NYC Psychotherapist Blog

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Saturday, December 1, 2012

Are You Too Afraid to Talk to Your Spouse About What's Bothering You?

Couples who come for counseling often reveal that they were too afraid to talk to their spouses about things that were bothering them about the relationship.  It's not until they come for couples counseling that one or both of them reveal their fear of communicating what they perceive as upsetting discussions. Often, this takes the other spouse, who has not heard about it before, by surprise.

Are You Too Afraid to Talk to Your Spouse About What's Bothering You?

Imagine the following scenario, which is a fictionalized account where one spouse was too afraid to talk to her husband about what was bothering her about their marriage:

Mary and Scott:
Mary and Scott, who were in their early 30s, were married for two years when they came to couples counseling.  Within the first year of marriage, Scott felt that Mary was distancing herself emotionally from him and he couldn't understand why.  Whenever he asked her about it, she would tell him that there was nothing wrong, but Scott had a strong sense that Mary was bothered about something and she just wasn't telling him.  

By the second year or marriage, Mary and Scott were hardly having sex.   Mary almost never initiated sex any more, and when Scott tried to initiate sex, most of the time, Mary said she was too tired or she had various aches and pains.  

Scott continued to feel that Mary was avoiding talking about something.  He was feeling increasingly frustrated by Mary's emotional and physical distancing from him, so he told her he thought they should attend couples counseling.  He hoped that, whatever was bothering Mary, maybe a skilled couples counselor could help them to communicate better.

Mary, who was from a traditional family where family members didn't talk about their feelings, wasn't comfortable with going to see a stranger to talk about their relationship.  She continued to insist that she was fine, but she relented when Scott told her how unhappy he was in their marriage and he hoped to be  able to salvage it in couples counseling.

Scott was very open in couples counseling.  But Mary found the initial sessions to be anxiety provoking.  It took several sessions for Mary to reveal that she felt jealous of Scott's new business partner, Linda, a vivacious, intelligent woman.  

Mary trusted Scott and she knew he wasn't cheating on her, but she felt inadequate whenever she compared herself to Linda.  She imagined whole scenarios in her mind where Scott would find Linda more attractive and interesting than her.  She was afraid Scott would fall in love with Linda.  Mary revealed, the more she thought about it, the less attractive she felt.  And the less attractive she felt, the more she wanted to avoid having sex because she felt inadequate. She told Scott that she was too afraid to tell him about her fears because she felt ashamed about it.

Scott was completely dumbfounded when Mary revealed what was bothering her.  He had no interest in Linda, other than as a business partner, and he didn't even find Linda to be attractive.  But he was more concerned that Mary allowed these thoughts to build up in her imagination and she never revealed this to him before.  

Mary, who had little relationship experience before she met Scott, learned to overcome her own feelings of inadequacy over time in therapy.

Overcoming Your Fear to Talk to Your Spouse About What's Bothering You

She also gradually learned how to communicate with Scott about things that made her feel uncomfortable.  Soon after that, they rekindled their relationship and they began having sex again, where Mary sometimes initiated.

There can be many reasons why someone is too afraid to talk to a spouse or romatic partner about what's bothering him or her.  Men are just as likely to have this problem as women.  Sometimes, as in the scenario above, it's because they come from a family where people don't talk about their uncomfortable feelings.  Sometimes, it's because they're not aware of what's bothering them or they minimize it. 

These kind of communication problems can erode a relationship over time, causing emotional and sexual distance.  

Getting Help in Couples Counseling
If you or your partner are having problems communicating about what's bothering either of you in  your relationship, you owe it to yourself and your partner to get professional help.  Many couples who come for couples counseling to deal with this issue have overcome this problem and have gone on to have satisfying relationships.

About Me
I am a licensed NYC psychotherapist, hypnotherapist, EMDR and Somatic Experiencing therapist. 

I work with individual adults and couples.

To find out more about me, visit my website: Josephine Ferraro, LCSW - NYC Psychotherapist.

To set up a consultation, call me at (917) 742-2624 during business hours or email me.