Marriage Counseling: Time to ‘Hang Up the Gloves’?

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Reader’s Question

I have been married for 27 years, and the last three have been devastating for both of us. We have both been in individual therapy for three years and spent six months in marriage counseling. I recently discovered email correspondence between my husband and his psychologist in which she 1) mentions three colleagues that she and my husband should consider referring me to and 2) she tells my husband that it is ‘time to hang up the gloves’!

I am devastated. Is this legal? Is it ethical? Is there anything I can do? I have long suspected that their relationship is bizarre, but this goes beyond that.

Psychologist’s Reply

You bring an intriguing question to the table about what is “right” and what is “ethical” (not to mention what is legal) in the client/therapist dynamic. Since you didn’t go into the reason behind feeling devastated for the last three years of your marriage, I can only guess that something, some event, triggered a negative outcome that both you and your husband are trying to heal. You didn’t mention whether the therapist you are working with in marriage therapy is the same person as the one used by yourself or your husband for the individual sessions. Because I don’t know if you two shared the same therapist for individual work and then had a series of sessions together as a couple, I really am unable to comment on the legality or ethics of the therapist offering your husband colleagues to whom you may like a referral.

But what strikes me is that the you two have been married for a long time. This was clearly not some impulsive “shot gun” wedding. You both have been together for many years. My instinct tells me that maybe one of you became suspicious about the goings on of the other…and hence you “discovered” emails that were exchanged between your husband and his therapist. It sounds like the therapist’s advice about “hanging up the gloves” is one of peacefully resolving the issues that resulted in either or both of you sitting before the counselor in the first place. “Hanging up the gloves” is a term used for boxers when they decide to no longer fight. This more benign euphemism provides an alternative to simply barking an order at the two of you to “knock it off already!” Hanging up the gloves is not bad…it’s a good thing. It’s really hard to hold hands with your spouse when you are both donning boxing gear.

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