Dr. Aline Zoldbrod - Sexual Health
Dr. Aline Zoldbrod is a well-known Boston-based licensed psychologist, individual and couples therapist, and an AASECT certified sex therapist. She is the author of three commercially published books about sexuality and relationships. Her book, SexSmart: How Your Childhood Shaped Your Sexual Life and What to Do About It has been translated into four languages and was recognized as one of the top three sex-help books of the year. She is an adjunct faculty member at the University of Michigan Sexual Health Certificate Program. You can find her at sexsmart.com.
Tags: truth | counseling | relationships | zoldbrod

Truth Telling About Fatal Flaws

Dr. Aline Zoldbrod By Friday, 12 January 2024 04:19 PM EST Current | Bio | Archive

I have been seeing couples for 40 years as a psychologist. Clients come into therapy with the hope that the therapist can fix some aspects of their relationship that is broken. That is their hope as clients, and that is our wish too.

It’s very satisfying to help a couple who have gotten estranged to reconnect. Happily, most of my couples get better. But here is a fact you might not realize: Every once in a while, couple therapists need to give bad news to one or both members of the couple — sometimes, sooner rather than later.

My process in couple therapy is to meet once with the couple together, then one time separately with each partner. The fourth session is meeting all together, after the individual sessions.

The role of the individual sessions is to have each partner tell me things that may be too hurtful for the other partner to hear, so that I understand the underlying discontent. My rule, which I tell people up front, is that I will keep any secret that is revealed in the individual sessions except infidelity. (Of course, some people drop out of couple therapy right there. That’s fine. I just can’t ethically be involved in keeping that serious a secret.)

I find those individual assessment sessions to be invaluable. Some relatively new relationships have fatal flaws that become evident in those early sessions. My own philosophy is that I offer my opinion about the fatal flaws as soon as possible.

I’m sure some people might not agree with my stance on this, and I’m ok with the criticism. People can leave me and get a second opinion, find another therapist who will go forward with the couple therapy. But in my experience, the hunt for a partner is exhausting and stressful. Everyone wants the miserable process to be over, to settle and make a choice. People want to save even highly flawed relationships, and many will go on to have children, and they inevitably will then wind up divorced. So I would rather share my opinion than remain silent.

Here is an example:

Janice and Bill, a couple in their early 30s; married for a year; young, healthy, and attractive, came in to see me. The problem was that they weren’t having sex. Janice seemed particularly upset about it. So my job was to figure out what the problem was.

In the initial session, nothing was revealed by either that explained it. They clearly loved each other, had only good things to say about each other. The lack of sex drive on Bill’s part remained a mystery.

But when Bill came in to see me individually, after a bit of questioning, he revealed that even though he loved Janice, he just did not see her as a sexual person. “ I just like to see her padding around in her flannel pajamas. She’s so sweet. She’s so cute. But I just don’t feel any sexual energy toward her. “

With repeated questioning, he couldn’t provide any more depth to his feelings, or any more facts about her behavior or her looks that left him feeling asexual towards her. He revealed that he had sexual feelings toward other women he meets — just not Janice. He just did not feel that way about her. But he loved her deeply, and he could not imagine life without her, so marriage seemed like the reasonable next step. So he married her.

I commiserated with Bill but shared that I thought this information needed to come out in the open, as painful as it was. He agreed. He had not realized his feelings consciously, but after our session, he did.

So here I was, in a position where I had to share some very unhappy news. If Janice wanted to have a romantic, sexual relationship as part of a committed relationship, it could not be with Bill.

The fatal flaw was that Janice really was intensely attracted to Bill. She thought he was sexy. She wasn’t asexual. She wanted a passionate future, with kids, with Bill.

If she did not care about sex, it would not have been a problem. They could have had a wonderful, best-friend-type, committed asexual relationship. But that was not the case. She was deeply wounded by his sexual rejection.

The blow to her sexual self-esteem would just get worse by the day, week, month, and year. So I had to help her see that the future she wanted couldn’t be with Bill. She was devastated. She wept in the session. I felt bad and told her she was welcome to get another opinion.

So I sent them to a colleague. He saw them and got back to me, telling me that he completely agreed with my assessment.

Some relationships just are not meant to be. Sometimes, as couple therapists, it’s our job to be kind and gentle, but to deliver some very disturbing news.

© 2024 NewsmaxHealth. All rights reserved.

I have been seeing couples for 40 years as a psychologist. Clients come into therapy with the hope that the therapist can fix some aspects of their relationship that is broken.
truth, counseling, relationships, zoldbrod
Friday, 12 January 2024 04:19 PM
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