It’s been a long haul getting here – months and months of training, lots of cases, loads of reading, and plenty of constructive feedback from the experts at The Doherty Relationship Institute, but now I am officially certified as a Discernment Counselor! (And, as far as I know, I’m also the only clinician in New Hampshire trained to do this delicate, important work).
For those of you who aren’t familiar with this type of treatment Discernment Counseling is a form of brief treatment specially designed for couples on the brink of divorce. These couples come into the work with “mixed agendas” – one spouse more hopeful about staying married, ready to do the work of repair, and the other spouse “leaning out,” not very hopeful, often feeling a high degree of ambivalence about moving forward together, and frequently feeling out of energy for “trying” anymore.
Discernment Counseling is a brief intervention for these couples, (one to five sessions only), with the goal of helping these spouses make a clear, confident decision about a direction for the relationship – either stay in the marriage as it is, move toward a divorce, or do the work of reconciliation and repair for a period of up to six months to get a sense of possibilities for the marriage. Couples who participate in this process avoid the financial and time waste of engaging in a half-hearted couples therapy, which often happens when one spouse hasn’t yet decided if they “want to try.”
So, if you feel that this form of treatment may be suitable for you, go to the Discernment Counseling page of my website, http://susanlager.com/discernment-counseling/, check it out, and call me at 603-431-7131 if you’d like to schedule a session.
Do you have a friend or relative who consistently screws up, forgets things, fails to follow through, or in one way or the other doesn’t take care of their own “life business”? If so, you may be in the presence of “learned helplessness.”
Unless these people are clinically depressed or physiologically compromised, this state often has more to do with someone operating at a “youngest sibling” level, expecting that others know more, are more capable, and can assume responsibility for things. They have usually developed unconscious life “scripts” about being inept, or ignorant or incapable, often not challenging these deeply held beliefs. As a result, they lack a sense of “agency,” the courage to try new solutions, and the ability or willingness to try to act effectively on their own behalf.
Your friend or relative may make lame decisions or procrastinate endlessly, and is likely to create a need on your part to take over and rescue them. If you feel that you’re watching someone who operates like a train wreck in slow motion, and that you can’t seem to help yourself from taking over to fix things, then you may be a target of their “learned helplessness”! People who demonstrate this are usually experts at training the people around them to go into overdrive “rescue” mode. They often don’t directly ask for help, but seem to be so helpless that the people around them feel they have to take over.
And don’t be fooled – their “helplessness” is generally very powerful! They get you to take over, pay for things, organize things, make appointments, ask the right questions, and generally fix whatever problems they are faced with.
So, if you’ve been feeling exhausted in a relationship which plays out with this “parent – child” dynamic, and feel that there’s a lack of reciprocity, or that you’re pouring lots of effort down a bottomless pit, watch out! You may be feeding someone’s “learned helplessness”! Consider backing off into a more supportive or facilitative role, allowing them to struggle more directly with problems, and learn that they can direct their power more appropriately into developing solutions for themselves. You’ll be doing yourself, your friend and the relationship a giant service.
If you feel that you need help to deal with this issue in any of your relationships feel free to contact me for an appointment.
It was finally time after almost ten years, for me to part ways with my trusty old office couch. It was beautiful and comfy, but badly soiled and worn, as you can see, after being the repository for thousands of hours of client’s struggles and triumphs. Oh, the stories this tired old couch had heard!
I’d spent months noticing how the cushions were getting more frayed and soiled, obsessing about whether I should have it re-upholstered, (and how would I ever do that?), or to just let it go, hopefully to a new home. Back and forth, decided and undecided I remained for months and months. Now the issue was less about the condition of the couch but my lack of confidence about the “right” decision!
I finally pulled the trigger, after days of measuring and re-measuring, (I’d bought a couch in the past I had to return because they couldn’t get it in the door!) I found what I thought was a perfect replacement and made plans for the Salvation Army to pick up the old couch. Before they arrived I was caught in yet another wave of self doubt: Did I measure correctly? Would it fit? Would the new one match or be comfortable enough? Did I really do my homework diligently about all this? Was it fair to just discard a couch that had served my clients and me so faithfully? (Does this kind of self-doubt feel familiar to you?) After several agonizing hours I decided to try to trust my perceptions and diligence, and move forward. Unfortunately, I wasn’t rewarded for the moment of decisiveness when the Salvation Army rejected the donation – “too worn.” With the new one arriving the next day, should I keep the old couch if I had nowhere else to put it? More indecision, and I’m the therapist?
I finally broke the bad trance, deciding this issue wasn’t about world peace, and that I should try to trust my perceptions, as I’m usually a very thorough person. Worst case scenario, I’d have two couches, one parked in the waiting room, and a new one in my office. I put a “free couch” sign on the old one, and within an hour a mother took down my number, exclaiming how perfect this old couch would be for her son who was moving into his own apartment. He wouldn’t be put off by the optics of it, but would love the functionality, especially since it was a full size sleeper as well. Long story short, the new couch arrived the next day, fit perfectly in my office and looks beautiful, and the kid came the next day to pick up his new treasure.
I can only guess what fun he and his roommates will have imagining the therapy dramas his new couch holds. Hopefully, he won’t doubt his own decision to give the old girl a new home just because she’s a little worn out. And hopefully, next time I won’t invite the curse of self doubt into what could be an exciting decision. Maybe? Maybe not…….
Due to technical issues with BlogTalk Radio, unfortunately last week’s episode never aired, and has been rescheduled to Wednesday, September 23rd at 8:30 PM. My apologies for any inconvenience.
DO tune in to the rescheduled episode if you’ve experienced conflict at work and have felt dread and indecision about what to do. Or, if you have a manager who doesn’t handle conflict productively, you end up getting the short end of the stick, and again, dread dealing with the issue, then this show is for you!
My co-host Pattie Porter, The Texas Conflict Coach, is an expert in the field of conflict management, and will share her insights about the issues, along with some critical tools you can use to manage these situations more confidently and effectively.
Call 877-497-9046 to join us live on the air with questions or comments. If you can’t make the live show you can listen to the recording afterward at your convenience at: www.BlogTalkRadio.com/SusanLager
If you or your spouse has been exposed as using the Ashley Madison site to seek an affair, stop and take a deep breath! (Apparently thousands of people have already flocked to lawyers to pull the trigger on impulsively decided divorces). Driven by the hurt and humiliation of public exposure and profound betrayal, as a discovering spouse you are understandably experiencing the first waves of trauma that this news usually brings. Vengeance and assuaging the broken trust through divorce may seem like the only solution to you at this point.
As the unfaithful spouse you are probably traumatized in different ways: what may have seemed like a discreet, compartmentalized adventure without victims now feels real in its damaging consequences. You are now either bathed in shame and fear, or furious that you can no longer “have your cake and eat it too.” However justified you may feel for your infidelity you know that your world is about to become unravelled. You are about to take the hit for everything wrong with the marriage, and cannot imagine ever being forgiven. If you stay married you imagine a lifetime in the “doghouse.” Whichever end you’re on, the impulse on both sides is often to give up and get a divorce, convinced that healing and reconciliation would be impossible.
As a couples therapist who, for many years has worked with thousands of couples reeling from infidelity, I have a few strong pieces of advice:
- Slow down!
- Take some deep breaths!
- Don’t make any rash decisions now!
- Don’t impulsively file for divorce!
Here are some things you may NOT be aware of:
- Many marriages can not only be saved, but strengthened after the trauma of infidelity. It requires a lot of determination, hard work, vision, and a good couples therapist the spouses both trust.
- Many couples who impulsively divorce deeply regret that decision later on.
- Children are often the biggest victims, especially in a contentious divorce.
- If you don’t know what direction to take regarding your damaged marriage there is an alternative to couples therapy called Discernment Counseling. This is a brief treatment designed for couples where one spouse is leaning toward a divorce and the other wants to stay married. It is not geared toward tools and skills for repair, but instead focuses on helping partners make a decision about a direction for the marriage. Only trained Discernment Counselors can provide this service.
- There are terrific books and support groups for couples wrestling with infidelity.
- If you do decide to get a divorce you can have a healing, constructive process through Collaborative Law. Divorce doesn’t have to be an impoverishing dog fight.
- There may be hope. There is help.
Anyone in the greater Boston area wanting more information, feel free to contact me at The Couples Center PLLC, in Portsmouth, NH: 603-431-7131.