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Page Contents: When marriage counselors encourage divorce.                    


My wife and I started seeing a marriage counselor who specializes in psychotherapy. I discovered my wife had a long-term affair and lied about it and this was really difficult for me to handle since we were married over 20 years. My wife felt that I was neglecting her and that I sometimes lost my temper (never any threats or violence, but sometimes getting mad, especially after uncovering the affair).
The therapist immediately seemed to side with my wife. The sessions never went in the direction I wanted, which was to work on ways for us to stay together after the affair. Instead, the conversations always focused on questions like if I was angry as a youngster, etc. I was getting a pretty bad feeling about the sessions because the affair, a serious blow to me, was being treated with as much concern as, perhaps, a squabble over who does the dishes by my wife and therapist. The last straw for me came when the discussion finally did come around to my wife’s lover. The therapist asked my wife if she still loved and respected the other guy and thought of him when she was with me, etc. etc. and my wife confessed that “Yes,” that was true. The therapist just said there was nothing wrong with that. At that point I realized that continued therapy with that therapist would not help me forgive my wife. I canceled that therapist and we went to someone new. Later, however, I found out that my wife had continued to see our old therapist behind my back for many sessions and that therapist basically told my wife that my wife needed to start thinking about her own happiness and if that meant leaving me, that was okay. Now if I were a total loser, I could maybe understand this, but I’m not (of course everyone says that). Seriously, there was never any abuse or controlling issues. We are two professional people in our forties who (I thought) loved each other and had a pretty good marriage. Suddenly my wife wants to leave me for this other guy who she still loves and the therapist is telling her to do it. Is this how modern-day psychotherapists approach marriage counseling?

Apparently it’s how one psychotherapist approaches marriage counseling.

Actually, many individuals who have been wounded by childhood abuse or other traumas tend to be drawn to a career in psychotherapy. Some of these individuals have an unconscious anger at their own fathers, a resentment for authority, and a desire to reform the world, as a sort of revenge for the pain that was inflicted on them, and they can unconsciously inflict their bitterness on their own clients. How can such persons teach anyone anything about forgiveness? I wouldn’t be surprised if your wife’s “therapist” has been divorced, at least once, herself.

Now, the truth is that if more people thought about marriage as a lifetime commitment to building a family—instead of as a stamp of approval for self-satisfaction—then there wouldn’t be such a problem with divorce—and sexual affairs.

So what can you do, given all that has happened so far? Well, your wife is going to do what she wants to do, and you cannot control what she thinks or what advice she is given. All you can do is be for her the image of a good husband. Put aside all bitterness, rivalry, anger, hostility, and argumentative behavior. Without condoning adultery, be supportive and patient and attentive to her feelings. After a while, she will have to say to herself, “Why in the world am I being told to divorce such a decent man?” And then you will have a marriage again.


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Raymond Lloyd Richmond, Ph.D.
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