Garrett Coan, LCSW: Marriage Counseling and Couples Therapy
Emotionally Focused Marriage Counseling
Emotionally Focused Marriage Counseling is a couples therapy approach grounded in the scientific study of adult relationships and how partners successfully bond with one another. Its purpose is to reduce barriers to healthy emotional connection within a marriage.
In my marriage counseling NJ practice, I use this approach to help couples better understand their own emotional reactions and those of their significant other. I help the couple create feelings of comfort, safety and security so that they can be emotionally vulnerable and supportive of one another.
The underlying premise of Emotionally Focused Marriage Counseling is that people are healthier and happier when their need for emotional connection is fulfilled. This is accomplished when partners feel safe and secure in their romantic relationship. Feeling distressed in one's relationship can arouse deep-seated fears of rejection and abandonment. An individual’s reactivity and defensiveness when these primal fears are triggered can be quite detrimental to the relationship. When both partners begin to perceive their counterparts as unable to fulfill their emotional needs, they can become embroiled in destructive communication and behavior patterns. These patterns are further fueled by persistent, yet futile, attempts to get one's partner to validate one’s thoughts and feelings.
It can be very difficult for you and your partner to understand what causes and maintains your conflicts. Emotionally Focused Marriage Counseling considers the basis of conflict and disconnection to be the insecurity in the attachment. This feeling of insecurity leads people to ask questions such as, “Do you really love me?” “Am I priority in your life?”, “Will you eventually leave me for someone better?”, “Can I trust you?”, etc. Emotionally Focused Marriage Counseling rectifies these attachment-related insecurities by teaching both partners how to communicate in more caring, sensitive and emotionally connected ways. This leads to a strong and secure attachment.
What Emotionally Focused Marriage Counseling Looks Like in Session
A couple might begin therapy learning how to de-escalate conflicts over hot-button topics such as money, affection, sex, or differences in parenting. In the midst of these discussions, the counselor encourage the couple to express vulnerable feelings such as worry about one's partner's commitment to the relationship, lack of trust and feeling insecure. When couples are able to communicate these sentiments in an atmosphere of empathy and compassion, the feelings of safety and connection within the relationship are strengthened.
The end goal of Emotionally Focused Marriage Counseling is for the couple to become skilled at expressing their underlying attachment needs when encountering disagreement and conflict. During periods of stress and tension, the couple can express their attachment needs and have these needs be validated by their partner. This restores peace and harmony and bolsters the couple's loving connection.
Emotionally Focused Marriage Counseling has been widely studied and there currently exists strong empirical evidence demonstrating its effectiveness. The research studies show that couples who received this intervention feel more satisfied and less distressed in their relationship. Moreover, follow-up studies indicate that the positive effects of Emotionally Focused Marriage Counseling persist for years after therapy has ended.
Do You Feel Lonely and Frustrated in Your Marriage?
In my marriage counseling NJ practice, I help couples like you cultivate a relationship that is trusting, warm and fun. If you and your partner are ready to identify and change your destructive attitudes and communication patterns, then I can help you obtain a happy and loving marriage.
I can help your improve your marriage if:
You argue all the time; You can’t seem to resolve your differences in a respectful manner. Ineffective and hurtful communication continues to eat away at your relationship on a daily basis.
You’re emotionally drained; You feel victimized and trapped. You used to believe that things would get better and your partner would change. However, things are only getting worse.
Your intimacy and connection have faded; Affection and sex hardly ever take place. You feel insecure in how your are perceived by your partner and have lost the sense of being understood and cared for.
You feel frustrated, lonely and frightened; It scares you to think you might have to live this way forever.
You feel hopeless and depressed; You want to save your relationship but you don’t know how.
My marriage counseling NJ practice can help you repair your wounded relationship. It doesn’t matter how much conflict or distance currently exist in your relationship. You too can learn skills in effective communication and emotional intimacy. Countless couples have been helped by my marriage counseling NJ practice. You can finally experience a loving and meaningful relationship which you yearn for and truly deserve.
Effective Communication is the Heart and Soul of a Healthy Relationship
Most of us never learned know how to engage others in healthy relationships characterized by supportive and collaborative communication. We were never taught how to express our feelings, needs and wants assertively and non-defensively. We also never learned how to negotiate and compromise effectively in order to resolve conflicts. Because you never developed the needed skills to co-create a healthy relationship, your lines of communication have become strained and distorted. As a result of your failed attempts at bridging the gap, a sense of disconnection and alienation has set in. At some point, you've reached the stage where you just can’t be open with your partner about your true thoughts and feelings. You are too defensive and afraid of getting hurt. You wind up resigned to your fate, feeling dejected, lonely and frustrated. It doesn’t have to be this way!
I can help the two of you learn the necessary communication skills to repair and deepen your connection. Let me show you the way in my marriage counseling NJ practice.
Is Infidelity Ruining Your Relationship?
Discovery of infidelity triggers shock and anger which then leads to a powerful sense of betrayal, rejection and shame. I will validate and support both of you, helping you process and work through feelings of hurt, anger, sadness and guilt. In my marriage counseling NJ practice, I help the couple identify and fix the flaws in their relationship that led to the affair.
Do You Find Yourself Holding Onto Grudges and Resentment?
If you or your partner hold grudges in your marriage, it is a sign of dissatisfaction and instability in the relationship. The strength of a marriage depends on both partners’ ability to forgive one another. In my marriage counseling NJ practice, I help couples work through their anger and hurt so they can truly forgive and let go.
Is Your Marriage Marked by Constant Bickering?
It is only natural that couples won't agree on everything. However, if disagreements are hardly ever discussed in a rational and compromising tone, feelings of positivity and warmth in the relationship will dissipate. If you or your partner feels disrespected or patronized when expressing their opinion, then you need help learning more effective communication skills. In my marriage counseling NJ practice, I help couples develop a greater ability to validate, negotiate and compromise. I will also show you how to "agree to disagree" while maintaining a tone of mutual respect.
Are Arguments Over Money Eating Away at Your Marriage?
Oftentimes a relationship is negatively impacted by conflicts over money. Couples frequently differ in their views of money, including spending and saving habits. One partner may be frugal and cautious in their purchasing decisions, worried about squandering their resources. The other partner may be more spontaneous and liberal in their purchases, viewing money as a means to enjoy life in the here and now. Another potential pitfall involves couples becoming territorial and possessive over their money, arguing over who is paying more of the household expenses. In my marriage counseling NJ practice, I can help the two of you understand and work through the challenging issues of money and finance.
Are Your Children Caught in the Middle?
Do you find yourself fighting with your spouse over issues surrounding your children? It is not uncommon in an unhappy whereby the couple's children become the focal point of conflict. Differing approaches to child rearing such as methods of discipline become a source of tension and dispute. In addition, it commonly occurs that both parties will subconsciously recruit their respective children as personal allies. Being co-opted in such a fashion is detrimental to the emotional well being of children. Moreover, in an adversarial family environment, children quickly learn that they can "split" the parents and thereby manipulate them into getting what they want. This process only further exacerbates marital discord. In my marriage counseling NJ practice, I help couples formulate a unified approach to their children so as to avoid unhealthy alliances and splitting.
Do You Find It Difficult to Tolerate Your Partner's Habits and Idiosyncrasies?
No two people are the same. Our preferences and habits are a reflection of our uniqueness. Sometimes, couples come to view "difference" as irreconcilable incompatibility. This outlook can lead to frustration and resentment over time. In my marriage counseling NJ practice, I help couples understand how differences in style and outlook can serve as a catalyst for growth. Couples also learn to appreciate how their strengths and weaknesses complement one another leading to compatibility in the midst of difference.
Empathize and Validate
Acknowledge that difference does not mean better or worse. Become a connoisseur of your spouse's unique qualities and you will be able to empathize with them more effectively. Empathy and validation are the foundations of a happy marriage. In my marriage counseling NJ practice, I help couples develop the skills to empathize and validate more effectively.
Be Giving and Thoughtful
Develop the habit of expressing compliments, saying "thank you" and"I love you," writing heartfelt cards, making your partner's favorite dish or surprising them with a mystery date. Routinely lighten your spouse’s load by being generous and giving. In my marriage counseling NJ practice, I help couples develop a more giving and expansive approach within the relationship.
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 for what I said. I was wrong. Please forgive me.” In my marriage counseling NJ practice, I help couples develop humility and the capacity to apologize and forgive.
Coping With Infidelity
When you discover that your partner has cheated on you, you’re initial reaction is one of shock, anger and sadness. You will likely feel betrayed and rejected. Your feelings of trust, safety and security within the relationship become greatly diminished.
In my marriage counseling NJ practice, I help couples heal and grow in the wake of infidelity. I help my clients identify the underlying causes of infidelity both within the dynamic of the relationship and associated with any personal issues either partner may be struggling with.
Factors that frequently contribute to infidelity are sex addiction, sexual frustration in the relationship, perceived lack of affection, empathy and validation, and feelings of loneliness and estrangement. When both parties feel they can no longer understand or relate to one another or they engage in frequent arguments and fights, then infidelity is more likely to occur. At times when the marital bond is under great duress, partners are more susceptible to seeking emotional support and connection outside the relationship.
In my marriage counseling NJ practice, I treat infidelity by improving communication and restoring the capacity for empathy, support and understanding. By enhancing the couple’s ability to assertively express their feelings and needs while receiving reassurance and validation, I help restore the couple’s sense of safety and attachment.
Marriage Counseling Tips and Strategies to Improve Your Relationship
Don’t “sweat the small stuff”. Try your best to let go of things that are petty and inconsequential.
Acknowledge the good. Compliment your spouse and express appreciation for what he or she does for you.
Be thoughtful and giving. Make a point of marking special milestones such as birthdays and anniversaries with heartfelt cards, creative gifts and surprise getaways. Offer to do chores to lighten your spouse’s load.
Catch yourself before frustration leads to harsh and hurtful words. Remember that hurtful words cannot be taken back. Cutting words spoken in a moment of anger can diminish your loving connection.
Learn to say “I am sorry”. When you realize you've made a mistake, swallow your pride and apologize. Your spouse will love and respect you for your ability to own up to your mistakes.
Develop the ability to become an active listener and empathetic sounding board. Your spouse is not looking for you to solve their problems and rescue them. Most of all, they want you to be validating and supportive.
Become a more a flexible and accommodating person. Be willing to make concessions in order to reach a mutually satisfying consensus. To do this, you need to accept that your partner’s position is valid and legitimate. Don't let your pride and ego get in the way.
Schedule regular date nights with your spouse. Dates are wonderful opportunities to create shared memories with your spouse. It's critical that you break out of the monotony of your day-to-day life and inject fun and excitement into your relationship.
Good mental health is essential to a happy marriage. If you haven't worked out your issues, you may inadvertently displace negative emotions onto your spouse. If you're struggling with mood swings, an addiction, past trauma or overwhelming work stress, it might be helpful to get individual counseling so that your issues don't harm your marriage.