If you love someone, the greatest gift you can give them is your presence."
- Thich Nhat Hanh
Ask an expert.
Many clinicians will do couples' work in their practice, but it may not be their specialty. Not only do I offer couples' therapy, it's my expertise, my passion, and the reason I became a psychologist. The Couples Institute Training Seal (see below) is given to therapists who've completed training in “The Developmental Model of Couples Therapy.” This course is one of many resources of skill-building and knowledge I continue to acquire in the more than fourtheen years of couples' focused training I have done. I attend conferences, use online resources, read books, and never stop learning to further develop my expertise in this challenging and most meaningful niche.
The question I'm often asked is: "So, if you're a couples' therapist, do you bring your work home and do you have a perfect marriage?"
My clinical work and relationship expertise does help strengthen my relationship with my incredible partner and husband of more than 12+ years. Being married to a relationship expert does not make our marriage perfect. It does, however, give us the gift of knowledge and communication skills to support our relationship. Navigating life's challenges is much easier with skills and a partner whom I truly love. We have our good days and our not-so-good days, but we are always committed to learning more, trying harder, and choosing each other every single day.
I help both individuals and couples in any relationship stage. Whether you're thinking about getting married, have been together two years, or 20 years, the marriage skills I equip couples with in a minimum of just six sessions create easy and enduring positive changes to keep them not only together, but happier.
My clients often tell me that the skills learned in our work have profound effects on all areas of their lives. They improve their intimate relationships or marriages, and they also increase the quality other relationships in their lives and in their workplace.
Happily ever after?
Couples spend a year or so planning their wedding, but many neglect to build the right tools and foundation to maintain a happy and loving marriage. So what's the secret? How do you create and maintain a happy, loving, and committed life-long relationship with another person?
Behavioralists cite a pattern of actions happy couples continuously engage in: avoiding contempt; loving your partner the way he or she understands love (Gary Chapman's The 5 Love Languages is a great identifier of this); knowing how to apologize and how to forgive; fighting fair; and shared interests and passions.
All of the aforementioned categories can only be achieved with the right skill sets. Communication, conflict resolution, emotional regulation, shared decision-making, and friendship skills are key to a successful and loving relationship. Some people learn minimal skills from their parents or caregivers. Unfortunately, most tell me they learned how to yell, shut down, or act passive-aggressively.
Getting... and staying married...
So why do fifty percent of marriages end in divorce? In the past, the most frequent reason for divorce were issues of abuse - physical, substance, and emotional or extramarital affairs. Other conflicts were either worked through or endured as a life-long marriage was a value of the times.
Today many marriages end because "the flame dies out," or couples "just grow apart." Where does the flame go, and is it possible to love and be attracted to someone, the same someone, until death do us part?
Positive change does not happen overnight. True and long-lasting change happens from a pattern of behaviors repeated in a consistent and intentional way. All couples' treatment needs are unique; however, the incremental changes couples see from just shifting the way they speak to one another have profound effects on the emotional climate within a relationship and ultimately the relationship quality.
Rebuilding after an affair.
One of the most painful experiences is betrayal. It can feel like your entire world has been turned upside down, and everything you thought you knew about your partner, your life, and your world seems shattered. Should you leave? If you stay, how will you ever trust your partner again? What about the kids? What about your friends and family?
For the partner who has strayed, will your partner ever be able to trust you again? How could it be possible to come back from this, and do you even want to if the reason you cheated was a feeling of loneliness and disappointment in the relationship? What about your feelings for the person you cheated with? How can I go back to what was broken, and if you can repair won't it be too difficult?
All of these fears - for both partners - are completely valid and questions I get every time I meet with a couple experiencing a crisis during or after an affair. I take a no-judgement approach to helping couples heal from an affair.
The decision to get into an affair (both emotional and/or physical) is typically not made with the intention of hurting your spouse. Rather, the extra-marital relationship happens when you feel alone, frustrated, ignored, or hopeless in your marriage and feel out of options for addressing your concerns.
Together we will resolve the affair, including the feelings involved and hurts experienced. We will heal your relationship with your spouse, while helping to take care of yourself and your children the best you can. You will understand how your relationship became vulnerable to an affair in the first place. Finally, you see how strong your honesty, healing, and vulnerability can create the marriage you have always wanted, with specific strategies to affair-proof your relationship going forward.
My goal and my fight is to help couples and families stay together, but sometimes this is not always the result. For couples who decide that they are going to co-parent as an unmarried partnership, I will continue to support you through navigating this new chapter in your family in the most loving and thoughtful way possible. Either way, you and your family deserves the support, understanding, and love I am passionate and committed to giving all couples I work with. Heal and learn to love again.