Marriage Counseling: 3 Truths about Marriage

A lay counselor who has worked with hundreds of premarital couples told me that he particularly looks forward to the session when he lays out what he calls the “tough love truths” to the future couple. These truths are the following:

  1. You’re not the person I thought you were.
  2. You’re not meeting my needs.
  3. Marriage is difficult.

Marriage Counseling, premarital counseling, relationship counseling, couples counselingThis counselor sees these three things as basically universal truths, and most people who have been married five years or more are unlikely to disagree with any of them. We don’t really know who we are marrying—there is always something more to find out. No one person can meet all our needs. And every marriage is difficult.

These “3 Truths” are healthy reminders for every married couple. So often we want to particularize the challenge of our marriage, making it our spouse’s fault instead of admitting that no one fully and completely knows the person they are marrying; no marriage supplies all our emotional needs; and no marriage is always “easy.”  

The trick is to keep a universal truth from becoming a specific attack. For example: “You’re not who I thought you were” can lead to, “Therefore you must have lied to me or hid from me or misled me intentionally.” You’ve taken a universal truth about marriage and used it as an individual assault.

Let me add a caveat here, however, for one particular situation: Some people are master manipulators and they really did commit fraud prior to the marriage, about who they were, what they value, and how they live. And some people can actively and intentionally cover up major issues psychological, drug dependence, etc.) from their future spouse that also amounts to fraud.

For most people, though, it’s not about fraud as much it is about discovery, having our eyes opened to distasteful things, short of abuse, that are unpleasant and maybe even shocking to discover. Even if your spouse managed to be one hundred percent honest while dating, you’ll still find out a few unfortunate truths about him or her as the marriage progresses.

The second universal truth, “You’re not meeting my needs!” implies that someone else could meet all your needs. It can turn into a poisonous disappointment and contempt, all because you accepted the premise of a lie—that your spouse is supposed to meet all your needs. Imagine a coach berating Lebron James because during one game he missed half his shots or only pulled down three rebounds. Try to find any player who doesn’t usually miss half his shots!

Finally, “Marriage is difficult” can turn into “you’re difficult so something must be wrong with you.” No one person can meet all our needs. According to the IMAGO model, if you want more love, be more loving. If you want more kindness and consideration, be more considerate and kind. If you want more sex, be more sexual. Be more of what you want. Don’t expect more than what you give. Also, ask yourself, what have I done to keep the spark in my marriage/ relationship lately?

So let’s step back and look at these three thoughts.

  • You’re not who I thought you were.
  • You’re not meeting all my needs.
  • Marriage is difficult.

When these universal truths become obvious to you, remember that this doesn’t mean you made a bad choice. It doesn’t mean you got a raw deal. It just means you have a relationship. And now it’s time to make it work.

Marriage counseling supports bringing out the best in each individual and the best in the relationship. It also helps people to be accountable for their thoughts, feelings and behavior. When things don’t feel right and there is a breakdown in communication or intimacy, therapy can help.
Often it is a matter of re-evaluating priorities and goals as a couple. Finding the right path to re-evaluate, revive and go forward are goals of therapy.

If you or someone you know could benefit from re-vitalizing their relationship, call Denise at


This article was paraphrased from Gary Thomas, a Christian minister, who has written much about relationships, spirituality and preserving the sacredness of a spiritual commitment. 

8 Biggest Relationship Killers According To Divorce Attorneys

Hello Everyone!

I’m sending you this interesting article that shows what relationship issues divorce lawyers hear the most. Isn’t it interesting that I also hear the SAME issues which can be resolved in marriage and couples counseling! How unfortunate for the people who choose divorce when there are workable solutions. If not resolved, people often bring the same issues to their next relationship!

I hope you enjoy the article and support your friends and loved ones to be pro-active when these complains come up and see the therapist before the divorce attorney! I also tell people it is also much more cost effective!



Divorce attorneys have a front-row seat to the kinds of problems that can chip away at relationships. Every day in their offices, they get an earful from clients about what led to divorce.

What are some of the most common complaints they hear? Below, divorce lawyers from around the country share nine of the most prevalent marital issues.

1. My spouse rarely helps out with the kids.

“When I first meet with people during the consultation, I often hear that the husband or wife doesn’t feel like they have an equal partner in their marriage, especially when it comes to the responsibility of caring for their children. It takes time and energy to manage a family’s extracurricular activities, doctor’s appointments and social activities. Whenever someone feels their spouse is not pulling their weight, resentment will build. When it involves children, though, it becomes much more complicated. When they are in my office, I know they have tried everything and asked their spouse to step up and help, but they have not been successful. Filing for divorce is the only way they believe they will get some reprieve from it.” — Puja A. Sachdev, an attorney in San Diego, California 

2. We never talk about our problems.

“It’s nothing that either spouse says ― it’s what they don’t say. Problems crop up and no one wants to rock the boat. So no one deals with the problem. No one talks about it. But then it doesn’t go away. It goes underground, then another problem crops up. This time, dealing with it is even harder because both parties still hold resentment from the first problem they never dealt with. So they push the second problem under the rug. Then the third. And so on. At some point, they explode over something that seems stupid and silly. Ultimately, they’re arguing about the  ongoing, unspoken problems they have.” ― Karen Covy, an attorney and divorce coach based in Chicago, Illinois 

3. Our sex life fizzled out, and so did any intimacy.

“Honestly, I can go on and on, but those are two big complaints I hear. What it boils down to is life has gotten in the way and there is no longer a connection between spouses. Even more than sex, it has to do with a lack of communication and lack of intimacy. What couples fail to realize is that the work of the relationship does not end at ‘I do’ ― there is work to be done every day. I know it sounds trite but it is important to connect with and check in with your spouse on a daily basis whether you are sharing a meal or walking the dog.” ― Lisa Helfend Meyer, an attorney in Los Angeles, California

4. My spouse reconnected with an old flame on Facebook.

“I have recently had clients inform me that their spouses were becoming ‘addicted’ to social media; more importantly, the social media ‘addiction’ was merely a symptom of an age-old problem ― cheating. Their spouse clicked the ‘like’ button on someone’s Facebook post and it escalated into sexual chats, texting and ultimately, face-to-face meetings where the flame was rekindled. It’s likely that the person would have sought out some way to cheat even without social media. So the social media ‘addiction’ was merely a symptom of the ultimate issue: infidelity. Some couples can work through the issue of infidelity, but most cannot ― and that’s what leads them to my office.” ― Douglas Kepanis, an attorney in New York City  

5. We feel more like roommates than spouses.

“People often say that their spouse feels like a stranger, not the person they married. Clients often describe themselves as ‘roommates’ and say they spend little time interacting with their spouse. More commonly, they say that their spouse has ‘checked out.’” ―  Carla Schiff Donnelly, an attorney in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

6. My spouse is selfish.

“Selfishness manifests itself in different ways: stingy with money, unwilling to listen and be emotionally present, not sharing responsibility for chores and the kids, having an affair instead of trying to work it out or splitting with respect, not being aware of the other’s needs and wants. The exact form of selfishness varies from case to case, but the theme is always there in divorce cases.” ― Alison Patton, a San Diego-based divorce attorney and mediator 

7. We speak different love languages.

“Two people may love each other, but not ‘feel loved’ if they have a different love language. That means, if one spouse’s ‘language of love’ is to do helpful things or buy gifts, and the other’s love language is verbal affirmations, loving touch, or quality time together, the receiver doesn’t really feel love, and the giver doesn’t feel appreciated for the love they’re giving. When that happens, there isn’t enough credit in the love bank for them to get through the challenges that come with any relationship. They’re fighting over money or sex, when underneath that is the need for simple physical connection or quality time. Find out your love language: It might just keep you out of a divorce lawyer’s office.” ― Dennis A. Cohen, an attorney and mediator in Marina del Rey, California 

8. I feel taken for granted.

“This complaint makes sense. When courting each other, there’s often a lot of flattery and extra attention spent listening to and pleasing your mate. But once the deal is done, once the relationship is sealed with vows, many feel safe and worry less that their partner is happy. Many people who hire me tell me they’ve been unhappy for years, that they’ve waited and waited for things to improve before they finally hit their limit. Rarely do I encounter a couple getting divorced because of a sudden or one-time event such as a one-night stand or one ugly argument. With so much invested in a marriage, it often takes quite a lot for someone to get to the point of no return. But when they get there, it is often because they finally realize they would be happier unmarried to that person ― or as someone once told me, less miserable.”— Randall M. Kessler,an attorney in Atlanta, Georgia

Link to original article:

Give up on Playing Small

“Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people will not feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. It is not just in some of us: it is in everyone, and as we let our light shine, we unconsciously give others permission to the same. As we are liberated from our fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”

~ Marianne Williamson



How To Know If You Are Cherishing Your Spouse

There’s a simple definition of cherishing that doesn’t fully encompass the word, but it’s an essential
part of it. If you cherish someone, you seek to enhance their life.

If you cherish a diamond, you set it in gold and regularly shine it. If you cherish a car, it gets washes and waxes and you think about where to park it.

If you cherish a spouse, you think regularly about how you can enhance your spouse’s life.

couples counseling, Marriage Counseling, premarital counseling, relationship counseling, relationship therapy, couples therapy, premarital therapy, marriage therapy, marriage counseling therapyIt’s the little things. Noticing what they like. What they need. How to step in and make their life a little easier. Connecting with them. Being considerate. Kind. Doing errands that are helpful. Thinking ahead of what makes them happy. One man said about his wife: “Lisa likes to read the local paper so I try to make sure she never has to go outside to retrieve it. She hates filling up the gas tank so I try to remember before trips to fill it up. She’s not a big fan of driving in general, so if there’s a shopping trip I can take her to on the weekend, I’ll do my best. In turn, Lisa excels at this much more than I do. When I’m tired and my schedule is overwhelming me, Lisa’s service goes on overdrive. She won’t let me do anything. I off-handedly mention I should eat sometime soon and suddenly a meal is in front of me. I reach to pick up the plate afterwards and she’s already there, scooping it away. “I’ll let you get back to work,” she says.

In any romantic relationship, it’s important to be mindful of each other and notice. Notice what makes them happy, what makes their life easier and how you can step in and make a difference. Make sure you are doing what they want, not what you think they should want or what you want for them. If you like classical music and your spouse likes country, you wouldn’t give them tickets to the symphony the same night Dolly Parton is in town! Be mindful of how and when to put their needs first. If you wake up and ask yourself, “How can I enhance my spouse’s life today?” and nothing comes to mind,

It can be fun trying to do this and something we all did when we dated. When dating someone we like it’s easy to spend time thinking about how we can please them. Just making him/ her smile was exhilarating! Giving attention and making them feel special made us feel special. It wasn’t a burden. But often when I work with couples who have been in a long-term relationship, focusing on the relationship is often not a priority. People are more focused on their responsibilities, like work, making money or raising their kids.

What makes people feel special and cherished is to be heard, validated, respected, and loved for who they are. The main reasons people have affairs is that they feel noticed, appreciated and alive due to the attention of someone else. We can keep the spark in our primary relationship by appreciating our partner, and staying mindful to continue to give to the relationship and make it a priority. When couples cherish each other, they can expect a relationship with much love and joy!

Real Repentance

“If a spouse has been unfaithful; or hurtful to a partner in any way, and then promises not to make the same offense again, what is a loyal spouse supposed to do? How can a partner know if their spouse is serious or just patronizing them? It’s an important question. Counseling tell us that at crisis points in marriage, a spouse may make a few small changes in the right direction only until the sense of crisis passes. Then he/she goes right back to the offending behavior.

couples counseling, Marriage Counseling, premarital counseling, relationship counseling, couples counseling houston, Marriage Counseling houston, premarital counseling houston, relationship counseling houston,This is flat-out abusive. When you know that what you’re doing is frustrating your spouse or even making him/her miserable and you do just enough to keep the platform of living together alive so that you can ultimately continue to make him/her miserable, that’s spiritually and emotionally sick. It’s malicious. “I’m not going to let you go but I’m also not going to change.” I can’t say this strongly enough: it is not only unkind demonstrates a real emotional disorder to treat anyone, much less your spouse, this way. Therapy needs to help the offending partner to bring an end to the evil (change needs to happen) rather than unwittingly offer a platform for the evil to continue (just try to do a little bit better so your spouse isn’t quite so angry and won’t separate from you).

If a marriage is going to be rebuilt after trust has been repeatedly broken, it has to be rebuilt on real repentance. The offending spouse has to demonstrate their horror at what they’ve done by going full speed in the opposite direction, not by taking a three-degree turn simply to show a tiny bit of “progress.”

This is true for major and minor issues, to a different degree. If my issue is being chronically late and I’m truly repentant, I start showing up early. If the issue is saying hurtful things, it’s not “repentance” to say hurtful things a little less often. Real repentance is stopping abusive language completely and intentionally saying kind, encouraging and praiseworthy things. If the issue is a lack of employment, I don’t settle for a part-time job. I work the part-time job and then spend just as many hours looking for a full-time job.

Real repentance reveals a real heart transformation; our spouse can see the change not just hear us say we intend to change.  

Real repentance continues with the offending spouse owning his/her faults. It’s common for me to see a spouse who has acted deplorably start to resent having the spotlight put on him or her and thus respond by saying, “You know, he/she isn’t perfect either.”

The sarcastic part of me wants to say, “Really? Well, this changes everything. We’ll forget about your offending and hurtful action until we get this person you’re married to to be a little more patient when you mess up.”

A mark of real repentance is that a spouse will welcome, without resentment, increased accountability. If you say you’re not looking at porn or contacting a previous flirtation (or worse), then you shouldn’t have any problem letting your spouse pick up your phone or IPad and scrolling through the messages or history. There is no good reason I would care if my wife looks at every app on my phone. If she finds out I ordered her a surprise birthday present, that’s on her. There is no good reason I should be afraid if she checks out where I’ve been on Amazon or Netflix or surfing the web. Why would I care unless there was something I didn’t want her to see? And why wouldn’t I want her to see it unless I shouldn’t have been doing it to begin with?

Secrecy is hiding and by definition the opposite of intimacy.  Repentance is, at root, a choice. You’re calling your spouse to make up his or her mind: do they want to be married, or not? You’re not interested in a quasi-marriage where they are half single and half spouse. You will be all-in with them, which includes forgiveness and generosity, but they have to recommit with conviction that they are committed to their primary relationship, not only in words but in actions and a changed heart.

One husband had several extramarital affairs. The wife was going to leave him. But she thought she saw a real change for the first time so they went to a place that specializes in sexual addiction. The counselor set out the conditions: “Your wife is going to write down thirty questions that she has always wanted to ask you. You’re going to be hooked up to a lie detector and a detective is going to monitor every answer. She’s finally going to get all her answers, and you’ll submit to this lie detector test every four months for the next two years. And by the way—one more act of unfaithfulness and she is going to divorce you.”

The husband agreed and through much counseling and confession their marriage was restored. At the end of two years the marriage had become so sweet that the wife told her husband, “You don’t have to take the lie detector tests anymore” but the husband said, “Yes, I do.”

You see, that’s real repentance. That’s a man who realizes the harm he has done and the harm he is capable of doing again so he welcomes accountability. His desire to stop hurting his wife is greater than his desire to “enjoy” doing what wounds her. He knows the latter desire is not yet nonexistent so he takes concrete steps to guard himself and ultimately protect his wife from further pain.

Contrast this with a husband who had “dabbled” in meth. He and his wife have two small children. When his wife said it wasn’t safe for her and the children to share the same house with a meth addict, but she was willing to work with him if he would enter recovery, he said he was done with meth, recovery wasn’t necessary, and he refused to consider any drug tests. That’s not repentance. Lying and addiction are virtual synonyms. A repentant addict knows this and admits it and sees the tests as necessary steps for healing.

One husband displayed controlling behavior over his wife until a separation woke him up. I told him he had to be more concerned for his wife’s welfare than he was over her return. “If you truly love her, you shouldn’t want her to return until you know she won’t be hurt by this behavior anymore.” He later told me that sentence hit him like a sledgehammer and he kept repeating it to himself until it was true. He really didn’t want his wife to agree to live together anymore until he was certain there had been a heart change sufficient enough to protect her from his former behavior. Today they are back together and enjoying the best season of their marriage to date.

If you are the offending spouse and your spouse is willing to hang with you, you owe him/her real repentance. Not a minor change that keeps them silent for a few more months, but an admission of guilt, a major overhaul of behavior, concrete accountability to maintain the change and a heart transformation so complete that you don’t even want to get back together until you are relatively certain that, your behavior won’t make your spouse miserable any more. Anything less is not real repentance.

If your spouse is on the treadmill of saying-I’m-sorry-but-never-changing you can say, with some integrity, “Being sorry isn’t about what you say or even about how you feel. It’s ultimately about what you do.”

Couples therapy and counseling, can help relationships mend and stay in integrity by emphasizing that love includes accountability. For happy couples, love is not only a feeling but an action.  

Paraphrased by Reverend Gary Thomas. Original Article – Read Here

Chemistry or Rationality? – Finding Romantic Love

Singles seeking to marry well can learn so much from a man who got married four hundred years ago. He made a supremely wise choice for all the right reasons and benefited immensely because of it.

There was a man, Richard Baxter (1615-1691) who lived half his life as a single man because he believed a zealous clergyman was “married to his congregation” and didn’t have time for a wife. When his church fired him and he was forced to make his living as a writer (he became the most popular writer of his day, he thought having a wife would be a very good thing, and he soon entered into a very happy and fulfilling marriage to a young woman named Margaret.

In making his choice, Richard was already a wise man who, as a pastor, had seen the folly so many others had fallen into to. Thus, he was determined to “avoid the foolish passion which the world calls love.”

He didn’t minimize love, but sought a higher love: “I know you must have love for those [you marry],” he wrote, but he was insistent that it be a “rational” love that discerns “worth and fitness” in the loved, not “blind…lust or fancy.”[i]

Richard had seen how “blind lust and fancy” (sex appeal and romantic infatuation) could make seemingly wise people curiously blind to a person’s poor worth and low character so he determined early on that he would not be guided by those things.

Instead, he was determined to find a “worthy” spouse, and a “fit” spouse.

If you find yourself crazy with infatuation, and your highest desperate desire is to hear that they feel the same way about you, force yourself to ask two rational questions:

  • “Is this a worthy person?”
  • “Are they fit for a long-term relationship?”

Let’s look at each in turn.

First, are they worthy of you having such interest in them? Force yourself to look at them objectively. Does this person live by core values that you admire and respect? Have they created a life for themselves that works? Are they happy? Are they accountable for their actions? Do they have good coping skills? Do they have good relationships with others in their life?  If you didn’t have such strong feelings for them, would you still like them, admire them, and respect them? If you can’t answer “yes” to all three questions you’re falling prey to “blind fancy.”

If you’re at all embarrassed by them, or constantly finding yourself having to explain away and excuse the faults and character flaws that everyone else sees and points out to you, you’re in the midst of “blind fancy.” They’re not truly worthy of you; you shouldn’t be afraid that they don’t feel the same way about you; you should be afraid of why you’re feeling that way about them.

Next, ask yourself, “Are they fit?” That is, do they have the necessary relational and emotional skills to be a superlative partner or spouse? Can they handle conflict? Are they humble and gentle and patient? Are they a giver or a taker? Do they seek out or are they open to personal growth? Would they be a good parent and a true friend? Can you trust them in every way? These are rational questions that promote healthy and successful relationships.

If the answer is no, they’re not be “fit” or emotionally available to be a good partner.

Feelings are loud and strong, and they come and go. Asking questions about “worthiness” and “fitness” will help you to be objective and make a wise choice.

One person cannot sustain a relationship. It takes two fit people to be present, attuned to each other and committed to make it work.

Because long term relationships include the future and because feelings are only about the present, it makes the most sense to choose someone you can love who is not only worthy of your love but also fit with maturity, coping skills and a desire to make it last.

Find out first if the person you are interested in is worthy and fit. Then ask yourself, “Is this someone I’d enjoy spending time with- Physically, emotionally, sexually and spiritually? Sexual desire can be a delightful spice in life. If you make it the main course, however, you’ll end up relationally hungry.

Worthy and fit. Chemistry AND Rationality.

That’s what you want to look for and consider when evaluating qualities in a date or partner.

-paraphrased from Gary Thomas.






Seven Scientifically Proven Benefits of Gratitude

Gratitude not only brightens and strengthens your marriage / relationship, but gives you a more positive attitude towards the world in general. Read this short but thought provoking article to see what it can do for you.

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How to be a better friend/spouse/lover, through Empathy and Compassion

Empathy is simply being able to feel and understand another person’s feelings, when they are in a difficult situation.  It is being able to communicate your understanding of that person’s feelings to that person, and being non-judgmental. While this is important and certainly a good skill to use often, healthy and intimate relationships have to go beyond this. Think about it: just because I know what you are feeling doesn’t mean I care or will act in a helpful manner.

Compassion is going a step further. Compassion is the desire to show care, concern, sensitivity, warmth, love, tenderness and kindness, because you care and want to alleviate the suffering. Empathy is knowing: compassion is caring. Empathy says, “I know how your feel.” Compassion says, “I want to be part of this with you, so how can I help?”

Both skills are connecting, and kind. Knowing the difference can help assist you to respond and connect, in the manner you feel is most helpful and appropriate for your relationship and the situation.

“Personal Boundaries and Effective Confrontation” presentation by Denise O’Doherty

Presented for The Women’s Group at First Universalist Unitarian Church
5210 Fannin St., Houston (MAP)
Sunday, January 15 at 10:30
No charge. All women are welcome.

Denise O’Doherty, psychotherapist and Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, will give tips and insights on how we can better define, love and protect ourselves through “Personal Boundaries and Effective Confrontation”.  Good boundaries affect everything we do. They give us freedom to be ourselves and they teach others how to treat us. Topics addressed will be what gets in the way of having good boundaries, the difference between rigid and flexible boundaries, and how to deal with passive and aggressive people by understanding their cost and payoff. Boundary setting tips, self-esteem, codependency, shame and guilt will also be addressed. She will conclude with an outline for us a step by step way to confront someone effectively.

Denise will begin with a short review of “Stages of Grief” by special request, for those dealing with feelings of loss post-election.

Visit her website at:

For questions: call Denise at 713-524-9525

When Addiction Gets in the Way of Your Relationship or Marriage

The Purpose Behind Addiction

Altering your state of consciousness is a common act- and we all do it. Whether it’s morning coffee to wake up, an afternoon diet coke to re-energize, or a glass of wine to relax before bed-time, most of us use substances for attitude adjustments. Marriage Counseling, couples counseling, premarital counseling, relationship counseling, We also use food for reasons other than nourishment.

It’s one thing to use substances within a healthy framework, but another to cross the line into addiction – and it can be very difficult to see the difference.

When we are in physical or emotional pain, we want relief immediately. When the nervous system is out of balance, we try to regulate ourselves in the best ways we know how. We turn to many substances and activities: alcohol, drugs, sex, shopping, the Internet, porn, gambling and gaming.  What happens after a while is that we build up tolerance and after time you much consume more to get the same effect.

The Problem with addiction.

When you are in an altered state, you become very self-centered. Frequently, the addictive habit becomes your primary relationship. Now your partner becomes a competitor to the addiction for time and attention.

Transforming Addiction

Consider these questions:

  • Have you experienced an irresistible urge to use against your conscious wishes?
  • Do you anticipate and dwell on the use beforehand?
  • Have you made promises or plans to cut back or quit but eventually go back to old patterns?
  • Have you lied to yourself or others about your use?
  • Do you feel guilt, shame, or embarrassment about your use?

Answering “yes” to even a few of these can be cause for alarm and a signal to seek help.

Remember, addiction is the addict’s responsibility. It is not your partners fault or responsibility to fix. It is not your fault either, but it is your problem to get corrected. Therapy, a 12-step program, or a support group are 3 steps in the right direction.

It is always the right time to get control of your life. And it is always possible to heal and go forward. You are worth it and so is your relationship.


Some material paraphrased from “You’re Tearing Us Apart” by Pat love, Eva Berlander, and Kathleen McFadden