Marital Counseling

In marital therapy, aside from the therapist, there is 3 people in the marital therapy session; the husband, the wife, and the relationship of the husband and wife.  The therapist attends to the needs of all three; the needs of the wife, the needs of the husband, and the needs of their relationship.

For example, a couple seeking therapy after an affair.  Let’s say he cheated.  If the couple wishes to stay together, I might suggest he (somehow) verify for her where he is and who he is with each and every day to rebuild the trust between them.  This is attending to the needs of their relationship.  He may be embarrassed to do this (his needs) and she may be uncomfortable receiving such reports/information (her needs).  Rarely can one (of the three) need(s) be focused on at a time.  And so, at the same time the two are rebuilding trust for the sake of the relationship, he may need also to develop better anger management skills and she may need to become more assertive.

A large portion of my practice is marital therapy.  Couples seek marital therapy to; improve communication, decrease fighting, after an affair, to seek whether to divorce, parenting after divorce, etc.

A few things I’d like to share about myself as a marital therapist:

First, I am divorced.  I share this with many I work with because it lets them know I “have been there” and know what it is like being married.

Second, I NOW realize marriage is a process as much as a state of being.  I believe our society teaches that marriage is a state of being, a condition of living, i.e., you are married or single, black or white, Christian or Muslim.  But in truth, it is a process.  People, married and single, grow and change over time. As a result, the relationship between the two people needs to change if it is to be healthy and life-giving.  Knowing this helps us to develop a more flexible and accommodating view of marriage and patience and tolerance with our partner and our own feelings and needs.

When working with a couple, I let their situation and my intuition lead me in regards to who I meet with, how often, what assignments I give, etc.  Sometimes, I meet with the members of a couple individually and then as a couple, other times, I meet with the couple always together.  It depends on the circumstances and my assessment.

The following are some principles I repeatedly talk about with couples that reflect the aforementioned 3 needs in a couple:

  • Your partner is limited in his/her ability to respond to you. You are limited in your ability to respond to your partner.  Accepting this is a huge step.
  • The definite possibility exists that you have some flawed assumptions about your partner and your partner has some flawed assumptions about you. The problem is we don’t want to believe our assumptions are flawed.
  • Couples therapy works best if you have more goals for yourself than your partner.
  • It is human nature to try and change one’s partner instead of adjusting our expectations.
  • The hardest part of couple’s therapy is accepting that you will need to improve your response to a problem.
  • You cannot change your partner. Your partner cannot change you.  You can influence each other.
  • You create trust by doing what you say that you will do.
  • It is impossible to be in a highly inter-dependent relationship without ever being judgmental or being judged.
  • If you strive to always feel emotionally safe in your relationship, you, your partner, and the relationship will become dull.