You’re wondering what to do when marriage counseling doesn’t work.

You’ve tried everything. You aren’t ready to give up, and you want results. The transformation we’ll create at your private couples counseling weekend is the perfect mix of catharsis + practicality.

It’s powerfully deep. It settles in from your head to toes. Your relationship will be different + it will stay that way.  You’ll know you’ve gotten to the heart of the matter. You don’t have to give up hope.

Take a look at what our couples have to say below. 

Please note that, in respect for the privacy and confidentiality of our couples, we offer their reviews anonymously.

Days after the retreat

This first review  was emailed to us a couple of days after their private couples counseling retreat. We continue to get updates from them, telling us how much their life together has changed and keeps getting better.
We came to the private couples workshop with Jerry and Meg as a pretty extensively “broken” couple. We had tried couples counseling previously, had made only marginal progress, and viewed this as – most likely – our “last chance” to salvage our marriage before the point of no return was reached, and thresholds crossed over that could not be undone. To say that this weekend retreat would be, one way or the other, the most important and life-changing weekend since the one we were married on almost a decade ago would not be an exaggeration in the slightest.

Read the rest of their story...

Upon meeting Jerry and Meg, we immediately perceived their different and complimentary “gifts” of insight, experience, and ability to connect with one or the other of us. Far from “gender identification”, they exhibited the ability and willingness to identify and support positions, feelings, and perspectives they thought were helpful in a surprising neutral fashion, crossing the gender aisle with ease and comfort.

Somehow, hearing Jerry say that I was off base on a given topic, or having my wife hear Meg say the same thing, brought enhanced impact to the meetings – as it was someone who is not only a counselor by training, but a person who shares the same role of husband or wife away from their professional life, telling you that they know and empathize with the role, but that we were simply off-base in our perspective, needed to think about certain things differently and more creatively in order to be fair to our spouse on the given subject.

Starting with individual sessions and progressing on into joint sessions, they expertly navigated the peeling of the onion of the substantial layers of challenge and problems that we faced, a painful, cathartic, but necessary process that, at times, left our nerves and hearts raw and exposed, with anger, hurt, and a host of emotions being laid bare between the four of us.

Unlike other counselors we had experienced, they would expertly segue between different forms of persuasive articulation: intellectual logic, emotional sensibility, and gently – but insistently – “calling us out” on a given position that they felt worthy of repudiation, a tactic most in their field lack the courage or boldness to attempt.

The combination of these different persuasive styles, their “off the charts” ability to empathize and have insight into our feelings and issues, and their ability to help us forge a “new deal” going forward that captured the key actionable items of the two days was powerful beyond words, and most likely, nothing shy of life-saving for our marriage.

We drove home holding hands, with her wedding ring back on her finger for the first time in awhile.

We drove home holding hands, with her wedding ring back on her finger for the first time in awhile, with both our hearts filled with hope instead of despair, movingly optimistic about a loving and accepting new reality for both ourselves individually, and our relationship and marriage together.

Not to say there are not substantial problems and challenges ahead of us in the “execution” stage of our rebirth as a couple, but feeling that we have a functional and mutually acceptable “road map” on how to get to where we need to go as husband and wife together.

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.

We never imagined our life together could be different. You have catalyzed a transformation in how we see each other.

Our July 4th weekend with you was really transformational for our marriage. While we had a couple of honeymoon weeks, the “real world” is providing us with many opportunities for practice and reflection. However, we both remain committed to the contract as a means to work towards what we want from each other.

We never imagined our life together could be different. In you individual, unique ways and with your collective strengths, you have catalyzed a transformation in how we see each other. It is definitely an ongoing process, but we are so grateful to you for the impact you have had on us.

You both are most definitely bringing peace and love where there is conflict – and in such a brief period of time. We appreciate your talents (and patience!). With gratitude…

Exceeded our expectations

Our three days with them exceeded our expectations.

We just returned home from a private, three-day, intensive marriage retreat with Jerry and Mary Ellen of Free and Connected in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. We selected them after evaluating a number of options across the country. We liked that they are a married couple, and they use their personal and professional knowledge to navigate the challenges of maintaining a successful and sustaining marriage.

We would recommend, without reservation, Jerry and Mary Ellen and their intensive marriage retreat, to anyone who shares similar goals for their lives and their relationship.

Read the rest of their story...

They do not have a standard “one size fits all” approach to the retreat. Their process quickly identified individual unmet needs, wants and repetitive challenges to make efficient and very effective use of our time with them. Through their guidance over three days of intensive sharing, we learned a lot about each other. They asked probing questions and forced us to work hard. We talked about the childhood wounds and baggage we each brought into our adult relationship. We got a clearer picture of what each of us wanted from the marriage and our friendship. We tackled head-on the issues that we each stated exist in our marriage today, and worked on solutions to help those issues become less stressful, if not disappear.

We left with a written contract to each other; a set of requests and promises to keep us focused on growing closer together and making progress on healing each other’s wounds, eliminating stress, and increasing intimacy. Next is a follow-up accountability teleconference in six weeks to make sure we are practicing the process designed specifically for us.

When we began the retreat we were not sure if our best outcome was to stay in this marriage or not. Jerry and Mary Ellen told us it was not their goal to make certain that we did; rather, it was their goal to give each of us more clarity about our individual wants and needs, and how those needs might be best met either inside or outside the marriage, for our greatest good. We left having achieved all those things, and with a renewed determination to make the investments we made in this marriage count by staying together.

Denver, Colorado

You guys are amazing

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!


A couple each shares their perspective of their experience

Him: 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!

Her: 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 experienced by creating and signing a contract. We could not have achieved these next steps without Jerry and Mary Ellen.


Our expectations were met and exceeded. I liked the way you pointed out my actions and behaviors by using sports metaphors. I feel very hopeful about the future!

A whole bunch

Thank you for your dedication to the betterment of our relationship. You made us comfortable and able to be honest with each other in your presence. It was nice to hear the perspective of another couple + the perspective of a man + a woman. I feel better equipped to deal with the issues we are facing.

“You saved our marriage. Gave us a new start. I feel hopeful + excited about our future.”
I felt comfortable enough to drop my shields and just talk from the heart. This is something I try to do on my own, but you guys helped me through the resistance phases and that felt very good.
Our work with Jerry has dramatically improved our relationship and changed our lives for the better. He was very caring and gentle but direct when he needed to make a point. I would recommend him to anyone whose marriage needs a tune-up.
The system that Jerry and Meg have developed gave us a whole new perspective about our marriage.  When we first made contact with them, we were on the brink of divorce. The process of looking at ourselves first and the relationship after worked like magic. Not only is my marriage improved, but I feel better about myself.
We had worked with several couples therapists (as well as individual ones). Our experience with you felt totally different and marvelously refreshing in that there was no time to ruminate endlessly on “the problems” but a need to get on with the solutions.
“Thank you for everything you have taught us. I feel our relationship will be more fun. I leave with more confidence about our marriage.”
I appreciate the opportunity to say how much we benefited from our counseling work with Jerry. He is a very compassionate person who was willing to share his time and wisdom with us. Helping us to examine our roles in our partnership was enlightening. I especially enjoyed being able to resolve issues regarding finances which was a major obstacle for us.
I am amazed how quickly my life changed once we started working with Jerry. It was almost magical how the small changes we made freed us from the horrible life we were living. I am very grateful.
Let me tell whoever is out there and whose relationship is in trouble, there is a light at the end of the tunnel.  I was so despondent about my relationship with my boyfriend,  I was a hopeless basket case. I thought that we were at a dead end.  But after working with Jerry and redesigning our relationship, we are both happier and more appreciative.
I want to say that while Jane and I had started to work on our relationship and communication before this weekend, and felt improved from where we had been, after this weekend there is a very tangible change in feeling, a genuine lightening of the atmosphere. I don’t properly have the words to describe the difference, but it is both subtle and dramatic, and all positive. And the change in Jane both in relation to me, and even more dramatically in relation to herself is heart warming for me to see.

We found both you and Jerry to be such wonderful, warm, and gracious people. So much ground was covered so deeply this weekend, and I continue to be impressed with both of you on a professional level as well, for your competence, knowledge, efforts, and insights.

With all sincerity and gratitude, thank you both very much. This weekend was beyond a worthwhile expenditure of time, and is truly a gift to our family.
We had a great experience with Jerry and Mary Ellen for a 2-day weekend retreat! They were non-judgmental and open as we worked through some challenges in order to “reboot” our relationship to gain a better understanding of ourselves and each other. We really liked the framework of being free (ourselves) and connected (together) and were grateful for the roadmap to help us set a plan for moving forward to what that looks like for us. We enjoyed our time tremendously with Mary Ellen & Jerry and would not hesitate to come back for another opportunity to continue this important work as we navigate our journey through life.

Thanks, again, for a WONDERFUL weekend!


have come a long, long way

We have come a long, long way to living the life we had planned.  We had lost contact with each other and were moving through our lives separately. We have rediscovered each other and we are having a second honeymoon.
Free & Connected