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People walk into my office in pain. The relationship they had hoped would be the light of their life has recently only brought clouds. They have hope that I can help them, but they are afraid. Pain can be a great motivator for us all. Have you ever hesitated to do what you knew you needed to until things got so bad it hurt? Maybe you had a toothache and waited too long before getting care. Maybe some of the pain and suffering could have been less or avoided. Yet the pain at least got you to the dentist. Don't make this wrong. You're reading this, here, now.

Let's begin by you asking yourself  "What is still working in our relationship"? What do you each contribute to your marriage or relationship? Are you sharing the bills, sharing the childcare, are you sharing each other's families and friends. Sharing something is still making life a little easier. Maybe we can build on that. If you are reading this, this can be your step forward. Let me describe the therapy process: In therapy, asking for help from a recommended stranger (therapist) takes courage. Yes, you get to complain about your partner, but they also get to say things about you too.

Together you look at your commitment to working on the relationship. "Are you in?"

Then you are guided to practice “talking and listening” to each other as a way to effectively share how you have been feeling. Many couples have not learned effective communication in their families. Partners often have not been speaking up or listening.

Then you work on conflict resolution and the negotiation of needs between you. There are effective ideas available today. There will be more about this in future blogs. An important part of this conflict resolution process is identifying the wounds or sensitivites we have developed in our first twelve years growing up. These might have been hurtful things said by our parents, brothers and sisters or neighborhood bullies. Whatever happened, we recovered . . . but may have been left with hurt feelings. These need to be, and can be, healed. Healing these feelings can make your relationship go smoother. Since the committed relationship is much closer and more intense, you bang up against these hurt feelings more often. For example, your parents may have worked long hours and you felt your needs for attention as a child were neglected. Then in your marriage, after the honeymoon was over, you experienced your spouse paying little attention to you just like you experienced in your childhood. So your hurt or angry feelings about this are doubled by your partner's present behavior and your past. In counseling, you identify, talk about, heal and make a plan for more effective relating between you both.

Cherishing each other daily is essential to a happy marriage. Even if one or both of you travel, sharing your daily life keeps you connected and living within reach of each other. After all, who is more important? I have had couples tell me they leave loving notes in each other's lunch or briefcase. Others make coffee for each other as an act of cherishing. Other couples make sure they have a date night each week and plan events they both will like. This is a favorite topic for me. Touch, loving words, sexuality, warmth and kindness are the glue that holds a good marriage together.

Lastly, Communion of Spirit is that feeling of gratefulness each couple has had in my office when the relationship gets really good. In almost all cases your relationship will get there too. It takes work and devotion, but it is truly possible. These couples' feelings light up those around them and often add to other peoples lives. More about this later. This blog has been an introduction to the healing process between partners in a committed relationship. Whether you read my book or another therapist's book, go to a workshop or come to me or another therapist's office the rewards of a great marriage are profound. I know. As the Chinese Taoist philosopher Lao Tzu said, "Being deeply loved by someone gives you strength, while loving someone gives you courage"