an appointment, contact Laura directly at (561) 558-7815.
Questions for this column should be sent to Dr. “Z” at Drlaurazip@gmail.com