Benefits of Couples Counseling Retreat with a PhD Husband-Wife Team

We’re all human. Well, most of us. Invariably, during an intensive couples counseling retreat, 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 candy wrappers during movies, open-mouth chewing, fidgeting, fiddling, finger-tapping, incessant sighing, yelling from another room,  not making eye contact, as in face-booking while in conversation. To name a few.

You get the idea. Go ahead, rant about your petty annoyances. It’s freeing, really. Well, let’s say that I think it’s freeing, anyway. What annoys me most about Jerry is that there’s not much that annoys him. I find this fact about impossible to believe, and well – so annoying. It makes me feel pretty petty when I complain about what Jerry calls one of his self-admitted, annoying tics  that sends me over the edge. It’s true. I had to ask him for his list of annoyances. Snoring is the only one he came up with and I told him people who snore can’t help it. Nonetheless, most people find a snoring partner annoying. I digress.

No, but seriously. When couples aren’t getting along, these trifling matters get blown way out of proportion. Acceptance of a partner’s ways gets difficult when more serious trouble percolates beneath the surface. So when we’re doing a private intensive couples retreat with another couple, we break the ice sometimes by laughing together about personal pet peeves. And then, we get on with the work and get to the pain beneath the petty annoyances. We go deeper to uncover what’s really going on and discover the root of the trouble. It may be Loss of connection, feeling inadequate, lonely, undesirable, unwanted, unloved, unappreciated, taken for granted. We’ve all been there. Jerry and I have dealt with step-parenting, rebellious teenagers, adult children living at home, 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.} We use the same approach we teach. It works most of the time.

Gender bender.Oh, men! ” we 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, I say “Oh, men!” after I have heard one too many penis jokes/talk on Jon Stewart and Colbert. Jerry is a guy. He laughs even though serious him knows it is adolescent humor. That’s part of what makes it funny to him. So we bring this kind of dynamic into our couples counseling retreat {never the penis jokes, promise}. Everything is explored through the lens of both the masculine and feminine perspective which infuses our work with a richness and complexity not so easily found with only one therapist.

We each can understand and empathize with the different experiences of men and women in relationships. Our reactions are not always predictable or true to traditional gender lines so we all {the four of us} get surprised at times. It’s refreshing. 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 makes gay and lesbian couples comfortable. 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. 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 tries to remain neutral}. With two therapists there is less competition. Four is an even number, so there is someone for everybody.

A couple {us} in {re}action. During couples counseling session, couples watch our process when Jerry and I disagree and resolve differences in approach or opinion during our work. We’re transparent. We do this without being disagreeable or destructive of 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 common goals.

Varied experiences. Jerry and I have different histories and experiences in relationships and the world. My take on things is informed by my experiences as a woman, wife, mother, teacher, coach, and lawyer. Jerry knows something about these, but as he says he hasn’t walked in my high-heels. Conversely, he knows the experience of being a man, husband, father, therapist, and as he says, a 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 the perspective to two people.

Our clients tell us how much they love our intensive couples counseling retreat. They love working  with a therapist couple. It adds a layer of intimacy and a feeling of “we’re in this together”.So often couples ask us questions like. Does this happen to you too? If your husband did this wouldn’t you be angry? How do you resolve your differences? They feel relieved to hear that their weightiest problem is one we’ve experienced and resolved together as a couple, or helped lots of other couples solve. Participating in an intensive couples counseling retreat gives them hope and faith and confidence. They trust us as people.

Just one more thing.  Jerry and I co-wrote this blog as we often do. Our book Relationship Transformation: {Have Your Cake and Eat It Too}—A practical guide for couples who want to be free + connected is 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. We’re trottin’ our talk and committed to helping couples get more ease, fun, and satisfaction in their relationship.

Do connect with us anytime to learn more about our transformative couples counseling retreat and get to know us. Or take your time, peruse our website, and get our heart-inspired insights delivered fresh to your inbox. Click here to sign up for our occasional newsletters. It takes less than a minute. Promise. We’d LOVE to hear from you.

Mary Ellen Goggin

Mary Ellen is a highly skilled and intuitive relationship guide. She brings over 35 years’ experience with individuals and businesses as a lawyer, mediator, personal coach and educator. She received her J.D. at University of New Hampshire Law School and a Master’s Degree at Harvard University. Mary Ellen co-authored Relationship Transformation: How to Have Your Cake and Eat It Too with Jerry Duberstein — and they were married by chapter 3. Mary Ellen brings a unique blend of problem-solving, practicality, and warmth to her work. She’s a highly analytic person, with geeky and monkish tendencies. She’s a daredevil skydiver, a voracious seeker of knowledge, and an indulgent grandmother. Her revolution: helping people become the unapologetic rulers of their inner + outer realms. Read more about the retreats