Marriage and Family Therapy: A Hope for Real Change

Parents help their infant walk in a forested settingLife in the trenches of marriage brings with it fears, burdens, and losses. Tough times of stress and embattlement may inflict wounds, which are often left either ignored or haphazardly bandaged. Sometimes issues with parents are a precursor to endless turf battles in a fight for identity. Left unresolved, the irresolution of this singularly critical bond has the power to play itself out in relationships throughout the course of life.

Sometimes when new babies bring sleepless nights and the inevitable routine of development, dreams may be compromised. Young couples may hide away the hopes and consolations that once provided the energy to overcome any obstacle. The seeds of midlife crises are sown early into soils of doubt and panic.

And sometimes death comes without warning and buries with it the irreconcilable and leaves a wake of grief and paralyzation.

There is no end in this life to the heartache of conflict and the danger of misunderstood affections and unrequited forgiveness. We all find ourselves trudging through the swamp of despair from time to time. And we often find that the heart of the matter usually pumps, not merely within us, but between.

The angst that brings into question our worth, our most intimate relationships, and our most carefully guarded prayers for the future is not borne in a vacuum of self. Relationships—and not just any relationships, but staggeringly family relationships—are our super-charged vessels of dejection and resentment. When we submit ourselves, one to another, it is possible to achieve a means to unbinding despair, as well as creating a wider grace. Marcel Proust observed, “The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes.” An examined life begins alone but bleeds into togetherness and enlivens love.

Marriage and family therapy offers respectful provocation of inclinations toward doubt and panic, the cultivation of strengths and creativity, and a deconstruction of destructive messages we have lived by. This flow from static numbness to fluid engagement can transform our inner dialogue, the dance of our love lives and our family lives, and the narrative by which we make sense of it all.

Returning to living as we once imagined may mean the task of laying down many masks and many debts. In that course is the weaving of humility and initiative, of gratitude and determination. And in it lies a hope for real change.

© Copyright 2011 by Blake Edwards. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to GoodTherapy.org.

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by GoodTherapy.org. Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

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  • P. Wilkes

    P. Wilkes

    May 25th, 2011 at 9:13 PM

    Hi Blake, I have a question if I may.

    If a family and marriage is in disarray, what is it better to address first-the marriage or the family issues?

    I know both would be intertwined. Or would it be better to deal with them in tandem?

    I’m just wondering where you think is best to start. Thank you.

  • Donald Tucker

    Donald Tucker

    May 25th, 2011 at 9:58 PM

    I sincerely believe that where there is love, there is hope of reconciliation. Whether it’s husband and wife, or parents and children, there’s no stronger bond.

    If each party can again feel that love, or at least remember what that felt like, there’s a chance of success. There has to be. Without love, we’re nothing.

  • Justus

    Justus

    May 25th, 2011 at 10:34 PM

    Thanks Blake, this is an inspiring and poetic piece.

  • isabella

    isabella

    May 25th, 2011 at 11:47 PM

    rapid changes in my life always upset me and have left a mark on my mind.be it the death of my young brother or a divorce a couple of years ago.both were unexpected events and yes it has taken me a long time to even say that I am close to getting over these events.

    although bad things happen all the time,some are quite expected and do not cause so much trauma.but what of those that are unexpected?what is the best recourse?

  • Jeanne

    Jeanne

    May 26th, 2011 at 4:46 AM

    I wish that I had taken advantage of marriage counseling when my ex husband and I were beginning to go through our very first rough patches. Maybe the marriage could have survived- I do not know that but I do know now that it would have at least been worth trying.

  • Blake Edwards

    Blake Edwards

    May 26th, 2011 at 11:48 AM

    P. Wilkes, Start where there is the highest motivation for change, and remain open and flexible as to how therapy evolves toward more or less family members. You are right to say “intertwined.” Families are emotional systems that are most certainly that. The good news is that wherever change is affected–whether in the marriage first, or first in the parenting dynamic–the entire family system is bound to experience change in the process. I recommend that you consult with a therapist and begin to work through these preliminary questions so that the real work of therapy can begin.

    Isabella, your “unexpected” has in its own way certainly brought trauma into your life. Though I would not impose on you a specific directive for “the best recourse,” I would certainly encourage you to reach out for support, be that through family, friendship, a support group (such as those for divorce and grief recovery), counseling, or even a creative outlet such as an art class or art therapy. Certainly all healing requires aspects of courage, acceptance, and the passing of time. May you find the peace you are looking for.

  • ARTHUR

    ARTHUR

    May 26th, 2011 at 11:48 PM

    Compromises have to be made if any two individuals need to share something-a house,a vehicle,a room,just about anything.There’s compromise required if you’re staying in a dorm,a lot of us would know that!

    But most of us just fail to realize this and expect the other to adopt to compromise and to adjust. Why do t we think that the other person would be expecting the same of us?!

    If we come to understand this then there will be far less problems in marriages all over!

  • R. Tindell

    R. Tindell

    May 29th, 2011 at 11:09 PM

    @Blake, if I may add my two cents. I completely agree that they’re intertwined. I think that family should take priority over the marriage.

    To me, marriage is now a scrap of paper that signifies we live together and means nothing more than that. I feel that we should sort out family issues first before tackling problems in the marriage.

    Family is forever. Few marriages are.

  • Antonio Frey

    Antonio Frey

    June 2nd, 2011 at 4:07 AM

    @Jeanne: It’s not a good idea to look back and say “If only”, especially when it comes to relationships. I’ve lost more than I care to admit over the years and mostly due to silly arguments and my ego.

    Unless they have died, you can always make up with them in the future if they are willing too. I made up with a close friend I fell out with ten years ago recently, and we’re getting along just fine.

  • eddie o'neil

    eddie o'neil

    June 3rd, 2011 at 9:19 PM

    Even so, you should always see an expert if you feel you can’t agree on the issues that come with marriage on your own or as a couple.

    There are some things you simply can’t deal with between just the two of you or alone, and that’s why marriage counselors and therapists exist. They know how best to suggest that you both handle it and give the best advice.

    Counseling saved my marriage. We went and never told a soul. You can keep it between the three of you. Without that, our marriage would have been stone cold dead years ago.

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