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Rebuilding after betrayal and divorce

May 26th, 2009 by Dr. Elia | 0

Dear Dr. Elia,

I am going through a divorce. After being married for more than 24 years, I found that my husband had been living a double life for at least the last seven years and probably even longer. As the proceedings of the divorce have unfolded, more & more hurtful evidence kept coming out: the hiring of escorts, having multiple girlfriends, not to mention the emotional abuse he dished out to me and our children. The husband I had thought was a worthy temple holder, who held church callings, gave priesthood blessings, and seemed like a wonderful Dad, has simply turned out to be a big lie. The time frame of these betrayals corresponded with many of our life’s important events (son going on a mission, vacations, birthdays, grandchildren born, family illness & deaths, etc.) Finding out about all of it has been heart-sickening and such a blow to my self esteem.

I am seeing a therapist, but just as I think I am making progress, more evidence surfaces. The hurt, betrayal and anger that comes up seems like it will never stop. I do not want to become a bitter old woman — I want to move on and live a full life! I want to be happy, and I want my children to be happy. I am grateful for the power of prayer, scriptures, priesthood blessings, the Atonement, temple attendance and my support group. These are the things that have helped me through the mess so far. But sometimes I also feel like I am going to get swallowed up whole by the proceeding of the divorce, the grief, the anger and the horrible betrayal.

I’m asking you how a woman and her children are supposed to get through all of this? By forgiving? How will I ever be able to trust someone again? How do I teach my children to move forward in life positively and get through the betrayal they feel too? I need some guidance and direction.

Signed: Overwhelmed

Dear Overwhelmed,

I have heard that adversity can come as a result of three different types of situations: sometimes it comes as a result of our poor choices, at other times the circumstances of life can simply cause problems or pain. Your situation falls into the third category, which happens when another person’s destructive choices bring about pain, suffering and loss to those around them. Unfortunately, your husband’s selfishness has caused the loss of your family as you’ve known it for 24 years. You imply that it’s been the last seven years since he started to “act out” outside of the marriage. Hopefully at least the first 17 years were good.

So what does the future hold for you and your children? Well as you know, ultimately no matter how devastating the circumstances have been, your future can only be determined by the choices you make today. Understand that your reaction to this tremendous life changing betrayal is absolutely normal. You are doing everything in your power and within your control to heal from the break up of your marriage and your family. You are already using many positive tools by having a support group, attending counseling, reading scriptures, taking time for heartfelt prayers, asking for blessings and making use of the Atonement. Maintaining your children’s love, respect and support are also crucial. And as you know, finding solace in the peacefulness of the Temple can bring you additional strength as you face the long road to recovery. You are doing many things right already!

I’d like to focus on one of your comments, that this has been a huge blow to your self-esteem. Try to remind yourself that his inappropriate actions of infidelity are a reflection of him and not of you. The inner and outer beauty that you possess as Heavenly Father’s daughter is NOT diminished by someone else’s sinful behaviors. I recognize the betrayal you must feel, but rest assured that you didn’t cause these things to happen. The real culprit is lust! There are many unhappily married couples, but most of them do not choose to sleep around and break their marital covenants. No one has forced him to be unfaithful; he chose to do it entirely on his own!

You also asked about your children and their healing prospects: my advice is that the best way to teach your children to move forward is by your own example. If they see their mom moving ahead by creating a new, happier and more optimistic life, they’ll have “permission” to do the same. If they see you forgiving their father, they will eventually do the same. I’m sure that they used to look up to their dad, but that trust and respect has now been shattered. So they must look up to you for guidance and direction. The most hopeful message you can give both them and yourself, is your desire to live a full life and be happy. This is a righteous desire and it will be granted to you in time.

Your heart, mind and soul are in the right place. Your priorities are in alignment with your spiritual beliefs. Treat this period in your life as if you were running a marathon. At times it will feel like the end of the race will never come, but surely it will. Endure with all the temporal and spiritual tools that you have available. What feels like just surviving right now will eventually become a loving and thriving life. You will have joy in your posterity. This too shall pass! You’re doing everything right. Be patient and faithful. Rely on the Spirit for comfort, guidance and protection. Hold onto hope, and may God bless you for your faithfulness!

Dr. Elia Gourgouris is a nationally known speaker, relationship coach, and the president of With over 20 years of experience, he has inspired thousands of individuals and couples to find greater happiness and fulfillment, both in their careers and their personal lives. He holds a degree from UCLA and a Ph.D. in psychology. Dr. Gourgouris speaks to groups around the country regarding women’s issues, self esteem, communications skills, and relationships. He is also a favorite presenter at both BYU and BYU-ID Education Weeks, and Time Out for Women conferences. He is the author of “DTR: What You Need to Know Before You Get Married” and he has an upcoming CD entitled “The Multi-Platinum Marriage: Going from Just Surviving to Thriving!” He and his wife, Sona, live near Boulder, Colorado, with their children.

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.

Should I be worried about his ex?

Apr 28th, 2009 by Dr. Elia | 0

Dear Dr. Elia,

I have been dating my boyfriend for 10 months now, I love him very much and his actions show he loves and cares for me. We talk about everything and he is open and and a big communicator, unlike my ex. He is affectionate and dotes on me. He has told me on two separate occasions that his ex wife has told him she loved him. I want to say something because I am not happy with this. Should I be concerned? He has to spend time at her house from time to time because he has two kids one 11 and one 12. He says he won’t go back but I don’t know…help!


Dear Jacqui,

By the way you describe your relationship it seems like you are both very fortunate. You show your love to each other in meaningful ways and communicate about everything. I would imagine that sharing with him your concern(s) about his ex would be well received. I would ask him, why he shares with you that his ex-wife tells him she loves him. Let him know what impact those statements have on you…It might be creating unnecessary insecurity.

More than anything else you want to make sure that his feelings for her are not mutual and that he’s truly over her once and for all. Obviously they have two children together and therefore will continue to be in each other’s lives. How can he make you feel a little more secure in your relationship?

Approach him with the loving manner you’re used to and explain your feelings. This should not become a big deal…I hope you continue to enjoy your loving relationship which must be based on mutual trust. If you have love, trust and honest communication, you’ll be able to resolve anything! Let me know how it turns out…

All the best,

Elia Gourgouris Ph.D.

Still in love with my ex!

Mar 1st, 2009 by Dr. Elia | 0


Dear Dr. Elia,

I have a problem with my ex-wife. I still love her with all my heart. I never wanted to get a divorce, but I had problems telling her the truth and she wanted to move on. We still are the best of friends and celebrate holidays, birthdays, etc together. And I believe she still cares for me, but is afraid to take a risk again.

Well my question is should I move on or should I still try my best to get her trust back and love. I have changed, I now never lie to her about anything and she has admitted the great change in me herself. I realized that lies no matter how small never helped and all I was doing was pushing her away. I have always loved her and still do with all my heart and soul. And I have told her this. You should know that all most every lie small or large was mainly amount finances/money. Her family was always better off and she grow up with money, and cam e from a family with out much money and didn’t want her to think I was a failure with the money in our life.

Any advice, reading or help of any kind would greatly be appreciated.

Thank you for help,

Missing My Only Love


Dear Will,

Trust is the very foundation of any meaningful relationship, especially
marriage. It is the “rock” that can withstand and endure all the storms
of life. On the flip side, lies destroy trust and reduces the foundation
of a relationship to sand. When the storms come as they surely will, the
relationship crumbles to the sea…I feel your pain and see your regret
over the past lies that ended up costing you the most important
relationship of your life: your eternal marriage.

I am an optimist by nature and have seen many “miracles” transpire over
the last 20 years in working with couples. I have learned that with an
open mind and a willing heart, anything is possible. Clearly it sounds
like you would be ready and willing to do whatever it takes to regain
your ex-wife’s trust. The question lies with were is her heart? What if
any options do you have with her? Restoring the bonds of a true
friendship seems like a natural first step.

It looks like you enjoy each other’s company and spend quality time
celebrating holidays and birthdays together. Would it be premature to
ask her out on a date? Do you know her love languages? Do you have
children together? Perhaps you can share a little more information…it
would be helpful.

In the meantime, keep the faith and the candle burning. It would be
interesting to get her perspective as well. You might also want to read
a couple of articles that I’ve written on the site
on marriage and finances. If you have any additional questions let me
know…I’d love to see a happy ending!

Elia Gourgouris Ph.D.

Dealing with my boyfriend’s ex-wife!

Dec 25th, 2008 by Dr. Elia | 0

Dear Dr. Elia,

I have been in a relationship for 6 yrs. with my boyfriend. It has had
it’s ups & downs. But, he tells me he loves me and wants to be with me.
4 months ago his X-wife moves back to town after 8 years, and within 2
weeks he broke up with me and went back to her. After a week and half,
he calls and says he was sorry, but he had to figure out why she came
back and what she wanted and the only way for him to do that was to be
back with her..He swore he would never hurt me again and that he
realized what a mistake he had made by letting me go..I let him back in
and we are trying to fix things. But now his X-wife is calling and
texting his phone several times a day telling over & over she loves him,
that they belong together, that they are soul mates. She is also saying
that I don’t love him, I am ugly, I am a liar and that we don’t belong
together. And many more things every single day this is going on. He
says that there is nothing he can do to stop it and it is putting a
terrible strain on me, I’m not really sure about his feelings anymore.
I CAN’T TAKE IT ANYMORE !!! I do love him very much, but please tell
me…..How to handle this ?????


Dear Pam,

You must feel so betrayed and hurt by your boyfriend’s actions as of
late. You certainly cannot control his ex-wife but you CAN control your
reaction to all this unwanted stress. You basically have three options:

1) You can do nothing and continue this insanity…not a highly
recommended option, since nothing is bound to change for the better.

2 ) You can break things off with him once and for all. The good news is
that you’ll be free of this situation. You no longer have to be involved
in a relationship which brings with it such enormous baggage. The bad
news is that if you love him,it might be hard to cut the strings and end
a relationship in which you’ve invested a lot.

3 ) The only other option is to tell your boyfriend that either he takes
care of this problem (meaning his ex-wife’s intrusiveness and
rudeness)or else you’re done with him. He says there’s nothing he can do
about her mean and vindictive behavior, but that’s not really true. He
can give her an ultimatum that if she continues harassing him (and you
to some degree) that he’ll take legal action against her. Most people
don’t push it beyond the point of a restraining order.

Ultimately, the choice is yours. Just remember, that you don’t deserve
this kind of treatment. As a side note, there’s a much bigger issue:
TRUST! He betrayed your trust and that takes a long time and a lot of
hard work to overcome. Something to think about…

Good luck and let me know how it turns out.

Elia Gourgouris Ph.D.

Learning from our mistakes is key to our happiness

Dec 16th, 2008 by Dr. Elia | 0

Dear Dr. Elia,

I love to read your posts and your new column on Mormon Times. I am a 49
year old woman going through my second divorce. My two husbands left me
for younger, sexually alive women. I have a 10 year old daughter with my
second husband. The trauma of living through betrayal, rejection,
abandonment and loneliness for the third time (my father left my mother
for a younger woman when I was 9), is almost more than I can bear. I
blame myself for my father and two husbands leaving me. Logically, I
know this doesn’t make sense, but emotionally, I scour my soul to reveal
my faults that cause men to turn against me. The proverbial “elephant”
in the room is my lack of sexual desire.

My question is why do I seem to attract my dysfunctional dad in every
man I form a relationship with? I also seem to have inherited my
mother’s inability to give to a man in a deep, emotionally, intimately
and sexually bonding way. I’ve lost the three most important men in my
life, I don’t want to attract this relational disaster for the fourth
time, nor do I want to pass on the same pattern to my daughter…please
help me stop the heartbreaking chaos.

What I would really like to know is how can I get in touch with myself
so that I can give a man what he really wants. That’s my problem, I
don’t know what men really want in an enduring relationship, meaning in
a sexual way. It’s hard for me to be so honest and vulnerable but I
can’t bear to live the rest of my life alone, nor can I bear to live
through another failed relationship with a man.

This will sound bold, but what I really want to know is what pleases a
man in the bedroom? My observation is that “sex makes the world go
round” for men. I have read your previous posts and I have obtained the
book you suggested, “And They Were Not Ashamed,” and that has helped.
But I want to know from a man’s perspective, especially a man with your
background in the “Greek” culture which is known for producing centuries
of great lovers, what do men want from a woman? Don’t get me wrong, I
don’t want to sound inappropriate, I just want to get in touch with my
feminine, intimate, sexual goddess side. My husbands have told me, and I
confirm that I am dead there. Please help me wake-up inside and attract
the man of my dreams and keep him!



Dear Charis,

Going through a second divorce, especially with a child involved is
not an easy matter. It is emotionally, physically, spiritually and
financially devastating. It seems like you’ve identified the root causes
of both failed marriages. Your husbands, just like your dad have
“abandoned” you for younger women. The issue of physical intimacy and
sexuality in a marriage is of primary importance.

I’m glad you are reading the book And They Were Not Ashamed by
Laura Brotherson. From a spiritual perspective, I believe it’s the best
book out there, in dealing with intimacy in the bedroom. As you might
recall, the author quotes President Kimball as stating, “Divorces often
occur over sex…If you study the divorces, as we have had to do in
these past years, you will find there are many reasons. Generally sex is
the first. They did not get along sexually. They may not say that in
court. They may not even tell that to their attorneys, but that is the

What makes this quote so remarkable is the fact that it took place
over 30 years ago. The world today inundates men and women with sexual
images on a daily basis. The availability of pornography plus all the
other sexual outlets have changed what healthy sexuality looks like. Men
especially, expect things that a lot of women are either uncomfortable
with or unaware of. When couples fail to discuss their expectations in
the bedroom, problems inevitably arise.

It might be of benefit to receive some help on this matter, so as not to
“attract this relational disaster for the fourth time” as you say.
If you have any further questions, you may contact me directly.

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

Divorce ? After 36 years?!

Aug 5th, 2008 by Dr. Gourgouris | 0

Dear Dr. Elia,

My parents are on the brink of separation and divorce after raising 12 children and 36 years of marriage. I am the oldest child, the youngest is almost 16 and the next youngest is on a mission. It’s a tragedy and needless to say this is having a big effect on me. I’m trying to distance myself from everything and not let it bring me and my own family down.

I need some help communicating with my parents, my siblings, my husband and children, as well as help dealing with my own sadness, anger, and disappointment. If you could give me any advice, what would you say to me?


Dear Carrie,

Regardless of how old we are, the thought of our parents getting a divorce (especially after 36 years of marriage) can be overwhelming! Our whole sense of stability of what we have known to be true is shaken to its core. Being the oldest of 12 siblings brings you to a unique position in terms of responsibility. Even with your position in the family and the sense of responsibility that you must have carried all these years, try to be mindful that each one of your siblings will have their own reaction to your parents decision. Shock, surprise, anger, sadness, disappointment, denial, acceptance, and relief might be some of these VERY human emotions and reactions.

It will take time to process their decision and its ramifications to your own immediate family, as well as that of your siblings. The effect on the youngest who’s at home versus someone older that has their own children versus the one serving a mission presents multiple concerns. Do you tell the missionary sibling now, or do you wait until the mission is over? Does the 16 year old spend more time with mom or dad? Who ultimately makes such a decision? The courts, the divorcing parents, or the young man/woman?

The key ingredient to surviving this “tragedy” as you call it is the type of support you have from your family (including husband, kids, siblings and other extended family and friends.) It is always helpful to talk to someone who has successfully navigated the emotional ups and downs of their own parents’ divorce. Also counsel with any church leaders that you feel a certain comfort with. If it still overwhelms you to the point of having it affect your daily life, then perhaps seeking a counselor would be a good idea.

In the end, always remember that He is well aware of your family’s circumstances and He will always be there for you. Lastly, I have seen miraculous things happen with couples that have even filed for divorce and were ready to sign the final papers. Hearts have been healed, forgiveness extended and eternal families have been preserved. Never give up hope!

God bless you and your family,

Elia Gourgouris Ph.D

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