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Physical or Emotional Intimacy?

May 18th, 2009 by Dr. Elia | 0

Dear Dr. Elia,

I’ve been married for twenty years, and my husband has become very controlling over the years. I ended up seeking counseling about 2 years ago and I also talked to my bishop (who was NO help, by the way, his basic advice was to pray and read my scriptures and have family home evening…which of course, we’ve done all along) anyway my counselor opened my eyes to the emotional blackmail I’ve been living with. He recommended that we come as a couple but my husband refused. Not knowing what to do, I just tried to fake along like everything was OK, but it only made me more depressed. Then my husband started dropping hints that we would be better off divorced. I can’t explain how I felt about that…mostly anger. I again suggested counseling. He agreed to go this time. But after only a couple of sessions, he was expecting overnight success, mainly- he thinks I should be all kissy and huggy with him, but I don’t feel any affection for him anymore. I don’t know how I should respond to this increased demand for affection. It makes me sick when he touches me. He says that if I don’t show him in this way, that I’m willing to try to make our marriage work, then he will just assume that I hate him and he will leave. I am really confused and need some quick advice because he keeps sending me lovey-dovey text messages and I need to know the best way to respond.


PS- he has never- before now- sent love messages of any kind or
tried to hug me all the time like this. I feel like I’m suffocating!


Dear Wylee,

Your situation is far from uncommon. Clearly your husband feels the most loved through physical affection and is now making demands for it or else… Unfortunately, that approach doesn’t work very well for you when
you don’t feel close to him. It appears that his increasingly controlling nature has created some walls in your marriage. It’s quite difficult to open up emotionally to someone who tries to control or threatens divorce.

Most women need to feel emotionally close and connected first, before they can connect physically, which includes physical intimacy. It is not realistic to go to counseling for a couple of visits and then think that all is well. In some ways, he’s reaching out to you by sending you messages and trying to hug you. I realize that you’re feeling suffocated but it’s important not to make him feel totally rejected. Since your marriage is already on the rocks any further rejection might be the final straw.

If you would like to stay married here’s my suggestion. First, acknowledge the fact that he is trying to make deposits into the marriage account through his increased efforts of connecting physically. Tell him that you appreciate the attention. Second, if the two of you can discuss your needs, wants and desires on your own then go for it. It needs to happen in a respectful and attentive environment. If that doesn’t exist then, try it in front of a third party that you trust.

Explain to him that you need to feel closer to him emotionally and safe first. That’s what makes you feel loved the most. Once that happens, then you can begin to open up to him in the way that is the most meaningful to him, meaning physically.

A couple of good resources if your both open to doing some work together to bless your marriage. One is to read (or listen on a cd) The Five Love Languages by Dr. Gary Chapman. It’s one of the best books out there.
Another resource is the book And They Were Not Ashamed by Laura Brotherson (LDS) on the topic of physical intimacy. Finally you could also listen to the cd called The Multi-Platinum Marriage: Going From Surviving to Thriving!

Good luck and let me know how tings work out.

Elia Gourgouris Ph.D.

Dealing with my husband’s anger…

Apr 3rd, 2009 by Dr. Elia | 0

Dear Dr. Elia,

My husband I are very active members of the church.  We have a lot of stress in our home just with all the activities going on and now the economy has put a stop to our income.

Over the years my husband has had a habit of reacting to problems with anger always looking for someone or somewhere to place blame or responsibility. I know he loves me but often he explodes in anger such as yanking my cell phone away when I wasn’t paying attention to a comment he made about one of the kids (while two kids were riding with us in the car). I felt it wasn’t the appropriate place to discuss another child’s issues. Long and short is he will regularly get angry at me or the kids and it is difficult to get back into a loving atmosphere. He berates me for not appreciating him (he does a lot at our home as his office is here), being his cheerleader, comforting him etc. It’s like trying to love a porcupine. His anger drives me away and
I feel somewhat guarded in our relationship more in these last years because of his verbal attacks on me. I know he needs my help and support but how do I work this out in my mind to be loving when I feel so hurt on a regular basis. Do I just need to grow up and accept this? I have talked to him about his anger issue and suggested counseling for us but he thinks it is not needed. If you could suggest some resource or reading material or some type of counsel it would be appreciated. Thank you. Please respond by email only.


Dear Beth,

This is an issue that often comes up when working with couples. There are three ways to empty the “emotional bank account” in a marriage. It’s called the “AAA” which stands for Adultery, Addiction and Abuse. The behavior of your husband’s as you describe it, falls under the third category, meaning verbal and emotional abuse. Over the years you may have become accustomed to being treated this way, but that does not make it right. His behavior is not justified under ANY circumstances. Even if the economy has taken its toll on his business, there’s no excuse for it.

You’re wondering if you “need to grow up and accept this!” That is an amazing statement for an outsider like myself (and our readers I’m sure) to embrace. It only makes sense because you’ve become used to it. No woman in the church deserves to be treated this way. Do you remember who you are? A daughter of your Heavenly Father! Do you think He would approve of your husband’s “habit” as you call it? May I suggest that you tactfully share the following scripture with your husband: Doctrine and Covenants 121:39-41.

39 “We have learned by sad experience that it is the nature and disposition of almost all men, as soon as they get a little authority, as they suppose, they will immediately begin to exercise unrighteous dominion. 40 Hence many are called, but few are chosen. 41 No power or influence can or ought to be maintained by virtue of the priesthood, only by persuasion, by long-suffering, by gentleness and meekness, and by love unfeigned.” If this is too hard to do by yourself, please seek the support of your ecclesiastical leaders, like your Bishop or Stake President.

You are correct in suggesting to him to go to counseling, but his pride keeps him from seeking help. I wonder if he would turn down an offer of assistance from his Bishop? He not only could use some counseling, but more specifically Anger Management classes. There are plenty of resources, if he has the desire to overcome this detrimental behavior. I’m concerned that if things continue without any change, whatever love you have for him will eventually disappear. I have seen it countless times in similar circumstances…The wife “endures the verbal and emotional abuse” until the youngest child graduates from high school and heads off to college. Soon after she files for divorce and ends this dysfunctional marriage. I hope you have a very different outcome, for yourself, your children but also for him.

He cannot possibly be happy when he treats you this way. Somewhere deep down inside he must know that his behavior is wrong…even if he doesn’t admit it. It takes real humility to say to you that he has been wrong
and has offend you and God by his outbursts all these years. It takes courage on your part to put an end to it…You are NOT alone. Seek the help and guidance from those in positions to help. One of the best things that you can do for your children is to teach them by example that this is not going to be tolerated anymore.

Elia Gourgouris Ph.D.

Mistreated Wife Seeks Help!

Feb 27th, 2009 by Dr. Elia | 0

Dear Dr. Elia,

On the outside we are one happy Mormon family. However, on the inside
my husband is a very unkind and a controlling person. His opinion and
is the only way and no one much cross it! He has said many hurtful
things about me about being a mother, serving others, my family, and our
relationship. When he does I don’t have anything to say and I believe
he thinks it is alright to continue to mistreat me. I have tried to
hide my hurt, disappointment and sorrow but now I see our children being
“scared” of him. When a child come home with a D+ on a math test ,after
many hours of study, and made me promise not to tell dad because he
would get so mad. I knew I needed to do something. I don’t want our
children to see this as the “norm” because it is not! I didn’t sign up
to be treated like this. What should I do?

Need Help

Dear Need Help,

My first question to you is have you ever sought help outside of your
marriage…either through the church channels or professionally? Your
marriage is at a point that it certainly could use some assistance. In
the CD “The Multi-Platinum Marriage: Going from Surviving to Thriving”
I address the issue of control or unrighteous dominion as being one of
the 4 red flags. Actually it is second only to “selfishness and pride”
which from your description your husband also engages in.

I would venture to guess that your marital “savings account” is nearly
bankrupt. Your husband’s long-term behaviors and treatment of you and
the family has brought you to this level of misery. The other side of
the coin, is your responsibility. You have allowed all this to happen
and now it is affecting your dear children. It’s one thing not to take
care of yourself…but your stewardship as a mother is to love, nurture
and protect your children.

How long will you continue to expose them to this environment? What are
you willing to do about it? I realize it takes courage and faith, but
the idea of going about “business as usual” is no longer an option. If
you have boys, what are they learning about how to treat women?
Disrespect, emotional and verbal abuse or worse! If you have girls, what
are they thinking? That basically it is ok to be treated as a second
class citizen in their own homes!

Before you take whatever steps are necessary, make sure you have a very
strong support system. A strong bishop, sisters in your ward, extended
family and friends and most of all the spiritual help. If this is really
hard to do it for yourself, then do it for your children.

Elia Gourgouris Ph.D.

Helping my daughter…

Nov 12th, 2008 by Dr. Elia | 0

Dear Dr. Elia,

How can I help my daughter survive emotionally and spiritually in her
relationship with a husband who has an anger issue which is exacerbated
by pain from an operation a year ago and the medication he is taking?


Dear Carol,

There’s more information needed about your daughter’s situation to gain
a better picture but I’ll do my best in the meantime. It sounds like
your son-in-law has at least two major life issues that’s he’s dealing
with: chronic pain and anger (mis)management. How does his anger affect
your daughter? Is he verbally, physically, or emotionally abusive? Are
there any kids involved? Is he aware of how damaging his anger is
towards those around him…namely his dear wife? If he is, then what is
he willing to do about it? Will he go to therapy for himself and will
they go to marital counseling together?

There are plenty of programs that deal with anger management. There are
also solutions to chronic pain management as well. There are programs
for your daughter like Al-Anon, which is a 12-Step support program for
spouses. She cannot change him but can take care of herself. She can
receive counsel from her bishop or other church leaders. Get counseling
for herself, even if he refuses to go.

As her mother, I’m sure it’s heartbreaking to know that your child has
to live and endure such an unfortunate predicament. You might find
yourself feeling helpless at times. So what can you do? I’m sure you’re
already praying for her…you can be a listening ear…you can remind
her of her infinite worth and that she deserves much better treatment
than what she’s experiencing in her marriage. Ultimately however, it is
her decision about what to do with her life.

I hope that something changes for the better in her life…she deserves it.

Elia Gourgouris Ph.D.

How long must I endure?

Oct 23rd, 2008 by Dr. Elia | 0

Dr. (Brother) Elia,

I attended Time Out for Women Sat in Portland. I
loved your talk and bought your tape. I married a man who I found out
loves to control everything, has several secret bank accounts, is a
‘woman’s man’ to compliment women in front of me but not me anymore,
finishes my sentences for me, sabatages our marriage, picks fights with
me to include raising his voice and then insists (really insists) on sex
(and the riskier the better), shall I go on? When I pray to get out of
this marriage my answer is to endure. I was very secure in who I am, or
was. I work for LDS Family Services so I can get counseling often and
am getting better. I am praying I can get him to listen to your CD I
purchased and hope we can work together to heal our marriage. Did I
tell you that he can be so inspired and his Patriarchal Blessing reads
like no other I have read? He can be so sweet and so hateful at the
same time. If he is not center stage I pay the price. I have been
widowed 1 1/2 times and all I want is to have his second marriage (ours)
the best ever. I want the Spirit in our home, for him to experience it
so he will know how special that feeling is, and how wonderful it is to
have a wife that loves him and is willing to be his helpmate/partner.
(Thank you for your sweet comments at the Time Out in Portland. You
have such a sweet spirit and I loved the way you spoke about your wife.
She must be special.)


Dear Linda,

First of all thank you for your sweet comments. I’m so glad you
enjoyed the Time Out For Women event in Portland. I can assure you that
all the presenters felt just as uplifted as you did in the audience. It
is wonderful to see over two thousand Sisters come together to
fellowship and be spiritually uplifted through music that’s heavenly and
the spoken word. I get so much at these events…it fills my spiritual
bucket, even though the majority of the comments are about women (they
apply to us guys as well.)

Now to answer your question. You deserve to be treated like the
Heavenly Father’s daughter that you are. You have the advantage of
getting help because of your connection to LDS Family Services. Continue
to get all the support you need, for as long as you need it. The only
aspect that you control is your own life, your decisions and reactions
to what’s taking place in your marriage. Unfortunately, you cannot get
your husband to get counseling or listen to a CD. In my experience from
working with so many sisters in your position there are a couple of
options. Typically men with similar issues as your husband, will go to
marriage counseling if their Bishop tells them to do it, or if their
wives threaten them with divorce.

It is so sad that it takes raising the stakes SO high before
certain men respond. It may not work with your husband however, so you
need to be prepared as to what to do if he flat out says, “I’m not
going, you’re the one with the problem Linda!” The best part is that
you are faithful to the Spirit and therefore will continue to receive
personal guidance on this matter. Many times the answer has been to
endure and sometimes after you’ve endured faithfully the answer might
come that it’s time to move on. If the answer you’re getting right now
is to hang in there…maybe it’s for him to have an opportunity to turn
things around. Almost as if God is giving him the chance to improve his
life, repent and ask you for forgiveness for the way he has behaved.

At some point however, he will lose that opportunity…You don’t
deserve to be treated this way. I know that YOU know that deep down
inside. Stay close to the spirit, build up your support system and it
will work out, perhaps not in the way you might expect.

God bless you,

Elia Gourgouris Ph.D.

Learning to Trust…Again!

Aug 25th, 2008 by Dr. Gourgouris | 0

Dear Dr. Elia,
My marriage of 20 years is in the process of dissolution.  I initiated it due to some very intimate abuse issues between my soon to be ex-husband and myself which I had repressed.  Counseling has been part of our marriage since the beginning and often ends when he isn’t able to deal with the depth of the emotions that surface.  Although he has apologize and refrained from the abuse, the ripple effect has caused me great pain and the lose of my self.  I know the importance of counseling and will be continuing on my own to work through those ripples.

I guess my question is along with the counseling, prayer, and scripture study, will I be able to find me and be able to learn to trust another intimate relationship again?  What other avenues would you suggest to get through the ripples?


Dear Coleen,

I would be happy to answer all 3 of your questions! In terms of being able to find yourself after the dissolution of your marriage, I would say with great certainty that the answer is YES! So many women have gone down the same path as you, only to discover great strengths, hidden talents and a desire to fulfill their God-given potential. The key question is how?

You’re already incorporating prayers, scripture study and counseling to help you with your healing. You need to be commended for already doing these things consistently. The counseling should continue as needed, past the divorce, to help you with the trust issues that have arisen as a result of the intimacy abuse. There’s every reason to hope that if done properly, you might find yourself in a relationship again. Everyone is capable of healing from their past issues by applying Gospel principles in their lives. It takes a lot of hard work and dedication to move forward into the unknown, but as we read in the scriptures, “…for with God all things are possible.” Mark 10:27.

When someone comes out of divorce there are usually a couple of ways to approach what lies ahead.  One is feeling like a failure (quite common) and beating yourself up.  The other is to look at it as an opportunity to create a new life.  This has exciting aspirations, hope for a better tomorrow and untapped possibilities!  A Life Coach can be such a resource for you.  This would be someone who would inspire, educate, listen, encourage and guide you to achieve your goals and fulfill your potential. Remember that your future will be determined by the choices you make today!

As you move forward in faith may you create the life you’ve always wanted!

Elia Gourgouris Ph.D

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