It is a lie that, “nowadays”, marriages are disposable and that the separations are made without the slightest annoyance, thrown over the shoulder without looking back. Who guarantees it is the psychiatrist and family therapist José Gameiro who, for 40 years, has been watching “the magnifying glass” the effort of so many couples who seek help to maintain and strengthen their relationships, despite the challenges of infidelity, the side effects of their children , the routine and the mismatches that “run over” them. You are conscious – and remember it whenever you go to a wedding! – that many will not be together “until death do them part”, but remember that even couples who divorce were together, on average, about 17 years. And if a well-done separation doesn’t scare him, José Gameiro believes that many “deaths” might not have been decreed if the couples had been “grabbed” earlier.
1. Behind the scenes of a divorce
Is it possible to prepare people for marriage?
In the dating phase? I suspect that not because the real marriage experience involves living together and it is difficult to prepare for what we do not know. Dating is a very incomplete training for the relationship. Of course it gives some knowledge of the other, but it is after being together that things start to get complicated. It is very easy to like someone. The most complicated thing is to live with her.
But today, most people who get married have lived together. Do these marriages last longer?
We have no data, but apparently not. Likewise, the number of divorces between Catholic marriages is equivalent to the divorce between marriages by the civilian. They are complicated, especially after the birth of the children. Keeping the couple and family together is difficult.
We usually talk about couples and family as if they were synonymous …
It is precisely because people imagine that it is the same thing that things go wrong. They are separate entities, although interconnected, obviously, and require individual work.
When people get married or decide to live together, do they do it to see “if it works”?
No. In either situation, they believe it is forever. After a while, the relationship wears out and touches what they call love and that nobody knows very well what it is. Many manage to reinvent the relationship, others reach the end of the line and realize that “this person doesn’t say anything to me anymore”.
There is the idea that this “end of line” is too short …
But it’s not true. It’s a myth. They are those people who say: “In my time …” It is clear that a couple without children who want to separate, separate more quickly than one who has children. But separations involve a lot of suffering. Especially a first marriage. The second will not be so much, as it is assumed to be for life. It is an idealized project that, when finished, leaves a feeling of failure. And when there are children, the more painful it is. There is a great concern to save them, to think that everything will endure in their name and, even when the decision is made, to choose the best way to do it. Men, who are now parents much more involved in their children’s lives, are terribly afraid of losing daily contact with them. Divorce takes place, on average, 17 years after marriage. It is not at first that it falls apart.
Do couples come to you determined to rebuild the marriage or to ask for an “expert” to end the separation?
In a simplistic way, I would say that there are four major groups that seek therapy: couples in acute crisis, couples in chronic crisis, those who have married for the second time and, finally, those who want a “good divorce”. Couples in acute crisis, mostly due to an infidelity case – are caught much faster in the days of cell phones and social networks -, are the ones I like to work with and with the best prognosis. They arrive after a month or two of the “explosion”, they have calmed down a little and decided that they want to try to be together.
He looks excited. Why are you the ones you like the most?
Exactly because a couple in acute crisis with a new problem, however complicated, is more open to change. It hasn’t crystallized yet. When problems become chronic, when a marriage goes on “autopilot” and people no longer know why they act as they do, it is more difficult. Then, or disconnect the “pilot [automático]”and try to take control of the marriage again, or are” fried “.
2. The “nuances” of betrayal
Immediately, whoever has been betrayed is probably willing to do anything to “win” the rival, but in the medium term, will he not indefinitely charge the betrayal?
My experience tells me no. For many couples this is a time of rediscovery, even in bed. The wounded pride of men can take longer to heal because there are still a lot of gender stereotypes in these things, including what they and they consider betrayal. For women, he cheats on her from the moment he exchanges messages with another and meets her, but for men, betrayal only exists when there is complete sexual intercourse. And women are much smarter to “sell” what happened because they say it was just a kiss and a hug and they are in doubt, and sometimes they believe. I do not! I don’t say anything, of course, but I find it funny. But it is necessary to make a reservation – I only accept therapy for a couple who broke off their relationship and decided that they want to bet on marriage.
Do you believe it when they tell you that? Aren’t you also deceived?
It happened and you even said to me “You are all the same!”, Accusing me of “being done” with her husband [ri]. But it is rare. In fact, I make this demand even of couples who do not resort to therapy for a case of infidelity and who may be hiding a parallel relationship. Marital therapy is not possible under these conditions. Otherwise, it is hypocrisy and I am working on a fake. Nor do I go into the conversation that there are intercourse relationships without an emotional charge. This “cup of water” thing, as they say. Even in men who are supposed to be able to make that distinction.
But is the question asked in front of the other?
The first therapy session is together and, at that time, I make it very clear that it is me who decides whether there are conditions for a conjugal therapy or not! Then I explain that I will receive each one individually – and what happens in that conversation will be between us. And in this individual session I ask two diagnostic questions. One is whether there is an extramarital relationship and if that was the reason for therapy, if it is over. I don’t make judgments, I just want to know if it’s resolved.
What if someone says to you, “I really have someone, but I don’t want him / her to know.”
I don’t do therapy. I do not denounce confidence, but when I go back to meet with the couple I say that there are no conditions for us to work together and that the situation needs to mature. I cannot reveal the secret, nor can I explain more, “I kick for a corner”. But it is rare.
What is the second diagnostic question?
In this individual interview I also ask: “If I knew he / she had someone else, what would you feel?” If the answer is “Relief”, because she knew she was okay, because she felt less guilty about being the one who wanted the separation, then there is nothing to do either.
Do chronic couples suffer from “stabs” at marriage, which are even more difficult to resolve?
They arrive already with the crisis very advanced, sometimes with more than 10 years of disagreements. They usually suffer from the two great enemies of marriage: systematic criticism and problems with families of origin. They have a very enlisted marriage model. Sometimes, one of them has low self-esteem and a history of serious things, such as, for example, preventing grandparents from seeing their grandchildren. The success of therapy is lower.
Is the criticism you speak of when we criticize the person, instead of his behavior?
We all criticize those with whom we live. There are things that irritate us and we always try to change each other. But the criticism that corrodes any marriage is when we systematically demean the other with “You don’t do anything at all”, “You don’t learn!”, “We were really seeing …”, instead of criticizing a specific behavior. In some cases they do both, often it is only on one side and the other submits, but it gets destroyed. Fortunately, today people have a lot more emotional autonomy and react by saying “Either this changes, or it’s over”.
3. The mother-in-law and other family “inheritances”
People tend to repeat the models of the families of origin. Should we look closely at each other’s family before marrying someone?
We import models of emotional relationship from the family of origin, but they are not deterministic. But for that, we have to be aware of how our model is different from the one in which the other grew up. For example, in my family everything is Neapolitan: we argue, we shout at each other, but that doesn’t hurt the world, but in her family there are many unspoken, the confrontation is avoided, things are overcome with time, but without being spoken. When these two people arrive at a wedding, it is likely that at the first serious discussion – which probably never assumed those proportions in the courtship – she will be paralyzed, does not know how to argue in that way and he will be exasperated with her passivity that she interprets as being in charge. you to the “other party”. So when we are talking about the children’s education model, this difference becomes even more intolerable.
The solution is to reach a consensus on a new model accepted by both?
Not necessarily. Each one can keep their own, but in the open. It has to be accepted by the other. They have to understand what is possible to change and what is not possible to change, …