You can see short video about Marriage Meetings here.

Chores Make the House Work

Often one partner wishes the other would pitch in to help out with a particular chore. Find out how to resolve such issues by seeing what Berger suggests to a wife who wants her husband to do the after dinner clean up like he used to before their children were born. Advice here for better cooperation around chores.

Great Marriage Video on Today Show March 14, 2012

A couple talks about how they make a good marriage better. 86% of viewers surveyed said they have a good marriage. And 87% said it could be better!        http://video.today.msnbc.msn.com/today/46731145

Ask yourself these questions way before tying the knot

I highly recommend this article for singles who are seeking a marriage partner for a fulfilling, lasting marriage: http://www.aish.com/d/w/10_Questions_to_Ask_Before_Getting_Married.html

Just Married!

Devora Leah, a participant in Marcia Naomi Berger’s “Marry With Confidence” workshop in San Francisco (for single women seeking marriage) over a year ago is now married.

She had a beautiful wedding in San Rafael on November 14, 2011.

They look lovely and very happy together. Let’s wish them a wonderful life together filled with good health, happiness, and spiritual and material prosperity.

As this couple desires privacy so soon after their wedding, names and identifying details have been changed or omitted.

What makes for good couple therapy?

Therapists and counselors can add a highly effective tool for work with couples and gain CEU’s. For information, call 415-491-4801.

Anyone who conducts workshops knows that they are great learning experiences, not just for the students, but also for the instructor. This was especially true of the Marriage Meeting Program workshop I taught at Alliant International University in San Francisco last Friday.

What a joy it was to spend four hours with such a fine, bright group of psychologists and psychology doctoral students. They came to learn about Marriage Meetings and to share wisdom and insights about couple therapy.

I presented guidelines for conducting Marriage Meetings, then explained how to conduct each of the four parts of the agenda for the meetings. Everyone role-played in pairs. So they now know how it feels to participate in each part of the meeting. That means they can better explain to their clients how to hold productive meetings.

Marriage Meetings are most appropriate for couples whose relationship is relatively healthy. Most people who come to therapy are not initially ready to conduct successful meetings. First they need to improve their communication skills and level of trust in their spouse or partner.

One psychologist said she could think of two couples she currently sees who are likely to benefit from holding Marriage Meetings. I was pleased to hear this, because our job as therapists is to help launch our clients to the place where they can do fine without the need for ongoing therapy sessions. The best therapy happens when clients learn, in effect, to be their own therapist.

Couples Therapy Demonstration

Because of privacy is usually a necessary factor for effective psychotherapy, rarely if ever do therapists have the opportunity to observe each other working. With this in mind, I like to include a demonstration of couples therapy, acted out by participants, as part of my Marriage Meeting Workshop.

Class participants played the roles of wife, husband, and therapist and chose a problem for the couple to bring to the session: The wife was upset with her husband for often undermining her attempt to discipline their child. In the simulated session, she expressed anger toward her husband for taking their young son out to play catch in the back yard when he was supposed to stay in his room for a time out she had just given him.

The couple quickly escalated into criticizing each other and defending themselves against their partner’s verbal attacks. The husband insisted the wife hadn’t told her about the time out; she was sure that she had and “he never listens.” He criticized his wife, saying, “First she complains I don’t spend enough time with my son. Now she criticizes me for spending quality time with him.” The psychologist who played the husband showed contemptuous behavior, complete with eye rolling and an exasperated tone of voice.

The therapist moved the conversation in a new directions, saying, “We’re not going to resolve that today.” She asked them to tell her about what they liked about each other when they first met and went on dates together.

They responded by talking about the fun they used to have together. He slipped in a complaint about her not being much fun these days, but the therapist brought them back to what they like about each other currently. The husband said his wife is a great mother. The wife said her husband is a terrific cook. He reminded her that she likes it when he bar-be-ques. Her face lit up as she said she “loves his bar-be-ques.”

The therapist then told the the couple to think of a recreational activity they both like and to schedule a date to do it together during the week.

After the role-play, I asked the observers: “What do you think the therapist did well? Here are some responses:

She provided structure. She actively intervened to make the discussion more constructive discussion.

She validated feelings expressed by the partners.

After hearing the partners’ complaints and validating their feelings, she encouraged them to recall what they like about each other.

She assigned homework to the couple designed to restore good feelings.

The spontaneous applause from the group after the role-play ended confirmed that the psychologist who played the therapist did a fine job. As there is always room for improvement, I then asked, “Does anyone have a suggestion?” When no one responded, I gave mine.

I suggested that she tell the couple what they are doing well. For example, she might say, “I can tell that both of you are devoted to Timmy and to raising him well.”
The psychologist who played the therapist nodded in agreement.

Much education and training we receive is about what’s wrong. Problems, diagnoses, mental illness terminology. That has its place, of course. Yet, we must not forget what too often is a missing ingredient of good therapy: the need to build on the strengths our clients and patients already possess.

We are all bigger than whatever is troubling us at the moment. Therapists who take a holistic approach will communicate to clients that each one is a whole person, with strengths, accomplishments, and good character traits. Our clients take in this information, which provides fuel for hope and positive changes.

I am grateful to Alliant International University for the opportunity to teach there, to the wonderful workshop participants, and for the valuable shared learning.

Marin Marriage Club plans couples class

Create the marriage you’ve always wanted! Couples of all ages and stages are invited to attend the September 14, 2011 class. Gain skills to conduct a weekly Marriage Meeting that keeps your relationship on track. The meetings foster romance, intimacy, teamwork, and smoother conflict resolution.

The class meets 6:45 – 8:45 P.M. in the conference room at 1050 Northgate Drive, San Rafael, in office building across lot from Four Points Sheraton Hotel. Call 415-491-4801 to register and get free copy of ebook Marriage Meeting Starter Kit.  More information here.

I asked Timothy West, MFT, his thoughts on the subject because I’d been pondering aobut it for a while. It jars me when someone says “We got divorced because we grew apart.” I have my doubts about that. If a couple stays in touch emotionally, learns how to communicate effectively, have fun together, work as a team, and resolve conflicts smoothly, I don’t think the partners will grow apart. I think it’s more about staying committed to the relationship, which included learning what it takes to keep it healthy and applying the knowledge day by day.

I agree with Tim, who said, “They don’t grow apart. They fall asleep!”

What do you think?

Eat Pray Love on “Desperate Love”

In her book Eat Pray Love (page 18-19), author Elizabeth Gilbert shares the insight:  “In desperate love, we always invent the characters of our partners, demanding that they be what we need of them, and then feeling devastated when they refuse to perform the role we created in the first place.”

How to deal with the “desperate love” challenge?

First recognize the all too common tendency in ourselves to expect our partner to fit into the mold we have fashioned. Doing so is the first step toward a mature acceptance of the partner’s right to be his or her authentic self–regardless of whether all aspects of that self please us.

What if your partner or a potential partner is viewing you through “desperate love” eyes?

Behave in ways consistent with your authentic self regardless of your partner’s or potential partner’s expectations for you to be different from who you really are. By doing so,  you will escape the trap of being a victim of the other person’s desperate love, which may have little to do with the real you.

What it you’re having difficulty doing any of the above?

A skilled therapist can assist you in getting past obstacles to connecting your authentic self and expressing it in relationships. Partners in a good relationship are are respectful and accepting of the true nature of themselves and of others.

Is John Gray right about men not washing dishes? What do you think?

John Gray, author of Men are from Mars; Women are from Venus, says wives should wash the dishes even though they do the cooking. I think he makes some excellent points in his book, but I disagree with him on this one.

John explained to me when we chatted at Book Passage in Corte Madera, California, that men should be able to retreat to their den to unwind after dinner. Women keep finding ways to occupy themselves with tasks nearly all the time anyway, because this is their nature. So if they don’t do dishes they’ll be working at something else.

In my experience, John Gray is correct in generalizing about women being more likely to be busying themselves doing something constructive more of the time than men who are prone to kick back for long periods of time in front of a TV, newspaper or book.

But if the wife would rather be working on the computer or doing some other task than cleaning up in the kitchen, she will appreciate her husband for handling that job. The arrangement will feel fair and she will feel happier and nicely supported by him.

I think it’s about her being able to choose how she spends her time rather than about her being expected to do dishes after she’s already knocked herself out preparing/cooking a nice meal.

Besides, if instead of feeling exhausted physically and emotionally from from cooking and cleaning up afterwards, a wife who experiences her husband as loving and caring will have more energy to be a loving, intimate partner.

What do you think?