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By Chandrama Anderson

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About this blog: I am a LMFT specializing in couples counseling and have lived in and around Palo Alto since 1969. I worked in high-tech at Apple, Stanford University, and in Silicon Valley for 15 years before becoming a therapist. My background i...  (More)

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Marriage Interview 8: "Spit Out All the Hairballs"

Uploaded: Jun 10, 2015
Denise and Dominic met 28 years ago and have been married 27 years. A mutual friend introduced them once they were both over their divorces from marriages they made at age 20.

A lovely brunch and hike ensued, and they have been a couple ever since.

The early days of their relationship were long-distance, and Denise found herself pregnant after Thanksgiving, when they had spent only a few months together in total. They had already known they wanted to spend their lives together, so they married before their first son was born. They later had a daughter and another son.

One of the biggest problems in their marriage came as a confluence of events: financial, empty nest, job change and milestone birthday. They thought they were set financially and then 2008 hit them hard. With children in college, and Denise and Dominic thinking they were heading for retirement, suddenly everything changed.

Denise got very depressed.

Their coping skills are very different: she becomes angry like a wave, and he freezes. Given time, they are able to talk things through, see one another's perspective and support each other. In other words: become anchors for one another again.

They would walk and talk, side-by-side, and "Spit Out All the Hairballs" that were lodged in their thoughts, throats, and hearts. They decided to yoke together like oxen, and not turn on each other. Even though there was an intense desire to blame each other for their situation, they decided not to.

What we would do with this couple in counseling is to normalize their stresses and help them find ways to talk that are productive instead of causing further stress and hurt. This would get them out of the angry and frozen positions (remember emotional the brain knows fight, flight, or freeze). Change is stressful, whether they are good events or challenging. We would address Denise's depression, and begin with determining ways she could mange her depression.

We would look at underlying patterns in their long marriage that work for them and encourage more of that. We would also look for the unhealthy patterns that need intervention, and teach tools and skills for communication and resolution.

Denise's Tips and Tools for Other Couple's
? Be Kind.
? Take a walk together, looking forward (face-to-face seems confrontational).
? It's okay to have big emotions, but don't use them against each other.
? Respect who each other is; you are not the same person.
? When it comes to raising kids: You are both doing everything, and there's still more to do.

Comments

 +  Like this comment
Posted by Jerry, a resident of College Terrace,
on Jun 12, 2015 at 10:32 am

Chandrama,

I found out that my wife of 30 years is a lesbian. I had no clue. Our sex life was pretty good, I thought, although not much since she went through menopause and said that her libido is dead. We raised two good kids. Her latest lesbian lover is the wife of one our mutual male friends. I only found out when I noticed scratches on her body, when she got out of the shower.

I feel betrayed, but that is water under the bridge at this point. I had her served with divorce papers, and she went nuts. She said that she never would want to get a divorce, because it is too disruptive (and she doesn't want her latest lover's husband to possibly be informed). She said that she will give up her female lovers, and be a better wife to me, including in bed. She says that women are different than men in that context...they can choose to go either way. Is this true?


 +  Like this comment
Posted by Chandrama Anderson, a Palo Alto Online blogger,
on Jun 12, 2015 at 1:37 pm

Chandrama Anderson is a registered user.

Hi Jerry,

I am so sorry you are going through this. There are so many layers to your situation, and they are very important. Based on that, I am going to write a separate column about this, and post it next week.

To briefly answer your last question: The National Health Interview Survey, which is the government?s premier tool for annually assessing Americans? health and behaviors, found that 1.6 percent of adults self-identify as gay or lesbian, and 0.7 percent consider themselves bisexual. Others dispute these numbers as too low.

Your situation is one in which I would highly recommend counseling -- either individual, couples, or both. I hope you have someone you can talk to.


 +   1 person likes this
Posted by Dick, a resident of Gemello,
on Jun 13, 2015 at 4:26 am

Jerry, with all do respect sir....blow it up. I'd bet you money it's deeper and more hurtful then you think. As a man, you have to know the level or betrayal that your "wife of 30 years" did. For all you know that trip you and her went on 4 years ago has hidden secrets. That's obviously a made up up scenario but you get my idea, how bad did she feel when she was in bed with the women? F her, she could of went about it different and I'm assuming she is smart to know all the consequences her actions could/would cause.serve her again.


 +  Like this comment
Posted by janon, a resident of Rengstorff Park,
on Jun 13, 2015 at 10:58 am

Jerry,

Her main concern was for her lover. Shes asking you to conspire in maintaining a deception that affects the other husband. One of the key tests in determining if a marriage is worth saving is if the party that strayed feels any remorse. She just fears the disruption.

Be careful of counciling IMO. Id bet money the councilor is going to take a very one sided view of this given the circumstance, and put the onus on you to be accepting.

Too often councilors are quick to give a free pass to the cheater and distribute blame. In your case Id bet doubly so because of the sexual orientation question.


 +  Like this comment
Posted by Jerry, a resident of College Terrace,
on Jun 13, 2015 at 1:56 pm

I appreciate the support and critical comments. I won't stay married to a lesbian. I just wanted to know if women are so 'flexible' with their sexuality that they can freely choose to do whatever they want. My soon-to-be-former wife claims as much. She says that many Palo Alto wives are secret lesbians. She gave me about ten names (amazed me). She says they want to be married, so that they can have a husband to provide for them and their kids. Ironically, she says that these women actually believe in traditional marriage, where the kids have a father in their lives.

She is having a tizzy, and trying to have our kids change my mind. My daughter says I need to understand; my son says to get out ASAP. I will get out, and it will be very disrupting to all involved, including myself. For example, when all our assets, including our house is liquidated, and split 50/50, none of us will be associated with Palo Alto any more. This fact really has her upset, because her secret den of lesbians has found a niche in Palo Alto, apparently.

Live and learn, I guess. Life moves on.


 +  Like this comment
Posted by Not such a dick, a resident of Gemello,
on Jun 14, 2015 at 1:39 am

Well , wow- all I can say is it's a real life situation and needs to be dealt with one way or another. Sounds like she is trying to justify her position because she got caught. How much water her story holds about the friends and stuff is just what she says and you're not a detective- plus who cares? That's what I'd repeat. She's scared and doesn't want want to Lise her provider as you it. Tell her life is not a tv show, Separate and be a man, in the mean time make her feel bad. Why not? Have a 40 something Milffy chick play a role. Know what I mean, $200 bucks a week to make her miserable and think you are on top of the world happy would make the awful situation fun. Just rent her, no sex or nothing, phone calls, coffee, who knows!


 +   1 person likes this
Posted by Chandrama Anderson, a Palo Alto Online blogger,
on Jun 14, 2015 at 11:52 am

Chandrama Anderson is a registered user.

Jerry,
You sound completely clear that you are done with this marriage. I suggest counseling because essentially a bomb has gone off in your life. That affects you on several fronts: emotionally, kids, financially, finding out you've been valued as a provider (vs. loving husband, to an unknown degree), leaving Palo Alto, etc. This is a time to practice good self-care: exercise, good sleep habits, decent food, not too much alcohol (it's a depressant), support of friends and family.


 +  Like this comment
Posted by Jerry, a resident of College Terrace,
on Jun 14, 2015 at 1:34 pm

Chandrama,

Thank you for your sincere concern. However, I am the type of personality that figures the best way out of a hole is to stop digging it. A clean break is best for me.

I am hoping that, should I meet another woman, I can be sure she is not a lesbian. My current wife says there is no way to tell. I would like more assurance on that point. I don't want to make this mistake again.


 +   2 people like this
Posted by a woman, a resident of Esther Clark Park,
on Jun 16, 2015 at 7:38 pm


I know FOR SURE I am not a lesbian.


 +  Like this comment
Posted by Kazu, a resident of Downtown North,
on Jun 16, 2015 at 10:37 pm

The easiest way to avoid all these problems is to not get married in the first place. Marriage is the leading cause of divorce.


 +  Like this comment
Posted by Al, a resident of Bailey Park,
on Jul 16, 2015 at 3:44 am

Very vital story. And thanks for tips. They would be very helpful for actual couples.


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