he said, she said: couples therapy starts now

We’re starting couples therapy today.
Finally. I’m looking forward to crying, fighting, and feeling like shit afterward. It’s what always happens. It’s much like a facial that way: it leaves you all swollen and angry looking, but you know it’s for a long term good. The real question? Where do we even begin?



  1. So I've been reading this site for about 3 years now, and I'm a big fan. However as a writer I have to agree with Phil that if you can't handle criticism that has positive AND negative aspects to it, you shouldn't expose your fledgling idea to outside opinions.

    On the other hand, I'm with you that Phil needs to find gentler, and more specific ways to give negative criticism. Instead of "that's stupid" he should think of something he likes about the idea (or better yet, two things) and then ask questions about whether YOU think it might come off cliche, or whether YOU think it might come off as unrealistic, or whatever. Teach him a gentler way to give negative feedback, and then don't throw a hissy fit when he doesn't praise you.

    I think relationship communication can be very hard on men who are with artsy, creative women, especially if those women are more emotionally articulate than they are. But in a calm, non-confrontational moment, you might want to go over ways he can point out weaknesses in your writing or ideas without making you go ballistic. He shouldn't have to lie to you– it will just make him lose respect for you. And you shouldn't ask for his opinions if you can't handle them. BUT– I think you two need to discuss ways to respectfully communicate that, well, he thinks your idea doesn't work. If I have a newborn idea, I don't share it with anyone until I get to know it better. Once I have enough confidence to really examine it without it getting hurt in the process, that's when I look for criticism and opinions.

    Good luck to you both!

  2. I think you're a cute couple, and I hope you get everything you need out of it. By the way; is Lucas all fine and dandy now?

  3. The thing is, I can OBVIOUSLY handle criticism, especially when it's in the spirit of genuinely helping. I've expressed many times to Phil that I value his opinions and look to him for his input, or I wouldn't bother asking. However, if he thinks I can improve something, believes I'm being cliche, thinks it's just a horrible idea, I've told him I need him to treat the idea like a child. As in, encourage, try to steer me in a direction. I think criticism is absolutely valuable, that we can learn and improve with it. But telling me, "it's a stupid idea, it's moronic. You sell yourself short. You always take the easy way out…" it doesn't help. In fact, it hurts. It makes me temporarily want to give up instead of working on new solutions and being excited to tackle the challenge. No matter how much I say this, it never ever changes.

  4. Has Phil done therapy before?

    He might want to think about doing some one-on-one therapy (without you in the room) in addition to the couples therapy. If for no other reason, it would give him someplace to rant and rave about his wife to someone who's getting paid for the effort.

    I did my three years of therapy while my soon-to-be-ex-wife was out of the country, but if she had been home and we'd been doing couples therapy I still would have wanted the separate time.

  5. I know what I posted the other day about the girl who got asked to marry and said no, isn't at all helpful. But damn. It's why I won't ever get married again. Couples counseling killed my marriage. No, no – not true. It was dead, Fred, before that. Couples counseling provided the proverbial nails for the proverbial coffin.

    I hope you're getting there in time – good luck, and I'm glad you're prepared for heart-wrenching, excruciating pain. Peeling off skin is more fun.

  6. Lucas's benign cyst, the one that they believed caused his hydrocephalus, the one they thought they'd need to operate on… went away on its own. So now, he goes once a year, just to make sure it doesn't/hasn't come back. The kid is the sweetest, kindest, easygoing soul I know. (Doesn't take after Phil or me).

  7. I fucking love The Phil. And yes he deserves an article before his name.
    You look like you're going to tell fortunes at the boardwalk…
    but it's adorable! I could never in a million year pull off scarf chic. It's one of those things you can or REALLY can not.

    This is cute and congratulations on working hard on your marriage. :)

  8. i totally hear what you're saying. of course you value your husbie's input and opinion, otherwise you wouldn't go out there and ask him for it. and it's not as though you need him to bow down to you, tell you everything you write is wonderful and sugar coat things, but let's face it, there is a hell of a lot more gentle, caring, and kind way of getting a point across than "that's moronic." i'd completely shut down if i heard that. it would make me feel like a failure. fine, maybe he's trying to say that what you wrote isn't your best, not to waste your time, but there's a caring way to get this same point accross, yanno?

    i think it's great you're both going to work on these issues together. best of luck to you, and looking forward to hearing how it all goes.

  9. anony calls him "The Phil". Can I just tell you, I always nick name people I really like, or really don't like, and I think "The Phil" works for me too!! Love The Phil! My daugther, is dating an idiot, who happens to share the same name, and unfortunatly, he's earned the moniker "Phil the Pill"!

    I've got to toss in my two cents with the counseling…I think in general it's a great and constructive thing, once you remove the bandaid and clean out the wound…whoever said peeling off skin is more fun, cracked me up too.
    But bottom line here Stephanie, constructive nurturing criticism…is that that man loves you like no other. No matter what is said or done in therapy or home on the couch, know, that from the outside, we see it clearly, and from his limited posts and video's here, we hear it clearly. You two are a match, warts and all :)

  10. Do you think Phil could handle some criticism about his shirt? What is a grown man doing wearing something like that? It's tacky and immature. I know teenage boys who wouldn't wear that. 2006 called, they want their message T back.

  11. Good luck with the couples therapy, and at least you care enough to give it a try. You are right about it being an emotional train wreck . But let me ask you this; what feels better relatively speaking crawling into a warm bed on a cold winder night, or sticking your burnt finger under icy cold water?

    My point is you never know how good you feel until you've felt BAD.

  12. I hope you find a good therapist that doesn't allow either one of you to dominate the conversation. The fundamental flaw in couple's therapy is that you both will bring your laundry list of what you're not getting from the other, what the other one is doing wrong (aka how they are flawed). It's easy to hide behind those lists rather than putting the other person's needs first and celebrating the differences in the other person that make you stronger as a unit. I dunno, couple's therapy wasn't helpful to my marriage.

  13. You should feel so blessed that you are with a man who is honest with you – especially after what the Wasband put you through. Yes it may be painful at times but I can't imagine that you have never said anything hurtful towards him or something he feels is his "child." Go into this openly – look for an opportunity to grow and not to point fingers. I would far rather have a husband who I knew was endlessly proud of me, touted my accomplishments to the world and felt that I was a strong enough artist that he could help me grow than a bunch of anonymous critics on your blog that you can delete at whim and a husband who couldn't tell me how he really felt. I know it's harder to see when you are "in" it. Good luck.

  14. I'm a fan of couples therapy!!! My husband and I go every other week (we were weekly for awhile in the beginning due to some BIG issues). But anyway -many people, including therapists, say that once you have to go to counseling it's too late. Don't buy into that crap. It can and will help if you invest in it. It's saved us!

    Word of advice:(if you want one)most men, whether they say it or not, will not be as comfortable or feel as open with a woman therapist. Relax. Have fun. Don't go in with expectations either..even that you'll cry or feel bad. Expectations are just premeditated resentments. If you have your heart set on talking about one issue and end up not discussing it you may end up feeling upset when the issue that you do talk about can be even more beneficial than you would have ever thought! Wow – did that make sense? LOL

  15. I'm so le jealous. I would LOVE to do couples counseling! Not necessarily because my marriage is rocky, but to have a referee there in place to tell us what we can change during our disagreements (le fights), how we can better communicate with each other during some of our hot topics, how I shouldn't twist everything around so everything is his fault, and how he doesn't have to have everything his way all the effin' time.

    Ok. I lie a little. I just want someone to witness what an absolute prick my husband can be sometimes. God, I love him though. So much it hurts. Even if he does call me psycho. Which I'm not. I swear. And it's his fault if I am.

  16. Phil's shirt aside, this is the best post I have seen on here in a long time. i could not help but think of you when they were critiquing "Lil Rounds" on American Idol, telling her she lost her true organic voice. This is what you are great at lady, the good, the bad, the ugly of relationships. The other shite that has been filling this blog (along with the ads that cause my computer to crash) has got to go.

  17. I agree! The man is 45. Time to grow up. Douchy t-shirts are for college kids!

  18. I normally love, love Phil, but why is it that YOU are insecure just because you want to be encouraged? It's as if he's saying the problem is with you, the problem is yours. That ain't fair, dude!

    Also, someone once told me that if you want to share something in a marriage and the content or situation borders on something sensitive, then you just have to precede it with "i'm going to tell you about that idea now, just listen, support, k"? and take a quick second to do that before going off on the idea or sentiment, well this should help. It's kinda annoying because as women, most of us don't want to have to give such disclaimers all the time. We want to be magically "got." And it's not very natural or spontaneous, either.

    I sense that Phil thinks you're too coddled or something. But it isn't right for him to offer the amount of support that HE deems is sufficient or necessary. Within reason, shouldn't be be offering that amount of support that YOU state you need?

    I dunnooo…don't listen to me.. just thinking aloud..

  19. Seriously, I didn't get any of what either of you were saying because I was entirely focused on Phil's shirt that said "I MAKE GOOD BABIES". Holy S – I think I almost wet myself! Good times!

  20. Male perspective: I was resistant to Couples Therapy at first. But we interviewed a few, found one we were really comfortable with, and it really helped us through some major issues. We go once a month now for maintenance sessions, and I look forward to them. Picking one you both feel comfortable with is key.

  21. Okay…see I saw the shirt and thought, "Oh, they're going to do a funny skit about couple's therapy!"

    So I'm sitting there, watching and waiting for the punchline, which obviously never came.

    So I guess I'd have to say the shirt's no good.

  22. oh lighten up! who died and made you guys the fashion police?
    mya, you need to eat a dick, and share it with A (stands for ass i assume).

    stephanie, love the scarf and this new bit you've started "he said, she said."
    and phil: yes you do make good babies!

  23. Umm… can i say that I found it kinda cute! Life would be so boring is someone didnt call you a moron now and then. My fiance is the kind who NEVER fights or sulks, or calls my ideas stupid. I like a good fight..and the good make up seex that comes later.

    Good luck with the couples therapy. I have been following your blog for years and so want the two of you to make it.

  24. So you people take this video seriously? That's some kind of comedy-sketch or at least an extreme exaggeration of things that possibly could go on in a couple's life. I mean, seriously: Who would behave or say things like that?

    That obnoxious T-Shirt is another clue, and really: Look at Stephanie!

  25. You guys are adorable!
    May you have many, many more years together.
    Loved! Phil's shirt.
    He's funny.

  26. Wow. I had no idea you had so many fashion police on your blog. To focus on his t-shirt and your scarf….THATS what they got out of this, truly!??

  27. Love the shirt! It's good that both of you have a sense of humor.

    Ditto on what others have said about finding a good therapist; it's important. It does work, but you've got to give it time…more than 2 or 3 sessions. It takes years to build up bad relationship habits, and they don't get resolved in 2 or 3 sessions.

    It seems like you're trying to get Phil to be something more for you than what he can provide. Sometimes, we put our mates in a position where it's not fair on the relationship. For instance, men sometimes put their wives in a position to be their "buddy" and women sometimes put their husbands in a position to be their "girlfriend". Maybe you're expecting Phil to react and respond in a way that you would want a girlfriend to be…caring, compassionate, empathetic, supportive, criticism in a certain way.

    Not that Phil's not capable of that, but just not for the type of support you need in this particular situation. It's especially challenging because the both of you work together at home and don't have the interaction of coworkers in an office or work group. This isn't really fair to Phil because he is going to react & respond in his own way and you're expecting a different kind of support.

    I'd say that it would be good for both of you to not expect your partner to be your "everything". I also think it would be good if you found another support/feedback source for your work, which would take the stress off of Phil by expecting him to be something else, and take the stress off of the tension as a result. I always believe that if you know what's going to happen, don't set yourself up for failure.

  28. Seeing as how Stephanie posts videos of the two of them arguing on a website where any criticism of Stephanie is quickly denounced as coming from a "hater!!" – I can see why Phil might feel she is "coddled."

  29. Does this "he said she said" series strike anyone else as an enormously bad idea? What's the point exactly? What are Phil and Stephanie hoping to get out of it? I would imagine Stephanie is hoping that everyone on her blog will agree with her (judging from the way she looks at the camera at one point with an expression of "can you guys BELIEVE him?!). It's tacky at best and very unhealthy at worst.

  30. That said, I am a HUGE proponent of therapy – I only have experience going on my own but would think couples therapy would be great for many couples. I think it's a very healthy thing to do – just taking care of yourselves. Good luck with it! You seem like a good couple from the outside, I just can't relate to the video-posting. :)

  31. I can't see the video, but from the general comment stream, I would suggest making work off limits for comment. Do you tell Phil how to run a hedge fund or if he's doing a good job at his job? Then why should he do the reverse? Now, if you're asking for comments, in my opinion, you get what you deserve… as my ex used to say "Don't ask the question if you won't like the answer." I have exactly one friend I can ask for advice/ comments on my writing, and even then, I prefer to leave it to editors than to ruin a good friendship or relationship asking someone to criticize my "child".

  32. Wow Michelle! You take this stuff very seriously. I think it's very sad that you would post such a cruel comment as "eat a dick" That very statement spoke volumes about your own maturity. And I'm not sure why Stephanie would allow the post. I've read a lot of cruel comments on this blog, but that one is probably the worst. There is a vast difference between telling someone their shirt is douchy and a woman telling another woman to "eat a dick"

  33. oh anne, take your self-righteousness and stick it up your ass. really, have you got nothing better to do with time?

    going to someone's website only to leave comments insulting the author or in this case her husband is rude. and yeah, they should go eat a dick!

  34. Never saw this blog before or heard of your book. But love both (at least that cover), now that I'm here.

    Somebody linked over to my post on premarital therapy, which is why I'm here.

    Anyway, hopefully that isn't a clip of how your real life therapy goes, no offense. So many things wrong there.

    Like (a) you should be looking into each other's eyes, and (b) you should be looking into each other's eyes.

    And there's a c-z, but my 2:30 is waiting for me.

  35. Oy. I haven't read through the comments yet but I'm betting you have some doozies. Again, Phil carries himself well on camera and you carry yourself well on camera next to him. You strike me as more "real" when you're sitting next to him, and though he can be critical (how would he react if you told him one of his ideas was stupid? Is he open in receiving that type of criticism?) he does seem to bring out the raw in you. You two seem to compliment each other well, even if you do bicker.

    P.S. I freakin' love that you posted this video.

  36. Yeah I like The Phil too!
    I can understand both of your perspectives. I used too be like Phil – "that´s a stupid/moronic" idea – with everyone, including my loved ones, IF I felt it was. Just because I felt they deserved my honest opinion.
    I´ve changed though, learned to be more careful. I think it is quite possible to be honest and bring your point across without lying AND without trampling all over someone. Yes, I still hate to sugarcoat, and I don´t do it for most people, but more than sugarcoating do I hate to hurt my partner, family, friends.
    I understand his way of wanting to push you further, just BECAUSE he believes in you and your talent.
    But I believe it would just take a few more words; more carefully selected words.

  37. The first thing I noticed about the two of you were how you were sitting. You brought your body forward and kept looking back at him. Any body language experts out there?

  38. stephanie, i'm sorry but i think you should have married the guy in your first book that you referred to as "celery." i'm marrying celery and it's good. he supports me. there's give and take.

  39. Holy body language! Stephanie, the way you are leaning away from Phil–either you were having back problems that day or you were really uncomfortable sitting with him and discussing this issue. Not that I'd blame you. Wishing you the best…

  40. Christ on a cross! Take a freakin' chill pill, Michelle.

    Eat a dick? You can do better than that, right? When your mom/sibling/friend says something you don't like, is that your response to them? And then in the next breath, you're somehow the judge of what's to be considered rude? You, hunny, took rude to a whole new level.

    And since you re-replied to a comment, let's not throw "have you got nothing better to do with time" stones, shall we? Cause you're living in a two-story glass house.


  41. the entire video I thought Stephanie was wearing a tiara.

    how fitting.

  42. I agree with Phil. Saying something is stupid IS opinion and can even be constructive. It sounds like you almost want to silence him from voicing his opinions when they aren't what you want to hear or voiced in the way you would like.

    I do think you are sensitive to criticism more than the norm based on what you share about you and Phil and based on your blog. I have seen you attack some commenters pretty strongly before when you've been criticized. You don't do this much or maybe at all now but in the past I remember it was pretty frequent actually whre you'd pretty vicously attack commenters. And even a few times when I've submitted comments that were written respectfully but pointed out a criticism of you they were not published. It made me think that you want to control what others say about you. Maybe you do the same with Phil.

    He's entitled to think your idea is stupid. If you don't want to hear that maybe you shouldn't share your ideas with him. It would be nice if he might find nicer wording for his views but would that really change things for you? I don't think it's his responsiblity to treat your ideas like a child. If you're that sensitive about them it's probably better to not share them but you're asking him to walk on eggshells and sugarcoat. I would feel the same way as he says he does. If you ask someone their opinion it doesn't make much sense to dictate how their opinion should be expressed and what direction it should take.

    Sometimes the truth hurts, but it can help us grow too. If your husband can't tell you the truth/his truth who can?

    I wish you the best of luck in counseling. I think you two are cute together and I like Phil from waht I see of him. Hopefully your communication issues and pushing each others' buttons can be worked out and you can have more harmony in your relationship.

  43. OK, so I love you so much I want to adopt you Stephanie.

    And I have talked to Phil on the phone and he is a real keeper.

    So here is my 2 cents:

    -Phil, a great friend who has been happily married for 25 years (and is still very strongly in physical/emotional/intellectual lust with his wife) said that after his first 5 years of marriage with some ups and downs, he learned of the "Platinum Rule." The Golden Rule says do unto others as you would have them do unto you (or something like that). The Platinum Rule says "do unto others as they would do unto themselves." Translation: all that matters is that you love your wife the way SHE needs to be loved. And she needs to do the same for you. So if you like her to give you feedback in a no holds barred "That sucked Phil, and you are a total loser for even thinking that thought," that will work. And if you allow her to share her ideas with you and hold back on some true for you but biting for her language (stupid, moronic and idiotic are off-limits) you will end up with a happy wife.

    Stephanie, to you I would say do your best to improve your relationship with Phil, AND expand your circle of people who you can share your ideas with that will give you feedback in the manner you desire. It is hard to live and work with your husband, as I find myself (being married to an entrepreneur). I find that I get many of my creative needs met with great partners and pals, and leave the real "hubbie only" needs to my husband.

    You are both such funny, smart and interesting people, and I am sure great parents, so for the sake of the world, I hope you find ways to find peace and joy in your relationship in addition to passion.

    I'm here if you need me! I listen with no judgment. ;)


  44. I can just say one thing…Couples Therapy worked like magic for me and my husband. It has brought back happiness, peace and love to our relationship.Couple Therapy is really great.

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