Q: Counseling is the only thing that can possibly save our marriage. My husband feels that our relationship is our business and not that of a stranger. I see little point in going by myself. I’m about to give him an ultimatum — either he attends therapy or we get a divorce. Do you have any suggestions for getting him to attend?
A: Threats are generally not an effective way to engage someone in therapy. Can you truthfully say something like this? “Our marriage is extremely important to me. I love you and really want to make this work. Things aren’t going well right now, and I’ll be meeting with a counselor every week to help figure out what to do. I hope you love me enough to attend and work on improving our relationship.”
Q: I just found out that my husband has been romantically involved with another woman for the past two years, and am overwhelmed with anger, guilt and depression. I’m getting a divorce but how do I explain the reason for the divorce to our kids?
A: Cheating on one’s spouse is a trust terminator, a violation of the most fundamental commitment that partners make in their marriage. However, be careful about making important decisions about your marriage while in the midst of such turmoil.
Give yourself some time to speak with your spouse, friends, clergy or perhaps a counselor to get some perspective and develop a plan that works for you. Some marriages survive these ordeals while others do not.
What you say to your children depends greatly upon their ages and what they know about what is going on. While you shouldn’t lie to your kids, you do have a right to keep some things confidential. Children will be most concerned about what will directly affect them, such as the impact of decisions on their school, friendships and style of living. Consider seeking the advice of a counselor for more specific direction.
Q: My 12-year-old wants to go to the mall with her friends. I think she is way too young and I see too much going on at the mall that concerns me. How do I tell her no when all of her friends are allowed to go?
A: You have to do what you feel is right for you and your child, not what is fashionable with others. Take some time to carefully communicate your concerns to your daughter. Look for a compromise that may be mutually agreeable, such as allowing her to spend some time at the mall while you wait in the food court. Help her understand the things she needs to do that would reflect positively on her maturity and thus allow her more privileges.
Next week: Is fighting among siblings really normal?