Is partner's counselor "enabling?" - Talk About Marriage
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post #1 of 15 (permalink) Old 06-01-2013, 08:07 PM Thread Starter
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Is partner's counselor "enabling?"

For the last 3 to 4 months, I have been going to couples counseling with my partner and her therapist of 15 years. Last session, we were talking about my partner's explosive anger and my wish that she express her anger more appropriately in a way that isn't frightening to me and one of our dogs i.e. banging things in the garage, screaming at me to my face or being in her office with the door closed, cussing me out and saying hurtful things about me, slamming doors, blasting music at a deafening volume, just to name a few. I get anxious and can't sleep, dog gets anxiety and potties in the house when she's upset. She expressed that she felt like she's not allowed to be angry. I tried to explain again that I didn't mean it that way, just that I have trouble ignoring it. Long story short, her therapist brought up all that she has been through in her life (abuse/mistreatment by others, not me) and she said that I need to honor her anger. One of the suggestions she posed to us is that my dog and I leave the house and go somewhere till she cools down. This feels invalidating to my feelings and enabling to her behavior. Can anyone help me understand this differently?


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post #2 of 15 (permalink) Old 06-03-2013, 02:15 AM
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Is partner's counselor "enabling?"

Sorry to here that you are going through the anger issue with your wife. I'm not in your position but personally if I was I wouldn't tolerate her poor behaviour. Many people, including myself have had not ideal upbringings but I don't use it as an excuse to mistreat somebody, as I've chosen to take responsibility for my own actions. I think it's not about you giving her space to vent, but for her to get help for her anger. I also think that if she doesn't take responsibility for her anger, is there a future in your marriage as how much are you willing to it up with? How old is your wife btw?
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post #3 of 15 (permalink) Old 06-05-2013, 12:59 AM
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Re: Is partner's counselor "enabling?"

Tell her to go outside and beat on a tree with a stick like a civilized angry person would. Her anger 'expression' ends where it makes you hurt and neurotic.

Oh, and I didn't find counselling helpful for my (ex)marriage. In the end, its the 2 partners that must both be committed. Without that, you are hooped. Good luck.
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post #4 of 15 (permalink) Old 06-05-2013, 05:22 PM
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Re: Is partner's counselor "enabling?"

I think the therapist made a good suggestion, and here's why.

These outbursts are to get a rise out of you. If you aren't there (behavioral conditioning- extinction), your partner has to deal with her feelings on her own. If you are consistent about leaving when she has these outbursts, she will eventually have less outbursts. Why? Because she'll have to start coping in a more reasonable way to get your attention. Right now, she's causing you anxiety and she knows it. Like a small child who cries for attention, without an audience, the crying stops.
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post #5 of 15 (permalink) Old 06-07-2013, 09:35 PM
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Re: Is partner's counselor "enabling?"

You counselor is smart. She knows your wife is paying the bills and that the wife is happy because the therapist tells her whatever she does is right. Your wife doesn't change because she doesn't want to change and is happy to pay someone to justify her behavior, while the therapist is happy to play yes-woman for a good paycheck.

Going to this woman is completely counter-productive because when your wife comes home, she is validated by the therapist and while a normal person would say you are a passive man dominated by an overbearing woman, she can say her feeling are not being validated and she is the victim.

If you must go to the therapist, first see your own therapist, establish a rapport, and then go to a 4 way meeting with both of your therapists present or only yours.
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post #6 of 15 (permalink) Old 06-08-2013, 03:34 AM Thread Starter
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Re: Is partner's counselor "enabling?"

Quote:
Originally Posted by creative View Post
Many people, including myself have had not ideal upbringings but I don't use it as an excuse to mistreat somebody, as I've chosen to take responsibility for my own actions.
YES! This is what I have been trying to get her to see for years. It is what I've learned about personal growth and change with my own therapist. Otherwise, she's just stuck and not being the best she can be for herself, or for the relationship. What "good" therapist would validate this behavior?

Quote:
Originally Posted by creative View Post
I also think that if she doesn't take responsibility for her anger, is there a future in your marriage as how much are you willing to it up with? How old is your wife btw?
She is 50 years old. I agreed to this counseling with her therapist because she wanted to talk about what was wrong in the relationship and try and fix these things. I felt the same. What has happened, however, is that I have made some of the changes she has asked for, but when I ask for improvements from her, I either get her agreement with no follow up, or I bump up against her baggage which she doesn't seem to want to put down. My answer to your question is that I'm not willing to put up with it much longer and I'm trying to let her know that the kindest way I know how.

Thanks for the input
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post #7 of 15 (permalink) Old 06-08-2013, 03:45 AM Thread Starter
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Re: Is partner's counselor "enabling?"

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Originally Posted by sapientia View Post
Tell her to go outside and beat on a tree with a stick like a civilized angry person would.
I love this! She doesn't want to take it outside because she doesn't want the neighbors to know who she really is! In that same session, her therapist hinted that if she were the one to leave when she needs to express her anger, it might not be "safe!" So.... let's keep it at home where we only hurt the ones we love! So there is some acknowledgement that if she took he show on the road, she might end up getting into trouble.
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post #8 of 15 (permalink) Old 06-08-2013, 04:02 AM
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Re: Is partner's counselor "enabling?"

Don't you think that with 15 years of counseling your wife is still having those types of out burst, it's way past time to seek alternatives? This is not normal and dangerous behavior that needs to be addresses. I believe in counseling but, if by a year or two tops, you don't see drastic changes, you need to leave that counselor.
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post #9 of 15 (permalink) Old 06-08-2013, 04:06 AM Thread Starter
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Re: Is partner's counselor "enabling?"

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Originally Posted by mablenc View Post
Don't you think that with 15 years of counseling your wife is still having those types of out burst, it's way past time to seek alternatives? This is not normal and dangerous behavior that needs to be addresses. I believe in counseling but, if by a year or two tops, you don't see drastic changes, you need to leave that counselor.
I think she needs to ask for a refund and find someone who will help her do her work in therapy!
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post #10 of 15 (permalink) Old 06-08-2013, 07:30 AM
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Re: Is partner's counselor "enabling?"

Since this therapist has her hooks into your wife in this destructive therapy, can you make the obvious point that there is a difference between personal and marital therapy. I think then you need a new therapist to help the two of you work through things and that could be productive.

Dr "I agree with the person who pays me" is signficantly worse than nothing since she validates abnormal and destructive behavior.

Note this counselor would have been the first one to condemn you had you engaged in this behavior, calling it abusive and domineering and would have been working on assertiveness exercises for her were the situation reversed.

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post #11 of 15 (permalink) Old 06-08-2013, 11:04 AM
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Re: Is partner's counselor "enabling?"

It's good advice for several reasons, but you must remember you can't control her behavior, you can only control yourself.

The therapist is advising you to do what you can do when this situation arises.

My situation was very similar to yours. I didn't know how to deal with her anger and I didn't know how to deal with my resentment and it lead me to make some very poor decisions, namely an affair.

We've been in counseling for over two years to repair the damage of the affair, and our relationship. In these two years I'm screaming on the inside "why can't make her be nicer to me!!??"

In the past, I would stay in the fight because I wanted her to know I cared about her feelings. What I'd end up with is being tongue-lashed and resentful - she'd bring up all the things she hated about me, all the situations in the past that angered her, and basically beat me into submission.

I took it. I stayed to hear those angered, but absolutely nonsensical word and I let them stick. I let them tear me down. I developed resentments. I made poor decisions. I did all of this, not my wife. She was simply angry.

What I have learned in the last couple of years is that I don't have to stay in the fight. I may have that boundary that protects me from the point a discussion turns into a fight. Because of my upbringing I didn't know I was allowed to have this boundary. It sounds so simple and stupid, but that's the truth - I had no power, or so I thought.

What my counselor pointed out is that allowing myself to get sucked into the emotional swirl, beyond the point it's useful to myself, I no longer am sensible or rational. I become more fuel for the anger in the moment. I'm making it worse. It sounds counterintuitive to a person like me, co-dependent...a child of alcoholics...but normal people respect and enforce their boundaries. I didn't. I didn't know I could have them.

Sure, I'd like my wife to change, because she still gets into these swirls when a discussion turns into a anger-fest. I'd like her to be able to control herself and not get past the point of rational discussion. But I can't control her, and I can't demand she change. I can only change myself and establish my own boundaries.

I too used to dread these moments. Now, I look at it as an opportunity to improve myself by strengthening and enforcing my boundaries. The "fights" are shorter now because I'm not participating. Better yet, I'm not holding resentments because I better understand what she's going though in these moments. It's like she's drunk on anger and of course, drunks don't make a lot of sense. I give her a pass to be anger-drunk, and remove myself from the storm before I get hurt. It does neither of us any good for me to stay in the fight.

Focus on yourself, your boundaries, and reactions. Stay cool, and calmly remove yourself from the situation when you feel you are being provoked to act irrationally in anger. That's not to say you should never be angry or not be responsible when you have been offensive...just know your part and own it, but don't own hers.

Find a sense of compassion for her in these moments - it's not hard to do when you clearly know your boundary. A friend of mine gave me the most compassionate statement he said once to a friend in a similar situation: "I care for you too much to let you say things that you will regret saying." To me, this conveys the message that: 1. You do care, 2. That you understand there's a point of no return for this person that you know they wouldn't want to cross themselves, 3. That this is a moment that will pass, and you will be there when they're ready.
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post #12 of 15 (permalink) Old 06-25-2013, 06:45 AM
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Re: Is partner's counselor "enabling?"

Quote:
Originally Posted by WakeUpWS View Post
It's good advice for several reasons, but you must remember you can't control her behavior, you can only control yourself.

The therapist is advising you to do what you can do when this situation arises.

My situation was very similar to yours. I didn't know how to deal with her anger and I didn't know how to deal with my resentment and it lead me to make some very poor decisions, namely an affair.

We've been in counseling for over two years to repair the damage of the affair, and our relationship. In these two years I'm screaming on the inside "why can't make her be nicer to me!!??"

In the past, I would stay in the fight because I wanted her to know I cared about her feelings. What I'd end up with is being tongue-lashed and resentful - she'd bring up all the things she hated about me, all the situations in the past that angered her, and basically beat me into submission.

I took it. I stayed to hear those angered, but absolutely nonsensical word and I let them stick. I let them tear me down. I developed resentments. I made poor decisions. I did all of this, not my wife. She was simply angry.

What I have learned in the last couple of years is that I don't have to stay in the fight. I may have that boundary that protects me from the point a discussion turns into a fight. Because of my upbringing I didn't know I was allowed to have this boundary. It sounds so simple and stupid, but that's the truth - I had no power, or so I thought.

What my counselor pointed out is that allowing myself to get sucked into the emotional swirl, beyond the point it's useful to myself, I no longer am sensible or rational. I become more fuel for the anger in the moment. I'm making it worse. It sounds counterintuitive to a person like me, co-dependent...a child of alcoholics...but normal people respect and enforce their boundaries. I didn't. I didn't know I could have them.

Sure, I'd like my wife to change, because she still gets into these swirls when a discussion turns into a anger-fest. I'd like her to be able to control herself and not get past the point of rational discussion. But I can't control her, and I can't demand she change. I can only change myself and establish my own boundaries.

I too used to dread these moments. Now, I look at it as an opportunity to improve myself by strengthening and enforcing my boundaries. The "fights" are shorter now because I'm not participating. Better yet, I'm not holding resentments because I better understand what she's going though in these moments. It's like she's drunk on anger and of course, drunks don't make a lot of sense. I give her a pass to be anger-drunk, and remove myself from the storm before I get hurt. It does neither of us any good for me to stay in the fight.

Focus on yourself, your boundaries, and reactions. Stay cool, and calmly remove yourself from the situation when you feel you are being provoked to act irrationally in anger. That's not to say you should never be angry or not be responsible when you have been offensive...just know your part and own it, but don't own hers.

Find a sense of compassion for her in these moments - it's not hard to do when you clearly know your boundary. A friend of mine gave me the most compassionate statement he said once to a friend in a similar situation: "I care for you too much to let you say things that you will regret saying." To me, this conveys the message that: 1. You do care, 2. That you understand there's a point of no return for this person that you know they wouldn't want to cross themselves, 3. That this is a moment that will pass, and you will be there when they're ready.
In my opinion, you should seek MC outside of the relationship your wife has with a therapist of 15 years. Although a counselor is supposed to remain objective, and not allow for personal feelings for the patient to come into play you are up against a 15 year relationship your wife has with the therapist. Who knows what she has said about you in the sessions over all those years. A new counselor that is seeing the two of you together will be able to treat the relationship more objectively. I think the advice of not allowing yourself to be a part of her anger is a good suggestion, I also think that your wife not being told that it is wrong to have these outbursts and to begin exercises to curtail the future explosions is wrong and that makes me feel she is not getting the treatment (in full) that she should be getting. People are not told enough in therapy that their actions are not justified to the extent that they put them out there to hurt others and are further enabled to think, since there is a reason for the outburst, abuse from childhood etc... they allow themselves to excuse the behavior as justified. This is not the type of advice that will help your marriage. Just try to get your wife to see a different therapist for MC. Tell her she can have her therapist for herself but you want to have some decision making power as well and if she won't do it, then go to another one by yourself and see what the advice is on your own. Then take the different advice received to your MC sessions with your wife and her therapist and see what the response is. If they gang up on you, you then will know for sure that the therapist is on your wife's side not on the side of your marriage.
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post #13 of 15 (permalink) Old 02-03-2014, 05:23 AM
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Re: Is partner's counselor "enabling?"

There are a few things which are alarming here. If she has had the same therapist for fifteen years, have there been signs of improvement in that time? If not, the therapy may not be up to the task.
Fifteen years is also a steady source of income and the therapist may well know what side their bread is buttered.
Also, this therapist does not seem disinterested, as they should. Part of this is knowing one side for fifteen years.
The second reason, may be that there is a strong tendency in the UK and slightly in the US tobelieve that the woman is opressed by the man and that is the problem. Therefore, the man will be blamed. I say this writing from Scandinavia, where this is not an issue.

The therapy is voluntary. You should seek a neutral MT.
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post #14 of 15 (permalink) Old 02-03-2014, 05:53 AM
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Re: Is partner's counselor "enabling?"

Sorry you are going through this. Some of what you describe here really reminds me of my own partner. They need to learn to take responsibility for managing their own feelings and how they express them. Yelling, punching walls, breaking things, etc - those things communicate nothing but aggression and lack of control (and disrespect for the other person, IMO). I agree that your partner needs a new therapist.

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post #15 of 15 (permalink) Old 02-03-2014, 07:03 AM
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Re: Is partner's counselor "enabling?"

While I agree that your partner may need a new therapist, I also think people choose who they wish for a reason. She is getting some kind of reinforcement for her behavior with this person.if she picks someone new, she might actually have to do the work. My ex chose someone to help him with our 28 year long marriage, who held his hand, let his therapy be all about me and what a B*tch I was and disclosed things about her personal life. Then, to top it off, committed suicide! Since he never appeared to consider that he could be doing any self work, she was a perfect fit. They never talked about his years of anxiety and depression and how, untreated, they impacted our family. They never talked about his relationship with his brother, who died suddenly at age 50. They never talked about his overly controlling mom and her impact on our relationship...see where I am going. He thought she was perfect! Take a hard look at what you need, can you get it in this relationship?
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