Marriage is beautiful and fulfilling for many people. Those of us who are fortunate enough to find someone special and eventually get married understand this. But what happens when two good people just can’t seem to make things work? When the challenges of life overwhelm us and start to negatively affect our partner, where can we go for help? Most of us need the love and companionship of another person; it makes life more rewarding to share the experience. But when troubles escalate and you’ve tried unsuccessfully to resolve issues on your own, this may be a sign that outside counseling is a good idea.
When is it appropriate to consider couples therapy? When separation or divorce is being considered, when domestic violence exists, when communication is challenging or when sex has lost its sizzle. Some wait too long to seek help. That is why just your partner expressing a need for marriage counseling is a good time to seek help. Certainly when there is suspicion or knowledge of an affair, a professional should be consulted. Even when you are not sure you are in love any more but want to make sure you have given the marriage every chance to succeed, Dr. Phillips can guide you.
Dr. Phillips has helped thousands of couples with marriage counseling. When he first meets you, he’ll discuss your motivation and the degree of commitment to each other. If there are abusive or other destructive behaviors occurring, he’ll help you. He’ll also identify the positive and not-so-positive impact both spouses have on the marriage.
Generally, couples meet together with Dr. Phillips for 55 minutes. Some of the weekly sessions are spent on difficult moments the couple may have had. Specific suggestions are made as to how they could be handled better. Couples practice constructive negotiation and working through problems with Dr. Phillips supervision. The goals of marriage counseling (examples listed above) provide the basis for interventions by Dr. Phillips during the sessions. The timing and emphasis of these interventions are tailored to each couple. Most couples have improvements in their relationship from the onset of their work with Dr. Phillips.
Prior to relationship therapy, many couples find themselves locked into some predictable patterns. Some live like warring adversaries (aggressive vs. aggressive). Others reside like roommates in a sexless union following their individual interests (passive – passive). Still others are like conquerors and the conquered (aggressive – passive). Dr. Phillips helps them untangle these unrewarding gridlocks.
In average circumstances, couples do have moments of connectedness but the idea of soul mates seems like an unreachable fantasy. But by learning how to resolve conflict, take responsibility, apologize and to “see” and understand what is happening, they can gradually move into longer periods of connectedness and experience more emotional intimacy.
Dr. Phillips notices how couples relate and points out specific ways they can improve their communication and increase their expressions of affection. Problems which are viewed as “too hot to handle” are addressed in the presence of the objective intermediary – the marriage counselor. What is typically the man’s opinion against the woman’s, and vice versa, becomes weighted with the counselor’s expert opinion. This allows each spouse the opportunity to have their reality confirmed when they are right or to accept the change sensibly when they are incorrect. The result is that couples can begin to make progress in areas where they had previously been stuck.
While focusing on valuable communication skills is important in working with couples, Dr. Phillips’ experience also allows him to intuitively move to key issues which may be unspoken. Here is just one scenario: The wife may be terrified her angry husband will become violent even though this behavior has never been shown. She disguises her fear so as not to upset him. Subconsciously, the husband believes his wife sees him as a monster because she is so careful around him. She mirrors his rage and he hates what he sees in himself and he hates her fear of him which he sees as a sign of weakness. Completing this circular dynamic, rather than telling her he is hurt by her trepidation, he attacks her without knowing why she infuriates him. By discovering the mire and seeing what they are doing, they can begin to address the issues directly rather than continuing this unwitting and destructive pattern.
Dr. Phillips’ approach stops the negative blame-blame cycle (filled with frustrated self interest and righteous indignation) and starts or renews the positive give-give cycle (filled with unilateral peace, requests and competition to see who can love the other more).
Most arguments are dealt with by letting some time go by and kissing and making up. This method helps in the short run but results in important issues remaining unresolved. The effect is the same problems emerge again and again. Dr. Phillips can help put an end to this futile pattern and replace it with constructive negotiations.
When needed, Dr. Phillips can meet with one or the other spouse separately to focus on a particular issue that may be impeding progress. To keep the momentum of the therapeutic process, a traveling spouse can call into the meeting with Dr. Phillips and the other spouse. Ultimately, once the couple has attained stability, attachment, an understanding of each other’s role in the successes and failures of their relationship, and can maintain gains between meetings, the weekly sessions are moved to biweekly and then later to monthly.