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Good Marriage Counselor

6 months ago Roger and Dianne called me to discuss some difficulties they’ve been experiencing during their 12 year marriage.  At the end of our conversation Roger told me, “Glen, we’ve already been to 2 marriage counselors.  This whole process has been more frustrating than it should be.  I like your experience and I like what I read about Well Marriage Center, so we’re inclined to give this one more chance, but we’re pretty vulnerable here.  Why is a good marriage counselor so hard to find?”

“Why is a good marriage counselor so hard to find?”

I told Roger I appreciated his candor and I could understand his frustration.  And I could.  I’m always disappointed to hear when couples can’t find the help they need when they’re open and ready for it.  Unfortunately, Roger and Dianne aren’t alone.  We often get calls from couples who have been to one or two counselors before at some point during their relationship.  Their frustration is palpable.  So why is a good marriage counselor so hard to find and what can you look for when searching out the good ones?

I’m a big fan of Malcolm Gladwell – brilliant thinker, researcher, and writer.  In his best-selling book Outliers, Gladwell makes the convincing case that to truly become an expert in your field requires a devotion to your craft of at least 10,000 hours.  I love this premise…I think those of us working towards and achieving that “expert” label understand at a deep level how much we’ve learned and how much we still have to learn.  And it’s not just experience…it’s how often are you practicing this craft and how quickly are you building towards those 10,000 hours.

One of my biggest excitements about starting Well Marriage Center was that we could focus 100% on relationships.  We could devote 100% of our energy, effort, research, and training to couples.  Imagine how you can help couples with that kind of attention!  While most therapists offer marriage counseling on the side, we could offer marriage counseling as what we do exclusively…100% of the time!  I think this is something to pay attention to when looking for the best marriage counselors.  How do they spend their “hours” each week and are they building to those 10,000?

The happy ending for Roger and Dianne is that we were able to give them the help they needed.  Their marriage is doing remarkably well and we’re celebrating their success with them!

Marriage counseling is an art form in which the counselor helps guide the couple through (often) sticky, messy, and intense emotions and dynamics…all while holding the hope for their relationship.  It’s an intricate dance and I hope you trust only the best to help you navigate your most primary and intimate relationship.  The good news at Well Marriage Center – we’re all either above that 10,000 hour mark or building quickly and exclusively towards it!  We’re all specialist here…

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Predicting Divorce

The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse (Predicting Divorce)

With the end of the world upon us tomorrow, I thought it would be a fitting time to address the difficult reality of divorce – particularly what indicators in a relationship are most likely to lead to its end.

Are there warning signs you can pay attention to that may prevent the end of your marriage?   

Dr. John Gottman is one of the leading marriage researchers and a top authority in the marriage counseling world.  We have the utmost respect for Dr. Gottman and all of our marriage counselors are required to complete Gottman Level 1 and Level 2 trainings…at a minimum.  Dr. Gottman reports that he can predict with 96% accuracy within the first few minutes of a couple having a conversation whether the relationship he is watching will survive over the long-haul or not.  He bases his prediction on four elements, which he calls the Four Horseman of the Apocalypse.  These lethal horseman “clip-clop into the heart of a marriage in the following order: criticism, contempt, defensiveness, stonewalling.”  I’m going to explain these four elements below because they are indeed incredibly toxic to the long-term success of your relationship.

BUT, all hope is not lost if one or more describe you.  We work with couples all the time who have one or more of these “horseman” present in their relationship.  I’ve seen too many of these couples do the hard work of stopping these horsemen in their tracks, survive, and go on to thrive in their relationship.  We think the important distinction is this: the continuation of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse is what dooms a marriage, not just their presence.

So, the good news is: tomorrow is not actually the end of the world.  And tomorrow doesn’t have to be the end of your marriage.  But many couples do wait until these horsemen are firmly entrenched.  If any of the four below describe you, contact the relationship specialists at Well Marriage Center immediately.  We’re trained and experienced to help your marriage grow and thrive…for the long term!

Dr. John Gottman’s Four Horsemen of the Apocalpyse:

1)      Criticism: This is different than having a complaint about our partner or offering a critique, which are normal in a long-term relationship.  No, what he’s referring is how we communicate our complaints to our partners.  Criticism is “a way of fueling an attack, so you state your complaint as an attack on the other person.  It’s not constructive and it ends up escalating the conflict.”  It’s when we complain by way of attacking our partner at their very core.

Example:  “You haven’t asked me about how my day and how my big meeting went” is a complaint.  A criticism on the other hand is more general and blaming, “You always talk about yourself and never think about me.  You’re so selfish.”

2)      Contempt: Dr. Gottman considers this perhaps the best indicator of divorce, because it quickly reveals the “respect” value of a relationship.  This element contains a deadly air of superiority in which we are mean, often treating our partner with disrespect by using sarcasm, name-calling, ridicule, eye-rolling, etc.  Our partner feels despised and worthless.  Dr. Gottman says contempt is absolutely deadly and must be eliminated.

Example:  “You really are a self-centered jerk.  You just do whatever you want without regard for anyone else.  You’re the sorriest excuse for a wife or husband I can think of.”

3)      Defensiveness:  This is a particularly easy element to allow into our relationships.  If we feel accused, our natural inclination is to defend ourselves, to offer an excuse, or to shift blame back to the other person.  But the danger in defensiveness is that it communicates we don’t hear our partner’s complaint.  By being defensive and deflecting, we are ignoring our partner.  Dr. Gottman calls this defensiveness “self-protection in the form of righteous indignation or innocent victim-hood.”

Example:  “It’s not my fault I didn’t call you, I wasn’t near a phone.”

4)      Stonewalling: When a partner gets too tired or is afraid of confronting issues, he or she will just withdraw.  Emotionally, physically, mentally.  Also known as the silent treatment.  During an argument this can translate as stony silence, meaning the partner doesn’t engage or ignores her partner – which often escalates the fight.  Stonewalling involves turning away from our partner.

Example: The listener does not give the speaker the usual nonverbal signals that the listener is “tracking” the speaker.

Marriage Counseling in Northern VA

Welcome to Well Marriage Center!  We understand it can be intimidating to consider couples counseling when your relationship runs into difficulty.  Plenty of questions run through people’s minds: “Will this help?” “How long does it last?” “How much money will this cost us?” “What if the counselor doesn’t think we can be helped?”

Click here to begin at our homepage: Well Marriage Center

It takes a lot of courage to ask for help.  Our commitment to you is to provide a safe, “marriage-friendly” approach that supports the probability that you can save and improve your relationship.  We want that for you and we believe you can make it happen!  For over 25 years we’ve sat with couples just like you, couples who have run into minor bumps or significant potholes, couples who wondered if their relationship could even be saved.  The great news is this: countless couples have echoed almost the identical statement, “several months ago I never would have imagined our relationship could be this good again.”

Well Marriage Center specializes in couples and marriage counseling in Northern VA. We utilize a combination of therapeutic and wellness (strengths-based) models, we study the latest research, we engage with the leaders in our field, and we work exclusively with relationships or relationship dynamics.  Trust your relationship to a couple’s specialist!

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We provide couples / marriage counseling Northern VA