California Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist
Individual and Couples Counseling and Brief Hypnotic Psychotherapy
2755 Cottage Way, Suite 5, Sacramento, CA 95825 (916) 203-5310
WHAT MARRIAGE OUGHT TO BE, OR “I’D LOVE TO GO TO THE BOAT SHOW!”
Marriage is a timely topic, and even a hot-button issue right now, so here are some non-political thoughts on what a good marriage is: at its heart, marriage is a collection of agreements between adults. It is a handshake deal. It is based on the good faith and good word of each party, the “I do.” Friends and family witness the ceremony of mutual promise, and all send their best wishes for happiness to the couple.
But before the traditional recitation of vows, it’s a good idea for couples to put their thinking caps on about what each wants out of marriage, and to turn these wants into mutual agreements. Better to talk in a loving way about what we want at the beginning than to let unspoken assumptions go off track before they are dealt with. Some samples: “I agree always to be faithful to you.” Look each other in the eye. Shake. A kiss is a good idea too. “I will do my best to create heaven on earth for you. Let me know what that is.” Shake. “I will do my very best always to speak lovingly and respectfully to you.” Shake on it. Remember, these are two-way agreements. Each person says it to the other. Maybe you would add or delete from this list, but best to keep it to just a few big ones. The big agreements remind us of the big picture when we get lost in the details of living.
I knew a couple who agreed to support (some, many, most?) of each other’s interests, even though it might not have been their first choice of what to do. So she found herself saying “Sure, I would love to go to the boat show with you.” And he would say “The Flower Market? OK, it will be fun.” And because each took that positive attitude, they ended up enjoying the activity in the company of their partner. These agreements and activities created memories that are deeply comforting now that one of them has passed away.
For troubled marriages, it is healing to make agreements, make them freely, and thereby confront our own ability to keep our word. Our word is all we have. Things usually get better.
Then once in a while, remind your partner of your pledge. Look each other in the eye. You will earn “mushy” points big time. --Jay
“DEAR JAY: Q AND A” Questions submitted by readers.
Q: I felt uncomfortable with my last counselor because I felt like I was supposed to do something but I didn’t know what that was. I started to feel like I was supposed to make him happy and it was another failed relationship. I felt like I wasn’t “measuring up” in some way. How can I avoid this problem in the future?”
JAY’S A: In my view, the only obligation a client has is to show up (on time) for appointments and pay the bill. It’s assumed that clients want to change for the better as a result of counseling, and that they have some idea of what changes they want. It’s my hope that clients will keep an open mind, both speak and listen, try new thinking and acting, and understand that it takes a while. The therapist is there to meet your needs, absolutely not the other way around. You have the right to expect a clear treatment plan after two or three sessions. Every session should include some kind of evaluation of progress on the plan. My belief is that everything the client says and does is exactly right, and our job together is to channel all this toward the client’s stated goals. If you have expressed your concerns and there is no improvement, you are out of there.
And you know, you’re not signing on for life. Every counselor presumably has something to offer. Find out what it is, get it, and move on.
GOT TEST (ANXIETY)? If you have an exam coming up, hypnosis and self-hypnosis are very helpful for study, retention, and application. It is also great for helping you stay comfortably focused during the test itself. Give me a call for more info. My won-lost record is 19 -2. Student discount.