you remind him, glaring.  And so begins many courses of marriage counseling.

It’s a predicament.  You’ve just found out you’ve been betrayed in the one way you vowed you would never tolerate.  This is awful enough.  But the idea of breaking a vow that you made to yourself, as well as your partner can be making you feel even worse.

Then, some months later as the therapy continues and deepens, you realize, “it’s different when it actually happens.  It’s much more complicated when you’re inside of it.”

Lately I’ve been thinking about the meaning of “I told you if you ever….”     Through my work with couples, I have found  that this assertion can have different origins.  For example;

“If you ever do what my father did to us, I would have to feel that trauma again, and that would be unbearable. I’ve buried those feelings and will never put myself in a position where they could resurface.  Be forewarned.”

“I believe all men are cheaters because that’s all I saw growing up, or that’s all I see around me now.  I would be a fool to just trust you, so I need to exercise some control.”

“There’s something about your behavior that makes me feel insecure.  And there’s no way for us to talk about it.  So instead, I’m laying down the law.”

And maybe, ” I really can’t believe you want to be with me, because I don’t feel as (good, worthy, smart, attractive, successful, etc) as you, so I have to use a threat to ensure that you don’t look for someone else.

All of these have something in common.  They are expressions of complex thoughts and feelings that are rooted in your personal history,  masquerading as a simple threat.

Understanding what you really want to say to each other and finding ways to say it that can be fully heard and responded to is at the heart of marriage counseling.  If you are thinking about getting help, you can reach me at (925) 948-0562 or

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