Ask Dr. Z
Dear Dr. Z.,
My husband and I have been having a really hard time in our marriage and we have begun to fling around the “divorce” word. At first, I thought we were just going through a rough patch, but it is now years later and we are still arguing all the time. I’m always crying or yelling trying to get him to hear me but he could care less. He barely looks at me, more or less responds to what I have to say. He doesn’t want to have sex with me anymore and I am not sure he even loves me. I feel like I am alone in this marriage. I am fighting to keep us alive and all I hear is that I am the problem and that I should just stop being emotional and try leaving him alone. I am trying to break down his walls but I can’t seem to get through. I can’t take it or him anymore and I am tired of having to work so hard. I never wanted to fail at my marriage but he is making things impossible. What can I do?
Dear Pam L.,
It sounds like you and your husband have been in the throes of a lot of “D” words lately – disconnection, discontentment, distress, and despair, leading you to the end of your relationship rope, known as “divorce.” Divorce is a terminal exit and the place people wind up when they can’t seem to stop the negative dance that they are moving in. When there is a rupture in our connection with our partner and when we do not feel safe or responded to, there are only two ways of protecting ourselves. One route is to avoid engagement and numb our emotions so that we can shut down and deny our need for attachment. Based on your descriptions, it is likely that this is your husband’s modus operandi. The other involves listening to the anxiety we feel and then frantically fighting for recognition and a response from our partner. This appears to be how you have been responding. It is important to understand that these opposing reactions that you and your husband have been displaying are in response to the very same felt “primal panic”: the fear of isolation and disconnection. The irony is that the demand-distance loop that you are engaged in is confirming those very fears of disconnection and serves to further isolate you both.
I would strongly encourage you and your husband to seek couples therapy, as soon as possible, so that you may begin to examine your communication patterns and change your relationship dance. Once you and your husband can learn to stop this destructive dance, you can learn to communicate with one another differently. You will learn techniques so that you can begin to share softer feelings and vulnerabilities in such a way that you both can actually feel safe, feel heard, and reconnect.
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