MY APPROACH TO COUPLE COUNSELING
The Truth About Results
Results can never be guaranteed in couple counseling, because they depend on too many factors to count. A partial list includes:
How long the problem has been going on
How long one partner has been begging the other partner to take the problem seriously
How volatile/violent the arguments have been
The personality of each partner and their willingness to accept responsibility and work hard
Whether there has been an affair and just how deceitful the cheating spouse was
The personal burdens and issues of each partner that may have nothing directly to do with the other person but nonetheless are affecting the relationship
Each person's ability to forgive and desire to grow
How much stress is in the family already from work, child-rearing, finances, illness, and multiple other things
Each partner's capacity for humor and empathy, and their ability to behave in a way that fully honors the other's personal sovereignty and right to be whoever they are
For most couples willing to make the investment and do the work, they can at least learn to live peacefully together. Some couples will go on to become happier than they ever imagined they could be.
What? You didn't think I was going to say, "Come see me and I guarantee marital bliss," did you?! Anyone who says that isn't being honest (and I don't know a single therapist who would make that claim). I'm very good at what I do, but ultimately it depends on you. I will do all I can to bring out the best in you, and I will fight for the relationship alongside you every step of the way.
Should that difficult day come when you decide to call it quits, I will help you move forward with your lives as amicably as possible, minimize conflict, decide how to talk to your children, and how to co-parent as best you can. Whatever happens, however it turns out, I am with you and for you. I am a very pro-marriage counselor, but that doesn't mean I think all marriages can or should be saved.
Views on divorce
From a religious perspective, people are often quick to quote the scripture that says, "God hates divorce." But do you think God likes the brutal things people do to each other in relationships? I don't.
Unfortunately, divorce is sometimes the lesser of two undesirable states, the other being for couples to continue victimizing one another. Not all broken relationships can be fixed. Not all should be.
Having said that, I have never, and will never, tell a couple they should divorce, or split up. That's not my job. My job is to make sure that whatever couples decide to do, they are both aware of the cost of their choice. Divorce is rarely the panacea it may seem to be. Repairing a broken relationship can take a long time, a lot of hard work, and specific results are never guaranteed.
Couple Counseling Services
I have used the Prepare/Enrich system for premarital counseling for twenty years, and nearly every couple has enjoyed it and benefited from it greatly.
I will meet with you and assess your relationship needs. I may use Prepare/Enrich, or I may suggest another approach.
Nothing shakes a relationship like marital unfaithfulness, from internet dabbling and flirting to emotional affairs with a real person, to one night stands, to extramarital relationships that can go on for years before the other spouse finds out.
Betrayals make trust -- the most essential ingredient required for any relationship to thrive -- impossible. They cause pain, anger, confusion, shame, humiliation, resentment, anxiety, depression, and a huge host of other problems. What's more, they are very complex and few couples will make it through without some kind of qualified outside help.
Rebuilding trust requires both partners to take specific steps and learn specific things. I guide couples through this process all the time. The good news is, as difficult as it can be, with qualified help and a lot of work, many couples will go on to build a far better and stronger relationship than either imagined possible.
Questions and Answers
1. How much does couple counseling cost?
$120 for a one-hour session
$90 for a 45-minute session
2. How long will couple counseling take?
It's impossible to say, as it depends on the nature of the problem. I have couples I see three times and they're fine. I have other couples I've seen for more than a year.
3. My partner keeps saying we need couple counseling, but I think we can handle our problems by ourselves. What do you think?
a. How has that worked for you so far? Are things getting better, in your partner's opinion?
b. If your partner believes there's a problem in your relationship, your relationship has a problem. It will only make things worse to not deal with it.
4. What happens in couple counseling?
First, you learn that whatever you have been doing to fix the relationship isn't working. Then I'll teach you how to stop spinning your wheels and take different actions so you will get different results! I'll help you both understand the toxic cycle you're stuck in and how the things you're both doing to make it better are making it worse.
5. Will you tell my partner what's wrong with them?
Nope. I'll help each of you see your own issues, because you can only fix you. And I'll also help each of you behave in ways that will make it most likely your partner will do their own work.
6. Will this work for us?
There's no way to know for sure. Couples often wait to get help until their resentments are so deep one or both of them just aren't willing to be open or work hard on themselves. The sooner after you realize there's a problem and get help, the more likely it is that you'll be able to fix what's wrong. But if it has been a long time already, definitely get in here! I may not be able to help you save this, but I hope I can at least help you stop hurting yourselves and each other.
7. What makes it easier and harder?
As I said above, it's easier if a couple gets in soon after the issues appear. It's harder when resentments have already grown really deep. It's harder when one or both partners are dealing with substantial mental health issues of their own, like severe anxiety, depression, bipolar, and of course narcissism. It's easier when partners still like each other. It's easier when they can stay in counseling as long as they need to to get where they want to be. It's harder when there's an alcohol or drug problem. It's easier when you don't expect miracles.
8. What if we just don't love each other anymore?
Love is something that happens because of the way people treat each other. If you used to be in love, chances are good you treated each other really well back then. And if you're no longer in love, chances are good you no longer treat each other very well. When we behave in loving ways, our partners fall in love with us. When we stop, they fall out of love with us. When we start again, they can usually fall back in love with us again, but you'll have to learn to trust each other and trust the process.
9. What if there has been an affair?
I'm not going to lie. You can probably fix this if you're both up for the investment, but it's going to be tough, probably for a really long time.
10. I don't think I can handle the anxiety I'm feeling. I'm not sleeping since my partner said they might leave. What do I do?
This is a terrible feeling, but very common. If you feel like you're falling apart, I strongly suggest you see your doctor and explain what's going on. They can probably help you. If you're in crisis and need to talk to someone immediately, call Crisis and Access Services at 810.257.3740. They have trained people there who can listen and help 24 hours a day. If you're feeling suicidal or homicidal, don't mess with that -- go directly to the ER.