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Dr. Mark
Dr. Mark, Psychotherapist
Category: Mental Health
Satisfied Customers: 5109
Experience:  Dr. Mark is a PhD in psychology in private practice
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Hello, is there a current text or resource, reference or otherwise to assist my husband and I to understand our situation and hopefully develop coping strategies. My husband who is ambivalent avoidant and Ihave been separated for the last three months. Our marriage of 11 years is predominantly happy and enjoyable relationship and we still love one another. However, he thinks he would do better living alone. We would like to know if there is strategies we can try to reduce his obvious anxiety and flooding about being is a close relationship. Of note, my husband had a traumatic childhood where money was no object but he was neglected due to parental alchoholism. My childhood was happy, stable and nuturing. We did attend one counselling session prior to the break and one after. Thank you. M
Submitted: 1 year ago.
Category: Mental Health
Expert:  Kelley replied 1 year ago.

Kelley :

Hello and welcome! My name is XXXXX XXXXX I’ll be assisting with your question today. I am sorry to hear that you and your husband are going through this right now, it sounds like a very trying time. If the goal is to reunite then I would suggest continuing the therapy sessions together or even separately to help work through what is going on and practice coping skills necessary to move forward in the relationship. I think that he would need to explore why he is getting the feelings he is and it is most likely what you said from childhood trauma issues. Here are a few books that you might find helpful http://www.amazon.com/Emotionally-Focused-Couple-Therapy-Survivors/dp/1593851650/ref=sr_1_4?ie=UTF8&qid=1362797289&sr=8-4&keywords=relationships+with+trauma AND

Kelley :

http://www.amazon.com/Trust-After-Trauma-Relationships-Survivors/dp/1572241012/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&qid=1362797289&sr=8-3&keywords=relationships+with+trauma

Customer: I am not happy as the expert that was supposed to respond was a quli
Customer: I am not satisfied at all. I
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Customer: I am NOT SATISFIED at all . The expert who was supposed to respond to my query was a qualified d
Customer: I am FAR FROM SATISFIED with the response. I was supposed to have my question answered by a qualified doctor of Psychology
Customer: I am NOT SATISFIED at all with the type of mental health expert that was allocated my question, nor am I impressed with the answer which is no more than I already know in my own professional role and research. No more than an amazon search would reveal. My question was PRESENTED at the time of writing it as being handled by a Doctor of Psychology with further postgraduate qualifications and much experience. Sorry Kelley but this one should have not been referred to you. Nonetheless, thanks for your input. Thanks.
Expert:  Camille-Mod replied 1 year ago.

Hi,

My name is XXXXX XXXXX I’m the moderator for this topic. I am sorry, but It seems that the professional has left this conversation. This happens occasionally, and it's usually because the professional thinks that someone else might be a better match for your question. But don’t worry….. If you are still waiting for an answer, I will try to find a new professional to assist you! Please keep in mind that sometimes finding the right professional can take a little longer than expected. All of our Professionals come on at varying times, so sometimes it’s a bit difficult to predict. Either way....If you would prefer not to wait, please feel free to let me know, and I will cancel this question for you. Thank you.

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Expert:  Dr. Mark replied 1 year ago.

Hi! I will be glad to try to help. You know, to give you the best answer, I think I should ask you a few questions first that will help define the problem and the situation.


Your question is very evocative: the most unusual part of the situation is that you've had 11 years of relatively happy marriage. As a survivor of alcoholic parents, that your husband was able to maintain a stable intimate relationship that long is a tremendous achievement for him. I'm sure there were times that weren't so easy. So that's a testament to your loving and caring in this marriage.

My main concern is that this situation rarely is resolved in couples therapy without the adult survivor of alcoholic parents (ACoA; I can talk more about that and the treatment if you feel it will be useful) having individual therapy. Because your description seems very accurate: "anxiety and flooding about being in a close relationship". And that's not really possible for you to work on with him until he's working on it within himself.


Is he working in individual therapy right now? If so, what type? How is it going?

If not, did he ever? When was the last treatment? What type of therapy was it? Was it helpful?

You went to two couples therapy sessions. ACoAs often are very resistant to any therapy and that you got him to agree to go is excellent. Why did they stop?

He was able to maintain for 11 years. Why, do you think, he decided he couldn't cope with an intimate relationship at this time? What was or were the triggers?

Any extra information that will help, feel free to share.

You're in Australia and I'm in the US. So please be patient if you're online when I'm offline and vice versa. We'll get there with patience. All the best,


Dr. Mark

Customer: replied 1 year ago.
Dear Dr Mark,I appreciate your response and that you asked me to answer specific questions that relate to our current situation. My husband was involved in therapy for a few years prior to meeting me. It was with a highly regarded and experienced clinician (male psychiatrist)He tells me it was not helpful, even after so much time. I do not know what kind of therapy was used? However, it seems to have been mostly narrative with lots of silent periods on both sides. My husband felt it was a road to nowhere at a great deal of expense. How willing my husband was to fully engage with the therapist is uncertain. It does seem that the client- doctor relationship was not as positive as it might have been. He did the children of alcoholic AA course at some point too. Early in our marriage we saw female psychiatrist. I wanted some help to assist my husband with more effective and open communication with me. She was fully cognisant of his traumatic childhood that resulted from the neglect he experienced where he was often left to pick up the pieces of his homemaker alcoholic mother. He father a social drinker was also partially deaf and a bit of a philanderer, and often absent from the home. She explained to me in some detail attachment theory and developmental issues as they related to my husband. She told me that it would my husband would need to do quite challenging and ongoing therapy but as you can imagine, my husband did not relish this recommendation after already spending a few years in a psychiatrist office without much of an outcome. Instead, she gave us couples communication exercises to do which after a few weeks he would not participate in. He did not return to see her again. I had to smile as one of my husbands gifts to me around this time was the book "5 Languages of Love"'. Hi intention was there if not the action. We have functioned with fair communication skills, sometimes better sometimes not so much and a lot of understanding and patience on my part. I have given both of these things because he is a good man and I appreciate that he probably gives the best he can most of the time. It has not been easy as he often will skirt around intimate and emotional issues with often evasive talk or turning questions back towards me, seemingly looking for me to provide not just my opinion on a matter but his too. It has been confusing for me but grew accustomed to this. Sometimes I pushed, sometimes I just let things go. Anyway, despite the obvious challenges, have managed as a couple to build a life where we shared experiences, a social life, and many joint projects that we both enjoy. Our intimate life, has been compromised by the legacy of my husbands childhood experience. This has ebbed and flowed over the years. I do not quite know what triggered the recent episode, he claims that he doesn't know either. I feel the deterioration coincided with a new job he started 18 months ago. Over the past six months he has become more and more withdrawn, more grumpy and less motivated to do things aside from focus most waking hours his demanding career. He travels lot, domestically and OS and works long hours. He also attends work functions regularly. He is clearly very competent in his role but I feel he gives so much to it, he barely has enough to give to much else. He claims to enjoy his job even though he is clearly exhausted and stressed at times. This has been quite an issue for me as you can imagine. To the point where I left the family home for a weekend to give him a wake up call. He was totally shocked and unprepared for this, even though i would have thought blind freddy would have seen my growing frustration and loneliness. I asked him to see a therapist with me. He was more than willing and wanted to sort things out. At this session he asked for a three month break. He agreed to see her for a few sessions over this time, he managed one due to overseas commitments. At our second session after three months the therapist was up front about the effort I had been putting in to our marriage with not a great deal in return. She talked of the depth of personal work he would need to do given his background, contributing, that she herself had done so after growing up in a dysfunctional family with a violent alcoholic father. She told him that having a alcoholic mother was much much worse. She made the therapy he would have to do sound akin to torture. He would either have to spend years and years each week or a month in hospital in intensive group and one on one sessions. Her description overwhelmed me, let alone him. She focused on the process but not on the outcome. She told him that perhaps living alone was the best outcome for him, as she does "and loves it". She then proceeded to talk with us about formal separation and house and asset issues! She invited us back to discuss this further at Another follow up. My husband and I have met each other for coffee a few times since and decided to continue to do so. We both want to let the dust settle before we take any more steps in any direction. He does not want to formally separate at this time and neither do I. Deep down I don't think it is what we want. I think he is conflicted and sees isolation not desirable as he may have thought. We have decided not to go back to the counsellor next week as planned. My confidence in her methodology with us has been damaged in the last session. I have informed her of my concerns.I know that probably the only way forward as a couple in the intermediate future if we decide to continue would probably be some kind of identified compromise in how we can achieve things in our married life that each of us need as happens in mediation. What he can cope satisfactorily with in marriage and hat I can comfortably live with . I aslo think he needs to consider what the new job is doing to him and so us. Can this be successful? Thank you very much for your patience. My apology for the long winded reply. M
Expert:  Dr. Mark replied 1 year ago.

Hi M. Thank you for the added information. It helps a lot. I believe I can now be of help with this issue.



First, let me say I am amazed at your strength in dealing with all of this. You were not long winded and I appreciated the thoroughness very much; it helps me in understanding what's going on and what might have a chance to succeed. I can imagine how easy it would be to be pessimistic. ACoAs are most often pessimistic anyways and so for you to still be hopeful and searching for a way the two of you can have a good marriage is really very inspiring. I have worked with ACoAs in my private practice every so often and your husband's situation, self description, and behavior seems very consistent.

The psychiatrist he was working with was attempting to do psychodynamic therapy with your husband. This is very long term work and has a much better chance of success when the ACoA "buys into it". It can be very helpful for the long term but only if your husband would have the comfort with what's going on and feel free to "act out" the emotional blockages. It seems the psychiatrist never got to that stage. Your husband is much more results oriented and the psychiatrist would have perhaps done better modifying the therapy toward smaller positive outcomes throughout the therapy rather than a long term gain very slowly.

So our situation is that your husband is "therapy shy" now. It is unclear whether he is prepared to do productive work in therapy as he is distrustful and the therapist would need to spend time building that trust. Therefore, I would like to suggest two areas of exploration on your own outside of therapy. I want to be hopeful along with you and I don't think that just recommending another round of therapy will be able to sustain your hopefulness. Though I want you to understand that if he will be willing to continue in therapy, whether couples or individual, and you find someone experienced with ACoA and the standoffishness of ACoAs, who is smart and kind, then I'd say jump at the opportunity to work with him/her. But let's explore the ACoA internet world and a book for the two of you to work on that I have had success using with couples when one partner is reticent to go to therapy.

For both of these I'm really addressing you both because you both need to be involved. With the ACoA groups, I'll address him directly but you may find benefit as well. You are very caring and patient and it may be useful as a resource for you as well. You two are seeing each other regularly so sharing my answer I hope will be comfortable. I'll address him here:

You've had to take care of yourself and to be watchful of others your whole life. That's a strength. But it has an inherent weak spot: the ability to receive love and to receive being cared for. And that can shut out those you love. This is a very deeply ingrained thought/emotion/behavior pattern. And it has taken a tremendous effort on your part to keep trying and working on this relationship with your wife. Good for you.

So, you are an Adult Child of Alcoholics (ACoA--I just want to make sure you're familiar with the acronym). I want to recommend you take advantage of the resources. Therapy is a very hit or miss enterprise for ACoAs; it all depends on the skill of the therapist to read your needs. And you as an ACoA don't make that easy. Here's the website of the international organization. Lots of resources:

http://www.adultchildren.org/

There are many other resources. I'm especially thinking about online support groups. I gather from what your wife wrote that you travel quite a bit. Therefore online groups may be more practical. They may also be less threatening. But if you live in a metropolitan area, there may be local groups available and that would be a very worthwhile step. Remember: our goal here is for you to feel more able and comfortable to accept your wife's love and caring without feeling hemmed in or strange. So that you can feel freer to give love back.

Here's the website for Janet Woititz. Since the 1980s she's been the leader in ACoA therapy. She's still speaking nationally, I believe. I use her books with my patients and think she's great. Here's her site:

http://www.drjan.com/


Let me paste in for you her 13 characteristics of ACoAs. See how many you recognize:

1. Adult children of alcoholics guess at what normal behavior is.

2. Adult children of alcoholics have difficulty following a project through from beginning to end.

3. Adult children of alcoholics lie when it would be just as easy to tell the truth.

4. Adult children of alcoholics judge themselves without mercy.

5. Adult children of alcoholics have difficulty having fun.

6. Adult children of alcoholics take themselves very seriously.

7. Adult children of alcoholics have difficulty with intimate relationships.

8. Adult children of alcoholics overreact to changes over which they have no control.

9. Adult children of alcoholics constantly seek approval and affirmation.

10. Adult children of alcoholics usually feel that they are different from other people.

11. Adult children of alcoholics are super responsible or super irresponsible.

12. Adult children of alcoholics are extremely loyal, even in the face of evidence that the loyalty is undeserved.

13. Adult children of alcoholics are impulsive. They tend to lock themselves into a course of action without giving serious consideration to alternative behaviors or possible consequences. This impulsively leads to confusion, self-loathing and loss of control over their environment. In addition, they spend an excessive amount of energy cleaning up the mess.

 

 

What do you think? Whatever you got from this list, I want you to take the time to feel more comfortable within the framework that I've been establishing here: the source of the ingrained behavior, etc. is the lack of training early on in how to receive love and caring in healthy ways. I work frequently in therapy via Skype, for example, and I recently worked with someone on this in ACoA work. It is indeed possible to feel more at ease with oneself and with the vulnerability that being able to receive love and caring from someone produces.

Okay. Now I'm back to both of you. There's also some couples work I'd like you two to try. Communication is the muscular system of love. And love is the circulatory system. Let me repeat that because it's so important: it's not sex; it's not beauty or looking good; it's not being smart or clever. Communication between the two people is the love muscle; it's the muscular system of love. The desire to give to the other person, to make the other person happy is the heart of love, the circulatory system. ACoA makes this tough but I'm so impressed with how the two of you are trying and not giving up. It's very inspirational.

You're going to start with a book. You'll get 2 copies, one for each of you. Each night you're both going to read a few pages or a chapter and do the exercise there if there is one in those pages. Every 2-3 days when you get together for coffee, talk about what you read. What you think of it, what it inspired in you. Make notes in the margins. And each one talk about the subject of the pages and what you think. That's your assignment and dates. Treat it as a date and spend the time reading and making notes so that you have good comments and questions to discuss together.

The book: It's by the foremost researcher into relationships in our day, John Gottman. He's famous for being interviewed on TV and being able to tell when a couple will get divorced within 5 minutes and having 90% accuracy. He's American, but so what? I've studied his therapy and use his therapy in my practice and that's why I'm concerned that you two do this. So the book is the Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work. You can get it online or see if you can get it locally to save time.

Now, a secret: the magic is not in the book. The exercises and Gottman's insights will be very useful and important for the two of you. But the magic is in the act of working together on your marriage! The two of you paying attention every single day to your marriage and making effort every single day: that's the magic ingredient in great marriages that GROW in love as the years pile up. I want to make sure you both understand this. Because that's the key to our work here. Okay?

Again, you are each quite an amazing person to have gotten this far with what you’ve gone through.

Okay. I wish you the very best!

My goal is for you to feel like you've gotten Great Service from me and the site. If we need to continue the discussion for that to happen, then please feel free to reply and we'll continue working on this. If the answer has given you the help you need, please remember to give a rating of 5 (Great Service) or 4 (Informative and helpful), or even 3 (Got the job done) button. This will make sure that I am credited for the answer and you are not charged anything more than the deposit you already made by pressing any of these buttons. Bonuses are always appreciated! If I can be of further help with any issue now or in the future, just put "For Dr. Mark" in the front of your new question, and I'll be the one to answer it. All the best, XXXXX XXXXX

Customer: replied 1 year ago.
Dear Dr Mark,

I cannot thank you enough for your kindness, expertise, support and willingness to not just tell us to forget it because it's all too hard. You have given hope and for that spark I am very grateful.

I will and I am hopeful my dear husband will try to do all your guidance recommends.

With sincere appreciation for the trouble you have taken for a couple you don't even know on the other side of the globe. Thank-you also for your kind words of affirmation that it is an achievement and testament to our love and commitment for us to have managed 11 years together before getting to this point.

God bless,
M
Expert:  Dr. Mark replied 1 year ago.
M, you are very welcome. I wish you and your husband the very best. You have been a very patient woman and I do know how much patience it takes when the person is an ACoA. All the very best to you!


My goal is for you to feel like you've gotten Great Service from me and the site. If we need to continue the discussion for that to happen, then please feel free to reply and we'll continue working on this. If the answer has given you the help you need, please remember to give a rating of 5 (Great Service) or 4 (Informative and helpful), or even 3 (Got the job done) button. This will make sure that I am credited for the answer and you are not charged anything more than the deposit you already made by pressing any of these buttons. Bonuses are always appreciated! If I can be of further help with any issue now or in the future, just put "For Dr. Mark" in the front of your new question, and I'll be the one to answer it. All the best, XXXXX XXXXX
Dr. Mark, Psychotherapist
Category: Mental Health
Satisfied Customers: 5109
Experience: Dr. Mark is a PhD in psychology in private practice
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