Mani/Pedi and Marriage Therapy: What’s the Connection?

Posted by on September 7, 2012 in Divorce Counseling, Marriage | 0 comments

contempt and divorce

Many who come to me for therapy feel almost positive that divorce from their partner is the direction in which they are headed. I see partners whose marriage is in trouble try to escape their troubled marriage by focusing on other areas of their lives including more rounds of golf, increasing numbers of trips to the gym, boys’ nights out, girls’ nights out, manicures, pedicures, hair extensions.

Believe me, this external focus is not always a bad thing. But if one or both partners sees this as the only viable response to their troubled marriage, it’s often a costly (in more ways the one) way to go.

I hear partners in a relationship say, “What more can I do?” These are people who look good, have gorgeous hair (who couldn’t love hair extensions?), get their nails done, exercise regularly, and maybe even have fabulous careers or dream jobs.

The reality? “Doing more” isn’t always the answer. Connecting with a partner doesn’t always involve doing. Sometimes it involves awareness, memory, listening, opening. Many partners in troubled marriages can’t do this anymore. Trust has been broken. Lines of communication have been cut. A focus elsewhere–outside the marriage toward other pursuits, physical, intellectual, emotional–sounds like the only–the safer–option.

In my experience I find that a person who feels neglected by their partner will do one of three things:

  1. Absorb the sense of rejection in the form of giving up on their self, including personal ambitions, outward appearance, and/or other important aspirations;
  2. Desperately seek the attention of their partner by way of enhancements to their body, mind, or other pursuits; and/or
  3. Fight for their own self-esteem and sense of worthiness by enhancing their body, mind, or career to gain the attention of others outside the marriage; after all, any attention is better than no attention, right? Not necessarily.

The most detrimental of these responses is the first. Giving your partner control over your self-image or sense of self-worth is dangerous when things are good, destructive when things are bad, and prevents forward movement overall. There is hope. I CAN help you and your partner by way of EFT (emotional focused couple therapy) if this is your current experience.

The last two responses—the ‘mani/pedi’ responses, as I lovingly refer to them—are important indicators of one’s reaction to the pain of an unhealthy relationship. Simply put, “Either my spouse will notice me, or I’ll make sure someone else will!”

It is important to understand that sometimes in mid-life we reject our partner simply because we are rejecting OURSELVES. “I don’t like where I find myself today—older, tired, less attractive, less relevant.” We see our spouse as an extension of ourselves as well as an often not-so-healthy reflection of our own self-image. I help partners recognize their connection to each other and identify external realities (aging, career, other life changes) that currently (and likely temporarily once we’ve completed therapy) affect their capacity to reconnect.

The re-awakening of a dormant relationship should not be a function of your success, looks, or other accomplishments–though I certainly get how an isolated partner might pursue this strategy. Rather, healthy relationships are a function of deepening awareness of another–strengthening our attachment and connection to another to revitalize a marriage or partnership gone stale. Period.

There may be so much pain surrounding the relationship that the idea of spending more time and money on therapy sounds like the very antithesis of relaxing, helpful, energizing or even wise from a budgetary perspective. However, given the right therapist and the right approach, your time in therapy should feel GOOD, rejuvenating, HOPEFUL and be viewed as an INVESTMENT in your future together. A thousand more mani/pedi’s or rounds of golf won’t rival the pain and heartbreak of a costly break-up.

I help clients SEE each other again, recognize and connect with each other, and embrace the idea that the experiences they have shared in the past are sacred and important because they construct the essential fabric of their lives (individually and together) and create a foundation from which we can work to improve the future of their relationship.

Think about your most critical relationship. Look for connections. Call me for help.

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