The Relationship Doctor Answers Your Questions
Dr. David Hawkins
The Relationship Doctor
My thanks to the several people who courageously responded to my first article. Let’s keep those cards and letters coming. Actually, now that we’re operating in cyberspace, let’s keep those posts coming to the message board. I want to hear what you think, what’s happening in your relational world, and a dab of your own wisdom is welcome as well.
Now, for those who posed questions for The Relationship Doctor, let’s give some advice and hope.
The very first post was from a forty-four-year-old woman concerned about many aspects of her new relationship. Her concerns focus on his concerns about her children, adding to the family, and cultural differences.
Thank you for your posting. What I hear are many issues, each of which needs to be discussed and resolved before moving any further in the relationship. This is a perfect time, at the start of a relationship, to learn everything you can about healthy communication as you work through the issues of blended families, cultural differences, and your expectations regarding the possibility of having children. All these are valid areas of concern, and can be worked through together with God as the relationship grows.
That you both are attending the same church indicates that you have a common faith, which is a wonderful foundation upon which to build a relationship. I encourage you to be honest about your earlier abuse, as that may be triggered in some fashion in the relationship. Your mate has an opportunity to be part of your healing process, especially within a faith context.
Another post came from a woman filled with desperation concerning her husband, who had an affair, resulting in a child, several years earlier. He continues to see the woman.
It is certainly understandable that you have trust issues, given the severity of the betrayal. You don’t clarify, however, whether or not your husband’s contact with “the other woman” is because of their child, or because of interest he may still have in her. There is a critical difference. If he sees her because of the child, this is something the two of you need to discuss and create boundaries together to make it acceptable.
Your post doesn’t clarify whether you two have been to counseling, what he’s done to regain your trust, and if you’ve done anything to create healthy boundaries. Boundaries are critical, established by God, and necessary to help us know what we can expect of others, and what they can expect of us. Trust grows when our mate lives within agreed upon boundaries, and dissolves when boundaries are violated.
Your post implies that your husband knew about his child and didn’t tell you. What’s up with that? This is clearly deceptive and makes me wonder not only about him, but what might be happening, or not happening, in your relationship. Have you two had the ability to address challenging issues in the past, or is there a pattern of dodging the difficult issues.
What to do now? Be firm with him about what you will, and will not accept in your marriage. Seek counseling to work through these transgressions and move toward forgiveness and healing. Agree upon healthy boundaries which will reestablish trust in your marriage.
Our next post was from a woman married ten years to a man who has not told her he loves her in the past eleven months. He also shows no affection and has discontinued wearing his wedding ring.
Clearly your husband’s actions indicate dissatisfaction in the relationship. Since this is a relatively new behavior, something has changed and you need to find out what it is. Unfortunately, many over-react to crisis situations, further heightening the problem. Be careful to remain as calm as possible as you proceed to solve the problem.
This crisis doesn’t mean everything is over, but only that wise action on your part is critical. Have you discussed his dissatisfaction in a positive manner, as opposed to a defensive, negative posture? Sharing with him calmly, clearly and with conciliation, are important in learning what is wrong. Let him know that you want to understand the problem and work together to reestablish a loving relationship.
While it may be tempting to give up, nag or walk away, none of these behaviors will lead to your desired outcome. Your posture must offer him a place of safety to discuss his feelings. You must be open, and non-defensive, to hearing what he has to say. Really listening to our mate, with a desire to learn about them, often offers us a wealth of information that we don’t get when we’re angry, frustrated or hurt.
This doesn’t mean, however, that you’re to be a doormat. You have a right to expect your mate to participate fully in the marriage, and need to be clear about that, in a loving way.
About the Author: With more than 30 years of counseling experience, David Hawkins, Ph.D., has a special interest in helping individuals and couples strengthen their relationships. Dr. Hawkins’ books, including "When Pleasing Others Is Hurting You" and "When Trying to Change Him Is Hurting You", have more than 300,000 copies in print.
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