“I am the eternal optimist when it comes to marriage”
Dr. Karla Austin
Dr. Austin and Marriage Counseling
I am the eternal optimist when it comes to marriage. Marriage therapy is one of my favorite settings for therapy. I know that we don’t learn how to be married except by example; and most examples are neither clear nor healthy. While it takes a long time to get a marriage into a dissatisfying rut, progress can be quick. Marriages in therapy tend to improve quickly. A small amount of progress goes a long way. I do tend to assign homework so therapy lasts more than an hour every week or two. I often tell couples, “When your hope is gone, you can borrow mine”.
Can you help my marriage?
Any marriage can work; it just takes two people that want it. I can help your marriage, not because mine is perfect, but because I’m not a part of yours. I can help you see things from a more objective standpoint. I can bring to the table the experience of many couples in an effort to benefit you. Marriage counseling is a group process. Each partner in the marriage gets to talk about what they want. Sometimes, we want things we’ve never had as a part of the marriage. Together, goals are set and progress is made.
What if my husband/wife won’t come?
One person can work on a marriage. Your marriage is like a hanging mobile. If one person changes, the couple must adjust. It takes two to cause problems in a marriage. One person can make changes that will sometimes be enough to impact the marriage in a very positive way. Change in one is often the thing that draws their spouse into therapy.
Whose side will you (the therapist) take?
I am on the side of your marriage or your relationship. I like people, and can usually find something to like about every client. I don’t think it is helpful to blame the problem on one person. I do believe it takes two to get a marriage into a bad spot, and it often takes two to repair it. Certainly, if two are willing to work on a marriage, there are plenty of things for each partner to do, if the goal is for something better than anything they’ve had before.
Will you ever see us individually?
I prefer seeing couples together most of the time. I will encourage individual treatment sometimes in addition to or instead of marital therapy. I may recommend individual therapy if individual issues arise that need to be explored alone. It is also helpful when hostility is too great in couple sessions. Sometimes, a spouse will ask for individual treatment. I am clear about my role when seeing someone both individually and as a couple. I am careful with confidentiality, but do not enjoy being a secret keeper. When possible, I will encourage couples to be together in therapy so their growth is shared and understood. Couples therapy allows each to clarify their needs and desires to their spouse with the help of the therapist.
What if I’m not sure I want my marriage to work?
Sometimes, by the time someone comes to therapy, they have exhausted great emotional energy. When someone says they aren’t sure they want their marriage anymore, I say they are “on the fence”. As long as they are “on the fence”, and not off to the other side, there is hope. Often, someone finds hope when they thought there was none.
How do I know if he’s/she’s had an affair?
Often one spouse is suspicious of their mate, suspecting, or even believing they may have had or be having an affair. Sometimes you are the one who has had an affair and your partner does or does not know. Affairs are very real, and they do sometimes happen. Your control, in your marriage, is over yourself. If you are not having an affair, then you are honoring your marriage with faithfulness. If you’re the one who’s had an affair, you can choose to end it and work on your marriage. No one wants to be “made a fool” by overlooking an affair by their spouse. I say, better to be a fool than the destructor of everything good due to overdone suspiciousness, hostility, and mistrust. You can ask your spouse if they are being unfaithful. You can ask them to let you know if they ever decide to leave or be unfaithful. You can treat them with the respect you would want. If you are having trouble managing your suspicion and distrust, consider treatment from a psychologist or marriage and family therapist. Marriages can, and often do recover from affairs.
What if there has been an affair?
If your marriage is trying to recover following infidelity by one spouse, therapy is often needed. Marriages can, and often do recover from a breach of trust. When trust is broken, it needs to be rebuilt. Some can forgive, rebuild, and move to a more intimate and satisfying relationship than they’ve ever had. Others tend to become bitter and angry. Help is needed.
***As with any psychological disorder, do not consider information found on the internet sufficient in diagnosing or managing your condition. It can be used to find appropriate treatment from a healthcare professional. If in need of help, please call Dr. Austin at 972-986-0150, or if an emergency, always call 911.