By Dr. Kim Logan-Nowlin & Arthur E. Nowlin, LMSW, CAADC
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After 26 years, Maya was worn out and determined to find her personhood.
Maya is in her early 40s and came for counseling because she is in a long-standing, verbally abusive relationship. She has been living with her son’s father, Eric, off and on for the past 26 years. They would break up for years, then reconcile and this pattern continues into the present.
Emotions overwhelmed May her story unfurled. Eric berated her both in private and in public. It did not matter who was in his presence; he couldn’t control his temper with her. He has never taken responsibility for his actions, but blames her for everything wrong with their relationship. He has never apologized for his behavior towards her because he assigns all the fault to her. It was Eric who told Maya that she needed counseling for her behavior and not his.
When Maya told their sons that she never wants them to treat women the same way they asked her, “Why do you let dad treat you this way?” “I don’t know,” she responded. As they reached out to hug and comfort her, she wept. She knew that day she was going to look for help.
“Why do I do this to myself?” she asked through tears at her first session.
We had not interrupted her or pushed during this meeting. We wanted her to feel safe and not under attack. But, with this question, it was time for some therapeutic input.
"I asked her if he ever had been unfaithful and she said yes. I asked her if the abuse was ever displayed in front of her sons and she responded yes. Then I asked her if she was tired of it. She responded “I’m simply warn out.”
I then began to share with her four components of nurturing herself and they begin with God.
Maya admitted during the first hour of the session, that she had left the church and stopped obeying God. She loved her boyfriend more than God, she admitted, and she could not and did not want to live without him. She asked ” How did I allow this to happen?” It’s not difficult when you lose sight of the most important Person in your life–Jesus Christ, I told her.
We shared with her that the second component calls for realistic goal-setting and an idea of what a positive outcome in their relationship would look like. Maya now expects to be treated the way she always treated Eric–with kindness and respect. She hopes for a relationship in which Eric demonstrates respect towards her. She also wants him to be equipped with skills to care for his family in a proactive manner. And, very importantly, she decided she never wanted a repeat of this abusive ordeal.
Having realistic goals for her family began with her respecting and loving herself. To be able to make those goals, she also had to accept responsibility for allowing disrespect to continue as long as it had. And, she had to forgive herself. That issue will be addressed further in future sessions with her.
Refuse To Be A Doormat
So, quite naturally, the third component involves respect for one’s personhood. Maya has to learn to be completely honest with her feelings and the need to express herself openly to Eric regarding the abuse within their relationship. She must be willing to say no to anyone who feels that they can use her as a doormat because of their own insecurities. She must also find within herself the ability to reconstruct the framework that has fostered this negative lifestyle.
The fourth component is to adapt to a paradigm shift. A paradigm shift is an important change that happens when the usual way of thinking about or doing something is replaced by a new and different way. Maya’s thinking and actions did not produce healthy characteristics for her family or herself. She already knew that Eric was the abuser, and that she was the codependent. She knew that the household structure was falling apart, but didn’t know how to rebuild it alone. Counseling opened her eyes and motivated Maya to make a change.
What Happens Next?
Maya hopes to have a home that reflects a sense of balance, respect and love. It is out of hope that things could be better that she recognized that she needed change. Maya’s counseling is in the initial stages but she is making progress.
Eric should attend a few sessions with her because he is unwilling to address the problem on his own. However, if he is not willing to attend, it is time for Maya to leave. That prospect will be difficult for her because she truly loves him. As her therapist, however, I had to remind her this is a very unhealthy type of “love.” Ending the relationship will be hard, but it is better to end the relationship than for her to continue in a long-term, unhappy relationship that could destroy her life.
Maya made a decision right then to give her life back to Christ and asked us for a bible study. She is ready to take a good look at herself and make some significant changes in her life. She no longer desires to be Eric’s doormat and settle for less than excellence. She is looking forward to counseling and becoming a better woman and mother.
The name has been changed to protect the innocent.
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While they dated, Shawn and Terri were always in church. That was then. How family counseling put Jesus back into their happy, happy home.
Shawn and Terri Lennon have been married for 15 years. They have two sons ages 12 and ten. They enjoy being married and being productive positive parents.
Terri contacted our office to receive family counseling in spirituality enhancement. She thinks that her husband is a great husband, devoted and amazing father, but when it comes to spirituality and being the spiritual leader of the home, he falls short.
Shawn thinks that his schedule is too busy for family worship everyday. Everyone can study and pray on their own and attend church when possible, he told us. Terri totally disagrees with her husband and expects him to raise the standard within their home regarding this matter. Shawn stated he was not going to argue with Terri but would attend counseling with her and their sons.
Terri holds onto the scripture: “Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it” (Proverbs 22:6). She was reared in a Christian home, while Shawn strayed away from his Christian upbringing when his job became very demanding.
While they dated, the couple attended church, and each served as an officer, but lately Shawn would not participate. Terri is disappointed in what she sees as her husband’s resistance to his leadership-calling within the home and church. Shawn sends his tithes and offering with his wife each week, and does not prevent her from taking the children to church. Terri believes, however, that God expects much more.
Within the counseling process we suggested that the couple write down five aspects that are important to their family development.
They both wrote down:
3. Quality Time
However, Shawn entered Education as his number five. Terri was little disturbed by his answer. We reminded her to be patient during this process and a change will come.
We asked their two sons about any concerns regarding their family. During the counseling process it is important, when possible, to let the children be included in the dialogue. Their input is very valuable and it offers support to the entire family. Both boys agreed that their father needs to attend church and become involved in the work of the Lord as he did in the past. Shawn was surprised because he thought they never noticed what he was doing. He feared going back to church because he had been away so long. The boys told him that they were proud of his commitment to God and it gave them a sense of understanding the importance of serving God through his example.
Shawn was so thankful for the family sessions that he has decided to no longer to resist God and wanted to be the example God called him to be. He apologized to his family for allowing his work to supersede God’s plan for his family. He committed to changing his schedule, attending church and bible study faithfully. Terri is very elated and she said “it was the best call she could have made.” To God be the glory, for God has not given us a spirit of fear but of love, power, and a sound mind, (2 Timothy 1:7)
A wonderful tool to use with your family is a vision board. It outlines your expectations for the family. It’s fun, provides quality time and dialogue among family members. Try including scriptures or words of encouragement by texting daily to each other as part of the vision. It will bring a smile.
The Lennon Family continues counseling on a weekly schedule.
The names have been changed to protect the innocent.
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And other tips for overworked and under-rested parents
Paul and Katlin have been been married for ten years. Katlin reached out to our office because Paul has a very demanding profession. He is a truck driver and is required to be away from home five days a week. Katlin is a stay at home parent. She feels that his schedule is causing conflict and continues to place a great amount of pressure on her.
The couple has three small children and Katlin is overwhelmed by the care of their home and children. Another concern is that when Paul is home on the weekend he is asleep and offers no support. Katlin is at a point where she feels she is in a role of being a single parent and she is becoming very angry. She has made several attempts to express her concerns to Paul, but he is too tired to even listen to Katlin. Further, as the major financial contributor of the home, he wonders why there should not be any problems between them anyway.
Come To The Table
We asked Katlin to write down three concerns that she would be comfortable presenting to Paul during the therapy session.
1. Do you realize Paul that I am the primary caregiver for the home and children?
2. I would like to work on a schedule so when you return home I can have some time for me.
3. Please share with me how we can incorporate quality time for us and as a family?
At the onset of therapy Paul was hesitant. Sessions were scheduled on one of the only two days off and he needed to sleep. We were very sensitive to that fact, but if the concerns of the marriage were not met, it could cause more problems. The silence of not addressing the problems within the family structure does not make them disappear it is only on hold and unspoken. Paul was able to relax and listen to Katlin and her concerns during the session. She was very understanding regarding his needs for sleep and wanting to be with his family. But the question of “how” continued to be raised by Paul.
Katlin stated “it cannot be business as usual and we need a shift or we won’t make it.” Paul hung his head and didn’t know what to say.
We recommended that they utilize the grandparents once a month so that it would give them some quality time together, if possible. Also, Katlin needed to become little more organized with the home structure to help her reduce the stress levels in her life.
Compromise Is The Key
In marriage you have to be willing to compromise to save your relationship. It is vital that you pay attention to the small details and implement wisdom in family life. The couple has implemented the “Grandparent assistance program” once a month, rotating between the two sets of grandparents. It has proven to be a wonderful plan and the grandparents are enjoying the children. Also, Katlin has taken the time to organize the home and when Paul recognized Katlin’s efforts, he took her out on a date and brought her flowers and perfume. She was speechless and hugged Paul and thanked him.
Paul stated he did not realize the responsibilities Katlin had with three small children and he had taken that for granted. They are both pleased with the progress in their counseling process and they want to continue counseling and strive towards being one unit and a support to each other and their children.
We are happy to report from Kaitlin that “it is no longer business as usual but a marriage and home filled with forgiveness, prayer, and positive transformation.”
The names have been changed to protect the innocent.