Most Couples WANT to Make It Work; I Can Help
While Judaism allows divorce, rabbis today encourage couples to stay together, even when that prospect seems dreadful or impossible.
The married couple is the center of the family and, by extension, the community. Jews consider it vitally important to both. In fact, unlike other faiths, Judaism asserts that woman (essentially, the relationship) was created primarily for companionship, love and intimacy rather than simple procreation and the perpetuation of the bloodlines. That we are meant to be in relationship appears throughout the Torah and the Talmud.
But Surely, God Didn’t Mean THIS . . .
And yet so many couples come for Jewish marriage counseling saying, “but God could not have intended us to live this way.”
Both partners been ravaged by arguments, boredom and even infidelity or domestic violence. They complain of:
- Repetition of the same arguments without resolution
- Hurtful sarcasm, anger, “stone-walling” or shutting out
- Emotional isolation
- A reluctance to share innermost thoughts, passions, concerns and feelings
- A sense of abandonment when the spouse spends excessive time at work, on hobbies or with children
- Genuine fear of the other
- Financial and career conflicts
- Feelings of being utterly stifled, lifeless and dull
- Overall hopelessness
At this point, the only things keeping them together are duty, finances, children and fear of the dating scene. Joy and comfort stemming from the relationship itself are distant memories. So many of my clients are correct: this is NOT the marriage God intended, not by a long shot.
Get Back To Being Besherts Again
A Gentle, 2-Fold Approach to Jewish Marriage Counseling
In my 30 years as a relationship counselor, I’ve honed my approach to get as many couples as possible back to the harmony and connection they once shared. Couples make the most progress when they work with a therapist to:
- uncover the roots of each partner’s anger, frustration, fear and sadness
- acquire proven, but rarely taught, relationship, communication and conflict management skills
While neither route is easy, the rewards of delving into the past AND learning proven relationship techniques pay generous dividends.
Consider: What would your perfect relationship look like? How would you feel? What would you do? Do you dream of laughing together? Feeling safe and relaxed? A refuge from a harsh world? Enjoying activities you both find meaningful? Jewish marriage counseling can bring you relief.
When You… Just… Want… Out…
Cutting and running may seem an easier option, but going onto a second marriage (for which the average divorce rate is 67%) often doesn’t solve relationship issues. In fact, it can spin all the same ones up again in a completely different, but familiar-feeling jumble. No one wants to go there…again. And most do remarry, no matter how much they claim will never walk down the aisle again.
If the time to become a functioning, even joyful couple (and individual) is now, contact me today.
Jewish Marriage Counseling Job #1: Get to the Roots of Intense Emotions and Relationship Dysfunction
A lifetime of study has taught me that relationship conflict is quite complex, often having as much to do with past relationships and family of origin dynamics as current partners and events.
I studied a vast number and variety of approaches in my work becoming a Licensed Clinical Social Worker (LCSW). Diligent research, work experience and input from trusted mentors – including rabbis and other teachers – has enabled me to increase my success rate with even bitterly divided couples. I owe much of this success to my discovery of Imago Relationship Therapy, a proven program by Drs. Harville Hendrix and Helen Hunt. The amazing outcomes I witnessed convinced me to become a Certified Imago Therapist.
Drs. Hendrix and Hunt, who have now been married for 30 years (second marriages for both; they’ve been there, as have I), wrote the best-selling books Getting the Love You Want: A Guide for Couples, Keeping the Love You Find: A Personal Guide, Making Marriage Work and more. These books have sold millions of copies and, at this writing, over 100,000 individuals in 30 countries have enjoyed the healing and joy Imago therapists facilitate. Rabbis, academics, Jewish organizations and even Oprah recommend Harville and Hunt’s Imago Relationship Therapy.
One of the Imago Relationship Therapy’s underlying premises is that we choose our partners to address and even heal underlying emotional wounds we’ve carried all our lives. After marrying the partner who resembles a parent, we succeed in creating the very dynamics that existed between ourselves and our parents. Our unconscious drives us to this inevitable end.
Some of these dynamics from our families of origin caused pain or at the very least proved unsuccessful in meeting our needs. When we find them once again in our current relationships, pain from the past comes hurtling into the present. Even though our initial, childhood strategies in dealing with the parent failed us, we unleash the same behaviors once again, in our drive for final, permanent fix. Repairing our current relationships requires delving into these dynamics, dissecting our poor and often immature coping strategies to handle them (we were kids after all), and then coming up new, better, more loving and positive ones.
Jewish Marriage Counseling Job #2: Learn Proven Relationship Skills
Where unconscious factors drive us toward partners with whom we will inevitably conflict, these ghosts from our past are not the only “fox in the henhouse” of every marriage out there.
Jewish Americans’ lack of basic marriage skills and the opportunities to acquire marriage skills/education should have our faith communities, schools and citizen welfare organizations up in arms. We are not born with the relationship skills we need, and most often, neither were those in our families of origin. We do not learn effective relationship skills naturally (like walking) OR by witnessing our own parents. In fact, our role models were often pretty poor teachers.
Until maybe the last two decades, university and faith researchers have not considered the relationship worthy of study. Given our high divorce rate and the disruption it causes children and communities – as well as the economic toll on all of society – it’s clear that assumption is dead wrong.
If you had no financial training, would you just jump into the stock market? Would you attempt to go to foreign country without learning the language or the modes of transportation? Both would be frightening scenarios.
Still, every day La Jolla and San Diego Jewish couples get married with absolutely no relationship, communication or conflict training whatsoever. They divorce pretty frequently too. In the recent article “Responding to the Rising Divorce Rate in the Orthodox Community,” Rabbi Daniel Schonbuch explains that,
“The number one reason the divorce rate is on the rise is due to the lack of marriage education.”
Practical and proven strategies now exist to address all kinds of marital stages, conflicts and disappointments. The effectiveness of these strategies have been tested by academics, rabbis, pastors and government researchers. The chances any individual Jewish couple studied them before getting married or in their early years as partners, however, are slim to none.
That’s why the second side of the most effective Jewish marriage counseling is learning about predictable relationship stages, common experiences, communication strategies and conflict resolution. Couples counseling provides all of this during therapy and with at-home exercises and reading.
If you feel clueless and helpless about your relationship, rest assured that the insights counseling provides has great potential to ground both of you.
The Benefits of Jewish Couples Counseling vs. Individual Counseling
When the two of you united, you created a third entity: the relationship. Many therapists try to be all things to all people. As a dedicated couples counselor, however, I focus on achieving the understanding and new behaviors that will heal the relationship itself.
Sometimes, one partner may avoid relationship counseling because they’re afraid of being attacked or “double-teamed” by the therapist AND the spouse. A couples counselor works not for one or the other, but for the relationship, finding success in improved overall communication, warmth and support between the partners.
Individual therapists, on the other hand, tend to have completely different skill sets and goals. Where an agreed upon goal for couples therapy can be to help the relationship operate with less friction, the individual therapist works to help an individual change his or her own behavior in isolation. Sometimes an individual therapist undermines the marriage by speculating and even asserting the partner’s point of view, emotional issues or even mental illnesses…without ever meeting him or her. While considered unethical, this practice occurs too often. As much as I respect my individual therapist colleagues, those longing to give the relationship every possible chance should consider a couples counselor dedicated to the special dynamics happening within the relationship.
This said, couples often choose to engage in both individual and couples counseling simultaneously, particularly in emotionally intense or dangerous cases of infidelity, sexual deviance, mental illness or domestic violence. I can always recommend a competent individual counselor to complement couples therapy.
You Can Realize Your Relationship’s Potential!
Recently, another Imago Relationship Therapy practitioner from New York, Rabbi Shlomo Slatkin caused a storm when he wrote the Orthodox Union article, “How My Therapist Destroyed My Marriage.” In it, he states:
“Marriage requires hard work. It triggers us in ways that no other relationship does. But the growth and healing that come from marriage is more profound than you can experience in any other human relationship…”
When you give Jewish marriage counseling a chance, it can lead you to a whole new level of peace with your relationship, yourself and your world.
If you have a specific question about what kind of counseling is best for and your relationship, feel free to contact me. I will get back to you within 24 hours.