If you are dating or engaged you are in an adventurous time in your life. Being in love makes the future seem so bright but not everyone has a rosy road during their dating relationships and planning a wedding can turn your lover into a bad dream. I work with couples across the spectrum from those who are on cloud nine to those who are seriously contemplating breaking things off. Marriage is a big commitment often made under the buzz of exciting and confusing emotions. My goal in working with dating and engaged couples is to help you find a clear path and give you tools to help you along the way.
With couples who want to work towards greater satisfaction, my goal is to create a map of what tends to send you into a me versus you position and then create strategies to promote a position of togetherness. (See the Relationship Counseling page for a description of these positions.)
Understanding the process that leads a couple into to me versus you can promote growth by itself. When put in context, the other's actions start to make more sense. Tensions get reduced by simply understanding what is going on underneath the partner's actions. Being able to recognize how each is pinging off of the other enables couples to catch themselves in action and try out new choices. Partners also tend to grow in their awareness of how their own actions affect the other. This awareness opens up the possibility of choosing different actions that are affirming to the relationship and creating better strategies to get what they want.
Usually, the path to greater togetherness starts to become clear in step one. Once we can understand what tends to go wrong we can address the patterns, conflicts or wounds that stand in the way of a sense of togetherness.
How long all of this takes depends on the length of time and intensity that a couple spends in me versus you. These positions are habits: the less you have invested in a habit the easier it is to shake.
Why I Don't Take Sides.
I don't take sides because doing so is working from the me versus you position, and that is the problem we are trying to solve. I would be furthering the problem by joining one side. If it ever seems like I am taking a side, I invite couples to call me to account.
Threats of divorce (or breaking-up) should be taken seriously. Even when made in jest, they may point to an underlying problem in the relationship. Threats of divorce do not necessarily mean that the relationship is past repair. I have helped numerous couples on the brink of breaking-up turn around to build a solid fulfilling relationship. Being hopeless, furious, and/or deeply hurt may signal that the partner threatening divorce really wants the relationship to work out but is doubtful that healing can occur. Where there is enough will there is a way. The relationship is not past repair until one party firmly decides he or she doesn't want an "us" anymore.
When the future of the relationship is in question, my first goal is to help both partners clarify what they want for the relationship. The question is: if we could resolve the conflict/problem/wound would you want this relationship? When both partners affirm they would want the relationship, the next question is whether both are willing to give the time and effort to working on repair. Often we can arrange an agreement that the wavering partner sees as good enough to hang in there and give it a shot.
Most people think that you only go to couples counseling if you want to save the relationship. Not so. Ending a relationship is sticky business, especially when there are children involved. Having affirming but neutral support during this process can help you make wise choices as you arrange the details of your divorce. Counseling gives a place to process guilt, anger and pain so that you can think clearly as you make decisions that will affect you and your children for the rest of your life. For more about navigating divorce when you have children please see the Family Counseling page (coming soon).