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By Chandrama Anderson

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About this blog: About this blog: I am a LMFT specializing in couples counseling and grief and have lived in Silicon Valley since 1969. I'm the president of Connect2 Marriage Counseling. I worked in high-tech at Apple, Stanford University, and in ...  (More)

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Repeating Myself: for Your Marriage

Uploaded: Jul 8, 2016
This is so important, that I am going to repeat myself: If your relationship is in trouble, do something about it NOW!

The research shows that many couples let things go for six years before coming to counseling. Many couples go much longer, caught up in work, kids, ailing or aging parents, etc.

If you spend six or more years letting things go downhill, how long do you think it will take to turn them around and be on the upswing again?

There are many blogs here to read and discuss together. Maybe that will help.

Hopefully you've tried everything you know how to do (vs. letting it go), and it's time for outside help.

Divorce is expensive emotionally, mentally, and spiritually, as well as financially.

Care for your relationship every day, week, month, and year. And if you need help get it!

Getting outside help is not a weakness; it shows strength in judgement and caring. You just need more tools and learning around communication. You're probably even good at these things outside your home; it's hard once you cross that threshold because the greatest risk/reward exists with your partner.
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Posted by rich, a resident of Rex Manor,
on Jul 11, 2016 at 3:59 pm

As I'm sure you're aware personally, people with irrational phobias, or people with OCD or other purely mental problems, or relationship problems often go their whole lives without seeking outside help.
And that's when it's just you that needs the help, little surprise then that couples facing the far more complex problem of both people needing to join in the process, also usually never get help.
History shows most issues stem from ignorance and bad assumptions and the fear of learning the truth.
Learning the truth can seem more frightening to people than the risk of learning they were wrong about something they hold sacred.
Most people will do almost anything rather than risk learning they were wrong about something, let alone wrong about their spouse.
Their internal "legend" seems more comforting than the truth might be.

Posted by Chandrama Anderson, a Palo Alto Online blogger,
on Jul 12, 2016 at 9:09 am

Chandrama Anderson is a registered user.

Hi Rich,
Thanks for your comment. You are right that many people don't seek help, and couples generally don't either. Rather than focus on right and wrong (where people easily get stuck holding up their viewpoint), I would steer couples to a state of optimal functioning, or secure functioning, as Stan Tatkin calls it. This leaves plenty of room for each person's individuality, yet places the importance of the couple as the first priority. Individuals' "legends", as you call them, are the stories created to get through childhood. And while critical for that, aren't necessarily useful for adult, primary relationships.

Posted by ?, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood,
on Jul 14, 2016 at 12:06 pm

I think a lot of people (myself included) would love guidance on how to find individual or couples counselor that is EFFECTIVE. Websites all look the same, and there are laundry lists of counselors out there, but no way to evaluate which 1 or 2 or 3 to set up appointments with. Few of us have the time, energy or money to therapist hop til we find the one. This is not the kind of thing your can talk to friends and neighbors about.

My spouse and I spent a couple months with one couples counselor and got nowhere. It was an expensive failure. I can't afford to do that again.

Posted by Humble observer, a resident of Old Mountain View,
on Jul 14, 2016 at 12:39 pm

That last reader made a great point, and it applies to therapists in general. Apparently people go into such careers for a whole gamut of reasons, not always because they're effective and helpful to clients. I have heard real-life reports where the therapists themselves were seriously troubled, manipulative of patients, even borderline psychopathic. And shopping for such services isn't like trying on coats -- the evaluation process itself can be draining, even with good practitioners.

Posted by Chandrama Anderson, a Palo Alto Online blogger,
on Jul 14, 2016 at 3:20 pm

Chandrama Anderson is a registered user.

You bring up such a great point. Finding an effective counselor, whether for couples work or individual, can be time consuming and expensive. One of the best things you can do is ask for a 20 minute in-person consultation with two or three therapists. This will give you a chance to find out how you feel with that therapist. Going to counseling isn't comfortable (nor should it be because there are issues to address). However, you need to feel comfortable ENOUGH with that person. Also, look at reviews. Keep in mind that therapists are not allowed to ask their clients to write a review for them; that's an ethical breach due to the power imbalance. If you're not getting what you want and need, let your therapist know. If s/he isn't able to take your feedback well, or is not able to shift the way you work together, it's likely not a good fit. Remember, we work for you.

Posted by rich, a resident of Rex Manor,
on Jul 14, 2016 at 9:09 pm

The term "legends" goes way back, I heard it used as a common term in high school and my mother (had a psych degree, somewhat ironically) was familiar with it too. And not just for kids, I see adults creating and enhancing their internal legends all the time. I've known people, like a buddy of mine, who modified their legend on the fly one day (to impress a girl) and 20 years later they really believed it was true even though I knew it was not. I had to remind him of when and why he made it up before he realized it was legend not fact.

I am not familiar with the term "secure functioning", could you elaborate?
It sounds interesting and perhaps useful.

The other idea of there being not "focused" right or wrong gives me a bit of trouble unless it's mainly about feelings, not about facts. Far too many people these days want to ignore right or wrong, good or bad, true or false and just behave as if any claimed (operative term there) perception is of equal validity and value as any other.

I have no problem with accepting that another person had an inaccurate interpretation of events/words and then had a feeling that would have been correct if the interpretation was accurate and then wanting the misunderstood person to "validate" the feeling as if they had a correct perception of events/words.

I've had this problem many times and it took me quite a few such examples before I figured out how to handle it properly.

"secure functioning" may describe what my wife ad I have been working our way towards over the years. At least, it sounds like a good name for it.

Posted by Chandrama Anderson, a Palo Alto Online blogger,
on Jul 18, 2016 at 2:18 pm

Chandrama Anderson is a registered user.

Hi Rich, I'll answer your question now about right/wrong. Secure functioning is an entire blog of its own, which I'll get to. The difficulty of right/wrong with couples is troublesome because people remember things differently; the brain is not a video recording device that we can play back for accuracy. So each person's memory has static while the memory is being recorded into the brain, and then there is further static when the memory is recalled. That's why it's not useful to rehash fights. We have to deal with what is happening now, because it's live and accessible. Of course there are facts in the world that we can look up in an encyclopedia or a trusted website. As far as feelings go, there isn't right/wrong; there just is, and we have to deal with the feelings each person has. Much of what gets couples into trouble is misunderstanding. So explicit, clarifying conversations that touch us deeply are a must. Otherwise you're arguing over content that's not even the real issue. Hope this helps some.

Posted by jame kurt, a resident of Crescent Park,
on Nov 1, 2016 at 7:41 am

Learning the truth can seem more frightening to people than the risk of learning they were wrong about something they hold sacred. Most people will do almost anything rather than risk learning they were wrong about something, let alone wrong about their spouse.

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