catholic marriage trouble

When a Catholic Marriage Is in Trouble

Catholics hold marriage in high esteem, seeing it as a way to honor God and help one another grow into a better person. But sometimes a catholic marriage runs into trouble. Rather than being a blessing, things can go terribly wrong. Many Catholics in this situation wonder what to do. So, what should you do when a catholic marriage is in trouble?

Signs of Trouble in a Catholic Marriage

It’s easy to miss the early signs of Catholic marriage trouble because of the busyness of life and the responsibilities of work or children. Early symptoms look different for some couples, but there are several common signs.

  • Distance between the couple separate activities and interests, not wanting to do things together as a couple.
  • Tension in decisions like money or parenting
  • Lack of communication; not sharing things in anger or bitterness

catholic marriage trouble

The 4 Stages of a Troubled Relationship

Marriage researcher, John Gottman (, says that there are four stages a relationship goes through when it’s in trouble:

1. Criticism Stage

This is the first stage of Catholic marriage trouble. The couple’s communication goes beyond normal complaints to a constant habit of pointing out the other person’s shortcomings. The couple is hypercritical and unable to work out their differences without always seeing the negative.

2. Contempt Stage

When criticism becomes the predominant way of communicating in a marriage, contempt isn’t far behind. Feelings of scorn or disrespect are forms of contempt. Irritation, mocking, name-calling, sneering or smirking have become the norm. This is a dangerous point in the marriage, intervention is needed. Professional counseling, spiritual or otherwise, is needed to repair the damaging effects of contempt.

3. Defensive Stage

Defensiveness results when a person feels they need to protect themselves.  If a married couple’s communication has spiraled down to a critical level, it’s no surprise they react defensively towards one another. The relationship is full of hurt and hostility. Without professional counseling, this marriage won’t survive.

4. Stonewalling Stage

This is the last stage of troubled marriage. The couple escape being together, have separate bedrooms and have little communication.  A spouse may begin to drink heavily or waste money. Anxiety, stress and substance abuse are common at this stage. The couple needs marriage counseling and possibly individual counseling to help this marriage. It’s possible to save it, but the couple must want help and must take responsibility for their own contributions for their Catholic marriage trouble.


The Catholic Church allows for divorce in some situations. But a couple must decide if this is the best way to solve their marriage problems. Each spouse must do some soul searching.

Ask yourself questions like:

  • Am I critical, angry and impatient with my spouse?
  • If I stopped responding like this to my spouse, would it make a difference in our relationship?
  • Am I willing to change?
  • Do I want to work hard to save my marriage?

Self-evaluation is hard work, it’s easier to see how the other person needs to change. But with prayer and honesty, change is possible.

Catholic Marriage Counseling

If you make the first step to heal your marriage, your spouse will respond. Either your desire to change will inspire them or they will become angrier and more belligerent. This could indicate whether there’s hope for reconciliation.

Before you decide though, always seek professional counseling so you can make the best decision. If your spouse is willing, seek catholic marriage counseling. You may also seek your pastor/ priest for counseling. After counseling and self-evaluation, you’ll have peace knowing that you did everything you could to save your marriage.

It Isn’t Over Until It’s Over

Studies show that many couples who consider divorce, but stay in their marriage for five years, end up saying their marriage is better than ever. Sometimes you just need to run the race, determined to not give up on your marriage. If you and your partner, continue to turn to your faith for help and see a marriage or couples counselor, your marriage can change. Your marriage may be in trouble, but there is always a way for positive change to happen.

Contact Journey LLC

We can help you and your partner are experiencing Catholic marriage troubles. Our Catholic based counseling will help your marriage to better understand each other, find meaning, strength, and grow in your love for one another, and God. Contact us today to start leading a happier life.


How To Manage Anxiety

anxietyIn my therapy practice many people come to me for help with managing anxiety. I say manage anxiety because some anxiety is normal and can be helpful. But when it gets to the point where your anxiety is negatively affecting your everyday life- then it makes sense to get some help.

These tips that I am about to share with you can be done alone, however, these are not meant to take the place of therapy, but to be used in conjunction with it.

Certainly, once symptoms are managed, these techniques can be helpful in controlling anxiety as needed.

Anxiety and depression are two of the most common symptoms I see in people who come to me. I’d like to share with you some tips that have helped my clients manage anxiety in their life.

8 Tips to Manage Anxiety

Some of my clients learn meditation techniques and have found them helpful. Meditation can calm the mind and thus, lessen panic and anxiety, and it can stimulate the body‘s production of endorphins that can contribute to a positive mood.

Exercise is one of the best ways to control anxiety available. You can go for a walk, play a sport, swim, bike ride, garden, yoga, dance, play tennis. Regular exercise is should be scheduled into your daily regimen.

Eat Well
Diet is so important to managing anxiety and one’s overall health. I recommend some of my clients meet with a nutritionist to evaluate their diet if they are not clear on a diet for managing anxiety. And of course, watch out for food and drink high in caffeine, sugar, preservatives, and other ingredients that can contribute to poor nutrition.

There have been a number of breathing techniques that have been proven useful to help alleviate anxiety. When people are anxious, some have reported breathing more rapidly, and some report they breathe shallowly. In some cases people even hold their breath. Any irregular breathing causes the body to respond with an increase in blood pressure, heart rate, and stress hormones. To breathe more normally, it is recommended to take a few moments to focus on your breathing patterns. Go through a few breathing cycles, and then take a slow, deep breath, breathing from your lower abdomen. Let your stomach feel soft and relaxed, and then repeat this several times. If this works for you, then you can use this technique when you notice that you’re anxious or feeling stressed out

Many people find solace and comfort in daily prayer. Prayer triggers something called the “relaxation response,” which calms the mind and the body. A daily prayer routine can help you put things in perspective and it can be amazing how one can find relevant and timeless prayers, affirmations, or passages from the Bible such as the Psalms and Gospels, that can help put current problems into perspective.

This is something I help my clients do on a regular basis. Sometimes, if we explore our thoughts we can see that they cause us anxiety due to excessive worrying, fears and other internal dialogues. We typically notice the negative labels or distortions, explore these and then change these to be more realistic, constructive, rational and/or positive. We often use cognitive behavioral therapy for this process.

Writing our fear and worries down can often be extremely beneficial because it gets our fears and worries out of our head. Once we see our thoughts written out, we often can gain better clarity to our problems and situations, and often gain fresh answers and perspectives.

Get Help
It often helps to get some realistic, honest feedback for our anxious thoughts and fears. By spending time with people you can trust, a family member, a friend, a spiritual/religious leader or counselor can help because anxiety often lessens when we can share our fear and concerns, and develop constructive solutions to our problems.

Hopefully, these tips can help get you started in managing your anxiety. If your anxiety is getting in the way of your everyday functioning, talk to your doctor and get a referral, or seek help from a mental heath professional. Learn more about our anxiety treatment.

If you’d like to set up a time to talk with me, or if I can be of any assistance, please do not hesitate to contact me.



Effective Communication in Dealing With A Difficult/Angry Partner

dealing-with-difficult-angry-partnerFor individuals in a relationship with a difficult partner who have not found their way of communicating effective when things heat up and get out of control, I have found a technique derived from the Yale Communication Model to be extremely effective.

The technique is as follows:

1. Use An “I” Statement On How The Other Person’s Behavior Makes You Feel And Then A Component That Addresses The Other Person’s Behavior.

“When you yell at me like this, I get really scared, and also feel hurt and belittled.”

“When you treat me like this, I start feeling rejected and unimportant and then I try to avoid you and don’t have the energy to do what needs to be done.”

“I know that you are really angry, as we both are. But yelling at me like this is not going to get me in your corner. In fact, it’s actually getting me more scared and pushes me away and will only contribute to a worsening of the situation between us.”

2. State What You Want.

“What I need from you is to talk to me rationally about what is going on for you rather than in a tone that is disrespectful and belittling.”

3. Set Limits On The Behavior If Necessary.

“Look, I need a time-out here. I can’t take you yelling at me. We can’t carry on this conversation if you are going to continue be red-faced and screaming in this way. This needs to stop. You clearly need to cool down and regroup. I’m going to have to end this discussion for now if you cannot adjust your tone and behavior. You need to think how you are speaking to me, and if it continues in this way, it’s going to make it impossible for us to connect.”

“Look, if this abuse does not stop, you or I will have to leave the house for a while or I will call the police.”

“I know that you are really angry. But yelling at me is not going to get what you want. In fact, it’s only going to make me shutdown and push you away.”

4. Don’t Go It Alone
It amazes me how empowering this strategy can be. Many of my clients report an improvement in their relationship and how using this simple strategy can help build a sense of self-respect and empowerment in a difficult relationship over time.

However, not everyone feels comfortable or has success in implementing this without consistent practice and some professional guidance. Some people even say, “Wow I could never do that!” As with starting any new habit that is difficult, it takes practice, consistency and some guidance.

If you are in a relationship and dealing with a difficult/angry partner, please feel free to contact me for a consultation.

infidelity cheating

Therapy for Affairs, Cheating, Infidelity, Betrayal

infidelity cheatingIn my therapy practice I treat couples who come to me with a wide variety of relationship and marital challenges stemming from an affair. In this article, I’d like to focus on some of the root causes of these challenges and talk a little bit about how therapy for affairs, cheating, infidelity, betrayal can begin to address problems in the relationship.

What Is An Affair?
An affair has often been defined as a violation of trust in a marriage or committed relationship, which frequently does great damage to the relationship when found out.

Does An Affair Mean My Relationship Is Bad?
Research has shown that it is a myth to think that affairs only happen in marriages where there is something fundamentally wrong. Affairs do happen in marriages that are good and healthy as well. Repair often takes time, patience, prolonged behaviors that promote loyalty and trust. Couples therapy is beneficial in helping facilitate the healing process.

Why Do Affairs Happen?
Some possible causes of affairs include:

  1. Schemas developed from early childhood.
  2. Negative family of origin role models, and values that breed infidelity.
  3. Losses such as death, job/career, financial that cause stress and loss of self identity and self esteem.
  4. Prolonged loss of intimacy, connectedness, romance, and support.
  5. Chronic disrespect from a partner in the forms of: criticism, contempt, and detachment which causes a  longing to feel wanted, appreciated, and attractive.
  6. High discrepancy in sexual drives where one partner feels continually frustrated, angry, and unsatisfied.
  7. Weak impulse control.
  8. Difficulties in keeping clear boundaries.
  9. Sexual addiction.

How Do Affairs Happen? 
Some possible ways that affairs happen include:

  • A friendship that over time, becomes increasingly more confidential and personal
  • A work associate or friend who makes one consistently feel more wanted, attractive, smart, and appreciated in comparison to a partner who often attacks, criticizes, belittles, and takes one for granted
  • Frequently visiting pornographic internet sites and chat rooms
  • Contact with a high school sweetheart through Facebook
  • Vulnerable work situations such as traveling or working after hours or long hours with colleague of the opposite sex
  • Confiding with someone of the opposite sex about problems in your marriage
  • Fantasizing of having sex often with a work colleague or friend

What Happens During Disclosure Of An Affair?
When the unfaithful spouse discloses, there is typically a sense of relief. Strong feelings of anger, entitlement, shame, guilt, remorse, disgust, rejection, isolation and loneliness can follow.

The betrayed spouse usually will have feelings of anger, hurt, betrayal, disbelief, and shock. While some partners have a strong need to know all the details, some don’t. What works best is up to each individual. Often, the betrayed partner gets the urge to repeatedly ask for the details, over and over to help relieve anxiety and to find out if there is more to the story than told.

What Strategies Can Be Helpful After Disclosure?
It is helpful to mourn and accept the loss of innocence and recognize that the marriage has entered a new phase as there are many stages along the marriage journey.

For the betrayed, acknowledge and accept that this is a grieving process with its own trajectory, and feelings and thoughts can come up out of nowhere and be overwhelming, similar to post traumatic stress syndrome.

Try keeping discussions contained to appropriate times, when the time is right for you and your partner, so that it does not permeate every facet of the your day.

The Tasks for the Unfaithful Partner
This is an opportunity to move forward while becoming more aware of situations that lead to a weakening of boundaries with a person of the opposite sex such as going out for drinks, traveling, long hours working together where inappropriate conversations about one’s personal life may develop.

It may or may not be essential that the unfaithful partner share the details, depending if the betrayed partner wants to hear them or not. It may be incredibly difficult and painful to share due to fear of rejection and the enormous amounts of shame and anger. Keep in mind that minimizing, lying, and denial is more painful than the actual disclosure for the betrayed spouse.

Behaviors that can promote trust and reassurance include:

  1. For the betrayer to write down their schedule everyday for their spouse.
  2. Call often from land lines.
  3. Make all social media including: emails and text messaging transparent.
  4. Spend lots of time together. If possible, take time off from work. Most importantly though, to increase time for connection.
  5. Examine the reasons how and why the affair occurred.
  6. Identify areas of the marriage that need improvement.
  7. Seek therapist support. Feelings of guilt and unworthiness may continue for a while. It is important to recognize the need to forgive oneself and to understand why the events happened and to realize that we are human and it is an opportunity to rebuild the relationship on a more positive note. Through therapy, one can restore a sense of dignity by focusing on one’s qualities of courage, integrity, and willingness to recommit to the marriage. A good marriage counselor can support an unfaithful spouse on what to say to the affair partner and when and how to overcome the various hurdles.
  8. It is also important to address all residual feelings and grief towards letting go of the affair partner.

Other Tasks

  • Once this has all been worked out and the changes have taken hold, it often helps to do something such as a ritual – renewing vows, and/or writing letters to each other.
  • Motivate unfaithful partner to be patient, kind, loving, spend more time in connecting.
  • Validate the difficulty of being together. Introduce balance – time to talk about the affair and times not to.
  • Important to set boundaries around this so that even when the other person is triggered they don’t impulsively act out in a moment of intimacy.
  • Don’t throw in the towel. If one gets discouraged, “How did you get things back on track before? What do you need to do to get it back on track now? Keep moving forward.
  • Encourage expressions of anger, hurt, rage, and fear. But, don’t allow abusive behavior. Always remember, “What are you trying to accomplish?”
  • If you are a practicing Catholic or Christian, seek God’s mercy through the practice of confession. Make full restitution with God and seek God’s guidance, mercy and strength. Ask for deliverance if you are undergoing difficulties with temptation. Frequently attend confession and receive the Eucharist and Daily Mass, if possible. With sincere effort, it will eventually release its hold.

The Role of Forgiveness
For trust to be rebuilt, it often takes consistent, loyal, positive behaviors over a long period of time that reinforces that one is trustworthy, repentant and has changed for the better. Therapy can greatly help in facilitating this process. Once trust is reestablished, forgiveness is a conscious decision and is a gift we give ourselves. It is also a process that takes time. When trust and forgiveness take place, we can now fully accept our partner once again. In forgiving, we need to ask ourselves, “What does my partner need to say or do that will make me feel that they really understand what I am feeling?” It is essential that the unfaithful partner consistently show empathy and patience to the partner who was betrayed over the course of this process. The betrayer at times may become impatient and resentful with the process of healing, feeling that their partner should have gotten over it and moved on. Unfortunately, this has its own trajectory that has its own time, depending upon the level of remorse, empathy, and trust that is being established and until there is full resolution.

With time, hard work and commitment from both parties involved, it is possible to have many more years as a couple, with a new, more healthy relationship, one based on trust and good communication.

Contact me us today for a consultation.

Spring, Janis A. (2013-01-22). After the Affair, Updated Second Edition: Healing the Pain and Rebuilding Trust When a Partner Has Been Unfaithful HarperCollins.

Glass, Shirley (2007-11-01). NOT “Just Friends”: Rebuilding Trust and Recovering Your Sanity After Infidelity (p. 42). Free Press. Kindle Edition.

Beall, Cindy (2011-08-01). Healing Your Marriage When Trust is Broken (p. 12). Harvest House Publishers. Kindle Edition.


Surviving the Holidays

surviving-holidaysThe holidays are approaching. Although they can be a time for joy, the holidays can also bring additional stressors with increased financial, job and family responsibilities, that adds to an overall sense of anxiousness and overwhelmingness. The holidays can also bring about a time of sadness, due to the memories of times gone by with family members and significant others whom we no longer have with us.

Take Care of Yourself to Better Help Others
It is important that when we develop chronic feelings of anxiousness, sadness, anger, frustration, and loneliness, that we take care of ourselves, so that we can be at our very best for ourselves and for others. For parents, there is no greater responsibility than being a positive role model for our children, while creating good and lasting memories. For others, it is in being present to each other through a shared sense of meaning in the spirit of peace and joy.

Tips to Manage Holiday Stress
Some of the things we can do may be in finding time for a walk, exercise, time for a massage, a pedicure, or taking the time for a fun-filled weekend with our spouse or family such as a play, musical, concert, dinner, or weekend get-away. Taking time daily for possible meditation and prayer during the week can also be a source of renewal. Getting some therapy may also help in addressing and developing possible strategies and solutions to difficult situations and people while increasing our ability to be peaceful and present for others.

The Danger In Doing Nothing
When we don’t take time for renewal and find time for fun, we can easily become chronically stressed, which can manifest in chronic feelings of anger, contempt, and detachment. Caring for ourselves gives us the opportunity to recharge and heal, so that we are able to bring greater peace and joy to others. To be at our best, so that we can truly appreciate all the blessings God has blessed us with and to be open to receive all the graces God wishes to bless us with this holiday season.

Journey, LLC provides counseling for surviving the holidays, as well as individual adult and couples therapy in South County, the local South Kingstown, RI and surrounding area.


Psychology and/or Religion?

Priests are asked to bless many different things. I’ve blessed my share of homes and cars, boats and motorcycles, a Dunkin’ Donuts, corporate offices, animals, medals, sacramentals and of course people in all sorts of circumstances. This past week I was asked by a parishioner, Rick Beaupre, who is also a musician at St. Veronica Chapel, to bless his new counseling office called, “Journey, LLC” in South County Commons, as he has been called to minister to couples and individual adults experiencing difficulty. Praying there and with him made me think of what a good thing it was for the openness of the complementarity of psychological counseling and religion/spirituality. I loved the name “Journey,” an implication that no one is really alone in life.

Sadly, there exists great suspicion of both sides of the aisle in the conversation about the proper role and place of prayer, sacraments and spirituality. I know many in the counseling field have a negative, even aggressive negative stance towards religion, especially Catholicism. I know that their have been many who have suffered wounds so profound because of religious people and leaders, and their journey to integrate is especially sensitive and challenging. I also know religiously faithful people who do not respect the psychological profession and will not seek counseling in any circumstances. I remembered reading a book I had found fascinating in seminary by Dr. Paul Vitz, SJ called, “Psychology and Religion.” I recalled how while chaplain at Bishop Hendricken, we brought on staff professional counselors (one who is in our parish here now!) who did an outstanding job in fostering a nurturing of the young people within a Catholic school with an openness to the Holy Spirit, prayer and the healing sacraments. Sometimes I would recommend someone to the counselor, and likewise sometimes they would recommend a student to deepen their relationship with Christ and the Church. It was an easy complementarity, natural to caring for the entire person mind, body and soul. Never coercive, always supportive.

I have encountered faithful Catholics and Christians like Rick, who holds an LICSW, who live out a deeply intimate relationship with Christ and the Church, while having wonderful expertise, training and counseling gifts. While not every person or encounter is necessarily overtly spiritual, there is no doubt a lot of room for the religious community and churches, as well as faith-based groups, to integrate counseling and the well-spring of God, to help those that struggle with a variety of life circumstances. The sacraments of reconciliation and of the sick are of special worth as is a person’s personal and communal prayer life.

So in short, I was so happy to provide God’s blessing to Rick and his practice, “Journey, LLC”. And I pray, that all those who seek professional help know that this kind of faith-based counseling, which respects the Lord’s role in one’s journey, is another blessing and grace that God can, and at times, will provide.

Father T., Narragansett, RI