The time when relationship counselors spent all of their workdays with cheating husbands and heartbroken wives is over.
“It is such a stereotype out there that men are the only ones who cheat,” Jeanie Tucker said. “I have seen probably equal as far as men and women. There could be a bias there, in that men who cheat are less likely to come to counseling, but with the couples I’ve seen, it’s been about 50-50.”
Tucker, 30, who grew up in Lockport, is a licensed mental health counselor who specializes in couples counseling but also works with individuals. She and her husband, Eric, 37, a Niagara-Wheatfield school district health teacher, have a son, Gavin, who is 8 months old.
The couple were raised in nurturing households. Both sets of parents have had long, successful marriages, said Tucker, who learned even more about what it takes to build and maintain healthy relationships while studying psychology as an undergraduate at the University at Buffalo, and at Medaille College for her master’s degree, which she received in 2008.
She has worked as a behavioral specialist at Rivershore Inc. in Niagara County since graduating from UB, and in January became one of about a dozen therapists who use the Counseling Corner in the South Sheridan Meadows Corporate Park in Amherst to see clients on their own. You can reach her through her website, jeanietucker.wix.com/lmhc.
When it comes to couples counseling – which makes up about two-thirds of her growing practice – infidelity, miscommunication and a feeling that one partner doesn’t appreciate the other are often the reasons her clients come in for a seat on the tan leather couch. Sometimes, all three issues are involved, Tucker said.
“I especially like working with couples,” she said, “and I like working with self-esteem issues because they can play a part in so many other areas of a person’s life – with their relationships, their mental health, depression and anxiety.”
What happens when you let relationship issues fester?
They don’t go away. When these things aren’t resolved – when that underlying communications issue isn’t resolved – you see it come up in a daily way and it usually tends to get worse. It just builds and the resentment builds, and the trust and all the things that are the foundation of a healthy relationship tend to erode.
If a partner tells you, ‘You know what, I don’t really want to work on this relationship,’ or says, ‘We don’t really need to see a counselor,’ can you do something this hard on your own?
If you want to work on your marriage or relationship and your partner is still in it but won’t come to a counselor, then you come by yourself. We talk about what you can do on your own to start contributing to a healthier relationship, what you can take home to work with your partner. The hope is that eventually your partner may see these things working and be more willing to come.
I also work with couples to make sure they’re expressing appreciation for one another. That comes down to not taking each other for granted: ‘I really appreciate you doing the dishes the other night without me even asking,’ little things like that …
The last thing is spending time together, spending time that’s positive, doing things you both enjoy, doing things the other person enjoys and vice versa, and creating positive memories together. Those are really the things that unite a couple and keep them strong.
While growing up, my dad (Bob Hursey) was very calm and secure and very happy, an easygoing guy, very easy to approach when I had a problem, very calm and logical in helping me to sort it out. He always made me feel important because he was present at every recital or anything else I had going on, even if it was a golf day. I can tell my husband is going to be the same way. He’s very invested, very hands-on.
When you’re the father of an 8-month-old, how do you show you’re invested? Does that mean changing diapers and getting up in the middle of the night?
Yes, absolutely. And he does. It’s just playing, too. You can play with an 8-month-old. He sits him on the floor and plays with him, and has him in his lap while he’s doing things. He carries him outside even to go bring in the garbage (tote). He’s a very hands-on dad. I think that’s not going to change.
On the Web: Why do people cheat and how can counselors help undo the damage? Read more at blogs.buffalonews.com/refresh