How Asking Two Questions Can Keep You From Getting A Divorce

 

I co-hosted a show on A&E called "Surviving Marriage(link is external)," which tends to air on Tuesday nights- but most recently aired on Sunday. My job on the show was to provide expert commentary on where the couple is functioning and what their treatment goals are if they are to have any hope of "surviving."

The show is sort of a survivor meets couples therapy type scenario. The couples are plunked into an isolated island in the South Pacific and asked to work together to survive on the island, as they work through their unique issues.

As a couples therapist or psychologist- I am often asked for relationship advice. If everyone in a relationship could ask themselves two questions- they could immediately change their own chances of survival; "what do I need to give myself?" and "what do I need to start giving my partner?"

Although a bit simplistic- if the couples on this show were only able to ask and answer these questions- they might not find themselves on this island in the first place.

In week one, we saw April and Cleburn struggling with passivity and anger issues. If Cleburn were only able to ask "what do I need to start giving my partner?" He might have been able to realize that he needs to be able to let go of his anger regarding his unfulfilled dreams as a UFC fighter and stop lashing out so much at his partner.

In week two, Josh and Alethea again demonstrated how powerfully damaging it can be to a relationship to hold on to old hurts. If Josh could only ask himself "what do I need to give," and realize that he needs to let go of his anger around the idea his wife "trapped" him so long ago, he would stop being so passive aggressive in his attempts at control in the present. If Alethea could only ask "what do I need to give myself," she might be able to finally give herself permission to become a whole and learn to stand on her own two feet.

In week three, Dennis and Tamar showed us how incredibly toxic it can be to not let go of the past either. While Tamar did commit a serious breach of trust by calling her partner's command and having him removed from his job- Dennis held on to this resentment and allowed it to paralyze him to the point he was able to sit at home for years and passively watch as his wife worked twelve hour shifts to support their entire family inside and outside of the home.

Week four focused on Ty and Mahogany's relationship. If Mahogany were only able to ask herself "what do I need to give myself," she would have realized it was the validation she originally sought outside her own marriage. She needed to feel desired and attractive. So too, did her partner- and thus the reason for multiple affairs. If they had only realized that only they, themselves can give their own validation- all of this unneccessary hurt could have been avoided.

 

1 is the Loneliest Number That You've Ever Heard?

Want to know the difference between being "lonely," and being "alone?" Then S.o.M.A's singles track is created with you in mind. What is the difference between being alone and lonely?

 

What is the School of Marital Arts for Singles?

The School of Marital Arts for singles is a six week program designed for those who are struggling to figure out how to find and maintain stable and healthy relationships. This six week program is based on Dr. Colleen's cutting edge approach to couples and 1:1 therapy based on the idea that our deepest relationships push us to grow in ways most of us are resistant to. Through this program, you will be challenged to grow and challenge yourself in ways you never thought possible.

Over the course of this program you will learn:

  • The principles of well-being that go into making us more balanced individuals capable of maintaining more balanced relationships
  • Identifying red flags and knowing when to run, not walk, away from someone.
  • Learning the difference between being "alone" and being "lonely"
  • Developing the necessary ability to seek relationships from fullness vs. emptiness, love vs. fear.
  • The main causes of divorce/breakups and how we can avoid them.
  • How to look at family patterns and how they affect you and your partner(s) in relationships.
  • How to identify your primary growth points that are being challenged and how to overcome emotional gridlock in your relationships.
  • How to identify and transform long term behavioral patterns that cause disconnection.
  • The principles that transform relationships and allow us to continuously rebuild throughout a lifetime.
  • How to cultivate one's own sexual desire or get it back.
  • Having the hard talks: How to navigate difficult but necessary conversations.
  • Knowing when to fold them- identifying key deal breakers in a relationship.

 

Tit for Tat

I see a lot of "tit for tat," come into play in my office. Many couples come in and start off the therapy session by naming a laundry list of things their significant other has done or has failed to do. They sound "armed" with evidence supporting their sometimes selfish, withholding, and toxic nature. I watch as the other partner squirms in their seat, getting noticeably more and more angry and frigid.

One of the best parts of my couples therapy is asking each of the partners to identify what it was that initially made them fall in love and what it is that is keeping them still holding on. The climate immediately begins to change. The twinkle and spark goes back in each others' eyes, and their postures begin to melt. The smiles come back and so does the laughter. It is from this place, that I am able to effect the most change and the most motivation to change with the couple.

I ask couples to go back to the beginning. When every text, every phone call, every mention of the other person's name would send a little electricity through their veins. Back when they didn't keep score and they just gave unconditionally. We learn that we get so much more back by no longer keeping score of what we've gotten back. When we give unconditionally and our only goal is to make our partner feel completely loved and valued- an extraordinary thing begins to happen- we begin to feel valued ourselves.