As my grandmother told me, “there is more than one way to skin the cat.” Because of modern science, we understand, with great precision, what types of things cause other things. We also recognize the diversity of influence from a broad range of domains on the human experience. In psychology, we consider social, psychological, cultural, and biological factors.
Included in the diversity of these domains are a myriad of theoretical models and their incorporating assessments and interventions. When I first began practicing as a therapist, I would often think, “I wonder which model is the best and which impacting factor is most important.” I have come to learn that the answer is: all.
I think we often get stuck in attempting to fix a problem through the first thing we identify:
I drink too much; I must be addicted to alcohol.
My husband cheated on me; he must not be sexually fulfilled.
I cannot find a good job; I must not be outgoing enough.
I am overweight; I must have bad genes.
And while there “may” be truth in short-drawn conclusions, there are also various determinants, not as alternatives, but as contributors. If true, we can take a holistic approach to complex situations that generate better perspectives, lasting changes, and more permanent resolutions.
I remember working with a client who struggled to find a partner. He felt he wasn’t handsome enough and spent most of his time trying to make himself physically attractive. Admittedly, he was no “don Juan,” but I felt there was more to his situation. As it turned out, he had a tiny social group, and he thought he wasn’t likable because he was older. He also was taught you marry somebody who has never been married because that was the acceptable “way”.
As we worked through these details, my client began to date more, often women who had been in a previous marriage. Eventually, he found his match. Imagine as we wrapped up, he realized looking “good” was only a small part of a giant puzzle.
If you’d like help looking at all the different pieces of the puzzle, schedule a session by calling 801.944.4555.
Most couples get married in their twenties. In Utah, the statistics show marriages occur in their early twenties, or even late teens for some women. Research suggests our beliefs change over our lifespan, including our religious and spiritual convictions. No matter the reason, it is extremely common for one partner (or both) to change their religious views over time. Because religious beliefs in Utah (primarily members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) require strict adherence, stress from a spouse questioning or leaving the faith can create tension and pressure on the relationship.
The irony is, LDS theology promotes the importance of the family, yet, when such stressors encumber the relationship, it’s the marriage that suffers at the hand of obedience or compliance. Many couples experience a form of betrayal, fear, or disruption of intimacy and connectedness. Some of my clients report the grief of losing the assurance of their eternal marriage, feeling the risk of an affair, substance use changes or experimentation, or other unwanted behaviors.
A faith transition, however, isn’t a predictor of the failure of the relationship. With time, support, and tools, couples often unify and strengthen their relationship. Couples find shared values and bond by moving into a space of curiosity, openness, and acceptance while also validating and “holding space” for their partner.
Wasatch Family Therapy is hosting a group for five couples currently struggling with a mixed-faith marriage. Group meetings occur each Wednesday starting March 3rd at our new address in Sandy. Couples will need to be interviewed (to make sure it’s a good fit) and will need to pay half upfront; the remainder billed after the eight sessions. Sessions are $75 per couple per session. This group will be a “process group”, where couples participate interactively learning about each other. The group will be facility lead by Jeff Lundgren, ACMHC, who works with many couples and mixed-faith marriages and families.
If you want to participate, please contact us at 801-944-4555.
American novelist Wendel Berry expressed a powerful concept in a poem titled “To Know The Dark.”
To go in the dark with a light is to know the light.
To know the dark, go dark. Go without sight,
and find that the dark, too, blooms and sings,
and is traveled by dark feet and dark wings.
– Wendel Berry
We often perceive the dark as evil, harmful, or wrong. The concept of light vs. dark is an age-old concept. The attitudes around “the dark” have are often conflated with disaster. According to Berry, the label “dark” may be best described by the unknown. We fear it.
It can be uncomfortable to move into the spaces of the unknown. Typically when we approach uncertain situations or areas with caution. Sometimes the best strategy to explore the hidden things is to lean-in to the unknown by embracing without predictability (go without sight). When we do, we find the unknown sings with beauty.
This process isn’t always easy. Some people find companionship helpful. A partner could be a spouse, parent, or close friend. When seeking a companion, its best to find somebody who can offer support, without judgment, or contribute to the fear. Others find it helpful to ask for help from their Divine power for protection and guidance.
What of “dark feet and dark wings?”. Perhaps the exploration of the beauty of unfolding song originates from allowing for the steps through new elements to emerge naturally. Wings typically signify power and movement. Could real change and receiving come from flying with confidence, embracing the tension by thinking of what happens “to us,” is happening “for us”?