I worked with Garrett for three years and found him to be a caring and effective therapist. He works hard to empower each of his clients to find the right path for themselves whether he is working with children, adults, or couples. Whether you are considering therapy for the first time or have been in treatment before, I can highly recommend Garrett’s supportive approach. Anne Maberry, MSW, LCSW
Let Me Help You Regain Intimacy and Affection In Your Relationship
You are probably thinking "I would do anything to move past the hurt and rekindle the love and affection I once felt towards my spouse. However, I don't even know where to start." In my marriage counseling NJ practice, I will help you and your spouse discover what went wrong in your marriage. I do this through a process of identifying and rectifying faulty perspectives and communication patterns. As an expert couples therapist, I will help the two of you overcome conflict and alienation and reestablish empathy and trust.
Within the therapy sessions, you will be encouraged to look past the idealized fantasy of what your partner "should" be. In the process, you and your partner will finally be able to let go of corrosive feelings of hurt and resentment. Through guided communication, I provide the two of you the wherewithal to truly "understand" your mate deeply and authentically. The desire to change your partner is transformed into a deep, genuine sense of love and acceptance.
People seek a therapist to improve communication, emotional intimacy and the sexual component of the relationship. They also desire to resolve conflicts over roles, money and contrasting parenting styles. Sometimes, a couple needs to work through the pain of an affair and the loss of trust that ensues. In my work, I help my clients grapple with all of these issues.
Relationship Check-Up: How To Know When Marriage Counseling Is Needed
Every couple should perform a "relationship check up" on a regular basis. Here are a few signs and symptoms that your relationship might benefit from couples therapy. In my marriage counseling NJ practice, I will help you explore each of these factors in depth:
Do You Hold On To Grudges?
If you and your partner find yourself constantly dredging up past wrongs, then it is a sign of a deeper dissatisfaction. Of all the people that one should be most willing and able to forgive, your partner should top the list. If you can't let go of the idea that your spouse was (and is) “selfish”, “mean”, “controlling”, then you need to consider marriage counseling or couples therapy. You are either projecting onto your spouse your own unhappiness with yourself, or your spouse truly is the things that you say about him or her. Either way, these issues need to be explored, discussed and worked through in couples therapy.
Are The Two of You Frequently Deadlocked Over Practical Matters?
Sometimes, strongly held philosophical views on practical issues can create tension and conflict in a marriage. Topics such as approaches to child rearing, family finances, and level of religious involvement can be fraught with disagreement. Because these subjects are so emotion-laden, people tend to become opinionated and defensive. If you cannot reach a consensus with your partner, but rather view him or her as "hopelessly off-base" then you need to consider counseling. A couples therapist will help you become better able to empathize and negotiate with your partner. Compromise is critical when it comes to these central issues that impact so heavily on family life. In my marriage counseling NJ practice, I can help you learn these skills.
Money Can Be A Relationship Spoiler Unless The Two of You Get On The Same Page
I alluded to this issue in the previous paragraph, but this weighty subject requires further elucidation. Who controls budgeting in your relationship? Who decides if and when to purchase big ticket items? If the answer is your spouse, do you then buy things secretly because you are afraid he or she will criticize your purchasing habits? Do you maintain separate bank accounts because you don't trust that your partner will be financially responsible? Or that he or she will use money as a weapon to hurt you? In my marriage counseling NJ practice, I will address these issues directly and openly. The potential stress and acrimony surrounding money can sink your relationship and marriage counseling can help you resolve these issues.
Are Unhealthy Parent-Child Alliances Forming Within Your Family?
Do you favor your son and your husband your daughter? Do you "see a reflection” of yourself in your son, telling yourself that he (and not your daughter) possesses inherited your temperament, interests and aptitudes? And, as a result, you feel you can relate to your son much better than your daughter, correct? What happens then when your children misbehave or fight one another? Do you instinctively side with your son and justify his behavior? Do you argue with your husband, contending that your daughter was the one who "started up" with your son.
Competing alliances are toxic to the family dynamic. If you are sensing that you and your husband are cultivating opposing alliances with your children, then it is imperative that you pursue couples therapy to restore family unity. The preservation of both your marriage and family harmony depend on it. In my marriage counseling NJ practice, I can help you sort through these issues.
Do You Constantly Bicker?
Do you find that you and your partner can’t seem to discuss anything without arguing? It’s one thing to have differences of opinion with your spouse. It's another thing to letting disputes get personal and denigrating. Then it's no longer about the issues. It's about your spouse treating you disrespectfully and you feeling as if you have to defend yourself to preserve your dignity. In my marriage counseling NJ practice, I can help the two of you appreciate the validity of your partner’s thoughts and feelings. I will help you recognize that, just because your spouse approaches things differently, doesn't mean he or she is being dismissive of you.
If you feel as if your spats tend to involve petty issues which escalate into big fights, then any love and affection you once had for your spouse has likely been greatly diminished. Your mutual defensiveness make each one of you feel distant and seeking to avoid to contact. In my marriage counseling NJ practice, I will help you to distinguish between things that are small and petty and those things that really matter so that you can learn how to be more tolerant. Tolerance and forbearance are the keys to a healthy marriage.
Be Attuned To The Contribution of Personal Style and Habit
Sometimes the differences in the way you and your spouse communicate can be based on simple habits and patterns you picked up in your family of origin. Also you and your spouse possess innate proclivities for either being more rational or emotional. If your spouse is the logical type, he or she may communicate non-verbally through acts and gestures. Once you appreciate that just because you're spouse does not express their feelings in verbal ways does not mean that they are being disrespectful or dismissive, your relationship will improve. In my marriage counseling NJ practice, I will help the both of you identify your unique ways of communicating so that you can truly identify and empathize with him or her.
Do The Two of You Tend To Sweep Problems Under The Rug?
You may be pretending that your relationship is going well when it's not. During your more logical and reasoned moments, you are seized by the realization that something is very wrong. However, you want to believe that things are going well because the prospect of your relationship falling apart is too scary to contemplate. Therefore. Most of the time, you rationalize, pretending that toxic interactions with your spouse are the exceptions to an otherwise loving relationship. You must come to terms and accept the fact that your connection with your spouse if frail and tenuous. In my marriage counseling NJ practice, I will help you repair the bond.
Do The Same Issues Seem To Resurface Again and Again?
If you're finding that the same issues are coming up again and again (such as division of responsibilities in the household, money issues, socialization with peers outside the marriage issues regarding the frequency of physical intimacy, differing approaches to child-rearing, etc, etc,) then it is time to pursue marriage counseling. In my marriage counseling NJ practice, I will give both of you the opportunity to express your concerns candidly and arrive at a consensus. As your therapist, I will help each of you appreciate the validity of the other’s thoughts and feelings so that negotiating compromises will be much easier.
Is One Of You Going Through A Difficult Life Transition or Mid-Life Crisis?
One of you may be going through a life stage transition or crisis. These can include menopause, cancer, unemployment, or being in a dead-end job that is highly stressful or provides no intrinsic satisfaction. Also, being an empty nester can create unexpected new stressors in a relationship. In my marriage counseling NJ practice, I will help you identify and work through these issues.
Are you excessively reliant on your spouse for socialization?
Also one of you may have a very limited social life outside the marriage. Instead of going out with friends on a regular basis, you rely excessively on your spouse for emotional fulfillment. In marriage counseling you will be appraised of these tendencies and their negative impact on your relationship.
If infidelity has occurred is your trust level now greatly diminished?
It there has been infidelity in the relationship, this will have severely compromised the trust level. The victimized party will likely harbor great fear of being rejected and abandoned. In my marriage counseling NJ practice, I will help the victimized spouse express his or her fear of being hurt again. Hope is not lost once catharsis is achieved. Through renewed vows and commitments articulated in marriage counseling sessions, rudimentary trust can be rekindled. Infidelity in a relationship does not necessarily mean that the marriage is doomed. If cheating has occurred, seek marriage counseling immediately as it can save your marriage.
Every married couple should perform a "relationship check up" on a regular basis. Here are a few signs and symptoms that your marriage might benefit from a tune up with a marriage counselor.
Are You Evasive or Closed Off In Your Communication With Your Spouse?
Do you and your spouse have difficulty disclosing vulnerability and saying you are sorry? The sign of a healthy marriage is allowing yourself to become vulnerable with your spouse, to "let your hair down", so to speak. If you are afraid to disclose to your spouse your fears, worries, sadness and anger, then you should see a couples counselor. In a healthy marital relationship, partners must feel comfortable enough to be truly genuine and candid with one another. Without sincerity and forthrightness in your communication, your marriage will suffer.
Is Physical Intimacy Infrequent or Non-Existent?
Certainly without communication to foster emotional closeness, the relationship will deteriorate. This same applies to physical intimacy. Physical affection is an essential ingredient in feeling cared for and loved. And while it is very important to hug and kiss one another, it is also critical to make time out out for the sexual component of the relationship. Nothing strengthens the marital bond like the reciprocal give and take that occurs during marital intimacy. If your marriage lacks frequent physical intimacy due to the stress of work and family life, you must take action. As artificial as it sounds, you must actually schedule romantic encounters with your spouse. Let go of the fantasy of impulse-based, spur-of-the-moment interludes. In today's harried world, they hardly ever happen (and if you hold out for them, you and your spouse will wind up quite frustrated.) Passion can, in fact, be planned. Who says you can't make a date with your spouse and still have a passionate experience?
If you can answer "yes" to the above questions and what was described resonates with you, then marriage counseling is indicated. I welcome you to consider my couples counseling / sex therapy NJ practice as a great venue to explore and work through these issues.
Necessary Components For Building Intimacy and Creating A Solid Foundation in Your Marriage
The following are factors which are critical for deepening the intimacy in your relationship:
1. Be present with you partner, giving them your full attention
There are a million things in life to distract you. In a world of instant communication, information and entertainment, we are constantly bombarded. Whether it be TV shows, news, sports, Facebook, Instagram, we are often overwhelmed with competition for our limited attention spans. When your partner is talking to you, you must make every effort to turn off and tune out anything that would distract you from what they are communicating. Don't even think for a second that you can multi-task. If you attempt to divide your attention, you will be perceived as inconsiderate and insensitive by your significant other. This damages trust and intimacy in a relationship.
2. Be emotionally accessible.
Most cases of infidelity begin when one partner feels as if the other partner is not in sync with them or not empathetic to their plight. Love equals connection. In creating a context for intimacy to grow, there is just no substitute for the candid expression of thoughts and feelings. Likewise, being emotionally available to your partner's disclosures is also an absolute prerequisite. Allowing yourself to become vulnerable to someone who has demonstrated to you that they truly accept and understand you creates a deep bond of love and trust.
3. Be encouraging and supportive.
When your partner is feeling insecure and self-doubting, offer encouragement and support. Don't be aloof and standoffish when they are anxious and confused. Don't think that is in their best interest for them to struggle and persevere on their own. Throw them a life preserver in terms of your input and advice. Provide reassurance when they stumble and lavish praise when they succeed. You want them to think of you as their most enthusiastic and stalwart fan.
4. Seek commonality and respect in terms of your interests and values
Explore new activities together and discuss your reactions to these experiences. You should not feel pressure to possess the same response to these experiences as your partner. The most important thing is that, through your sincere and candid disclosures of what you liked and did not like about your shared experiences, you and your partner will create a culture of respect and admiration for each other's uniqueness. Commonality in your values should emerge through this cultivation of a culture of cooperation and respect.
5. Don't forget the importance of a sense of humor.
Laughter is the best antidote to the frustrations of daily life. Go to a comedy club together. Watch a comedy movie or TV show. Share with your partner some funny jokes or a hilarious comic strip. There are times in life when you have to dispense with the focused seriousness of the daily grind and appreciate the humorous ironies that abound in life. Share these beautiful light moments with your partner. It will deepen and strengthen your relationship.
Do Not Draw Up A Prenuptial Agreement!
As an experienced therapist with an active marriage counseling practice, I have one word to say about pre-nuptial agreements: Don't! You may have a lawyer friend who is trying to convince you to insist on a pre-nup to protect your interests. Attorneys may be well meaning in this regard, but the bottom line is that a pre-nup is very likely to sink your marriage. Here's the deal:
If have been hurt in a previous relationship by a needy and greedy partner, it is understandable that you would now want to protect your assets. However, why pursue a costly pre-nup. You can choose to live together without pursuing civil marriage. It's called a common-law marriage. In most jurisdictions, when it comes to cohabitation, you and your significant other have no default legal claim on the other's money. When the relationship ends, the two of you walk away with your separate bank accounts intact.
By now you are saying to yourself that you don't want that. You want to formalize and sanctify your relationship through the bonds of matrimony. You want to demonstrate to your spouse that you love them forever, that you will never leave them. Marriage is "until death do you part". you say. However, marriage is about trust, it's about trusting your mate with your most intimate thoughts, feelings, joys and pains. It's about sharing the struggles of child rearing and job stress. It's about sharing everything, including your checkbook. Nothing damages feelings of trust and security than the demand for separate bank accounts.
If you are still skeptical that joint bank accounts are a key ingredient to marital happiness and longevity, let me cite some research. A study recently conducted by a prominent organization showed that couples with joint accounts are more likely to stay married. Conversely, the couples with separate accounts were over 140% more likely get divorced than those who maintained shared accounts.
The takeaway is this. Go to therapy or pre-marital counseling to work through your fears of being hurt. However, whatever you do, it is imperative that you give your partner the feeling that you will sacrifice everything for him or her (including your money). It is critical that you be seen by your partner as a warmhearted and giving person. This perception will only engender love and affection in the early stages of your marriage. The foundation will be set for a beautiful marital relationship going forward.
Candor and Healthy Confrontation Will Strengthen Your Relationship
If your spouse or an issues affecting your relationship is really upsetting you. you must express it. Do not suppress it, thinking that if you communicate your dissatisfaction, you will be creating a rift.
If something is upsetting you, bring it up and discuss it now. Nip it in in the bud and don't let it simmer and fester inside of you.
Maybe your spouse said something that you felt was insensitive. You felt he or she was disrespectful or perhaps steamrolled you. Speak up and let your spouse know! He or she is not a mind reader and cannot know what is bothering you unless you tell him or her.
Don't be afraid to argue. Ultimately argumentation promotes reconciliation and a heightened level of intimacy. A husband and wife who can speak their minds assertively regarding their experiences within the relationship will only get closer to one another. (It goes without saying that argumentation is only healthy when it is done calmly and respectfully and avoids personal attacks)
The benefit of raising problematic issues as they arise is so that they do not become indiscriminate cannon fodder at a late juncture. For instance, if you are upset at your wife for not being careful with her expenses and don't express this concern on the spot...well, at a later juncture you are going to resurrect this issue when you express your irritation with another matter. You will dredge up the past which will be perceived as aggressive and hurtful by your spouse.
Don’t Delay Seeking the Help of a Professional!
Too many couples delay pursuing marriage counseling until their marriage is unsalvageable. When the resentment and animosity has becomes so intense and deep seated, the relationship is beyond repair.
When you sense the initial warning signs of emotional distancing, don't wait! Take action and make an appointment for marriage counseling with a qualified couples therapist.
What Happens During Marriage Counseling Sessions? What Should I Expect?
When you enter marriage counseling, you are probably expecting the counselor to take sides. You will try to convince the counselor that you are the logical and ethical one and that your spouse has some deep seated character flaw or psychological problem. You will find out very soon however, that the marriage counselor is neutral and objective--an “equal opportunity constructive criticizer”. In my marriage counseling NJ practice, I will demonstrate to both of you that it takes “two to tango” when it comes to the relationship. In other words, each partner contributes to the negative dynamic of a failing marriage.
The Marriage Counselor Will Ask Probing Questions About the Relationship
The marriage counselor will ask you about the history of your relationship and how you got from being enamored with one another to feeling angry and alienated. Sometimes your marriage has deteriorated to the point whereby it is difficult to be frank and forthright in the presence of your spouse. The counselor may therefore invite you in for separate session to allow you to candidly explain the reasons for your misgivings regarding your spouse and the relationship.
Marriage Counseling Sessions Are Going To Be Anxiety Producing
You’re going to hear your spouse reveal things about themselves and their views on the relationship that may be startling and upsetting. Don’t become demoralized and despairing. The fact your spouse has felt confident enough to bring these hot button issues to the surface is a cause for hope! Your spouse trusts enough in the marriage counseling process to let you know the truth. In my marriage counseling NJ practice, I will facilitate a healing dialog over these painful revelations. This, in order that these difficult disclosures can be reintegrated back into the relationship and be a catalyst for change.
If silence occurs in a session, don’t be feel disconcerted. It may uncomfortable for you and your spouse to express painful issues. And if yelling and screaming ensues, let the process unfold. Even though you may be tempted to walk out, don’t! The couples counselor will mediate the process and help you and your spouse weather the storm and work through the contentious issues.
In my marriage counseling NJ practice, I regularly hone in on problematic behaviors and communication patterns that occur between spouses. I may ask to two of you to keep a log regarding what transpired during the course of the week and ask you to replicate hurtful interactions in the therapy room. When role playing these negative interactions, the counselor may ask you to substitute in more understanding and supportive commentary.
As marriage counseling sessions unfold, your perceptions of the relationship may change. You may notice that your attitudes, behavior and communication are less resentful and begrudging. You slowly become more able to see your spouse in a positive light and become more apt to give him or her the benefit of the doubt. Alternatively, you may come to the conclusion that your marriage is unsalvageable. In my marriage counseling NJ practice, I will help you end the relationship in a civil way so that neither you nor your children are traumatized by back biting antagonism and resentment.
What To Look For In a Qualified Marriage Counselor
It is important for a marriage counselor to be a good listener. However, the listening must be converted into conveying insight and clarification. The marriage counselor must be able to delineate the contributions each spouse makes to the communication breakdown occurring in the sinking marriage. The couple in distress needs concrete direction and advice as to how to change their problematic modes of relating to one another.
As children, everyone grows up witnessing how their parents treated one another in the context of their marriage. Such prolonged observation forms the template for our future relationships as we come to model what we saw. Whether there will be mutual respect and affection in our marriages depends on the quality of our early role models. A good therapist needs to explore the past with each spouse and have them question their unquestioned assumptions regarding what an acceptable spouse should be like. For instance, when a wife says, “My father was the strong silent type and my mother always could look up to him as a source of strength,” her criticisms of her husband’s emotional vulnerability becomes well understood.
Marriage counseling is an opportunity to question gender role assignments and allow for the loosening up and trying on of more effective behaviors. When flexibility is introduced into the relationship, the couple can experiment with behaviors that, although new and strange, create the context for greater intimacy. As an aside, if there was abuse in the family of origin, bringing this to light will help to transform the victim mentality and defensiveness which the traumatized spouse subconsciously brings to the marital relationship.
To summarize,it is important to look for the following when pursuing quality marriage counseling:
Your marriage counselor should provide direction, advice, and a concrete plan
Your couples therapist should be be exploring and confronting unhealthy behavior and communication patterns absorbed in your family of origin and the parental marital relationship.
Some Important Tips on Maintaining a Healthy Marriage
Make an accounting of what is truly important in your life.How would you relate to your spouse if you were diagnosed with terminal cancer?
Empathize and compromise. Acknowledge that difference does not mean better or worse. Recognize the uniqueness in your spouse and you will learn how to empathize with them better. This is a foundation of happy marriage and what forms the cornerstone of marriage counseling.
Don’t let frustrations emanating from other aspects of your life enter into your marriage. Avoid displacing stress and frustration from other areas of your life onto your spouse. Confront and work through these other sources of stress before they damage your marriage.
Focus on the good. Compliment your spouse and express appreciation for what he or she says and does.
Be giving and thoughtful. Make a point of marking special milestones such as birthdays and anniversaries with heartfelt cards, creative gifts and taking him or her out to a nice restaurant. Do simple chores to lighten your spouse’s load.
Catch yourself before anger leads to harsh and hurtful words. Restrain your frustration. Remember that hurtful words cannot be taken back They are painful and diminish your spouse’s feelings of love and affection for you.
If things, get heated, don’t get personal and agree to a “time out”. The two of you should agree to postpone arguments when they get too intense. Tell each other you need to take a breather and calm down. When you return to the disagreement, you should be more capable of compromise.
Learn to say “I am sorry”. When you realize you have made a mistake, swallow your pride and admit it. Apologies are the healing balm in a relationship. Your spouse will love and respect you for your ability to say “I am sorry about what I said or did. I was wrong.”
Become a good listener. Your spouse is not looking for you to solve their problems. They want you to be an empathic sounding board, being able to hear them out and empathize with their concerns. Don’t jump in to try to rescue your spouse when he or she is expressing pain or discomfort. Don’t offer solutions unless your spouse asks you for them. Your partner wants you to listen and be supportive above all else.
When listening to your spouse, reflect back to them what they just said. Repeat back what they just said, reaching for clarity and confirming your understanding. Your spouse will feel that you truly care and this will only strengthen your bond with him or her.
Become a more a flexible and tolerant person. Be willing to make compromises and reach a consensus. If you cannot reach a consensus, be OK the concept of holding different positions. Truly believe that your partner’s position is just as legitimate as yours. Don’t let your ego get in the way. Don’t make it personal.
Make sure you are not displacing onto your spouse other frustration in your life. You may attribute issues and problems as emanating from your spouse, but really they come from problems at work with your parents and siblings, etc. You may also be dealing with issues from the past. It might be wise to seek an individual therapist to sort out where your stressors are actually coming from.
Focus on the good. Instead of looking for the negative and criticizing, try to see the good in your spouse. Become more sensitive and attuned to his or her good qualities. The more you focus on the good, the less likely you are to become negative and critical. Moreover, your spouse will reciprocate and become more supportive of you. Your marriage will become much more positive and loving.
Schedule “dates” with your spouse. Yes. Dates. You have to actually create shared life experiences with your spouse. Your life as a married couple can’t just be about the practical and mundane. If your marriage is just about paying bills and raising children, then your life together will resemble “two ships passing in the night”. You have to do enjoyable and memorable things with your spouse on a regular basis. That means scheduling dates.
Before reacting to our spouse in anger or frustration, take a “time out.” You heard right. A time out. We do this with our children when they have a tantrum so they can calm down and introspect about what just happened. We expect that, after emerging from time out, our children will be more reasonable and accommodating. We should do the same with ourselves when irritated or angry. When we withdraw and contemplate, we will oftentimes see that we were rushing to judgment and overreacting.
Don’t be afraid to say “I’m sorry”. Nothing is more healing for a marriage then saying “I made a mistake. Please forgive me.” It may even be wise to apologize even when you feel you were in the right. When it comes to your marriage, don’t stand on ceremony and let your ego get in the way. Humility and a willingness to apologize is the way to go.
Please feel free to read through my marriage counseling / sex therapy NJ practice website and call me with any questions. If you are looking for an experienced and caring therapist who can help you restore meaning and satisfaction to your life, while improving your relationships, please give me a call. I can be reached at 201-303-4303.
Google Maps temporary placeholder (login to see how to fix this)