The One Thing My Marriage Counselor Said That Completely Freaked Me Out

It was a nod to my in-law's relationship.

woman with shocked face in front of therapist Photoroyalty | Shutterstock

My husband and I were chatting. It was a conversation we had occasionally over the years. It was in relation to my fascination with how his Dad treated his Mother.

"I don’t get it," I said. "Look at how your Father treats your Mother."

"I don’t know what to tell you," said my husband.

"But it’s bewildering," I said. "That you don’t treat me the same way. Your Father literally puts your Mother on a pedestal."


My husband was not phased.

Again, I was fascinated. My husband grew up watching a man who adored his wife and wanted nothing but her happiness. Why wouldn’t he model some of that behavior?

It was not unusual to hear my Father-in-law say things like, "As long as she’s happy" or "Whatever she wants." 

He would brag about his wife. "She looked younger than any other woman there" or "She’s the smartest woman I know."

Their personalities were cavernously different.

My Father-in-law was a confident joyful guy who wanted nothing more than for everyone around him to be happy. He lived for his family and constantly bragged about his children. He was a man of few needs and treated everyone he met with respect.


My Mother-in-law was quite different.

I would say she was complicated.

But my Father-in-law thought he won the lottery. He was realistic and he saw certain things but his love for her overrode all of it. There were times when she could be unkind and it would hit me with surprise despite it not being entirely uncommon.

He wouldn’t say a word while he witnessed it.

Later, when it was just he and I watching television, he would make the same comment.

"You know," he would say. "She’s had a hard life."

He would randomly make that comment. We wouldn’t talk about what had transpired or how hurtful it had been. He would just say that one single thought at times like these.


It was my Father-in-law’s way of caring for me enough to acknowledge what he had witnessed. But his devotion to his wife made him continually have her back. 

Honestly, I didn’t completely understand it.

The hard life to which he was speaking had happened in her youth. Her entire adult life had been incredibly blessed.

Not to mention, I hadn’t grown up conventionally either. I was the child of a single mother after my own father had left.

But my Father-in-law put my Mother-in-law on a pedestal.

Even if she routinely knocked him off of one.

One day I was sitting in my marriage counselor’s office.

By this time, my husband was refusing to return to counseling.


I decided to go by myself. I felt it was my only recourse. I was unwilling to give up completely. I wanted to learn about myself and why I had made the relationship choices I’d made.

I can’t even remember exactly what I said to my marriage counselor.

Because what he said to me was so jarring I don’t remember what preceded it. 

"Colleen," he said. "You put your husband on a pedestal."


I was speechless.

Holy cow, I thought to myself. No wonder my husband didn’t put me on a pedestal.

I was like his Father. In many ways, I already knew the similarities between my Father-in-law and me. I was incredibly bonded to his entire extended family because of it. 

I was putting my husband on a pedestal.

And yes, you guessed it.

My husband was routinely knocking me off of one. 

Colleen Sheehy Orme is a national relationship columnist, journalist, and former business columnist. She writes about love, life, relationships, family, parenting, divorce, and narcissism.