I truly believe everything starts with the family. If we could all grow up in healthy, functional, happy families, a lot of the world’s problems would be solved. That family can take a lot of different shapes – but unfortunately, it’s pretty rare in today’s society.
A few years ago at Hope Clinic, we started really working with our male clients. Our guys were coming in and just like the ladies, they had a lot of issues like learning to be a parent and struggling to be a responsible and supportive partner. A lot of them were raised in families without fathers, so they never had a role model to teach them what it looks like to be a man. We decided it wasn’t fair to help the women coming in – to build them up and give them all this support to help bring these beautiful babies into the world – and then send them back to a partner, who could never help them build a real home.
So, I got to work with these guys! We quickly realized what I think we already knew; they had a lot of other issues they were bringing into the relationships. But primarily, they struggled with the same things – job related stress and depression, commitment issues, addiction to pornography, and valuing women for who they are and not what they can give.
For example, I recently worked with a wonderful couple who, on the outside, looked like they had it all. Both were successful, beautiful, charming people, and pillars in the Nashville community. But once their front door closed, they were wrecked. He had a pornography addiction which led to multiple affairs, and she had a lot of self-worth issues. The thing is, they also had three young children, and they wanted to make it work. So, aiming to fix the four pillars of any relationship, we got to work on their PIES (physical, intellectual, emotional and spiritual connection). For months, we discussed trust and communication. We looked at the areas where they had both fallen short in their marriage.
Individually, I worked with him on his addiction to pornography, which is more addictive than any drug, including cocaine and heroin. We had to essentially reshape his expectations and reality on what a healthy sexual relationship looks like. Then, we set up boundaries and gave his wife the control she needed to rebuild faith in their relationship. It took a lot of work and a lot of time, but the good news is they both say their marriage is stronger now than it ever has been. We fixed the fundamental flaws, and now they can focus on rebuilding their marriage and being healthy role models for their kids.
I’ll tell you what I tell my clients: everything is a choice. You have to wake up every day and decide to be a good person and a good spouse – to love your partner the way they need and want to be loved. It isn’t easy, but at very least, even if you end up separating, you can say you fought the good fight. You really tried. And in the process, you helped make each other better.
Frankly, I’m tired of hearing about families breaking up. I want people to be happy. It’s what God wants for us – for us to be happy. The best way I know to do that is to have long-lasting relationships with the people you love. Your spouse needs to be as exciting to you the day you die as they were the day you got married. The thing is, that can happen. In fact, I see it happen with our clients every day. That’s what keeps me going – it’s what gives me hope.
- Terry Cheatham, Therapist