Marriage is amazing and life changing. At the same time, I believe marriage is the single most difficult relationship in the world! You take two people from different families, with different perceptions of self, different ways of parenting, different goals and dreams, different financial backgrounds and family rules, different ways of handling conflict, with different styles of communication, and you have a recipe for unacknowledged and unmet expectations which can lead to difficulty or even disaster!
Married couples come to me for many reasons:
- Their marriage is basically over
- They just feel like roommates sharing the same house
- There’s either been an affair, pornography, alcohol or drug use, or financial problems
- They realize they have poor or destructive communication skills
- They just do not feel “in love” with each other anymore
Some couples come to me in such distress that they have lost or are losing the hope that they will ever be happy in their marriage again. A wall of resentment has built up between them due to not knowing how to successfully resolve conflicts and differences in a loving and effective way that reconnects them when they get disconnected.
I see my purpose as helping couples learn how to communicate, work through their differences and expectations, and ultimately find their marriage once again exciting, supportive, and rewarding. I help couples understand their differences in a way that is caring and loving that builds a truly great relationship. As resentment and anger decrease and compassion and humility increase, couples will experience connection, deeper intimacy, trust, and hope in their relationship. I help couples move from criticism, defensiveness, and resentment to a place of extending humility and compassion for each other. It’s really incredible to see a couple begin to “get it” and celebrate as hope re-enters their marriage.
Let’s look at some specific areas I focus on with married couples.
Lack of communication or inefficient communication between partners is an important area to develop in marital counseling. Perhaps early in the relationship communication was natural and easy, but now communication has become more difficult or non-existent. This leads to hurt feelings, resentment, and a very disconnected marriage. Fortunately, these communication issues can usually be remedied.
When the romance of the marriage stops “carrying” the marriage, the marriage relies on the couple’s ability to communicate and resolve conflicts. Since we don’t usually learn how to do this very well by watching our parents, new connection and communication techniques have to be learned. One of the most rewarding areas of counseling to me is helping couples reconnect and begin communicating in a healthy way.
From new couples to people who have been married 20 or more years, it’s natural for conflicts to build up over time. Usually we either shut them down or stuff the issue as an avoidance tactic or we argue the matter in an effort to win, be right, or more importantly, not lose and/or not be wrong! Whether we come from great families or broken ones, we’re usually not taught how to resolve conflicts peacefully and in a way that benefits the relationship. We are going to have conflicts! So, our relationships need us to become calm and mature in dealing with conflicts. And, our conflicts need to be resolved in a way that is safe, builds trust, intimacy, and connection without the fear of being hurt emotionally.
Partners can feel attacked and might become defensive, interrupt each other, and want to rationalize or justify their behavior. We often learn, growing up, to plan our counter attack while our partner is letting us know where we’ve failed to love them well… all while failing to listen well. Most couples know that what they’re doing isn’t working, but don’t know what to do to make it better. Couples begin to feel disconnected, become filled with anxiety, and are afraid that their marriage will never meet their needs or expectations again.
As a former conflict avoider myself, I understand how important it is to learn and use this skill. Conflicts will arise in a relationships and learning to resolve conflicts in a healthy way helps couples feel supported and accepted. I truly believe the gateway to intimacy and a successful marriage is through peaceful, healthy conflict resolution.
Nothing can turn a person’s world upside down like discovering their spouse partner has been having an affair. The hurt, anger, and fear are overwhelming. It’s hard to concentrate, sleep, or even sit still. The mind keeps going over and over the details wanting more truth and information, yet fearing the answers. Recovering from an affair is probably the most difficult couples issue there is. Trust has been broken, respect has been lost, and hope is at an all-time low in the relationship. It’s hard to know what you should believe anymore. It’s common to have questions like, “can I ever trust him or her again?” or “how can he say he loves me and be having an affair at the same time?” racing through your mind. And what about the kids? How will they make it through a divorce? Nothing seems to make sense anymore. There is hope!
I believe taking the time and effort to do the initial work needed to stabilize a relationship that is suffering from an affair is critical. For this reason, affair recovery is not typical couples counseling and should not be treated typically. I have found it imperative to work with the couple through a very specific process to stabilize their marriage. I take couples through an affair recovery process heavily influenced by the book, Torn Asunder, by Dave Carder. This is the most effective process I’ve ever seen. The first sessions are designed to understand what caused the marriage to deteriorate to a place where an affair seems like a viable option. The remaining sessions are devoted to building a healthy and meaningful marriage. Couples that go through this process usually understand the “why” of the affair, realize how their marriage was vulnerable to the affair, and learn how to build a healthy, faithful marriage. There is hope for marriages that have suffered from an affair. I enjoy getting to see marriages survive and thrive that were once crippled by one or more affairs.