Garner, Affleck, Marital Therapy, and Divorce
Does seeking marital therapy mean it's over?
Posted Jun 30, 2015
The tabloids exploded with curiosity and innuendo of terrible trouble once Ben Affleck and Jennifer Garner were discovered going to a marital therapist. Now with a pending divorce, people’s worst fears are confirmed. Apparently if your spouse suggests therapy, it IS a last ditch effort to tell you it’s over. So teaches Hollywood. But is it?
We all are sad that this beautiful couple is ending in divorce. But worse, as a marital therapist, I feel distressed that the Hollywood rumors especially their foray into marital therapy will dissuade people from getting the help they need. Research shows that people already wait five years before getting help for resolvable issues.
The problem is not going to therapy – the problem is waiting too long before seeking help.
Here are 6 reasons to seek therapy sooner than later:
- Stuck points – you and your partner have the same argument all the time. She needs emotional connection to feel sexual and her wife needs sexual connection to open up emotionally. These cyclical problems are solved every day in therapy.
- Baby make three – any change of life stage brings new stressors. Even positive things like marriage, a new baby, change of careers, and retirement require a great deal of flexibility and adjustment skills for a couple. Therapists know how to get past typical problems at these life crises and can help you find your way back to each other.
- Silence vs. criticism – danger lurks when partners resort to these two desperate measures to communicate despair in a relationship. Stonewalling smothers any hope of resolution. Often an attempt to rouse another’s attention to a problem, habitual criticism, in itself, deeply damages a relationship. If sex is where the couple plays out their power struggle, a sexually silent body (of a person who promised fidelity) is often pitted against a nagging, critical, enraged body demanding attention.
- Technical difficulties - Almost all sexual problems are fixable. Sexual satisfaction reflects the condition of the marriage as well as helping two people feel more intimately connected. It may seem strange to seek the help of a sex therapist, but most sex therapists are extensively trained and licensed in relational problems and specialize in sexual health for couples. Communication techniques are also easy to learn and ease spouses' vulnerabilities with difficult subjects.
- No blueprint from a happy childhood - Your family of origin maps your brain for what it means to be a couple and a family. Securely-attached children-now-adults often marry other securely-attached adults with an easy transition and happiness all around. But adults who come from broken, dysfunctional homes often need to have a new plan. Therapy helps each spouse remap their automatic responses to be healthier and more thoughtful.
- It is over. Okay - your spouse didn't read this blog and tell you how desperate they were earlier enough. Therapy can help a couple transition through divorce so that they don't feel it was all for nothing. I came from a religious tradition where uncoupling, though terribly sad, was also ritualized with a formal letting go of vows, future commitments to friendship and parenting and community support for both parties as they made their separate ways. Therapy can serve as a secular passage through separation to salvage respect for what has been learned, hold the disappointment of the relationship and foster healing for a new, albeit, different relationship.