The key to helping couples renew and revitalize their relationships is simple and yet profound. Individual counseling focusses on the person and his or her needs. Marriage counseling shifts the focus to the couple’s relationship. In the systematic approach to marriage I attempt to remind the couple of the things that attracted them to each other and the strengths that they most admire in each other. Then they can be free to use those resources to improve their communication and emphasize what they like about each other rather than what divides them.
ll relationships are tense when, without honoring the strengths my mate has, I attempt to change him/her. When I appreciate the positive differences my spouse brings to the marriage and show respect for those traits, my spouse feels valued and significant. At the heart of marriage therapy we examine the balance of the resources each partner adds to the system in the relationship. When a spouse wonders if he is respected or fears that she is no longer loved and valued, individual protective defenses kick in. Both spouses often become critical and began attacking each other. The relationship can deteriorate very quickly.
Couples can examine three basic questions: Who are you? What can I give you? And what can you give me? In the exploration of those answers, many couples gain a new understanding of what has been missing or under-emphasized in their recent relationship.
When couples rediscover their strengths and re-emphasize their respect for each other, new and loving behavior almost always follows. That’s the secret to success – helping people learn to show their love for each other in rewarding ways. A good marriage revolves around this commitment: I don’t have to live with you, but I want to live with you!
Someone once told me that the happiest people in the world are those who discover what they enjoy doing and find a way to make a living doing it. Perhaps that’s why I’ve been a very happy man.