Couple's Work/ Marriage Counseling
A couple’s vision emerges from a process of reflection and inquiry. It requires both people to speak from the heart about what really matters to each. When you find yourself in a difficult cycle of hurtful interactions, how can you get to this heartful and constructive place?
I most often use the principles and methods of Hakomi in my work with couples. This means we will slow things down, discovering the moments in interaction, verbal or non-verbal, that trigger an automatic reaction in the other. I may find a key phrase or a movement that we will re-enact in mindfulness to study the effect on each partner. Bringing awareness to these often unconscious triggers and responses can offer us the chance to make new choices. Intentional choices.
Another major focus in couple's work is communication. When people learn to communicate effectively with each other, their lives and their relationships can be truly transformed. I most appreciate Marshall Rosenberg's "Non-Violent Communication," and will facilitate your use of this precise and compassionate method.
In couples work, I often help in your communication by "translating." Many conflicts are due to unfortunate misunderstanding of emotional content. When we shine the light of consciousness on the feelings and needs behind someone's anger, we discover what they are wanting or needing that prevents them from responding as we would like. Unresolved childhood issues are usually at the heart of couple's problems. This is why I might say: "This is a match made in heaven!" The problems that come up in your relationship offer a real opportunity for healing those old hurts. That is a beautiful thing!
If you have waited a very long time to get help, and have become very entrenched in patterns that are too difficult to shift, we may work together to find acceptance, or the most harmonious way for you to to split. If there are children, I will consider their welfare most important, and will strive to help you all find a way to get on to the next phase of your lives.
On the other hand, if you come in with the attitude of: "I want to work on how I respond to and communicate with my partner," we'll have a good chance of working toward a happier relationship. It is only human nature to want to change the other. However, you become empowered to make real change when you look intensively at yourself, and have real willingness to look at situations in a fresh way. Focus on Changing Yourself Rather than Your Partner.
The addendum to this is that if there is abuse or serious addictions or adultery, working on yourself means setting boundaries, getting safe, and taking care of yourself.
I would tell a newlywed who's just getting married: Don't wait until there's trouble in the relationship to seek marital therapy. Be proactive about making the relationship a bit stronger. John F. Kennedy, when talking about the economy, said that "The time to repair the roof is when the sun is shining."
Out beyond ideas
of wrongdoing and rightdoing,
there is a field.
I'll meet you there.
When the soul lies down in that grass,
the world is too full to talk about.
Ideas, language, even the phrase
doesn't make any sense.
- Rumi -
Ten Characteristics of a Conscious Marriage
You realize that your love relationship has a hidden purpose- the healing of childhood wounds. Instead of focusing entirely on surface needs and desires, you learn to recognize the unresolved childhood issues that underlie them. When you look at marriage with this X-ray vision, your daily interactions take on more meaning. Puzzling aspects of your relationship begin to make more sense to you, and you have a greater sense of control.
You create a more accurate image of your partner. At the very moment of attraction, you began fusing your lover with your primary caretakers. Later you projected your negative traits onto your partner, further obscuring your partner's essential reality. As you move toward a conscious marriage, you gradually let go of these illusions and begin to see more of your partner's truth. You see your partner not as your savior but as another wounded human being, struggling to be healed.
You take responsibility for communicating your needs and desires to your partner. In an unconscious marriage, you cling to the childhood beliefs that your partner automatically intuits your needs, In a conscious marriage, you accept that fact that, in order to understand each other, you have to develop clear channels of communication.
You become more intentional in your interactions. In an unconscious marriage, you tend to react without thinking. You allow the primitive response of your old brain to control your behavior. In a conscious marriage, you train yourself to behave in a more constructive manner.
You learn to value your partner's needs and wishes as highly as you value your own. In an unconscious marriage, you assume that your partner's role in life is to take care of your needs magically. In a conscious marriage, you let go of this narcissistic view and divert more and more of your energy to meeting your partner's needs.
You embrace the dark side of your personality. In a conscious marriage, you openly acknowledge the fact that you, like everyone else, have negative traits. As you accept responsibility for this dark side of your nature, you lessen your tendency to project your negative traits onto your mate, which creates a less hostile environment.
You learn new techniques to satisfy your basic needs and desires. During the power struggle, you cajole, harangue, and blame in an attempt to coerce your partner to meet your needs. When you move beyond this stage, you realize that your partner can indeed be a resource for you- once you abandon your self-defeating tactics.
You search within yourself for the strengths and abilities you are lacking. One reason you were attracted to your partner is that your partner had strengths and abilities you lacked. Therefore, being with your partner gave you an illusory sense of wholeness. In a conscious marriage, you learn that the only way you can truly recapture a sense of oneness is to develop the hidden traits within yourself.
You become more aware of your drive to be loving and whole and united with the universe. As a part of your God-given nature, you have the ability to love unconditionally and to experience unity with the world around you. Social conditioning and imperfect parenting made you lose touch with these qualities. In a conscious marriage, you begin to rediscover your original nature.
You accept the difficulty of creating a good marriage. In an unconscious marriage, you believe that the way to have a good marriage is to pick the right partner. In a conscious marriage you realize you have to be the right partner. As you gain a more realistic view of love relationships, you realize that a good marriage requires commitment, discipline, and the courage to grow and change; marriage is hard work, and worth big effort.