Unfortunately in couples counseling, they often have waited so long before seeking help that the pile of past hurts and feelings of betrayal are often smothering any love that may be left. In order to save their marriage (or relationship), we have to start working on healing the hurts. Unfortunately they often struggle to have radical acceptance that since we are all different people who think, feel, believe, and act differently, we will inadvertently cause hurt to others and we will be hurt by others. So what do we do with the hurts, the scars, the feelings? We can choose to stay in those negative feelings and places where “we are taking the poison hoping the other person gets sick” since the negative feelings we have are actually harming our own body and health! Or we can acknowledge that we are all human, we all make mistakes, we all have bad days, we all have made impulsive or bad choices. Then we can work towards radical acceptance of that and treat the other person the way we would want them to treat us if or when we hurt them. Radical acceptance does not mean we have forgotten what happened or how we were hurt but rather it is accepting that people make mistakes and we have chosen to give them another chance (same as we would want someone to give us a second chance). Then it is about working to forgive and gradually let go of those hurts. We humans are not the best at the forgiving part. However, when we hold on to the hurts then it gradually poisons our spirit. Forgiving is a process (similar to grieving), it comes and goes in waves that takes time and sometimes several cycles through the process before we get closer to resolution. One of the key parts of marriage counseling is to help the couple practice every time the hurt comes up for them to choose to let it go one more time. When we can accept that life is full of joys and hurts and focus on the joys, we will find a better place for contentment in our relationships.
Putting the Pieces Together (So We Make Sense of Ourselves, Others and Our World)
Lois Zsarnay, LMFT, BCPC, RD
Couples Therapy Ventura, California
©2014 Lois Zsarnay, LMFT, BCPC, RD