The Short Version: Many married couples have dealt with affairs, but Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist Melody Brooke strives to work with them to resolve issues before infidelity occurs. Her married clients visit her to help reverse what seems like an inevitable path to divorce. For those who are newly single, Melody offers advice for navigating the modern online dating scene. In addition, Melody hosts couples events and interactive workshops for mature women who are ready to find romance and live their best lives.
While the divorce rate in America has fluctuated between 40% and 50% over the last few decades, research shows that it’s becoming less common among young adults. However, gray divorce — older couples divorcing after long-term marriages — is actually on the rise. The divorce rate has doubled among U.S. adults over the age of 50 since the 1990s.
Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist Melody Brooke, who’s also a Licensed Professional Counselor with a master’s degree, said there’s one common issue she sees in the couples who visit her.
“I’m seeing a lot of affairs. What seems to happen with social media is that people have far more access to other people,” she said. “Your partner doesn’t know all the interactions you’re having, so it’s a door that’s easy to open. Even if you don’t really intend it, it can offer inroads where you don’t expect them, leading to emotional or romantic affairs.”
It’s a topic that comes up often in her private practice, but Melody focuses on the idea that couples can work through the issues at the root of problems and find common ground instead of getting divorced.
Melody said she’s found that any time a person has stepped outside of a relationship to find love, there’s a void they’re looking to fill. The goal of couples therapy is to identify where the emotional or relationship void is and determine a method for filling it.
“If you can address what the emotional or relationship void is, you can sort it out and say, ‘OK, let’s look at the precursor and why you went that route instead of addressing it with your partner and sort through it from there,’” she said.
Helping Married Clients Reconsider Getting a Divorce
Melody said she frequently meets with couples who have worked with other therapists who have told them they’re a lost cause. However, she believes that no couple is irredeemable. Sometimes, couples can turn a corner just by reading her book, aptly titled, “Oh, Wow, This Changes Everything!”
“It’s shifting your thinking about what is happening between you. Once you do that, it can change how you perceive what is going on,” she said. “I’ve had some awesome experiences with people who have anxiety or OCD. Because, many times, that is driven by negative self-talk, and they don’t understand how to shift their belief system about themselves.”
According to Melody, how we’re raised is how we end up treating ourselves. If someone is raised in an environment where they are made to feel inadequate, they typically grow up with pre-set ideas, and they treat themselves like that the rest of their lives.
The goal of working with a therapist is to change the way you approach your life — either by changing the way you think of yourself or your approach to romantic relationships.
“It’s important to get help and sort out what happened so you can make a different choice and enter the next relationship in a different place, mentally,” she said. “That is important because you see people divorcing, remarrying, and divorcing again and making the same mistake every time. If they could find their center and their value as a human being, they can make better choices and have a more satisfying life.”
Navigating the Online Dating Scene Often Requires Guidance
Social media has proven to be what Melody calls a “constant threat” to dating and relationships — and not just because it presents an opportunity for cheating, she explained. Sometimes, the problem is when one spouse is on social media all the time.
“That, by itself, creates distance in the relationship because it builds a wall up where you’re sitting in the same room, but you’re on Facebook and some kind of social media interaction platform and not interacting with your partner,” she said. “It’s easy to get sucked into it because it’s interesting, it’s time-consuming, it can take you out of your feelings, it can be very addictive. That has been something I’ve seen, where it’s come to a point when couples come to see me, it’s the first thing I’ll address because it’s often such a big issue for people.”
Melody recommends that couples make quality time — like at the beginning of dinner or when you first come home from work — a priority. If you want to be engaged on social media, she recommends you share what you’re looking at with your loved one so they can feel included.
If a relationship has failed, a client can come to Melody as newly single and get help to navigate the current dating scene.
“A lot of times, it’s been 20 or 30 years since they’ve been out there and things have changed an awful lot since then. I help them navigate this new world,” she said. “A lot of dating sites are filled with people trying to get money from you somehow. When people are hurting after a separation or lonely after being together with someone for a long time, they can be vulnerable to somebody who seems to connect with them emotionally and then suddenly says, ‘I’m having a rough spot can you help me out?’”
Melody helps those clients prepare for that, because, while a situation may look attractive on the surface, that doesn’t mean you should hand out money.
In the Future: More Retreats for Couples and Mature Women
Continuing her mission to help couples avoid divorce and reconnect, Melody recently held a successful couples retreat and plans to hold the one-day event every other month. These experiential workshops start with a warmup to get relaxed and comfortable before she introduces concepts from her educational models. Individual couples then take part in exercises that help integrate the ideas into the day-to-day lives.
“People can come in and completely shift how they experience their relationships,” she said. “I go through the model with them, but then I give them experiential processes through which they can experience the difference.”
In March 2019, she plans to host a new workshop called “Dancing with Flow: Designing the Second Half of Your Life.” It’s for older women who are finding themselves searching for the meaning of the next phase of life.
“Part of what I want to do is help people find their joy and find something in their life that gives them meaning.” — Melody Brooke, Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist
“I’m in that place myself. My kids are grown, and my parents are gone. I feel like I have a life that’s meaningful, but I talk to a lot of women who are going through a transition and don’t know what they want out of their lives,” Melody said.
Helping others find meaning in their lives motivates Melody, who loves what she’s doing. She said she’s particularly lucky because she’s seen so many people go to work every day at jobs that don’t bring them any satisfaction.
“Part of what I want to do is help people find their joy and find something in their life that gives them meaning,” she said. “Because meaning is far more important than happiness. Meaning gives you satisfaction, and when you look back at the end of your life, that’s what is more significant for you. I feel like my job has a lot of meaning.”