Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Today I declared two marriages dead or dying. This is most painful part of my job. It happens so rarely that to have it happen twice in one day--and in back-to-back sessions--felt brutal. Every time I do this, I flash back to my days as a chaplain, sitting with the family beside the bed of a dying loved one. Everyone knew it was about to end, although no one knew exactly when or how and everyone's reaction was different. A dying marriage feels very similar to me.


Electric Monk said...

Wow. So, how do you tell the people that? Do you just say there's nothing left for them and it's time to cut it off? Do you think they usually expect that, or do they act surprised? Or maybe even relieved?

T said...

Good question . . . No, I would never tell someone that it is time to end their marriage--that's a hugely personal decision and also, many people have reasons to stay in a marriage even after it has died. It's a much more subtle and sadder process. It has a lot to do with helping clients take options off the table. For example, she wants the option where the husband doesn't hit her. When I help her see that that particular option isn't open to her, then she begins to get some clarity and has some choices to make. Or when my office provides the safety for one of them to say, "I'm just not willing to do what you want for this marriage to survive. I want to stay married but I'm not going to (stop looking at porn, start talking to you respectfully, stop traveling with my exgirlfriend, you fill in the blank)." That's usually the first time the spouse has heard it that bluntly because my presence removes the filter of denial. Does that make it more clear? (The spouse who wants the marriage hardly ever feels relieved, at least not at this point. The spouse who wants out often feels relief.)