Dear Tzippora,

My wife had some anxieties and fears that were causing her a lot of stress. She decided to see a psychologist to get some help with them, and I supported her decision. I never complained about the cost, even though our insurance only covered part of it. Yet now that she has been seeing her therapist for a few months, my wife has a lot of complaints about our marriage that she never seemed to have before. My question is — is the therapy causing her complaints? I want her to be happy, but her therapy seems to be ruining our relationship.

Not the bad guy

Dear Not the bad guy,

We are social beings who are constantly acting on, and being acted upon by, those around us. When someone goes to therapy and begins to practice new ways of relating to world, their own personal growth creates changes in the way they relate to others. Therefore it is normal for your wife's personal changes to make themselves felt as a new pattern of interaction in your relationship as well.

It is possible that in order for your wife to confront and overcome her fears, she needs to become more assertive in general and that includes challenging the status quo within your marital relationship.

Try to hear her complaints as pertaining to the future, and not the past. In a sense, she is asking your permission to be different, and by accepting her complaints with sensitivity and a willingness to make changes, you are granting her that permission. This is far more demanding than just paying lip service to the idea that you support her personal growth.

Her changes are bound to raise some corresponding anxiety in you and if possible, try to see if you can join her in therapy for some couple's sessions to discuss the new changes in your relationship.

The Torah compares a human being to a tree. Trees have tremendous potential for growth. Trees grow externally by expanding their branches and their foliage, and they grow internally by developing their roots. Human beings also share this capacity for growth, and your wife is inviting you to make this journey together.

Explain to her that you are interested in, and committed to, growing with her but complaining is a very off-putting invitation for change. See if you can brainstorm together about a new language for change that will work for both of you, and won't make you feel like the bad guy.

Just like you were both partners in creating your old relationship, you are both partners in creating the new relationship that will allow her to live with less stress and anxiety.

Thanks for writing!