Sometimes the “worse” in the “better or worse” happens in a couple relationship. The divorce rate for first marriages in America is 35-40%. For second marriages 60-65%. Couples may wonder: “How did this painful and depressing relationship happen? Am I stuck for life in this painful predicament? Should I stay or should I go?”
There are answers. There are specific issues to be identified, questioned and at least understood, hopefully resolved --in Relationship Counseling. I am trained and experienced to do that. It’s usually not a shallow “quick-fix!”.
The following ten questions form the conceptual framework of my approach to Relationship Counseling.
1 Are you generally willing to look at your marriage as a Partnership, where neither “owns” the marriage”? Explain.
2 Are you willing to work on your marital relational relationship as you would work at being successful at your job/profession?
3 What is your vision of a satisfying marriage? Be specific. 4 How do you envision that can happen? Be specific.
5 Check yourself: have you already drawn a curtain around your heart? In what areas? All?
6 Do you escape in various ways: work, drink, drugs, super-parenting, sex, exercise, other companionship(s)—withdrawing your time and energy AWAY from your partnership?
7 Does your Partnership come first? Would your partner agree? 8 What are your needs in your relationship? In what ways are they
9 What are your responsibilities? Are you fulfilling them?
10 What are your Core values and beliefs? Your priorities? Are they in sync with your partner’s?
Talking through, sorting through and discussing answers to these questions provides an in-depth assessment, pointing to the learning objectives for the counseling process. There are no guarantees, but if a couple is willing to be open and vulnerable, and do their homework – then a satisfying, honest relationship can develop and grow. Life inevitably changes, and relationships have to change also.
HOW I WORK WITH YOU
I frequently employ the Myers Briggs Type Inventory (MBTI) for each to understand their partners’ basic personality temperament. I explore the foundation of each’s upbringing—their family of origin and what type relationships they witnessed as they grew up and learned to survive. The information gathered from family of origin relationships and MBTI information combines to provide an educated platform from which to work.
I usually see couples both together and individually, using Cognitive Behavioral therapy (talk therapy). Very often there’s a need for unresolved individual issues to be worked through -- to complement the couple counseling. An honest, informed relationship with oneself is paramount to a good partner relationship.
I assign a variety of learning tools: books to read, questions to answer, podcasts to watch, Ted talks to listen to, movies to see. I expect each partner to participate in learning, outside the therapy room. It’s difficult to progress with only an hour in counseling every week or two.
I myself have been married, divorced, and widowed. I’ve parented bio-children and also stepchildren. I’m well experienced, not only as a counselor but as a participant in many stages of couple relationships. I’ve also taught Marriage/Family Therapy/Theory at University of Arkansas at Little Rock in the Graduate School of Social Work. I learned the value of the MBTI in couples counseling while getting my Master of
Arts in Writing. I researched and wrote a major paper on the experience of using the MBTI for couples counseling, conducting an active couples group for my research.
As already mentioned, there are no guarantees. There are times when divorce does indeed seem to be the best answer, the damage is too great. However, this does not mean the counseling experience was necessarily a waste of time.
Hopefully the individuals gain self-knowledge, realistic expectations and learn effective ways to communicate and live in a partnership. It takes practice to achieve a healthy relationship with space to grow and maintain.