Sometimes, though, they hear clients say things so outlandish or hurtful that even they’re surprised. Below, couples counselors from across the country share the most damaging things they’ve ever heard said while working with married couples.
“I cheated on you because you deserved it.”
“A husband and wife I was working with were in marriage crisis. He had been cheating. There are definitely ways a therapist can help couples reconcile and bring back the trust, but the cheater must be remorseful and regretful about what happened. This particular man was none of those things. When his wife turned to him and said, ‘I need to understand why you did this.’ He responded, ‘I did it because you deserved it.’ How does one walk back from that? I told him no one deserves to be told that, even if they have been a very poor partner, but he was having none of it. The man was resistant to any information I imparted and stayed in his self-righteous anger and indignation in every one of our sessions. They had several small children, including twins. I don’t know whatever happened to them.” ― Becky Whetstone, a marriage family therapist in Little Rock, Arkansas
“I spent $10,000 on strippers.”
“It’s not uncommon at all for a couple to seek marriage therapy for the first time on the heels of infidelity. Usually, I hear run-of-the-mill situations ― a brief affair with a work colleague or a former partner. But once in a while, you hear the most godawful story. For instance, a husband who blew $10,000 on strippers and then had a sugar-daddy type relationship with one of them. Another time the husband admitted that he flew his mistress first class to an exotic location and used an ultra-luxury hotel for a tryst. Then the wife tells you she only flew in coach and they usually stayed at Holiday Inns. As you can imagine, these stories often don’t end well.” ― Marni Feuerman, a psychotherapist in Boca Raton, Florida
“I was better off before I met you.”
“During a session, the wife said to her husband, ‘I was better off before I met you.’ I cringed as soon as I heard her say it because I also saw the husband’s demeanor change at the corner of my eyes. She tried to rephrase what she said, but the damage was already done. The words we say have more power than we think. The wife’s statement diminished her husband’s self-worth. It communicated to him that he brings no value to the marriage.
We continued to work on practicing effective and intentional communication. The way she delivered that message could have changed how he received it; it’s not what you say but how you say it. While communicating your wants and needs, be mindful of your tone of voice and choice of words and still get your point across.” ― Sara Elysée, psychotherapist in Miami
“I hate you.”
“I have heard people say they hate each other, they want a divorce, they’re leaving when they don’t mean it. It’s as though they want to hurt their partner any way they can, to get even. They call each other names, threaten each other. None of it is rational or thought out. It’s feral, reactive and very ugly. The first thing I have to do is get them to de-escalate. I teach them to take ‘time outs’ and order them to stop talking when they begin to get upset. Once I get them to stop yelling, I can begin teaching them to actually communicate. At that point, some couples are able to remember that they love each other and create a loving, mutually satisfying relationship. The ones who get divorced at least learn better communication skills to take into new relationships.” ― Tina Tessina, psychotherapist and co-author of How To Be A Couple And Still Be Free
“I’ve been having a conversation with a married woman on Ashley Madison, and I think I want to meet her in person. ”
“One couple came in for what they said was a ‘disclosure’ issue. I assumed one partner had been having an affair. They sat down and the husband said right away, ‘I have to confess that I’ve been having a conversation with a married woman on Ashley Madison, and I think I want to meet her in person. We need to talk about this.’
I looked at the wife and asked her if she was angry or upset that her husband had gone on the site looking for an affair. She said, ‘Well, I don’t know if it counts as an affair, considering the person he is talking to on Ashley Madison is me.’
I looked at them both, totally confused. The husband was confused, too.
She looked at him and shook her head. ‘I am your girlfriend on Ashley Madison. You and I are meeting for coffee next week. Apparently, you aren’t in love with your wife and you want an affair with a younger woman.’
He said, ‘Wait, you’re the woman who is no longer attracted to her husband and thinks he’s boring in bed?’
I looked at them both and suggested we have another session before they went on their date with their Ashley Madison-profile-personalities.” ― Tammy Nelson, a couple’s therapist and the author of When You’re The One Who Cheats
“It always stuns me when one partner gaslights the other when a partner is justifiably suspicious of what their spouse is doing due to changing behaviors. The gaslighter turns the tables and makes their partner believe that they are problem, saying something like ’you’re crazy, none of the things you’re accusing me of are true.′ More often that not, the person has been committing numerous marital crimes including the ones their partner suspected them of.” ― Becky Whetstone
“I married you out of pity.”
“Ten years into this couple’s marriage, as they struggled to figure out why their relationship always lacked passion, the wife finally opened up about her motivation to marry him in the first place. She felt sorry for him and didn’t think he could handle life on his own, so she came to the rescue by marrying him. Oddly enough, he became much stronger and more competent through the years, which he needed to absorb this blow.” ― Ryan Howes, a psychologist in Pasadena, California, and co-creator of the Mental Health Boot Camp