We offer couples counseling retreats for couples on the edge of divorce or struggling with relationship-shattering issues like infidelity, unhealthy relationship dynamic, too much fighting, feeling unloved, lack of desire, or poor communication and intimacy skills.

You wanna fly, you got to give up the shit that weighs you down. –Toni Morrison

Hello, fellow traveller,

Welcome to the digital space of free & connected. We invite you to come inside, sit down and rest your weary bones. Make yourself at home.

If you’re struggling to stay in a relationship, or at the brink of giving up, or want some clarity, and get exhausted even thinking about your relationship woes, you’re in the perfect place – even if you think your circumstances are dire.

We invite you to spend some time visiting our space. Or if you’re already triple-tasking with no time to breathe, and know you want to book a couples counseling retreat, or just prefer to cut to the chase and talk to a fellow human, then by all means, get in touch . If you don’t reach us right away, leave a message and we’ll respond as soon as possible, usually within 24 hours. We’ll carve out some time for you to tell us what’s weighing you down and offer some options.

Want to learn more about our signature offering – the deep dive – our private couples counseling retreat? Click here.

Ever dream of going to a destination couples retreat. Ours is private, intensive, and forward moving – the perfect way to really get closer on your vacation to an exotic place? Click on. 2015 Destination Couples Retreat

One thing we know for sure – life is way too short to be unhappy and feel crushed by the weight of relationship problems, especially if there’s a better way.

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We offer sanctuary for couples who wonder if they are beyond help, struggle to make things better, and feel stuck.

Nothing is worse than prolonged misery. It sinks into your bones and feels heavy and oppressive.

You feel burdened and hopeless + forget who you really are, who your partner is, and why you ate together.

Do you feel angry, frustrated, and hopeless about your relationship?

Are you tired of getting your buttons pushed?

Do you long for peace and relaxation, yet find even those simple comforts of home elude you?

Are you stuck in this place even though you’ve tried everything, maybe even couples counseling or couples therapy?

You may be stuck in a negative pattern that you are unable to break.

You may be sick and tired of the same old arguments.

Your life with your partner feels beyond your control.

You want things to work yet feel discouraged and hopeless that change is possible.

Come as you are. In our couples counseling retreat, we meet you with our decades of experience, a practical approach, and compassionate listening. We’ll crack the hidden dynamic that blocks your happiness and point you in the direction you want to go. Together, the four of us, will craft a custom plan to take into your new life together.

No cookie-cutter models.  No formulas. No preachy, do it our way lesson. Instead: honoring your unique desires.

No new-agey cliches.  Instead: fusion of art and science + 40 years of clinical experience.

No shoulds or shaming. Instead: freedom to be yourself and be loved.

Our work fuses the art + science of relationship. In our couples counseling  retreat, we guide you to the true nature of your relationship, smooth out craggy edges, and tinker with refinements.

The Art. When you first created your relationship, its form was like a hunk of stone with rough edges. In time, you smoothed and refined some of them in your journey together. Maybe you left some edges rough. You got hurt, lost interest, got distracted by life. Your creation is unique — all yours— vision, contours, and unfinished places. Your relationship is intricate and complex, a unique dance that only you do together. Your relationship is the only one of its kind – a snowflake, a fingerprint.

Sometimes an artist gets blocked, wants fresh input, or seeks clarity about her vision. She calls a mentor or art consultant to help. As your relationship mentor, we help you to smooth edges, shape your vision, and move toward peace, ease, and deep connection.

The Science. Each relationship has its own true nature. As relationship scientists, we use inquiry to discover the true nature of yours. We want to know what your relationship is, in its real form, stripped down to its bare essence. We explore until we get to the heart of the matter – – what’s working and what’s not. Our understanding of the true nature of your relationship informs and drives our work in our couples counseling retreats. The work we do together evolves as we move deeper into the intricate overlay of your patterns, habits, beliefs, and experiences – your Inner Relationship Fingerprint™.

What’s the result of our exploration together?

Transformative. Palpable. Couples who started out sitting on opposite ends of the couch, with arms and legs crossed, folded into themselves, slowly move closer and turn toward one another not away.  Hands clasp, a shoulder, a cheek is gently stroked. Couples begin to  look into one other’s eyes and see each other in a new light. We see sweet relief cross and soften their faces, bodies unfold as tension dissolves. Voices lose angry edge, soften. We feel the change. Couples lean into the beauty of their creation.

No more longing. No more couple envy.

Tender moments happen. He looks into her eyes, tells her I finally understand your pain. She offers to help ease his financial burden.  She tells him she’s sorry. He steps up and forgives her, letting go of the hurt he’s held inside for so long. It wasn’t easy. Tears of rage transform to tears of vulnerability.  A smile, a look, a touch, a laugh. Headed home she slips on her wedding ring.

Don’t take our word for it. Read what couples say:

You might think you save marriages, but really I think you save hearts.  – Jeanne Bessette, Artist

 

Quite simply, I could not offer a more heartfelt or authentic recommendation to couples facing complex and seemingly intractable problems in their marriage than to send you to Jerry and Meg, hopeful that they could work anything close to the same magic they helped work for us just when we thought that there was nearly no hope remaining. It was a weekend of rebirth, revitalization, and the start of a new reality for us, and I don’t know what higher standard of achievement there could possibly be in their field of work than this level of life-altering trajectory change for a couple that we experienced.

More…

Another couple wrote:

You guys are amazing! What a team! You both seemed to peg each of us very quickly! And, as far as I’m concerned, your focus was exactly where it needed to be! I really appreciate that! I’ve never known Dave to open up to anyone but me. But you guys managed to do the extraordinary!!!! Hats off to you! We already ordered your book. Just so you know, we went over our “contract” and it feels pretty perfect. Addresses all the major issues. Dave’s actually been quite open ever since. We’ve been focusing on being kinder and more patient! I’m holding the “vision” Meg! Now Jerry, don’t get all choked up! (I love that about you!) We have a great fondness for both of you and hold you dear to our hearts! You gave us hope where there was none!

From another couple:

He: We had no communication and our relationship was defined by fear and pain. Both Jerry and Mary Ellen were able to facilitate our getting all of our old “baggage” on the table and finally burying it. (Actually we blew bubbles over the lush countryside and watched them float away; a metaphor for our baggage and negative emotions). Once we were able to focus on the present and forgive ourselves as much as forgive each other, the tension lifted and got replaced by hope. p.s. Bring lots of Kleenex!

She:When we arrived in Mendocino our relationships was in crisis. We were lost, afraid and looking for a solution to our problems. Jerry Duberstein and Mary Ellen Goggin were calm confidants, advisors, coaches and relationship rescue specialists. We reflected on our issues and broke down the barriers preventing us from being real partners in our marriage. We completed the experience by creating and signing a contract. We could not have achieved these next steps without Jerry and Mary Ellen.

A word about our testimonials. We want you to know about other couples’ experience with us. It’s important. We also respect their privacy and confidentiality. To resolve this conflict, we opted to share their words anonymously.

What are the benefits of couple to couple counseling?

Our clients tell us how much they love the couple to couple counseling approach. They say that working with a couple adds a layer of intimacy and a feeling of “we’re in this together”.

Meg: So often couples ask us questions. Does X, Y, or Z happen to you too? If your husband acted like him wouldn’t you be angry? How do you resolve your differences? Couples feel relieved to hear that their weightiest problem is one we’ve experienced and resolved as a couple, or helped lots of other couples solve. All couples face problems as they journey through life together. It’s their ability to resolve them together that makes a relationship strong and satisfying. Couple to couple counseling gives people hope and faith and confidence. They trust us as people.

We’re all human. Well, most of us.

Meg: Invariably, during couples counseling retreats, Jerry and I exchange not-so-secret smiles of acknowledgment when one partner starts riffing about an ultra-annoying habit of the other. Think crinkling, open-mouth chewing, slurping, self-satisfied + loud farting, fidgeting, nervous tics, incessant sighing, throat clearing, complaining, face booking. You get the idea.

Jerry: What annoys Meg the most about me is that there’s not much that annoys me. She finds this fact about me impossible to believe, and well… so annoying. Meg tells me she feels petty when she complains about an idiosyncratic behavior of mine. When pressed by Meg to tell her one thing that annoys me, snoring is the only one I came up with.  Meg responded that people who snore couldn’t help it. Nonetheless, most people find a snoring partner annoying. I digress.

Meg + Jerry: No, but seriously. When couples aren’t getting along, these trifling matters get blown way out of proportion. Acceptance of a partner’s ways is more difficult when more serious trouble brews beneath the surface. As two couples engaged together, it’s easy to break the ice and sometimes rant/laugh together about personal pet peeves. We bond in our humanity while doing the deep work and getting to the real stuff- loss of connection, feelings of resentment, inadequacy and loneliness. Feeling undesirable, unappreciated, taken for granted, unloved.

We’ve all been there. Couples face difficult issues on the journey of life.

Meg: We’ve all been there. Jerry and/or I have dealt with step-parenting, rebellious teenagers, adult children, financial stress, depression and anxiety, meddling in-laws, and more. Couples in our couples counseling retreats say they feel validated when we share snippets of how we resolved these kinds of issues in our life as a couple. {No worries. Your time is all about you and never about us.} In our marriage we use the same approach we teach. It works most of the time.

We no longer need to be locked into gender stereotypes, unless we feel comfortable owning and living them.

Jerry: “Oh, men! “Meg and I often say this in exasperated, joking tones. It’s a short -cut way of alluding to the way some women feel about male behavior, attitudes, and humor. Like, Meg says “Oh, men!” after she’s heard her fill of penis jokes/talk on Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert. I’m a guy. I laugh even though serious me knows it’s adolescent humor. That’s part of what makes it funny. So we bring this kind of dynamic into our couples counseling {never the male anatomy jokes, promise}. Everything is explored through the lens of both the masculine and feminine perspective, which infuses our work with a richness and complexity. Meg and I, being a man and woman as well as partners, can understand and empathize with the different experiences of men and women in relationships.

Jerry + Meg: We love that our reactions are not always predictable or true to traditional gender lines. Heterosexual couples find comfort and feel free to step outside cultural gender boxes, especially those they’ve created themselves. Our fluid views and experience of gender is one aspect of what makes gay and lesbian couples comfortable working with us. People are a lovely mix of masculine and feminine qualities. A woman can be soft, caring, empathic, emotional, nurturing (feminine qualities) and aggressive, logical, action-oriented, and a bottom-line thinker (masculine qualities), as can a man. Masculine qualities can be very empowering for women, while feminine qualities can be empowering for men. We’re all about the uniqueness of each human being and support self-actualization. There’s no greater joy on this planet than to feel comfortable in your own skin.

Three’s a crowd. In couple to couple counseling there’s no “odd man out”. There’s someone for everybody.

Jerry: Traditional couples counseling with one therapist invariably involves competition for the therapist’s approval. You may have experienced this dynamic as a child. You’re playing contentedly with your best friend and another child arrives. You like the other child but do everything possible to make sure your best friend likes you better and will play the games you want. It’s no different in couple’s therapy. The partners vie for the therapist to take their side. It’s natural. Couples use valuable time and energy looking for signs that the therapist has aligned with them {while the therapist manages himself to remain neutral}. With two therapists there is less competition. Four is an even number, so there is someone for everybody.

Couple to couple therapy gives you the opportunity of observing another couple’s dynamic in an intimate setting.

Meg: A couple {us} in {re}action. During couples counseling sessions, there are times when Jerry and I disagree about an approach or opinion. We’re transparent about our divergent opinion and resolve it openly. We do this without being disagreeable or destructive to our relationship. This role modeling is never faked for pedantic purposes, but reflects the healthy, on-going process of two individuals {us} who are working together as a couple toward our common goal – helping couples bring back the warmth, comfort, sizzle, and love to their relationship.

Couple to couples counseling offers the varied life experiences and perspectives of two people which makes for a rich collaboration.

Jerry: Meg and I have different histories and experiences in relationships and the world. Meg’s take on things is informed by her experiences as a woman, wife, mother, teacher, coach, and lawyer. I know something about these, but I haven’t walked in her high-heels. Conversely, I know the experience of being a man, husband, father, therapist, and lousy golfer. This diversity enables our couples to feel understood. Couples counseling becomes an opportunity for couples to expand their visions and views of their relationship. They get to experience the perspective of two people who are also a couple.

Meg: Just one more thing… Jerry and I co-wrote our book, a collaboration that began not long after we met. We struggled for a while to find our blended voice, and then one day it just happened. We got to know each other intimately {writing a book is a sure way to expose the “real” you} and the principles in our book inform our day-to-day life as a couple. So we trot our talk and know what it’s like in the trenches.

All content © to Mary Ellen Goggin J.D & Jerry Duberstein Ph.D unless otherwise noted.
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