To Marriage Therapy or Not To Marriage Therapy

Elizabeth Weil’s clever cover story in the New York Times Sunday Magazine, “Married With Issues” raises three critical questions for all couples:  1. What should couples expect from their marriage/relationship. 2.  How can they tell if it is “good enough” as is or deserves attention.  3. What do they do about it?

The answer is of course an individual one but here are some guidelines for #2:

  • You know that your marriage deserves attention when you find yourselves avoiding time alone together.
  • You know that your marriage deserves attention when every attempt to make a decision together gets sidetracked by fights and attacks on each other’s character.
  • You know that your marriage deserves attention when each of you repeatedly questions the other’s loyalty to the relationship
  • You know that your marriage deserves attention when your children get lost in the gunfire.
  • You know that your marriage deserves attention when your children tell you so.
  • You know that your marriage deserves attention when one or both of you is in emotional pain about the marriage.

What is Attention: This is the question raised in the article. Ms. Weil and her husband surveyed the marriage therapy world, spent some time in it, and concluded that they were ok with their “good enough” marriage. Implicit in their exploration, and spelled out at one point by referencing one psychologist’s views on marriage therapy as potentially harmful, is the question of whether therapy is the way to go. Ms. Weil and her husband determined that they were comfortable enough in their relationship and that by adjusting expectations to a more realistic level,  the future maturing of their commitment seemed assured.

Attention Was Paid: Critical to Ms. Weil’s approach, in my opinion, and notably with the complete participation of her husband Dan, is that “attention was paid” by both partners. Ms. Weil and Dan courageously ventured forth to explore the dark and daunting depths of their connection, trying on new ways to relate, understand and experiment.  Their project had its own enticements, as writers, that provided further incentive. But the message is clear:  There is no down side to recognizing that there is something to pay attention to in the marriage or relationship, and taking the time to address concerns is useful and critical.

Together: Ms. Weil and hubby Dan joined together in this inquiry . Couples willing to share in the journey of discovery reveal a strength in the relationship, no matter the issues at hand.

©Jill Edelman, M.S.W., L.C.S.W. 2009

2 Responses to “To Marriage Therapy or Not To Marriage Therapy”

  1. Anne Carpender

    These latest tips on paying attention to your marriage are really great. All points completely correct. I believe it’s best to get on going therapy in a marriage. I believe that if the children are getting caught in the gunfire someone in that family will get hit by a bullet if they don’t get therapy and the marriage will be over. Nip those warning signs in the bud…

    • jilledelmanlcsw

      Dear Anne,

      Your comments reinforce the importance of “paying attention” to the marriage. The ramifications of not doing so can have ripple effects for the next generation. Thanks so much.


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