Older couple taking a walk

Not just communication skills…

I kinda love my job. I know that’s weird to say at the beginning of an article about marriage and couples but I think it is important to say. Why? Because nobody comes to see me when they are infatuated and blissful and filled with the bright joy of their love. Couples come to see me when they need someone else to hold their hope. They need a third person to tell them that they aren’t crazy and stupid to stick it out and try one more time with this person that they love but aren’t sure they like or maybe even trust a whole lot right now. And that is a huge privilege that I don’t take lightly.


I think the number one goal I hear from couples that walk through my door is around communication. A belief that if they can just say it, whatever it is, right, that their partner will understand and the pain and hurt will go away. And boy is that a seductive thought! I’m pretty sure if I knew the “right way to talk” that I would be a billionaire. I wish I knew the “right way” to talk. Don’t get me wrong, I can help with communication. But what we really work on isn’t the “right way” to talk but on different ways to listen. Well, really, we work on ways to slow down so that we don’t escalate to fights where hurt and protection are the only things that matter.


Being a therapist who helps couples, I hear a lot about different types of problems. Everything from the mundane daily chores to the deep existential issues of love and purpose. I have mediated a lot of conversations on who should take out the trash. It was a surprise four years ago, now, I expect it within the first three to five sessions. We can substitute trash for taking care of the kids or helping with dinner or the laundry. And we will talk about solutions because sometimes it is as simple as being overwhelmed and needing to redistribute some of the labor in the house and marriage. But sometimes, well, maybe more than sometimes, the focus is on hearing what lies underneath the “ask”. It’s hearing the emotions underneath the tone or the question or the timing. It’s setting aside that you’re tired and don’t want to hear it and really looking at what is being asked with the complaint.


So often, what one partner hears is “you’re never here, nothing is good enough”. They make assumptions and start shutting down before they even walk through the door. And it breaks my heart, but…it also fills me with hope. Because what “You never help in the mornings” is often really saying is “I’m overwhelmed and I trust you and I need you and I want your presence and your voice and your steadiness, please show up and be the person I love”.  Because so often, “You never want to have sex” means “Do you love me? Because I love you and miss you and want you and I feel so alone and rejected when I can’t touch you”. And a therapist can’t generate love and wanting. We can help you rekindle it. We can help you find it and express it and share it and make time for it. But the actual genesis of it? That has to come from the couple. So yes, as sad as the hurt and fighting might be in the beginning? This is my favorite couple because there is so much hope and love present too. And being present at the session when I hear about the first time you are able to have a disagreement at home and connect afterwards? Without me? That is the magic that makes my day.

So yes, I help you communicate better, but really, I help you hear and believe in your partner better.

If this speaks to you an you’re looking for help in California, please schedule a consult.

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