Valentine’s Day Disaster

Tom and Jordan are back to visit Mandy, their marriage therapist, about their struggles as a married couple.

This session, Tom is the one that is angry. He wanted to do something nice for Jordan to celebrate Valentine’s Day, but when he brought home flowers, they weren’t her favorite and she seemed off-put that he didn’t know that. Then, to make things worse, they got into an argument when he asked her to pick somewhere to eat and she said it didn’t matter, but then shot down every suggestion he made. Finally, after getting into a full-fledged argument, they just ordered takeout from their usual little deli and sulked on the couch – date night and Valentine’s Day ruined.

Flash forward to today, as Mandy welcomes Tom and Jordan into her office and begins the session by asking them to recount the story of their Valentine’s Day. As they speak, it is clear that both of them are feeling frustrated and a bit helpless. Tom is feeling like he can’t do anything right and Jordan is feeling like her feelings aren’t being heard.

Let’s listen in as Mandy provides some advice:

Mandy begins by addressing Tom. “Tom, let’s start by talking about the gift you got Jordan. It sounds like you had good intentions in bringing her flowers, but it wasn’t her favorite. How did that make you feel?”

Tom sighed. “I felt like a failure. I wanted to do something nice for her, but I couldn’t even get that right.”

Mandy nodded in understanding. “It can be really difficult to feel like you can’t do anything right, especially when it’s something as important as celebrating your relationship. It’s important to recognize what you did well – you thought of Jordan, you made the effort to get her a gift – and use that to motivate you to do better in the future. You could start by talking to Jordan about her favorite flowers and make a mental note for next time.”

Mandy then shifted her focus to Jordan. “Jordan, it sounds like you were really hurt when Tom brought you the wrong kind of flowers. That’s completely understandable. But it’s important to remember that it’s not just about the gift, but also the thought behind it. So when Tom asked you to pick a restaurant, how could you have expressed what you needed without making him feel like his ideas weren’t valued?”

Jordan thought for a moment. “I could have said that it didn’t matter to me what we did, as long as we were together. And then I could have offered a few suggestions so he could have a starting point.”

Mandy smiled. “Exactly. It’s important to remember that it’s not about the destination, but the journey. Tom, when Jordan suggests things, it’s important to listen and try to come up with a compromise that you both agree on. That way, Jordan still feels heard, and you can still take charge of the situation without making her feel like her opinions don’t matter.”

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He Never Listens!

As they work through their first session, Jordan brings up one of her main problems with Tom – he never seems to listen!! Let’s see what Mandy (their therapist) has to say:

Mandy: Tom and Jordan, communication is the key to any successful relationship, and it sounds like you’re struggling here. Let’s talk about how we can help you two open up to each other and be heard.

Jordan, you mentioned that Tom doesn’t really hear you. What do you mean by that?

Jordan: Well, when I try to talk to him about our issues, he just gets defensive and shuts down. He won’t really listen to what I have to say.

Mandy: That’s a tough spot to be in. It can be difficult to communicate when we feel like our words aren’t being heard.

It’s like trying to catch a fish with no bait. You can cast your line all you want, but if you don’t have the right bait, you’re not likely to catch anything. So, it’s important to make sure that both of you are in a space where you feel heard.

Tom, when Jordan tries to talk to you, what’s going through your mind?

Tom: I feel like she’s attacking me and I just want to defend myself.

Mandy: I can see how that can be difficult. It’s natural to feel defensive in those situations. What can you do to make sure you’re both being heard and understood?

Tom: I can try to stay calm and really listen to what she’s saying.

Mandy: That’s a great start. It’s also important to ask open-ended questions so that you can really understand each other’s perspectives. Let’s say Jordan is talking about a problem she’s having. Instead of just saying “I understand”, try asking questions like “What do you think we can do to solve this issue?” That way, you both can work together to come up with a solution.

It’s also important to practice active listening. That means repeating back what you heard and making sure you understand it correctly. This will also show your partner that you’re really trying to listen and that you care about what they’re saying.

Finally, let’s talk about body language. When we’re communicating, the way we present ourselves can often be just as important as the words we say. Be mindful of your body language and eye contact so that your partner feels heard and respected.

Tom and Jordan, communication is the cornerstone of any successful relationship. It takes time and effort to really listen to each other and make sure you’re both being heard. But if you take the time to practice these techniques, I’m sure you two can work through your issues and become a stronger married couple.

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The First Marriage Counseling Session

Ever wondered what a first marriage counseling session might sound like? Let’s listen in as Mandy begins with Tom and Jordan:

Welcome! I’m so glad you two are here. My name is Mandy and I’m a marriage therapist trained in the Gottman method. I’m excited to get to know you both and help you work through whatever issues you may be facing.

So, let’s jump right in. You both know why you’re here, and I’m sure you’re feeling a little bit apprehensive. That’s totally normal. The good news? Marriage counseling can be a powerful and positive experience. It’s an opportunity to understand each other better, to tackle issues head-on, and to come out the other side stronger than ever.

As a marriage therapist, my goal is to help you both create a safe and supportive space in which to explore your relationship. We’ll work together to identify areas of conflict, explore different communication strategies, and develop a plan for a better future.

Now, I know this may seem daunting, and I’m sure you have many questions. Let me start by answering a few of the most common ones.

First, what happens during a counseling session? Well, each session will be unique, based on your individual needs. We may talk about past issues, current concerns, and strategies for the future. We may use different activities to help you better understand each other’s perspectives. We may discuss communication strategies, problem solving skills, and healthy coping mechanisms.

Second, how long does marriage counseling take? The length of counseling varies from couple to couple. It really depends on the issues you’re facing and how willing you are to work together. Some couples find that a few sessions are enough to make a difference, while others may need more time.

Third, what can I expect to get out of counseling? That’s a great question! You can expect to gain a deeper understanding of yourself, your spouse, and the dynamics of your relationship. You’ll learn effective communication skills and problem-solving strategies. You’ll gain insight into your own behaviors and beliefs, and how they affect your marriage. And most importantly, you’ll learn how to work together as a team to create a stronger, healthier marriage.

Now that you have a better understanding of what to expect from marriage counseling, let’s take a few minutes to discuss your goals for counseling. What do you hope to gain from this experience? What do you want to work on?

I understand that this is a lot of information to take in, so if you have any questions please don’t hesitate to ask. I’m here to help. We’ll explore these topics in more depth as we move through the counseling process.

Marriage counseling is a journey, and it’s up to you two to determine how far you want to go. You don’t have to run a marathon in one session. You can take it one step at a time, and I’ll be here to guide you every step of the way.

So, here’s to the start of something wonderful.

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