Helpful Articles

What He Wants Her to Know

A while ago, I produced a series of videos called What She Wants Him to Know. I tried to capture the sentiment of what emotionally abused women desperately want their mate to know and understand about them—that they need to be seen as an individuals and encouraged to find and speak their voice, to be empathized with and valued, to have their anger and hurt understood, and for men to go on their own journey of in-depth healing. They want the abuse to stop so healing can begin.

Letting Go of Snooping

Have you wondered where the line is between feeling like you know your spouse and feeling like you have to make sure you do? In other words, do you have to put energy into unearthing who your spouse really is or what he or she is really up to? Is your time consumed with snooping out your spouse’s day-to-day life? I need the truth to get back to normal. The first thing we tend to do when our spouse does something to cause suspicion is go digging, scrounging up any and every possible detail and angle we can find to help us “know” what is really going on. Suddenly, we have a desperation to fit pieces together that we didn’t even realize were missing or to find evidence to disprove what we now “know” so we can “go back to normal.” Normal is relative. Usually, it is made up more of desires and hopes than reality. When trust is broken, you are forced to deal with a reality that you would much rather deny. Suddenly, you don’t know what is true, and your whole internal, emotional foundation feels faulty. When you spend so much time focused on who the other person is, you lose sight of who you are. You lose yourself in them. You weren’t meant to live their life, and yet you experience a deep need to take control of who they are being to stop how you feel harmed. You feel desperately compelled to make them see what they’re doing, admit to it, feel how it’s harming you, and change. How do you get out of that cycle of despair? You do need to know what’s really going on. However, there comes a point when you know enough to act. You don’t need to know more in order to know there’s a problem you need to address. At that point, your own behavior becomes much more significant than what you’re digging up about your spouse. What are you doing about what you are learning? What is your responsibility? What is his or hers? Finding a healthy way to seek the truth. The first step is to confront him or her. Don’t just let Google or Facebook help you fill in the details; let your spouse have a chance. Then use the responses to inform your next steps. Is there denial and more deception? Is there smooth-talking dismissal? Or is there humility and a very real sense of remorse? Let your gut help you discern what is the truth, and then take appropriate steps to: Put good boundaries into place so you are not engaging or accommodating whatever it is that broke the relationship. Let your spouse take responsibility for owning their journey and growth. Stop digging for more details. You already know enough to act. Your strength will be in responding to the moment. Make it clear what you will or will not tolerate in your relationship by your boundaries, which include a definitive action plan for when they’ve been crossed. Your action plan isn’t about what they must do; it’s about what you will do if they cross the boundary. It needs to be relevant enough to make them think. Spend more energy focusing on who you are becoming and less on who they are. You will have much better clarity and wisdom about navigating life around you (including your spouse’s behavior) and will be much less likely to fill in the blanks out of your own fears and suspicion. Don’t allow yourself to become consumed with gathering information. Ask God to reveal what you need to know, but to protect you from what you don’t. Act where you need to act. Take the necessary steps to protect yourself, even when that means protecting yourself from them.

Is emotional abuse contagious?

“I can’t believe the way I act toward my husband,” a client told me recently. “I speak in ways I never used to. I call him names, just like he does to me. I respond to him in the same angry tone he uses. I’m not proud of it, but it happens.” I often share with couples that “emotions are contagious.” Think about the last time someone spoke harshly to you. Did you speak harshly back or at least consider doing so? It is tempting to react to provocative behavior by acting in a similar manner. We’ve all done it. When treated harshly, we lash out or withdraw into cold silence, all in an attempt to cope with abuse.

A Word to the Helpers: How to Spot A Covert Abuser

As I frequently say, covert abuse is an epidemic we must face. We must become informed and trained to reach out and intervene in situations involving narcissism and emotional abuse. We must stop enabling the perpetrator, standing by as a person is harmed. There must be an intervention—stepping in, seeing what is taking place, and saying or doing something to help bring about change.

How to Spot A Covert Abuser

The church was a large part of my childhood. Raised by hardworking parents, I lived in “small town America,” in a neighborhood with other families like mine. My church was a part of this loving community, a second family to me, an extension of our home life.

Do you have the willpower to change?

Many of us have grown up with Oprah Winfrey, and we’ve seen her evolve from the young actress in The Color Purple to the powerful businesswoman, philanthropist, and activist that she is today. These days, she appears to be capable of doing pretty much anything she sets her mind to. But for a woman who seems to have everything, we have also seen her frequently struggle with her weight. We have watched her go from overweight to healthy to overweight again, time after time. Even with access to so many of the resources, we think necessary to stay fit, trim, and healthy (like a personal trainer and private chef), she has still had difficulty finding a healthy balance weight-wise.

Narcissism = Emotional Immaturity

I am spending increasing amounts of time with my five grandchildren. They are at the same time delightful, charming, engaging, manipulative, deceptive and self-centered. They are emotionally and socially immature, having little sense about the needs of others or how to mesh what they want with what is expected of them. They have little awareness of how their angry outbursts impact those around them. They often cannot see how shifting the blame, causing confusion, or getting angry inhibits their growth.

The Power of Words

Miscommunication is not necessarily what destroys a marriage. What comes out of your mouth simply reflects what’s in your heart. But, not being able to communicate does stifle rebuilding the relationship.  When you have no confidence in being able to approach the other with something that pertains to them, you have no means to negotiate the relationship. A healthy relationship is dependent upon knowing that your spouse will listen, seek to understand and collaborate to resolve the issues that are damaging the relationship. “Words are loaded pistols.” -Jean-Paul Sartre There is great power in the words you use. Even the ones you speak in your own head. Simple nuances, preferred pronouns, and a reactive vs. proactive focus can determine whether the conversation stays open or ends in a fight. Ever wonder why so much of your counseling experience has been driven by learning to communicate better? It’s not because miscommunication causes the destructive issues. But, if you cannot communicate, you cannot resolve those issues. You might think you’ve got a handle on how to talk to your spouse. You work hard to “speak the truth in love,” to wait for the “right time” when he or she isn’t hungry, angry, lonely, or tired, and to couch your issues with “I feel” statements. Or, maybe you don’t bother to care how you say things anymore because it hasn’t seemed to make a difference. Regardless, communication that keeps a conversation open is an art form necessary to change the trajectory of your relationship. Words and Self-Protection Voltaire once said, “One great use of words is to hide our thoughts.” Our words tend to be driven by self-protection! We think we are avoiding conflict by not saying what we need to say. We think we are “using our voice” when we stand up for ourselves, defend our space, or explain our position. We either tend to use words as a façade or a distraction, missing the power of being vulnerable and real. In the end, our self-protection can become self-sabotage. You can talk about anything, at any time, but not in any way. “Speak clearly, if you speak at all; carve every word before you let it fall.” -Oliver Wendell Holmes One of my slogans is “you can talk about anything, at any time, but not in any way.” The point needs to be to keep the conversation going. The best place to start is to keep it out of the courtroom. The second an accusation is made, listening ends and fighting begins—fighting to be heard, accurately represented, understood, and rightly judged. Even if the accusation is true, it ends the conversation, and nothing gets resolved. You will have wasted your energy, again, trying to get your point across. Keeping the Conversation Open Here are some ways to keep a conversation open: Speak for yourself. Name your feelings, your motivation, your needs, and what you would like to see happen. Let your spouse speak for him/herself. Never assume you know. Be curious, ask questions, and give your spouse the room to tell you. Talk about what you feel, what you need to feel, and what you’d like to see happen to get there. This will indirectly address destructive behavior without staying stuck on arguing over the behavior. Stay grounded. Know who you are, who you’re becoming, and what you want your story to be. This will help you speak from a place of confidence and courage and will enable you to avoid being triggered or flooded. Be proactive, both in working to keep a conversation curious, open, and collaborative and in not allowing yourself to engage in nonsense. For those issues, you can’t seem to talk about, bring them to a session where the conversation can be facilitated in a healthy way. Seek Help for Your Communication Issues The Marriage Recovery Center specializes in helping couples learn to communicate effectively with one another.  If you would like to learn more about communication and keeping a conversation open, contact our Client Care Team.

Can Separation Be Healthy?

Recently a client came to me and shared that his wife asked for a separation because of the ongoing conflict between the two of them. He was reluctant to go along with it and threatened, “If you go forward with this separation, you might as well just file for divorce!” He continued to share, “Now that we are separated, all of my fears have come true. She is making friends with both men and women and doesn’t want to go to counseling with the pastor. She wants her “space” and wants to be left alone to think about things. I say she is using the time to play around. How long should I wait for her? Should we be allowed to have friends of the opposite sex while we are still married?” Many men and women make an unnecessary threat when one mate wants a separation to think things over. They let their fears run rampant and try to exert control in various ways, seldom with any productive impact. They threaten to get a divorce if their mate seeks a separation. I have seen these fear-based threats backfire so many times. A temporary, time-limited separation can be a healthy process if conducted with clear and appropriate guidelines. But, both must adhere to those guidelines. Let’s consider what those might be. Find Someone to Help Keep You Accountable First, the separation should be done under the leadership of someone trustworthy, such as your pastor, to ensure that steps are taken to make the time apart productive and not divisive. A weekly check-in time should be done with this person to make certain you are using the time as effectively as possible. Clarify Your Purpose for Separation Second, it must be made clear that this is going to be a “therapeutic separation.” As such, everything about it is done for the purpose of ultimately restoring the marriage. While there may be a “time out” from one another, the “time out” is set up to strengthen weaknesses in the marriage so that you can come back together stronger than ever. Counsel should be sought, both individually and as a couple, to heal wounded areas. Books on communication and healthy conflict could be read and discussed to strengthen the relationship. Each party must take full responsibility for their failures in the marriage. Protect the Sanctity of Your Marriage Third, during the “therapeutic separation,” there should not be alone time with members of the opposite sex, for obvious reasons. It is simply too tempting to engage in quasi, or overtly, sexual behavior out of a need for attention and affection. Hedges of protection must be built around the marriage. It is very normal for the grass to look greener during times of intense conflict—don’t be swayed into thinking this is reality. Seek God's Wisdom Finally, I believe a therapeutic separation can be a time to get alone with the Lord to determine His will in your life. It is a time to let go of your pride and ask for wisdom in the key areas needing attention. It is a time not to focus on how you have been wronged, rehearsing wounds perpetrated against you, but how you have been less than the Godly spouse you are supposed to be. Let the Lord minister to your needs and assist you in restoring your marriage, if possible. Pray together as a couple, seeking humility to be the best mate possible. The apostle Paul encourages us: “Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.” (Ephesians 4: 2-3) Do you need help navigating separation? The experienced therapists at the Marriage Recovery Center can help you and your mate navigate this difficult time in your marriage.  Contact the Client Care team today and they can help guide you to the right marriage counselor that best suits your needs. Article originally published on March 30, 2006 on

Are you talking down to your spouse?

Do you talk down to your spouse and then become surprised when they snap at you or give you the silent treatment? Years ago, I was working in a traditional finance job at a venture capital firm and we were lucky enough to have a seasoned executive teach a workshop on communication. He was a straight-shooter, and the methodology he shared with our firm that day was remarkably simple, but also remarkably powerful.

Money and Relationship Manipulation

Is money important to us? Does it influence us? Most people would agree that money is a powerful motivator that can be used for good or bad. It can help a relationship grow and feel secure or it can be used as a manipulative tool. The Bible teaches that love is the value we need to exude. Love is about relationship.

You might need solo therapy if…

Here at the Marriage Recovery Center, our primary mission is to bring struggling couples closer together and teach them the necessary tools to promote long-term happiness through mutual, compassionate support. This good work can only be possible when each partner is genuinely able to feel what they’re feeling, to communicate these emotions effectively to others, and then to make healthy choices that support their utmost well-being. For only when we are healthy can we help our relationships to thrive.

When Scripture is Used to Abuse

God never forces anyone to be in relationship with Him.  Never.  The whole idea of “love” is that it is an invitation.  The moment a relationship is coerced, where one person is manipulated by the other to stay in it, that relationship is no longer about love—and it no longer reflects God.

Being Present: The Story of Two Monks

The Story of Two Monks One of my favorite parables that teaches us to be in the present moment is the story of the two monks and the woman. It goes something like this: two monks, one old and one quite young, are walking down a wooded path, preparing to cross a river, when they come upon a woman crying by the riverside. The older monk approaches the woman and asks her what’s wrong. She tells him that a few days back she crossed this river to visit relatives in a nearby town. But now that she’s returned, and the river has risen due to recent rains, she’s unable to cross again to make her way back home.

Setting Yourself on Fire

We’ve all heard the pre-flight instruction, “in the event of a loss of cabin pressure, air-masks will drop from the overhead compartment.  You should put yours on first before helping others.”   Intuitively we know this makes sense, and we probably even do it on airplanes when a crisis calls for it.  So then why do we so often forget this very sentiment in so many other areas of our life?

Taking a Pulse Check on Your Marriage

No one goes from a happy contented marriage to the verge of divorce without a long process of dissolution. It takes a long time for a marriage to erode to the point that the couple is held together only by inertia and fear of the consequences of separation.

Let Your Anger be a Catalyst for Change

She came into her marriage believing they would work through anything.  She thought the times they were immature, or selfish, or careless would simply be the things anyone would walk through as they got older and wiser.  She thought surely God would not allow him to feel okay about raging, deceiving, or dismissing and belittling her. She did not expect a pervasive, steady path toward death of her joy, her hopes, her motivation, or her sense of what she had to offer to the world.

Therapeutic Healing Process

Do you ever feel like your marriage is adrift, with no one guiding the ship? Do you know something is wrong but no one appears to tell you exactly the problem or exactly what is needed to heal the problems? Have you tried to get help but it seems that it is too little, too late? Terry and Stephen are in that situation, both feeling helpless and hopeless. Both blame the other for their marriage problems, and yet both also sense that someone needs to come in and guide them along a path of healing.

Could Online Therapy Work For Me?

Have you ever seen a man and woman together in a restaurant who are more engaged with their phones than they are with each other?  One of the curses of our day is that it’s easier to mindlessly scroll through our phones than it is to connect with the person across from us. At the same time, when used well, current technology can allow us to connect with friends and family across the globe, allowing us to keep our relationships strong. We can Facetime or Skype with a loved one and almost feel like they are right there with us!

Moving Your Marriage Forward

If you’ve done much marriage counseling, you’ve probably experienced “problem-focused” counseling. This is where you go to counseling, talk about a problem and return the following week to rehash the same problem. Or, perhaps you’ve encountered another problem and focus instead on that problem.

Fight, Flight, Freeze or Flow

I watched Jennifer grow pale as her husband of three years—his third marriage—stonewalled her. Thirty-seven years old, vivacious and lively, she too had suffered from a broken marriage. She hoped this marriage would go better, but, so far she had been bitterly disappointed.

Can Narcissism Be Treated?

One of the most common things we hear at the Marriage Recovery Center on the subject of narcissism goes something like this: “Everything thing I read and watch says that narcissism is incurable and that I should run. You are the only ones who say there is hope!”

Quality or Quantity Time?

A number of years ago I planned a weekend getaway for me and my wife.  I booked a bed and breakfast and planned a tour of part of the Olympic Peninsula we had never seen so that we could enjoy some time together.  But in the days leading up to the event, a family in the congregation I pastored experienced a loss and I was called upon to lead a memorial service. We were still able to go on our trip, but we left later than expected, got lost on the way, and if all of that wasn’t bad enough, a winter storm stopped most of our outdoor activities! We still look back on that trip and laugh as it could not have gone much worse. Let’s face it, our plans don’t always work out.  However, the fact that we are intentional about scheduling these times, regardless of how they turn out, is what’s important. In looking at how we connect to our spouse I believe we all have different ways and preferences. I have heard many couples talk about how stressed they feel and how they don’t have the time they need for an extended time together, so they focus instead on quality over quantity. While it is true that you need quality time with your spouse, you cannot just “declare” that a particular moment or outing will be quality. I have found that you must set aside time in order to connect –  some of it will be quality and some may not be, but by prioritizing time to connect you show that value each other and your marriage bonds grow stronger. Connecting in Conversation For some talking is a chore, and while we want to feel connected, deep conversations are not going to just happen.  For some, talking about deep things is easy and a great way to connect.  Everyone is different in this area. Have you ever been in a restaurant and seen a couple that doesn’t say much? They just sit across from each other and eat? Are they connected? The truth is that sometimes we may have lots to say and other times just being together and experiencing things as a couple is enough. A constant stream of words is not necessarily what is always what is needed.  But if you never talk to each other, you do need to ask yourselves, are we connected? If you never share deeper issues in your life you need to be more aware that important communication needs to take place. What About Date Night? Couples need to set aside special times to build their relationship.  A regular date night is one way to do this and can be a great way to plan to spend time together.  I recommend it, but I also think that relying solely on a date night for connection can lead to disappointments. What happens when your monthly date night doesn’t happen because of a sick child, or car break down, or some other unforeseen event? Does that mean you don’t really care about your spouse? Certainly not!  I cannot tell you how many times a special time was planned for my wife and me to share that ended up being interrupted due to outside issues.  But because we make efforts to connect in other ways as well, our relationship is secure and there is little need to hang all of our hopes on the big date. Make Time to Connect Daily For some folks, a simpler approach can be good, like daily touch points. Maybe you and your spouse talk about what their day will entail every morning over coffee, or perhaps you spend a few minutes every evening talking about what happened during the day. Taking time to show an interest in your spouse’s life each day will go a long way in fostering connection. Some people love to receive text messages from their partner throughout the day. These messages don’t have to be long, but a short note that says “I’m thinking about you” can really help you feel connected. The main point in all of this is that it’s our job to establish connection. John Gottman, one of the top marriage researchers, talks about the importance of bids in healthy relationships. Healthy couples turn towards their spouse 86% of the time. Unhappy couples that divorced averaged 33%. In other words, happy couples engage and respond to their spouse with positive interactions. Here’s what’s tricky – positive interaction differs from person to person. For some, it’s spending time together and doing an activity that you share.  For example, I love fishing, but my wife not so much.  She does, however, love to give me time to do what I enjoy. On occasion she will even just hang out with me, or join me in an activity she knows I enjoy. And sometimes she wants to do things I am not so interested in, but I do them joyfully and try to discover what it is that she likes. When couples start to focus on building connection, their marriage satisfaction will rise. Tips for Healthier Connection: Don’t assume. What works for one may not work for another. Find ideas you can agree on.  Date nights, daily touch points, enjoyable activities and when to find time to talk. Put together a plan. Commit to actions. It may be as simple as a quick text before coming home or at lunch? Maybe set aside an evening each week to go for a walk together and talk. I often tell my clients that relationships are like climbing a greased pole.  You are either climbing up or sliding down.  Keep climbing and win your spouse’s heart.

When Forgiveness is Demanded

“If you had a perfect excuse, you would not need forgiveness; if the whole of your actions needs forgiveness, then there was no excuse for it”- C.S Lewis, Essay on Forgiveness. I can’t tell you how many times I hear, “You just won’t forgive me!  Why won’t you just forgive me? We aren’t moving on or healing because you won’t let it go!” Truth is, your spouse’s forgiveness isn’t the linchpin of reconciliation.  Your changed behavior is. And your changed behavior doesn’t depend on whether or not you’ve been forgiven. Most the time when I have a client who is asking their spouse for forgiveness, they are really asking for their behavior to be excused.  They have not recognized the depths of their harm in such a way they are internally motivated to turn from repeating that harm.  They got caught, and to get the world back to working for them, they ask to be excused. Changed Behavior is Key The problem in counseling this couple is that being excused for their harm to the other does not repair the relationship.  It does not make recompense or restitution. In other words, it does not fix what they broke.  If they stop at asking for forgiveness, with no plan to “go and sin no more,” they have, in effect, stopped the healing process and turned it into a move to get on with life as usual.  It reveals a stubborn attitude of entitlement:  I deserve your forgiveness.  You don’t deserve changed behavior until you forgive me. It becomes another perfect example of blameshifting.  In essence, he or she is saying, “I can’t turn from my harm and do good because you won’t forgive me.”  Or, “You are stopping me from treating you with kindness and respect because of your unforgiveness!” Can you hear the crazy-making in that? Moving Away From Excuses Being excused for harm does not bring about change.  If, like the Lewis quote above, you are acting on the premise that your actions need forgiveness (hence the demand to forgive), then you recognize there was no excuse for them.  There is no excuse for causing harm in a marriage.  None.  So, when you’re sitting at a crossroad taking a hard look at your marriage, forced to reckon with your behavior, excuses are not going to help anything. If you are serious about changing your marriage, you have to change the things you are making excuses for. Yes, forgiveness must be a part of the process for reconciliation to have a chance.  But, it is not the linchpin of successful restoration.  Repentance of the harm, which includes making recompense AND eliminating that behavior, is. If you want reconciliation in your marriage, your goal should be to make it easy for your spouse to forgive you by eliminating the harmful patterns in your relationship.  Real love and relating well entails an invitation to be in relationship, never demanded or coerced.  Turn your behavior into an invitation, and your spouse will be much more likely to forgive, and you might stand a fighting chance of rebuilding trust again. Coping with the Demand of Forgiveness I do realize those of you reading this post are most likely not demanding forgiveness, but are experiencing having it demanded of you.  Are you wondering how to respond?  Here are some ways to think about it: Don’t take on the weight of the blame. “We are not here because I haven’t forgiven you. We are here because you have done something destructive to our relationship that must be changed.” Forgiveness does not equal reconciled relationship. “My forgiveness does not change your behavior, and without a change in your behavior, our relationship cannot be restored.” Forgiveness does not mean you stay engaged in a toxic relationship. “You can keep demanding I ‘forgive’ and use that as another excuse to continue your harmful ways, or you can focus on changing your destructive behavior and make it easy for me to forgive.” Don’t tolerate the continued bad behavior you are being expected to forgive. “Go, and sin no more,” is how Jesus framed repentance.   When someone keeps doing things to break the relationship, it needs to stay broken until THEY seek to fix what they broke.  This has nothing to do with whether or not you forgive. Changed behavior is what makes restitution, not forgiveness. Watch for this!  Let the behavioral change (or lack thereof) inform your next steps either to re-engage or further disengage from this relationship. Forgiveness is a beautiful element of restoration that reflects a core element of God’s grace.  But, restoration hinges on repentance and turning from the old behavior.  Keeping this in mind can help you be more intentional in giving your relationship room to heal and grow, use better boundaries to keep it from further harm, and eliminate the blameshifting that stalls progress. Do you need help with navigating the process of forgiveness? We can help! Call us today at 206.219.0145 or contact us here.

Faith, Hope and Love: A Mindset for Your Marriage – Part 3

The greatest of these is Love. Our culture offers us many definitions and examples of what love is. For example, you may have heard, “Love means never having to say you are sorry.”  But love actually means the opposite – it means saying sorry when we have not acted in a loving way, and accompanying our words with a true behavior change. The True Meaning of Love The Bible is clear on its definitions of love. First, love is much more rooted in action and commitment than in feeling. On this point, it seems that our modern world has really missed the boat. Corinthians says that LOVE is bearing, believing, hoping and enduring all things, love never ends. Matthew says that what God joins together let no one separate.  If you have been joined as husband and wife you have a mission together. Living together with purpose. Getting Unstuck As two separate people, we can often struggle with the ways we love. To stay together means we must work on both our relationship and on ourselves.  I have seen many men and women say things like… “I love him/her but I can’t live with him/her.” What happens next is we internalize and feel it is our fault for the breaking of relationship. We feel stuck and unable to change. In our failure we carry guilt and that produces an unhealthy shame. This shame drives us toward not wanting others to see the real us. So, let me take a minute and encourage you to find the heart of Jesus in all of this.  “Father forgive them for they don’t know what they do.”  Most relationship issues need at least an agreed upon desire to seek reconciliation. If we have a desire to mend and make things right, that means that we still hold love in our hearts for our spouse. Fueling Up One important note to make here – feeling and emotions are not the foundation for our relationships, but they do function like gas in the car.  Without gas our car will not run, and without emotional power, you may know the right thing to do but feel unable to move ahead.  The good news is that you can choose to stop at the gas station and fill up. You can also choose to be loving again and look for all the positives.  Our thoughts and emotions drive us toward our actions. You can choose to be loving now, in this moment, let go of your desire to be right and instead focus on being caring and supportive.  One step at a time will help you complete the journey to a caring loving relationship.  The more you choose to act in caring ways the more you will care and the more likely it will be reciprocated. Love in Action So, if you want a marriage that is not only a joy to be in but also is God honoring let me suggest a few practical areas to work on. Explore what is good and what needs some work. Be specific. Strengthen your communication skills and be assertive and actively listen. (We can help you learn these skills.) Take active steps to resolve conflicts as they arise. Un-resolved conflict usually escalates and eventually destroys relationship. Take a careful look what drives you. Your family of origin, your past, your values.   Hurts and wounds need a physician to help the healing process go quickly and to achieve good results. Take responsibility for your feelings, beliefs, thoughts, behaviors, and even your finances. Make plans and look carefully at each area.  Make changes where you are failing. Today is a day to act. Give us a call so we can help save your marriage and get you back on track. We can help you clarify this as part of the work that needs to be done.  Contact us here or call us at 206.219.0145.

Are You Living “Lost?”

“When we live lost, we settle for a lesser life, a part far too small. And we are subject to the frustration that results in drinking too much, eating too much, sleeping too much, working too much, complaining too much and judging others far too much. But once we get our bearings, become oriented, then we are able to do what we were created to do… love. Be loved by God, love God back and help others experience the same.” – Search & Rescue by Michael Thompson Lost or Found? What does living lost mean?  It means going from moment to moment trying to manage the chaos enough that we don’t drown.  Maybe we use goals and a checklist to make ourselves feel productive, and yet little of real value is pursued or accomplished. Living lost means going from one urgent moment to the next without a purpose other than to get through that moment.  Along the way, any relationships we build tend to be shallow and unfulfilling as we work hard to hide how lost we are living. We put up walls to hide, to self-protect, to paint a pretty façade upon, and the people around us don’t really know us.  They can’t!  Which implies living lost means isolation and loneliness as well. At the end of the day, what kind of life have you settled for? You don’t have to stay settled there.  I know you know that!  You’ve probably spent your fair share of time saving pins to Pinterest that inspire you, liking thought-provoking Tweets, and sharing challenging social media articles delineating ways out of your rut.  And yet, here you still are, plugging along your fairly aimless, settled path. Finding a Way Out of the Rut What you may be missing is the community you simultaneously work to impress and to keep “out of your business.”  The façade and the wall, disabling your capacity to live found, rather than lost. Found implies known, recognized, treasured, and in its rightful place.  Living found, then, might look like walking in authenticity and integrity – being real and really being who you present.  It also implies knowing who you are and where you’re going, which is almost entirely described within the context of community. Community is Key This brings me to my point: You cannot live life fully – “found,” if you will – without the people around you.  Your deepest sorrows and longings, anxieties and pleasures, and stumbling blocks and goals are connected to others. For healing, breaking down the walls of your heart, becoming authentic and known, you have to involve people in the process.  You must know you are not alone, and gathering with a safe, supportive community can impact you and your marriage profoundly. Letting Ourselves Be Found You may feel uncertain about opening up in front of a group.  A normal self-protective stance is to remain hidden.  Yet, we’ve found when you are given the opportunity to connect, the fear of vulnerability tends to lessen, and the lure of being known awakens your desire to connect.  The relief of finding understanding makes it even easier to disclose your mess. The potential to also relieve the pain and deep loneliness behind your façade can effectively motivate you to share your story as well. The group experience is about getting your bearings, becoming oriented and finding your footing, and helping others experience the same. It is about linking arms so you are no longer stuck living a lesser life, lost. And as a result, you start to realize that you are not alone in the battles you are fighting.  The themes, the vices, the heartaches, and the strongholds are common and familiar to others.  The specific details are unique, but the patterns are not.  As you sit in the group, listening to other share the raw truth of their stories, it becomes clear you aren’t the only one in this trench, and you are all here to help each other figure a way out. An Invitation to Connect At the Marriage Recovery Center, we believe strongly in the power of community and accountability, and we offer a variety of resources and programs so that you can grow and heal with others. We invite you to consider participating in an a program for women, men, or couples. You can also contact in the office for information on these programs or additional counseling options at 206.219.0145.

Freedom to be Yourself in Your Marriage

Do you know “who you are”?  Have you thought about how that affects your relationships? You don’t have to follow us for very long to hear us talk about living from your core.  This is the concept of being grounded in how you think about yourself, your sense of self-efficacy, and how you view the world around you.  Your core incorporates your faith, your values, your perceived purpose and direction, and your hopes and dreams.  It makes up the foundation of what you have to offer the world, and provides the ability to speak your voice and live authentically. Within communication, it is the filter through which you decide what you will say, how much you will say, and how vulnerable and honest you will be.  Think about how this affects the communication within your marriage. True Connection Starts by Being Real If you are weak in your sense of self, fear keeps you from saying what you need to say.  Rather than speak from a place of vulnerability and honesty, the tendency is to mimic your spouse or become who he or she says you are in order to keep the peace.  You learn to hide your real feelings, stuff your real needs, and forget your real hopes and dreams, creating an impenetrable wall to real connection.  In other words, you keep your spouse at arm’s length, unable to truly connect because you have not given them a real “you” to relate to. You also spend a lot of energy trying to “read” them and stay a step ahead of his or her emotions.  It feels safer to somehow try to manage their emotional state than to stand up for your own.  However, the reality is that you can’t make them happy or fix their pain. You simply lose more of yourself by trying. If you haven’t learned to live life from your core, you tend to constantly compare yourself to others, trying to measure up to their strength, or goodness, or beauty… or whatever.  When you find that you can’t, you quickly end up in a pity pit with a bad attitude and a chip on your shoulder.  Tolerance and grace become as fleeting as snow in Florida. All this means is that without a solid core sense of self, communication in your marriage will be shallow, full of fear, and manipulative. You are a Unique Individual You are your own person, with your own thoughts, ideas, dreams, hopes, feelings, and perspectives.  That is a powerful concept!  You have your own unique footprint to leave in this life.  Maybe you’ve never considered that before, but if you knew how to live from your core, life could be very different.  You would see that vulnerability is actually a strength.  You have nothing to hide, which means no fear of being “found out.”  This also means there is no wall to keep your connection at bay.  You know how to ask for what you need or desire to see happen, and how to use boundaries to keep you from being pulled out of that core.   You aren’t afraid to let your spouse be his or her own self.  Your marriage has a much greater chance of becoming a joint effort of linking arms and doing life together, even as two very different people. An Invitation to Discover Who You are Finding, creating, or knowing your core self begins with discovering the values, character qualities, and ways of relating that resonate with you.  What do you love?  How do you measure what is good, right, and true? Who do you admire? What makes your heart sing?  Where do you find hope and joy?  What kind of person do you want to present to the world?  What are your gifts, talents, and passions?  What’s your mission and purpose?  What legacy do you want to leave? These are all questions that can help you sort out “who” you are.  I encourage you to journal about them, and see what unfolds as you write.  Take note of what resonates with you, and what creates deep longing, and use that to inform your next steps.  As you learn to walk in your core, watch to see how it affects your communication and connection in your marriage.  Even if your spouse does not respond positively, you will still be living from a place of strength rather than a void.  And at the end of the day, that will change your entire perspective. If you can’t seem to find the right place to start, we would love to come alongside and help untangle the lies, scripts, and bad habits.  Contact our office today here or at 206.219.0145.

Faith, Hope and Love: A Mindset for Your Marriage – Part 2

Today we are featuring the second blog in a three part series by David Daroff MA called “Faith, Hope and Love: A Mindset for Your Marriage” on what it really means to apply those concepts to our marriages.  And now these three remain: faith, HOPE and love. But the greatest of these is love.  1st Corinthians 13:13 My dog presents herself at my side, eyes full of hope and expectation. She is trusting that I will give her a treat, or at the very least, some attention.  In psychology, we call this a conditioned response. This means it was not always that way, but through a series of stimulus and rewards and sometimes punishments and negative reinforcers, certain behaviors increase. The likelihood a behavior will re-occur is somewhat dependent on how you have related to that person. In the case of my dog, she knows that if she sits at my side and looks at me long enough, she’s going to get rewarded with a treat or attention. Her hope has been rewarded in the past, so she remains confident in that hope. You might be reading this today because you’re feeling that there is little or no hope. Based on repeated experiences from the past, you may be seeing no way past your current circumstances. Many men come to us with no hope of saving their marriage. Women come to us with no hope that anything can change. How Did We Get Here? We’ve found that there is a process that most couples go though. We start out with being in love. Nothing can stop us, and everything is perfect, but then one day the honeymoon is over and reality sets in.  We discover that there are actually problems – they were there all along, but we never took the time to discuss the issues as they came up. We had a hope that whatever came we would overcome, and we minimized our conflict. But now that we are further down the road in our relationship, we realize we just aren’t on the same page anymore and we have no idea where to go from here. Enter the Three D’s: Don’t know what to do.  We feel stuck and don’t want to talk about it.  We withdraw and become emotionally disengaged. Defensiveness.  We say things like, “I did not cause this. It must be your fault.” We use blame and shame, along with hurtful actions and language. Demoralized.  This is the point where the couple has lost all hope and sees no way out except for complete separation. Divorce. It often takes about six years for most couples to get to the point where they feel motivated enough to seek help, and to seek hope for their marriage. What Does it Really Mean to Have Hope for our Marriages? Hebrews 11:1 says that faith is the assurance of things hoped for. In other words, we can hope for things that seem impossible based on faith in God’s faithfulness. According to an “archaic” definition, hope is synonymous with trust – meaning that we can trust that something will come about if we act in faith. As Christ-followers, we can take this a step further by aligning our hope with God’s promises, so that we can faithfully move forward toward Godly goals. How do we hope to restore relationships? We act with the same diligence of living as if the relationship will be restored, and is in fact restored. Dealing with Conflict and Disappointment In short, we must act as if what we want is real. Amid a spouse’s hurt and disappointments, we must be willing to truly listen and empathize. The popular saying is “If you can’t take the heat get out of the kitchen.” I would say there will be heat. And my encouragement to you is to stand strong and take the heat. You may want to return to old patterns which may include all kinds of denial, minimizing, arguing, and justifying. At those times, stay in the moment. The anger you hear from your spouse often isn’t about the relationship as a whole, but rather, it’s an expression of years of frustration. And in those “heated” moments, it’s important to avoid reacting the way the world way say to react. Tactics like these will only add to your spouse’s hurt and frustration: Demanding your own way Insisting on your own happiness Taking what you want Acting entitled Complaining that you are being treated unjustly These emotional pitfalls will keep you stuck and feeling hopeless. Instead, respond with love and sacrifice. We must learn to give with no thought of personal gain. We need to love selflessly, putting forth the effort to make our spouse feel special and to communicate that they are the object of our love. I would say that we must live in ways to make our spouse the best they can be. Build them up and help them feel empowered. To have relationship means a lot of sacrifice, but such sacrifice transforms us and renews our mind and or feelings. Placing our Hope in God Helps us Love Better Further on in Romans 15:13 Paul says, “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” Robert Brault says in his blog, “You find hope the same way you find happiness. You give it to someone else and borrow a little of it back.” Once our hope is in God, we are fully able to treat others according to the directives in His Word without fear, or doubt or conceit, lifting up those around us. Or as the main character in the movie “As Good As It Gets” says, “You make me want to be a better man.” Hope should run both ways, allowing us to want to be “better” and to make those around us want to be “better” as well.  So, take

Faith, Hope and Love: A Mindset for Your Marriage – Part 1

The Marriage Recovery Center recently welcomed David Daroff MA to our team and we are excited to have him on board! You can read more about David here, and today we are featuring the first blog in a three part series by David called “Faith, Hope and Love: A Mindset for Your Marriage” on what it really means to apply those concepts to our marriages.  And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.  1st Corinthians 13:13   When you read 1 Corinthians 13, do you hear very many “feeling” words?  Let’s take a look. Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.  It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.  Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.  It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Lots of action words, lots of values, some prescriptive admonitions, but not much in the way of feelings. Why is this?  Well, feelings can quickly change.  Moods change. Circumstances change. Victor Frankel said, “Life is never made unbearable by circumstances, but only by lack of meaning and purpose.” So if circumstances change and our foundation is built upon feelings, then our relationships will most likely collapse quickly.  Like the foolish man’s house built on the sand, few relationships will last if they are simply based on feelings.  When they are based on circumstances which often change, then we can’t find the stability we need.  Real love which is worth building upon is based on our values and our choices to love another person.  And what we really value is always revealed in our actions. Jesus said we should love our neighbor as we love ourselves.  The expectation is that we do in fact love ourselves, but what if we have a self-loathing?  We don’t like ourselves.  Well, that may be the source of the discord in our marriage.  We don’t like something about ourselves and it becomes easier to blame and shame someone else rather than take personal responsibility. Our chosen response is to not be responsible, but the one thing that can never be taken from you is how you will respond to a situation. Proving Faithful Today in the first part of our series “Faith, Hope and Love: A Mindset for Your Marriage,” I’d like to take a closer look at faith.  Faith is having trust or confidence in someone or something.  Being faithful is being true to the expectations or faith of the person who places faith in you.  For example, God is faithful to keep His promises, in which we can have faith.  A faithful employee is one who meets or exceeds the expectations of the employer, who then can have faith in the employee.  The same applies to spouses.  Faith and faithfulness, then are the interactive pieces of a relationship.  What does active faithfulness look like? Faith in Action In the movie “As Good as it Gets,” the main character is challenged to compliment his date. After struggling with words and attacking the subject in a round-about way, he finally blurts out that she “makes him want to be a better man.” Faithfulness is much like that.  When we rise to exceed the expectations that our promises have set up, we become “faithful.” Now it is required that those who have been given a trust must prove faithful. – 1 Corinthians 4:2 No certificate or seminar will give you the necessary training to be found faithful.  You either are or you are not.   It is not about gaining knowledge; it is about how you live.  How do we develop in the area of being faithful?   How do we live up to the promises we made?  When we exceed expectations.  We live according to our values so what we say we believe better be truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. This faithfulness is more than sexual.  If there is infidelity, the odds go up that a relationship will not survive.  That’s a big broken promise. In the marriage vows we speak the words: “To be faithful for as long as we both shall live.”  This also means giving up some important things such as: forsaking all others. That, by the way, is not just about sexuality. It could be that your favorite sports team becomes something more than a simple diversion. Keeping Yourself Pure Sexually speaking, faithfulness means your spouse alone is the source of your sexual expression and no one else is to enter that arena.  To be faithful means you cultivate the care and nurture that was promised and keep yourself pure and set apart.  If you don’t, what are you really saying about your values?  If our values say this is all about my pleasure and needs then how do you think your spouse will respond to being just an object of pleasure?  If they are just a source of meeting your needs how honored and cared for will they feel? If you are to be found faithful you have to live it out not just say it. Some Questions to Consider Are you faithful to your decisions and promises? Both in mind and heart? If you are struggling with being faithful, what are the unmet needs you have that are challenging your choices and promises? How can these needs be met within the context of our promises? Being faithful covers many areas. Can you list the important areas to you that you need to be faithful with and which you want your spouse to be faithful in?  What do you think your spouse feels when you don’t exceed expectations? The last time you found yourself fighting with your spouse, what were you valuing? Note: values are not always what we say. Many times, we express our ideals verbally. To illustrate, you may say you value a clean home but find yourself living in a messy

Healing Wounds From Our Past

You married your sweetheart believing everything would work out fine. Oh, you may not have had stardust in your eyes, but I suspect you never thought you were marrying your mate and their past. Yes, it’s true. Falling in love is the easy part. The first stages of courtship are equally blissful. Then comes the real work and some significant hurdles. Past Wounds Can Impact Our Present Consider Danielle, a thirty year old woman, firm in her style and “no nonsense” approach. She is quite accomplished in her job as a CPA, and brings that style into her marriage. Her husband of five years, DJ, is also accomplished as a software engineer, but is much more laid back. He tends to avoid conflict whereas Danielle wants things settled now! As challenging as their two different styles are to navigate, that is not their greatest problem. They have been able to talk about those different styles and work out something that works for both of them. The problem is deeper and more challenging to resolve. Listen to DJ tell their story. “There are certain things that I say that bring out the critical attitude in Danielle. I know that anytime I say anything negative about how the house is kept she flies into a rage. It’s not even that critical, but she is so touchy and let’s me have it. I never know when something I say is going to flip her lid. It’s crazy.” When I talked to Danielle about this she was initially quite defensive, but admitted that she feels very “raw” about her appearance, the way she keeps the home and any criticism in general. She shared how she “could never measure up” as a child, and DJ’s comments made her remember those feelings. Danielle wasn’t the only one triggered in the marriage. DJ had his own unresolved issues from childhood that were activated by Danielle. Here’s what she had to say. “Whenever I say anything that hurts his feelings he retreats. I can see him visually shut down. He’s like a turtle with a thick shell around him. I’m never quite sure what it is that sends him running, but I know when it happens. It’s really confusing. I ask him if he’ll share with me and he says he doesn’t know. I know it has to do with his childhood, but he won’t talk about it.” Gaining an Awareness Danielle and DJ are a typical couple, being two people trying to navigate the usual struggles of relating to each other, but also with the baggage of unresolved wounds from their past. Because their wounds are hidden in the shadows of their marriage, they trigger each other and their wounds are activated largely outside of their awareness. Fortunately, there is help for couples like DJ and Danielle. They don’t need to go through life tripping each other’s triggers, reacting to unknown events and withdrawing from each other. They don’t have continue to overreact to small slights and can heal old wounds so that they are dealing in the ‘here and now’ with problems. Let’s consider what they can do.      Practical Steps for Healing First, become more aware of the words and behavior of your mate that trigger old wounds. We cannot change what we cannot own or do not see. We must notice troubling patterns in our marriage and talk about them. Be honest with your mate about the words said and behaviors done that raise uncomfortable feelings. Awareness is a key to growth. Second, pay attention to overreactions as a symptom of trauma from our past. Old wounds do not simply heal with time. In fact, ‘a feeling denied is intensified.’ Old wounds, with accompanying old feelings, are likely to be very primitive and not attached to our present day thinking. Subsequently, we may not even be able to talk about or explain why an action on the part of our mate upsets us, but we know that it does. Third, get expert help. A good psychotherapist, trained in understanding trauma and unresolved wounds, can help you identify old wounds that you carry around in your body. An innovative approach, such as Lifespan Integration, helps you learn about how you carry old pain and are thus overly sensitized to current problems. In therapy you can resolve old wounds with expert help in a relatively short period of time. Fourth, work together in couples counseling. Having worked individually in counseling to resolve old wounds, you are now much more capable (integrated) of being available to your mate when they have problems in the marriage. You can talk to them about where and how they hurt you from a mature and emotionally stable place. You are more capable of being fully present, attending and attuning to their needs. Finally, agree to move carefully and caringly into the future. Having taken responsibility for old wounds and resolved them, you can now enjoy each other more fully. You are able to live out I Corinthians 13, that challenges us to protect each other as an act of love. We guard against stepping on our mate’s ‘raw spots’ and they do the same for us. In summary, we all come to marriage wounded—and we unintentionally wound each other in marriage. We are all fragile in different ways, and that is okay. Danielle and DJ, through expert counsel and hard work, were able to heal and enjoy each other, even helping each other heal. They learned more about each other and respected the hard work each did to bring a healthier sense of self to their marriage. If you would like to learn more about healthy relating, and specifically Lifespan Integration, please contact us here or call us at 206.219.0145.

Intervention – An Opportunity for Breakthrough

Anne had tried for years to get Larry to stop his angry outbursts toward her and the kids.  She never knew when or what would set him off, and she felt constantly on alert, ready to shield herself from the noise and the hot breath on her face.  He seemed entitled to vent his frustrations without any responsibility for how it affected the people around him.  What made it feel worse to Anne was that he also carelessly expected her to be physically intimate with him, even if he had stomped and banged around the house moments before.  His sense of entitlement to vent his frustrations carried over into his entitlement to have her body as well. The broken connection and her hurt and confusion were completely disregarded.

Marriage Counseling: How to Start and What To Expect

Are you feeling stuck in your marriage? Is the spark missing from your marriage? Do you question whether there should be more in your relationship? Will counseling even help? We at the Marriage Recovery Center are here to help you sort out these questions and find answers to your problems. Individuals and couples turn to us when wondering if counseling can help and what they can expect. Getting Started Finding the right help is only one of several daunting issues when reaching out for counseling services. When is it time to reach out for help? How bad do things have to be before calling Marriage 911? If you want assistance, how do you find competent help from someone whose values match yours and are likely to offer quality, life-changing intervention? Once you’ve decided you need help it’s time to ask your mate to join you. How do you invite your mate to participate with you? Should you be soft and subtle, friendly but firm or downright serious in your presentation? What should you do if you meet with resistance? These are just a few of the many questions you are likely to face when seeking professional counseling. I’d like to answer them, one by one. While we may not answer every concern, this will offer a starting place from which we can continue a dialogue. When To Get Help First, when is it time to reach out for help? It’s time to reach out for help if you believe your marriage is stalled. If you feel distraught and cannot solve marital problems on your own—and this is very common—it’s time to find a professional to assist you into better times. If you feel emotional distance or prolonged conflict, it’s time for help. Healthy marriages are marked by long periods of joy and vibrancy, with limited times of conflict. Healthy couples like being together, enjoying good conversation, companionship, emotional and physical intimacy. It’s important you remember those good times and contrast your current relationship to the one you’ve enjoyed in the past. Couples in trouble struggle with emotional and physical intimacy, experience long periods of conflict with only intermittent joy and vibrancy. If you have conflict that you don’t feel confident to resolve quickly and effectively, or experience emotional and physical distance, a qualified marriage counselor is critical to teach you the skills to get your relationship back on track and enjoying one another again. Finding the Right Therapist Second, how do you find competent help? There are many therapists who do some marriage counseling, but this is not their specialty. Working with someone who works with children, adolescents, individuals and couples is like going to a general practitioner for heart disease—you need a specialist. Ask your friends, pastor or other professional who has the best reputation for helping marriages in crisis. A good marriage counselor will have developed a solid reputation and is a great starting place. Then, armed with good questions and clear goals, interview the counselor to see if you experience a rapport with them. The proof of their expertise will ultimately be in their results with you! Inviting Your Spouse to Join You Third, how do you invite your mate? Asking your mate to join you in marriage counseling may be like inviting your mate to join you in having a root canal, but necessary to alleviate further pain. Be prepared for a less than enthusiastic response. However, if your marriage is in trouble and you have not been able to resolve the issues on your own, inviting your mate to work on your marriage is one of the highest compliments you can give them. You care enough to want your marriage to thrive and proper. Your approach to your mate in obviously important. Be clear with them about your feelings and exactly what you hope to accomplish in counseling. Let them know this is not a time to find fault but to seek solutions. Reassure them that any criticisms are invitations to change and grow together, noting you are ready to work on yourself, and hope and expect them to do their work too. What to Expect Fourth, what can you expect from counseling? Counseling, done by well-trained professionals, should be life-changing. The staff at The Marriage Recovery Center offers solution-focused couples counseling which is both practical and highly effective. You will meet with a caring Counselor who will listen, explore and discover the patterns that cause your distress and offer a clear plan for solutions to those problems. You will learn how to best cooperate with your Counselor to heal the wounds in your marriage setting you on a course of healthy connection. Facing Resistance Finally, what if your mate resists counseling? It is not surprising that not everyone gets excited about personal and marital growth. Not everyone wants to spend the time, effort and expense to help their marriage. This makes the situation even more critical and this is a time to be firmer and clearer about the importance of hiring a Marriage Counselor. What if they adamantly refuse to engage in counseling? This is not uncommon and this will be the moment you determine how critical seeing a Marriage Counselor really is and what you intend to do about it. You may need to set a boundary—a line in the sand with a clear consequence attached to it. You might have to threaten—and even follow through with—a temporary separation if they refuse getting help. Fortunately, in the majority of cases we’ve experienced in our many years of practice, most choose to participate in counseling rather than experience the severity of a separation. Can counseling be effective with a resistant partner? Most definitely. Again, a skilled Marriage Counselor understands how to engage a resistant partner and will explore ways to make the experience beneficial for both parties. Take the First Step Today So, is marriage counseling right for you? We at The Marriage Recovery Center are available to help you determine what level of

Healthy Expectations for the Healing Process

Counseling can be a bit like surgery – most people don’t seek out the help of a counselor until they’re desperate, or facing an emergency. No one comes to counseling when things are running smoothly, but rather, when the pain has reached such a high level that they can no longer tolerate it. Like surgery, the counselor isn’t there to wave a magic wand over it all and make the mess go away. Surgery is painful and the rehabilitation after can take time, but most people want the fix without the work of changing. “Will my spouse change?” That’s the biggest question, possibly the whole point in your mind, of coming to counseling.  And the answer is maybe.  Maybe not.  It will totally depend on what they decide to do with the tools they’re given to do relationships better.  It depends on what they want to do, what they want their relationship to look like, how willing they are to change the behavior that is hurting you, how humble they are, and how courageous they are.  You can’t and don’t control any of that. “Will I change?” Well, now you are talking about something you do control.  You will get out of these sessions what you put into them.  If you remain shallow, hiding behind a façade, your growth will be shallow and more of the façade.  If you want to learn to be authentic and real, you have to be authentic and real.  Counseling is your opportunity to intentionally reshape your character and direction in life. Here are few steps things to consider as you start the counseling process: If you come willing and ready to grow, you will grow. It would be beautiful if BOTH of you came with that frame of mind, but your part is to do your part.  This will be the most influential way to invite your spouse back into the relationship. If you are trying to appease your mate by coming to counseling, but are unwilling to grow, there will be very little change. You will learn how to manage conflict in such a way that you simultaneously maintain connection. We will help you practice and will provide accountability while you work to break the old habits and replace them with the new. God does not always remove the consequences of sin when we repent. There may be things about your relationship that have been broken by sin that you will have to navigate.  For example, if you have broken trust, be prepared to prove your trustworthiness. Restoration of your heart may not end up looking like restoration of your marriage. Your spouse may still choose to walk away, but the changes you make in your own thinking, and the tools you learn about doing relationships better will still be worth the work you do in counseling. Growing, healing, changing, and becoming who God is calling you to be is a life-long process. What you launch through counseling will need to be intentionally maintained in real life. At the end of the day, this marriage is what you make it – the two of you together, linking arms and doing life together. The counselors, mentors and friends in your circle can speak into it, but the work of the marriage is up to you. If your marriage is in a dark place and you are determined to give it the best possible odds of surviving, counseling is the most effective process to set that stage.  Our mission is to help you experience what a healthy relationship looks like, and to provide a “healing container” in which you can be vulnerable and real to develop a healthy plan to move forward. If this is your last-ditch effort to save your marriage, be prepared to change your old ways, which probably haven’t been working well anyway.  And as you enter the process with humility, the hard work of counseling can transform you and, hopefully, bring healing to your marriage. We would love to help in your healing process. Contact us to learn more about our individual and marriage counseling services and start the brave work of making changes in your life and in your marriage today.

Bearing Each Other’s Burdens: The Power of Accountability

As I sit and write this, few know of my personal struggles. Few know my inner anxieties, insecurities and the concerns I have regarding future issues and how I will face them. Subsequently, few can pray for me, encourage me or hold me accountable for making the changes I endeavor to make. This leaves me vulnerable. When alone in facing life’s struggles, more or less, I rely on myself to face my issues. Again, I am more vulnerable. Leaving Isolation Behind Thankfully, I don’t have to be alone with my fears, or lack accountability. Though I have grown accustomed to handling personal matters on my own, this never has to be the case. I never have to be alone or hold myself accountable for making the changes I need to make. I never have to be so vulnerable to regression. Why am I tempted to face issues alone when so many people could rally around me in support? Here are a few of the arguments (myths) I wrestle with. Perhaps you can compare your list with mine: Myth: People are too busy to get involved in my life. Truth: People who care for me often feel honored to be asked their opinion or requested to give their support. They know one day they will need my support and desire to be connected to others. They will create time for me/ you and give freely and readily. Myth: My problems are too small to matter to anyone. Truth: My problems are not too small for others to hear. What troubles me at this moment can feel overwhelming and the same is true for you. Whatever has burdened me has in some form burdened others at a time in their life. They can relate. My problems are not too small, or big, for others to care. Myth: No one could really help. Truth: Others can offer immense help. Just yesterday, when allowing some caring friends know about some anxieties I faced, they reassuringly shared, “We’ve got your back. We care what happens. All is going to be all right.” Simple words offered immense relief with a nudge as to how to more effectively handle a situation. Support from others, combined with accountability, feels good! Myth: I would be burdening people if I asked for support. Truth: We are not burdening people when we bring our cares to them. Scriptures makes it clear: “Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.” (Galatians 6: 2) Not only are we giving others a gift by sharing our hearts with them, we are fulfilling Scriptural principles of being interwoven and being stronger by being accountable to each other. Myth: I don’t want to depend on anyone else for my well-being. The myth of living independent lives, never needing others, is just that—a myth. This myth has been perpetuated by rugged individualism fostered in many cultures, yet damaging. We need each other for support and others need us. We need others to show us what we may be missing, insights we cannot see. Myth: I fear people judging me for my insecurities and needs.  Truth: Others will not judge us for reaching out for support and accountability. Most are honored that we have selected them to share our hearts. They recognize the risk we’ve taken by bringing them into our confidence. They intuitively honor that confidence and appreciate your willingness to share and recognize this opens the door for them to reciprocate, sharing their needs. Myth: I want to appear strong. Truth: The appearance of being strong, able to handle anything that comes our way without support or accountability is just that—a myth. We can appear strong, all the while feeling vulnerable and alone. Strength really comes in admitting weaknesses and acknowledging our dependence on others. Myth: I resist accountability, for then I really may have to make changes. Truth: Accountability does create an environment of commitment. When we tell others we are going to change this and that, we put ourselves out there. Accountability, however, combined with transparency, creates an optimal space for real change to occur. Without accountability we are prone to regression. We are stronger together Scripture tells us “A person standing alone can be attacked and defeated, but two can stand back-to-back and conquer. Three is even better, for a triple-braided cord is not easily broken.” (Ecclesiastes 4: 12) Where do you want to go? What is the ultimate success you want to achieve? Accountability is a major tool you will need to arrive at your desired destination. Consider today who you will include in your accountability circle. Consider how you might confront your mate and those in that inner circle regarding the importance of accountability. Your growth and theirs depends upon it.    We offer groups for both men and women seeking to walk alongside others in their journey of growth. Follow these links to learn more about our men’s group called The Core and our women’s group called Thrive, or call us in the office at 206.219.0145.  

Healing Marriage Wounds

“There doesn’t seem to be any hope for us,” a woman said to me recently. “Why do you say that?” I asked. “I’ve asked my husband to change and he throws it all back on me,” she continued. “He complains about me and I complain about him. I’m getting so resentful now and I’m not sure if I even want it to work.” “It sounds like you are both hurting,” I said. “He sounds very threatened and when threatened he comes out fighting.” “That’s him,” she said. “And what do you do?” I asked. “Retreat,” she said. “I stand in there and argue for a while and then I just shut down. There’s no getting through to him and so I withdraw. To be fair, I do my share of provocation.” “What do you do?” I asked. “I say nasty things because I’m so upset,” she said. “I just have so much resentment built up. I can’t keep it all in. I think it’s the same way with him.” The Roots of Resentment I took a detailed history from this distraught woman, hearing much the same story that I’ve heard thousands of times—two people who hurt each other and then grow more and more distant because of that hurt. Two people who once loved each other but who, because of their wounds, now feel only resentment. In their resentment it is only natural to seek relief. Some become absorbed in social media. Some have affairs. Some use drugs and alcohol to deaden their pain. All want relief from their pain, pushing away from their mate. Are those marriages doomed to failure? Is divorce their only option, hoping to find happiness in the future with someone new with whom they have no troubled feelings? While this view may be common, this perspective is short-sighted. The Path to Healing Consider these points of view: First, it’s possible that your love is still alive but buried beneath many wounds. As with this couple, perhaps your caring and concern for your mate is buried beneath years of pain. Perhaps you’ve let wounds fester, or found no clear way of dealing with those hurts effectively. Could it be possible that beneath your pain is still a lingering love for your mate? Second, it’s possible to heal those wounds. Have you considered that you can heal those wounds? Perhaps you’ve lost heart and hope and possibly even the will to heal them, but there is very likely a way to do so. Most couple who feel profoundly discouraged have not gotten the best help possible. Most have given up on help too soon and slipped back into the ruts that cause so much hurt and suffering. Can you open yourself up again to the possibility that healing is possible?  Bear in mind that God wants to help you to heal. God said to the prophet Isaiah and to us, “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” (Isaiah 41: 10) God wants to show you the path to healing. Third, it’s possible to get expert care to help you heal wounds and see each other in a new, loving way. Too often couples allow wounds and ongoing stress to damage their marriage before getting expert help. Have you allowed bitterness to creep into your marriage? There are experts ready and willing to help you and rediscover the caring you have lost for each other. Will you reach out for help? Fourth, it’s possible to discover care and healing again. Rediscovering the caring you’ve lost is a journey you can take. Taking this journey together can be part of the healing. Determining together that you will find ways to heal from the wounds that feed the bitterness can be an exciting journey. With expert help and filling your hearts and minds with God’s Word, you can heal. Will you go on this journey together? Finally, anything is possible. While this is a cliché, with God’s help and a humble heart, anything truly is possible. There are ways to encourage your mate to seek help with you. The path from hopelessness to hope is not as far as you think. Will you choose to believe in possibilities today? Taking the First Step Have you lost hope for your marriage? Is your marriage bogged down with bitterness and resentment? Do you long for change, but feel uncertain where to start?  We are here to help you take that first step.  We offer a variety of services including individual sessions, group sessions, Marriage Intensives, and a subscription group for women called Thrive.  Contact us today and our client care team can help you determine where to start, as you take that first step towards healing your marriage. You can reach us at 206.219.0145 or contact us here.

Seven Things She Wants Him To Know

At this stage of my career I’ve had thousands of cries for help from women who have been narcissistically and emotionally abused. Most feel helpless and hopeless. They reach out to me and others searching for a thread of hope. As I listen to their many cries for help, women share their stories. They voice the years of struggle and the toll this has taken on them, emotionally, spiritually and even physically. Most don’t believe they are able to articulate the impact the emotional abuse has had on them—the ‘brain fog’ and exhaustion have taken an enormous toll. Most believe they can’t share clearly what they are experiencing, only that “I feel crazy at times.” Interestingly, once they begin sharing, their pain takes on form. Once they feel safe to vent the tragedy of the years of emotional abuse, their pain makes complete sense. Their minds and bodies have recorded the incessant stress and abuse and their pain is real. They long to be validated, understood and honored. The stories I hear are varied and often have many layers to them. They are complex, spanning many years of married life. Many have been married more than once, with serious problems—trauma and Complex Post Traumatic Stress Disorder– occurring along the way. They are filled with emotional and physical pain from troubled and often emotionally abusive marriages. Their stories, sadly, have been marginalized, glossed over, dismissed and unrecognized. Worse, blame has been shifted back onto them. Their attempts to reach out for help have often failed—friends don’t want to get involved, family may take up for you, but this ultimately fails to help as well. Church family generally offers superficial responses. Women feel even more alone. The common theme to the stories is that these women are desperate to be heard, by their husbands first, of course, but also by their pastors, friends and family. Not only do they want to be heard but they want their voice to bring change. Ultimately, they share what they want their man to know, want him to listen, validate and connect to them. They want change! I’ve recently completely a series of videos on What She Wants Him to Know, which is a more complete version of what you’ll read here. I’m convinced that God does not honor the abusive man and that she is to be treated always with dignity and honor. I’m certain her responses, not always pretty, are cries for help. Here are just a few of the requests she makes, hidden amidst those desperate cries for help: First, see her as a separate, unique, individual. Women who have been narcissistically and emotionally abused feel marginalized, invisible and used for utilitarian purposes. In other words, they don’t feel valued for who they are, their unique gifts and for what they bring to the relationship. Always on the outside of his life looking in, they feel powerless to be truly heard and seen. They want their voice to be heard and for their man to make decisions in collaboration with her. Honor and value her, changing your life to reflect an active interest in her. Second, see her cries, anger and hurt as cries for help. These women are crying out, sometimes quite loudly, to be heard. They are not just “losing their temper,” but rather gesturing, verbalizing, sometimes even acting out in an attempt to be truly considered and valued. Sit and listen to her, asking her what she needs and wants and then changing your behavior accordingly. Third, take responsibility for the abuse, sit with healthy shame and apologize. These women want their man to own the magnitude of the damage they have done. They are tired of tepid apologies that are followed by more acting out. They are weary of promises for change, only to be followed by more bad behavior. They want a man to live out for “godly grief brings repentance that leads to salvation.” (II Corinthians 7: 10) Taking responsibility for abuse exhibits deep remorse and active plans and actions for change. Fourth, see that she is probably right. For as much as men want to deny it, women have done a lot of emotional and spiritual work. They have read the books, studied Scripture, sought out counseling and begged for change. These women are wise and worthy of being heard and their words highly valued. Consider that she is likely right about much of what she is saying. Fifth, dedicate yourself to depth change. These women want true, depth change and action. They are tired of hollow words. They want to see their man follow through with counseling, apply Scripture to his life and be the Godly leader he has been called to be. Seek true, depth change. Find good help and settle in for the long run. Sixth, see that she wants the abuse to stop but also wants the true, relational, vulnerable connection to begin. After the abuse has stopped it must be followed by true, heartfelt emotional connection. Emotional connection is evidenced by vulnerability, transparency and accountability. Be the man who learns emotional language. Study her and show her you care enough to have a powerful connection to her. Finally, invest in ongoing emotional and spiritual growth. Superficial change won’t do a thing for either of you. Find someone trained in narcissistic and emotional abuse and follow their lead. Make the emotional, financial and spiritual commitment to real change. Follow this up by a clear, decisive accountability plan, knowing relapse is a real possibility. What do you want him to know? Please share your feedback with us. If you would like further help, we are here for you. Please send responses to us at and read more about The Marriage Recovery Center on our website and learn about our Personal and Marriage Intensives as well as our newly formed subscription group called Thrive created for women struggling with emotional abuse.

Loving Your Marriage FOR A Change

There was a grumpy man who had a habit of constantly complaining about his wife. Nothing she did pleased him. He found little to value in who she was and what she did for him. “At first I had an ideal for a mate,” he exclaimed. “Then I had an ordeal. Now I want a new deal,” he ended bitterly. When was the last time you complained about your mate? When was the last time you considered trading your mate in for a newer model? If you’re like most, you’ve complained about your mate recently and fantasized about having a new partner. If you didn’t complain out loud, you may have complained under your breath. To be fair, we’ve all been like the grumpy man wanting a new deal. We all know love and marriage are rarely easy. Even as a hopeless romantic, deeply in love with my wife Christie, I must still say love and marriage are not always easy. While romanticism is an integral part of life, realism is important too and realism indicates love can be challenging. But love is not only a noun—something I wish for everyone—but also a verb. Love is something we do. Love is something we work at, strive for, cultivate in our lives. Marriage is the best place to do that work. Lately I’ve thought more about complaining less about issues in my marriage and being thankful more for the opportunities those issues bring to me. My wife is, after all, the one person on the planet who knows me better than anyone and is in the unique position to help me grow. I’ve discovered that every issue in my marriage has something to teach me. Now to be fair, I don’t always want to grow and learn. I still sometimes imagine having the perfect partner who loves me relentlessly, day in and day out, no matter how I behave. This magical, mythical person would adore me and never complain about my immature foibles. But I’m smart enough to know that is an immature, childish notion. No one loves and approves of another perfectly, no matter how they behave. Nor should they. Instead of complaining about your mate and fantasizing for a new deal, consider loving your marriage for a change. What do I mean by this? I mean consider adopting the point of view that your mate is the best person on the planet to help you mature. Consider that you need their perspective and need to mature and if you don’t, you’re dangerous. Yes, an immature, self-centered, inconsiderate person is dangerous. An immature person does not reflect on their actions, refuses to take responsibility for their failures and does not seek growth. That person is dangerous. If you are married, be thankful. Be thankful that your mate is there to help refine your character and without them, without their reflection and feedback, you have little opportunity to mature into the person God wants you to be. Maturity has much to do with knowing yourself and knowing yourself has to do with understanding who you are and what you are like to be around. Every issue that arises in your marriage, every argument, every pet peeve and marital struggle can teach you something. Stop blaming your mate and look in the mirror. Stop rejecting your mate’s critical feedback and thank them for caring about you and helping you grow. You cannot discover your character weaknesses on your own—you need your mate. Join me in loving your marriage for a change. Contact us today to learn more about how we can help.

When You Feel Alone

“Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another: “What! You too? I thought I was the only one.” -C.S.Lewis Anna used to be outgoing and friendly.  She was bubbly and almost always had a smile on her face.  Nothing about her seemed fake or hidden, and she had lots of friends.  That was before she got married.  Not too many years into her marriage, the smile began to fade, and her relationships became more shallow.  She couldn’t remember exactly when she’d lost her joy. It seemed to have been taken away one little piece at a time with each dismissive comment, sarcastic put-down, and angry outburst.  Now, three kids and 15 years into this marriage, she only feels numb, lost, and completely alone. When you are in the middle of emotional chaos, it’s natural to either tell anyone who’ll listen or retreat into isolation, depending upon whether you tend toward extroversion or introversion.  Neither of those options are truly helpful.  Telling anyone and everyone leaves you vulnerable to their disdain, misunderstanding and secondary harm.  Isolating leaves you totally alone and even less able see hope. There is another option, one that resonates with your soul the moment you see it happening. It’s that instant connection that comes with finding someone who has been there.  No matter if you consider yourself the extrovert or the introvert, the moment you run across someone else who has experienced what you’ve seen, felt, and wrestled with in your mind, you know it.  Empathy is very different than sympathy. When you get the chance to link arms with others who really understand your path, it helps carry your burden.  If you are like Anna, even just a small taste of that empathy can make a huge difference in your ability to regain your sense of self and find healing.  You need confidants and advisors to help you process life and see your blind spots.  If you don’t know where to begin looking for those kinds of connections within your own community, we invite you to join ours! Contact us here, call our Client Care Team at 206.219.0145, or click on these links to learn more about our Men’s Intensives and Women’s Intensives.  We would love to help! “Friendship is not a reward for our discrimination and good taste in finding one another out. IT is the instrument by which God reveals to each the beauties of all the others.” ― C.S. Lewis, The Four Loves

The Power of Community

“We share our experience, strength and hope,” I remember the leader sharing at the start of our support group. I wondered how they could make such an offer. Hmm. Experience, strength and hope. These all sounded like wonderful elements I needed in my life. I so needed to hear other’s experiences so I wouldn’t feel alone in my distress. I wanted to pull strength from them all and was certainly anxious for hope. If they could give me even an ounce of each of these I would leave satisfied. I did. Many women and men working with me echo these same sentiments, if perhaps in slightly different forms. One woman said this to me recently: “Do you think other women struggle as much in their marriage as we do? I feel so alone.” Another woman said, “I feel so crazy. I don’t know if anyone can understand. I need to know I’m not alone in healing from emotional abuse.” A man said, “Is there any hope for our marriage? I can’t imagine others have been able to save their marriage if it’s like ours. I feel like I’ll never change as much as I need to.” Sadly, we tend to share the highlights of our lives far more quickly than the low points or if we share our difficulties, we hide critical aspects of our story. My research indicates that we are frightened of sharing the challenges we are facing, tending to withdraw and isolate. This isolation, of course, intensifies our problems. I’ve found that we have opposing feelings—the fear of being exposed and vulnerable, people finding out about all our warts—and the intense desire to expose ourselves and allow others to see us for who we are and show us kindness and acceptance. This inner battle adds to our tension and anxiety. What is the answer? I believe the answer lies in the power of community. We were created by God to “dwell together in unity.” We were designed to experience koinonia—the Greek New Testament word for fellowship, communion and sharing our lives. In this special gathering with others we find we are not alone. We discover we can be loved and cared for just as we are. We share our common experiences, the strengths we each have and the hope we find in locking arms with one another. So, if you have a deep yearning to connect with others, to find common threads between your story and others, you are not alone. We offer many opportunities to connect with others in community at the Marriage Recovery Center, and we are finding that couples and individuals are often to make greater progress in their healing as they link arms with others in a group. Consider joining one of group programs for Couples, Men or Women.  Call us at 206.219.0145 to talk to our Client Care Team to learn more!

When Joy Feels Hard to Find at Christmas

Christmas is almost here, which means you are almost through one of the hardest seasons in which to manage your emotions. With “Joy!” and “Peace!” ringing in the air and forced-family-fun-times which are really anything but, the pain of your fractured relationships can be magnified. It is much more common to feel lonely, left out, and forgotten than it is to be belting out “Joy to the World” in your shower. The pain, the disappointments, and the bad memories are all very real. Your childhood delight in Christmas, if you ever had it, was jaded a long time ago. And it never helps to simply shove the distress to the back of your mind as you plow ahead through the day. This can make you feel even more fake and disconnected. However, what if you challenged yourself to enjoy the moments for what they are? The music, the lights, the cookies you only get this time of the year. What if you chose to enjoy a deep breath of the crisp winter air, and let that second of peace wash over you? What if you actively looked for the moments of reprieve and rested your heart in them? Like the hours when he or she is away and the house is quiet, or the chance to walk through the mall just enjoying the presence of other people. What if you belted out “O Holy Night” in your most powerful bravado and let yourself feel it to your core? Proverbs 14:13 says, “Even in laughter the heart may ache.” The implication in this is that while your heart may ache, it is possible to enjoy the moment. A normal human condition is to carry the pain of our brokenness and that of the world around us and still be able to find joy in it as well. That is such a picture of Grace! When you strip away all the distractions, the reason for the season is truly the reason for it all.  We remember His birth, even while our hearts yearn desperately for the hope it represents. In the end, He will have the last say, and all things will be made right. In John 16:33 Jesus tells us, “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”  What a great and redeeming promise! And with that promise ringing out in our hearts, no matter what our circumstances might be, the words “Joy to the world, the Lord has come” can be an anthem of hope for us all. Click here to learn more about scheduling a session via Skype or by phone with Sharmen or a member of the Marriage Recovery Center team. Or call us at 206.219.0145. We would love to help you on your journey of healing!

Change Your Marriage By Disruption

I had a very disconcerting conversation with a man today. I don’t know the man and will likely not talk to him again. The man sought my advice because of lingering emotional pain he experienced in what seemed to be a very unhealthy marriage. “My wife is a very angry woman,” he shared. “She yells at me when she is unhappy. She rants and raves at myself and our children. We all walk on eggshells around her, never sure when we are going to do something to bring on her wrath.” “I’m sorry to hear that,” I said. “Something certainly is bothering her that she expresses in very unhealthy ways.” “Yes,” he said. “I can’t live like this anymore.” “I can certainly understand why you would say that,” I continued. “She’s got to get help,” he said. “But, she won’t go to counseling.” “How do you know that?” I asked, having heard that complaint so many times before. “Oh, I’ve asked her dozens of times to get help, with or without me.” “But, what have you done to insist on her getting help?” I asked. “I’ve asked, begged and pleaded with her to get help many times,” he said. “She always says ‘no.’ There is nothing more I can do.” “That isn’t true,” I said. “You can disrupt her life in such a way to enhance the likelihood of her getting help.” What happened next is something that happens in myriad conversations with those saying they want change. He began back peddling and offering excuses for not changing his situation. “She won’t get help,” he reasserted. “I can’t make her get help.” “No, you can’t make her get help,” I said. “However, you can disrupt her life in such a way as to increase the likelihood greatly of her getting help.” “Are you saying I have to divorce her?” he asked incredulously and with a sharp tone. I could sense him beginning to get tense. “Of course not,” I said. “I would not do that. However, you have a lot of power to disrupt her life and that power can be used in a healthy way. A disrupted life is a life more ready for change.” There was silence on the line and then came the resistance that I often hear when proposing disruption. “We have two little girls,” he began. “Plus we are active in our church. We have a wonderful home and life. I don’t want to disrupt any of that. I don’t want to risk her leaving and our lives being turned upside down.” “Well, you have to decide how bad you want change,” I said. “There is real power in disruption. I sense you don’t want anything to change. Change is never easy. But, disruption of the status quo is often the only way to bring about lasting and definite change.” He stiffened at these words. “I’m not going to risk losing everything I’ve worked so hard for,” he said. I spoke softly, but firmly to him. “I can sense your fear. Whatever boundary we agree upon is not likely to lead to the ending of the marriage. I’m sure neither of you want that. However, what is necessary for change is disruption of the status quo. You must let your wife know that you will not tolerate her angry outbursts and are insisting on counseling to learn healthier ways of sharing feelings and needs. Were she to refuse you would institute a graduating level of changes and interventions, beginning with an disruption of fellowship with her and leading ultimately to a possible temporary separation.” “She would be furious with me for doing anything like that,” he said. “Yes,” I said. “I can imagine that at first she would be quite upset. You are disrupting her world. She doesn’t seem to see herself as having a problem. You would need to stand firm, and share your need in a loving and kind way, being clear you have no desire to be mean-spirited.” “Well, thank you,” he said abruptly. “I’ll think about it. Thank you for your help.” With that he ended our conversation. Like many others, this man faced the prospect of significant change and froze. While he wants change, he doesn’t want to have to pay the price to get it. While he wants his wife to stop her tirades, he doesn’t want to disrupt his life to get it. This man’s plight sounds eerily similar to the Biblical account of the man by the pool of Bethesda. This is a story of a man who had an infirmity for thirty-eight years. When Jesus saw him lying there he asked, “Do you want to be made well?’ The sick man answered and said ‘Sir, I have no man to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Rise, take up your bed and walk.’” (John 5: 7-8) While this is certainly a story of Jesus’ compassion and healing, it is also a story of a man with myriad excuses for not availing himself of help. It is also a challenge to us with a question, “Do we really want to be healed?” While we quickly say we want our situation to change, many of us, like the man I spoke with on the phone, expend much energy maintaining the status quo. Change is often difficult and requires something from us. If you are paralyzed as you look into your future, consider these action steps: First, be candid and clear about the changes you want. Consider your life and why it is that you want change. What exactly do you want changed? How much lies within your power and how much depends on someone else? Wanting change is certainly the first steps toward seeing a new and brighter future. Taking responsibility for change is critical. Second, explore whether there are hidden benefits to NOT changing. For as much as you might want change, disruptive change is, well disruptive. Consider

Healing From Narcissistic Abuse

   Thrown away. Unloved. Invisible.   She had been married to him for 22 years now, and could only think of a handful of moments when she wasn't anxious or afraid, most of those were under the heavy distraction of labor and childbirth. Thankfully, his job required some travel, giving her scattered days of reprieve from his domineering presence, but the anxiety that gripped her heart knowing he was on his way home was debilitating.  She never knew what kind of mood he'd be in, or what he would find to snarl about. She had slowly become numb to the names he called her to alleviate whatever sense of inferiority or frustration he was feeling.  The cycles of remorse and lavish kindness he poured on her after he beat her - both emotionally and physically - held no promise or hope anymore. They had just become part of the hell. The Cycle of Abuse She'd become numb, having lost sight of her own senses.  Having been told for so long what to think, that her own recollection was faulty, and that she shouldn't be such a baby, she didn't even believe herself anymore.  In so many ways, she had become like him - angry, uncaring, self-absorbed, and false. Life was a show! No one knew what really went on behind the pretty picture.  At the end of the day, all she felt was absolutely alone. Thrown away. Unloved. Invisible. Welcome to being in a relationship with a narcissist. If you think that might be the case, you are likely experiencing some or all of the following: A sense of a oppression from living with a man who thinks only of himself. Trust and respect are demanded, but not extended to you. Entitlement from your spouse to have whatever pleasures he wants. Feeling like you are being baited, stalked, and nitpicked. Gaslighting, minimizing, and stonewalling.  Contempt and manipulation from your spouse when he’s not getting what he wants. All of this can be maddening.  No wonder you feel crazy!  When you've been repeatedly told you are dumb and misguided, you learn to quit listening to your own heart. And yet, without your heart in the game, you have nothing.  No connection, no joy, no depth, no passion, and no motivation to change any of it.  Life is just a series of survival attempts from one moment to the next.  You get to where you don't even feel the fear anymore.  There comes a day when the reality of that either destroys you or awakens a fierce anger in you, maybe both. Naming the Pain What do you do when this looks a bit like your story?  Where do you find life again? How do you grasp hope?  What is left in you to fight for a different story?  And then how do you write it?  This is the kind of awakening I see in my office almost every day, bringing a determination to no longer be complicit in being imprisoned in their own homes. Usually, I start with a label. It seems to help feel a tiny bit less chaotic when you can call it something.  In this case, the label is usually Narcissistic Victim Syndrome, and everything you're feeling is the result of the trauma of living under intense stress and oppression. This label also gives a rough road-map for how to find healing, and the path often begins with learning to listen to your heart again, and believing that what it says is valuable. Depending on how deeply you've been wounded, it may take a long time to hear and trust yourself.  Maybe a good place to start is simply to name how you've been harmed, and let yourself be okay to feel the hurts that you've been told were ridiculous or blown out of proportion.  Then also look closely at them.  Grieve the losses of what can never be repaid, and break your agreements with the false assumptions and lies.  Sort out what is truth. This is a process.  It will take time. Rediscovering Yourself At the same time, begin to define your dreams of who you are.  Pay attention to your thinking, and work to line it up with progress toward those dreams. Set a new path by taking the next right step before you, without letting yourself get overwhelmed with what-ifs and what you can't control.  Let yourself believe in you again, even if it's just a little at a time.  Eventually, over time, you will be at a different place than you are right now, simply because you are on a new path. That all sounds easy written out in a couple of paragraphs on your screen. But, this is just the beginning of a life-long process of guarding your heart and paying attention to your path.  One of greatest investments you can make in that process is finding someone who can coach you through the hard stuff. Taking A Step Towards Healing Here at the Marriage Recovery Center, we specialize in helping untangle the chaos narcissism and pride wreak upon your heart and your marriage.  While our desire is to speak hope and restoration into marriages, we recognize that reconciliation requires both partners to be motivated to change.  If you are left alone to deal with the heartache in your marriage, or are separated or divorced, we want to speak hope to you as well! Contact us here or call us at 206.219.0145. Our Client Care team would be glad to help you take the first step in your healing through one of our programs or counseling options.

Overcoming Narcissism and Emotional Abuse

What makes a woman ready to give up safety, security and marriage in order to preserve her sanity? What has happened to bring her to a place where the thought of living simply in poverty sounds better than to live more comfortably, but with anxiety, tension, depression and often a host of physical maladies? The answer is that living with a narcissistic and emotionally abusive man has become too much to manage. Suffering with subtle and overt abuse has taken too much of a toll and change must happen. Consider that many women live with one or more of the following destructive symptoms of narcissistic and emotional abuse—attempts on his part to deny problems: Powering Over: This has also been called “Power Play,” when one forces their will on another Scapegoating: Putting the burden of responsibility onto an innocent person and placing themselves in the favorable light Minimizing: Treating another as a lesser individual or treating actions as less severe than they are Playing the Victim: Making it seem as if the perpetrator is the one being wronged instead of the real victim Blameshifting: Taking the onus off the perpetrator of harm and putting it onto the victim Excuse-making: Making “rational” explanations for inexcusable actions, failing to take responsibility for misbehavior Rage Reactions: Erupting in overt or covert anger—this could take the form of passive aggressive actions or outright rage Stonewalling: Retreating into silence Shunning: Intentionally discontinuing contact with a person because of dislike for their justifiable actions Justification: Offering a “reasonable” excuse for inexcusable actions Rewriting History: Disavowing knowledge for having done a harmful action they have done Deception: Lying about an action to place themselves in a more favorable light Magical Thinking: Everything will be fine. We can work this out. It shouldn’t be too hard. I’m sure change will just happen. A little help will do it. One woman said this recently: “I’m never sure of when my husband will become abusive again. He gets better for a while and then he reverts to his old ways. My way of describing it is that the root of the abuse is still there…some tendrils have been eliminated, some pruned, and others stifled, but the root is still alive and very strong. Denial is most definitely the gatekeeper of the root…and the drug that numbs the conscience of the abuser.” Narcissistic men are often charming, self-confident and powerful. His power and charm can be alluring, however before long—and typically after you’ve fallen for him—you discover that his self-confidence becomes arrogance, his determination becomes stubbornness. He is hyper-sensitive to criticism, and any challenge becomes an attack on his personality. To irritate him means you face his hostility. There is overlap in narcissistic and emotionally abusive men. All narcissistic men are emotionally abusive and most emotionally abusive men have narcissistic traits. In every relationship there are behaviors that are troubling. We each must make a decision as to whether or not to tolerate the troubling behavior, make an issue out of the troubling behavior, or draw a line in the sand indicating we will not tolerate said behavior. We each must decide whether we enable certain traits or embark on an intervention regarding those damaging traits. Can Narcissistic and Emotionally Abusive Men Change? While some narcissistic and emotionally abusive men can change, they cannot change without intervention. With intervention, and depth counseling, people CAN change. Without strategic intervention, the situation WILL remain the same.  Let’s understand a few things about entrenched personality traits: They are usually outside of our awareness—we don’t wake up in the morning and decide to be narcissistic, self-centered or passive-aggressive. They are reinforced by denial—DENIAL—Don’t Even Notice I Am Lying to myself. They are reinforced by collusion—enabling the troubling behavior because of maladaptive coping and accommodation With clear guidance and intervention, things don’t change, but people can!! What does it take to bring about change? In a word—Intervention. You must first look closely at all the ways you make it easy for your man not to change. Do you scold, complain, nag and criticize? These are not effective change tools. People often change when what they have to gain is greater than what they stand to lose. In other words, they may have to face the daunting possibility of losing the comfort of their marriage, their home, their family and other aspects of their life they desire. That prospect, combined with depth counseling where a specialist works with the Narcissist/ emotionally abusive man to break down their denial and face the realities of their personality and the impact their behavior has on others, creates a powerful change dynamic. We are offering a 4-Day Men’s Intensive designed to help men overcome narcissism and emotional abuse. If this sounds like something needed in your or your mate’s life and marriage, you can learn more here. You can also contact us here or call us at 206.219.0145 for more information and to reserve your spot in this powerful group.

Connection is Not Chemistry

You know that adage “You never miss what you never had”? Even within the context of relationships, that’s true. If you’ve never had a good relationship, you don’t know what to look for, and when you’re treated poorly, you don’t realize it. Because you don’t know what you’re missing, you have no context to include, or protect, the elements that make a marriage great. Think about this: You wouldn’t say that swimming in a kiddie pool was real swimming. But, if that’s all you’d ever known, when you heard people talking about swimming, that’s what you’d picture. You would have no concept of what the deep-end was like. Or the ocean. But, you’d call yourself a swimmer. You get wet. You enjoy it. You splash around and have fun. When you got tired of it, you’d stand up and step out. That’s a little like calling “chemistry” the same thing as “emotional connection.” If you are like many of the couples I counsel, you may find yourself confused about how to regain that sense of “rightness” about your relationship with your spouse. You remember those days — early on in your relationship when you couldn’t stop thinking about her, couldn’t imagine not being with him, and everything felt so deep and so right. Now you’re at a place where you can’t begin to understand this person standing next to you, you can’t figure out why there is so much disconnection, and it’s difficult to feel any attraction. And for the most part, you don’t have much hope that any connection can be rebuilt. However, the hope comes in knowing that what you had in “those days” wasn’t real connection, no matter how deep it felt! That implies that with a little know-how, you could totally turn this marriage into something different and better than you’ve ever had. It also implies that you have a clean slate in front of you, because you’ve never really experienced deep connection before, so you have nothing to compare it to. When you don’t have preconceived expectations clouding your perception, you are able to recognize the extra strokes and breathing techniques you’ll have to learn in order to swim in the deep end of marriage. The real point is that if you keep trying to fit “emotional connection” into the paradigm of “chemistry,” you will never see how to change your approach. And every time your “chemistry” fades in a relationship, you’ll keep jumping out of the kiddie pool, never experiencing that thrill of diving into the deep end. If you are looking for practical ideas on how to dive in, here are some suggestions to make love a choice and to actively participate in building deeper emotional connection: • Start in your own head. Make the choice to protect, pursue, and honor your spouse. This also means taking captive every thought and reframing them to honor God. • Eliminate destructive behavior and habits. It doesn’t matter what those habits or behavior are, if they are bringing destruction to your connection, get rid of them. • Identify your values. Let what is important to them become important to you, even if you don’t understand why. • Establish a date night. Schedule time to talk about the things that matter (and make a rule not to talk about work-related stuff on your date!) • Be real/authentic. If you don’t offer a real you to relate to, you won’t have real connection. Vulnerability is what leads to connection. • Act out love as defined by Scripture! The self-sacrifice inherent in loving like Christ loved is the biggest key to opening the door for real, deep emotional connection. You might feel completely overwhelmed and hopeless about bringing connection into your marriage. If that’s the case, just start with one thing and go from there. As you step toward honoring God in your marriage, He helps you to see more clearly and can give you the courage to take the next step. If you would like knowledgeable help, any one of our counselors would love to come alongside you to navigate the steps together. For more information, contact us here, email us at or call us at 206.219.0145.

A New Year, A New Start

The post-holiday transition to “real life” tends to inspire the motivation to create some new habits and undo some bad ones. The let-down also highlights the places we’d like a total overhaul – like in our marriage. But, starting over in your marriage can feel overwhelming, if not absolutely impossible. Our tendency is to feel stuck in a rut because that’s just the way it’s always been. Or to feel stuck because no matter what you do, it seems like you’re beating your head against a wall. It helps to reframe the context, to change your focus from what has been (and what’s not changing) to who you can become. If you think about it, there is no other realm of your life in which you are so deeply challenged to consider who you are and who you want to be. If you let that be the filter for your motivation to change, then the wiser questions to ask yourself are: What’s my next right step? How do I become the person I want to be? What do I need to do to create safety, trust, friendship, and camaraderie? Then seek the support you need and begin to do those things. Your spouse may not choose to make the same changes, and your marriage may not look much different to the onlooker. Yet, you will be different. Your perspective will be broader, and your attitude more gracious. You will also more readily see how to build healthy boundaries into your relationship, and by looking to God to guide and protect you, you can focus on the hard work of personal growth. We would love to help you take steps to make 2016 a great year for your marriage. Contact us for a free 20 minute consultation and to learn more about how we can help at 206.219.0415 or

Building Good Boundaries

Most of us believe that if we find the right person, our marriage will be a joy to maintain. The relationship will flow naturally, and each person will value the other too much to let the distance get too wide or the hurt go too deep. The natural conclusion to this idea is that when the relationship is unfulfilling, abusive, stagnant, unstable, unsafe, and untrustworthy, you must have married the wrong person, and you fix it by giving up or getting out.

Healing Broken Agreements

Trust is often taken for granted. We rely on trust as foundation for every relationship. Consider with me for a moment the power of trust and the necessity of making, and keeping, agreements. Agreements are sacred oaths and must be kept. What should happen if agreements are broken? How can one restore the relationship and begin the process of rebuilding trust? Consider these action steps—The 3 A’s of healing broken agreements.

Getting to the Core

The armor we put on to shield ourselves actually weighs us down and prevents us from responding to the world in a healthy way. In our attempt to protect our emotions, we view life and relationships through a lens of fear and apprehension. There IS a better way to respond to the challenges you face in life and experience more fulfilling relationships as God intended. We call that process Getting To The Core.

How She is Harmed

Abusive behavior is not always physical. Follow Dr. Hawkins through a case study that examins how husbands can develop patterns of thinking to avoid seeing themselves as they are and owning their hurtful actions towards their wives. We will walk through some of the forms of passive violence that many men use against women.

Finding Freedom From the Bullies in Your Life

We all remember that bully from elementary school, and possibly even middle or high school. The bully who threatens bodily harm unless you give them your lunch, or tells you to stop dating that certain someone…or else. Well, those bullies grow up and learn that while physical violence may not be acceptable, emotional and verbal intimidation become the new outlets for pent up anger. Often these men and women feel so insecure, inadequate, and out of control that controlling others is their only sense of security. If you are living with an emotional bully you may be experiencing: Demeaning name calling and character attacks. Controlling behaviors – Control over finances, your activities, how you dress, and more. Sexual demands – If you say no, they may get very angry and cold. Boundary pushing – If you say NO to anything they want, they will push you harder until you cave to their request. So many women contact me ready to give up and throw in the towel. But, there is hope! Strict boundaries are a must. Take these intolerable requests in your marriage and create a boundary around them. “I will not be having sex with you if I feel emotionally unsafe.” Know your bully will HATE this and will bully you more, but stand strong in your convictions. Don’t engage in their pouting or cold shoulder. Bullies will often pout or ignore you to make you feel bad, guilty. Don’t fall into this trap! This is an attention-getting tactic. I suggest you go about your day without letting them get to you. Continue to be happy, busy and moving forward with your life. They will realize their plan is not working and give up on it. Call their bluff. The threats are often what shuts women down, such as: “I will kick you out of this house, if you don’t…” Or “You won’t get any money from me if you don’t have sex with me.” These threats are typically just intimidation without any intention of following through. Call their bluff by saying “Ok, then kick me out,” or “Fine, don’t worry about giving me money.” You will find they will usually back down. Stay consistent. If you cave on one boundary or consequence they will believe you are not serious. Be consistent with what is important in order to let them know you mean business. Take control of your own life. Become more independent from your mate. Find a job where you can earn your own money. Stand firm in the activities you desire to do, and dress in a way that makes YOU feel good. Also, I highly recommend that you seek counseling in order to determine what is stealing your strength. At the Marriage Recovery Center we help individuals get unstuck from dysfunctional patterns that enable ongoing destruction in their marriage. Contact us today to schedule a free 20 minute initial consultation. 206.219.0415

Marriage Counseling…Differently

I must confess that I’m fondly attached to Apple products—the iMac, iPhone, iPad, iPod and most likely soon the iWatch. I don’t think I’m addicted to technology, but I do like how this company comes out with cool ideas and products. They don’t just come out with cool things, they come out with cooler things to replace their older, cool things. Yes, I’m hooked! Now, you may be wondering what does any of my gadgetry attachment have to do with Marriage Counseling? Reflecting on my thirty-plus years of Marriage Counseling I realized that I’ve been stuck. I’ve been doing Marriage Counseling the same way I did it thirty years ago. No new ideas—no great and exciting iterations of more established ways of doing things. I was offering the same design, same product, with the same delivery of the product. Steve Jobs would give me a severe tongue-lashing, I’m sure. After considerable reflection, and significant admiration of Apple products, I decided Marriage Counseling needed a new look. Something fresh, practical, maybe even cool. So, I’ve been laying awake at night thinking about how Marriage Counseling could be done differently. There had to be some new approaches, new customer service, new availability and of course, better results. With that in mind, I’ve come up with a few ideas—but I want your feedback. (A new product is only ingenious if people respond favorably.) I’m wondering what you think about my musings. Here goes. Accessibility: What if, instead of having office hours from 9-5, Monday through Friday, we actually responded to your crisis in a more immediate manner? I’m not talking about sleeping with our cell phones, but am talking about creating a system whereby we promise to get back to you, if only for a brief consultation and arranging more time, within a few hours? Active Interest: What if I applied what I appreciate about Starbucks, Nordstroms and yes, Apple, to customer service? Oh, I know, very few of us clinicians think about customer service. That was the last thing on Sigmund Freud’s mind. But, what if we actually responded to you quickly, showed a keen interest in you and your problems? (Yes, that’s called caring!) Partnership: What if we worked together, always asking if I was responding to your needs? What if I changed directions if I was offering something you really didn’t want, and made sure to offer what you do want? Clear Problem Definition: What if I offered you a clear appraisal of your problem, in terms you can understand? What if I sat with you, literally or on the phone/ Skype, and listened, analyzed and rendered a clear description of the problem? Furthermore, what if I did this quickly, rather than taking months before giving a straightforward opinion? Practical Treatment Plan: Finally, after showing a keen interest in you and your situation, listening carefully and working together on formulating a clear definition of the problem, what if I offered a clear perspective on what it would take to bring emotional and relational health to your life? Would this kind of Marriage Counseling interest you? It certainly is what I expect of my dentist, doctor, lawyer and other professionals. I pay for their expertise and want them to answer the question, “What would you do if you were in my shoes?” I want information so I can make an informed decision. You likely want the same. What would this “Apple Approach” require of you? Here are some ideas that come to mind: 1. You would have to dedicate an equal amount of interest in this process. I would expect you to dedicate some time and energy to this process. You would read my marriage manual, Love Life of Your Dreams and learn about our innovative Marriage Counseling process. We are a team and would work together to determine what exactly is going on and what you want to achieve? 2. You would have to be open to new ideas. While you don’t have to follow everything I say, you do need to come receptive and willing to change. I have expertise in Marriage Counseling and you need help. I have information I’m willing to share with you and want you to implement the ideas. 3. You would have to work closely with me. I would expect you to be as clear as you can be about what is bothering you. I would expect you to listen to what I have to say and give me feedback on what is working and what is not. 4. You would need to accept that with change comes challenge. Giving up longstanding ways of relating and living is a challenge. Change is never easy. With change comes uncertainty and anxiety. There is no breakthrough without a breakdown of the way we’ve been doing things. 5. You would have to make choices about what exactly you want to do with your life. If you want emotional and relational health, you need to be open to change, willing to dedicate yourself to the change process and then to stick with it. So, there you have it. A new way of doing Marriage Counseling. This new way demands a lot from me, but demands a lot from you as well. The results, however, can be quite remarkable. Interested in a new, cool product? I’d love to have you give this brand of Marriage Counseling a try. Contact us today to learn more. 

Narcissistic Personality Disorder

Myths of Narcissistic Personality Disorder It all started so well. You were captivated by his attention, enamored with his charm, engulfed in his persistence to have a relationship with you. But the thorns began to show fairly quickly on the rose. Blue skies became cloudy. With every concern of yours came excuses from him, rationalizations and the ever-popular blame-shifting. Now you are confused and wondering what hit you. You wonder about leaving the relationship, but have mixed feelings. You care about him. His good traits are still good. You have invested time, energy and love, and things are not as simple as some might imagine. No one simply walks away when the going gets rough. The problem now isn’t just that you have mixed feelings. Everyone has mixed feelings about nearly everything. You can deal with that. The situation is far more serious. You push away when he does his blame-shifting, only to be told you’re doing something wrong. You complain when he rationalizes his childish behavior, only to be told you’re the one who’s behaving badly. Life has gotten far more confusing. Just as quickly as you complain to him, he complains to you! In fact, he offers a myriad of criticisms of you, causing you to wonder what is going on. “You don’t love me the way I need to be loved.” “You care more about others than you care about me.” “You are selfish and stingy with your love.” “I give and give to you and get nothing in return.” He says he loves you, but………He is never satisfied, and you’re left with your head spinning. What are you to do with a relationship where when it’s good, it’s so very good, and when it’s bad, it’s so very bad? What about a relationship where you are treated like a queen one day and his arch-enemy the next? How do you make sense out of something that simply does not make sense? Not so easy to make quick decisions here. Not so easy to simply walk away, though others in your world may give quick, easy advice that is not so easy to take. As you try to sort out your confusion, it is best to strip away fact from fiction. I offer three myths of Narcissistic Personality Disorder that I would like you to consider. MYTH: Some Narcissistic traits means Narcissistic Personality Disorder (NPD). FACT: Narcissistic Personality Disorder is really on a spectrum, from mild symptoms to more severe symptoms. Many men (and some women) are self-centered, lack empathy, demand attention and can charm the socks off anyone. This does not equate to Narcissistic Personality Disorder. In fact, someone meeting the necessary criteria to be given the diagnosis of NPD is rare. What is much more common is someone who displays some of the traits of Narcissistic Personality Disorder. For example, it is common for many men to lack empathy. They struggle when it comes to labeling their feelings, let alone sit with the feelings of their mate. They have developed many ‘thinking errors’ that create chaos in a relationship, and these demand attention if you want to have a healthy relationship with them. It is common for many men to have other character issues, such as self-centeredness that, while hurtful and damaging to the relationship, does not equate to Narcissistic Personality Disorder. A diagnosis of NPD is a rare phenomenon, while someone who lacks empathy, is self-centered, manipulative and demands attention while attempting to control others is a common occurrence. MYTH: Narcissistic Personality Disorder is EVERYWHERE! FACT: Someone meeting the criteria of NPD is quite rare. Again, there are many men (and women) who meet some of the criteria, such as seeking admiration, lacking empathy and having angry outbursts. There is no doubt that these men need significant therapy, but they do not meet the criteria to be labeled NPD. You do not need to be afraid, but rather wise and informed. MYTH: Finally, Narcissistic Personality Disorder is untreatable and you should run. FACT: If your man/woman meets all of the criteria of Narcissistic Personality Disorder, this is serious. Most, however, fall on a spectrum of mild to moderate symptoms and can be successfully treated. I have successfully counseled over 2000 men with Narcissistic Personality Disorder traits, primarily in intense couples counseling. In good, but intensive, couples counseling, many of these men learn how to listen effectively, attune to the needs of their mate and develop empathy. They learn to see the view of their mate and can develop effectively problem-solving skills. In summary, having NPD traits does not equal Narcissistic Personality Disorder! There is certainly hope that the relationship can change for the better!  And, if you are willing to walk through the hard work of intensive couples counseling, you will open the door for significant change. He needs you more than you know, and you have more influence (and power) than you may realize. Insist upon relationship change and growth and you may be surprised.

When You’re Asked to Leave!

There is little things more painful than being asked to leave your home. Home—a place where you hang your hat and coat, store your personal belongings and, of course, visit with your family. Home—a place of memories, both good and bad. This mixture of experiences creates an even more powerful bond. Most of us want to “stick it out” and make things work, no matter the circumstances. But, what do we do when the pendulum swings and we are asked to leave. Perhaps worse, we are told to leave. Flooded with emotion, we can hardly think straight. Flooded with emotion, we are reactive, making matters even worse. Sam, a thirty-five year old man, tearfully shared how he had watched his kids waving goodbye to him from the living room window as he left the family home and moved into the apartment he rented. He was entering a land completely unfamiliar to him. “I really didn’t see it coming,” Sam shared in his sharp, educated voice. “Don’t know if I should have seen it, but I didn’t.” “What happened?” I asked. “Tell me your story.” “She told me a couple weeks ago she was thinking about a separation. She said she‘d been trying to tell me how unhappy she was for years.” “And you don’t remember those comments?” I asked. “Oh sure,” he said angrily, “but it’s one thing to tell me she needs change. It’s something else to tell me to leave my home, my kids, my family.” Sam’s bitterness began to show. As Sam told of events leading to his marital separation, he was flooded with emotion—anger, hurt, sadness, even feelings of betrayal. “It just seems like there are so many other ways Shar could have dealt with this. Asking me—no telling me—to leave is harsh. Why shouldn’t she leave? Why do I have to leave my home?” “You didn’t have to leave, Sam,” I said. “But, to stay in a relationship where you are not wanted only creates more distrust and resentment. If you want a shot at saving this marriage, making things hard on her isn’t going to help your cause.” “It still hurts,” Sam said. “Yes,” I said. “I don’t think there is any nice way to ask for a separation. But, I hear you. There’s no nice way to receive the news of an impending separation either.” “There sure isn’t,” he said. “Now I have to figure out if there is anything I can do to save the marriage, or if I just move on with my life. That’s what my friends tell me. If she wants a life alone, let her feel the impact of her choices.” “I suggest we move very slowly,” I said. “Let’s consider life from her perspective and then you can decide what you want to do. How does that sound?” “Nothing sounds good to me now,” he said. “All it sounds like is a bunch of bad options. And I know I need to try to figure this out.” With that we spent the next several months considering his choices, while also helping him process the magnitude of the quake that had hit his life. 6 points to focus on: First, consider what has happened and the context in which it has happened. Women, (or men), don’t simply wake up one morning and leave their marriage or ask their mate to leave. The tumult has usually been occurring for months, leading up to the request for a mate to leave. Separation by a thousand cuts! Take some time to put the event into context. Step back and try to create a story that makes sense. This will probably require professional assistance. Second, look critically for needs that have not been met. A request for a separation is usually a drastic action to find relief from ongoing pain. We either meet needs directly, and efficiently, or indirectly, and often painfully. Sam’s wife, as it turns out, had been trying to get his attention for years but he had not heard the warning cries. She had felt abandoned, neglected and ignored. Her request for him to leave was a request for space so she could consider her next move. She needed to know if Sam would really look at his behaviors that played a role in her unhappiness. Third, take responsibility for your part in this action. While tempted to play the victim, this won’t be helpful. Though tempted to slip into bitterness and anger, these emotions, while understandable, won’t help you work cooperatively with your mate in the days ahead, not to mention they are cover-up emotions for deeper hurt, sadness and fear. Blame simply doesn’t work. What is needed is cultivating the ability to be pragmatic, accepting your part in this separation and working on those issues that have come to light. Your work on the issues will be noted! Fourth, pay attention to her (or his) feelings/needs. While you are flooded with your needs and feelings, remember that she has feelings about this separation as well. Mates who request the separation often have feelings of anger, discouragement, distrust and sadness. They, too face a life of uncertainty and the possibility of the end of a marriage. They wonder why their mate hasn’t listened and responded to their requests for change. They feel anger that it took a separation for their mate to finally agree to counseling and change. They distrust promises to change. Fifth, take things slowly. Don’t panic. Don’t rush off to an attorney’s office. Don’t rush in, making promises to change. Don’t send gifts, cards, lengthy letters or make other efforts that only serve to overwhelm your mate. Don’t feel that you have to change everything in a few, short weeks. Time can be your best ally. Surround yourself with trustworthy friends who will offer needed encouragement and help you stabilize your emotions so you can think straight. Easy does it! Sixth, cultivate positive experiences. Yes, even amidst the turmoil of a separation you can have a

Unconditional Love

We hear about unconditional love in the Christian community all the time, but do we really know what it means? The perfect opportunity arose this week to teach this in my family. Being avid Seahawks fans, my husband, three girls and I were devastated over the unbelievable loss at the Super Bowl. The next morning my oldest daughter commented that she won’t be wearing her Seahawks jersey to school that day. I asked her “Why not?” She said, “Well the Seahawks made a dumb play and lost the game because of it. I am just very disappointed in them!” I was quite shocked by her answer because I have been teaching our girls about loving people conditionally for who they are, not what they do. I asked my daughter, “Does Jesus stop loving us because we make mistakes?” She said “No.” Then I said, “Would it be right for us to not love and support our beloved Seahawks team just because they made mistakes?” Again she said “No.”  This is when I reminded her that unconditional love is about loving people for who they are to us, and choosing to forgive them when they make mistakes or poor choices. My daughter went to her room, proudly put on her jersey and even rallied her friends to wear their 12th man gear. This scenario got me wondering how often couples show each other unconditional love. As a therapist at the Marriage Recovery Center, I have seen many many couples in distress. More often than not, unconditional love is completely missing from these marriages. What does unconditional love look like in marriage?  Choosing to love someone for who they are. Most people get married LOVING the differences in their spouse. Within a year those differences become annoying and they begin asking their spouse to change, and change now. This is what we call conditional love. Unconditional love is understanding and accepting a partners differences. Learning to adapt to those differences is critical, even if it means sacrificing a particular want or need. Holding them accountable for bad behavior. Partners have come to believe that to love someone unconditionally, you must just accept and tolerate their bad behavior. Quite the contrary! Destructive behavior must be confronted. Boundaries are the best way to let a partner know that the behavior must end. “I love you, but I just cannot tolerate _______ (behavior) anymore. If you chose to  ________ (behavior), I will choose to _______(consequence) to protect myself. Forgiveness. Once there is an understanding that bad behavior cannot be tolerated, mates are free to begin the forgiveness process. Giving the mate grace and a pass on a poor choice is what forgiveness is about, although it is not about treating the behavior as if it never happened, or that it was okay.  Forgiveness creates a great opportunity to build good boundaries into a marriage in a very loving way. Meeting a spouse’s needs. There is no greater display of love than attempting to meet a spouse’s need. We call it “Wearing your spouse on your frontal lobe.” Being aware of what a partner’s wants, needs and particular love language are is life giving. Unconditional love is concerned with meeting a spouse’s needs, even if their own needs are not being met. Fortunately, we usually see that meeting a spouse’s needs provides the healing context that often encourages that spouse to respond in kind. Could unconditional love be what you need? If you have been struggling in your marriage, try showing unconditional love in every opportunity you possibly can. Be mindful of what happens in your marriage once you make this shift. If your marriage is in crisis, and you’re lost on how to turn it around, we can help. Our Marriage Intensives get to the core of what is going wrong in your marriage and teach you healthy ways of overcoming these patterns. Contact us at Learn More About Teri [author] [author_image timthumb=’off’][/author_image] [author_info]Teri Johnson – MA LMHC Teri has over 16 years of experience counseling in corporate, church and clinical settings. She received her Master’s in Professional Counseling at Liberty University. Teri specializes in grief, codependency, as well as helping women attain a stronger self worth centered in God. She has a passion for helping broken couples heal through communication and develop a strong emotional connection. Teri has her Washington State Associate Mental Health Counselor license.[/author_info] [/author]   [gravityform id=”2″ name=”Contact Us – contact page” title=”false” description=”false”]

Think It’s Over? Think Again: Therapeutic Healing Process

There are times when, after repeated traumatic experiences, hearts finally close. We pull away from our mate, one wound at a time. We essentially divorce our mate, perhaps leading to ultimate separation and apparent irreconcilability. Yet, the story does not have to end there. Brokenness and distance can be bridged, one listening ear after another. The bridge of hopelessness can be spanned by a soft word, a kindness, a gentle act leading to the faint prospect of hope. When a couple finds themselves at odds, one pushed away from the other, there is still much that can be done. A couple can choose to bring healing to their relationship, even if they choose to end their love relationship. What can be done within the marriage when one person has closed the door to reconciliation? What can be done when one or both hearts are closed to a renewed love relationship? This is still an opportunity for healing. Hard feelings can be replaced by softness. Bitterness gives way to forgiveness. What is the process for this healing? I meet with the couple several times with no expected outcome other than healing, which, at the least, would help both be healthier individuals and better parents. There is no ‘hard sell’ to coerce someone back into the marriage. There are no demands, no challenges, and no forced outcomes. The process is marked by gentleness and kindness. Two people agree to participate in the Therapeutic Healing Process where we would meet in person or via Skype two-four times, two hours a session, for the purpose of healing wounds created or exacerbated in your marriage. We would utilize the process described in the manual, Love Life of Your Dreams. I encourage both parties to read the manual, Love Life of Your Dreams. I also encourage both to complete the Issues Worksheet. We work through the wounds brought to our sessions. I encourage both to come with an open heart, receptive and humble, to discover the journey between hopelessness and hope is not as far as you might have thought. The Therapeutic Healing Process is powerful. The least that can happen is a healing of the wounds brought to, or exacerbated by, trauma within the marriage. You will walk away having experienced profound healing, able to determine more effectively if you want to explore possibilities or end the marriage. Please consider this investment in yourself and your marriage. Blessings, David B. Hawkins, MSW, MA, PhD Licensed Clinical Psychologist Director, Marriage Recovery Center Read more about the Therapeutic Healing Process…

 When You Desire to Run

You are feeling overwhelmed. Your heart is racing and your chest is flooded with adrenaline. Your first thought is, “I have to get out of here, and now!” This is a description of what many of my clients say they experience just before they run. Often this happens in the midst of conflict and total and utter chaos. Typically, I find that those who desire to run thrive on peace and strive to stay out of chaos. Unfortunately, they are also the people who invite chaos-makers into their lives, who ultimately steal their peace. The many ways to run: Flee – out the door, not to be seen again for hours. Shut down – physically the body shuts down and eyes start to close or eye contact is lost. Shut up – the silent treatment is a powerful weapon. Every part of you is screaming inside, but not a word is to be spoken…or you lose. The most you might speak is “I am fine” when obviously everyone can see that you are far from fine. Stuff it into the abyss – stuffing the problems far, far down inside of you, never to be discussed again. All of these ways of coping cause tremendous stress for you, because nothing is EVER resolved. You continue to feel overwhelmed, anxious and unhappy. Fortunately there is another way. In the midst of chaos and conflict when you begin feeling overwhelmed, here is a healthy process to follow: Choose to take a break/timeout. This is different than running, for you will let the other person know that you need to take a break, and will be back. Go to a peaceful place where you can diffuse the anxiety and settle yourself down. Breathe. My favorite technique is 4-7-8. Breathe in for 4 counts, hold for 7, and let out for 8 counts. You will feel quite differently after this exercise and will begin to think more clearly. What is bugging you? There is a reason you are feeling overwhelmed. Try to determine what the reason is. Do you dislike the way you are being spoke to? Are you being accused of something when your mate brings something to you? Or are you feeling defensive when an issue is being brought up? What is the feeling? Are you feeling hurt, disrespected, alone, unloved, or even fearful? What do you need to ask for? Based on your feelings you are needing something. Do you need to ask your mate to speak to you with respect? Are you wanting your mate to show you love in a certain way? Call a time “IN.” Once you are feeling calm and clear, ask your mate if you can talk with them. Share with him/her how you are feeling, and what you are requesting of them, and see how they respond. Often with this process, I see people move from anxiety to clarity and confidence when they realize that there is a way to resolve their issue and live in peace.  

Avoiding the Tornados in Your Chaotic Marriage

I speak to many many people who feel completely powerless to change their chaotic marriage. They firmly believe that anytime they interact with their spouse, there will be fighting, defensiveness, and complete breakdown. To some extent they are right. They have taken part in a dysfunctional pattern in their marriage that keeps yielding the same results, a completely chaotic marriage. Your Chaotic Marriage May Feel Like a Tornado I call the chaos in your marriage the “tornado.” The tornado in many a chaotic marriage may look like… Explosive anger Defensiveness Blame-shifting Rewriting history Twisting the story Black & white thinking And Stonewalling…just to name a few. These behaviors are so destructive that they must be stopped. Common Issues in a Chaotic Marriage Unfortunately many get stuck in the chaos for various reasons. The most common issue is not truly understanding what a healthy, loving marriage looks like. Often, people grew up in a home watching their parent’s chaotic marriage, and lack a role model of healthy relating. This results in a marriage with many dysfunctional patterns, which is considered “normal.” Secondly, spouses get confused by the chaos creator. A logical, reasonable request or discussion most commonly gets twisted, misconstrued, and flipped into being the spouses fault or own personal problem. Personal responsibility is rarely ever taken. We Can Help you Find Peace in Your Chaotic Marriage The frantic question I get is “how can I create change in my chaotic marriage?” The simple answer is STOP! Stop jumping into the path of the chaos tornado. You can do this by: Refusing to get hooked into a fight. Refrain from responding with logic and reason to completely illogical thinking. Start having good boundaries by choosing to disengage when the chaos surfaces. Clearly communicate your boundaries by sharing with your spouse what you will no longer tolerate in your marriage. Follow through with appropriate consequences when boundaries are broken. I.e. Disengage, leave the room, leave the house for the night. Request an apology and amends be made before fully re-engaging. The blessing is that you can absolutely create change in your marriage. With consistent boundaries and follow through, a peaceful and connected marriage is possible. If you could relate to this blog and need additional coaching, please contact us at

Marriage Therapy in Seattle – Men Can Change

Is Marriage Therapy the Answer you Seek? I have written extensively about women who are intensively frustrated with men, and moreover feel exasperated and at times hopeless about the prospect of her man’s ability to change. I want to offer hope—lot’s of it. As I continue to write about this topic, many women (and some men!) have responded. Many indicate they were glad I finally understood what they have been experiencing for years. Instead of being told to “hang in there,” or “keep on praying,” I offered counsel concerning setting healthy boundaries. Here are a few excerpts from responses sent to me: After reading this article I am encouraged to finally see that we, who have been in the same situation as this wife, are not being advised to be more submissive, a better wife, lover, etc. as I have often been advised. I have also been in this same situation.  What I have learned is to be submissive to the Lord and show love in the way of confronting the problems in a God-honoring way.  I have set many boundaries.  I have been in an unfaithful, verbally, emotional and sometimes physically abusive marriage for almost 15 yrs.  I have always had this gnawing in my gut that I must stay in the marriage, convinced that it is the Holy Spirit’s leading.  I have gone to individual therapy, marital counseling and have a library of books and media on how to have a good marriage.  I have been on anti-depressants for 4 years due to the last time my husband cheated on me. I appreciate the way this woman worded her new response to abuse: to “show love in the way of confronting the problems in a God-honoring way.” This involves speaking truthfully about problems, not ignoring them. It involves accountability, much like God holds us accountable for our behavior. It involves showing her husband respect, and expecting respect in return. Another woman wrote: My husband and I met 5 years ago while in college. From the beginning there has been lying and deception on his part, most of which I did not find out about until after we had married. When we got married I was 19 he was 20 and we had moved off campus together after becoming engaged. We were going to church, but living a lifestyle that was far from saved. Our pastor insisted that we start marriage counseling as soon as he found out that we were living together and I think that prompted our rush to the alter. Three months into our marriage my husband had the first of 3 affairs. He became both physically and emotionally abusive. I left, he attempted suicide. I came back and dropped the charges. When is enough enough? Again, we are never to tolerate abuse. God never intended us to live in a relationship fraught with violence. Women, and men, need to put their foot down on intolerable behavior. We must have a no-tolerance policy on abusive behavior. Then, and only then, will violence stop! With Marriage Therapy, Men Can Change The counsel I gave in the last article remains appropriate to many who have written about destructive behavior in their marriage. I offer it again for your consideration and feedback. First, her husband makes promises to change, but then doesn’t do it. Before we become too critical of him, let’s remember that this is the human condition: we all make promises we don’t keep. Many of us underestimate the task and the tenacity and challenge of changing. However, this is no reason not to change. Second, this woman enables him not to change. Like many of us, she tolerates too much misbehavior and violence. Not only does she tolerate his violence, but accepts his apologies, allowing the cycle to continue. She accepts his resistance to counseling, when clearly a professional intervention is needed. She accepts his excuse that he knows what he must do, implying that he is capable of changing himself, when that is not true. In my book, When Trying to Change Him is Hurting You, I fully explore the tendency of women to be long-suffering, when limits should be set. I examine why so little change occurs in marriages and why women end up so frustrated. Much of it has to do with settling for too little change when more is needed. Third, while it is true that God changes hearts, He also expects us to do our part. The Gospels are replete with advice about changing our behavior. In speaking to the church at Colossae, the Apostle Paul tells us, “You must rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips.” (Colossians 3: 8) Such actions are not consistent with the changed heart.  She must hold her husband accountable for his behavior. Fourth, set firm boundaries. Should this woman continue on, believing that perhaps the next time he rages, calls names or humiliates her will be his last? Should she simply keep praying that God will change his heart, while she pretends things are improving? No! Men (and women!) behave in ways that are reinforced or tolerated. Many men are challenged when it comes to relating effectively, and women must not enable them to remain emotionally challenged. While it is not your job to change men, it is also unrealistic to think they simply change by themselves. Men need help! Relationship can be one of the best places to learn about healthy relating. Men need women to set boundaries on our anger, violence and insensitivity. Men need women to insist on professional assistance when that is what is called for. Men need women not to naively believe them when they say they can fix themselves. We cannot fix ourselves! Finally, accept the immensity of the problem. How will you know when men are serious about change? Again, the Apostle Paul talks about “having sorrow in a godly way results in repentance,” which means turning

Getting your Marriage Unstuck through Marriage Counseling in Seattle

As we explore Marriage Counseling in Seattle, we often get many emails like this… This email we received at the Marriage Recovery Center had the same desperate plea: “Help us please because we are STUCK!” Couples seeking marriage counseling in Seattle and all over the Pacific Northwest are stuck in their same dysfunctional patterns of anger and defensiveness, or end up giving up and shutting down.  On occasion, we experience some couples, that despite our confronting harmful patterns and teaching new healthy patterns, will still scream out for help in their “stuckness.” We have come to discover that these couples are stuck due to personal brokenness that they bring to their marriage.  Out of their own hurt they are unable to reach out and help each other. “Hurting people hurt people.” An example of how Marriage Counseling in Seattle helps through the Marriage Recovery Center? An example of this brokenness is a sixty-year old woman speaking to her husband bitterly due to her feelings of rejection and loneliness. She is NOT only speaking from just the current rejection she is experiencing, but is also responding from that 6-year old child that experienced rejection from her family.  The current rejection from her husband is essentially reinforcing her 6-year old belief that she will be rejected and alone. With this well ingrained belief, this woman may come to expect rejection and even push her husband away in order to protect herself.  The result is feeling totally and completely alone. Over the years we have come to specialize in extremely difficult marriages. Marriages that have experienced emotional abuse, addictions and affairs. Most challenging of them all is counseling couples with character issues.  These would be individuals with dysfunctional character traits, thinking errors, and other deeply embedded destructive ways. Many would define these character traits as personality disorders, such as Narcissism (NPD), Borderline (BPD), and Obsessive Compulsive Personality Disorder (OCPD). Many who have been married to a mate with any of these traits would tell you to run the other way!  We have found just the opposite to be true.  The symptoms of any of these personality disorders is merely an indication of a deep pain or trauma in a person’s life that has left them stuck in responding and reacting to issues in really destructive ways. Fortunately, we have discovered a phenomenal healing process that we integrated into our Core Integration for Marriage Counseling in Seattle At the Marriage Recovery Center, we’ve implemented an Intensive therapy format that is producing incredible success at helping these individuals get unstuck. This healing process is called Lifespan Integration ( or The Healing Timeline ( which is the Christian version of Lifespan Integration (LI). LI seeks out the core issue/memory from the past that has an individual stuck in their current adult life. For instance the sixty year old woman mentioned earlier identifies the source of her rejection and goes to that memory of being rejected at 6 years old.  We allow her to experience the feelings of that memory, and stay in it just long enough to uncover those deep feelings. We then quickly invite her adult self into the memory to protect the 6 year old, comfort her, and help speak for her when she cannot. We then integrate this experience into her life by walking through a memory from each year of her life from the age in the memory, i.e 7, 8, 9 all the way to age 60. With the Healing timeline, we have the client invite Jesus into her memory and let him speak his truth to her.  Without fail, each time we go into the memory and then integrate it into a person’s life, we find the intensity of the emotion lessens until finally it is completely gone.  This is all done without re-traumatizing the person. There is even a scientific component to this healing process. When we experience trauma, the neurons in our brains become stuck in our current age. The neurons then fail to connect to the proceeding years.  With Lifespan Integration, stuck neurons begin to integrate from the stuck age to the client’s current age, causing permanent and lasting results. We have seen huge success in healing sexual abuse, physical abuse or neglect, marriage wounds, and many other very painful memories. Just some of the successes we have seen in the past 2 months: a woman unable to get off her couch for years due to many wounds from her childhood and marriage, has begun venturing into a life filled with joy and participating in fun activities with her husband. a man feeling unloved by his wife, identified the source as a teenage wound from his parents not supporting him in sports. Now healed from his wound, he has discovered the great love he already receives from his wife. a woman separated from her husband, lived in fear and anxiety due to suppressed abuse and trauma from childhood. She is now enjoying a peaceful approach to life and is experiencing more strength and confidence. a woman suffering through grief over the recent loss of her parent, was able to heal through her grieving process and look at life with more hope. With each of these scenarios, the pain and trauma from life was complicating their marriage relationship. Following LI/The Healing Timeline, they have all experienced a deeper connection with their mate, less conflict in relating, and have approached life with more joy and peace. If you are looking for Marriage Counseling in Seattle…let us help! Stop feeling stuck in your marriage and the dealing with past trauma and pain that keeps you stuck. Contact us today to schedule a Personal Intensive and follow up with a Marriage Intensive and in depth marriage counseling in Seattle and throughout the Pacific Northwest. [gravityform id=”2″ name=”Contact Us – contact page” title=”false” description=”false”]

Having an Affair: Broken Before the Infidelity Began

There is perhaps no greater pain than that of intimate betrayal by a mate. The one whom you’ve entrusted your life to, whom you’ve shared every intimate aspect of living with, now has shared those very aspects of their being with someone else—a place and part of them reserved exclusively for you. Having an affair, physical or emotional, is a betrayal of the worst kind, leaving us breathless, hopeless and with a loss of meaning. Perhaps your mate is having an affair with your best friend. Maybe it was a casual friendship on Facebook that went from friendly to familiar to failure. Perhaps your mate has had serial affairs and you’ve just discovered the damage. Your mind races, your emotions range from maddening frenzy to abject panic. You can’t eat, sleep or think straight. Nothing is as painful as an affair. You trusted someone with your heart, soul and emotions; you expected faithfulness. You counted on them to keep you safe. An affair shatters the trust, safety and honesty you believed in. “How could they do that to me?  How can someone I love and trust betray me in this way?” Having an affair seems unthinkable. Unspeakable. Unbearable. After all, the one who had the affair is the one who stepped out of the sacred bounds of the marriage. With feelings intensified, the victim often attacks the villain, creating even more distance than existed before. Feeling intensely betrayed, enraged and resentful, the lines are drawn—victim and villain. While it is tempting to close our hearts, vilifying the one who had the affair, we must examine what led up to the affair. As we embark on this journey to examining why it happened, I must be clear—nothing justifies an affair. This is a form of acting out in a most egregious manner. This is a most hurtful response to inner and outer stress. It is a failed attempt to find peace that only leads to even greater pain. As we attempt to unravel the complex layers of problems, we often find many “reasons” why an affair can happen. Never justified, an affair often has meaning, and understanding that meaning can provide insurance against it ever happening again. Most affairs occur in the context of significant marriage issues. Again, while this in no way justifies an affair, the skilled counselor can help the couple look deeper at the marriage problems that existed long before the affair took place. The marriage usually needs far more repair than problems caused by the affair alone. Studies show that marriages susceptible to having an affair struggle with these issues: A lack of functionality – fighting about the same issues again and again; A lack of intimacy – ineffective communication, with feelings of distance, resentment and turmoil; A Lack of Acceptance/ Significance – ignoring your mate’s need for acceptance, appreciation and significance; A lack of excitement – allowing the relationship to become stale, with little “spark” or adventure; A lack of sexual enthusiasm – allowing their sexual life to become boring and routine, or perhaps nonexistent. If you find yourself with some of these “symptoms,” seek immediate, in depth help. Your relationship is vulnerable to an affair. If you are struggling from the aftermath of your mate having an affair, here are steps to take to recover: Be with your feelings. The one who has been victimized, as well as the one who had the affair, has feelings about what took place. Both must learn to be patient as they work through feelings of betrayal. Healing will take time, and you must settle in for a long period of counseling. The one victimized by the affair can expect to have a long season of roller coaster emotions, and the one who had the affair must be very patient in the healing process. Consider trauma work. Through special interventions such as Lifespan Integration and Core Self Integration, (read about these on our website) in the company of a caring, trusted and trained marriage counselor, you can move through this trauma. Should you fail to move through the trauma, this suggests further intervention is needed—and available. We will help you determine what is blocking and impeding growth and recovery. Recognize both played a role in the affair. This doesn’t mean the victim “caused” the affair, or must take responsibility for it. What it means is both are responsible for creating an environment in which an affair could occur (short of being married to a sexual addict.) Subsequently, both will need healing and changes to their personality and patterns of relating to ensure an affair doesn’t recur. Both must take an active role in healing from the affair. Both must examine the circumstances in the marriage prior to the affair, exploring ways their communication, conflict resolution skills, and perhaps patterns of intimacy, played a role in the affair. Both must be diligent about taking responsibility for their part, and set out to heal problems. Again, this is where trauma work may play a key role in healing. Understand that it will take time, and effort, to restore trust. Trust can be restored, but this will require effort and wisdom. Healthy boundaries must be restored to the marriage. The one who had the affair must show, repeatedly, that they are truly sorry for the damage they have caused. Both must be committed to long term healing of the marriage. Make every effort to understand what your mate is experiencing. If you had the affair, make continuous effort to understand your mate’s feelings of betrayal. If you have been victimized, work at seeing the larger picture. Try to see the affair as a symptom of a larger, more complex problem. Agree to grow through this trauma, not simply go through it. Locking arms, dedicated to healing, you both can work diligently with a trained specialist to heal and become stronger than ever before. Notice the gains, reinforce progress, and dedicate yourselves to having a healthier marriage than ever before. I fully recognize that finding out your mate is having an

Overcoming Resistance to Marriage Counseling

Are you thinking, “There is no way he’ll agree to marriage counseling” Well, you’re not alone! “He doesn’t think we need marriage counseling,” “He says what happens behind closed doors is our business and besides, we’ve tried marriage counseling in the past and it didn’t work.” Feeling discouraged about your marriage? Praying for change in your husband and your marriage, but see things continuing to deteriorate? Things don’t change, we do! If we don’t make significant changes, our relationships won’t change.” – Dr. David Hawkins If you find yourself saying, “I know that if you keep doing what you’ve always done, you’re going to get the same results. Still, I find myself hitting a brick wall with him.” We can help! To be fair, it certainly isn’t always the man who resists marriage counseling. Many women resist going to a counselor, indicating they’ve been to counseling in the past and it hasn’t worked for them. Wanting change, whether from your husband or your wife, requires a very delicate dance. Few lean into the change process. Change, by its very nature, is disruptive and most resist it. Yet, if we don’t go through something disruptive, and don’t look critically at how we are living and relating, we’re not likely to change. If we don’t change, our relationship will continue to decline. So, you are left to make a critical decision. I ask you to take inventory with these questions: Is your marriage all you hope it to be? Have you outlined a clear path, with clear expectations, about the change you desire? Have you insisted on change, being willing to make the same changes yourself? Have you led the way in making changes? Are you willing to draw boundaries, making it clear that there will be consequences if destructive behavior continues? Have you confronted your own tendencies to enable the situation not to change? You want significant change. It is possible, but it will require something of you. You must be willing to experience a “breakdown that leads to a breakthrough.” Things must fall apart before they can be put back together in a healthy way. We can lead you through that process! Interestingly, you may be thinking he, or she, must have the breakdown that leads to the breakthrough. While that is certainly true, you too must have your own breakdown leading to a breakthrough. You must realize that what you’re doing is not working. You must be willing to experience the disruption that comes from not enabling a destructive process. You must be willing to give up some comforts as you cross over the bridge of change. Note this Scripture on the process of change and the cost to us: “Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Won’t you first sit down and estimate the cost to see if you have enough money to complete it?” (Luke 14: 28) Now of course this Scripture is not literally talking about money, though that is part of the process. Change requires that we prepare thoroughly for what the change process will demand of us. You will experience disruption to your life. You will likely receive pushback/ resistance. Therefore, you must be clear, concise and filled with an inner conviction that what you want is worthy of your efforts.   Let’s look a little more closely at the process of change and what marriage counseling can do to help: First, begin with cultivating clarity. You must be clear about what it is you need changed. Sit back, perhaps with a trusted friend, and note what you can no longer live with. Is it his temper that you can no longer tolerate? Perhaps it is his lack of empathy? Get clear about the changes you need. Second, be consistent with yourself and him. A little change is not enough. Stop telling yourself that you can live with something you really cannot live with. Stop deceiving yourself as this will not serve you in the long run. Arguing and bargaining with him only leads to more conflict and less change. Third, armed with conviction, let him know what must change. Prepare to take a stand, and be ready for resistance and greater consequences as you let him know you must have change. Do not engage in argumentation. Don’t try to coerce or manipulate him into change. Let him know that you must have him engaged in counseling with you and this is the only acceptable path for change. Don’t be manipulated into thinking a little change is enough, or that you can do this without expert help. Fourth, determine the consequences if he resists. A boundary without consequences is not a boundary—it is simply a hope or a wish. Wishes and hopes have not garnered his respect. It is time for consequences, beginning with something simple and leading to something more severe. He will determine how harsh the consequences need to be—you simply affirm what you need. Have your list of consequences ready and rehearsed. Finally, follow through with a sense of calm. Knowing that what you want—his complete involvement in a change process—is reasonable and healthy, you must follow through. While this will likely be met with anger, resistance and even counter-threats, he will ultimately respect you and likely agree to counseling. This may take stopping behavior that enables the destructive aspect of the relationship, and could go as far as a temporary separation. Know that you are doing this for the ultimate good of your marriage. In summary, marriage counseling is a challenging journey. You will need emotional support as you make changes that threaten you and your marriage. In the end, however, you will both be thankful you took whatever steps are necessary to bring about healthy change. We’re available to help! Contact us today HERE

The Destructive Power of Thinking Errors

Fortunately, there are many thinking errors we can make in our marriage and survive. We can overreact in anger at times and receive forgiveness. We can miss an important anniversary and still be able to make amends. We can even experience the occasional unkind action and make it up to our mate. There are other ‘mistakes’ however, that are not so easily forgotten. There are actions which, if they occur consistently, erode the fabric of our relationship. These ‘thinking errors,’ what the 12 Step Program calls ‘stinkin’ thinkin,’ are corrosive. These ‘errors,’ over time, corrode trust, vibrancy and the very health of the relationship. You may think I’m exaggerating to make such a statement, but our work at The Marriage Recovery Center has proven the devastating power of these thinking errors. These actions are so corrosive because they are grounded in the primary Thinking Error—Denial. Someone has defined denial—the avoidance of taking responsibility for one’s behavior—as Don’t Even Notice I Am Lying to myself. Because I am lying to myself, I cannot, nor will not, fully own the damage of what I am doing to you. Hence, nothing changes and the destructive behaviors continue—eroding the relationship. Here are some of the major ‘thinking errors’ that interrupt our ability to take responsibility. Judge for yourself how you see them impacting your relationships.  Denial: “I am not doing anything wrong. I have no problem.” Blame-shifting: “It’s not me that’s doing anything wrong. It’s not my fault. It’s your fault.” Victim Stance: “I’m getting a raw deal. Nothing ever goes my way. I’m getting the blame for everything.” Minimization/ Sanitizing: “Sure, I did something wrong, but it’s not that big of a deal. You’re making a mountain out of a molehill.” Projection: “You are the one who has all the issues you’re blaming me about.” Excuse Making: “Yes, I suppose I did it, but I didn’t mean to do it. It certainly wasn’t my intention to hurt you. If it weren’t for _____ I wouldn’t have done it.” Power Play: “You can’t make me go to counseling/ treatment/ recovery groups. I’m not going to go and you can’t make me.” Black and White Thinking/ Extreme Thinking: “I never get any credit for anything I do. You’re always the one who gets everything you ask for.” Catastrophizing: “If you make me get help we’ll go broke for sure.” Grandiosity: “I know what I think and what I need to do. I don’t need any help. I’ve got a handle on things.” Can you see the terrible damage that is done by even one of these thinking errors?  Scripture tells us to… Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.” (I Peter 5: 8) I can think of no easier way for the Enemy to wreak havoc than through the destruction of our relationships by way of our ‘stinkin’ thinkin.’ How can we cultivate sober mindedness and avoid thinking errors? Here are some suggestions: Recognize your innate tendency to lie to yourself.   Yes, that’s right. You must look candidly in the mirror and admit to yourself that you have ‘thinking errors.’ We all do and if you think you’re immune from these, you’re really in denial! Ask for feedback from a trusted source.  Yes, I know I’m asking a lot from you. This is scary business, but we must obtain feedback from someone who really knows us. Find someone who sees your shadow side, knows what you are like on your worst day and has your wellbeing in mind—trust that they would not tell you something to hurt you, but rather for your growth and welfare. Own the full weight and damage of your ‘thinking errors.’  Closely examine the ramifications of your ‘thinking errors.’ Look at the ripple effect of how your thinking causes damage. Feel the full impact of what you are doing and take responsibility for your actions. Sit with the pain of how you are thinking and how this impacts your behavior. Replace your ‘thinking errors’ with the Truth.  A lie cannot exist side by side with the Truth. For example, if you have a tendency to minimize a problem, ask for the truth about a particular situation. Is ‘excess drinking’ really alcoholism? Is ‘problem shopping’ really an addiction to materialism? If your ‘thinking error’ is grandiosity, practice humility, deferring to your mate and allowing him/ her to make more decisions in your relationship. Pray for the courage to change.  At The Marriage Recovery Center, we encourage people to pray for courage and humility to change. We understand that change comes from a transformed heart—and this requires the work of God in our lives. We understand that change comes from experiencing a ‘godly sorrow’ that leads to repentance. (II Corinthians 7: 10) We encourage practicing ‘living amends’—acting in direct opposition to the ‘thinking error.’ If you have blame-shifted, take responsibility. If you have minimized a problem, maximize the problem. If you have pushed your weight around emotionally, defer to your mate. There is no room for pride in the process of change. In summary, there is no such thing as a small ‘thinking error.’ Even one ‘thinking error’ in a relationship can create monstrous problems. Healthy thinking leads to healthy relationships. We are here to help and offer phone/ Skype counseling on issues related to this article. Please CONTACT US to discover more information about this as well as the FREE eBook, A Love Life of Your Dreams, as my gift to you! 

It Takes a Breakdown to Have a Break Through

“My husband is NEVER going to change! He keeps promising things will be different, but words are all I hear.” I cannot even begin to tell you how often I hear this from women calling or emailing the Marriage Recovery Center.  Countless women continue to struggle in dysfunctional marriages because they feel completely hopeless to change the problems in their relationship. The problem I find is that couples are content to be comfortably miserable in their relationship.  They are not happy at all BUT the man continues to function in his same old patterns, despite constant reminders that he must change, and the woman just gives in believing that “this is as good as it gets. I must get use to life this way.” So you may ask…why don’t things change in dysfunctional relationships?   Here are some of the reasons why: Non-existent boundaries – The most common problem I see is not putting boundaries around unacceptable behavior.  Therefore, nothing ever changes.  Words may be full of promises, but commitments are never kept.  Frankly if boundaries are not put in place…why should he change?? Inconsistent consequences – If boundaries are created and implemented, then the next breakdown I see is consequences are not enforced or not enforced consistently.  Women often feel mean as if they are “punishing” their husband with a consequence.  Therefore, the husband quickly realizes that his wife really is not serious about these boundaries. Here is what I see as the solution: Very clear request for action – Your husband must know exactly what you are asking for him to change.  You can begin with collaborating with him about what you are asking for.  Hopefully through this process you can both come to an agreement and hold him accountable to these changes. Boundaries – if his commitment and his actions are not in alignment, then a boundary may need to be set in place.  A boundary around anger would sound like “I cannot tolerate being yelled at or being spoken to disrespectfully. If you choose to behave like that, I will be removing myself from your presence until you are able to communicate with kindness and respect.” Serious consequences – Consequences are always applicable to the boundary and typically progressive.   The first time the boundary is broken surrounding yelling, the consequence may sound like “I cannot continue to engage with you in your anger, I will be disengaging from you until we are both calm.”  The 2nd time becomes more serious: “I cannot tolerate being spoken to in anger, I must have you leave for the night.”  The 3rd step is not for the faint at heart: “You have broken my boundary around anger, and I have no choice but to ask you to move out until you show you can learn to work through your anger.” This last consequence is where I start to feel some pushback from women I am counseling. Yes, you may think it is odd to hear a Christian counselor suggesting separation as a consequence, but often there is nothing more powerful to create change.  In most marriages, I found that just communicating this last consequence to a spouse was enough to create an immediate change in anger.  It really does work!  At the Marriage Recovery Center we often hear from incredibly desperate men who were just asked to leave their homes.  They always want to know “what do I need to do to get my wife back.” I know there may be tremendous fear of loss surrounding this extreme consequence, but please be assured that 99% of the marriages that we see result in a separation have a happy ending.  We see a separation as a purpose for reconciliation.  Honestly, it takes a breakdown to have a breakthrough in your marriage. Your spouse may need to experience life without you for a while to realize just how much he values you and your marriage.  At this point he will do anything he can to create change in himself so reconciliation is a possibility. If you find yourself struggling with the same old dysfunctional patterns without any hope for change, please reach out to us at The Marriage Recovery Center.  We can help guide you in a plan for change.  We offer Skype, phone or intensive counseling to serve you. CONTACT US TODAY!

Are You In a Reactive Relationship?

The majority of the couples that come to the Marriage Recovery Center are in a reactive state of mind. They’ve come to a place where they are utterly stuck in a position of feeling they are right and their partner is wrong. I see these couples as defensive, angry, stubborn, and downright self-righteous. They act this way due to what is irritating them at their core, but are unaware of how to talk about these feelings. They often believe that the only way for the marriage to change is if their partner changes. As a therapist, I typically hear partners building a case highlighting how they personally are doing everything perfectly BUT their partner is a mess. From my perspective, I essentially see two children in the midst of a tantrum standing in their own separate corners. Full of pride, they both refuse to take the first step to compromise or collaborate with their mate. This leads to both partners feeling unloved, uncared for, hurt, and dismissed. Many are ready to be done with their marriage. Last week I was pleasantly surprised by a couple I work with periodically for tune ups. The wife shared with me how she had been betrayed by her husband through an addiction, and her trust had been broken. However, the vast difference with how this client handled the betrayal compared to most couples, was in her attitude. She kept extremely calm when she clearly stated that her husband’s addiction must be resolved BUT she would be by his side while he struggled through it. She treated him with respect, kindness and compassion. This wife showed the exact opposite of reactivity. She used kindness, grace, and forgiveness with her husband. Fortunately, it created in him a repentant heart, a sincere apology, and deep connection between the two of them. So you may be asking how you can turn from reactive to kind. Here are some tips: Manage your emotions. Determine what is really bugging you? What are the feelings at the core of your irritation? What do you need to ask your spouse for to resolve this issue? Speak from a calm, clear voice. Know your value. Knowing who you are and what you believe in will create a strong conviction within you. You feel a strength rise up in you when you speak from your convictions. Have good boundaries. Be very clear with your spouse about what behavior you will and will not tolerate. This includes what you will chose to do if your boundary is broken. Speak kindly. Kindness is often speaking the truth in love. Your spouse may not like what you call him/her out on, but often he/she really needs to hear this truth to come out of denial. Refuse to enter into a conversation or remain in one that is angry, accusatory or unsafe. I challenge you to put aside your  pride and strive to practice humility. Sometimes humility looks like getting up and walking away from a destructive conversation. By practicing these tips consistently you can create a rich, connected marriage. If you are struggling with reactivity in your marriage, we can help. We offer phone or Skype coaching and intensives for couples or individuals.  CONTACT US TODAY!

Can Your Marriage Survive an Affair?

Have you experienced an affair in your marriage? Do you feel hopeless that your marriage will survive this trauma? Do you find yourself to be bitter and angry? If so, you are not alone! We see many many couples at the Marriage Recovery Center who have just experienced an affair in their marriage.  We see both men and women who have been unfaithful, but for the purpose of this blog I will be referring to the husband as the mate who was unfaithful. It is incredibly common to see a wife who comes to a Marriage Intensive with a lot of pent up anger and bitterness. She is so hurt and betrayed and has not learned what to do with all of these emotions. So in order to protect herself she becomes rigid, cold, and withholding, often withdrawing completely from her unfaithful spouse. Another way of coping is to attempt to cause her spouse to feel the pain she is experiencing. This comes through constant jabs and painful arrows thrown at him about the affair. “How could you be so cruel?” “What kind of man does that to his family?” These comments leave her husband feeling ashamed and hurt, typically leading him to retreat to a safe place far away from her. This way of coping causes total brokenness in the marriage. How can you heal? Here are a few critical steps: Develop good boundaries – what is causing you the most anxiety? What is it that you need to create security? Do you need to let him know that any contact with the other woman will not be tolerated? Communicate your feelings & needs – let your husband know what feelings you are struggling with. Are you feeling sad, betrayed, inadequate, jealous, afraid, rejected? Tell him in a soft, but direct way what needs you have of him. For example, you will likely need to see a repentant heart when you share your feelings, a heartfelt apology, and a strong sense that he is taking responsibility for fixing what he broke. Let your spouse know how he can built trust again. Do you need total transparency? Passwords to his email, phone? Stay connected to your spouse. Even with all the hurt and anger, try to sit and talk with your spouse. If you are separated due to the affair, don’t move too quickly into reconciliation. Allow trust to be built and if there are areas you need to see your spouse make changes, allow enough time to see consistent change. For your Partner, he can help you heal by: Apologizing and taking responsibility for the pain he caused. This includes showing ongoing remorse and repentance about the affair. Listening intently & empathizing with your feelings. Working on creating a connection with you. Communicating needs. What needs were not being met prior to the affair? Going to marriage counseling. You cannot repair this on your own. If you are struggling with your spouse having an affair, we can help. We offer phone and Skype coaching as well as intensive counseling for couples and individuals.  CONTACT US TODAY!

Divorce is NOT the only option

We recently had a couple at the Marriage Recovery Center who stated from the beginning that they truly despised each other. Their past was full of lies, betrayal, and infidelity. They believed the only reasonable option for them was divorce. This couple came to us as a last ditch effort to show their friends and family that they “tried it all.” As we began to unpack the many issues this couple had, we discovered that there were years of unresolved issues, as well as inadequate communication methods to achieve a resolution. Unfortunately, this problem is all too common. Couples end up feeling hurt, betrayed, and begin protecting their heart to avoid further hurt. Essentially this leads to incredible resentment, and downright hate for one another. We see this deep hurt also leads to total isolation, which manifests itself through the silent treatment and total coldness. This is the typical state most marriages come to us in. I want to encourage those who are reading this blog that there IS hope. The bitterness and hurt can come to an end and healing can occur. Before you decide to divorce, try this: Put aside your pride. Pride keeps us separate from our spouse. If we become so focused on being right and justified, it is difficult for us to see our spouse’s perspective. Begin opening up with your spouse and share your deep wounds from your marriage. Come from your feelings. “The affair makes me feel betrayed, distrusting and unloved” Take responsibility for wounding your spouse. Allow your spouse to share his/her feelings with you and let him/her know that you understand their feelings. Also let your spouse know specifically how you have contributed to her/him feeling betrayed, unloved, etc. Identify the issues that need to be addressed to ensure transparency and trust. What do you need from your spouse to begin trusting? Be specific. Seek intensive counseling. This is a key component. Many couples are so wounded from infidelity and betrayal that they cannot work through these difficult issues on their own. Intensive counseling gives you 8 hours each day to unpack all of the pain and work through each issue in a healthy way. These tools can radically restore your marriage, helping you to find those feelings again that you once had for your spouse. The Marriage Recovery Center staff would love to help you through your marriage crisis. We are here to help…to inquire about a marriage intensive at our retreat center on the Puget Sound Contact us today!

Fighting to Hear Him

At the Marriage Recovery Center we encourage couples to end the fighting. As we teach couples how to share their deeper feelings and learn to really hear each other, we see a deep deep connection like they have never experienced before. Profoundly powerful! However, from what I have found,  men (and often women) don’t typically wear their emotions on their sleeves. They can easily feel threatened when asked to be vulnerable about how they feel, which essentially results in shutting down and retreating to the man cave. Sometimes we just need to let our men passionately fight it out with us. This will allow them to get to the core of the pain and emotions. If you are willing to try this out, it must come with some serious ground rules to fighting fairly. Here are some Do’s and Don’t’s: Don’t: Allow him to attack your character. Name calling and demeaning comments are off limits. Accept wild accusations. The conversation must end if he starts reading your mind and telling you what you are doing and why you are doing it. Tolerate extreme escalation or anger. Nothing can be resolved in escalated anger. Get defensive in response to his arguing. If you really want to hear your man, you need to manage your emotions through this process. Do: Encourage him to speak “passionately.” Listen for the root of the problem. What is really bugging him? Tune into this. Ask questions and encourage him to share more. Discern what he may be feeling. Is he feeling scared? Inadequate? Check in with him about the feelings you are seeing. “Are you feeling fearful of ______?” Empathize with his feelings and thoughts. Once you confirm his feelings, let him know that you can understand how he feels this way, and that his feelings are valid and real. Many women have the innate ability to see through the chaos and discern what is at the root of an issue. Ladies, use this God-given gift to really understand your man. Most men are really yearning for their wife to truly hear him and relate with him, despite his rough way of communicating. Let him know that you are not only on his team, but you are his #1 fan. If you can really master hearing him through his gruffness, and understand him, he WILL let you in and a deep connection will be established. If you need help learning to hear him, while having good boundaries yourself…we can help. We offer Phone or Skype coaching as well as intensive therapy for couples or individuals.  Contact us today!  

Living Peacefully with a Highly Emotional Spouse

Most of the work we do at the Marriage Recovery Center is with couples in crisis. One of the common problems I see is a partner who is extremely volatile in their emotions partnered with a mate who is stuck in a pattern of enabling the destructive behavior. If you have read my blogs in the past, you know I typically speak to women about the dysfunctional patterns in her husband.  However, this is one issue I see more frequently in women, then I do in men. So men, I am speaking to YOU.  You may be known as the nice guy, who cares deeply for his family, friends, and co-workers.  You are extremely stable, loyal and provide well for your family. The courtship process frequently goes like this; you have a nice, stable, and unexciting life and in walks “the one.” She is beautiful, adventurous, and fun.  She is like a whirlwind of excitement, who has you bound in infatuation. You find you just cannot live without her, and soon you are planning a wedding. Fast forward four weeks from the wedding day, and life looks MUCH different.  The adrenaline from the excitement has now turned into adrenaline from fear, as you watch her quickly move from a tender moment to a full-on rage.  Rage then escalates into a physical altercation or an episode of self harm. Keeping the peace in this type of relationship can be downright tricky.  Here are some tips on what NOT to do: Don’t try to reason with a woman on fire.  As the anger flares, the inability for you to calm her down or speak rationally with her is nearly impossible. Don’t engage in the courtroom. Don’t allow her chaos to pull you into a big fight.  Fights will always escalate and nothing is resolved from this place. Don’t try to restrain her if she becomes physical.  I find that most men feel helpless as they watch their wife throw valuables around the house.  If you chose to restrain her from your own fear, she will escalate even more…and you are off to the races. What CAN you do? Do try to catch your wife before she begins fully escalating. As you feel the tension rising, lean in and ask what is bothering her?  If she can share her feelings in that moment, you may find that there is a bittersweet connection between the two of you if you become more aware of tension even when it is at a lower scale. Do try to slow down and be careful what you say.  Most of the highly emotional women I have worked with suffer with PTSD.  All it can take is one word, which comes out as accusatory or argumentative, and you can be off to the races.  Anger floods her and she becomes overwhelmed with emotions, and no longer able or willing to hear you. Iron clad boundaries must be implemented with your mate around her intolerable behavior.  An example of this could be “If you choose to rage, I will leave the house for a few hours.” Follow through is absolutely critical for her to understand that you will not stand for this type of behavior, period! Do commit to only speaking to your wife from a calm, caring and respectful place.  You can do your part to change this dance.  I know all of this is A LOT of work, but if you challenge yourself to stay in a good place emotionally, she eventually will respond to your new way of approaching her. If this sounds a lot like your marriage, we can help.  We see breakthroughs constantly in marriages which are highly emotional and volatile.  With our intensive based model we see the dysfunctional patterns quickly and strive to create change in your relationship.  

Boundaries AND Compassion: a Fine Balance.

A huge part of my job at the Marriage Recovery Center is helping couples to set boundaries in their marriage. I find these couples have incredible success once there are limits set around dysfunctional behavior. Marriages are saved by implementing boundaries. As you can tell I am serious fan of boundaries.  However, the downfall is realized when couples and individuals begin using their boundaries in harmful ways. Here are some of the dysfunctional ways boundaries can be used: Rigidity – this is an area I have been personally convicted in. Boundaries have changed my own marriage drastically. However, my husband found me to be too rigid. I missed the opportunity of extending grace or compassion in even the smallest offenses. This can cause real disconnection in marriage. Pointing the finger – “you need to change” is often the clear message the receiver of the boundary hears from their mate. The mate empowered on setting boundaries can become ultra focused on putting sole responsibility of the problems on his/her partner. Conditional love – spouses can be made to feel that if and only if you meet all the conditions of the boundary, then you will be loved and accepted. This can feel hopeless and overwhelming to the partner living under this conditional love and acceptance. Selfishness – boundaries can allow a person to become too focused on their own needs. In this selfish frame of mind, they forget that their partner still has real needs that must be met while change is occurring and boundaries are being honored. Essentially, when boundaries become rigid, self serving and conditional both partners end up feeling alone and disconnected. Boundaries are really meant to pull a couple closer together due to the safety it creates when honored. Here are some ways to implement boundaries and still be focused on healthy connection. Show compassion – boundaries must be implemented and enforced with love and compassion. Communicate clearly that the goal is these boundaries are to create a healthy relationship that will grow and be mutually fulfilling. Fight for your marriage – boundaries should not divide you and your mate.   So don’t let them.  Fight for a healthy marriage. Let your mate know that you are FOR them and your marriage. Show this in your actions by moving towards your mate while still enforcing your boundaries. Concern for your mate’s needs – become aware of what your spouse’s needs are. How does he/she feel loved? Be mindful of meeting their “love” needs daily to balance the weight of the boundaries. If your spouse feels loved and cared for, honoring your boundaries will be much easier for him or her to do. Unconditional love – consistent love is key for your mate to feel reassured of your feelings and commitment. As long as there is physical and emotional safety you can extend a hug, touch, a kiss in the midst of conflict to break through the barrier of pride and disconnection. I encourage you that boundaries do NOT need to be mean and rigid. If you balance being firm about your boundaries with the goal of health for your marriage, with compassion, selflessness and love, then your marriage will grow to be incredibly joyful and fulfilling. If you and your mate become stuck in the rigidness, blame and downright disconnection, we can help! The Marriage Recovery Center offers phone, Skype or intensive marriage counseling at our retreat center on the Puget Sound.  Contact us today!

Is Pleasing Enabling Dysfunction in your Marriage?

I always thought I had a normal marriage.  I was well aware that I was not living in marital bliss, but growing up with a single mother I did not see a good example of a healthy marriage.  It wasn’t until friends began making comments about how my husband spoke to me, or would constantly question me on why my husband was always working and never spending time with my girls and me, that I began to get curious. Their questioning really woke me up and after much research, I realized that my marriage was far from normal. After the shock wore off from this new discovery, I began to see the extent of the dysfunction that I was tolerating day in and day out.  I learned that I was a tried-and-true PLEASER!! To be a pleaser means being incredibly focused on making others happy, either because we are scared of losing them or making them angry with us.  Another common term is “codependent.” Unfortunately, pleasing others is often at a great sacrifice to us and our needs.  When we give in to others constantly without having our needs met as well, it keeps us in turmoil, exhaustion, and empty loneliness. In marriage, we can also feel powerless when boundaries are set with our mate and then violated by the one we love.  I work with many many clients who tend to simply give up when their boundaries are violated.  Unfortunately, new boundaries WILL be violated, especially by a mate who has lived a permissive life.  This can become destructive if  we fall into the self-pity pit, telling ourselves that we are not valuable enough to have our boundaries respected and honored.  Giving up on our needs and boundaries enables others to continue making bad choices without any accountability. Unfortunately, life for the pleaser living without boundaries and a clear voice is chaotic and stressful.  Eventually, after years of sacrificing to please our mate, we lose ourselves completely. Bottom line…without boundaries, conviction and a strong, clear voice, change will never occur in your marriage! However, there are steps we can take to create change. Speak from conviction – In our gut we know what we need and what we really want.  If these convictions are clear to you, then you must stand firm in them and become unshakable.  Take a few minutes today to sit down and tune into your gut.  What is important to you? What must you have in your life and your relationships? Intolerable behavior must have boundaries – Now that you know your convictions, you may be able to determine your intolerables – behavior that you cannot tolerate another moment.  Put boundaries around this behavior.  “If you choose to continue drinking excessively, I will not be able to continue in this relationship.” Consequences must be enforced for boundaries violated – The most difficult part of implementing boundaries is that real consequences must be enforced if our loved one chooses to violate it.  If consequences are not consistently imposed, the violator won’t take us seriously.  If we say that we have to take a break from our spouse when a boundary is bulldozed, then we need to separate until our loved one shows that they are serious about change. Seek help – If the dysfunction in your marriage continues to occur, then seeking help to change these patterns is critical. A therapist can help highlight the areas that are destructive and can coach you in how to make changes. At the Marriage Recovery Center, we can help!  We offer three day marriage intensives to help you and your mate identify the core issues in your marriage.  

Pride vs. Humility in your Marriage

Have you been feeling powerless in discussions with your spouse? Do you feel misunderstood, unheard, or dismissed? Are you both stuck in who is right and who is wrong? Do you find yourself striving to “win” the fight you are engaged in? If you answered a resounding “yes” to these questions, you are definitely not alone.  I work day in and day out with couples entrenched in ongoing bickering and power struggles focused on being “right” and their spouse being “wrong.” Unfortunately, couples storm off to their corner of the ring and plan their next attack and counter attack.  This results in each of them feeling alone, unheard, and unloved. Another common element of these disagreements is that couples constantly blame each other for the misery in their marriage.  They each fail to take responsibility for their actions in the dysfunctional relationship. The biggest misfortune to this way of handling disagreements is that issues go unresolved, and bitterness builds, leaving couples profoundly disconnected. What is at the core of these disagreements, blaming, and power struggles??? PRIDE!! Pride is often at the root of the problems I see at the Marriage Recovery Center.  Pride causes divorce papers to be filed, pride justifies affairs, pride causes total and complete chaos.  Bottom line…pride rears its ugly head in recklessness, selfishness, arrogance, unforgiveness, intolerance, self-righteousness, anger, defensiveness and the NEED TO BE RIGHT!! Unfortunately, in my professional opinion, pride leads to loneliness.  Which is typically the biggest fear of a prideful person.  To feel inadequate or rejected often causes an instant reaction in a person to protect themselves with all their might.  My favorite saying to these prideful people is “do you want to be right OR do you want to be in relationship?”  Because honestly you cannot have both. So what can you do if you find yourself taking on a prideful attitude? Try a little HUMILITY! Humility is absolutely key to healing a broken relationship.  But what does humility look like? Insight & Empathy – Allow your mate to influence you with what they are saying, then try to see your wrongdoing in what they are bringing to you.  Once you have insight into your part,  jump into your mate’s shoes and try to understand how your actions have impacted them poorly. Take Responsibility – This is the most critical step in approaching your marriage with humility.  Seeing your part and then admitting your wrongdoings will melt a bitter heart instantly.  The more you can maximize the specific ways you caused them hurt, the more effective the healing process will be. Exercise Grace and Forgiveness – Rather than getting stuck in justification on why you do what you do, learn to give your mate grace and forgive them for how they have wounded you.  Once you have offered forgiveness, you are free to let go of the hold the pain has on you. Selflessness – Yikes…this may be a challenging one.  As human beings our nature is to look out for #1, which of course is yourself. However humility is an act of selflessness.  It is daily choice to put your spouse and their needs a head of you. As challenging as these steps may sound, practicing humility is the key to total and complete connection and emotional intimacy in your marriage.  If you are struggling with a prideful attitude or your marriage is locked in continuous power struggles, we can help!  

Stop Fighting & Start Connecting

Many couples come to The Marriage Recovery Center full of bitterness, anger, and resentment. They find themselves trapped in this continuous cycle of fighting, trying to prove their point, or what we call “building their case.” This case-building continues until one person BLOWS UP and the other withdrawals, stuffing their hurt. Neither partner can understand how they have become this bitter, mean, and miserable person. I find that most people live in the “courtroom.” When they address issues with their mate, family, friends or co-worker they throw accusations such as “you were trying to hurt me” or “you don’t love me.” Stating feelings and thoughts as an accusation puts the other person in instant defense mode and can tend to shut them down. In the courtroom we also tend to blame other people “if you weren’t so mean, I wouldn’t have to yell at you.”  When this occurs the person blaming is not taking responsibility for their own behavior or feelings and thus avoids being able to process their feelings. Finally, I find that these men and women are driven by truth. They are SO focused on being right that they dismiss the other person’s reality because it is so vastly different than theirs.  I have come to adopt a saying which I will often share with these folks.  That is “You can be right, or you can be in relationship!”  Being stuck in a position is NOT the way to build connection. So the question I propose to you is: Are you ready to put down your sword and protective armor, and begin connecting with your spouse?? If you are willing to quit fighting then there is hope. You may be stuck in this bitterness, anger, and resentment BUT there is a way to get out of this pit. Here is how: Slow down and determine your feelings rather than coming from the courtroom in defensiveness and anger. Give yourself some time to process what is beneath your anger.  Are you feeling fearful? Hurt? Rejected? Speak from your feelings – Once you know what your real feelings are, speak to your mate, friends or coworker from these feelings.  “When you told me_____yesterday, I felt really hurt by your comment.” Need – Now that you have spoken from your feelings, it is critical that you then tell them what you need to feel.  For example, if you are feeling rejected, then you may need to feel accepted. Want – When discussing an issue it is important to let the other person know what they can do to meet your needs. An example of this would be “I ask that you only bring issues and feelings to me in a respectful way.”  You need to ask for what you want.  It is up to the other person whether they can accommodate your needs and wants. Live from your convictions – Understanding what you feel, need, and want begins with knowing your convictions.  Many people struggle to discern their morals and values.  For instance, is being truthful important to you? Do you need to be treated with respect? Are you driven to do the “right” thing?  If so, standing firm in these convictions without allowing others to influence you in these areas is key to living in your core self. Live with good boundaries – Protect your convictions with good boundaries.  As you may have learned by now…you cannot put boundaries on other people.  However, you can determine what you will do in response to someone’s behavior.  An example, “If you choose to speak to me disrespectfully, I will choose to disengage from this conversation.”  Boundaries create value in you and empower you to be congruent with your feelings and beliefs. Learning to live without the sword and armor will take some time. It will take being vulnerable with your mate as well as consistent introspection, congruency, and speaking from your deeper feelings.  If you can accomplish this, you will have the blessing of living connected with your spouse, which brings incredible joy and contentment. If you are struggling to stay out of the courtroom with your spouse, or find it difficult to share your deeper feelings, we can help!  The Marriage Recovery Center offers phone and Skype counseling as well as intensive marriage and individual counseling.

Did you Marry your Parent??

Do you ever feel shamed by your spouse? Do you feel pressured to ask permission of your mate before making a commitment? Is “should” one of your spouse’s favorite words? If so, you are most likely being parented by your mate.  Examples might be men who control their spouse and must sign off on a decision made, big or small, or women who have fallen into the pattern of speaking with a self-righteous, shaming attitude forcefully telling her husband the “right” way to doing something. This happened in my marriage for years, typically surrounding finances. My husband would get into his lecture mode and begin telling me what I SHOULD be doing with our money and what I NEED to do immediately. In response, I would “shut down” and leave the  conversation feeling as small as a pea.  It wasn’t until I found out about Eric Bernes’ theory on transactional analysis that it began making sense on why I feel so small in those conversations. Bernes’ theory discusses the role of the parent, adult and child. We choose roles based on the security in the relationship and in ourselves.  In most mature relationships, we will find that couples have adult to adult conversations where power is shared equally. However, in many situations at the Marriage Recovery Center we see one spouse taking on the parent role while the other becomes the child.  Unfortunately, those in the child role end up feeling shamed, guilty, and worthless during their interactions with their spouse.  The child then determines if they will be compliant and do what their spouse told them to do OR whether they will rebel and passive aggressively do the opposite. Bottom line, this imbalance of power is a sure sign that emotional abuse is present in the relationship. If you find yourself in the role of the overbearing parent or the shamed child in your relationship, there is hope for change. First, you must strive for equality in your relationship. Each of you deserves to be heard and have your opinion valued.  This can only occur in an adult to adult relationship.  Being told what to do and how to do it does not belong in a mature relationship. Second, you may need to create a boundary around shaming or parental language.   This is often so ingrained in the parental spouse that you will need to bring awareness to this behavior. A boundary would sound something like, “It is critical to me that we have mutuality and respect in our relationship. If you choose to speak to me in a shaming or lecturing manner, I will need to disengage from our conversation.” After setting the boundary, it will be important to follow through with disengaging after informing them of how he/she violated your boundary. Third, get help! This inequality of power in your relationship can be difficult to navigate alone.  Seek out a therapist who is trained in couples counseling and emotional abuse to confront the dysfunction. At the Marriage Recovery Center we specialize in emotionally abusive marriages utilizing an intensive 3 day format  for couples counseling.

Attend, Attach & Attune: How to

Are you tired of the constant bickering in your marriage? Do you find yourself preparing your counter attack rather than really listening to your mate? Or have you come to a place where you just avoid your spouse altogether?? Recently, I found these challenges running rampant in my 17 year marriage. I finally came to my husband and asked if we could call a truce and make a commitment NOT to fight.  I once again implemented this 3-step system that we teach couples at the Marriage Recovery Center. Attend, Attach & Attune First, we must attend to our mate. As simple as this may sound, we often compete with the television, computer, computer games or social media, for our mate’s full attention. When having a significant conversation, give your mate, or ask for your mate’s full attention. This can be further enhanced by setting aside time to really connect to your mate. This can be accomplished by having a weekly date night, sitting in your favorite room with a cup of coffee, or perhaps going for a walk. Giving your mate your undivided attention is an invaluable connector. Second, we must attach to our mate. Not only must we attend to our mate, but we must attach to what they are saying. In other words, what they tell us must be considered important, and worthwhile. What they are saying must influence us and change us. We must convey that we care so deeply about what they are saying and are willing to alter our point of view, our behavior and, perhaps, our lifestyle to accommodate their concerns. Third, we must attune ourselves to our mate. This involves the ongoing practice of carrying our mate around on our frontal lobe—in other words, we think about them and their concerns throughout the week. We care deeply about what they care about. We reflect on their concerns and consider whether we are keeping agreements we have made with them. We respond non-defensively when they remind us of any shortcoming. Finally, when we attend, attach and attune ourselves to our mate, we create a powerful connection. Failure to actively engage in each of these steps will lead to disconnection. This three-step process enhances not only your marriage relationship, but any friendship or work relationship as well. Practice this process and notice your relationships improve. We are here to help! We offer phone, Skype or intensive individual or couples counseling to help you attach, attune and attend to each other. Check out our website at

Attend, Attach, Attune: Critical For Emotional Intimacy

Do you ever feel like you cannot get your spouse’s attention?  Are you experiencing a tremendous disconnection in your marriage? At the Marriage Recovery Center, we often hear couples commenting “I’m not sure she/he really cares about me anymore.”  The main reason we find couples feel unloved and uncared for is that they both feel unheard. The biggest challenge to achieving a close relationship is the tendency to talk over each other. Neither mate is being heard, and can quickly engage in a power struggle—a killer of communication. A second disconnection in communication is the tendency to become distracted while their spouse is talking to them. They often think they are listening to each other, but most likely they are failing to fully attend to their mate. How many times has the television or cell phone gotten between you and your spouse when you are trying to connect? Another communication breakdown we see is the inability to attune to one another.  Often couples become so camped in their point of view that they fail to be influenced by their spouse’s ideas and thoughts on critical issues. This typically creates a significant challenge in trying to collaborate on issues. If you are feeling disconnected from your spouse, stay tuned for the 3 keys to emotional intimacy.

Marriage Counseling: Seek Help Before it is Too Late

I finished up a marriage intensive today feeling absolutely crushed. Typically I wrap up intensives with feelings of excitement from seeing couples move from profound disconnection to reconciliation in a 3 day intensive, but during this particular intensive the husband chose to end his 15 year marriage.   I was not necessarily devastated by my inability to save this marriage, but rather devastated for the wife and children who had to pick up the pieces of their life and try to move on without a husband and full-time father.  Divorce not only brings the separation of two people, but a division of all assets, potential poverty, and complete brokenness. Not to mention the ugly custody battles, which result in children by the door waiting for their parent who may never come. You may be asking why anyone would want to divorce? Or maybe you are reading this and your marriage is hanging on by its last thread.  The answer is couples often wait TOO long before they seek help. The most common situation we see at the Marriage Recovery Center are couples who have been experiencing problems for 5, 10 or even 20  years.  These couples may initially visit with their pastor or see a counselor 1-2 times.  Without taking extreme measures to get help, these issues NEVER get resolved and couples emotionally shut down and become vulnerable to emotional and physical affairs.  Once another person is involved in the marriage, reconciliation becomes much more difficult. So what can you do if your marriage is going downhill fast? Come out of denial.  At the Marriage Recovery Center we believe denial stands for Don’t Even Know I Am Lying to myself.  You cannot address problems that you refuse to see, stuff away, or avoid. Stop whining and complaining. Complaining about how bad your marriage is will not get anything accomplished. Take action. Make a firm request to your spouse that change must occur through counseling. Protect your heart. Be cautious about relationships with the opposite gender.  Don’t put yourself in a vulnerable position with a man or woman who is not your spouse.  Ask your spouse to protect his or her heart.  Pray for protection over your marriage. Seek intensive marriage counseling. Just as you would not use a bandaid for a huge wound,  seeking counseling one hour a week will not resolve the crisis you are in.  Consider researching the benefits of a marriage intensive at the Marriage Recovery Center. Prepare yourself for some hard work. With change comes HARD work to break the dysfunctional patterns in your marriage.  Follow up counseling with daily work on yourself, your marriage, and ensure you have accountability built into your change process. If you choose to seek help as soon as problems arise in your relationship, there is incredible hope for change to occur. To find out how a marriage intensive can help your marriage, please contact us at

Are you Ready for the Love Life of your Dreams

A Love Life of Your Dreams By Dr. David B. Hawkins, MSW, MA, PhD “May the love hidden deep inside your heart find the love waiting in your dreams. May the laughter that you find in your tomorrow wipe away the pain you find in your yesterdays.”  Introduction Congratulations! You have taken the first step toward having the love life of your dreams. Everything begins with a first step, and you have taken it. No doubt you are skeptical. Could this be another “get rich quick scheme?” Is he out to simply make a buck and then skip town? Not at all. If you check out my website, and the many books I’ve written and hundreds of couples I’ve helped at The Marriage Recovery Center, you’ll realize I’m here for the long run. I want to help you—and I can! I can only help, however, if you’ll invite me into your life. I understand that this will take time and you must learn to trust me. You must determine that I am who I say I am, can do what I say I can do, and will stick with you during this growth process. I understand this. Most couples coming to see me have tried other forms of counseling before, only to be sorely disappointed. There are several reasons for that which I would like to share with you briefly, helping you to see this is different. First – Many marriage counselors do not specialize in marriage counseling. They have taken a course or two in the art of marriage counseling, but it is not their specialty. Marriage counseling is a specialty—it takes extra training to fully understand how to make an impact into relationships with layers of challenges. Second – Many marriage counselors simply try to put bandages on the problems. While they are well-meaning, they simply offer tools for communicating. Perhaps they offer reading materials. They may have you practice a few techniques. While this is all good, it is far too simplistic. There are layers of issues that must be understood and dealt with. Third – Many marriage counselors still function on the 50 minute hour. It is ridiculous to think you can unlayer the layers of issues in 45-50 minutes, left to flounder for the rest of the week. No, you need special attention, time to fully disclose and reveal the nuances of the problems you are experiencing. You need someone to take a keen interest in what you are experiencing, and then to offer real solutions. Fourth – Many counselors don’t really know how to help you connect. Frankly, most are overwhelmed by the complexities of marriage counseling. They dread the layers of problems, the heated tension and challenges inherent in marriage counseling. It takes a true specialist who enjoys marriage counseling to help you. Finally – Many counselors won’t take an active interest in you. They fit you into their busy schedule, only to leave you feeling abandoned to figure things out on your own. Like a specialized surgeon, you need someone who will go deep with you, care genuinely about you, and walk with you through the entire process until you have reconnected to your mate. Entering a Change Process I also understand that you want to feel like you are in this change process with your mate—that they are invested in the change process with you. Sometimes it takes time and work, along with a bit of strategy, to get a partner to participate in the change process. Many find their mate to be resistant to change, and this is another area of specialty for me. I assure you that together we can create a situation where your mate will be willing to participate in the counseling/ change process. Before going any further, I want you to understand my philosophy about the change process. What is your role, what is your mate’s role, and what is my role? Philosophy I have a very unique perspective on what true marriage counseling looks like. I have a unique point of view about how you got to where you are, and what it will take to get to a new place. Consider this philosophy which I believe to be true of couples: “We have co-created our problems, have co-dependently enabled them to continue, and must co-labor to fix them. Together we can move from a place of Confusion, to a place of Clarity, leading us to a place of Conviction, which takes us to honest Confrontation, and finally to making healthier Choices. At first we will experience Chaos as we make these new Choices, but ultimately we will reach a place of Connection.” Yes, this was a mouthful, but I’d like you to examine what I’ve said to see if this is true for you. You need not remain in confusion any longer. I can help you gain clarity, so that you will know exactly what you need to do to bring about change in your relationship. I promise to partner with you tirelessly to bring about true, healthy change. Choice Point Are you ready for a love life of your dreams? I have a powerful program, in which I would like to partner with you to make wonderful, healthy, loving connection with your mate. As I said in my Philosophy statement, there will be times of chaos as you move from the old way of relating to the new way. But, I assure you, if you stick with it, and allow me to coach you, positive change will occur. If one person in a relationship changes, the other must by necessity change as well. The next step is yours to take. You have the opportunity to download the eBook, A Love Life of Your Dreams. With this manual in your hands, and me there to guide you, you will experience relationship success and profound connection. I look forward to working with you to achieve a love life of your dreams. Dr. David Hawkins

Why is he Emotionally Abusive? What you can do about it.

Have you been reading my blogs about why he is emotionally abusive?  Are you tuning into the potential pain he is in?   Do you a have a better understanding of why he acts the way he does?  If so, you may be asking “what can I do about it?” Understandably, these are issues he is struggling with that he will ultimately need to work through. Though you have a big part in helping him address his fears and pain in a healthy way.   Here is how you can help… Try to discern his feelings. He may approach you in an angry, defensive manner, thus following his well known dysfunctional pattern. You then have a choice to make.  Do you match his defensiveness OR do you choose to help him determine his feelings.  Questions such as “what are you really feeling right now?” or “can you tell me what is making you angry?”  These questions could soften him and allow him to share from a vulnerable place. How can you help him feel safe to share? This may sound like a strange question, considering you are most likely the one who has felt unsafe.  You can ask him what will help him to feel safe to share his feelings. Then listen and take in what he suggests. Often it may be as simple as you talking from your feelings to create safety for him.  Phrases  such as “I feel scared, alone” create a connection while “I feel like you..” can make a man feel threatened. Have firm boundaries. Don’t just let him throw anger and accusations at you.  If you work hard at trying to pull him out and he keeps battling, set a boundary. A powerful way to communicate this is “I really would like to hear you, but I cannot tolerate being spoken to with anger.  I would be happy to speak to you when we can both talk calmly with each other.” Make marriage counseling a must. These patterns of emotional abuse WILL NOT change without an intervention.  Marriage counseling will help you each identify your feelings and pain in a safe environment.  A good counselor will also be able to confront the dysfunctional patterns and behaviors in your interactions. At the Marriage Recovery Center we offer 3 day marriage Intensives to break through this abusive cycle, helping you to create safety, boundaries, and an incredible connection between the two of you.

Why is he Emotionally Abusive? His Feelings.

The phone calls with women preparing to come out for their 3 day marriage intensive at the Marriage Recovery Center are often eerily similar. “Teri, I am so afraid that you will not see the REAL man that I am married to! I believe he will pull the wool over your eyes, and be his charming self in therapy.” My response is always the same…Everything will be revealed in our intensive eight hour session. Charm can only maintained for short spurts. Once a raw issue is exposed, emotions erupt and the abusiveness tendencies are apparent. The question I often am asked is why do these discussions turn into an angry outburst? Honestly, men are packed full of feelings, but they just cannot discern their specific emotions. The majority of feelings I see regarding why he is emotionally abusive are: Fear of Vulnerability – I find that men are extremely fearful of being vulnerable with their real, deeper feelings. Because they feel unsafe to share their emotions, they stuff their feelings and shoot right to anger. Inadequacy – Men often are concerned about sharing their feelings because they don’t want you to see their weakness. A consistent message taught to these men from a young age is that they should be strong and courageous. Emotions are considered weak and should never be revealed. Failure – Anger and defensiveness often flare when men believe that you are highlighting how they have failed in your relationship, career, or parenting. They are scared to death of failure. Thus they deflect issues you bring to them, turning the blame on you, making you feel as if you are the bad person causing the chaos. I hope this blog has helped give you a better understanding of your man and his emotions. You can help pull him out and create a safe place for him to open up to you. See my next blog on how to do this.

Why is he Emotionally Abusive???

I receive countless emails from women, and often they begin with…”I read your blog  and/or watched your video and I am shocked to discover that I am in an emotionally abusive relationship!” This question is typically followed by “how is this possible? My husband was the most wonderful man when I married him.” Have you had these very thoughts? Are you wondering how you, as such a strong woman, have fallen into a marriage that is emotionally abusive? Do you ask yourself  where did my Prince Charming go? Ladies , your man is in serious PAIN! Often when a couple with the chaos of emotional abuse comes to the Marriage Recovery Center and spends three days with us, we quickly discover a very angry man with a lot of exiled emotions under all of his Teflon. What pain could he possibly be feeling? Fear, fear and fear. Fear of loss – Honestly your spouse  loves you more than he can express in words.  Because of this deep love, he is deathly afraid of losing you. Out of his anxiety, he says demeaning, disrespectful comments, creating deep hurt in you and pushing you further away. Fear of losing control – Most of the men we see who have been labeled as emotionally abusive, typically feel their world is out of control.  In order to get some sense of control, they seek to control what they can.  This may be a control over finances, control of what you do…telling you what you can or cannot do and even making decisions for you. Fear of being rejected – This fear seems to paralyze men the most.  Men, despite their callous behavior are really just dying to connect with you, be loved by you, and made to feel special.  Though their fear of being rejected keeps them from reaching out to you and asking for what they need. These feelings of rejection are tapped into when their needs are not met and anger spikes. Fear of being alone – Ultimately this is what I find to be the overwhelming core fear for men.  They become so conflicted and shameful over their demeaning, controlling behavior toward the love of their life. For the one thing they want more than anything (you), they repeatedly drive away. So, why is your man emotionally abusive? He is abusive due to that deep, dark broken place in him.  A painful place that he has worked so hard to exile and stuff away, thus hurting your from his deep hurt. Stay tuned for my next blog which will explore more feelings causing a man to be emotionally abusive.

Are you Emotionally Wounded by your Partner: The Solution

Have you been emotionally wounded by your partner? In your pain, do you tend to hurt him/her in return? Are you feeling exhausted from the ongoing wounding? If so, you can choose to change this pattern. It all begins with you. First, calm yourself down. This may prove to be a challenge for when you’ve been wronged; your desire may be to attack. From your Protective Self you will say hurtful things. Rather than attack, choose to take care of yourself. Take a time out, go for a walk, breathe deeply, and get to a better place emotionally. Second, identify how you really feel. You may think you are angry, but if you dig deeper, you may determine that you feel alone, rejected and fearful.  Express issues with your spouse from these feelings. Third, really listen and empathize with your mate.  It is critical that you are truly present with your mate. Giving your mate your full attention will touch your mate’s heart. Reflect what they are saying and try to be empathetic with their feelings.   Step in their shoes to understand how they are feeling. Finally, determine solutions. Make new agreements on how you will both handle future issues and wounds.  This will build trust and help you both heal from your emotional wounds.  Make a plan to be accountable to each other for change. There is hope for healing!  If you both create a safe place to discuss your pain with each other, future wounds can be avoided. Contact Us for Help

Are you Emotionally Wounded by your Mate?

Are you feeling unloved in your marriage? Do you seek confirmation regularly from your spouse that he or she still loves you? Do you ever feel unheard when you share these insecurities with your mate? Does this make you feel even more wounded? Could the way you are communicating your feelings to your spouse be causing defensiveness in him/her We often see couples at the Marriage Recovery Center who are in tremendous pain, and in their pain tend to throw accusations at their spouse.  We hear such statements as “you don’t love me anymore” or “you care more about your work than me!” These accusations will always put your mate on the defense, for you are most likely coming from a place of anger and resentment. When your mate feels defensive it is almost impossible for them to be with you in your feelings.  In their defensiveness, they throw back a wounding remark to you and the battle pursues. Would you like to change this dysfunctional pattern? If so, you might ask yourself…what am I really feeling?  What do I need from my spouse right now?  If you can pinpoint the deeper feelings in your statements, then you can begin to change your interactions by coming from a vulnerable place. Stay tuned for my next blog to learn how to identify your feelings and speak from your most vulnerable self.

Sexual Addiction and Marriage: treatment

Has reality finally set in that your spouse has a pornography or sexual addiction? Are you feeling hopeless that your spouse can or will change? There is hope for change…if you require it!  How do I require change, you ask? You must create a crisis from the Sexual Addiction to ensure change occurs… You have been betrayed at the deepest level by your spouse. Your self worth and ability to trust has surely been impacted.  This addiction and his/her acting out MUST STOP.  There must be a critical conversation with your spouse that your marriage is BROKEN until he/she gets treatment for their addiction.  This could mean an emotional or even a physical separation. Most men that come to the Marriage Recovery Center for diagnosis and treatment of sexual addiction, do so because their wife made it clear that they must choose their addiction or their marriage…but they could NOT have both. Boundaries for accountability need to be established Safety must be put in place to ensure the addictive behavior stops.  Establish a boundary that there is a filter on each computer, Internet is removed from phones, emails and text messages are to be shared.  You are not to be his or her parent, but accountability is key to stop this defiant behavior. Your spouse MUST get treatment This addiction will not go away by itself.  Your spouse must get into treatment for his/her addiction ASAP. Intensive treatment of 2-3 days will determine the patterns/rituals, level of addiction and the pain this behavior is stemming from. Get help for your marriage Your marriage is in crisis and will also need intensive marriage counseling to overcome this betrayal.  Trust and intimacy can be reestablished once your spouse has undergone intensive treatment. Boundaries and agreements can be put in place to create safety and steps towards building trust once again.  Learning to communicate in a healthy way is also critical to overcome this crisis. There is hope for your marriage, for we see couples work through this addiction weekly and become a stronger, more connected partnership. Please contact us at 360-490-5446 or send us a message by clicking here

Sexual Addiction in Marriage: The Discovery

Have you just discovered your spouse on the internet viewing pornography? Or even worse, have you found evidence of your mate soliciting others for sex? If so, are you feeling overwhelmed with betrayal? Do you feel foolish that you were oblivious to his/her addiction? Disgusted that you are married to someone with such darkness? Are you wondering if you can ever trust him/her again? Understand that these feelings are very normal after discovering such betrayal from the person you loved and committed your life to. Understand that your spouse has NOT set out to intentionally hurt you. Rather, he/she is steeped in a dark sin that once the fantasy world of pornography has been experienced, it can rapidly pull them in. Eventually, just viewing pornography will become boring and he/she will need even more stimulus to satisfy his/her needs. Finally, your spouse is broken. He/she is acting out of an emptiness or deep pain and the pornography is the numbing mechanism. Pornography or sexual addiction falls into the same level of seriousness as drug or alcohol abuse. The addiction cannot be broken until he/she is in treatment and undergoes extensive individual therapy to determine the source of pain. At the Marriage Recovery Center, we want to offer encouragement that you can help your spouse to engage in the change process through implementing firm boundaries and by creating a crisis in your marriage. Watch for our next blog which will walk you through your next steps to ensure change occurs. Want to learn more? Go to our Sexual Addiction & Marriage page

Defy Disconnection

I just returned from a wonderfully relaxing vacation at a beach resort in Mexico.   On a girls trip…I found myself to be in the minority for I was surrounded by numerous couples enjoying their life of retirement.  In chatting with these couples, I was astounded by how many had been married 30,  40,  even 50 years. I expected to see in their interactions a deep contentment and a strong emotional connection.  Rather what I witnessed was tremendous dissatisfaction and profound disconnection. Does this sound vaguely familiar? Have you been married 30 plus years and feel alone and bored in your marriage? Do you even feel a bit resentful towards your mate? Chose to defy disconnection! Address issues as they come up.  Sit down with your spouse and share your feelings about a particular problem.   Careful not to attack him/her with “you” statements. If there have been years of unaddressed issues, you may need to solicit the help of a therapist. Set boundaries – If there are certain behaviors from your spouse that you cannot tolerate another day, put a firm boundary in place to demand change in this area. Find time to connect each day – Share from your most vulnerable self, and ask questions to pull your spouse out. Understand what your spouse is struggling with. What was exciting about his/her day? Try to discern his/her feelings. Finally, find common activities that continue to bring you together and keep you connected. Whether it is salsa lessons, golf dates or exercising together, these interests will keep the fire and excitement in your relationship for years to come. At the Marriage Recovery Center we often see couples who have spent years in denial about their issues.  There has been an overwhelming hope in these couples that by ignoring the strife and just getting through, that life will be so much more content when the kids are grown and careers are complete.  I am here to encourage you that you DO NOT need to continue in this denial. Choose to do something about it!

Repairing from an Affair: The Heal Processing

Can our relationship ever heal from this betrayal? Can I ever trust him or her again? Are these some of the questions running through your mind as you begin to accept the reality that your mate has had an affair? I am here to encourage you that YES, indeed your marriage can heal from this affair and even result in a more rich, fulfilling relationship for both of you.  The fact is, it will take some work! The healing process after an affair can be strenuous, yet worth the investment. First, allow you and your mate to be with your feelings. You may be feeling abandoned, rejected and alone while your mate is struggling with feelings of guilt and shame.  Both of you have validate feelings that deserve to be heard and honored. Second, recognize that both of you played a role in the affair. This statement may be a difficult one for you to resonate with. I am not saying that you “caused” your mate to have an affair, rather you  BOTH co-created an environment in which an affair could occur.  Actively examine ways in which your communication, conflict resolution skills, and perhaps patterns of intimacy, played a role in the affair. Both must be diligent about taking responsibility for your part, and set out to heal problems. Third, recognize that it will take time, and effort, to develop trust again. Trust can be restored, but this will require effort and wisdom. Healthy boundaries must be implemented in your marriage to build a foundation of trust again. Trust will also be built more quickly if your partner has a heart of humility and repentance.  He/she must show, repeatedly, that they are truly sorry for the damage they have caused in your relationship. Finally, Get Help!! An affair is not something you and your mate can repair from on your own.  Weekly marriage counseling is effective for smaller problems, but will not be enough for the crisis your marriage is in.  At the Marriage Recovery Center we offer intensive couples counseling over 3 days for couples in crisis. We will help you  heal from your wounds, identify the dysfunctional patterns in your marriage, and teach you to set boundaries to establish trust once again. Contact us today if you need help Adapted from Dr. David Hawkins’ article “Broken Before the Affair”

Repairing from an Affair: The Symptoms

The reality is quite devastating…your partner is having an affair! You may be asking yourself “how could they do this to me? How dare they break our sacred vows! We have heard these comments plus many more at the Marriage Recovery Center. Unfortunately, the truth is your partner’s affair is merely a symptom of the deep rooted problems in your marriage. Your marriage most likely was very broken before the affair even occurred. Most marriages usually need far more repair than problems caused by the affair alone. At the Marriage Recovery Center we have found that marriages susceptible to affairs struggle with these 5 issues: A lack of functionality – fighting about the same issues again and again without a resolution. A lack of intimacy – ineffective communication, with feelings of distance, resentment and turmoil. A Lack of Acceptance/Significance – ignoring your mate’s need for acceptance, appreciation and significance. A lack of excitement – allowing the relationship to become stale, with little “spark” or adventure. A lack of sexual enthusiasm – allowing their sexual life to become boring and routine, or perhaps nonexistent. Do you struggle with some of these issues in your marriage? If so, seek Immediate counseling to help you and your spouse work through these critical problems. The Marriage Recovery Center specializes in intense counseling for couples trying to repair after an affair. Click here to contact us or send me an email directly at  Adapted from Dr. David Hawkins‘ article ” Broken Before the Affair”

Repairing From an Affair

Has your worst nightmare in your relationship just become a reality? Did you just discover an email, text or Facebook message to your mate from another man or woman? The reality may be that your partner is having an affair! Is your mind racing, your emotions ranging from maddening frenzy to abject panic? Are you having trouble eating, sleeping or thinking straight?  If so, you are experiencing the typical,  painfully emotional response to learning about such incredible betrayal. Nothing is as painful as an affair. You trusted someone with your heart, soul and emotions; you expected faithfulness. You counted on them to keep you safe. An affair shatters the trust, safety and honesty you believed in.  “How could they do that to me?  How can someone I love and trust betray me in this way?” you ask. An affair seems unthinkable. Unspeakable. Unbearable. After all, the one who had the affair is the one who stepped out of the sacred bounds of the marriage. With feelings intensified, it is common for the person who was betrayed to attack the villain, creating even more distance than existed before. Feeling intensely enraged and resentful, the lines are drawn—victim and villain. While it is tempting to close our hearts, vilifying the one who had the affair, it is critical that you take a time out and examine your feelings. Let your feelings inform you. Are you feeling angry and enraged, or are you really feeling abandoned and incredibly hurt? It is very likely that you are unclear at this moment. We at the Marriage Recovery Center are here for you to help you talk through your feelings and determine how to communicate with your partner about how this affair has impacted you. Stay tuned for my next blog which discusses what made your relationship susceptible to an affair.

The Reality of Emotional Abuse: Ending the Dysfunction in your Marriage

If you’ve read my recent posts on the reality of emotional abuse and the symptoms, you may feel convinced that you’re in an emotionally abusive marriage. Are you married to Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde? Do you feel hopeless that he/she will change? Do you feel powerless to create change in your marriage? Today I want to offer hope that change CAN occur if you demand it. How do you end emotional abuse? The 1st step is to STOP enabling the disrespectful, demeaning behavior. You must stop whining and complaining but instead set firm boundaries. You can only put boundaries on yourself, not others. A boundaries sounds like this, “I will no longer tolerate the disrespectful, demeaning tone that you speak to me in. I would be happy to listen to you when you can be kind and respectful.” 2nd you must have a critical conversation with your spouse that his or her behavior MUST change. In order to achieve this, counseling for your marriage will be critical. At the Marriage Recovery Center, we spend 3 days of intensive counseling with couples identifying and confronting dysfunctional patterns in their marriage. Without counseling, your spouse will most likely never change. Finally, it is important that you take care of yourself. If you feel as if you don’t have a voice in your marriage, then talk to a counselor on how to strengthen yourself. Often, people in emotionally abusive marriages have suffered severe damage to their self-esteem. Individual counseling will help you identify where you are not holding your emotions and speaking up for yourself. If you have resonated with these ideas and are ready for change, we would love to hear from you at the Marriage Recovery Center, and start you on your journey to healing! Contact us TODAY for a personal consultation!

The Reality of Emotional Abuse: The Symptoms

Does Emotional Abuse in your Marriage make you ever feel as if you are living with Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde? Is your spouse loved by family, co-workers, and friends?  Yet, when he/she is in the comfort of your home creates an atmosphere of fear?  If so, you are not alone.  Emotional abuse has reached epic numbers in marriages across the country and causes tremendous shame and humiliation. Due to the shame of emotional abuse, secrets abound and dysfunction prevails. What are the symptoms of emotional abuse? Verbal abuse is the most common form of emotional abuse.  Verbal attacks come in the form of personal assaults on your character, with comments like, “What have you been doing all day long…you lazy bum.”  Blaming and accusations are also extremely common, often twisting their failures and putting the responsibility on you. Blaming and accusations are reflected in such comments as, “If you didn’t make me so angry, I wouldn’t have to scream at you” or “you spend all of our money on your selfish needs.” The most common symptoms we see of emotional abuse in our intensive counseling is shaming and judging. Shaming may come across as demeaning, parental comments which indicate stupidity in your decisions.  Judgments slip out without a moment’s thought often heard as, “You should…do this or do that.” Is there any wonder how you may be questioning your decisions, feeling worthless, and hopeless that your spouse will ever change?  The great news is there IS hope for change if YOU are ready to demand it.  Look for my next blog which will coach you on how to stop emotional abuse in your marriage.

The Reality of Emotional Abuse

Is there Emotional Abuse in your life? I sat feeling shocked, humiliated, and in total disbelief by the words my girlfriend just unloaded on me.  Her words which still cause grave discomfort were, “You realize that you are in an emotionally abusive marriage, right?” My girlfriend, who happened to be separated from her husband due to emotional abuse, felt empowered to impart her knowledge on others in her situation.  Whether welcomed or not, her question challenged me to consider the reality of emotional abuse in my rather dysfunctional marriage. Emotional Abuse…Really?? These thoughts continuously rang through my head.  I had always considered myself to be a strong, confident, and independent woman.  Yet, for the past several years I had come to realize that I constantly questioned my decisions, my logic, and intelligence in everything I said and did. I often felt that I was going crazy in most interactions I had with my spouse.  I came to every conversation knowing exactly what I felt and needed and left believing I was crazy to think what I did. It must be MY fault for thinking and believing this way.  I rarely felt as if I would ever be good enough based on my husband’s expectations of me. Do These Feeling Resonate? Are you reading this and beginning to feel as I did in my conversation with my girlfriend?  Really…Emotional Abuse?  Could this dysfunction in my marriage, which I have been trying SO hard to deny, really be emotional abuse? If this question is ringing loudly in your mind, keep an eye out for my next blog which discusses the symptoms of emotional abuse. Also, please visit our page that goes deep into the symptoms and remedies for Emotional Abuse…you’re not alone! And please feel free to reach out to me at

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