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Thursday, 29 March 2001

Triangulation

Written by  Silvet Sufar Shalit, PhD

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QDear WholeFamily Counselor,

My husband and I just had our second wedding anniversary. We've been together since 1992. We have a beautiful one-year-old baby boy. Although our son is only an infant, I felt I was reading our future story when I read the psychologist's comments about triangulation in the on-line drama "The Unemployed Son."

Like in the drama, I feel as though I am the single parent who shares accommodations with my husband. I find I compensate for our failing marriage by dissolving my unhappiness in time spent with my baby boy. From the time I get home from my full-time office job until I go to sleep at night, he is my only priority. The result is a hollow realization that if I did not have my son in my life, I would be drawn to tears every evening out of loneliness and frustration with my marriage.

My husband has a serious anger management problem. The only common ground it seems which helps us "get along" is when we spend time with our son. Because my husband works evenings (he is a coach on campus at a local college and a part-time student) we hardly see each other. When he is around I request his help with chores, the baby etc. -- he acts indignant and when he does help it is always after a good mouthful of verbal abuse towards me.

I admit that after our son came into our lives, it's been all too easy for me to focus my attention on him instead of my temperamental husband. I would also agree that I've given him every reason to feel left out and jealous. He continues to treat me badly and I continue to shut him out, it's a vicious cycle. I do not feel attracted to my husband and have very little respect for him because of the way he treats me. We do spend quality time with our baby boy, but he also hears the verbal abuse and arguments. Although he is too young to talk, the look on his face when we argue is enough to say he is aware something is going on.

I don't want to become the people in your story, but we are headed there. I know my husband would be open to counseling, but I don't know where to begin. Sometime I think personal counseling would be the best place to start. I often feel with his temper that it would be in my son's best interests if we separated.

Is my family beyond repair? Please point me in the right direction.

ADear "Beyond Repair,"

You have been together with your husband since 1992, married for two years and are the parents of a beautiful one-year-old boy. You work days and your husband works evenings so that you hardly see each other. You feel now that your son has become the center of your life. You focus all your attention on your son and you state that this helps you to divert your attention from the loneliness and frustration in your marriage.

You refer to your husband as temperamental and prone to verbal abuse and to yourself as having given him every reason to feel left out and jealous. You also refer to the positive aspects of your relationship mainly centered on quality time you spend together with your son.

I must compliment you on your psychological awareness and understanding of your present situation. You are aware that you and your husband are involved in a vicious cycle: "He continues to treat me badly" and "I continue to shut him out." You feel that you are reading your future when you read about triangulation. In fact, you think that it is already happening when you compensate for your relationship with your husband by the relationship with your child.

You are in conflict about it. Part of you wishes to repair the family and part of you feels that a separation might be better for you. You are asking for the right direction.

You need to look at the relationship from the beginning:

  • How was it once and how did it become the way it is now?
  • What solution did you have before your son was born?
  • How did this vicious pattern come about and how do you each contribute to the other's behavior?
  • Are either one of you or both repeating a pattern from your family of origin?
  • How can you stop your present pattern of relating?
  • What behaviors do you need to avoid and /or change so that you can create a positive interaction and get more satisfaction out of your marriage?

You need to become more aware of the role model that you are giving to your son. You are getting the affection from your son that you need to get from your husband. If you are not careful, you may find yourself using your son to form a coalition against your husband, thus undermining the authority of your husband as a father figure. A child needs to respect both his father and his mother for healthy development. Is this pattern of a coalition of a child and one parent against the other parent something you have experienced in your family of origin? Are you reading your "future story" from your "past story"?

I strongly recommend that you do not make any decisions before you have explored the above issues with your husband and I do hope that you give yourselves a chance to become a couple and a family.

Good Luck!

Silvet Sufar Shalit, PsyD

Last modified on Sunday, 22 January 2012 20:31
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Silvet Sufar Shalit, PhD

Dr. Silvet Sufar Shalit is a graduate of the University of California, Berkeley. She is a certified clinical psychologist with twenty years experience in psychotherapy.. She works in a psychiatrist outpatient clinic and has a private practice. with twenty years experience in psychotherapy. Silvet studied acting in New York, freelances as a creative writer and is an accomplished photographer. Silvet Sufar Shalit is the mother of Eitan, a 20-year-old autistic young man.

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