Why are there so many unhappy marriages and committed relationships, when they began with such promise?
Through these many years of successfully healing disintegrating relationships and years of training specifically in relationship dynamics, my conclusion is that most people have not grown up with a true understanding of themselves. Expectations of love are based on the initial, romantic phase of connection. This leads to the belief that your partner is going to be a panacea for you, completing you and resolving the disappointments of your lives.
That love needs substance beyond the chemically driven feelings of euphoria and lust. In order for love to last through time, there needs to be shared values, respect for differences, a willingness to daily nurture, keeping commitments, empathic communication, and the list goes on. Even if you believe the relationship was made in heaven, down here on earth we all need a little help maintaining it through life’s inevitable challenges.
My form of therapy helps you develop the courage to live authentically. This means understanding your way of interpreting the world and people around you. (I once read “We see the world wrong and we are angry.”) It’s our perceptions, our interpretations that often get us in trouble.
Each partner brings unfinished pieces of themselves, belief systems imbedded deeply from very different life experiences. Your individual family cultures taught you whether to be trusting or to be perpetually hyper-vigilant; whether to express feelings or to suffer silently; to be undeserving or to feel entitled; to blend in or to become the targets of another person’s unhappiness and anger. A few lucky ones among us have learned to appreciate and live the gift of every moment with a healthy sense of self.
Then you try to combine your differences expecting to be in total unity when in fact, you each need to take ownership of your contribution to what I call the dance of relationship demise. In some way, you have not honored each other, you have not helped to create a safe sanctuary where you can each seek solace, support and fun.
Affairs, workaholism, addictions of all kinds are escapes from tedium, emptiness, loneliness, feeling misunderstood and undervalued, lack of sexual fulfillment and many other factors. Rather than putting the energy into healing yourselves and your relationship - by working with a seasoned therapist (the benefit being I see the macro and the micro in the picture. I will show you what you don’t see.) - people choose to have momentary excitement and often the fantasy that it would be different with someone else. NOT TRUE! Ultimately, you bring your history, your defenses, and your unrealistic expectations into every relationship. How many people move from one relationship to another expecting it will be different each time? It makes such sense to know how you do that and what loving is truly all about. Just because it looks good and it feels so wonderful, doesn’t mean you won’t recreate the disappointments.
Here are a couple scenarios that are not unusual in my office:
There was the man who had an affair, leaving signs for his wife to pick up. She went into a rage and panic and they ended up in my office. He had no template for asserting his needs, nor self-esteem to know he was entitled to do so. He carried anger from early wounding, which meshed with his wife’s low self-esteem and own abuse as a child. The healing that took place allowed for transformation. (That is my goal.) They have learned how to love themselves and each other.
I remember the woman who was cold, demanding and screamed her way into a huge distance from their original attraction. He was passive and angry, but shared her loneliness. Together, in my office, they wrote a different ending than what they were headed for, through understanding their own contribution to the terrible dance they were engaged in, learning to behave in self-respecting ways, and truly hearing each other.
I have dealt with sexual and verbal abuse perpetrated on loving partners, creating fear and a hostage situation. This is often a projection of self-loathing onto the partner who becomes the victim. Early life treatment and neglect are the breeding ground for such anger. Healing this leads to a bond that is forged as each witnesses the others growth into healthy relating.
With EMDR that heals in the core (see Trauma) communication skills that make safe, intimate, respectful connection, and the new information gained in this process, amazing results happen, and quickly.
I carry 30 + years of these stories. If you come to me with yours, I will help you make sense of it and lead you to the changes that foster deep connection - worthy of keeping the commitment you originally made together. You can create a life worth loving. What a wonderful legacy to give to your children.
Recipe for a Healthy Relationship
- Live the richness of being fully present in your life.
- Come to each other with good will.
- Unrealistic expectations destroy the spirit and set you up for disappointment.
- Be there for each other’s needs, including emotional and sexual, and experience the deep connection that results.
- Respect yourselves by kindly speaking your truth.
- Listen to each other with your heart.
- Speak from there – not your anger.
- Be playful. Surprise each other.
- Honor yourselves by the way you show up in the world.
- Co-create your home and relationship to be a safe, loving, fun haven from the challenges of life.
- When you get stuck - - - demonstrate your commitment to each other by seeking professional guidance back to loving.
Below is an example of the form I'd like each of you fill in on your own and bring to your first meeting. You can download the form here.
- Some of the hopeful thoughts I have prior to beginning the counseling process are...
- Some of the fearful feelings that I have prior to beginning the process are...
- My personality and behavioral traits that contribute to our relationship strengths are...
- My personality and behavioral traits that contribute to our relationship challenges are...
- Some of the personality and behavioral traits that I really admire about you (your partner) are...
- Some of the personality and behavioral traits that bother me about you (your partner) are...
- This investment will be a success for me if...
- This investment will be a success for us if ...
- I am ________________ committed to doing all I can to make this process a success.
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