Not surprisingly, our most common frustrations, as well as our most precious times, stem from our experiences in relationships with other people. Dealing with the issues, and building up the rewards that come through good relationships, is an art. To some people this comes naturally, but most people really need help to learn the knack of it.
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Hope for the Future
- How can I love you and still be true to me?
- How can I bring more love and caring into our relationship?
- How come at times I feel so close, and yet I put out an angry atmosphere?
- Why can’t we seem to communicate?
These are questions that couples ask. We, as marriage counselors and husband and wife, have struggled with these same issues personally and professionally. We know the frustration, fear, anger, and pain that intimacy can bring, as well as the joy and excitement. Our approach is non-judgmental as we guide you in your own self-awareness and teach you the skills of healthy communication, sometimes even focusing more on the process of communication than any specific content area. Truth is always the goal and getting to the truth in a loving way is the most valuable skill.
We can help you explore specific issues, no matter how difficult, as your ability to communicate improves. Our goal is for you to develop as healthy individuals within the relationship, as well as to support the growth and fulfillment of your commitment, whatever that might be. The challenge of any marriage is to balance the need to be an individual with a desire to be “one” with your spouse. With a good sense of self and effective communication skills, a healthy and balanced marriage ensues.
Understanding Plus Action Equals Change
Understanding the kind of intimacy we want emotionally, physically and sexually is often a result of a complex system of personal development throughout our life span. Exploring early experiences and beliefs, both positive and negative and in-between, helps us as individuals create more intimacy and a positive attitude towards new ideas, feelings, and behaviors in ourselves and with our partner.
If an individual has experienced a trauma in their life, big or small, this often affects their perceptions of the world and their ability to adapt and be open. It is very useful to be able to see these experiences in a new light. A big trauma could include a rape or incest, time at war or jail, living through a natural disaster, death of a parent or child, divorce, etc. A smaller trauma could be growing up in a repressive or shaming environment and therefore having negative beliefs and feelings regarding expressions of love or sexuality. Large or small, past traumas can affect one’s ability to be intimate today.
When it comes to physical and sexual intimacy it is important to realize that the body’s largest and most significant sex organ lies between the ears. It’s the brain that dictates our behavior even if our heart yearns for the love that sexual connection brings. We help individuals within couples understand how to shift their thinking so that they can be more open and loving. Surprising to many people, pleasurable physical intimacy can actually lead to a deeper emotional connection with one’s spouse. It takes courage, patience, sensitivity, and tolerance.
Action comes when increased understanding, combined with new tools, is put into motion. After the initial assessment of their past (separately and together) we teach couples how to communicate what they have learned about their emotional and sexual self with each other. By bringing this awareness right to the forefront of our work individuals often experience a profound shift in relationship satisfaction.
Working with couples since the early 80’s we have developed a unique approach to helping partners become more intimate while learning to communicate better. When an individual understands his or her own thoughts and feelings, motives and wounds, and then takes the action steps to share that inner self, a healthy change in the relationship can occur. Many committed individuals within couples have found that physical intimacy along with emotional intimacy can yield some of life’s greatest pleasures.
A Healthy Family System
As Marriage and Family Therapists one of our primary goals is to maintain the integrity of your relationship. We maintain objectivity while encouraging mutual respect, as well as self-respect. These conditions are even more important for couples with children. Maintaining the integrity of the family system requires getting to the truth. Our job is to empower you to define your relationship. Unlike other programs, we advocate for the marriage but not at any price. We believe that people have the right to be happy and that the most important issue developmentally for children is to have happy parents… whether they remain married, separated, or divorced. It is all about following the truth and doing that with love and respect.
More than half of the couples we work with see us for help in making a decision about their marriage. When asked about our success rate we commonly respond that 100 percent of all the couples we see learn to grow and gain valuable communication tools they can use for the rest of their lives. Even a separation or divorce can be a success when done for the right reasons. Thinking of it as a failure is what keeps people stuck and is not useful. It unnecessarily negatively affects self-esteem and is a poor model of relationships to children. Wanting those we care about (our children and spouses) to grow and flourish is central to loving them as well. Only by following the truth can we accomplish such an important goal.
The paradox is when couples let their guard down and go deeper into their thoughts and feelings. They often become closer even if their thoughts and feelings are filled with hurt and disappointment. This can be the beginning of the rekindling of the marriage, or the realization of an impending separation. Either way it is a success in the integrity of both individuals and of the family system.
Our Philosophical Orientation is based on the work of many teachers, trainers, and mentors over the years, and is enhanced by our own marriage and life experiences. Predominantly we draw from Family Systems Therapy of Virginia Satir, Differentiation concepts from Murray Bowen, Rational Emotive (Behavioral)Therapy from Albert Ellis, Relationship Enhancement from Bernard Gurney and Barry Ginsberg, Psychodrama from J. L. Moreno, Gestalt Techniques from Fritz Perls, and co-dependency work of Sharon Wegscheider-Cruse.
We have created an eclectic and unique brand of understanding, approach, and treatment that utilizes family systems and cognitive-behavioral approaches. Spiritual subtleties come from years of studying Rites of Passage and Vision Quest work, years of being backpacking guides, leading Soul Awakening trips and our deep connection to Nature. We have lived on a homestead for many years.
What We Do – We’ve come to realize that individual therapy can be hazardous to your marriage. In our work as Marriage and Family Therapists, your marriage is our client. While we look at each of you as individuals, we focus on your relationship. We look to find the hidden triggers that cause conflict, understand the source of your problems, teach you to communicate skillfully, manage your frustrations, and help you to rebuild your relationship. An award-winning study conducted at Purdue University showed Relationship Enhancement (the basis of our communication work) to be by far the most effective of 12 marriage enrichment therapy programs at producing positive changes in couples and families.
We support each individual in understanding their true thoughts and feelings, heal unresolved issues of the past, and create a safe space to discuss the current problems. Our goal is to help you through the crisis at hand, understand how your past wounds influence your life today, and give you a lifetime’s worth of personal and interpersonal skills.